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Robic: We’ve got to right the ship

John Robic filled in for John Calipari on the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference Monday morning because of a dental procedure he had done. Here are his comments along with Mark Fox, whose Georgia team hosts UK on Thursday.

John Robic

On the upcoming week …
“We’re coming up this week facing a Georgia team that’s playing very, very well right now. (The Bulldogs are) doing a great job defensively holding teams to low percentages and low point totals for game. Really, really playing well together and really feeding of a good player in (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope. I’ve been very impressed with how he’s playing. He’s definitely playing like an all-league player.”

On what jumps out to him about Pope …
“He is a big guard with great size. He’s able to score in a variety of ways. I would label him as he has a pro’s jump shot because he gets great lift when shooting the ball. It looks like it’s going in every time he shoots it. He’s able to post up smaller guards in their system with the way that they play. He’s scoring 30 percent of their points, so he’s a key figure in them. He has elevated his game from his freshman year to his sophomore year. You can tell he’s really worked hard at it. They’re playing the same way; it just seems like he’s playing with a very high confidence level right now.”

On where UK’s confidence level is right now …
“We’re disappointed and the players are disappointed with how we played at Arkansas. I think every player in the country is disappointed when they don’t perform well in a losing situation. We were off yesterday and we are going to get back at it today, this afternoon. We’ve got to right the ship because there is a lot to play for right now, and they know that. They’ll be focused on that.”

On how the NCAA selection committee should evaluate UK without Nerlens Noel …
“I don’t know how to answer that. We’ve been without Nerlens for five games now. We took some lumps there without him and then played well with him. I think there’s still a lot of teams out there that are still being evaluated. You look back at the Arkansas game and there’s only one team that’s gone in there and won this year, and that was Syracuse. There have been a lot of good teams that have not won on the road. We have won four league games on the road. I think it will come down to the remaining games on our schedule. I know the committee takes a lot of things into factor when they make decisions.”

On how hard it is going to be for the committee to sift through the SEC teams given how close some of their résumés are …
“I guess you would probably have to ask a committee member that on exactly what they’re looking for. There’s a lot of teams out there that have more losses than we do at this point in time. I think finishing is always a big factor. We’re going on the road for a game and then have a home game against Florida on Saturday with a quick turnaround, so there are still opportunities out there for our team.”

On what road/home differences he has seen in his team without Noel …
“Obviously our fans have been really behind us for the Missouri game and even for the Mississippi State game. I think every team feels more comfortable playing at home. That’s why, going through this whole process of the season even with Nerlens, that winning on the road’s hard and when we came away from those wins I think a lot of times you take them for granted. I don’t think there’s a huge, huge difference. I think Arkansas played a really good game and attacked us very, very well and fed off their crowd. So I think it’s a natural that most teams play better at home than on the road.”

On using the NCAA Tournament as motivation …
“We’ve never really even talked about it as far as that. We were concentrating on our league games. It’s never once been mentioned that we have to do this or do that to have a chance to get there. Everything was in front of us. There’s still a lot of things in front of us and that starts with the Georgia game on Thursday.”

Mark Fox

On this week’s games …
“It’s a challenging week for our team obviously to play two very good basketball teams in Kentucky, who is obviously having a postseason kind of year, and Alabama who is doing the same over there in Tuscaloosa. A big challenge for our team this week and a quick turnaround with the Thursday-Saturday games, so we’re going to work with the idea that it’s a big week.”

On what makes him say Kentucky is having a “postseason kind of year” …
“First of all they’re the defending national champions. I think John’s done a terrific job in rebuilding a team after all that they lost and obviously they’ve had a terrible injury in the middle of the season. But Kentucky still has a very good basketball team, a team that’s won 20 games, a team that’s in second place in the league. There is a lot of pluses there that still exist and that’s why I say that.”

On Willie Cauley-Stein …
“Willie is somebody who, he grew up in western Kansas, not far from where I did, and we’ve got family friends that have known each other for a long time. I think he’s more comfortable now late in the year than maybe he was early. He’s long and powerful and getting more and more aggressive and that kid has a very bright future.”