Kentucky head coach John Calipari met with the media following UK’s 97-71 win over Arkansas at Rupp Arena on Saturday night. If the video stream above does not work, please click this link. As always, the video stream is courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats TV, and a complete transcript of Coach Cal’s remarks is posted below.
Q. You don’t get a big game from Malik, and yet you win convincingly?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, Malik played pretty well, I thought. You know, 15-8. I mean that’s — oh, you mean Malik Monk. Oh, that kid. Here’s what I said after. De’Aaron Fox is ridiculous. He’s been doing extra work. He’s been coming to practice early, not by choice, and he has really been working and it showed in the game. I said to the guys. What do you want to say to him? Do this every night, man. Play this way. This is who you are.
I thought our defense was good. I thought Derek Willis was outstanding, getting better defensively, getting better rebounding the ball. Then I said after, look, Malik, it’s really hard playing your hometown team. It’s just hard. How you played, you played good. You got a tough foul, and it was on him, and it was a foul. He had no discipline. He went and got a second one in the first half.
But I said, look, we took Tony Barbee home when I was at UMass. Tony was a heck of a player. He went 1 for 12 at Purdue. It’s hard to play those kind of games. You can say it’s not hard, but it’s really hard. He did good, though.
Q. Cal, what did you say to your guys when you went out on the floor after that late foul on Bam and huddled them all up?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, my thing is, look, games are going to get heated. They’re going to get testy. The and we do not respond. That’s how we are. And these kids are so young, their first reaction is they get bumped or pushed and they want to push back. You can’t. You put your arms up and you walk away. It was a great lesson.
Look, Arkansas is a terrific team. They’re 25 in the RPI. They’ve played well. They have a great record. 12-3 now. And they’re a physical team, and so are we, and it got a little testy, but that’s what it is. These guys all like those guys. Like Malik knows them all. He didn’t have any issue with anybody on that team.
So we shot the ball pretty well. Didn’t shoot it well from the three, but Derek did, which was good for us. Derek and Michael.
Q. Cal, after the first pushing and shoving match, did you like the way that your guys responded after that? It seemed like they had a little bit more energy.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, let me say this. My team won’t be bullied. This isn’t that kind of team. The issue is it gets you more focused, sharper, and more disciplined. That’s what good teams are. You’re not going to bully us into a loss. That’s not how these kids — you think about who is on this team. So they’ll fight back.
But, again, these are all teaching moments. I’ve got all freshmen and sophomores, teaching moments. You don’t respond that way. This is how you respond.
Q. How much better was Derek in staying in front of his man, and how much better was Isaiah?
JOHN CALIPARI: Okay, he’s so mad at me. When I said, you know, we’ve been working, making him shoot it higher. So what happened to his first two shots? They got blocked. And I said, you get another shot blocked, I’m taking you out. So now he shot them high. He missed them. But we rebounded them and dunked them. Then he made two, shooting them high.
Oh, he can do it, but, you know, he’s just arguing with me like he can’t. My thing, and I said to these guys in practice today. You get master something, my job is to make you uncomfortable. And Isaiah’s case, he’s making free throws, he’s making threes. He’s playing better with the ball. He’s rebounding. Now you are going to shoot the ball higher on lay-ups. I’m not telling you to shoot it different. Just shoot it higher, and he did. It drove him crazy, because we rebounded every one of his misses and he made two. So, it ended up playing out, and we’ll just continue to work on it.
Q. You mentioned Willis a little bit, and you talked about his defensive and rebounding effort was getting to his shooting?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, here’s the other thing we’ve done with he and Wenyen. They’re with Kenny and the big guys when we’re doing all the pick-and-roll and rotating and scheming defensively bigs. I’m bringing them down with the guards and letting them do all the shooting stuff. So they’re getting even more shots in.
I think it’s helping both he and Wenyen. Now, Wenyen missed the shot in the corner, which is fine. Then he got the shot at the top, and what did he choose to do? Walk, drive it. Why didn’t you shoot it? Because he missed the last one. Well, you can’t play that way. You miss both of those and maybe miss them badly, you do what Brad did, and you get in the gym tonight. Tonight you go back in the gym by yourself and you’re there till one o’clock in the morning and you’re working on shooting. That’s how you get better.
You owe the team to be disciplined enough to do what you’re supposed to do. Do your job. His job is to shoot that ball. We created a good shot for him. Your job is to shoot it. We can’t make it. Get in the gym at night and work on it. He blocked shots today. He rebounded better. Wenyen’s getting better. Derek’s getting better. Isaac’s getting better. I love what I saw with Sasha in the couple minutes he was in there, going after balls and making free throws and doing what he was doing.
Q. You spoke a lot earlier this season about guys getting themselves to the foul line. Are you starting to see that kind of pay off?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, let me say this: I can’t begin to tell you how many foul shots we’ve shot here through what you guys would call Camp Cal. There’s been, you know, they’re shooting a ton of free throws, and they’ll start shooting them better. Now shooting free throws takes time. So you can either go two times in a day plus class, plus tutors, or you’ve got to give up something.
For us, we didn’t practice free throws a whole lot. We didn’t have time. We didn’t practice situational basketball before Christmas. We didn’t have time. Now we get to where we have the time. We’re zeroing in on defensively how we’re playing. We’re playing with more discipline. We’re shooting more free throws. You know, we’re back in the weight room doing stuff.
But tomorrow’s the last day. So tomorrow they’ll weight train and watch tape. We’ll come back and walk through in the evening, and we’re going to have a celebratory dinner. Camp Cal’s over, because we practice and then we go to Vandy on Monday.
Q. You guys have won the first three in the league by big margins. Why shouldn’t we think you’re just that much better than the rest of the league?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t think that’s true, but, you know, I’m just worried about saying how good can we get? How good can we be? And we’re not there yet, I can tell you.
Every time we tried to steal a ball today it ended up in a basket, a three-point play or a three. Why did you do it? We don’t play that way. It’s just a lack of discipline. We’ve got to continue. We’ve got to play a full game where we’re not taking chances, that we can block, we can stay in front.
Today about five times we jumped on the side of a guy. Well, why would you do that? So he drives right down the lane. Again, we’ll watch it on tape, but, you know, it’s asking a lot of freshmen. But you decided to come here, so this is what it is.
Q. What is it that seems to make De’Aaron? Some nights he’s great at the foul line, some nights he struggles. Is it something that you’ve picked up on?
JOHN CALIPARI: Great question for him. Is he coming out? Oh, that should be your first question.
Q. What do you think?
JOHN CALIPARI: Say is it because the coach gets on you? Do you think it’s the coach? That’s how you should answer the question. He may say it is the coach (laughing). Believe me, he’s probably thinking that too.
Q. How much improvement would you say your team made from the start of camp to the end? And how much harder is it to get a lot better once class is resumed and you’re restricted?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, what I did in ’14-’15 when we were 38-0, we took one day a week off, and then we took another day and did individual work, weight training. Or if a guy played a lot of minutes, needed whatever treatments and stuff, so we would play two games a week, practice three days a week, take a day off, and then take another day as an individual workday. I may do that with this team. I don’t know yet. But that would be Wednesday completely off and Sunday would be their individual workday.
I’ve done that with some teams, you know, if I think they’re getting better and they need more individual attention than just practicing. But I’ll play that by ear.
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