Kentucky finally proved that John Calipari was right when he said this can be a good defensive team.
Despite their defensive struggles for much of the season, the Cats put the clamps down on Alabama and came out of Tuscaloosa with a 67-58 win. It was the kind of win that Calipari pretending to smoke a cigar after the win:
Here’s a recap of everything Calipari said, courtesy of UK Athletics:
On how much better Kentucky’s defense was today
“This is like, OK, you really zero in on one thing and what happens? Like, two other things fall apart. But, we started the game, we didn’t pass the ball so I took De’Aaron (Fox) out. You’re holding the ball, just get rid of it. Defensively, the breakdowns were more individual. Why are you leaving your feet? They made one 3, and a banked 3, and you keep leaving your feet on ball fakes. We had like two or three guys.
“I told them, look – and going forward, we have a month, but when you talk about it we probably have seven, eight, nine, 10 practice days left. I’m going to do my work in practice, and get the staff more involved in coaching offense and defense. My stuff is practice and getting them to play the way I’m asking them to play. If they don’t, I will hold them accountable. If they are, I’m letting them go. It’s just that time. I’m proud of them. They were diving on the floor, we were trying.
“We did a lot of things offensively where we could have spread the game out. Missing free throws, missing shots, taking tough plays. But give Alabama, where we got double-digits, had them down a little bit, and they never stopped playing, and they had a chance to win the game. Guys that missed every free throw then made every free throw. Avery (Johnson), like I said, what he’s done to where they’re one of the top 25 defensive teams in the country. They are. And the game was a little ugly because we tried to defend for the first time in three weeks.”
On sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe coming up big late in the game
“He did. He’s got a toughness to him, and he’s got a fight. But there were three or four plays before that, shot’s blocked (and) he didn’t need to take the shot. You got three guys on you that are 6-(foot)-7. Why did you try to shoot it? Even call timeout. Don’t just give them the ball.
“Again, how about fouls? Well, he was gonna score. It’s not a touchdown. It’s a basket and in 12 seconds we’ll score. Why did you foul? And then the fouls are and-ones, so you’re not even fouling good. Foul them if you’re gonna foul them and get your fourth foul, not an and-one. We’ve got so much stuff to work on, but it’s good.
“That was a happy locker room. It’s a locker room that cares, that cares about each other. But I’ve got to do, the technical stuff, I just gotta keep coaching them and I think I got away from what I needed to do for three weeks. We slipped and let’s see if I can get these guys on the right path. We’re playing Tennessee coming up who beat our brains in up there. Now we gotta try to see what we can do at home.”
On freshman guard Malik Monk getting his first rebound in two games
“Yeah, but he tried and he dove on the floor. He’s trying to do stuff. But again, we have to continue to demand it and work on it. And I’m telling you what he said, ‘If I don’t rebound and you say something to me and I’m not rebounding, take me out. If I don’t go after a ball take me out.’ That was from him, not me telling him, ‘I’m going to take you out if you don’t …’ He told me, ‘Just take me out.’
On if he sat in the first half because of rebounding or for a breather
“Just to give him a break.”
On freshman forward Bam Adebayo running the floor and how he played
“Yeah, he did, and our guys found him. He’s gotta do that every time. Like I said, we’ve gotta get somebody that we feel comfortable can back him up. Isaac (Humphries) did some good stuff today. He came up with a huge ball in front of our bench where they had to foul him. Now believe me, three days ago ain’t no way he’s coming near that ball. No. And he grabbed it and got fouled and we got the ball on a side out and came back and I believe we made a basket or a 3, I can’t remember. I think it was the and-one by Isaiah, I believe.”
On how much better the help-defense was
“It was OK. We still aren’t taking charges. We got guys who won’t throw their body in there. Listen, we were worried about just playing hard, showing energy, having the world look at us and say, ‘These guys care. These guys can be good defensively.’ But they have to be engaged in it. It’s gotta be about a defense first, and it was. Then we stunk offensively.”
On if he was happy to see his team dive on the floor and go after balls
“Yeah, they did. And Wenyen (Gabriel) got some balls.
“Look, I ran that last play for Derek Willis, but you have to know I ran it three minutes before, and because he didn’t want the ball he tried to screen. That’s not a play for him to screen. And I called him over, ‘Why did you do that? You didn’t want to shoot the ball did you?’ So then I ran it again. We’re running it again. ‘De’Aaron throw him the ball.’ And the kid made a 3. I gotta give him credit. That’s growing, especially me calling him out a little bit saying, look, man, you can’t – Kenny Payne’s saying this, ‘If you don’t have confidence Coach shouldn’t play you at all. Shouldn’t play you. If you’re going in the game without confidence then he shouldn’t play you and I’ll tell him to take you out.’
“Dom I thought was outstanding today. Even though there were some fouls, I thought he was outstanding. We were dying a little bit, he got baskets. See, we’re still, we’re not a total grind-it-out team, but I’d rather be that than a one-pass, no-pass, shot team. I’d rather be what we are. We are something in the middle of what you saw today. That means we got a lot of work to do. But if you can’t grind it out some games, your season’s going to end earlier than you want. You gotta be able to grind. You gotta be able to execute in the half-court after seven, eight passes, get it to nine seconds on the clock, make a play. You got to at times. Maybe 10, 15 times in a really good game. We were throwing no passes, one pass, shot. We were on defense 70 percent of the time. Today, if you looked it, it was probably 50-50 we were on defense and offense, which is what it should be.”
On all of UK’s fouls
“Some of them I didn’t think were necessary, but I’m going to watch the tape and have a better idea.”
On the fire alarms
“Were you in the hotel with us? (No) Well, let me give you guys a secret. Don’t tell anybody this. The fire alarm went off. I was on the third floor. The worst that was going to happen to me was jump out that window and break my legs. You’re not going to die from three stories. I never moved. That thing went off, I knew I was on the third floor, put the pillow over my head. If I’d smelled smoke, I’d have jumped out of the window and broke both legs and told my wife, ‘It’s not all bad. I get to take the rest of the season off.’ ”
On whether firefighters would say he’s not very coachable
“They weren’t giving instructions. I had a pillow over my ears. By the way, the fire alarm went off twice. It went off at 3:30—it went off three times? And you know, people are thinking, Avery’s (Johnson) over there pulling the fire alarm, this and that. The building had a problem. So, it went off at 7 in the morning, by the way.”
On what he thought of UK’s seeding
“I said, ‘Put in marker. Permanent marker.’ Because, you know, there are times in the season I would say maybe we deserve it. There are times in the season when we were a little bit better than that, but there have been times where I say, ‘Really?’ That’s never happened to me before, where they’ve given us a seed better than we should have.”
On whether they deserved a three seed today
“Yeah, I would say. Because we’re a talented team and if we start defending and we’ll get our offense together and teams that we’ve beaten already. We’ve struggled some at times, but let me say this to all of you: Every team in the country is having issues right now. We just want to be better at dealing with ours than they are dealing with theirs. Every team. Tell me the team and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, well, let me say this. They just got this thing and that thing.’
“Everybody has issues. You gotta deal with those issues better than everybody else. But, you know, I like the transparency. I know there’s some coaches that didn’t like it. ‘Ah, puts more pressure on us.’ No, no, no, no. There’s transparency now. If someone moves on, we’ll all know why they moved into the top four. If someone moves out, you will be able to write why they moved out. No smoke-filled rooms. ‘I like them.’ None of that. It’s out there. Now we all know.”
Video courtesy of Cats Pause