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John Calipari talks Florida win, Skal rising, bigs rebounding and more

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Calipari praised Skal and the UK bigs fro their bounceback performance that helped UK rebound from a loss at Vandy to winning at Florida.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

March is usually the time of the year when Kentucky becomes one of the hardest teams in college hoops to beat.

At least, that's been the case just about every year under John Calipari, who was in a festive mood Tuesday night after watching his Cats win in Gainsville for just the fourth time since 2005.

Calipari wouldn't reveal his tweak after the win, but he was happy to see the way Skal Labbissiere and the bigs in general rebounded from Saturday's dud at Vandy. The frontcourt accounting for 32 points and 29 boards vs the Gators after getting just nine points and 11 boards vs the Dores.

All of this was among the topics Cal discussed following the win.

On having many contributors
"It's what we've been trying to do. We're building confidence. We're still doing it. We have this week and next week to get ourselves - to have a confident basketball team. We're still not there. And I'll say it again: ‘Coach gets on us! And he yells!'

"Well, if it's somebody else you need to build your confidence, you're never going to be one of those guys. You do it through really working hard and then demonstrated performance in games. Skal was terrific today. I mean, that's - and again, he only played 15 minutes, but if he can give us 15-20 minutes like that, we're pretty good.

"We're still not where we need to be, but like I said, we had a lot of help from a lot of guys today, which was good.

On why Skal started
"Practiced yesterday great and I looked at Tyler and I said, ‘I'm thinking about starting him tomorrow.' And he said, ‘Do it,' and I said, ‘Yep, then I will.' And that's what I did."

On what he told Skal
"I said, you two on that team and I watched it so Alex and he were together, and I said that's who I'm starting tomorrow. That's what's great about being a head coach. You can do stuff like that."

On how much Skal has worked on the pick and pop
"That's the best part of his game, but you saw that he scored some in the post, too. The one thing - we missed a lot of free throws, but I guess we ended up making a lot. To have Isaiah go 5 of 6 is like, wow. Skal went 1 for 4 which is one of our better free throw shooters."

On Skal blocking out
"Yeah. I'm gonna say this: He can do it; it's very hard, though. 'I'd rather not do that. I'd rather do this other stuff.' What he's finding out - kind like Jamal found out - that playing winning basketball and most of these guys, what got you here to Kentucky isn't gonna get you to where you want to go.

"You got to start doing things, you got to work harder, you got to be more focused, you got to be - you ready for this term? - efficient. You're not a volume shooter anymore. No one wants to coach a volume shooter. At any level. We don't have volume shooters. We have guys that can shoot and make a bunch of shots but that's not what we have.

"And the way we're gonna have to play - and again, we were sloppy. There were a lot of things today that we broke down on, but my whole thing and what we did to tweak things to get these guys to focus on some different stuff, is I need a confident basketball team.

"And it's not gonna come from be building guys up who are playing like crap. That's not confidence. That's fake, and that's not how we operate. It is telling them the truth, work on it, now go do it in a game. Alex started very shaky. Very shaky, and then he came back and started playing a little bit better, so he's got to build on that now.

"That's got to be who he is."

On what they can be if Skal keeps playing like this
"We can be better. It was a tough game for Isaac. You just saw the difference in those two. But Isaac made a jumper, too. We gave up 16 offensive rebounds. They only turned it over five times. That's two games in a row now that teams we played have only turned it over five times.

"We had to play these guys different, which was you had to back up a little bit and that doesn't lead to turnovers. But we're happy to get out with a W. Get on our way and get ready for this thing on Saturday."

On John Egbunu's inside scoring
"Well, we broke down three or four times. And again, what I'm on these guys about now is, you got to focus on scouting reports. You got to focus on every shootaround. All that stuff. My teams at this time of the year, it's all up a notch.

"There's laser - this team's not there yet, and I talked to them about it at the shootaround today. So a guy goes in and leaves the big kid, and they just throw bounce passes to him. It wasn't like it was post ups. It was bounce passes and lobs.

"Our whole thing was we're backing up and make those guards beat us shooting balls. We're not giving him bounce passes. He got three and went crazy. Like, what were you watching? Why would you do that? It was like, hm, I don't know.

"That's what happens when you have a young team."

On Derek Willis looking good in warmups:
That's what somebody said to me, but I wouldn't have played him. Unless he asked me.

On if Willis is close to return
"We'll see. When we get back tomorrow they'll tell me."