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John Calipari talks Florida, Jamal Murray, physicality and more

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With UK desperately needing to rebound from Tuesday's debacle, Calipari said his Cats "beat the crap out of each other" before laying the beatdown on Florida.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a roller-coaster season for the Kentucky Wildcats.

One week, they look like a Final Four contender who can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

But then UK looks like a team that can lose to anyone, just like they did to Tennessee, Auburn, Ohio State, and UCLA teams that may not even make the NIT.

It's been one of John Calipari's more challenging coaching jobs to get this year's team to reach their full potential, but if/when they hit it, it will probably look like what we saw Saturday. The Cats dominated throughout against a surging Florida team before pulling off an 80-61 win.

Here's a recap of what Cal had to saw following the game.

On UK's offense clicking

"You've got to have somebody next to basket, maybe it's Isaac, maybe Skal (Labissiere) keeps coming. But I do know if Marcus Lee will do what he did today, we have some room. But it's good.

"What we did Thursday, and there were people in the building, we went for two and a half hours, and it was a body-to-body, mano-e-mano, rebound, defend, play. I was mean at times, but that wasn't what it was. It was the bar was raised of what we were accepting. And I thought guys were terrific.

"And then yesterday was more of a clean-up day. You can't blame these kids. I said it, I got away from defense because I was trying to get us better offensively because I thought you cannot be a team that's scoring 38 percent and not have enough offense, which we were for a while. Now we've gotten better offensively, and we started stinking on defense and rebounding, and I went back to it.

"This is one of those teams that I've probably got to spend the time, more time than I'd like, to make sure we don't get away from rebounding and drills and teaching and defense and how we're going to play."

On being more physical

"Yeah, well, we beat the crap out of each other for two days, so hopefully it carried over, but the other thing is, I had to take Derek out in the first half. He had three offensive rebounds, so nine of those offensive rebounds, three of them were on Derek Willis, and then in the second half you saw that he rebounded the ball.

"So they couldn't make that run. And I keep telling him, you don't even have to make shots if you'll rebound and defend. I can leave you on the floor. You can go 0 for 5, which he won't, but you could if you rebound and defend. The first half, it didn't matter that he made shots; he had three rebounds where he didn't go be physical."

On Jamal Murray

"He was ready to play. Again, they're still learning how to win. Like Isaiah (Briscoe) drove the lane, has the guy in the corner but he has to look away and throw it underhand, and I went bonkers. Why would you do that? Jamal went on a drive right and had a lay-up, but he had to finger-roll it. He had to do the ice man. The problem was it was an airball, and that's the kind -- why would you do that? I don't know.

"Like we still have defensive plays where guys are getting beat back door or where we're not running back and forming a wall. There's just so many little things that you cannot be what you all want us to be until we can play 40 minutes of basketball, dig in and play. Every possession matters on defense. We're not close to that right now.

"But we've got a month, so within a month, I've got to get them convinced. They're fighting me. They don't think we have to, and I say, well, let's think back to Tennessee. Maybe we don't have to. I mean, you cannot play sometimes. You've got to play. But it was nice today -- I thought Charles did okay, but again, Charles misses a couple shots, and then he can't play, breaks down on defense, one-hand rebounds. He's just -- he's a young kid that's learning."

On Isaac Humphries earning more minutes

"Yes, he earned his space, and I'm so happy for him because he has worked so hard and hasn't had the opportunity, and what he did was he took advantage, and we all look and say, he needs to play. Let him play. And then you've got to stop waiting on some other guys, you've got to say, hey, he deserves it.

"I thought Marcus Lee was really good today, very active. Derek was a little in and out today. He wasn't himself, but he made the shot that we needed, the gap to help us win. He didn't end up rebounding the first half, but Isaac was terrific. I thought Jamal, other than two or three plays that he just can't help himself, the way he played was really good.

"And then Tyler Ulis, I told Tyler this is a 15-assist game for you because of how they play. It's old school. You're not getting to the rim. And he had 11 assists. I said, you didn't quite get 15, but you had 11."

On Tyler Ulis

"I like what Tyler did, and I like what Isaiah did. When Isaiah goes and goes six assists, one turn, and I'm telling him, do not drive to get fouled, you either pass it or shoot a lay-up, do not go in there and throw your body into somebody and think you did something good. You're missing free throws, so don't do it, just drive it and pass it or drive it and shoot a lay-up. So he's getting better.

"But it was a great bounce-back game. You think about it, we just had two tough games. Going to Kansas and losing and how we lost, and then having a 21-point lead at Tennessee, and I said, Rick Barnes just did a fabulous job of having his team ready, and they never quit; they played like his teams do. They defend, they rebound, they're tough, they're physical, and when it got close, we had some guys fouling out and I don't want to be in this, and we learned.

"But to do this against this team -- and again, you have to understand, this team beat West Virginia by 20, and they had won five of six games. So they had been playing well. But this was good for us, good win."

On other improvements UK is trying to make

"We're trying to get Jamal to either catch it and take the thing to the rim -- any inside-out pass to him we're telling him shoot it, don't hesitate. If it's inside and it comes out to you, let it go. If you're coming off a screen and you want to drive, drive it coming off a screen. We're trying to tell him, do not back it out and do the And-1 tape. You just don't play that way. You don't get by anybody. It's an offensive foul. It's a turnover. Just off a screen, catch it and go, which he was doing better today.


"Look, we've got a lot of things we've got to teach a lot of players, and it's to be able to do this -- I was hoping Dom (Dominique Hawkins), he didn't feel healthy enough to play. It's funny, five minutes before the game, (knocks), all right, I thought I was going in to talk to the team, and it's the trainer, "Alex isn't playing today."

"Who did he step on in the warm-up line? I'm going to fire somebody this time. No, no, his knee was just been bothering him, so he can't go. I walked in and laughed and said, Isaac, you've got your chance, here it is, go have fun, and he did. I was happy for him."

On UK coasting when having big leads

"Well, the game got close because we broke down on defense, and they executed the crap out of some lobs, some back doors, some different play, offensive rebounded twice, and all of a sudden you look around and it's 14. And when you're up that many points, you're going to massage it and take a shot late. If you can get it in transition, you do. If you don't, you grind it out. And that's why historically my teams get up 20, they win.

"We didn't do it at Tennessee. We shot quick shots. We broke down defensively. We didn't come up with any tough rebounds, and all of a sudden it went from 20 to 4. This thing never got under 14, and so I thought our kids did good. I like how they responded. 10 turnovers in a game. You know, we had a couple games there we were 14, 15 turnovers. We're not going to win because that's another three or four baskets for that other team."

On Alex Poythress' injury

"I don't know. He'll go get X-rayed tomorrow to see."