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Kentucky Meets Wisconsin in National Semis




April 3, 2014

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NCAA Tournament Central
Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
Saturday, April 5 - 8:49 p.m. ET
Arlington, Texas
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UW Get Acrobat Reader
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TV: TBS
Radio: UK IMG
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Postgame Press Conference

Cat Scratches: UK, Wisconsin not so different after all

Kentucky and Wisconsin are being cast as a study in contrasting styles.

In one corner there are the Wildcats, the crew of super-talented youngsters, and the other the Badgers, the veterans who rely on cohesiveness and half-court execution.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, however, doesn't exactly see things that way.

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole," Ryan said on Monday. "We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

There's certainly some truth to Ryan's words, but it's also a bit of an oversimplification.

UK and Wisconsin, of course, are teams that get the job done on both ends of the floor in different ways. Let's explore kenpom.com's advanced statistics to explore those differences. ... Read the full story

Cat Scratches: Clutch Cats: UK unstoppable down the stretch in reaching Final Four

Anyone who's watched Kentucky's last three games needs not be told the Wildcats have been clutch in advancing to the Final Four.

When UK needs a big 3-pointer, there's Aaron Harrison or James Young. When the Cats need an important free throw, Andrew Harrison calmly steps to the line

You surely remember many of the big plays UK used to take down three 2013 Final Four teams. But until you look back on the collection of them all, it's not entirely clear just how good the Cats have been when it mattered most.

UK has had 22 total possessions that started in the final five minutes of wins over Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan and scored a ridiculous average of two points per possession. Only twice has UK come up empty on a possession during the stretch, and never when trailing.

It began against Wichita State with the Cats down five and on the brink of a round-of-32 exit. With no room for error, UK scored on its final seven possessions -- 14 points and two points per possession -- and survived a last-second 3-point attempt by Fred VanVleet to advance. The Cats hit 9 of 12 free throws, 2 of 3 from the field and grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive. ... Read the full story

Cat Scratches: Hometown Final Four fulfills two-year dream for Randle

Julius Randle was a high-school junior sitting in study hall when he first found out.

His schoolwork done, Randle came across the news that the Final Four would be coming to AT&T Stadium in 2014. Thinking two years in his future, Randle pictured himself a college freshman playing for a national championship mere miles from where he grew up.

He hasn't stopped thinking about it since.

"It's been my screensaver for about two years," Randle said.

A year after he first found out North Texas would host the Final Four, Randle was in AT&T Stadium. Watching Florida and Michigan play in the Elite Eight just weeks after committing to Kentucky, Randle's focus only intensified.

"I just wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to get back there," Randle said. "It's just added motivation that it's in Dallas, but any kid wants to play in the Final Four. I don't care if it's on the moon. You want to play in the Final Four. But for it to be in my hometown, it's special as well."

It became even more special last weekend when playing in the Final Four went from dream to reality for Randle. ... Read the full story

Full Bracket

Media Opportunity - April 1, 2014

On matching up with Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky ...
"It's a tough matchup for us. Tough match up, really skilled, seven-foot tall. It's going to be a tough match up for us."

On if they need Willie Cauley-Stein in this game ...
"I wish we had Willie (Cauley-Stein). Maybe we will. I doubt it, but this would be his game. But, he's not here. And if he's not here, we've got to figure out what we're going to try and do. Our whole plan will be let's get ready as though he's not playing."

On the official diagnosis of Willie Cauley-Stein's injury ...
"Medical people have that, I don't. His ankle hurts."

On if Orlando Antigua getting the head coaching job is a distraction ...
"No, the guys were ecstatic for him. They were happy. Willie (Cauley-Stein) got on the phone with him and said `You know you owe me now. I helped you get that job.' It's just funny. This is a little different deal here. The guys aren't separated from the players, they create relationships with them and these guys are happy for them. He's got to do the press conference. We're not practicing until tonight. He'll be back for practice and then we go on like nothing happened. But, I can't tell you how ecstatic I am for him and the opportunity because it is the right job for him. Just a perfect - you know if you said your first job - then he's going to have to go do it. He's going to have to recruit, he's going to have to really create a culture there and an expectation to win there, which he will. And you all know that anyone that meets him is going to say `I really like him.' Now, he did not get that from me. Why are you laughing, Jerry (Tipton)? I can't get Jerry to laugh until I say something like that."

On his relationship with Bo Ryan ...
"Well, let me tell you, he and I talked yesterday for about 15 minutes and what I told him was I watched the end of your game and I watched the interview and I got emotional because he talked about his father. The reason we got to know each other was because I got to see how he was with his father. His father would go everywhere with him. Every year. And I'd see his dad, and we'd talk. It's like Billy (Donovan). I like Billy, but what I respect the most is what he is with his dad. His dad sits on the bench. So are you coaching tonight? I grab him - `What are you coaching tonight? Rebounding? Defense?' But, the same with Bo (Ryan) and his father. Coaching and all that - I don't care. Wins, national championships, that doesn't matter. To see him and how he was and then know that and watch that postgame, he and I have planned a toast to his father at the function that they do for all of the teams. So, we're both going to have a beer and toast to his dad. I said we're going to toast him yesterday and he said great. I told him I wish we weren't playing each other because one of us has to lose. I'm happy for him. He's a good man. He's a good guy."

On if he called Bo Ryan ...
"Yes. And he said my phone has rung off the hook and I have not answered for anybody, so it is cool. In some cases, our profession is still like that. In other cases, it's not. But in some cases it's still like that, and it should be."

On why Orlando Antigua is such a good fit at USF ...
"The school has unbelievable potential and facilities. He's in a league that he can win. Being South Florida, one of his home bases is going to be the Dominican Republic, which he will be able to recruit. So now you're talking South Florida with a little Latin flavor. They also need someone to excite their fans, their campus; well that's him. That's who he is. That's why I say it's a perfect fit, in my opinion."

On Bo Ryan's comments about people in other places thinking they've invented basketball ...
"Our people don't think they've invented it, they've just made it better. And our fans do have every answer to every question in basketball. They're crazy. They're nuts. I mean, they watch the tapes more than I do. I bet you there are fans out there that have watched more Wisconsin tape than I have. There's no question. How many games have you watched? `Well, I've watched their last seven.' What? You're a fan. Go enjoy the process. Enjoy the growth of the team. Enjoy what's happening. Have joy with the guys. `No, I've got to prepare for this game.' Prepare what? What are you talking about? But you know what, that's fine. If that makes them click and go and get up in the morning and smile, then I feel good about it."

On if there was ever a point where he wondered if things wouldn't click for this team ...
"No, I don't think that way. It's just like when I'm coaching a basketball game, I never think we're going to lose until the horn guys off and say, man, we needed more time, we lost that one. The losing never comes in my mind, I never give up on a player, I never give up on a team. I just think it's going to take longer. There are times that I get more aggressive, there are times that I get more impatient but I never stop believing and I never - last year we played dodgeball, kickball. I mean - I'll try whatever I have to try to try to get through to a team to help them get better. And the same with individual players, I will never give up on an individual player. You know, we have guys - and I told you, yeah I was happy about, we won and it was all good, we're going to the Final Four but we walked into that locker room and the first thing I talked about was Dominique (Hawkins) and Marcus Lee, what happened for them. The game before, Alex (Poythress) said, `it was the greatest moment in my basketball career.' Well as a coach, that's what you want from this. And now I'm saying to Alex, `Alex, you can be like Marcus Lee, why aren't you being Marcus Lee? You jump like him, you're long like him, you're stronger than him - they can't push you around. So play like him, just go and rebound every ball, go defend, block shots.' But it's really hard; you gotta do effort, effort, energy. The other way, I'll make a play every fifth time down, I can go and back it up a little bit. I don't have to extend myself. And that's again saying, Alex is playing great and he's half-way home. He's in the best shape, he's mentally better, he's helping us win. That drive where he went to the basket was a huge - probably won the game too. But now, they should be talking about him worldwide, but he's got to let loose. And that means, unbelievable effort, when you're tired take yourself out. Not, `don't take me out I want to stay in the game as long as I can.' Well that doesn't work now. Like I said, we're - to be honest, we got this week to get better. We're still getting better, this isn't like let's touch up, let's just condition and let's get down to Dallas. No, we're practicing tonight like we practiced last week."

On seeing value in taking a young team to the Final Four ...
"You just told me none of them have been there, I didn't even think about it. We're all taking teams there that are playing well right now or we wouldn't be there. Every team is playing their best. Look, Wisconsin lost five of six, Connecticut hit the dumps. The only team that hasn't is Florida. You all counted us off. I had to be wheeled in there in a casket and I opened it and I said, `we ain't dead yet, boys,' for my guys to believe. You guys didn't know I did that, that wasn't for public consumption."

On the Southeastern Conference having two teams in the Final Four ...
"I think if Tennessee wasn't in our region, they'd be an Elite Eight, Final Four team. And so it could have been three. But I also think, from Missouri, to LSU, to Georgia, Arkansas, I mean those teams are good teams. And again, we're not getting the respect we deserve, we've said it but it is what it is right now. We've just got to keep having teams advance in the NCAA Tournament and do well and see how it goes from there."

On if he actually got wheeled onto the court in a casket ...
"Willie (Cauley-Stein), did I get in wheeled in in a casket and open it and say, we ain't dead yet?"
Willie Cauley-Stein: "Absolutely."

On the Kentucky fan that got a tattoo that said `2014 National Champions'...
"Next question."

On if he borrowed the casket idea from Abe Lemons ...
"I steal everything from everybody. He was a funny, funny man right there. Did he do that? I think he did back in the `70s."

On recruiting in Texas and the evolution of it since his days at UMass ...
"When I was back at UMass and went into Texas, the coaches asked if we were Division I or Division II so we didn't do real well then. Let me tell you what's happened in Texas. Where Texas was always just about football, it still is, Friday nights and all that stuff. But the coaching in Texas, the high school coaching, has gone from the line coach coaching the basketball team, to basketball coaches, basketball junkies, coaching basketball now. So now all of a sudden you're getting skilled players. You have the John Lucas' and the other guys that are training. So before, if you remember back in the `70s and the `80s, it was, yeah the Texas kid can really go but he doesn't have the feel for - you remember all that - well that's no more. I mean, that's not the case. So you can - it's a big state now and you've got big cities and you've got a lot of kids, there's a lot of them. We were fortunate with the three that we recruited here. I mean, obviously two in one and then Julius (Randle)."

On his first impression of Julius Randle...
"When they flew in to go to their AAU game and I had this little small plane when I was flying out, I said whose plane is that, that is the Titans plane I think, wow. Also the high school he went to is a great school. He got coached in both of those programs. When I first saw him as a junior I said he is going to be really good but he is not sure of himself yet. When I saw him as a rising senior I said he staring to get his swagger. He had his swagger early and then he got punched in the mouth he tasted blood early and his swagger kind of wavered, and now he has gotten his swagger back. It shows that he is still growing as a player. But the best thing that has happened for him is that he is surrounded by good people, and they all tell him the truth. They tell him the truth. It is you. His mother is solid; she left the game early because she had to go to work. That is not going to happen very often for long, but right now I guess she had to. The Harrisons, good family, mom and dad raised them and did right. They were coached they are skilled. They just had to be challenged in a lot of different ways that they had never been challenged. They were not here in the summer, that set them back some."

On if they should be able to assist parents financially in post season ...
"I think that is always going to happen here and I predicted all of the stuff that is going to happen. And I would say all of that is going to happen. I think that there is going to be a water shed in the next year or so that you will see stuff that I have talked about for five years happening."

On what Wisconsin brings to the table ...
"Great, great passing team, movement team, keeps you on defense, make you stay in a stance. The minute you fall asleep, like if you have a lot of young guys, then somebody is falling asleep. You have to play 30 seconds. They are a defensive rebounding team. I would imagine their whole thing is that they are getting one shot at the basket and that is it. They are not getting offensive rebounds and that is it. Bo (Ryan) will probably have four days of scrum around the basket to make sure that we're not getting offensive rebounds. He is a terrific man and a great coach. He has done it at every level and it's going to be an extremely hard game for us. All these young guys against the veterans and their style, which is if you get impatient and you don't stay in the stance and have discipline, and if you change your stance for a second, five seconds or four it is a very difficult game to play. Because whatever that score is one way or another is hard. We played against Temple, five is 12 [points], 10 is 16. It is not the normal 10. So you have to be focused. We are getting better at that.  We have five or four days to really engrain them on how we are going to have to do this. The greatest thing that we have to be able to do, is play fast, presses okay we've done that, play Princeton offense we did it. The last game was a lot of Princeton this is a combination of Princeton and other stuff. We have grounded it out. There are games that we are playing in the 50s and 60s we can do that. So we are a team that is prepared to play what is thrown out at us. Which I think helps us to advance."

#00, Marcus Lee, G, Fr.

On Cal coming in practice inside a casket ...
"He said he was going to. When he told us that we all started dying laughing. It was probably the funniest thing that's happened this year."

On whether he actually did pop out of a casket ...
"I'm not going to say much about that."

On whether that could have been one of those moments when he was zoned out ...
"No. I was totally focused at that moment. It was funny though. That's all I can say about that."

On whether it feels like this team is back from the dead ...
"We were never dead, honestly. To everybody else, we were dead and not it's just in their brains. So I guess that's what he was trying to come out and say."

On whether it's a good feeling to get work in ...
"Yeah. After winning a game you know you can't just really celebrate totally and be done with it. You gotta get back in the gym and keep working hard for the next game."

On the last 48 hours ...
"I'm resting. I've been resting so much and just trying to get caught up and staying contained with my schoolwork. So that's what these two days were for."

On whether he's heard from a lot of people ...
"Yeah. I heard from a lot of my friends back at home. They were just so proud of me, so I'm just glad that they have my back."

On what it's been like on campus ...
"A lot of people come up and just say that they're proud of us and they're glad that we're working so hard. It was really great compliments."

On getting an ovation in class ...
"Yeah. I actually got a standing ovation in my marketing class because it's an Internet class that deals with a whole lot of social media. It just happened to deal with what we were learning that day."

On whether it was today ...
"Yeah, it was today."

On whether it happened when he walked in ...
"Yeah. It was just awesome. If you could see me blush, I was probably blushing. It was pretty cool."

On how many people were in the class ...
"It was probably a 200-student class."

On the importance of sustaining his good play ...
"That's what right now is for, is just to get in the gym and keep up what I started to make sure I'm always working to get better so they're not just looking at one thing I can do. I'm just broadening my horizons as we go."

On having a back and forth with a Michigan player ...
"Yeah. I think they were a little surprised not really getting a scouting report on me and Dom(inique Hawkins). So they probably weren't ready for something new."

On how he stayed ready ...
"You just stay focused throughout the game. So you always have to just keep cheering on your team and just stay focused on not yourself, but what your team's doing."

On whether the late-season struggles were harder because he didn't play ...
"No. A loss is a loss. You still feel it if you're playing or not. You just have to go out there--even if you're not contributing during the game, you gotta contribute during practice and tell your players what you're seeing in a different aspect, even if it's on the bench. You see what's happening so you can talk to them about it."

On Orlando Antigua getting the USF job ...
"We're extremely proud of him. He's a really great guy. If I can think of someone who has more energy than I do going through practice, it's him. He's the most energetic person I've ever met, and that's saying something. So I'm real proud of him. He's done a lot for me and the team, so I'm loving what he's doing."

On whether his goaltends are about needing to get timing down ...
"That's just going to happen. You've seen me, almost every game I play I end up getting some kind of goaltend. That's just how I end up getting stuff done. I can't really control that."

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

On preparation for Wisconsin ...
"Just focus in and play tough. It's going to be a physical practice so just being physical I guess." 

On being nervous ...
"Not really. We're just going to see it as another game and take it game by game. That's what we've been doing this whole tournament. Not make it bigger than it really is." 

On what it means for Harrison twins and Randle to play in home state ...
"Probably means a lot because it's their hometown so I know they're going to have high hopes for everyone to be there and support them. I know they will be and it's just going to be a good game for them." 

On what he's most excited about ...
"Just being in the atmosphere. Really just seeing my family and everyone supporting me."

On new nickname for Aaron after his shot ...
"No, same Aaron." 

On Aaron's 3 at the end of Michigan game ...
"Really just caught up in the game. The moment was right, he just took the right shot and we were all happy for him. It was an excellent shot." 

On there being doubt that the team would have gotten this far ...
"We just take it game by game, we don't try to look ahead. That's what Coach tells us to do, just stay in the moment and just focus on the game. Don't make it really big. It's just another basketball game. Something we've been playing our whole lives." 

On Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky ...
"Just limit his shots. Keep a high hand at all times. Try to make him score from mid-range and tough 2s." 

On importance of shutting him down ...
"He's a big part of their offense so if we shut him down, it'll be a lot gone from their offense, make it easier for us." 

On how good it feels to be at this point ...
"Really just staying focused. We came a long way. We had an up and down season, everybody knows that. These last couple weeks we've been really focused and we want to win." 

On just wanting to get to the game and play ...
"Yeah, taking a little break helps us prepare for the Final Four. But really we want to just get there and play. We're really just going to prepare for the game." 

On best part of this experience so far ...
"Being in atmospheres like that. Seeing how many fans came to all of our games. A lot of love that they showed. I'm pretty sure it's going to be like that in Dallas." 

On what he knows about Wisconsin ...
"I don't know a lot really. I know they have a really good five man. I've seen clips here and there on ESPN but that's about it." 

On the team having a point where they thought it wouldn't click ...
"We knew at some point in time it was going to click, we knew all along. We're a very good team, we just had to learn how to play with each other. That's all really. Once we found out how to play with each other and just listen to Coach, things were a lot more smooth."

#2 Aaron Harrison, G, Fr.

On what he thinks about going back to Texas ...
"It should be fun just going back. I'll have some family and friends there."

On how many ...
"I'm not really sure yet."

On if he's gotten any requests ...
"Yeah, too many, really."

On how many ...
"About 50 so far."

On if he's had to say no ...
"Yeah."

On if it's hit him yet that this is really happening ...
"I mean, yeah, kind of. I'm really just blessed to be in the Final Four because we had a tough season and we really weren't a favorite or anything, so we just changed a lot."

On a point where it did turn around ...
"Yeah, I think just the beginning of the SEC Tournament, really. We just came together and just started playing as a team and having fun."

On what they were thinking when they left Dallas after the Baylor game ...
"I mean, after a loss you always have to have some negative thoughts. But it was just another game really, so it wasn't that big of a deal."

On how quickly they moved from negative thoughts to it's just another game ...
"After losing you always take it kind of hard. Don't go overboard because you won't be able to recover. After you take a loss you just have to learn from it and just keep going."

On if there was anything odd about playing basketball in that stadium ...
"No, not really. We practiced there the day before."

On how many times he's watched Sunday's game ...
"None."

On if he's watched the last few seconds ...
"Nah. Oh yeah, I saw it on Twitter a couple times."

On Calipari saying they can continue to get better ...
"Yeah, definitely. I think we are the one team in the country that continues to get better even throughout the tournament. We just kept getting better through each game we had."

On how much momentum they are riding right now ...
"I think we have a lot of momentum. We are all jelling really well and shooting the ball well and defending."

On if he's done anything different shooting-wise ...
"I just got some more shots up with my dad and stuff."

On if he's felt like the big man on campus making two shots down the stretch in the past two games ...
"A couple of kids have said stuff about it. I don't feel like the big man on campus, really."

On if he has started looking at Wisconsin yet ...
"Yeah, I've watched them play a couple times. We know they're a really disciplined team and really score the ball efficiently."

On how much he believes in the notion that this is a team of destiny ...
"I really don't think it's about destiny. I think it's just about how we just came together and how good of a team we could be. We just had to figure things out. I don't think it's about destiny."

On if someone up there is looking out for them ...
"Yeah, we're definitely a blessed team, but I think we worked hard to do what we've done."

On if he was the guy to take the big shot in high school ...
"Yeah, I mean, I think so. I think it depends on, like, if my brother was feeling it he would take it sometimes. But I think for the most part I would take the last shots."

On the last play vs. Michigan being similar to the last play vs. Florida in the SEC Tournament except he got the handoff this time instead of James Young ...
"James, he just slipped and fell really."

On if he was supposed to take it inside and create ...
"No, not really. It was just a handoff for me and I hit a couple shots before that."

On how much better they've gotten at putting the previous play behind them ...
"I think we all just learned that it's all about winning. It doesn't matter individually what you're doing. You just have to do whatever you can for the team to win."

On better shot selection leading to better shooting numbers ...
"Yeah, I think Andrew's really starting to create shots for us. We're just trying to knock them down."

On the basketball culture here vs. Texas ...
"Yeah, I mean, football's really important in Texas. Coming here, everyone is like I am. Everyone loves basketball and basketball is the most popular thing. Yeah, I tell my friends a lot about how crazy everyone is about basketball here and just the little things they do that aren't normal."

On if that explains the success of basketball in Kentucky ...
"Yeah, I think so. Great fan bases, really. I think they have a lot to do with the success of the program."

On how he and his brother didn't play football when they were such big kids growing up in Texas ...
"I mean, we were tall, sort of lanky kids. Andrew wanted to play running back but he couldn't. And in Texas really, if you play football, that's pretty much the only thing you do and you have to take it really serious. If you don't take it serious you won't really get a lot out of it."

On what the last couple of days have been like for him since making those shots ...
"It's been pretty cool. People have been congratulating us but nothing too crazy."

On if he got any standing ovations in class like Marcus Lee ...
"Nah."

On his reaction to Orlando Antigua getting the South Florida job ...
"I'm just excited for him. I don't know if everyone wants to be a head coach, but I know he'll be a great head coach and I know he's excited, and I'm excited for him and I'm proud of him."

On how he changed his body language ...
"You just have to keep it in your mind and just work on it even when you're by yourself. If you miss a shot, you just have to go on to the next one in your head. It's just mental."

On if he modeled himself after anyone with the big shots he's made ...
"Coach just said you can't be afraid to miss if you want to take a big shot and I'm not really afraid to miss. I don't know if I practice on it or anything. I just want to shoot a big shot really."

On if there is any advantage to already playing in that building before ...
"No. I think the teams will get up there early enough to get some shots up, so I don't think that's a really big advantage."

On what Calipari has talked to them about what to expect at the Final Four ...
"We all know there's going to be a lot of people there and (they are) big games, but he just told us to stay focused and it's just another basketball game; don't make it bigger than it is."

On if he's asking for the ball for a last-second shot if they're in that situation again ...
"I don't know. It depends on what Coach calls." 

#5, Andrew Harrison, G, Fr.

On what campus has been like the last couple of days ...
"It's been fun, but at the same time we're just trying to stay focused on the game."

On if he saw the firefighters after the game ...
"Yeah, we (were) riding past and we saw them so we just took a picture with them. That was pretty fun."

On what he thinks about the celebrations of fans ...
"I've seen pictures on Instagram and stuff. That's pretty crazy. That just shows how much school spirit we have."

On if he got a standing ovation like Marcus Lee ...
"I haven't gotten no standing ovation or anything like that. It's just a good feeling for Marcus."

On if he deserved that ...
"Oh yeah. He played his butt off. So I'm happy for him."

On Calipari supposedly rolling himself in the team room in a casket to get the message through ...
"Yeah, definitely. A lot of people didn't think we would be here let alone Sweet 16 or anything like that, so it's fun proving people wrong and we're just trying to get better still."

On if they believed they could get here all along ...
"Yeah, of course." (Smiles)

On there never being a doubt in his mind ...
"Never a doubt."

On how it feels being at this point ...
"It's a great feeling. Not too many people get to reach the Final Four, so now that we're here, we're just trying to stay focused."

On if he's excited to return to Texas ...
"Oh yeah, definitely. Get to see a lot of my family I haven't seen in a while, so that will be fun."

On Orlando Antigua finally getting a head-coaching gig ...
"I'm excited for him. We're going to miss him around here, but he was a great coach and they're lucky to have him."

On if he's had the 50-something ticket requests like his brother ...
"Yeah, definitely. It's kind of stressful. But better than not having any."

On if it's hard to say no to people ...
"Uhhh, your family, it's hard to say no to your family."

On sticking to business and still working ...
"You have to remember what we've been through. Even though we're a young team we've seen it all this season and that's all still in the back of our minds. A lot of people still don't think we can win it, so we're just going to have to go out there and play as hard as we can."

On how much being in so many close games has helped from one game to the next ...
"If you can remember at the beginning of the season, when we did have close games we didn't pull them out. So now that we're starting to do that, we can close games at the end, it's a good feeling. It shows we're growing."

On how much growing he's done this year ...
"I grew up a lot. Matured. I think I'm able to take criticism now. It was a good experience."

On if he feels like they're playing more as a unit ...
"Yeah definitely, a little bit. It's starting to become a lot more fun."

On if there is any advantage to already playing in AT&T Stadium ...
"I don't think so. We didn't play too well in it."

On what the better shooting numbers are attributed to ...
"Aaron and James are really knocking down their shots, making big shots for us and we're just moving the ball around."

On how they didn't get pushed in the football direction growing up in Texas ...
"I just stopped playing in high school. I'm not sure. I still love football. I still love watching it and stuff like that."

On having to play it all the time if you want to play it in Texas ...
"Yeah, definitely. If it's not during the season, you have to do 7-on-7 or something like that. We wanted to play basketball."

On if it was fun to come to a place where basketball is so important ...
"Yeah, definitely. That was definitely a factor in my decision to come here. It's a basketball school without a doubt."

On if he's ever thought what it would be like not playing with his brother ...
"No, not really. I've done everything with him. We knew we weren't going to different schools."

On how his relationship as brothers has evolved here or what they have learned ...
"That we need each other. Everyone knows we have great individual talent, but to be a great team we have to all play together and love each other, and we do that. That's why we're making this great run."

On the feeling of getting ready to go play in the Final Four ...
"I can't. I'm so excited I can barely sleep sometimes. I just can't wait. At the same time you've got to stay focused and realize it's just a basketball game."

On playing in such a huge stadium ...
"It's a huge place, very nice place. We did play there earlier this year, but we want to forget that game and just go in there with a new life, a new team, a different team."

On if he was thinking after that game that they could get back to Dallas ...
"I was just focused on the loss and improving that game. I wasn't really focused on the Final Four at that point in the season."

On how much better they have gotten at moving on from one play to the next ...
"It's tough, definitely. At the same time you've got to realize it's about the team, not how you're playing. If the team plays well, you look good."

#30, Julius Randle, F, Fr.

On what he thought about UK's chances of going to the Final Four after the Baylor loss ...
"I knew for sure I wanted to get back. I don't really know what I was thinking. I feel like that's forever ago. It just shows how fast the season goes by, but I wanted to get back there, whatever it took."

On playing in a big arena ...
"It's fun, especially Cowboys Stadium. It's huge and it's just going to be fun. The atmosphere, the environment, so many people there. The last time it was an ice storm, so it was a big arena but it wasn't too many people. I'm just looking forward to this time playing in front of a big crowd and competing again."

On the hardest thing he's seen his mother go through that drives him ...
"Just seeing her every day get up, go to work and just take care of me and my sister and for her to do it by herself and for her not to have much and to make sure me and my sister felt like we had everything we needed and wanted just goes to show how strong of a woman she is. She did it all by herself."

On whether he thinks about that when he plays ...
"I don't think about it. I can't. She's always telling me just to enjoy being a college student, not to worry about her, not to worry about taking care of her. She says to enjoy being a college student because she doesn't want to put that type of pressure on me and there's no need to. I'm just blessed to be here, play basketball at Kentucky and that's all I can really focus on."

On what he thought about his mother having to leave the Michigan game early ...
"Not too much. I knew she was going to have to leave so I just wanted to make sure we won so I could see her again."

On Calipari saying he wanted to jump out of a coffin ...
"Coach is crazy. He comes up with some of the craziest things. If he would have (done) that I probably would have lost it."

On how much his mother is excited about him coming back home ...
"She's really excited. I don't know how much she's going to be around because I know she wants me to focus and stuff, but she's really excited and so is the rest of my family."

On whether going to the Final Four feels like coming full circle ...
"Yeah, it's kind of weird. It's just what I asked for. I can remember being a junior in high school, I was in study hall and I didn't have anything to do and I found out it was here, the national championship (in) Dallas. It's just where I wanted to be and it's always been my goal."

On thinking about this for two years ...
"Yeah. It's been my screensaver for about two years."

On attending last year's Elite Eight in Dallas ...
"I just wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to get back there. It's just added motivation that it's in Dallas, but any kid wants to play in the Final Four. I don't care if it's on the moon. You want to play in the Final Four. But for it to be in my hometown, it's special as well."

On whether he was able to picture himself playing in the Final Four then ...
"Yeah, I could."

On how many ticket requests he's gotten ...
"I'm not dealing with it. I'm not dealing with it. You can call my mom. I'm not dealing with it. I changed my number."

On being relieved after the Michigan win and guarding against being content ...
"We aren't relieved. When you realize you're going to the Final Four of course you're going to celebrate, but, look, guys are in the gym working right now. So we're not done yet."

#44 Dakari Johnson, C, Fr.

On the physical grind ...
"It doesn't feel good right now. But it's hard work and it's going to pay off for us in the long run." 

On relief to break through to Final Four ...
"We're not satisfied at all. We have one goal and that's to win a national championship. I feel like each and every day during practice we work hard to reach our goal." 

On Cal coming in practice inside a casket ...
"Yeah, he talked about it. He said he was going to get a casket in here and pop up and say 'We're not dead yet!' "

On if he feels like the team has risen from the dead ...
"Yeah, I feel like we answered a lot of questions but we still have a long way to go. We're still not satisfied." 

On him saying the team believed in themselves after the Florida game ...
"It just shows we stuck together as a team even though we could have bogged down throughout the season, just shows that we stick together."

On Aaron saying the team clicked in the SEC Tournament ...
"Yeah, because I think that's the first time we had a couple days of practice. Coach Cal told us what to do and we all listened to him." 

On Willie Cauley-Stein being out ...
"The reason Willie (Cauley-Stein) was big was because he's a great defensive player, a great overall player too. It just gave opportunities to Marcus Lee." 

On assistant coach Orlando Antigua's new job (as South Florida head coach) ...
"I was just happy for him. I know Coach O's brother because of St. Raymond in New York so I'm real close with his family. I'm just so happy for him." 

On Antigua being ready for a head coaching position ...
"Yeah, he is. He works hard each and every day."

On what he's seen from Marcus the past couple of days ...
"He's just getting in the gym with me. Just working hard. He's not satisfied either. He had a great performance, he just wants more." 

On sensing that no one is satisfied ...
"Yeah, I can sense it. I know we're still working hard. Today we had workouts before practice so we're still trying to get better." 

On what has helped him this postseason ...
"Just being more vocal and following what coach wants me to do, rebound, defend and make strong post moves." 

On how he feels physically ...
"Ah man, I'm worn out. I'm worn out. But just that desire to win a national championship is going to push me over the hump." 

On key for Marcus Lee to get better timing on blocking shots so he doesn't get basket interference calls ...
"He's so athletic. He just waits. Last game I think he timed it really well and I think that helped him." 

On Frank Kaminsky ...
"We know he's a great offensive player, defensive player, great overall player. He plays well on the defensive end and on the offensive end he's a perimeter player too. He can go inside and out. We're going to have to play him as a whole team." 

On Arizona center saying Kaminsky is hard to guard because he's awkward ...
"He may not be as smooth but he's crafty with his moves. You really have to do a great defensive job on him, not individually but as a team."

On getting recognized in classes ...
"Yeah, me and Dom (Hawkins), we walked in our math class and everybody just started clapping and stuff. It's just great to see the environment on campus, everybody congratulating you. But we're not letting that get to our head, we still have a job to finish." 

On if he was embarrassed ...
"A little bit. I was just laughing. It just felt good but at the same time, it's one game at a time. We still have to look forward to the next game." 

On if students were avoiding him a couple months ago ...
"Not really avoided us. The fans here are just great, even though we were down a couple weeks ago they still stuck with us. Just seeing that our hard work makes them happy, just pushes us to work even harder." 

On feeling like people wrote them off as a team ... 
"It just feels like we turned the whole season around, we flipped the script." 

On how that happens ...
"Just coming together as a team, we believed in ourselves. We never gave up. We worked every day in practice, guys got extra hours in the gym. We just knew we could make a run like this." 


 

 

Kentucky Interactive CoachCal.com