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John Calipari talks Florida, Isaiah Briscoe, self-evaluating and more

What are Calipari and his Cats doing to fix their woes and get back on track when Florida comes to Rupp?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats have needed rebound performances several times this season, and Saturday vs the Florida Gators will be no different.

After losing two straight games, including Tuesday's debacle at Tennessee, UK is in danger of losing three-straight games for the first time in the John Calipari era. Because of this, Cal said during his Friday presser that both players, coaches and himself were self-evaluating more to figure out what's wrong with these enigmatic Cats.

Here's a recap of everything Calipari said Friday as Kentucky gets set to host Florida Saturday evening.

On how hard practice has been

"Very hard. We made it more physical. I really zeroed in on our defense. The only offense we're really worried about is what we were running against our defense and trying to get guys back to how we have to play. Whether it's offense early or defense now or rebounding, it'll all come back to what we're emphasizing in practice, what are you getting done?

"It's a young team. We went back to that and today, because we play tomorrow afternoon, I can probably go about an hour and 20 and i'm going to try to jam in as much as I can as far as getting down these habits. We have to start creating better habits.

"Yesterday, we didn't do anything on Florida. It just wasn't time. I watched the tapes. They're really good. They have good size, they have a three-point shooting four, their guards are good. Their defense - they look like my old UMass teams.

"They're giving you one tough shot. When you drive you have five guys near you. They're rebounding with five guys. (Mike White) is doing a good job with that team."

On what he wants to do better on defense

"We're getting beat on the bounce right away. We're stretching out too much when we don't need to be. We're not scrambling and rotating. 'It's not my man.' What? All that stuff. It's typical of when things start to breakdown you're just concerned about your own man. Again, let's talk, for 15 minutes we played. It was 25 minutes and the world is coming to an end.

"My point is because we backed up off our defense, it led us to the Kansas game where if we could guard, we win. They couldn't guard us. We were just giving them baskets. When they started coming after us and we couldn't crowd the lane and things that we have to be able to do. And then rebounding. Just frustrating when teams get three or four shots at the basket. Let me say this, best rebounding team in the league offensively is Florida."

On saying there would be soul searching

"It means self-evaluate. You have to look at yourself. As a coach I have to look at myself and say "OK, what are we doing, how are we doing it, is there a better way of doing this?"

"And you have to ask questions and sometimes you have to ask a different question than you asked last week. As I look at this and as they look at this, I come back to zeroing in on what we have to have to win. And then the other side of it for me is challenging these guys, holding the bar high and doing it in a way that gets something out of them.

"That means you're trying different buttons different ways. Again, this is a game-to-game thing for us. I have to worry about Florida. I'm not worried about the last game and I'm not worried about the next game. Let's just play well this game. If that's not good enough then we move on to the next game."

On if refs have been calling games tighter

"I don't know. I know our fans watch the tape three times so they'll probably give you a good opinion."

On how Tyler Ulis is different this year

"He's a better player this year than he was a year ago. The thing he has to figure out, this may be a 15 assist game because of how they play. Other games may be a 30 point scoring game because of how they play. That he has to figure out.

"He's not an issue. He and I had a great conversation today. 'Tell me what you think? What are you seeing? What about this guy or what about that guy? How do we help this, how do we help that? Give me some ideas.' I said ‘How's the team?'

"And he said, ‘We're good. I'm good. As long as I'm good I'll get these guys right.' So it's nice to know you have a guy that has that kind of mentality."

On if he's been more demanding after the loss

"Yeah, and not in a verbal sense. Like yesterday was a rough house practice. Marcus Lee was really good yesterday. (Throws hands up.) I don't know. Don't ask me. 'Well why, in the game-' I don't know. But he was really, really good yesterday, to the point of like the old Marcus Lee earlier in this year.

"Will he be that tomorrow? (Throws hands up again.) And that's a hard thing about what we're trying to do, coaching, because if he really does his thing, it kind of puts everything in a spot that we're good with. If he doesn't, now you're on the side scrambling. 'Who's next? How do we do this?

"What do we-' Just makes it hard. But you know what? That's the challenge of this. That's the challenge when the teams change. I'm not looking at this other than, you know, I'm blessed to be here and have this opportunity, so I'm not, 'Oh, woe is me.' I'm not in no way.

"It's just, figure it out and accept the challenge of this and know that we can beat anyone in the country. And we can lose to anybody in the country."

On Jamal Murray's shot selection

"Getting better. I'm working on him every day. I told him I'm not changing, you got to understand what I'm saying. I stopped him 10 times both on defense and offense yesterday. I asked Tyler today, give me some ideas. Tyler gave me a couple ideas - I'm not gonna talk to you about 'em - of maybe this would make it simpler for him.

"He - got to get to the foul line. Can't drive away from - go, just go, straight line like they're doing you. Do the same. But he's never played that way. So when you're asking a guy to do stuff that will change who he is as a player, but he's never done it, if it gets rough they revert back to what they know best.

"But we're working every day. Same thing with all the other guys. Trying to figure out whether it's Dom or whether it's Charles. Who else do we - you know, just keep working with 'em."

On similarities between Mike White and Billy Donovan

"You know, the funny thing is they're running a lot of stuff - he probably went in and said, 'You know what? A lot of this stuff was really good and worked and it was good for those players,' and he knows Billy was a really good coach. So a lot of the stuff they're doing some of the same things, some of the same actions that Florida has run in the past.

"But defensively and rebounding, he's doing - it's old school. They're doing a little phantom press, but the rest of the stuff is in the halfcourt, we're giving you one tough shot. If you think you're driving it, you're driving it on five. If you think you're posting it and swinging the ball and driving, there's five.

"And then they all rebound. He's doing a good job. I think now they're buying in and they're building their confidence. We're playing a team that is playing as well as they've played all year."

On attacking Florida

"You got to make extra passes, you've got to screen them more and -- I hate to say this -- you've got to make some shots. You don't have to make 3s, but you've got to make some 15-footers. You've got to get your drives off of handoffs and pin-downs and different things while they're still playing, because every bounce of the ball they get closer to the lane. Bounce, boop, bounce, boop. Now you try to go, they've got five guys in there, each got a foot in the lane."

On Skal Labissiere

"He's getting better. He's getting better. He's going to have opportunities. ‘Get in there and fight.' Look, we can teach, we can challenge, we can raise the bar. At the end of the day you've got to go in there and perform, and I can't do it for you. I can't fight for you, I can't battle for you. I can cover for you -- I can say, ‘It's my fault' - but at the end of the day you've got to get in there and you've got to do it. And he's getting closer."

On UK's mindset after Tennessee loss

"I think they were all really mad about that. It was really silent on the plane. I think they were all mad. ‘How in the world? 21 points.' And again, I could say there were four or five plays in a row, losing plays, that, ‘I'm just going to make this.' Why did you do this? Why wouldn't you do this? ‘Well, I can make that.' Yeah, you can make that two out of 10.

"We cannot win with that kind of shot. Did you have a chance to get fouled? ‘No, I faded away.' What happened on this simple cross screen? ‘I fell asleep.' You can't fall (asleep). That's the stuff that we're - possession by possession they're learning. And I know they want to win. And I know they want to play well.

"They're a great group of kids, but I've got to keep teaching. It's very tiring. You notice I'm back to exercising, because I'm trying to make sure you don't find me under the desk in a week. Every day is a new challenge to just keep dragging. Getting on my staff to be enthusiastic to add some energy, and then telling them, ‘Stop.'

"Because I want the team to have the energy and not the staff. It's got to be them. This is a process. All we're trying to do is, ‘How do we get better?' I can't tell you. The way Florida is playing they're playing really good basketball. We can only control where we are, and that's what we're trying to do.

On Isaiah Briscoe

"He didn't play very well against Tennessee. He didn't defend. It was one of his worst performances, but all in all, he's guarded, he's rebounded. He's the one guy that shows toughness around the basket. He'll have our other big guys there and he'll grab the ball from them and lay it in.

"You're like, ‘How did he get that? He's 6-3, 6-2.' He's just got a toughness about him. He wants to win. Now we got to get him in the same thing: winning basketball plays. Why did you throw that left-handed? ‘Because I can make that.' I know you can - one out of 10 times. But if you shot it the other way you will make it five out of 10, six out of 10.

"You can't drive late in the game and try to get fouled. You avoid the foul and make a pass or make a layup. You don't go in there late in the game and, ‘I'm going to get fouled.' What? ‘I can make those.' I know, 35 percent of the time. We can't win that game. It's all what I'm trying to get these guys to accept and self-evaluate. ‘What am I? Where am I right now? Where do I want to go with this? OK, how do I get myself to that? What do I do extra?'

"I mean these guys are doing the breakfast club. These guys are - it's just we don't have the margin of error we have had in the past. I've got to accept it, and we all got to accept it. We don't have that margin. We've got to play a heck of a game to try to win.

On taking Briscoe out late in games to avoid getting fouled

"Yeah, if they're trying to foul him. Yes. Absolutely. Or run up the court. Run, get off the court. Run. Get away. Just outrun the guy. ‘He's trying to foul me.' Run faster than him. Don't get fouled."