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Kentucky Returns to Action Against Belmont




Dec. 19, 2013

Scouting the Bruins

Belmont enters the matchup at Kentucky owning an 8-4 record, but the Bruins have dropped three of their last four outings. Belmont's 2013-14 signature win was an 83-80 victory at North Carolina on Nov. 17.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Belmont
Saturday, Dec. 21 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | BU Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPNU
Radio: UK IMG
Gameday Live: Live stats, audio, blog, and social media
Live Video via WatchESPN
Text Updates

The Bruins have four players averaging double-figures led by senior guard JJ Mann's 17.7 points per game. The do-everything guard leads the team in assists, steals and rebounds on the year. Craig Bradshaw chips in 12.5 points and Blake Jenkins averages a team-high 4.8 boards per game.

Belmont averages 80.1 points per game and shoots at a .492 clip. Drew Windler is connecting from long range at a team-high .560 percentage having knocked down a squad-best 28 3-pointers on the season.

This will mark the first meeting between Belmont and Kentucky in program history.

Kentucky vs. the Ohio Valley

Kentucky is a perfect 35-0 against member institutions comprising the Ohio Valley Conference. That mark includes 10 victories each over in-state members Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.

Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd

One of the most successful and respected coaches in the country, Head Coach Rick Byrd has been a model of consistency in leading Belmont's transition from an NAIA institution to a perennial headliner and championship program in NCAA Division-I.

2012-13 was the latest chapter in a story of sustained excellence for Belmont Basketball. On the heels of a record-breaking campaigns in 2011 and 2012, Belmont lived up to advanced billing, new life in a new league, and again delivered championship form. After winning nine games against the No. 2 non-conference strength of schedule in the nation, Belmont won the OVC regular season title - the program's sixth regular season title in eight years. Byrd then directed the Bruins to victories over Tennessee State and Murray State in the conference tournament to again cut down the nets and send Belmont to a third straight NCAA Tournament.

The OVC championship marked Belmont's sixth in the last eight years; Belmont joins the exclusive company of Kansas and Memphis as the only programs in the nation to earn six NCAA Tournament automatic bids in the last eight years.

Moreover, Belmont received national poll votes eight times in 2012-13, including the final ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches' poll. And the Bruins' final RPI of 24 was the highest in program history.

Last year, Byrd received the NCAA Bob Frederick Award for his lifelong commitment to sportsmanship, ethical conduct, and fair play. Moreover, he received induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. Byrd was also named OVC Coach of the Year, is a candidate for the Jim Phelan and Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year awards, as well as the Skip Prosser Man of the Year award.

All told, Belmont has won 12 conference championships (six regular season, six tournament) since 2006 - only Kansas has won more over that span. Unquestionably, Byrd has built a program with staying power. Only Belmont and Kansas have won 12 or more regular season conference games each of the past 11 years.

Pregame Media Opportunity - December 19, 2013

Head Coach John Calipari

On working on closing out games ...
"(It's) Really (about closing out the) the last three, four minutes of the game. It's something we've had to do here every year that I've been here. We are really narrowing it to what you do and what you absolutely don't do. We've got to be clear on it. I think I mentioned this, but we have to be more organized offensively. Their instincts are now for them not us. We have to be a little bit more organized. There are things that we did where I said we are getting better, and there are other things where I watch the tape and I say we are not getting better. We reverted on some things. It's a process."

On if he will be doing more orchestrating in the closing minutes of games ...
"No. It's just that they have a better idea of the sequence of the way we are playing. (If) you don't score right away what do we do? `Well, I try and take it and score.' No. Here's what we do now. Now, if we stop that, what do we do now? Whether it's man or zone. There are a lot of things that we thought `Oh, they will know this.' But, they don't. We have been working on it some."

On how Andrew Harrison is doing ...
"He's ok. It's just tough being a point guard for us and for me. My point guards historically, it's the hardest position to play and what's happened to not only Andrew (Harrison) is they have basketball habits that are bad and they are hard to change. They don't respond to adversity real well. Whether it's an official's call, whether it's a bad pass, whether if it's they miss a shot. They are acting like they're 18 years old. Oh."

On if part of their struggles are the fact that they aren't used to adversity ...
"No. Some of this is something we talked about from day one that we had to work on. How they respond, body language and those sorts of things. The other thing you have going here is you have to focus on how do I help my team get better. It's something that we're still learning."

On if this team hates to lose and gets more upset than last year's team ...
"They are making critical errors down the stretch. In some cases, we shouldn't be in that situation. So we can all talk about the last three minutes, but at the eight-minute mark, when we are ready to go to a 13-14 (point lead), and we go back to `I'm going to do my thing.' All of the sudden it's a turnover and a missed shot and the lead is down to five. Now the game changes. We are doing a little bit of all of that right now. At the end of the day, my message is simple to them today. We can't change how we started. Not changing. You can change how you approach the end. And that's how you'll be remembered. We made strides in practice, but you have to carry it over, you have to change the habits, understand that you've really got to focus. You have to understand you can't play as many minutes. You've got to play less minutes, which means guys have to go in and out. Guys coming in off the bench will be going in and out and there will be guys taking themselves out and then ready to go back (in). It's just how it is right now. This team at the end of the day has to be a great defensive team. That's what we need to be and we are not. And it starts with pressure. There are five or six things, and again personnel, understanding that's got to be the best part of your game as an individual. Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) understood it because he didn't shoot the ball well. He knew. Well, `I'm not making a name shooting the ball. I'm making a name playing defense, rebounding and being vicious.' We have guys here that have to take that on. It's hard to do that. And to come down every fourth play and take a shot. That's easy. So if you make it, you can take two minutes off. Well, you can't play that way. I mean we are in a dogfight every game we play."

On Marcus Lee's status ...
"I was going to put him in (at North Carolina), but it wasn't fair. The coaches said `Coach, don't do that to him.' His back has been bothering him. His weight was down because he missed two, three days of practice and I wanted to put him in, but then I said I just couldn't do that to this kid on national television. He hadn't practiced and then all of the sudden I'm yelling go in the game. I caught the better of myself and I said don't do this to that young man. But he is fine. He's fine."

On Aaron Harrison ...
"He's been great. Aaron (Harrison) in yesterday's practice when it started going and then we were winding it down, he stepped up. He has an edge to him that we need everybody to have."

On if there is a sense of urgency with this team ...
"I always have a sense of urgency. I want them to be better right now. But, it's going to be a process and we've all got to live with it. Me especially. It's not always on my timetable, or our fans, or the media when the light will go on. But, I have all the confidence in the world it will at some point. I keep saying that it will be our persistence versus their resistance. They have to understand that I'm not changing."

On if the players are showing resistance ...
"It's not resistance. It's their habits. It's hard to change. What we ask them to do is really hard. You know, we're watching Texas last night, what did they do? They raced up the court. Get it and go. That's how we're trying to play. Not get it and jog. Not mess with the ball. Get it and loop it ahead. Or shoot a layup. That's all (Texas) did. They defended and they flew, they shot layups and threw some stuff at them. That's what they did. They flew. Why aren't we flying? Because it's not their habit. Their habit is ok, jog it up, okay now I'm going to beat this guy. It's going to take time, but I'll tell you when then get it they'll be fine. But, until then, it's going to be a struggle. I'm used to us being up 20 at half, but it doesn't appear like that'll be this team. We'll be in dogfights every night."

On the message of changing how you finish ...
 
"Those things pop in my mind. Most of those things are not stolen from anybody. I just wake up and I'm in the shower and (Winston) Churchill comes to mind. The thing is, we have a meeting and I talk to them prior to practice and post-practice. Why? I've got to fill their minds more than the stuff they are reading or hearing. The phone calls they get or make, they make the call where the person is going to tell them what they want to hear. `You should be playing more. He shouldn't sub you. The other guy needs to be subbed.' Well, I've got to overwhelm all of those things. I'm trying everyday to give them a message and get them to think. That'll be today's message and talk about what do you want this to become and what are you willing to do. That includes each guy. I had a friend call me and he said that my benches are normally really into it, jumping up and down and checking guys and all this. He says the bench seems dead. So, we have been working on that. For my friend to call me and say that, he obviously watches and he knows my teams. This team will make it when we make great defensive stops and you see them on a great defensive play coming together and chest bumping and hugging each other and going nuts and clapping. Until they get to that point, their emotion is all tied on how well they are playing, not how well we're playing. How they're playing. That's part of what we do as coaches. Some guys are not playing as well as they will at the end of the year. Well neither did Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis wasn't an impact offensively unless we threw him a lob or he blocked a shot and he defended a little bit if the guy wasn't physical. The offense came later, and that was like February if you remember. We all have this vision at the end of the year and it was him shooting right and left jump hooks. At the beginning of the year we didn't throw him the ball. He had no strength he had no base. He had no game in there. We just got to go and we are coaching him. We are going to have some time with them over these next three weeks after we give them some time off for Christmas. Let me tell you something. Belmont, they've dropped a couple because a couple of kids got hurt. They beat North Carolina, were up 10 or 11 at halftime. Rick Byrd is one of the great coaches in our country. He is one of the great ones you don't know about. What he has done at Belmont to take that program from where it is, it's never been done. And then to have success everywhere he has taken the program, never been done before. He's been through the wars. He's played all the great teams. He's not coming in here and his team won't come in here anything less than `Let's try and beat these guys.'

On if Derek Willis is a viable option for this team ...
"We need to get him in. He's another guy we need to see if we can play him as a stretch four and see if he can shoot jumpers. We've got some things here we've got to try. He's got to compete in practice. He's been great the last couple practices. I'll tell you who's been off the chains is Alex (Poythress). Alex was as good as I've ever seen him anywhere at any time in yesterday's practice because not only did he play, he sustained. Normally he makes one play and for the next three minutes, `I'm done' But he has always been that way and that's been the hard thing for him. And so yesterday's practice, he went from good to really good to great. I was amazed. Hopefully he's starting to get it a little bit."

On how much the point guard is at fault for offensive struggles ...
"It's our point guard, but let me tell you, our wings aren't sprinting either. Julius (Randle) isn't sprinting. All (James Michael) McAdoo did to him was sprint. McAdoo made two jump shots. He missed a ton of free throws, but he ran. Now that's not too much to ask, but that's where we're trying to get too. It doesn't mean you run and take a crazy shot. It might not be there. But run to explore. It's not their habit. We're just trying to zero things on the things that we need to do."

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

On being glad finals are over ...
"They're almost over. Got a couple more things to take care of, but tomorrow I will be."

On whether this is a rough week ...
"It is the worst week. Definitely the worst week to try to balance out everything. But it's only a week."

On whether it makes it worse to stew over a loss ...
"Yeah, I mean, that's always the case. If you're coming off a loss, you know, everything's more on edge. You got a lot more to work on because you're working on the stuff you did bad and then it doesn't help that it's finals week and you got four tests that you have to try to cram for and papers to write. So it's just a big mess of a week."

On coach Calipari's message following the UNC loss ...
"Same. Work hard, trying to sustain effort, defense."

On Calipari's message about forgetting the past ...
"I can see that. I mean, he says pretty much the same stuff in different words. But a lot of it has to do with just effort on defense and a lot of what he says, it comes down to the last five minutes of a game. Right now we don't know how to close out the last five minutes of a game. That happens with young guys. It was the same with us last year. Hopefully it just comes and it starts clicking for us."

On whether this team is better equipped to respond than last year's ...
"We'll find out. I can't really tell you."

On the key to the final five minutes ...
"A lot of it has to do with just execution and playing through mistakes. Obviously you're going to make mistakes and you just gotta, especially the last five minutes, just try to play through it because you don't know what you're about to get. In the North Carolina game, we made a bunch of mistakes in the last five minutes of the game and we still had a chance to win and we just didn't play through the mistakes that we made and we were constantly making more mistakes because of the last mistakes we made. It's just an add-up. The last five minutes you gotta execute and make not as many mistakes."

On whether he is comfortable being a player his teammates look to ...
"I mean, yeah. I've been there. I've been through the worst of it. Me and Alex (Poythress) and Jon Hood and Jarrod (Polson), we've all been through--They've (Hood and Polson) been through the best of it and they've been through the worst of it. Those guys are definitely more equipped than I am. But I feel like I'm a guy you can turn to for that."

On whether things aren't as bad as they seem because UK has played three ranked teams to the end ...
"No, it's a big problem that has to be solved. There's no sugar-coating it. We were ranked too, so you gotta be able to--When it comes down to it you gotta be able to finish out a game."

On whether this team "hates to lose" ...
"Definitely. It comes with the mentality when they first came in here. He repeated to us last year that the guys coming in are going to be killers. I just don't think they realize how hard it is and that every game that you're playing against their absolute best and the next game they're not going to play good at all. It just happens to be you and that's how it is coming here and signing up for it. You just gotta play through it."

On the team now having a chip on its shoulder ...
"Definitely. The last couple days of practice there's been a sense of urgency that's changed the feel of the way this team is starting to act. And I feel like I've been through it. I feel like it's going to change real quick because we got no choice. Cal's going to get it out of us either way, so we can either fight it and we can be miserable and it's still going to get done, just in a longer time, or accept the fact that we're wrong and learn and build off of it."

More on Calipari's message of forgetting the past and focusing on approach to the future  ...
"What we've done, you can't change it. So there's no point in rethinking about it. The last three games, you can't--I mean, there's no point in going back unless you're trying to teach a mistake and that's about it. The losses, it's done, it's over with and the only thing you can control now is how we prepare for the next two games."

On how important Camp Cal could be ...
"It'll be extremely important just because we don't get a lot of time, unless you come in late at night, to work on your skills. And then having a skills workout and then a practice and then lift weights, it's just another opportunity for you to get better. That's just what we need right now."

#5, Andrew Harrison, G, Fr.

On Belmont ...
"We just have to go in there and play as hard as we can. We can't really worry about the opponent. We have to worry about us. All we can do is practice hard and play as hard we can to get better every day."

On how the players are handling the 8-3 start ...
"No one likes to lose, but it's a long season. We're all so young, but we love each other and we're working to get better every day."

On where he would like to get better ...
"Myself? Just being a better leader. Talk on defense more. Play better defense. And finishing games."

On getting closer to what Coach Cal wants ...
"I hope so, but at the same time, everyone can still play a lot better including myself."

On how he's adjusted to Calipari's coaching ...
"It's tough, but you just have to know that everything he says, he's trying to help you, and that's the way you have to look at it."

On the responsibility falling on him ...
"I'm OK with that. I feel like I have to pick it up personally. Our team knows what we need to do and we still have a lot of talent on our team. We still have confidence in each other, so all we can do is play."

On how tough losing is to handle ...
"It hurts, especially on that plane riding back. That's the worst feeling. The only thing you can do is come back to practice the next day and continue to work hard."

On how they have responded to the loss the last few days ...
"It's been some very tough practices, and I think we've responded well. We knew coming in it wasn't just going to be a smooth ride. You have obstacles, and that's what I think builds a man is going through obstacles, reaching your goals."

On the mood of the team ...
"I think now we have a chip on our shoulder. Coming into this season, people tried to put us up there with the greatest team ever or whatever, but now we have a chip on our shoulder. Now we have a reason to play hard. We have stuff to prove, so that's what we're going to try to go do."

On how hard it was to block out all the preseason praise ...
"Definitely. The amount of talent on our team, it's very rare for a college team, so when people see you lose games and stuff, they're kind of disappointed and say, `Oh, maybe this guy's not good or whatever.' The only thing you can do is stay confident in your coaching and your teammates."

On what they are trying to work on defensively ...
"Just be tougher. When Willie (Cauley-Stein)  boxes out, we have to have his back on rebounds and stuff, and that's what Coach is really been big on us."

On what's going on the last five minutes of games ...
"I think we kind of break down a little bit, not really realizing the time, the time and place. That's pretty much on me being a point guard; I have to know what to do in certain times of the game so I'll take the blame for that."

On whether he is putting too much of the blame on himself ...
"Nah, I don't think it's too much because it's my responsibility and I knew coming in it was going to be my responsibility."

On everybody knowing what they are supposed to be doing at this point ...
"I think we're getting there. Like I said, we're very young. Everyone wants to score, but I don't think it's a selfish thing. I think we just try to win. Everyone wants to play well. Like Coach said, that kind of affects the rest of the game when you're not playing well, when you're playing for yourself and not for your team."

On part of the `selfishness' just being that they've always been the guys to make the plays ...
"It's not selfishness. It's just wanting yourself to do good. With so much talent, we have to realize it's not about scoring or anything; it's just about playing hard and playing as a team and then we can get back to having fun."

On whether or not they are having fun ...
"Losing isn't fun, no."

On needing better body language ...
"I think so. I think sometimes our enthusiasm is there. And like I said, that's another thing I can improve on."


 

 

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