Kentucky Wipes Out WVU: John Calipari Press Conference

Just three more games to history. The Kentucky Wildcats easily handled West Virginia, doubling up WVU 78-39 in a game not much closer than the score. The Wildcats, undefeated on the season, advance to the Great Eight to take on Notre Dame. Coach John Calipari discusssed the team after the game on Thursday.

COACH CALIPARI: I was really pleased with the energy of our team. I was pleased with how zoned in they were, with how we were going to attack the press, how we were going to finish and we were going to just, hey, if we could score a hundred, score a hundred, just play. I wanted them to play loose offensively and they did, but I was proud of the guys. It was a great defensive effort and that’s what it was. For Marcus Lee to Dakari, I thought they were excellent. Obviously you know that Andrew played a great basketball game and drove us, Trey played well. Devin made a couple shots, Tyler played well. Willie did what he does. The only guy, I said, was Karl was not as engaged with the team as he normally is, and I don’t know why he wasn’t but we’ll need him for the next one.

Q. John, you said especially of late you wanted these guys to be the best version of themselves. How close did they come to that tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: In that first half we did a lot of good stuff. Again, we did it without Karl. First play the game. He lowered his shoulder, and what are you doing? Because the guy bumped him. We know how good Karl is and he feels bad about how he played, but he’d feel great for his teammates but he needs to have a presence. Now, what Dakari did was like, wow, you could play without Karl. Well, Dakari was really good today. Marcus Lee was good. But again, I go back to Trey Lyles and I keep telling everybody he’s like an X factor for us because he is a four playing three but he’s skills and creating shots for his team now, making shots around the basket, making free throws, he was good.

Q. John, Bob said that he thought your 2010 team was more talented but they didn’t guard nearly as well as this team does. Do you agree with that?
COACH CALIPARI: Possibly. My 2010 team?

Q. The team that they beat with John Wall.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, there was a lot of teams that he beat.

Q. The team with John Wall.
COACH CALIPARI: That team, we were not an execution team, that team. That team was a team, we just — we got together in September and we tried to figure it out. I had a great run and great time with those kids but we weren’t an execution team, whether it be on defense or offense, we would breakdown. But we were so dominating in some other areas that we could get you but we weren’t a great shooting team. Very streaky shooting team. This team is probably more consistently skilled as players. But John Wall and DeMarcus, they were in the All-Star game. Patrick Patterson, he’s on the edge of the All-Star game. You talk about Eric Bledsoe, even Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, we had a house, but we weren’t an execution team. This team being we had more veterans, I’ve coached them a couple years, a little more execution.

Q. Back in the locker room, Tyler might be as kind of swaggy as I’ve heard him all year. Did he really take some of the things said yesterday kind of personal, because he said you wanted to win by 50 tonight if you could?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, that didn’t come from me because that’s not how I coach. What I keep coming back to my team, we’ve had teams talk about the game. I mean, what, someone’s going to come in and say we’re going to lose and they’re going to say they’re going to win but we say at some point you have to step in the ring, we’ll lift the rope, you’ve got to come in here. I don’t want my team playing angry, I don’t want them to be mean, nasty, hateful, I don’t want that. It’s not us against the world. It is play with joy and love of the game and love of each other. That wins every time. The other stuff turns to fear. When it’s not going good and you’re mad and you’re trying to elbow and all of a sudden you miss a shot, your physiology is real close to fear. They may have said we wanted to win by 50, but they won because they were focused on how we had to do it against this team because we beat a really good team pretty good but that’s not indicative of the year they had.

Q. Notre Dame played a second half of offense tonight that was as amazing as your defensive first half. Do you think your players will relish an opportunity to now face a team that people will say maybe the best offensive team in the country?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know, I didn’t get to see the game obviously. My staff came in and said, oh, my gosh. They went bonkers. And I said, like how? Like, every way you could go. Mike Brey and I are friends. I know how good a coach he is. As a matter of fact, we went to Notre Dame, what was it, two years ago, two years ago, Michigan, when we got beat by 30? It may have been a 30 point rout, they beat our brains in. I know how good a coach he is, I know how good their team is. As a matter of fact, I think their football team rushed the court, if I remember right. We ran out of there. We saw them coming, we ran the other way.

Q. Could you just update a little bit on Aaron. He said back there he’s fine, he’ll definitely play Saturday, that he popped his finger back in himself. It looked pretty gross.
COACH CALIPARI: It was awful, and then I kept looking like, is that his right hand or is that his left hand, I couldn’t figure it out, and he said left, I said you’re good, tape that thing up. And I put him back in, I just wanted him to take a shot or two like to make sure he would feel okay, but then I told him don’t you drive the ball, don’t go near the basket and then I just took him out because we have a day and a half to get ready. But he’s fine. He seems to be fine. It will be hurting tomorrow, I imagine.

Q. There was so much talk about their press and how aggressive they were, the traps. It never really was a factor. What was the key to that?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, when you have to prepare to play the teams we play, that press and trap and play physical, you have a little head start. At the beginning of the year, it’s one of the things that we’ll say let’s make sure we’re good against a press, that we have great spacing, that we understand what you’re trying to do and playing off one another, but an old friend of mine says you press a pressing team, you press a pressing team. And that’s why we put in the diamond press and that’s why we did some of the stuff we did, just to press them to go like you’re not going to be the aggressor; we’re going to be the aggressor, too.

Q. John, how good was it to see some offense from Dakari and Devin both again tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: It’s terrific. I’m happy for them. Devin worked so hard. It’s been tough, he’s 18 years old, he’s probably one of the youngest freshmen in the country, he got on a run, and all of a sudden he’s making shots, and if you remember the comment, it’s like I’m shooting it in the ocean. And then his ocean got really small. Now you’re watching him, and I kept telling him, this whole team wants you to shoot the ball. He had to tighten it up, he got a little loose with his shot, and when you do that and you start missing, it goes the other way on you fast, but I thought today he was terrific. He makes us, he spreads you out. Now all of a sudden you’ve got he and Aaron and Andrew’s making shots and Trey’s making his pull-ups, all of a sudden you’re a pretty balanced team.

Q. Can you kind of describe what you think Aaron’s kind of competitive edge is that he stayed in after he got hurt and was battling against those guys?
COACH CALIPARI: I think both he and his brother, they’ve been there. They dragged us last year to the championship game, there’s no question it was those two, what they did. And it’s not just Aaron making the shots. It’s all the other things they did on the court defensively, run-thru’s. Those two dragged us. Now you’re watching us and I hate to tell you those two or dragging us again. I thought Andrew was ridiculously good today. He was so good. His spirit is so good. He is defensive playmaking away from the ball, he’s playing the ball, he’s attacking, he’s playing with speed, he’s getting by people. I mean, I just am so proud of him and what he’s doing. If there are better guards in the country, you’ve got to show me who they are. I think they’re both playing well. And then you have — when they back up a little bit, you’ve got Tyler and Devin. And I can put Tyler in there with them, which really relieves a lot of pressure from having to handle the ball.

Wichita St. Knocked Out by Notre Dame: Gregg Marshall Press Conference

Wichita St. kept it close early, but the hot-shooting Notre Dame Fighting Irish overwhelmed the Shockers in the second half to secure a 81-70 win and advance to the Great 8 in the NCAA tournament. Coach Gregg Marshall, and players Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet talked about the game and the season in the post-game press conference.

COACH MARSHALL: First of all, I would like to congratulate Notre Dame. Tremendous, tremendous team. The best offensive team we’ve seen all year, hands down, and they played a heck of a game and I’m happy for them as they get the chance to move on, especially Coach Brey with what he’s been through this week, tremendous guy. And then we’ll get into it, but I appreciate the warrior spirit that these guys, after we took the one point lead they came out with a barrage of 3s, it’s very quick the way they built that lead, but these guys never quit, they fought to the bitter end, and it was a great year for us, so really proud of them.

Q. Fred, when you got that lead, did you feel like you guys had gotten over a hump given how big a deficit you overcame, and what did you think about Notre Dame just taking off from there?
FRED VanVLEET: Yeah, we felt good, obviously battling back. We started off the first half terrible with being down 18 to 5 or whatever it was. So battling all the way back, we wanted to open up the second half in a good way and we did that. So we opened up the right way, and then like Coach said, they made some 3s, but I think we gave them too many easy looks inside and we can live with the 3s but they just shot layup after layup, it seemed like, and we just for whatever reason couldn’t stop them. So we just wanted to battle, try to keep battling throughout the game, just keep running them off but they were pretty hot, knocking down shots, so give them all the credit.

Q. For Ron and Fred, what makes them so difficult to guard, is it the fact that they can shoot 3s and also pound it inside?
RON BAKER: Any time you can stretch the floor with four basically guards that can shoot it like they can, it’s tough to defend the screen and roll. Their five man was doing a good job of screening and rolling quickly to the rim, and we were doing our best to pinch the floor and they were doing a good job of either passing to the roller or skipping across court and knocking down shots. They just shot the ball, shot the cover off of it in reality. Never seen a team shoot it like they have today.

FRED VanVLEET: Yeah, I mean, they stretched the floor with guys that could shoot it, I mean in a similar way that we did, we made the shots against Kansas. Tonight we didn’t. They did. Any time you’ve got four guys out there that are knocking down 3s with a five man that’s going to roll and work hard and get points in the paint, it puts pressure on the defense. We got a lot of open looks ourselves and we just didn’t knock them down. So, like I say, I give them credit for making theirs.

Q. Fred, after you were down 18-5, then you kind of shut them down a little bit and recovered, what were you doing right at that point in the first half?
FRED VanVLEET: We just got off our heels. We got some deflections, got a steal or two, or were able to just get a stop, you know, I think we came out on our heels a little bit, just eager to try to anticipate what they were going to do. But after that, after they made their first run and we started getting back to the way we usually play defense, they missed some open looks as well, so that helps, and we were able to get out in transition and get some buckets.

Q. Fred, after you took that lead in the second half Demetrius Jackson really got going. I think you scored one layup after Wichita State made a shot. How do you describe how he kind of turned the game around?
FRED VanVLEET: Well, he shot the ball really well and our game plan going in was trying to — he’s so quick off the dribble, just pick him up at the 3-point line and if he makes four or five of them, that was our game plan going into the game. I mean, he made, what did he make, he made four of them. So that was — I think that was a guy that we would let take that shot and he knocked them in, similar to the way they played Evan last week, he knocked them in. So give him all the credit.

Q. Does Pat Connaughton surprise you for being a 6’4 guy who rebounds so well and I know he’s known for his 3-pointers but tonight he drove the ball?
RON BAKER: I’m sorry, who? Pat? Oh, 24, right, right. Yeah, he’s one of those kids that’s kind of in between a 3-4 but he handles it like a 3, but he can bruise with you down low. Obviously he can shoot really well, like I said earlier, he was doing a good job of spacing the floor on the weak side and he was giving Jackson and Grant the opportunity to come off the ball screen and either hit the roller or pass it to him for the shot. So deadly weapon obviously, that can stay in the corner or even post up occasionally.

FRED VanVLEET: To answer your question, no, he doesn’t surprise us. We watched film and we re-respect him as a player. He’s a heck of an athlete and probably their best shooter and he just competes, so he had a pretty good game.

For both of you, I know it’s fresh but could you just describe how you’re feeling now, this run, just there’s been a lot of emotion, there’s been a lot of — just how this has been for you and how you’re feeling?
RON BAKER: Deep down, I’m pretty upset. I feel for our seniors Tekele and Darius, two guys who obviously deserve to move on and play Saturday. I wish individually I could have done more to help my team win and just one of those games. You’ve got to get through and we were unable no execute on the offensive end and defensive end in the second half.

FRED VanVLEET: It’s been a heck of a ride, man. It’s been a great year for us, lot of ups and downs, lot of fighting, got a bunch of new guys just bringing them along but it’s been fun, it’s been a great ride for us. Obviously right now disappointed, hurt, tired, you know, exhausted. Like Ron said, just feel sorry for those seniors, you never want to end on a loss but it happens. They had great careers and I’m just happy to be able to play with those guys and make some of these experiences so — just overall disappointed, it hurt but at the same time just recognizing that we had a great year and just want to celebrate with these seniors.

Q. For Ron and Fred, describe this season in one word?
RON BAKER: I’m not an English major, that’s pretty tough for me, but I don’t know, any word that describes new people, a lot of new people come together and finishing the season like we have today. No one expected us to be where we are right now. When you’ve got eight, nine new faces coming into your program, a lot of people probably didn’t expect us to make it this far.

FRED VanVLEET: I would just say, I mean, Shockers, that just defines us, who we are as men and people. We fight, we haven’t been perfect all year, we don’t shoot the ball well all the time, but we fight, we compete, just kept fighting, rallying back, having fun throughout the process and it’s just been a lot of fun to play with these guys.

Q. They were so good at the outset of the game and then for a long stretch of time your defense kicked in, held them down and then suddenly another flash fire. What was it like trying to prepare for these guys, and then in the course of the game, what did you see happen in those sudden changes?
COACH MARSHALL: Bob, just from studying the film of them you could tell what a dynamic offensive team they were. There’s nobody you can cheat off of. Each one of those five guys, and they play a lot of minutes, are dangerous. Demetrius Jackson is so good off the bounce, and we were able to keep him out of the paint and away from the rim for the most part, but then he knocks down four 3s. At the beginning of the game, it started with him, he made two of the first three 3s to begin the game. We were on our heels a little bit 18-5, wasn’t happy in that first media timeout. And we just charted to play, and started to chip away and chip away, and got it to 3 at the half and took the lead. And then the same thing, the same guy really, he makes two 3s, he gets to the rim, as Paul mentioned. And there were other guys, I’m not just saying those, but Demetrius Jackson, I think, was the catalyst today in knocking down those shots. He did it at the beginning and then he did it after we took the 1 point lead. So I’ve never seen a 1 point lead get out of hand so quickly, and it did tonight because of their fire power.

Q. Along those same lines, when you climb back from that kind of deficit and you get ahead, does that usually go one of two ways? Does a team sometimes buckle when you do that, and were you surprised they were able to kind of do that right away back at you guys?
COACH MARSHALL: Really, it can go one of two ways or it can be a see-saw affair. you’ve seen enough college basketball. We could have pushed it out to 10, and maybe it’s a different game like we were able to do against Kansas, or they can do what they did, which is go on an incredible run. Or it could then be a see-saw affair where the lead changes multiple times. That’s just college basketball. Tonight it was their night and they shot it much better than we did. We had some good looks now, we had some good looks. Ron and Fred and Tekele had some really good looks, we just didn’t make them. They made theirs and they shot it great, especially in the second half and the beginning of the first half.

Q. You had a real emotional weekend, emotional game Sunday and a quick turnaround. Did that take anything out of this team, the circumstances?
COACH MARSHALL: I don’t know, Paul. I don’t particularly like the fact that we had a less days to prepare than Notre Dame. That’s not an excuse, I just don’t like the pod system or whatever they call it where you play Sunday night, you get back late and then you’re back on the road on Tuesday when the other team has an extra day, plus less travel. Then on top of that, our plane was late to pick us up on Tuesday, so we’re sitting around, sitting around. We finally practiced about 8:30 for an hour and fed the guys about 10:00. I don’t like that, it’s not good, but that has nothing to do with the game. The better team won tonight. As I mentioned, Mike Brey’s one of the great guys in the business, and if you’ve got to lose in the NCAA Tournament, it might as well be to a guy like him.

Q. Gregg, can you kind of just put an overall feeling on this season? These guys kind of acted as if maybe they overachieved just a little bit, but I don’t know how you feel?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, think, Kevin, when you can go through a season like we did with five veterans, that’s it, five guys that have played Division I basketball, the rest of the eight scholarship guys are new. You can be ranked all year long, you can win your regular season title 17-1, you can beat Kansas to go to the Sweet 16. I mean, it’s one of the top teams in the country. So there’s no way you can be disappointed in this year. We lost to a better team tonight that was playing really well. I just watched five or six games of them, and the last game I watched today was Duke in I think the semi-finals of the ACC tournament, and they were up 15, 20 points against Duke and Duke cut it down and had a chance to make a game of it, but it ended up being 10 or 12 or whatever. Steve’s playing really well. When you win the ACC tournament in Greensboro and beat Duke in North Carolina back to back, you’re playing well. And they’re hot and got a great system. Again, I tip my hat to them and — but I’m going to go back with my head held high, too. I love these kids, wonderful human beings, great students, great people, and they represent our fine university in a first-class way.

Q. Gregg, earlier you had indicated Ron has a decision to make about what he’s going to do, if he’s going to come back next year. How’s that process work and what’s your role in helping him with that?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, we have to gather information for him. There’s an NBA — and Fred has the same decision to make. Anybody with the credentials that those kids have can put their name in the hat and then you ask the NBA folks to give you an advisory sample of where certain teams may see you and then they come back to you and then you have to just make a decision. Ron did that last year. So I anticipate them both doing that. I don’t know when that happens but it can start now, I think, but I don’t know how quickly that you turn that around. I like what Ron said up here when I heard him say that he felt bad for the seniors. He didn’t act like it was his last game, he felt bad for the seniors. That was at least a little positive that I took from that, I don’t know if you guys caught that, but I did. So we just — we help them, we advise them. If either one of them are lottery picks, you probably have to consider it very strongly. If you’re midway through the second round, chances are about 50/50 you never play a second in the NBA. So there’s only X amount of slots. You’re a big NBA guy, you know that. They have to make some really tough choices. Ron will have his degree because he’s red shirted, he’s already finished. Fred will have some more schooling to do but they’re both great players, and regardless and here’s the point I’m going to make to them, regardless if they go to the NBA or Europe, today, tomorrow, next year, they’re going to be successful. And they don’t really understand that right now because they’re thinking, man, I can be a lottery pick, I can make millions of dollars, and that’s probably at the forefront, but it doesn’t matter whether either one of them plays a second in the NBA, they’re going to be successful.

“They Just Were Way Better Than We Were”: Bob Huggins Discusses Kentucky’s Dismantling of WVU

It wasn’t even a game. The Kentucky Wildcats demolished Bob Huggins’s WVU team on Thurday, dominating from the start to finish in a 78-39 victory. Huggins talked about the game in his press conference afterwards.

Q. Bob, can we get your take on what occurred the first eight minutes of the game?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think pretty much what I was afraid could happen. They shot the ball really poorly the last game, and they’re too good to have a probably back-to-back bad days shooting the ball, and they came out and made a bunch of shots. We’re trying to scramble around and leave the right guy open. They were aggressive, they took it to the basket and we couldn’t score, which was my biggest fear was that we would have a hard time scoring.

Q. Bob, obviously scouting them, they’re big. Are they even more impressive when they’re running at you, just the size factor, trying to deal with them, do they seem bigger on the court than what you were even anticipating?
COACH HUGGINS: I don’t know, I don’t know if they seemed bigger, Dan. You watch all the film and nobody scores around the basket. I think that’s the people that have given them a decent game are people who could make enough shots to get them spread and people who could offensive rebound and either kick it out or be able to finish around them because you can’t finish over them. I don’t know if they — no, I wouldn’t say they were bigger than I thought they were. They looked awful big on film to me.

Q. What do you think you guys were able to establish as a program this year, and what do you think you need to further establish to take another step?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, we’re still — I mean, this team’s pretty young. I think it’s attribute to Juwani and Gary and Devin that really were three veteran guys. You look down the roster, this is Jon Holton’s first year, this is Daxter Miles’ first year, this is Jaysean Paige’s first year, Jevon Carter’s first year, Tarik Phillip’s first year, Elijah Macon’s first year, so we’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced guys that are only going to get better, and I think these three games of the tournament are going to make us better. We’ll be more seasoned a year from now. We lost some games early, we lost some games when those two guys were out that we didn’t want to lose certainly, but it did give those young guys a kind of baptism under fire. So there’s a lot returning, you know, so I don’t know, what did we establish? I think we’re back where we’re used to being, where I’m used to being anyway.

Q. You said watching them on film and so forth, was there anything they did tonight that surprised you?
COACH HUGGINS: No, not really. You know, we couldn’t practice on Monday because we didn’t get back until 4:00 in the morning, so I had really all day and I did nothing all day but watch film. And I know John and John knows me, so I don’t know, how are we going to surprise each other, you know? They were what I thought they were. I thought they were the best offensive team in the country. Everybody kind of gets caught up in their size and all that, which is certainly a part of it, but to get those guys to play as hard and to play together the way they do, I mean, you look down there, you’ve got guys that, you know, are going to be lottery picks that they give the ball up, they share the ball. John’s done an incredible job. A lot of what we do is managing people and managing egos and attitudes and all those kind of things, and he’s done an absolutely terrific job of managing them, getting guys to play together and to care about one another. They’re just — they’re terrific defensively. They’ve got — that’s the best defensive team I think that I’ve ever coached against. And when they’re making shots, and they made shots today, when they make shots, there’s nobody going to beat them when they make shots like that.

Q. You kind of just answered this, but what would it take to beat Kentucky for any of the teams remaining in the tournament?
COACH HUGGINS: They’re going to have to have a bad day. They had a good day today and we had a miserable day, you know, so we lose by 40. If they have a really bad day shooting the ball, you can pack it back in, and try to keep the score down and close, but when they’re making shots, they’re making shots, they get you spread, they’re too big and too skilled inside. And you’ve got to be able to create some offense and transition or something because it’s just, it’s really difficult to score against their half-court, their half-court defense. I think Georgia kind of did the best job, kind of got them spread but they still didn’t win. And that’s probably as well as Georgia’s played all year and probably Cal would say Kentucky didn’t play very well and they still win. I think that’s the difference. I thought going in really that the 2010 team may be more talented but they weren’t near as good defensively. I think they were, you can’t argue with what John Wall and Cousins and Bledsoe and those guys have done in the NBA, they’re very, very talented guys, but I don’t think that team guarded the way this team guards, I think that’s the difference. I think this team is absolutely fantastic defensively. When you’ve got two guards that are 6’6 and as long and as athletic as they are, they just take up so much space. Back in Rough Run’s the biggest guy was about 6’5. He had to be a point guard or he’d never got in now, it’s just they’re just so big and so long.

Q. Some of the Kentucky guys just said that the comments before the game really motivated the team by a couple of your players. Do you wish in hindsight they hadn’t been made or does it not matter?
COACH HUGGINS: No. You know what, honestly, I think that’s a bunch of BS. I think once you throw the ball up, you play. It was a freshman that said it and I’m kind of happy he had some confidence. I’m kind of happy he wasn’t hiding under a chair somewhere, you know? There’s nothing wrong with having some confidence and wanting to go out and compete. They just were way better than we were.