Kentucky – 69, UAB – 58
Q. With Nate being out does that change anything about the way you tell Nick and E.J. to play defense?
JOHN CALIPARI: No. But now you have two guys with length that can block shots. And, but we got tired today. We gave up threes that, like, hands down, like what, wait a minute. We were talking about we’re making these guys drive into our lane. Hands down, the guy shoots a three and he looks at you like you’re crazy. So we, the discipline, we don’t have yet and it’s just going to take time. And I’m telling some guys, look, if you breakdown offensively, take a tough shot, miss it, turn it over, you’re fine. But if you breakdown three times on defense, we’re going to lose the game, you cannot be in. Has nothing to do with what you’re doing on offense. We had guys miss all kind of shots, okay. As long as you defend and rebound you can stay in because it’s 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, you can’t go 0-3, we’re down 6, 0 you give up and it’s 8. I mean, that’s the stuff they got to accept. But I like what I saw in Keion. Kahlil’s going to be fine. He’s going better. Tyrese and — we’re just, we’re trying to figure out what we are, but we’ll get better. I liked Johnny Juzang today. Again, two offensive rebounds. Something we haven’t been doing. Johnny Juzang goes and gets balls. So leave him in. That’s why I left him in.
Q. Are there any areas at this point where you can look at it and say, yeah, we’re definitely getting better and other areas where you’re, like, we’re not there yet?
JOHN CALIPARI: Offensive rebounding. We just got to keep working on it. There was some toughness plays. We’re stopping — we’re not in the kind of form we need to be in when we hit January, which is we got to be locked in. Like, they running a simple diagonal screen and we went in every huddle and said it, and we got screened every single time. And not only did we get screened, as soon as they hit us we stopped. Like, okay, I’m out of the play. Well, your guy’s under the basket, you know. And then not knowing the guy that was diagonal screening, that guy wasn’t telling him, watch the screen, watch the screen. All that kind of stuff, we got to get better.
All the other things, like I said, we’re going to be fine. It’s tough when you got eight guys. But if you’re one of the eight, you’re happy. You’re one of the eight, you’re happy. And we’ll have to keep this going until we get Nate back.
Q. You mentioned Johnny. I know you don’t pay attention to social media but there is a very small and specific portion of the fan base who wonders why he’s not getting more time. What does he need to do in order to get more time on the court?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he’s playing 12, 13 minutes, which is a lot of time. He keeps rebounding. And, again, it’s kind of like I said to Brad, part of your minutes is going to be based on you making shots. Like he was 1-11. Did they know that? They probably — they had to have known it, right? Well, let him go 1-22. No. Listen, he made shots today. I told him. But he stayed in the game because he rebounded. He’s defending too. He’s getting get better. He’s got a nice confidence about him. He’ll get time. It’s, again, I mean, you’re on this team and you got eight guys, you get 25 minutes, you get 20 minutes, 18, 17. That’s a lot of minutes. I don’t pay attention to social media. So it has no bearing on the decisions I make, believe me.
Q. How close was what E.J. did tonight to the way you need him to play?
JOHN CALIPARI: Better. Better. You know the last part of it? Remember the last one, the righty where he faded away? He walked right over and said, I faded away. So he’s now self-evaluating. I said, great. Now you know what you did. Just don’t do it again. You know. And he was good today. He was good. Nick was good. Nick rebounded above the rim, snatched balls, makes us different.
Q. I thought Ashton was consistent. How did you feel like he played tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: He was good. 12 and 2. I made some statements to him, like, you know, we could say there are better point guards in the country, but you got to tell me who you’re talking about. Because when you defend the way he defends and you’re as tough as he is, he went 12 assists, 2 turnovers. He’s shooting 47 percent from the floor and he missed all those threes early.
So it’s not, if you want to say the last two games, what is he from the three? So I think he was 2-3 and now he’s 1-3. So he’s 3-6 the last couple games. Three last game? Why did he shoot that many? What’s this kid thinking about? But he’s also like 90 percent from the foul line. So when you look at this, the way he guards, the way he disrupts the game, the hands that he gets balls, he just needs to be more disciplined in what he’s doing. I mean, I need to know who is better than him. Like, I don’t see it. I mean, I, oh, this kid and that kid and that kid. Well, let me tell you, you win games with guys like him. You do. And it’s nice that you got Tyrese out there with him. He needs a break, you move Tyrese right in, kind of like we did with Jemarl. Same kind of deal.
Q. There seemed to be more extra passes tonight. Where is the trust on offense with the guys?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s getting better. See the issue we had, we wouldn’t pass and create shots, which means we couldn’t make threes, we didn’t have good looks at threes. The next thing is the toughness and the offensive rebounding. We got to get there. Just got to get there. Got to get in better shape where we can sustain effort. Or guys got to play less minutes. Not more minutes. Play less minutes, so you can give us that effort. The guys that go in got to understand, you’re so concerned about offense it’s breaking you down defensively. Don’t do that. Just keep defending. Your offense is going to catch up.
Q. Seemed like on about 85 percent of Nick and E.J.’s buckets Ashton was contributing. What can you say about his play?
JOHN CALIPARI: Say what? I heard it. I heard it, but I was not looking at you.
Q. Nick and E.J., it seemed like 80 percent of their buckets had to do with Ashton contributing to them, assisting. What can you say about his game?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, there was also some post-up stuff that they did a good job of. But a lot of it was him creating a good shot for them that they could make. But that’s who he is. And I keep saying, we need to create opportunities for each other. Like today Tyrese, I’d like him to have six assists. He had four today, but he had no turnovers. Those are good numbers. Now you have 16 and 2 by your two playmaking guards. That’s pretty good. It’s pretty good.
Q. Nick had a little bit of a setback at Evansville and since then he’s averaging rights at double double. That demonstrated performance you talk about, is he at the point where you can say, this is who you are now?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, he can say that. This is who I am. I walked over to the bench at one point and said, Nick, why aren’t you saying to me, Coach, throw me the ball? Tell these guys to get me the ball. Why aren’t you saying that? Like, confident players will come over and do that and they will know, the problem if you ask me that, I never say no, ever, ever. You are going to get the ball. Now, it just went off of me and on them. That’s why I love it. Tell me you want the ball. Where do you want it? Right over there on that side? Good. All right. Here’s what we’re doing and make sure you throw him the ball. And then it’s on him, it’s not on me, it’s not on a teammate. So that’s why it’s hard to, come on, give me the ball more. Well, where you want it? So, but he’s gotten so much better. He’s so much more confident. He’s rebounding with two above — he’s still at times we run in, but we’re starting to work on it. There’s drills that I thought they would know, we kind of bypassed. Can’t skip steps, folks. Can’t skip steps. We weren’t rebounding because part of it is we weren’t understanding how to snatch a rebound. We weren’t understanding let it hit the rim first. Oh, come on Coach, they understood. Really? Shot goes up, they’re underneath the basket by the time, then the ball hits the rim because they’re flying in there, versus create space, let it hit the rim, and now go get it. So we’re doing drills to get it engrained in them. But we’ll see.
Q. Not about the game, but how much did you enjoy yesterday with your guys down at the Salvation Army? And does that ever get old going and being a part of that?
JOHN CALIPARI: Here’s what I would say: I told them this today. We got some guys spending extra time in the gym and it’s going to break through. It doesn’t always break through on your time. So when I watched them, I went over there last night about 7, We had three or four guys in there working. And I said, you know, today, there’s two ways to make you feel really good about yourself and you have to feel good about yourself to really be a good player. First of all, you put in the time, you prepare, you work, and you look in the mirror and you say, I deserve to play well. I deserve to play well.
The second way to feel good about yourself, you do stuff for other people. Even little things. You do stuff for other people. Yesterday was a huge day, I thought, because it’s not only that your stomach needs fed. Sometimes it’s just your soul needs fed that people care about you. And these guys were hugging and taking pictures and autographs and these people come, they were hugging them. And, again, that’s feeding the soul too. Look, these guys care and. You know, at times it will get emotional in what they do. But then having them at the house last night and seeing how they interact. They’re good kids. This is all, this is tough, this is new. Every game we play teams are fighting and playing and we’re still learning to fight. None of it is easy for them. Let me say this, the crowd, unbelievable crowd today. Unbelievable. And again, we all know the tickets are sold. That’s not the point. The point is these guys need that because they’re still trying to figure stuff out. And I thought that was really good. But, yeah, yesterday, it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal.
Q. What are some things you’re emphasizing to guys like Keion and Kahlil to help them take the next step?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, some of it is going to be — things don’t always go on your timetable. Like, you start working. Well, I’m going to work hard and in three days my stuff will change. Sometimes it may take a month. I know how talented Kahlil is. I know how talented Keion is. But they got to get away from anything offensively and be defensively and let the offense come. That’s the easiest thing. How about this, rebound like crazy. What if one of those two became a four offensive rebounds a game guy? How much would you play them if you’re coaching if you’re looking at my team? Well that, I, let me — I mean, focus on — that’s effort stuff, it’s not skill stuff. But I’m telling you, they’re both terrific basketball players. Here’s the greatest thing, with Nate being out, they’re both going to have their chances to do it. One played 21 minutes today, and the other played 19 minutes today. You’re getting your minutes to get your opportunity to go. Both of them, one, I think Kahlil will stay around 21, 22, my hope is we get Kahlil — or Keion at 21, 22, Kahlil up to that 25 minutes, he needs to be out there 25 minutes to figure this out. If he does the job defensively, he stays in. And then figure out how you’re going to play offensively, what you’re comfortable doing. It was great, he got fouled and made two free throws, looked really good, shooting the ball good, just got to get in the game and do it.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 30, 2019