Fox, Willis, Adebayo recap Kentucky’s win over Arkansas

Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, Derek Willis and Bam Adebayo spoke with the media following UK’s 97-71 win over Arkansas on Saturday night at Rupp Arena. Fox scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, grabbed six boards and dished out six assists. Willis scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a 3-for-5 night from beyond the arc, and grabbed five boards. Adebayo controlled the paint with 11 points and seven rebounds, including four offensive boards. Video of the interviews is courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats TV.

De’Aaron Fox

On how much he felt he needed to pick up the slack with Malik Monk struggling …
“For me, I didn’t see it as slack. Even if he’s not making shots teams are still going to guard him, so just kind of use him as a decoy. Go his way, they’re not going to help. Most of the time it was one-on-one, me and my defender. I think I’ll win that battle a lot.”

On doing extra work after practice, not by his own choice …
“No, you have to see me and Coach (Kenny) Payne’s relationship. I’ve been in the gym a lot more. Started making free throws again. I was efficient today and I think it was due to that. There’s a lot of conditioning in those workouts. I was never tired today.”

On what he thought of the fracas under the basket in the second half …
“The game gets chippy. It’s nothing too serious. Just guys out there playing with emotion. At the end of the day you want that.”

On if he thought Isaiah Briscoe was stepped on deliberately …
“I don’t know. I can’t say anything about that. I have my guys back and I know they have mine.”

On what he thinks Coach Cal’s theory is to why he misses free throws some games …
“He’ll probably say discipline and me being too casual. I don’t know. He hasn’t told me. Like I said, it’s just been a roller coaster ride.”

On how much easier the offense is when Willis is making shots like Saturday night …
“It’s ridiculous. It’s another guy that can stretch the floor out. We know they’re going to guard Malik. Isaiah’s been hitting shots. Then Derek adds to it. It helps me out, it helps Bam out, if anything. It helps Zay out just driving lanes and being able to kick for easy baskets. Not having to put my body on the line going up. I can stay on the ground and just throw it to Derek knowing he’s going to make the shot.”

On Coach Cal saying this team can’t be bullied …
“Just when the game, like people are saying, gets chippy or physical. The way that we grew up, I wouldn’t say we’re not going to get bullied or start anything. I just know since we’ve been on campus we’ve grown as a family. We’ve got each other’s back. Just know that at any time, if anything happens you just know your teammate has your back.”

On expecting to get pushed around since they’re freshmen …
“Just because guys have been in college longer, they’ve had the weight room longer, they have the bodies for the college game. Sometimes they’ll think freshmen aren’t ready to play hard and bang. Some scouting reports are just be physical with a younger team, but we’re just showing teams we can play physical too. You see those guys, everybody’s big. It’s different from the high school game, but I think we’ve adjusted to the physicality. I think we’ve been playing well through it.”

On if Monk had a fairly low-key game by his standards because he was facing his home-state school …
“Honestly, no. He had some fouls early again. Just kind of wasn’t in the flow of the game. But even when that happens, even when he played in the second half, they were still guarding him. You still have to guard him just because he can blow up at any time. He probably helped me with my 27 points because one was a fake pass to Malik and the guy really almost turned in a circle to run toward him. So, he helped me out today even when he’s not making shots.”

On Coach Cal talking to Briscoe about shooting higher …
“This week of practice it was different when we were working out. Joel (Justus) has been having this thing to block shots. He’s been making me mad because he’s been blocking more of mine and I’ve been shooting them high. But for Zay, most of the time he does have layups under the rim. He’s such a good finisher. But the A&M game kind of changed that because Robert (Williams) – and I told Zay, because I played with Robert from Texas A&M, I’m like, ‘Zay, he’s going to block it, bro.’ And he blocked like three or four of them. He even blocked a floater that Zay tried to put up. But Cal’s been working on it for all the guards. Shoot it higher off the glass. He didn’t make them all, but it worked the way Cal wanted it to. He’ll miss and Bam or Derek got a put-back dunk.”

On if Calipari was saying, “I told you so” …
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. He definitely did. Cal’s going to gloat a little bit.”

On what he needed to fix with his extra work …
“Confidence. Just going out and playing my game. Today I went out and I got to the basket when I wanted to. For us, it was just that. Just go out and play your game, not worry about what other people are doing, what other people are saying. Today it happened. I was 10 for 16. That’s what it said. And I made my free throws, like you said. Honestly, it was just putting the work in and just seeing how it was going to pay off.”

On if he has a better understanding of what it takes night-in and night-out …
“Honestly, it’s just a mindset. Sometimes I’m not locked in. Sometimes I’m just on the court, just out there sometimes. Casual. Today, I was locked in the whole game and I think people saw it.”

Derek Willis

On what got him out of his shooting slump …
“I feel like all shooters kind of go through a slump of some sort. That’s just where I was trying to play better defense and rebound and focus on that while I came out of it. Tonight, I felt comfortable shooting. I’ve been doing different things, getting in the gym, getting more shots up, trying not to fall back, I guess. At least that’s what I’ve been told, leaning back a lot.”

On whether they are a more disciplined team after Camp Cal …
“I’d say we’re getting there. It’s one of them things that’s going to come along as the season goes. I think with being a young team and every year you have to teach the same thing over and over again, I feel like it’s just easier when you have a young group of kids to teach them through trial and error. As we have taken our losses, it’s kind of told us if we don’t do what the coaches are saying and don’t listen to them and try and do what they’re asking of us then we’re probably not going to win many games and from there it’s going to hurt everybody.”

On winning big even with Monk having a quiet game …
“I feel like we have many people that can step up and have big games. Like for example (De’Aaron) comes out tonight and has close to 30 (points). He just gets to the rim on people and just picking up the slack because Malik does score a lot of points and it’s the role he has on this team. When he doesn’t get it going, Coach Cal is like, ‘Who picks up the slack for Malik?’ Tonight it was Fox and I hit a few more shots than I usually have. I was trying to do what I could.”

On whether it puts him in a better frame of mind when he defends and rebounds well …
“Yeah. It’s just getting in the flow of the game, for real. I feel like I was so focused on playing defense and rebounding and trying to do all these right, which I improved on a lot, that it kind of also takes away from your offensive game a little bit too. I was working a lot harder than I ever have before on defense and so I think it could have been a little bit of a conditioning thing where my legs weren’t really used to it and affected my shot and I reverted back to old habits. I think it’s just a thing of just being in the gym more and being more comfortable and all that.”

On what he changed with his shot …
“I was leaning back a lot and just leaning to the left. So I got in the gym a lot more with KP (Kenny Payne) and Joel Justus. We’ve been shooting and stuff. So just been trying to get into more of a routine of every time I catch the ball that’s just what I’m doing. I feel I kind of fell out of that where I was so focused on defense and rebounding and trying to add that to be a more complete player.”

On whether a game like this gives him confidence …
“It’s a good game to have. For the past games, I feel like I did good stuff and rebounded well. So I was happy with myself on that aspect, but it was really frustrating where I would be open and I was bricking shots. It was really getting on my nerves. I just got in the gym a little bit more and I came through today. So I’m pretty happy with that.”

On how Fox opens things up for him …
“I think it’s a thing last year where I created so much space for the guards. Every time he drove, I felt like I had all the—the guy that was guarding me was sucked all the way in to stop Fox, so it gave me about five, 10 feet to just be open. I just felt really comfortable shooting. It was real good for me.”

Bam Adebayo

On being inspired by Arkansas’ physical play …
“We’re like brothers so we take up for each other. It brings us closer because nobody is going to come between us. We just fought harder. “

On Arkansas trying to agitate the team …
“They were just playing physical. I mean it was just ticky-tacky stuff. We kept level heads and we came out with the W.”

On Fox’s performance tonight …
“They started pressing him and we were like, why would you press Fox? So, after that he just started shooting layups and you’re not going to tell him to stop. We just started cheering him on and we said ‘Keep going.’ We all just looked at each other and smiled. We might smile, then after that we tell Fox to just go. We just say go.”