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John Calipari previews Missouri Tigers, comments on NCAA scandal

Coach Cal goes over the strategy UK needs to come up with a much-needed win at home.

Alabama v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Kentucky Wildcats are preparing to face off against the Missouri Tigers at home in Rupp Arena. The game will broadcast on ESPN @ 8:15 PM EST.

The Wildcats have won their last two games after going on a four-game losing streak. One loss came at the hands of the Tigers who have been a man down all season without their star freshmen Michael Porter Jr.

Prior to this game, Porter had only played two minutes for the season. During the season opener, he went down with a back injury that led to a microdiscectomy surgery of his L3-L4 spinal discs. This took the Tigers from a top projected SEC champion to an unranked season. Even without Porter, the Tigers handed the Wildcats a 69-60 loss at Mizzou Arena.

Now that the Tigers are on the Cats home court you can expect things to be a little different. Although Kentucky has already lost nine games this season, only two of them have been at home. With Missouri coming off of two straight loses both teams have something to prove in this game.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, Calipari met with the media to preview UK’s matchup with Mizzou. Here is a recap of everything he said, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Opening statement

Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy: “Before we get started with today’s media opportunity, I wanted to make a brief comment on this morning’s Yahoo! Sports story. Each of you have been provided a statement from Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and Coach (John) Calipari. We do not have any additional information to share with you at this time. Once we do have additional information to share, we will communicate that when appropriate. Coach Calipari is here today to talk about tomorrow’s game with Missouri. If you don’t have any questions about that, we can let him go to practice. Once again, we don’t have any additional information other than what we provided to you earlier in the statement and we’ll make Coach Calipari available for you.”

On whether there is anything he can say about the report …

“I know nothing more than you guys know and that’s there’s no reason for me to speak on it. You guys know what I know.”

On whether there is concern about eligibility …

Peevy: “Like I said, we have no additional information other than what we shared and if we have anything more we will make sure we communicate that to you.”

On his reaction to the news and whether he is disappointed …

“I mean, yeah, for all of basketball, this stuff, yeah. But, again, the statement I made is, for me, where we stand on this and how I feel about it.”

On whether he has spoken to Kevin Knox about this …

“No.”

On whether Knox will play vs. Missouri …

Calipari: “At this point, I believe so. If there’s something that I don’t know.”

Peevy: “Like I said, once again, there’s nothing additional to what you already know.”

On whether this is a distraction for his team …

“I don’t know. I haven’t met with them yet, so I don’t know.”

On whether Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. will play …

“I have no idea. You know what I know.”

On what he thinks of the revenge factor …

“Yeah, but they’re—they’ve got a good team. They shoot the ball well. They got good size. They lost a couple games that they could have won. They had Mississippi up seven with a minute and a half to go, two minutes, they lost the game. They’re one of those teams in that pack of teams that we’re all pretty much the same. So we gotta play the way we’ve been playing to give ourselves a chance.”

On whether his team is trending in the right direction …

“We are. We’re getting better, but it’s all game to game with a young group like this. It’s all game to game.”

On if he thought things were coming together at this time …

“I was hoping earlier, but you start worrying about later, you know. I think the ’14 team didn’t come until the last couple days of the season. As a matter of fact, I think we lost our last road game. So, you know, we hit the tournament and got better. We’re doing some good stuff, but we just gotta keep getting better. Guys gotta fall into those roles and then be good at we need them to be good at collectively.”

On if he’s going to address the team on the report that came out today …

“I don’t know. I haven’t walked in there yet. I haven’t thought about it.”

On what he’s wanting from Hamidou Diallo right now …

“I want him to just make really easy plays to get himself going, worry about defense, worry about running the stuff we’re trying to run, lose yourself in the team. He played well yesterday. I just told him – I said it again: ‘We need you to be a player for us to do what we’re trying to do.’ ”

On if there’s an advantage for a team to blossom as late as this one could …

“It’s better than not blossoming, I can tell you that. And again, we’re not all the way there. We’re still a work in progress.”

On how Diallo can help the team …

“One, athletically, he can make plays that normal guys can’t make. He can score baskets on people because of his athleticism. We’re trying to get him to shoot pull-up jumpers, shoot free-throw-line jumpers – that’s a good play for him. And then the biggest thing for him right now is sell in defensively. No reason he shouldn’t be a great defender.”

On if he’s a believer in basketball IQ …

“I don’t think the issue (with this team) has been basketball IQ. I think the issue has been they didn’t realize until two weeks ago how bad they needed each other. The second thing is they’re still trying to figure out who they are, then we add Jarred (Vanderbilt) midseason. I mean, that all comes together and we look confused sometimes out there on the court, which would make you to believe, ‘Man, their IQ –.’ It’s not, they’ve got a good basketball IQ, they have a good feel for the game, but again, we’ve had to make adjustments. I’ve had to really set into rules of how we’re playing, roles for guys, but they’ve gotten better.”

On when the coaches knew the specific roles for each player …

“Well, when we started looking at Jarred (Vanderbilt) and say, ‘OK, this is how Jarred is going to play, and these are the guys that should be making plays and these are the guys – we need this from you --.’ You would hope you would have that earlier, but it took us time.”

On if Vanderbilt could play 30 minutes if he asked him to …

“I don’t know yet. I don’t know.”

On if he would say that Quade Green and Vanderbilt have brought the team together …

“I think the two guys that are playing well together are Jarred and PJ (Washington). They’re playing well off one another. They kind of got a good feel for each other when they’re out on that court together. But no, Quade is playing better. Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) is doing what he does. You know, Kevin Knox is way better. Nick (Richards) and Sacha (Killeya-Jones) are doing good. We need Wenyen (Gabriel) to step it up a little bit. He was a little bit better a week or two ago. He’s got to come back to where he was.”

On if Washington will continue to come off the bench with the compatibility with Vanderbilt …

“Maybe, we’ll have to see.”

On how much the coaches try to determine getting the ball to those that have the hot hand …

“The guys that are playing best are going to play, especially when you have a team this young. That means there are certain games a guy may not – he’s not ready to go, so then he won’t play as much, but we’ve been doing that here and having guys perform their roles. Now it’s easier to know if a guy’s playing well. It’s not about a made shot, a missed shot; it’s are you doing what the team needs you to do?”