Kentucky Basketball: Transcript of John Calipari’s Post-Game Press Conference

Julius Randle grabbed a loose ball in the lane and scored with 3.9 seconds left to give the Kentucky Wildcats a 77-76 overtime victory over LSU on Saturday. The Wildcats improved to 21-6 overall and 11-3 in the SEC. Coach John Calipari had this to say in his post-game conference:

COACH CALIPARI: Folks, I got my assistant coach here. From Make a Wish, spent day and a half with us, gave us the game plan. Told us we should trap Johnny O’Bryant, don’t do what you did last time. So I listened to them. Brought us a lot of luck. We appreciate you, man.
Questions.

Q. You’ve talked before about wanting your team to stick with it when things don’t go their way. How much is today an example of it?
COACH CALIPARI: We’re getting closer. But when we missed a basket inside and we fouled, we had four guys walking back to the other foul line with their heads down. I had to yell, We’re winning this. We are going to win this. It proves we’re still coach driven instead of player driven. We’ve got to get to where I’m doing less and they’re doing more.Julius’ big rebound, James Young, Aaron, how they played, blocked shots. That’s a good team. Everybody can say what they want about all this, but you guys have watched teams come through here. The only way we could stop Johnny O’Bryant is put two guys on him and sometimes three. Their guards made threes. They go 7?17 from the three?point line. How we got out of here with an W… We went 1?9 from the three. Told our guys, Keep driving the ball, keep driving the ball.

Q. The fact you can get out with the W, we saw some emotion from your team there at the end. Is that a step?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, oh, yeah. We’re making strides. We started the half, started the game. I had to call a timeout. Had a couple guys that didn’t have enough energy. Had to take them out. We got right back into the game. You’re not going to play great every night out. We missed a bunch of shots. We missed every three. The game is never over until the horn sounds. That’s what I just kept telling them, Just play. But that’s an NCAA tournament game there. That’s what it’s going to be like, that kind of game.

Q. You have guys who are passing up open 15?footers to take contested shots in the lane. Is that just how this team is going to have to play?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, you have to understand what we were telling them every timeout, which was, Drive the ball, do not settle. Johnny had four fouls. He was not going to foul. So he may put his hands up. Sometimes he got out of the way. The jump shot that Andrew took, I’m like, Why did you shoot a jumper? Drive it.
From that point on, he and his brother and James just drove the ball. We cleared out the court, spaced it out, said, Forget about the offense, pass it twice and drive it. That’s what we were doing.

Q. Was this one of those games you felt like Julius was struggling offensively until that last one went in?
COACH CALIPARI: I was telling him in every huddle, Just get an offensive rebound to win the game. Quit getting blocked out, quit getting in a mud wrestling match with somebody. Release, run and go get the ball, which is what he did on the last play. The two plays before that, he had opportunities to rebound that. He was in a mud wrestling match. Just release, go run and get the ball. He just released it, grabbed it, stuck it in, we win.

Q. Can you talk about the excitement level in the locker room, how this helps in February, propels your team.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, you know, to win in overtime with a freshman team like we were playing with most of the game, the plays they made down the stretch, the baskets they made. Even though the other team would not go away, they weren’t going anywhere, it was almost like whoever had the ball last would win. The guys that have watched me coach know I don’t call timeouts in those situations. 15 seconds to go, I’m not going to call a timeout, especially when he doesn’t have a timeout. I’ve got ridiculed for that. But I just think, Let these guys make a play. James Young went in there, Julius got fouled on one. It’s how we play. We had timeouts late, they didn’t have any. I wasn’t going to stop that clock and give them a chance to interject coaches. I just said, Let us play. Our kids are ready for this. And they were.

Q. What does it say about Andrew’s progress?
COACH CALIPARI: He had six rebounds and four assists and two blocks. I don’t want him to judge himself on shooting. You know what I told him after the game? We came out of that timeout and twice I ran a play for him to get a wide?open shot on that wing and he missed. I said, I’ll run it again for you ’cause I know you can make that. Don’t you worry about missing. If we give you a play, you got to make it. So he’s getting better. We had heads hanging a couple times. You really choose how you’re going to react to situations. 100 times better than we were, but they still had the dregs of that. For me to have to say, We are winning this game, we are going to win this game. One of them had to huddle and say that, We’re winning this. Just settle down, we’re fine.
So…

Q. Was that more the way you want James to try to play through contact?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah. I thought he did good stuff. Again, here he is, he’s 1?4 from the three. I’d like him to make a few more foul shots. If he goes 7?9 from the line instead of 5 of 9, you’re the best shooter in the gym, how can you go 5 for 9? We’re working on a lot of stuff right now. A lot of it’s the inner dialogue they have with themselves, a lot of it’s recognizing your teammate doing something good. We had a bench cheering. Each guy has one guy to talk about energy. We’re doing everything we can to get these guys to think different than they’ve ever thought in their life. No one’s ever attempted to do what we’re doing now. All freshman. All McDonald’s All?Americans. Bring them together, win a national title. Brought in a few players, but never tried this. I’m having to do stuff I’ve never done before. I had them take out the table in my office. I got a couch in there now. Some of you got that.

Q. I got it, but it wasn’t that funny (laughter). Usually when your big guys switch on a guard, they really defend. Hickey was able to do some business. Why do you think?
COACH CALIPARI: Because our hands were down. He’s six foot tall or less. You’re seven foot tall and you make yourself six?foot?two by doing this. All you have to do is this. I’m here. He goes to shoot it. The ball is already over my head and I go like that. Well, your hand wasn’t up. The ball already was over your hand. Just go like that. If you watched the last time, what Julius did, he went like that and stayed like that. The kid couldn’t get a good shot off. But once on Willie, once on Julius, they were like this. Well, now all of a sudden you’re his size. Again, we had some breakdowns. Let me just tell you, folks, in a game like this, with this team, we’re growing in so many ways, to come down and come together and do whatever you had to do to win. How about the ball that got tipped that was just out of our reach, out of our reach, and they score? That could have taken the wind out of your sails, and it didn’t. We just kept playing. Like I said, I’m proud in a lot of ways. But let’s give credit to LSU. They beat us by a hundred down there and had us here. Someone wants to question whether they’re an NCAA tournament team why? So no one else loses? LSU is the only one that lost a couple games? You have teams with the same record that are five seeds. They’re doing great. This was a great game for both of us. I’m just happy we pulled it out at the end.
Thanks.