clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

John Calipari previews West Virginia, talks about what UK needs to improve most

It’s definitely something UK will have to improve greatly on to win in Morgantown.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats are getting set for a war in Morgantown when they face West Virginia.

The Mountaineers will present the young Cats with one of, if not the toughest regular-season test UK will face. They sport one of the nation’s fiercest defenses, not to mention a full-court press that can rattle even the toughest college teams.

Getting a win Saturday won’t be easy, but the Cats are ready for the challenge ahead.

On Friday, head coach John Calipari met with the media to preview Saturday’s primetime showdown. He also talked about the health of his team, what they need to improve most, and what to expect in Morgantown.

Here is a recap of everything Calipari had to say, courtesy of UK Athletics:

On the one thing the team needs to improve upon the most …

“It’s not just for this game. We’ve gotta continue to try and talk more, especially on defense. It’s hard even in walk-throughs to get them to talk. Second thing, you gotta continue to create shots and opportunities for teammates. You can’t catch it and think, ‘What can I do with this for me to score and then if I can’t who do I throw it too?’ It’s gotta be the other way. I’m getting in the lane. ‘Do I have a basket or am I creating a shot?’ If I go, who am I getting a ball for? There are many times you drive and the lane is crowded even before you start. Good, now find somebody. We just gotta keep doing that.”

On if there are rules of the bench …

“The only rules I know that we have are be where you’re supposed to be on time and try to get there early. There are boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable, including individuals -- how they play. Here are your boundaries, now go play within those boundaries. Guys are doing some stuff that’s not acceptable, then – you believe that’s a rule, but it’s not really a rule. The more rules you have, the more you have to enforce and more you have to respond to more.”

On how he handles disagreements between players and coaches …

“These guys, this is all new for all of them. It’s all new, and it’s hard to accept responsibility. So you know what – ‘I did, I was wrong, and I’m changing.’ The best way is to defend yourself, how you played and your actions or whatever. They’re just learning it’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to say, ‘That’s on me.’ It’s why we did tape – ‘Stop, say it.’ (Mumbles) ‘That’s on me,’ ‘ No. Louder.’ ‘That’s on me.’ ‘One more time.’ ‘ That’s on me!’ ‘Perfect. Did that hurt? It’s not like a needle shot to your arm.’ but we’ve got a young team that’s learning. They’re trying to figure this out and figure out who they are. It’s all part of it.”

On players sometimes seeing things on the floor that coaches don’t …

“It wasn’t his (Hamidou Diallo) fault. That’s what he saw. ‘That’s not my fault. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He did see it different. Film saw it my way, but he saw it differently. [Laughter].”

On using eight or nine managers to increase the number of players against his five in practice to simulate West Virginia’s pressure …

“We don’t have that many mangers. What we’re trying to do is let them know that it’s going to be a physical game and I don’t want to hear anything about fouls. ‘I’m getting fouled.’ Like, to come over and see something on the court that I did not see. ‘You did not see him grab my arm?’ ‘I don’t care.’ You’re going to have to be physical in this game. You’re going to have to meet people before they meet you. You’re going to have to be strong with the ball. It’s all the things you have to do in a game like this. But, it’s not only against West Virginia. It’s probably just about every game we play. It’s the same thing.”

On Quade Green’s health and if he’s a critical piece to their success in this game …

“He’s getting better. He’s getting better. He’s getting better.”

On Green saying this feels like a must-win game for Kentucky …

“If that’s what they said, I’ll talk about it. You don’t – this is only a big game if we win. Then it’s a huge game. But short of that it’s the next game and it’s not even in our league. It’s going to be a hard game. But it’s not a must game. And I would say that Bob Huggins is saying the same thing. It’s going to be a hard game, but it’s not in our league. If they win it, it’s a big game for them. If we win it, it’s a big game for us.”

On West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate

“He is a presence around the goal both offensively and defensively, and he does what we’re trying to get our bigs to do. As the shot releases, he’s figuring out where to be. He’s figuring out who to meet, and then he goes after balls with two hands. But, again, we’re playing a veteran team that all of the stuff that we’re trying to teach they’re pretty good at.”

On if they use advanced stats for tracking things like assists

“Well, we’re looking right now for us to pass the ball. So what we’re doing is, last game Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) had 16 (assists according to the staff’s metrics). Literally, we had some guys five, six, and we had some guys one or two. I hope when you look at it you understand that if I’m one or two, I’m not passing the ball.”

On if he sent any video from past games to the SEC office …

“No. Look, for me in all this stuff, in most cases you just shake your head, and what’s their response? What is it? For us, my concern in refereeing always has been is not, ‘Did you make that call?’ It’s if you’re going to call carries on my team, call the carry on that team. If you’re going to say your guy created the contact and leaned in a shot it and I’m not calling that when their guy creates the contact then leans in and shoots it, don’t call it on my team. If you ever listen to what I’m saying, I’m not arguing a call. Be consistent. If you’re calling a moving screen on my team, I am now watching down there. If they’re moving on screens I’m going to get on you about it. ‘You just called that on my team.’ Consistency is all I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s OK to be consistently bad. Just be consistently bad. That’s fine, too. Just whatever you’re going to be, this is how I’m calling it. If there are hand checks and you start calling them, call them on both teams. If you’re going to let all the hip checks and bumps and go, don’t call that on my team. ‘Well, it’s a different way. Your guy leaned in. His didn’t.’ Stop it, just be consistent. Call the game.”

On if Jarred Vanderbilt can be valuable breaking West Virginia’s press …

“It’s important that you’re getting open, you’re tough, you’re catching balls, you’re being strong, you’ve got great spacing. So it’s not going to be one guy. It’s our team attacking that press.”