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Kentucky Earns No. 2 Seed, Faces LSU in SECT Quarters




March 13, 2014

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SECT Quarterfinals
Kentucky vs. LSU
Friday, March 14 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Atlanta, Ga.
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Cat Scratches: Offensive tweak, physical defense bring 'different feel' to UK practices

Julius Randle faced a predictable line of questioning on Tuesday.

After John Calipari talked at length on his weekly radio show about a hush-hush offensive "tweak" he implemented, you knew reporters were going to poke and prod players to see if they could get the scoop.

Randle wasn't about to take the bait.

"You're not getting it from me," said Randle.

Searching for a scrap of information, reporters asked Randle whether the practice felt like a breakthrough moment because of the tweak.

"You're not getting it from me," Randle said. "You'll see it on Friday."

Jokingly, another media member asked whether the change was a move for Randle to point forward.

"You're not getting it from me," Randle said. "You'll see it on Friday."

Was a complete departure from what the Wildcats had done before or merely an enhancement?

"You're not getting it from me," Randle said, singing a familiar tune. "You'll see it on Friday."

The tight-lipped Randle was following his coach's lead, as Calipari once again decided to leave everyone guessing about the tweak that "changed everything" at his final press conference before UK departs for the SEC Tournament this week.

Read the full preview

Pregame Media Opportunity - March 13, 2014

Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua

On what he expects vs. LSU ...
"Another good game. I think they're playing really good basketball. Obviously shot the ball really well tonight and I just think that we're going to have another great challenge ahead of us."

On how daunting LSU is when they shoot as well as they did against Alabama ...
"It's pretty daunting when anybody shoots that well. I mean, the 3 obviously can be a really big game changer and we're going to have to try to see if we can use our length to make it a little more difficult for them so they're not as comfortable, match up quickly in transition and find the shooters and try to play to our strengths."

On why LSU is a tough matchup for UK ...
"They're a good team. They got good size, they got athleticism, they got veteran guards, they got some guys coming off the bench that are also really talented and it's going to be fun and exciting."

On what he remembers about Anthony Hickey as a recruit ...
"Quite honestly, he's had a tremendous career. Didn't take a look at him as much because of our scholarship situation but I know he's done an incredible job there at LSU. I would imagine that he would be excited to play us again."

On how much more difficult it is to defend LSU when Tim Quarterman and Shavon Coleman make shots ...
"A lot. A lot more difficult. Particularly because you're going to get your production from Johnny (O'Bryant) and Jordan (Mickey) and then those guards are finding the guys and you get those other contributing, it makes it really difficult. You gotta pick your poison and you hope that they're not on top of their game that way."

On what level of confidence they have against LSU ...
"I think our confidence is going to be pretty good. I think that we can control our own emotions and what we do, and that's what we're going to try to come out and do: play hard, play together and try to make things difficult for them."

On if they hope to see some benefits from more physical practices against a physical LSU team ...
"We'll see. We'll see where we're at with that. They are a physical team and we have been trying to increase a little bit more in practice how physical we play with each other and against each other, and we'll see how that translates."

On how much of a concern it is that LSU is fighting for its postseason life ...
"I don't know about their motivation. I know for our motivation we want to try to come out and play well and see if we can take care of business in a game that we have ahead of us and see where that can take us. At this point in the year, you know, you're playing that any game and you're done in your tournament, so you want to try to get some momentum going."

On his players' demeanor coming out of practice this week ...
"Really good, really confident, really excited. So the staff is excited to see how we respond."

On if the tweak is in place ...
"I have no idea what you are talking about. (Laughter. Reporter says `you did that really well') It goes back to my Globetrotter days."

On whether the tweak will be a Globetrotter move ...
"That's really good. No. I have no idea what you guys are talking about with this tweak."

On Johnny O'Bryant ...
"He's really, really talented. Big, physical and skilled. Can shoot the ball out to 17 feet, catch and shoot and rebounds and is athletic so he's a man, he's a challenge."

On if Johnny O'Bryant saves his best efforts for Kentucky ...
"Yeah, that seems to be the case. He plays really well against us for whatever reason and has in the past."

On if he's pointed out to Willie Cauley-Stein this week about how well Johnny O'Bryant has played against UK ...
"No because we didn't know who we were going to play, I just think Willie has got to concentrate on being the best version of Willie and that will make - that will serve us and our team if we get the best version of Willie."

On if Willie Cauley-Stein is sharing with his teammates what can happen in this tournament if you aren't sharp ...
"I'm sure he has shared it with them. He's doing a great job, both he and Alex (Poythress), of trying to communicate what a tournament like this is about."

Pregame Media Opportunity - March 11, 2014

Head Coach John Calipari

On the tweak he has made to his team ...
"What we did yesterday, first thing was defensively it was physical, put your arms up, let me see your hands and then foul with your body. Do it on every drive and every post-up. For two reasons, one, we can play against it because that's how everybody is playing now and I'm not just talking our league, I'm watching around the country. The second thing is if we get in a game where we've gotta play that way then we gotta have - we gotta play that way. You know, we went for a season saying hands off, don't touch the body and it was, you know - obviously as each month and week went on, it got more and more physical. So basically we're back to where we were a year ago when everybody said you foul on every possession to win. So we just had to practice that way. The offense, you know, one tweak, which was not anything but, like I said, it's something that changed how they thought and that's what we're trying to do. The issue becomes for us, when adversity hits, how do we respond? Do we come together? And what we're looking for is, they make a 3, they bank a shot, we miss two free throws or three, we turn it over and you look out and you see a team that just comes together. We just played a team that went - they were on a 0-15 run, we were on a 15-0 run, 15-0 run it's a six-point game and what did they do? Just went like that {demonstrated clasping hands together} and they made play after play at that point. They're a veteran team, they understand it, we're still learning it. That's what we want to get to. That will tell the tale of what this thing is about. Now I think what you'll do is you'll see a different team when you watch Friday. If you know anything about basketball, you'll know exactly what I did. If you don't know anything about basketball, you'll look at everybody else's tweets and read their blogs and say, `what is he saying they did because I have no - I don't know basketball. I hope somebody knows so I can write like I know.'"

On if he will quiz the media after the game about the tweak ...
"No, I'm not gonna talk about it. They'll say, `well what was it?'"

On James Young saying the adjustment improved the passing ...
"To each other, yeah, a little bit, it did. All I can tell you is there was a different feel in the building and it was not just the tweak in what we did with - it was that the physical play brought something out of them that I wanted to see. And we went two and a half hours now; it wasn't like an hour and thirty, forty - two and a half hours."

On the tweak changing how they thought from what to what ...
"It changed how they thought, from where they were to where I wanted them. But this, you know, again - all that we're doing carried over and I believe that it will. Now, adversity is going to hit and come together and show us what you're capable to do together, looking and leaning on one another. Again, this tournament is - I mean, Tennessee is playing as well as anybody in the country; they're beating people by 30. 30. Now, Arkansas on the road is not the same team they are at home but, you know, they're still playing well. They were beating people by 30. You have Georgia who has done their thing and then you have South Carolina, Auburn. Now they're kicking it in, one goes to Texas A&M, one beats us and Missouri. So you have a lot of teams and obviously Florida is like we were a couple years ago, they're in the same position. It looks like, you know, one of those teams - they're going to have a tough first opponent just like the rest of us."

On how often he has apologized to his teams for something that he did ...
"I do it a lot. I mean, I'll do, hey, this isn't on you, this is on me. I'm not afraid to do it, even if it's an individual thing that I've said or done to some individual player.

On why the tweak ...
"Because it was very clear when you saw it. You run a business and do something for real and all of the sudden you have this business and something's not working right and you can't put your finger on it. You do a couple things and you try this and OK, and then something happens and you look and say, that was it. And I think they all kind of got it and, you know, and like I said, I'm just disappointed in me that I didn't do it earlier. You know, why didn't I catch this and why wasn't I thinking in those terms? I think a lot of things this year, there were so many things that we were having to do to get individual players right and then get them together and then get them to fight through things; there were a lot of things. Now it's, you know, let's go, let's do this."

On what made this tweak come to him now ...
"I have no idea, I just was sitting at home on Sunday and just, you know, it popped into my mind and just said, you know what, let's do it. Let's do this. You know, when you're coaching your whole mindset is how do you help individual players improve and how do you help your team improve? It's not like, oh my gosh, what do I look like as a coach? My ego is bruised, my pride - you don't, you just, how do I continue to help the team. That's my job. These are 18- and 19-year olds, what do I do to help them? And so you just keep thinking of ways and we'll see. I mean, again you gotta carry it onto the court and it isn't just that, when adversity hits, teams - from here on - are fighting for their lives so adversity will hit, what do you do now? How will you deal with it? Let's just keep coming together. And that's what we're hoping to see. I mean, as much as what we did in the physical play and the tweaking and all - it will still come back to that and I'm, you know, my hope is they have a little bit better, you know, bounce in their step and that they know when things don't go right, we're still good. And that's what we haven't had for the last three weeks. We had it for a while and it kind of slipped away."

On if he has had a team where he made a change this late in the season ...
"Usually it was earlier because I caught it earlier, I really, I think it was the drugs I was taking for a while (for his hip), they got me where I wasn't thinking right but normally I would catch it and try something earlier because, you know, this isn't the first time I've tweaked it this way but we will see."

#1, James Young, G/F, Fr.

On players getting selected to the All-SEC first and second teams ...
"It's a great accomplishment for us. We worked really hard and we deserved it. It's a good thing for us."

On what that means to him ...
"It means a lot to me. I wasn't really expecting it but I'm really proud of myself and I just work really hard."

On his thoughts going into SEC Tournament ...
"Just to play real physical. It's something we've been practicing a lot in practice and working on communicating a lot more and our focus is really on our confidence being high."

On it being true that the team was playing with pads and helmets on ...
"Yeah, it's been real physical. Done a lot of running and I think our standards are a little better and everything has been going real good so far."

On what wearing pads was like ...
"(You) get pumped a lot. It's just how the games are. You just get used to it, and we're just getting ready for the game basically."

On potentially playing LSU again ...
"They're a good team, very physical. Johnny O'Bryant is really good in the post and we've just got to do a good job stopping him and making the perimeter players driving a lot more."

On potentially playing Alabama ...
"Alabama is a really good team too. They're fast and they have a really good point guard. We've just got to slow him down and I think we'll be fine."

On preparation being more difficult to prepare for two teams instead of one ...
"Not really because we played them pretty close so we're now worrying about us and how we need to play. We're going over details of both teams and just keep practicing."

On thrill of this point of the season ...
"Yeah, everything is going to be really exciting. Everybody is pumped up about it. Like I said, everyone's confidence is up there too so we should be playing really well."

On what people are supposed to believe about the tweak ...
"It's not really about it. We just got to wait till Friday to see it. I think we're just going to be playing a lot better."

On it feeling drastically different ...
"I guess. It's just you have to wait till Friday to see."

On feeling like it's the magical solution ...
"I wouldn't say all that, but it definitely helps."

On how they played against LSU in the season ...
"We played a lot more physical those two games and other games. Against LSU I think we played more as a team -- that's how we got the W -- and if we play like that, we'll be good."

On how the team played against Alabama this season ...
"We moved the ball a lot more, we gave it to our post men, and they really helped us out and it created a lot more open shots for us."

On what the team needs to fix going into the tournament ...
"Being more physical on defense. That's what we really need to do a lot more. That's what teams are doing to us. I think that's what we should start doing back."

#15, Willie Cauley-Stein, F, So.

On Calipari's tweak ...
"We just made practice more physical. He was talking about here on out, we're only guaranteed two more games and those games are going to be a full-out war, really physical, so we just made practice extremely physical and really competitive." 

On if they changed anything specific ...
"No, just mentality."

On James Young saying the team passed more in practice yesterday ...
"Yeah, we shared the ball and had a little more fun on the offensive side just by sharing the ball more." 

On how that builds confidence ...
"It felt normal. It felt like we (were) back in our groove before we lost the Arkansas game. We kind of had that feel; almost like that swagger was coming back to our team." 

On what happened to that swagger ...
"Couldn't even tell you. Just happens I guess. I don't know." 

On how practice has been different lately ...
"Since we still had games, practice was a lot shorter. (We) couldn't do a lot of the different drills we're doing now because we didn't have the time off to do it. Now that we have these four days, we can kind of go back to the preseason practice where practice is longer and we can do more drills instead of just concepts of the game. Now we can really break down stuff that we need to work on." 

On what specifically made practice more physical ... 
"Just the drills that we did. We did a lot more defensive oriented drills." 

On Calipari saying he apologized to the team yesterday ...
"Nah, the thing about Cal is he's going to admit when he's wrong. If he's wrong about something he's going to say he's wrong and he's going to fix it. That's just being a man. When you get to that point when you know you're wrong and you can admit it, that's powerful. You get a rally from your team after that." 

On Calipari admitting he was wrong in emphasizing new rules ...
"That's real accurate. We worked a lot on bodying up in the posts, on drives just using your body more, and keeping your arms still up but using your body. Because after going back and watching the film and actually looking at that piece -- because before you don't really look at it -- and now that they said that, we go back and look at the piece you can see everybody else bodying us on drives and post-ups and you wonder why we weren't doing that the whole time neither." 

#30, Julius Randle, F, Fr.

On the tweak ...
"I can't tell you. You gotta wait `til Friday. But we're all excited about it."

On whether it's a little thing or a big thing ...
"You'll see on Friday. (Reporter says, `We're not getting anything, are we?') Nothing from me."

On what the punishment would be for telling ...
"You're asking the wrong person. Ask the man upstairs."

On the treadmill possibly being the punishment ...
"I don't want to see the treadmill."

On whether Coach Cal was being serious when he talked about football pads at practice ...
"Might have. I'm not telling you. I'm just going to say it was physical."

On what good that physicality can do ...
"It's really good. We have a couple days to prepare so we've kind of been able to go back to the practices of old, which are longer, more physical. It's good for the team because that's how the games are being played and it'll be a good adjustment for us heading into the SEC Tournament."

On how the games are being officiated differently ...
"Me personally, I don't see a difference. It's been physical since the beginning of the season for me. But I see the refs letting a lot more go, just letting us play basketball and it's been good. But at the same time, you've gotta adjust to it as well."

On whether they can change much in four days of practice ...
"I think so. Being more physical, I don't think it'll be a hard adjustment for any of us. So I don't think it'll be a hard change."

On wanting to win the SEC Tournament ...
"I don't play to lose. So it doesn't matter who we're playing, I want to win. I'm excited to get back on the court and play again."

On why it's good to return to a physical game ...
"Because we're a big, strong, athletic team and being physical is kind of a part of our game and it's just kind of taken away from our physicality. It kind of takes away from our aggression and I think it'll be good to kind of return to that."

On his reaction to UK being out of the top 25 ...
"No, I don't pay attention to rankings. Our biggest focus is, are we getting better as a team or not. That's Coach's biggest focus, everybody on the team's biggest focus. I don't look at top 25 or whatever it is."

On the team's confidence level ...
"I think we're all pretty confident, especially after yesterday's practice. We're all really excited to get back on the court and play again."

On what the tweak is ...
"You're not getting it from me."

On why they were so excited ...
"Because of the tweak."

On whether it felt like a breakthrough ...
"You're not getting it from me. You'll see it on Friday."

On whether the tweak was him moving to point forward ...
"You're not getting it from me. You'll see it on Friday."

On whether the tweak was a complete departure from what they'd done before or an enhancement ...
"You're not getting it from me. You'll see it on Friday."

On whether they were wearing pads on Monday ...
"I think. I don't know. I'm not sure. It was just a long, hard, physical practice. A lot of scrimmaging and kind of a different style of play."

On whether that was the toughest practice of the year ...
"It's the toughest one we've had in a while. I don't know about all year. I don't really rank how tough practices are, but it was a pretty hard practice."

On how helpful that physicality would be against LSU ...
"It would be good. I think we'll be prepared for it, ready to play. It'll be a fun game to play in, no matter who we play. It doesn't matter, we're just ready to go out and play."

On what he remembers about LSU ...
"Long, athletic team. Very talented team. I think their team is better than what their record shows. But they're just a really good team. They match up with us well."

On what winning SEC Freshman of the Year means to him ...
"It's an honor, very humbling. I have great teammates, great coaches. It just goes to show what hard work can get you."


 

 

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