On where this team’s confidence in its shot is right now:
We’ll see. I mean, they shot the ball well yesterday, had a great practice. Got to do it in the games, got to have a fire, a passion to play. If we’ve got to get them excited about this game—You know, I think they’ll be ready to play, but we’re playing an outstanding team, plays well at home, haven’t lost in the league, haven’t lost a home game in a long time. It’s a tough challenge.
On James Young saying Calipari is looking for ‘unleashed offense’:
Want them to fly up and down the court. You know, I want them to be aggressive, create for each other more than us having to run stuff. Now, against them you do have to do things because they do a great job of getting back in transition defense. They’re not going to give you easy baskets, so you do have to really be strong with the ball and create for each other. You know, our numbers, whether they’re defense or offensive numbers, are fine versus their numbers. It’s just going to be OK, let’s go, let’s go do this. Let’s go compete and see what happens. You know, you’re not gonna—it’s not going to be easy. There’s nothing going to be easy about it.
On what lessons he takes from first 30 minutes and last 10 minutes of first Florida game:
Well, we lost the game because of two offensive rebounds. Now, we could have made more shots and it wouldn’t have come down to that, and all this and that and that and that. Two offensive rebounds. The Smith kid going to the baseline, kicking it out. That’s a basket. Then the other one: grabbing it in the middle, throwing it out, three. That’s five points, that was the ball game. Two offensive rebounds. We fouled late in the clock two or three times down the stretch, just didn’t have enough defensive discipline, but we gave ourselves a chance. So there was a lot of good stuff that came out of it. We didn’t play fearful. Went to Mississippi, didn’t play fearful. Then we just hit a stretch of games where we got a little rattled.
On whether UK hit a wall physically late against Florida:
On whether the team is in the kind of shape he wants it to be at this point:
Well, it’s in the kind of shape you want it to be, but these kids all played high school basketball and their season ended about two weeks ago, three weeks ago. Their high school seasons have ended. And now you’re into the gut-check of your season. So, yeah, it could have been—some of it could be that.
On if there are one or two areas the Cats have to be good to win at UF:
You gotta negate the press. They’re going to come after (you); they press more there than they do on the road. And they’ll bring four guys and they’ll try to steal. You’ve gotta be strong with the ball and be aggressive. And you’ve gotta be able to play their pick-and-roll offense, because a lot of it is pick-and-roll. Offensively, they do a great job of crowding, so you gotta make some jump shots.
This is not a game you can go 2 for 22 from the three. Not this game. Because they will give you—their field-goal percentage against the three is like 34 percent. Well why is that? Well, they crowd. They make sure if they’re going to give up something, it’s going to be a three. Obviously we play a little bit differently than that. So this is a game they force you to make some jumpers.
On players subbing themselves out, and if previous young players did it better:
Again, you know, we even got guys arguing that—I’m putting a couple of assistants on individual players and telling them, ‘You sub. If they don’t want to come out, just take them out.’ So we’re doing whatever we can to get guys off the floor. Now, the guys like Jarrod, this game he’s got to go in and perform. He can’t play timid at all. Just go play. Shoot balls. If you’re open, just let them go, because we’re going to have to get minutes out of him.
On which assistant is assigned to Julius:
Kenny Payne is watching him, and he was getting him in and out, doing a great job.
On if he can see a difference in Julius when he’s playing fresh:
Julius in the last three weeks has done everything we’ve asked him to do. We just want him to take more jump shots, but he’s doing everything else. He’s rebounding the ball. Because he’s not playing as many minutes, he’s not breaking down defensively as much. We’ve got to get Alex playing back to how—an aggressive, ‘We need you to do two or three things on offense. Rebound and defend and go block shots. If you’re open, shoot the ball. One-dribble pull-ups. Don’t try to pass cross-court scoop pass. Don’t. Just give it to the guard. It’s not your game.’ We’re trying to narrow in guys so they can play in a confident way. You’re competent at these things, and it’s going to make you confident. Just do those things, and—what’s amazing to me is the team that has this much ability and size, and the numbers speak that we’re pretty good. If you look at our numbers, and I’m not talking the RPI, which is good, strength of schedule, which is good. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking defense, shot blocking, rebounding, three-point field-goal percentage, offensive field-goal percentage—we have some numbers that aren’t great.
But when you look at all that, to have people say this team’s done, I just don’t believe it. I mean, a team that has this kind of skill and ability? And other teams have lost four out of five and go on the road and lose, lose a home game to somebody, somebody else has lost, this team has lost. And, ‘OK, wait ’til they get ready for the tournament.’ That’s what this team is. So let’s hope the light goes on. If it goes on this game, fine. If it takes another game, fine. We just need the light to go on. And I’ve had teams come around at all different times. I believe in this team. I believe in the individual players. I really do. These are great kids. I love coaching them. I had a ball in practice yesterday. And I did tell them this: I said, ‘I’ve had friends of mine say, “One, you look tired.”‘ I am tired! It’s March, I’m exhausted! ‘You look tired.’ How stupid is that? Do you look at any coach that doesn’t look tired? I’m the only one that looks tired? Oh my gosh. The second thing is, they say, ‘You know, I’m watching, you don’t have as much fun as you usually have with your teams.’ And I said to my team, ‘You guys must be rubbing off on me now, ’cause that’s never said about me when I’m coaching.’ So, you know, again, great kids. They’re trying. The weight of the world, overhyped, over-this, set up for failure, all that, all of us, including me. Bang. None of that matters. Now go play. Let’s go have some fun and ball and see where we are against the best team in the country on the road on Senior Night. Let’s see where we are. Let’s see where we are.