Even with Isaiah Briscoe sidelined with a back injury, the Kentucky Wildcats rolled to another win today as the number one team in the country improved their record to 5-0. After an incredibly fast start, the Cats cruised in the second half to defeat the Cleveland State Vikings 101-70.
Kentucky dominated every facet of the game and looked like it wanted to convince everyone (maybe even Jeff Goodman) that they are the best team in America. Behind double-doubles by both De’Aaron Fox (16 points, 11 assists) and Wenyen Gabriel (10 points, 10 rebounds), the outcome of the game was never in question.
While continually reminding the press that this is a “November team”, Coach Cal specifically praised Wenyen Gabriel’s effort and Malik Monk’s continued success on the offensive end (23 points, making 4 of 6 three pointers).
To read more about his assessment of today’s game and his comments on the coming week, see the entire transcript of Coach Calipari’s postgame press conference below, courtesy of UK Athletics.
Q. How do you think you performed offensively and defensively without Briscoe out there?
“It was good. You don't ever want to have a guy have to step away for awhile. He was hurting after the last game and then he tried to practice and I didn't really - you can't be 75 percent with the way we're playing.
“So, he took today and tomorrow off and see if he can go Friday. If he can't go Friday, we'll just hope he's ready for Monday. But it gave me a chance to really focus on De'Aaron leading, gave me a chance to put Malik some at point guard, which we hadn't done this year.
“Gave Mike a chance to play. I went with that big team, which is what I have wanted to do, Derek, Wenyen, and Bam. Now all of a sudden you’re 6’10", 6'10", 6'10" and two big guards and woo! And that team gave us a run, because it's hard to score, it's hard to get shots. We're still, hands are down.
“It's habits they have, high school habits. When you're 6'10" your hands are at least at your shoulder and usually they're above your head and you guard that way, because you're 6'10". A lot of times they will throw the ball right into your hand, if it's just up there. Hard to do it when it's down by your side. And now a 6'10" player becomes a 6’2" player. And we did a bunch of that tonight.
“But again, we're getting better. I was disappointed in some of the free throw shooting, because we're a good free throw shooting team and we got guys missing that should not be missing, or at least not missing two or three. I thought our discipline defensively was better.
“We just, we're a November team. I told them after the game, we're a November team. I don't want my team in November to look like it's January or February. Because the only thing that team can do is come back.
“And I've done this 30 years, and I've seen teams come out of the gate so good that I laugh and say, they will not be there at the finish line. They're so good right now, they can't get better. All you can do is get rattled. We're not as good, we didn't make as many shots, man, earlier in the year we were. We're not that. We're a ways away from where we need to be.“
Q. De'Aaron has through five games he's got 14 more assists than Tyler had last year at the same time. Is he better than you thought he was going to be right now early?
“I expected him to shoot the ball better than he is right now. Because I watched him play. But defensively I didn't realize that he could play that way. I knew he could play fast, but he just needed to be - it had to be demanded. Like you can't be fast when you feel like it, you're going to be fast the whole game.
“But his ability to find people and make the right play, woo! I thought Malik was outstanding. Malik has a chance of being special. When I put him at point guard I told him at the end, you played like a shooting guard would play point. If you want to be a point, you’ve got to play like a point guard. But I thought defensively, I mean, he stays in front, he's quick, he's chasing, he didn't break down.
“Wenyen Gabriel, wow, this kid, you know, a double-double. We don't even talk about him. We don't talk about him. More people call me about Wenyen than anybody else, because of how hard he works and what he does. But he goes 10 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists in 26 minutes.
“Now, hands are down on defense and he gets beat on straight line drives, but you can't have everything, I guess.“
Q. It's only five games, your fastest team here?
“I think John (Wall) and Eric (Bledsoe) and those guys would argue the point that they were faster with Patrick Patterson and that team. And you put DeAndre Liggins - that was a fast team. But this team is really fast. I mean it's - how about Bam? - there's a couple of you guys that are old enough to know Wes Unseld.
“Some of you, he was a child when you watched him play. But his outlet pass to halfcourt? That's Bam. Right now. He throws that ball to halfcourt, if you will run, he will throw it to you. He's getting better offensively.
“Now, what I did in the second half? I said, if Bam doesn't get 10 shots in the second half, we're practicing tomorrow. So, if you wondered why they just kept throwing Bam the ball, that's why they were throwing Bam the ball. I said, I looked at them I said, I'm not kidding, you guys are not giving him the ball enough. Throw him the ball.
“And I said, at halftime, I said, okay, so you guys want to shoot all the balls and he'll go get every rebound block and fight and drive and outlet and throw it and then you shoot all the balls. Is that right? Oh, that's really good. That's what I said. Okay, this half, this is what we're doing.
“But we need Isaac and Sacha. They just got to keep getting better. I thought Derek Willis showed some signs of what he can do for us. Mychal's got to defend. Straight line drive, straight line drive, no rebound. I mean, come on, if you want to be on that court, you’ve got to do this.
“So, we got to - we're a November team. It's November, whatever it is, 23rd. I should know, it is my daughter's birthday. Happy birthday, Megan. She was a Thanksgiving baby, by the way, too.“
Q. You touched on Malik Monk, but through five games he has more threes than any other UK freshmen in history. The scouting report on him is that's a streaky shooter. Is this just a hot streak or can he consistently be this good?
“Well, I want him to drive the ball more and get to the rim. That's what I'm trying to get him to do. I know he can shoot threes. But I don't want him to settle for that, for that what you just said. There's not, whether it's Steph Curry or whoever, guys that are volume three-point shooters, they will go through spells where they miss. They will have one of those 2-12 games from the three. They do. I don't care who you are.
“So my thing is, don't make that the only part of your game. But I will say this, he can, he is, he's working for the first time, where he's in the gym and he's being disciplined about his work, he's focused on what he needs to focus on, and he's getting it done. He's listening to, instead of bunny-hopping, everything is a one-two step now, where he's really rolling into the shot. And it's an aggressive shot.
“But like I said, we’ve got a ways to go. Again, Tennessee-Martin had Mississippi beat, lost by three. They won every other game. They’ve beaten all the teams here. They press, they trap, they drive the ball at every chance, and so we have that game. Then you go to the following week and you think about who we're about to face, bam, bam, bam. And it's going to be a tough road.
“I think that Valpo just beat Alabama by eight. Valparaiso has a center that they tell me is an NBA player. 6'9", 250, absolutely a lock for the NBA. Big kid. Scoring 25 a game right now. So we have - look, we are where we are. Now, each game forward is going to get better and better. It's exactly what you need before you get into league play.“
Q. (By Bam Adebayo) Who is the fastest team again?
“Well, if our bigs would run, I would say this team. But since your bigs don't get up and down the court, it's a little bit of an issue. (Smiling.)“
Q. There were moments when it looked almost like a dunk contest out there. Gary Waters said that you're allowing a lot of offensive creativity, because the guys are playing so hard on defense. Is that a fair assessment?
“Yeah. Yeah. He knows them. Gary and I have known each other 20 years. He knows how I coach. And the problem I have is when former players come in, John Wall sat behind our bench and said, ‘he got soft.’ “Like, yeah, but I'm dealing with all freshmen all the time and you can't be like I was when I had juniors and seniors, who at times would kind of step back and get numb and you had to punch them out of being numb.
“And, offensively, I don't really know all the things that these kids can do, so the only way I can see it is let them go a little bit. Now, most cases I'll have two in my pocket, like let that one go, let that one go. But the third one, I got to call him over and say, hey, come on, man.
“But this is - the one thing I would tell you, they're unselfish. We had 38 baskets and 25 assists. I mean, all those dunks are, most of them are on lobs, on drives and finding people. So, if they're unselfish. I can deal with some - like De'Aaron Fox, why? He has the best floater in the country. The best. I have no idea why he won't shoot it. When I tell you the best, I'm saying I want him to shoot it five, eight times a game. Drive in the middle of the lane, get to seven feet, and shoot a floater. He makes it. He's driving into everybody bang, bang, bang, bang and trying to make a layup. I have no idea why.
“But he's feeling that out and we'll show him on tape, that doesn't work, but the floater works. And we show him and show him and show him and he'll be shooting floaters. But you’ve got to let them go a little bit. Bam and the big guys, Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee and the guys are saying, throw it to the bigs.
“Even if they miss shots, just throw it to them, so they get a better feel and we get a better feel on what we got to work on.“
Q. With the game today and another one Friday night how do you handle Thanksgiving with the team?
“We're going to do, Jerry Lundergan and his family for 30 years has been, the Salvation Army, and feeding the less fortunate and so we're going to go down and help serve food in the afternoon. And then we're going to meet at my house, our team and any of their families that are in. So we're all going to have one big thing at like 3 o'clock.
“And then we'll probably walk through, 7 o'clock we'll walk through Tennessee-Martin. I think I'm going to give them tomorrow off, which I usually wouldn't do before a game, but this is going to be a tough run. And then Saturday morning, we play Friday, Saturday morning we're (in the Bahamas) for three days before we come back and then it's on again.“
Q. Coach Waters also said that your team enjoys playing defense. Would you agree with that assessment?
“They're starting to. That's the first step to being good. Look, I said to the guys after, there's such a thing - you guys all relate confidence to shooting free throws or shooting balls or handling the ball. There's such a thing as rebounding confidence. Like they're really confident they can rebound. Who on this team is that way? Shot goes up, you know he's confident.“
“Wow, good, you guys watched the game. Who is the other guy that's really confident rebounding the ball like he'll go? Wenyen. But I got a couple other guys that are not confident going after balls.
“Defensively, Isaiah Briscoe. De'Aaron Fox, on the ball. Bam is confident, did you see him guard guards today? He's confident that he can do it. Some other guys go to guard the ball and they go, ‘Oh, my gosh, he's going to drive.’ Yeah, he is. He absolutely is going to drive around you.
“That confidence has to be built in practice. It can be built in our practices because you're going against someone really good every day and if you can guard that guy, you can guard anybody we're playing. But we got guys that are accepting, this is who I am.
“Now, if you don't have confidence rebounding or defense, I don't care what you tell me, ‘Well just give me the ball on offense you'll see my confidence.’ No. It doesn't happen that way. You're not getting dunked on three times and then go down and you're going to make a jump shot. Ain't happening.
“So, there's such a thing as confidence that way. But again, I told you too, there are two 18-year-olds - Sacha may be the youngest freshman in the country and Isaac is the youngest sophomore in the country. They're young. They're little babies. And I don't coach them that way I'm holding them accountable.
“Mychal, man, he's getting a chance. Everyone on this team and in the gym wants Mychal to play. But if they're shooting lay-ups on you all day, you are not playing, so you better figure it out. Stay in front of somebody, get some confidence defensively. Do we need his shooting?
“Yeah, but not if you give up more lay-ups than you make shots. That don't work that way. So, we’ve got stuff that we're still working on. And Dom, Dom said he's going to be okay. I think Isaiah, Isaiah may need a couple more days, I just don't know. But he hurt it when he was jerked to the floor that last game.“
Q. What happened with Dom and also does he have the worst luck of any guy you've seen when he gets an opportunity to play?
“He's got buzzard luck now. This poor kid. But he's going to be fine. He's the greatest kid, too. When I told him I was going to give Mychal an opportunity before him, because I just have to give Mychal a chance to prove what he is and let everybody see it and he hadn't had that chance. He was fine. He's the greatest kid.
“The craziest thing, both he and Mychal, unbelievable athletes. Let me ask you, does Dom have defensive confidence? He really does. Well let me say this, Mychal is just as athletic as he is. So now it's, okay, man, you're going against Malik every day, you can guard him and stay in front of him and make it hard on him, you can guard anybody we're playing.
“Happy Thanksgiving, folks.“