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Mulder, Humphries preview Vols-Cats

Kentucky senior Mychal Mulder and sophomore Isaac Humphries spoke with local media members Monday afternoon about the Wildcats’ upcoming home game against Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 Southeastern Conference). The Volunteers handed the Wildcats (20-5, 10-2 SEC) their first SEC loss of the season on Jan. 24. The Wildcats are coming off a nine-point win on the road at Alabama on Saturday where Mulder had two points and two boards and Humphries chipped in with four points and and two rebounds. Video of the interviews is courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats TV.

Mychal Mulder

On if he feels like he’s back at 100 percent …
“Yeah, I’m feeling good. I’ve been feeling good for a couple weeks.”

On what he recalls from Kentucky’s loss at Tennessee …
“I remember we were taking quick shots, not the best on defense, all the stuff we’ve been working on since then. That was a moment of growth for us, I feel like. Something we learned from and some experience for us. I feel like we’re ready this time around.”

On what he’s working on personally …
“I’m just working to always stay in shape. Just do whatever’s asked of me, play my role, understand that role, work hard on the defensive end, rebound the ball and just play like a big guard.”

On what the team is working on …
“As a team, something we’ve emphasized all year and something we’re still continuing to grow at is fight. Just fight at all positions and all aspects of the game, really, offense and defense. That’s the most important thing for us. As long as we’re willing to battle and put our body on the line and work hard. We all feel like we owe it to each other. You look to the guy next to you and you really trust that he’s fighting for you and you’re fighting with him. We just want to go to war every day.”

On how tough it was for him to carve out a role and then miss four games due to an illness …
“It wasn’t the best thing for me. Really unpleasant experience. The Tennessee game I wasn’t even in the building. I didn’t like it, but it’s just a little step back. But we’re moving forward, going in a good direction right now, feeling back to 100 percent.”

On what he was thinking when he was watching the Kentucky-Tennessee game from Lexington …
“It’s different watching it when you’re not there. It’s a little bit of a different experience. I was a little frustrated. I just felt how all these guys were feeling. Feeling like we could have played so much better. But we’re really not focused on that game anymore. That’s not really who we are. We know that. So we’re focused on what’s coming up next.”

On if he watched games and felt he could have given the team something …
“When you watch the film you not only watch yourself, but when you’re not on the court you see moments that you feel like you could have done something better for the team in that moment. Or even when you’re watching yourself when you are on the court, you feel like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I was doing that. I didn’t know I looked like that.’ That’s what Coach says about the film though, the greatest thing about that is it doesn’t lie when you watch it. You really see what happened and what you can improve on.”

On how important it is to use this second game against Tennessee as a measuring stick for how far they’ve come …
“It’s great. It’s a really great experience. Like you said, it’s our first time getting a second chance at a team, and I’m glad it’s a team that gave us a battle, gave us a fight, because I feel like that’s something we were lacking last game against them. I feel like we have a lot to bring to the table this game, and we’ve learned a lot since then. It’s a good opportunity to have another shot at these guys.”

On how the four-guard lineup looked at Alabama …
“I feel like it works well. We play small, but we’re a little bit faster. I feel like we have multiple guys who can guard multiple positons, so I feel like it works in our favor.”

On what he took away from the Alabama game …
“Same thing we’ve taken away from a few games this year, we get up and it looks like in that last 10 minutes there’s just a time that we can focus in defensively and just really work to fight and finish the game out. That’s something we’re taking away from that game.”

On if he thought the defensive effort overall was better against Alabama …
“Yeah, I feel like it’s improving every day. We’ve been really focused on that, really working hard in practice, situationally, just to focus on when we’re up how we’re playing, how are we playing defense, and can we maintain that. We’ve done some drills, some work where we’re doing some runs and sprints, and right now we’re going to lock down on defense, right when we’re tired. I feel like that’s something we’re continuing to improve on and get a lot better.”

On what changes he sees from the reboot …
“Like I said, it’s just continuing to fight. I feel like we’re getting closer and closer every day to being able to fight for 40 minutes. Right now, if you watched the last game, I think we’re probably at about 30 (minutes). Games before that, maybe 25 (minutes). So, I feel like we’re taking positive steps forward and real soon I think we’ll be at 40 minutes.”

Isaac Humphries

On what he hopes they learned from the loss at Tennessee …
“We’ve been working on, obviously, scoring through our offense and not just rushing a shot and stuff like that. So I think that was a big thing in the Tennessee game a couple weeks ago. We were just kind of taking shots and not running our offense and not getting shots through the offense. We’ve obviously been practicing that so it should be a lot better.”

On how the team has changed since the Tennessee loss …
“We’ve obviously had the reboot. Like I said, we’ve been trying to score through our offense and not through just rushing shots. Defensively, we’ve changed up a couple things and we know exactly what we’re doing and that sort of thing. And in this league everyone’s so good, it’s definitely game plan to game plan. It changes for everyone.”

On how much the reboot has helped …
“A lot. Obviously it’s not going to happen overnight, and we’ve been—two weeks now I think we’ve been working on it. I’ve seen a big improvement and we’ve all seen a big improvement – or a big change, at least – on the court and stuff. But like I said, it’s not going to happen every night. We take it game by game and hopefully by when it counts in March we’re at that stage where we can sustain that for the whole game and not just parts of the game. That’s what we’re working on.”

On sophomore leader Isaiah Briscoe’s role in the reboot …
“For Zay, it’s creating shots for other people. He’s so good at that. With him, he can create shots for everyone else and still get his points. He doesn’t have to force it. That’s the biggest thing for Isaiah in the reboot. Cal’s just had him trying to create shots and in practice been statting how many shots he’s created for other people and that’s obviously fueling us and getting us into a better position offensively.”

On what he’s done differently since the reboot …
“For me, honestly, it’s just coming out and playing with confidence and aggression and fighting. But for the bigs as a whole, we’ve all—pick-and-roll defense is something that we have to figure out and we’ve been working on that a lot over the past week. And rebounding. Offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding. And honestly, the biggest thing for me in the reboot is pick-and-roll defense.”

On whether he’s still battling confidence issues …
“Not as much. I’ve come a long way from that point in the season. Obviously sometimes your head goes crazy a little bit and that happens to any human being, but as a whole I think I’ve come out of that.”

On how much help defense improved at Alabama …
“We’ve been working on blocking shots and taking up space and helping from the weak side and stuff like that. So, yeah, I saw a difference as well in that game and it just proves that what we’re doing in practice is really translating onto the court, which is a good sign.”

On why they had issues with help defense …
“I think it’s just the specifics of it. Like, yeah, it’s a basic thing, but for people who have come out of high school on teams where they don’t really do that, having to work together as a collective unit with the help D is not as easy as it sounds. Obviously we’ve been working on it and it’s picking up.”