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Post-Louisville quotes from John Calipari, Andrew Harrison, Alex Poythress and James Young


Kentucky somehow flourished without Julius Randle in the second half against Louisville on Saturday and won 73-66, and here are some quotes from UK’s side following said game. Questions are in italics and paraphrased for clarity, as always.

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JOHN CALIPARI

On facing adversity:

I thought they did good. Thought we grew up today. It was a very physical game. You know, there were times they were looking for calls and I just said, they are not  the game is physical, just play.

 

It got to 53-53, I got upset because a couple guys started, that looked like were going to lose, and then you’re out, you’re not on the court, I’ve got to take you out. Just play. You know, just finish the game out. Playing without Julius (Randle), I thought Alex (Poythress) was unbelievable but he’s been doing it in practice. He’s never been like this. And I thought he was great. Julius in the first half was good and Andrew (Harrison) finished the game, did a pretty good job, James (Young) rebounded the ball. Dominique (Hawkins) was good. Dakari (Johnson) was better. Dakari just missed three balls. If he had gotten all three of those balls, I probably played him another ten minutes, he didn’t get any of the three, they were right there, just grab those, but I thought he did a good job. Again, guys, this is the youngest team I’ve ever coached, ever. I’m learning. Believe me when I tell you, I’ve never coached a team this young and so there’s so many things that we’re doing, trying to figure out, as we go.

 

But you know, the one thing I want to tell you, please, all this stuff about, you know, doing it this way, doing it another way. This is not two basketball teams. Please, stop. Cal way; there’s no “Cal” way. There’s no “Cal ball.” This is about those players. Last year, Louisville was better than us and if they had played us again they would have beat our brains in again. Two years ago, we were better than them twice and we were better than them, and we beat them twice. Well, young, old, ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter. Now, if we play them again, I don’t know if we are good enough to beat them again. I know in this environment we were the better team today but all this stuff about the way he does it, the way they do it, the way this is  that’s all, just please stop. Quit wasting your time.

 

This is about players playing as a team. This team is becoming a good team. We haven’t been all year. Now we’re starting. You know why? Because they knew if they didn’t play together, they had no shot in this game. They had to play and do their job. Still broke down. There were five or six, we walked out of a timeout when we had that ball in front of our bench, we were supposed to be in a line. They decided, well, we can just throw it in. Oh, really. And they threw it in for a layup down the other end. So we have those kind of plays that a young team doesn’t think it’s important in certain areas. But I thought Andrew in the second half played well, James Young did some good things. Again we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. Didn’t make our free throws, but neither did they, thank goodness.

 

What kind of step is it just from a standpoint of, it was going so well for Julius in the first half and not to have him at all in the second and to have so many other guys respond?

I didn’t even recognize he wasn’t there. I just coached the game. We have enough guys. I thought Dakari was good today. I thought Dominique was good today. Alex was outstanding. Willie (Cauley-Stein) gave great effort and played a lot of minutes. We wanted Willie to do  I knew what Willie could do defensively but we want him to be an offensive player, too. He’s got great feet, he’s got great hands. He’s getting better and he’s going to want that ball. Now we had two guys, now you have him  he and Julius and I thought Julius was an absolute beast in the first half, the greatest play for us, we went to post him and they fought like crazy, but they fought like crazy, the ball was thrown out, we threw it back, and then it came back and he reposted again and we threw him the ball in the third when he fought a third time, spun through the middle and made that basket. He grew up.

 

Normally he would kick the ball out and just stop or go like, this hope the guy would make a 3. I mean, you know  and Andrew at the end of the game I thought grew up, did some good things and ran our team.

 

Did we look more like a basketball team today? We looked like a basketball team. Here is what was on the board today: Look like a team. Play like a team. Fight like a team. That was the keys to the game. There was no, let’s guard your pickandroll. Let’s do it, just the team. We have to be more like a team and they were that today.

 

On Andrew Harrison:

Got to make those free throws, though, and you notice what he had to do late in the game is make him take it outofbounds. You miss two or three free throws, we are not throwing it to you, and he took it out, threw it to James and James made one of two thank goodness. You miss two, this thing could have got hairy.

 

More on Andrew Harrison making progress:

He did, but he still has a ways to go. Now, what I liked when the game was on the line and the game was in the balance, he made good plays. How about the pass he makes to Alex? He could have tried to shoot that. That dunk basically put it to 10 and kind of put it out of reach.

 

On James Young:

Yeah, he was good.

 

On him playing well at times despite poor shooting:

Yeah, and what I’m telling you, Dominique went in and made two or three plays just by hustle next to the goal. Now, why aren’t my 66 guards doing that? He’s in there, just fighting like crazy, and it’s a great lesson for us. You know, because if we can get our whole team playing that way, we become pretty good.

 

On James Young’s perseverance:

Yeah, he had some breakdowns, but like I said, he fought. We ran or grinded out stuff and he got that pass on the wing made that 3, that was a big play, because they were making a run back at us. They make a 3, he comes out and he makes that 3, oh, bigtime play.

 

On Julius Randle benefitting from new foul-rule emphases:

It’s kind of like Shaq when he played, well, he’s so big, he should be able to take some of this, like the whack on the arms. Oh, he’s strong enough to hold on to the ball, grabs his elbow, so what. So he doesn’t benefit what you think. Now, again, what helped us today is we could switch our bigs on to their guards, and I don’t know if anybody has been able to do that to him. That affected them. But you know again, I’ll say this, Dakari did pretty good when he was in there. So they are good. Let me just say this, they are really good.

 

What we  our whole focus was, they have to turn you over to get those runs, and we have to be a good in the press attack and negate the press, and I thought we negated the press, and then you have to guard them in the pickandroll; if you guard them in the pickandroll, you’ve got a chance. And if you cannot negate the press and they are getting steals and dunks and 3s and all that, you are not going to beat them. They are going to beat you by 25. That’s what we tried to do, and I thought the guys did a pretty good job of it.

 

On Julius Randle’s recurring cramps:

I don’t know. Three bags of IV and the Doc was squeezing it in. Try to get him in, because I was saying, get him back  squeeze it  (laughter).

 

On Alex Poythress:

When he was in the game, he gave us one more defender, he gave us one more rebounder, he gave us one more guy who could switch on pickandrolls; and he was fighting them around the goal, so they were not getting any easy baskets and he’s playing within himself. You know, the drive, where it  I would like him to take a couple more jumpers, a couple onedribble pullups into the lane. But he’s only now becoming comfortable playing at a high pace, high rate, with unbelievable intensity and sustaining it, first time in his life, so he’s just getting used to it. But I really believe he’s going to get better and better, because he’s now, no excuse, he’s buying in, he knows he has to do it.

 

On winning heading in to an 11-day layoff:

We’re practicing tomorrow so, I don’t know if it had any effect to that, but I am giving them off the rest of today until six o’clock tomorrow. So they are going to get 24 hours off. We’ll be going three times a day until we play again. We’ve got to become a team. We have so many things we’ve got to work on.

 

And one of the things I told them prior to the game, what prepared us for this game was playing Michigan State, playing Providence, playing Boise (State), playing Baylor, playing North Carolina on the road, playing Belmont. That prepared us for this game. And so as much as I hate to say, every game I’m coaching is like a war, this team needed that.

 

On second-half adjustments, adjusting to their pick-and-roll:

That, and we had to get back. If you don’t get back, they are just going right through you. You know, again, they  you’re talking about a team that’s worthy of their ranking, are not going to lose many games this year, are wellcoached. They know what they have to do to win. You know, the tapes I watched, they turn people over. They just didn’t turn us over today which was good. Again, with a young team like this to be able to withstand it is pretty good stuff for us.

 

On cautioning against players getting comfortable after a big win:

Well, we were 3-for-14 from the 3-point line and we shot 53 percent from the free-throw line, and we gave them a chance when we were up ten to still come back and beat us on some of the stuff we did. We have a long way to go. They know where they were, and believe me, I have nine, ten days with them right now, and they are going to know we have one choice and that’s get better. We have to get better.

 

Anything else? Happy New Year. The crowd was great. Crowd was here an hour before the game  these people are crazy. Here an hour game, pushing an hour, hey give me my 16 inches, move the other way, I mean, it was crazy. I mean, it’s nut. But it’s great and I’m hoping they enjoyed it, they enjoyed the growth of this young team and just get away from all that  well, these guys are young  put the team together. And that’s what we should be enjoying right now. Thanks.

 

ANDREW HARRISON

You always have to believe in yourself as a player, no matter who you’re playing against and stuff. Those Louisville guards were great. It’s definitely a confidence booster for our team.

 

On playing in the atmosphere:

That’s what you come here for. That’s what you come to Kentucky for, to come and play these big games and win them. It feels great. It kind of gets the monkey off our back.

 

On where UK grew up today:

Just like when Julius got hurt, it was a tie game and stuff. We all believed that we could still win, so that’s growing up in itself.

 

On if there was exhaling after beating a quality team:

I mean, yeah, but at the same time we’re trying to get better. Practice tomorrow at 6.

 

You love it, don’t you?

Yeah, it’s great. It’s a great feeling. It’s a great win. At the same time, we’re just trying to get better.

 

How did you get better as a team?

It’s toughness and playing as a team. Everybody getting the ball, everybody being able to attack and get it in their spots. I’m just happy for them.

 

How many free throws will you shoot in the next 10 days?

Um … a thousand? I don’t know. It’s terrible.

 

On improved body language:

That’s just showing how much heart this team has. I know we get criticized a lot for being young and body language and stuff like that, but we knew we could win this game. Going against a great team like Louisville, we knew we had to bring it.

 

Do you hear the criticism?

I try not to. I try to stay off Twitter and all that stuff, but it comes with the territory.

 

On Louisville’s guards, and if he took their praise as a challenge:

They’re great players, Jones and Smith. Smith is so quick, and Jones is too. It wasn’t a personal challenge, I just tried to win for my team.

 

On taking praise to other guards personally:

We just try to win the game.

 

How much of the experience vs. Michigan State, Baylor and UNC help down the stretch?

Good. In those games, I didn’t play well at all, and I knew my team was counting on me to make big plays. I knew I had to make defensive stops. That’s really what it comes down to: defensive stops and who gets the most balls.

 

On the difference in team maturity a month and a half ago vs. now:

Our toughness—we know we have so much talent, but at the same time, in college everyone has talent. Whoever plays the hardest is going to win. That’s what I think we’re starting to get, and we’re starting to play that way.

 

On UofL’s press and getting the ball inbounds:

That just comes with toughness, like I said. You have to stay low. You have to be aware at all times, because if you’re not, they’ll take it from you.

 

On taking a punch:

Yeah, definitely. I feel like we took some punches with Julius going down and stuff. It just showed our resiliency, showing that we can get through anything.

 

What was that like, playing without Julius in the second half?

He’s a great player, you know? It always hurts you, you lose a great player. But at the same time, we all knew we had to bring it. That just means we all have to step it up a little bit.

 

On Dominique Hawkins:

Dominique has a heart of a lion. He’s a monster. In practice, he brings it every possession. He’s a great player. I love him like a brother.

 

On how they know they’ll have similar confidence down the stretch in other games:

You have no choice, or you’re going to lose. We’re going to start SEC play, and it’s great teams. You could lose any night, so you have to bring it every day.

 

On seeing Julius hobbling around:

I didn’t really see that, but I knew—he’s a competitor, so I knew that hurt him a little bit. At the same time, we have to come and play.

 

Did you know he would be done for the day?

Coach didn’t really talk about it. Coach just coached the game and told us just do what we had to do.

 

On if Louisville’s press bothered them:

It’s a tough press. You have to have real strong guards, and you have to be real strong-minded. If they take it from you one time, you have to be able to get the ball back and get it up the next play. It’s very tough.

 

How’d the crowd help you?

We kind of played off the crowd, but at the same time, you don’t try to play for the crowd. It helped us. It’s kind of fun when the whole arena’s for you.

 

Did you talk any about Julius being out and stepping up?

Not necessarily without him. Like I said, he’s a competitor, and we all love him. We knew he wanted to be out there with us, but he couldn’t. So we knew we all had to step up offensively and defensively.

 

ALEX POYTHRESS

On how much they needed this win:

We also wanted a big win to make a statement, to show we’re still a good team and people shouldn’t take us lightly.

 

On if the big games early prepared them:

They did prepare us, but I feel like everyone of those games we had a chance to win at the end. If we just had tightened up areas of our game at the end of the game, down the stretch, we could have won all those games easy. But things didn’t work out our way, so we’re just happy that we executed down the stretch today.

 

On how much difference there was today vs. the other games:

I felt like everybody was more confident. We played as a team today. Everybody was sharing the ball, passing the ball, making plays for everybody else, so I feel like that was a big, strong point today.

 

On what it felt like to play as a team:

It was a great feeling. I feel like everybody meshed well. You can just play, you can have somebody’s back, somebody to take more risks, more chances on defense, something like that, on offense, just knowing your there to get the rebound or anything like that. So, it’s a great feeling.

 

On if he realized Julius Randle might not be able to come back in:

I just thought it was a normal cramp and he was going to come back in. But everybody’s got to go in there and step up in circumstances, just make the (most) of your opportunities.

 

On if the win means more since they did it without Randle in the second half:

Yeah. It just shows we’re such a great team, we don’t rely all on one person. We’ve got a whole bunch of great pieces and great players.

 

On what this win does for confidence heading into SEC play:

It’s a confidence boost. You always want to get a win when you go into a game, so it translates to the next game. We’re trying to get a little winning streak going, just trying to take it one game at a time.

 

On what it means when Calipari says he’s playing as well as he has since he got to UK even though he’s not putting up the scoring numbers we saw at times during his freshman year:

It just shows that you don’t always have to score to be playing good. You can do other things. You can rebound, you can defend. You can just do simple things, leadership out there, just directing traffic, directing people where to go and just doing little things like that.

 

On if he feels like he finally understands what Calipari wants from him:

I feel like I’m getting a pretty good eye on what he wants.

 

JAMES YOUNG

On his 10 rebounds:

Everybody rebounded. That was a big thing for us. We did a couple drills in practice where the rim was up, so we knew the shot was off. So we did a lot of rebounding drills and really improved and it really showed tonight.

 

On the rim being up:

Yeah, they had like the shot-blocking thing on the goal, so the shot we knew was going to be off, so we had to (get it).

 

On whether that’s new:

Yeah, we’ve done it before, it’s just we really focused on it (this week).

 

On pulling ahead with Randle benched:

We knew we just had to bring up the energy, keep it sustained, and just keep working hard and playing as hard as we could. We knew we wanted this win, so we weren’t going to let up.

 

On seeing a difference in Andrew Harrison:

He didn’t want to lose this game. This was a real big game for him, and he stepped up. He had Russ guarding him, which is a good defender, and he knew he had to step up his game. And that’s what he did.

 

On exhaling after finally getting a big win:

Yeah, it’s just us starting to come together as a team, being more mature, and you’re going to see it a lot more now as we’re becoming closer as a team and as a family.

 

On this being a turning point:

Yeah, that’s exactly it. From here on out, we’re just going to be a real good team, just going to fight the whole game and not just take quarters off and plays off; just keep fighting.

 

On the late free-throw misses:

Yeah. We just lost focus, like we usually did. We were kind of fatigued. So we just gotta keep working on that, like we usually are, and we’ll hopefully get better toward March.

 

On Randle being out:

We just knew we had to step our game and really just sustain the energy he brought.


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