For 25 minutes, the Florida Gators looked like a better team on Saturday. But then Malik Monk went all Bruce Leroy in the second half to lead Kentucky back into first place in the SEC standings.
Monk had 30 points in the second half in an efficient 8-14 shooting effort. With De’Aaron Fox out today, Bam Adebayo excelled in the wing man role with his second consecutive double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds).
Coach John Calipari was very pleased with the way the team fought throughout the game. Specifically praising Dominique Hawkins, Adebayo, and Monk, he was encouraged by the improvement he is seeing across the board.
See below for a full transcript of Coach Cal’s post-game press conference, courtesy of UK Athletics.
Q. How much do you think Malik develops muscles to where he gets it going to where -
“What happened to Malik, we were on him to drive, to get fouled. Don't drive to release and throw some crazy thing, just try to get fouled. That's why I grabbed him. We have been doing it all year and harder to play that way and Florida's an obviously a highly ranked team. They're tough physically, they had won nine in a row, they were confident. You're not going to beat them shooting threes or fadeaways, you got to attack. If you attack, you're going to get beat up a little bit, you're going to get grabbed a little bit, you're going to get hip checked some. I was really -- we didn't want to try to beat them shooting threes and I said it before the game. I said, if you think you're going to beat these guys by shooting threes, you will not. You got to get to the glass, you got to get to the foul line, it's how you got to play.”
Q. A lot of your big men late in the season kind of turned the corner, has Bam done that do you think?
“I hope so. I hope so. Had a smile on his face, we did some things different to go at him where we're saying, look, we're either going to go at Malik or we're going to go at Bam, and then we're going to play off that. We're not going to try to make this fancy, let's just do it. I like how we played when you're one man down. I thought Isaiah Briscoe, nine points and eight rebounds playing the point. I thought Dom was outstanding again. We just got to get a team full of guys really locked into what we're doing. At the end, okay, okay, there's just two plays, Malik went baseline and tried to -- why would you do that? There was a man in the corner. The shot was taken on the perimeter. We don't have to score another basket to win, and Isaiah went flying in there and gave them a breakout. Why did you do that? Now, those are the things that were costing us up 18, those kind of plays and we got to get away from them. But the biggest thing this team did is they fought in the second half. Think about it, we shot 28 percent at halftime. 28 percent. We must have missed nine layups. And we're in a tie game. That means you're fighting, that means you're giving yourself a chance to win.”
Q. Did we see today maybe kind of again but more than ever why even when it's really bad for Malik maybe early you got to ride him and give him a chance to do what he did.
“Yeah, but I'm still learning about him. I'm still learning. I'm still learning about Bam. I keep coming back to the same thing. This is different here. I have a brand new team every year. So when you're trying to put that team together, sometimes it takes you the entire season to figure out how should we be playing. It takes the other teams half a season to figure out how to guard us and then they lock into, here's what we're taking away, these four or five things, and we're going to make them play to these things. And then we got to regroup and say, okay, now what do we do? And that's, a lot of times, by the end of the year. I mean, to be honest, next year will be the same way. Beginning of the year, oh, high flying, shooting dunks, oh my gosh. And then you get to the middle of the year and, wow, they're not getting as many easy baskets. Ooh, they're having to work, they're having to be patient, they're having to set screens. Yeah, you got to play basketball now. But I like the fact that we fought and I said, and for De'Aaron Fox, hey, man, when you come back, you better be to the level of these guys fighting. That's where you need to be.”
Q. You mentioned the last game, the difference in rebounding, it was almost a 40 rebound swing between last game and this game?
“Their big kid got hurt and he's out. So that played a part of it. But were you at the game down in Florida?”
Q. No, I was not.
“Okay, well we got beat to every 50/50 ball, we got shoved and pushed and we accepted every block out and they just man handled us. That's what they did. And we just, one of the things is you talk about you can't be that team. And my thing in this game and the games coming up, it's not -- look, I want to win every game I coach. It is about getting us right for this late season run. And you all know, the second half we showed, wow, if they play that way, they're going to be fine. Now can we play, can that be us? Or are we not locked into each other. Or are we not this team. If we're this team, I like what I'm seeing.”
Q. So six straight wins since the reboot, are we right?
“No, we still are tweaking a little bit. There's some tweaking going on right now.”
Q. To win a game like this without De'Aaron, what did you learn anything new about your team?
“I'm saying this, because if he had played he would have been 70 percent. So what I'm saying is, I knew that. I really wanted us to play the game without him. For us and for him. And now it's like, okay, but we made runs in the middle of the game with Isaiah on the bench. He wasn't in. That's good for this team to know, you could have foul trouble, you could have an injury, something could happen. You can still win if you're playing the right way. If you're creating good shots for each other. If you're defending and rebounding like crazy, flying to get easy baskets, if it's not there, I will be patient. If it takes me the whole shot clock to get a shot, I will. We're getting closer. But when you're playing all freshmen and sophomores, it's -- thank goodness for Dom and Derek and thank goodness for Mychal. Mychal's playing better.”
Q. When it's rocking, Rupp is a big advantage for the team and today felt like one of the bigger atmospheres for the event. Did the crowd really bring it to this team today, did that help carry them a lot more than the past teams?
“No, it's every team. I can remember games that were so electric that I was just happy that I had a chance to coach in the game. This was one of those kind of games and I thought our fans were great. You know what's great about these fans? When we had that bad start, they don't boo. They're like come on, you can do this. That's a Kentucky fan. That's a classy fan. If you notice, when they introduced Florida, they didn't boo Florida. They didn't boo. They didn't boo the other coach. Now if they did that to me and didn't boo, I would probably retire. I want them to do that to me. But these fans are about our team and our players. And that's why I love walking in. It was jammed in there. Jammed. That has to be -- when I looked to the upper deck and people are sitting like this (Indicating) I know we got a lot of people in the house tonight.”
Q. How do you hope it benefits De'Aaron to not be part of it and you guys win?
“Well just, he watches and you better step on the gas. We defended. We defended. You know what we guarded pretty good? Pick and roll. We guarded, because we fought over every pick and roll and then we switched a couple times and we went back to fighting over. No one died in any screen. I mean, okay now, this is what it is when we're doing it the right way.”
Q. There was a point in the game when Humphries had a wide open shot
Q. Humphries. And he didn't take it. And he gave it up and they gave it back to him and he took a shot and drilled it. What was your reaction to it and what was his?
“Well, my reaction to the shot at Missouri that he missed, he's making in a five minute drill, 70 to 75 shots in five minutes. He misses five to six shots. Those kind of shots that you saw him take. And then gets in the game and misses and it drives me absolutely crazy. So, I expect him, because I watch him every day, to make that shot. And to take that shot. He's built his own confidence. Again, he's doing way better, but Bam's, you got to keep him on the court. He's a dominating presence.”
Q. In your 50 years of coaching how many times have you had a kid get 30 points in a half?
“Oh, he got 30 in a half? No wonder when I got on him about a couple bad shots he looked at me like I was crazy. I didn't know he had 30 in a half. So, good for him.”
Q. What would round three looked like in the SEC tournament?
“ A war. Believe me, we got Vandy coming up and we got to go to Texas A&M. They got two tough games. I don't think either one of us are looking to, oh, we want to get them again. Honestly, I hope we don't have to face them again. Because they're that good. They got guys that can go crazy and make shots and they're athletic and long, they can block shots. They had two blocks today, but we only had two. That's unusual for them and us.”
Q. What did you say to Briscoe when you took the ball from him after the technical?
“I didn't want him to go back after -- I saw the push. I didn't see the first push. I saw the push and I thought he called the technical on the kid. And I did not want him -- you got to be a man in those situations and walk away. That's what a man does. A child immediately has to go push back. When you just won. Why would you push back? Now you just lost. So I grabbed him, and he has a way at times, you say something to him, I'm a man, I'm not going to -- what? No, you walk and we win the game and you laugh after the game. So that's what I grabbed the ball for. I didn't know there was a push and he was coming over to me telling me, look, I didn't try to push him. So then I said you did push him then. Yeah, but I didn't try. Okay. Try harder not to try. How about that one?”