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Wildcats preview Vanderbilt

More smiles after Kentucky won its SEC opener.

UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats look to start 2-0 in SEC play when they host Vanderbilt for a Tuesday night clash at Rupp Arena.

Ahead of the game, assistant coach Bruiser Flint and freshman guard Devin Askew met with the media to preview the game. Here is a recap of what they had to say via UK Athletics.

Bruiser Flint

On what Brandon Boston Jr. and Isaiah Jackson learned by watching the end of the Mississippi State game …

“I think we all learned somewhat what it took to win. We sort of just went with the guys who had been playing well together at the time. I think that’s the big thing. It’s not a deal of we just didn’t have them in the game. But that group was playing well together so we went with it. Those guys were great on the bench though. That’s the biggest thing right there. BJ and Isaiah were great and the other players. In the end, all we wanted to do was win the game. I think that’s the biggest thing right there. We’ve lost some tough ones like that and it’s been disappointing, but for us to come out and pull it out after losing some tough games like that, that’s what it’s all about. Those guys, I’m sure they wanted to be in the game, but I’m sure they understood the situation. We were trying to win the game and that was the best group to be out there with.”

On if it surprised him that Boston and Jackson stayed so engage with the game going on while they had to sit …

“Nah. No. I think this team has been pretty good in that respect. We’ve had some great practices. We’ve been getting better. We just needed some results, you know what I mean? So, we’re excited. When we were in the huddles, all the guys would talk about was, ‘We’re going to win this game. We’re going to win this game.’ That was one of the biggest things. Everybody in the huddle was talking about that. I think the guys just wanted to see some results for some of the hard work we’ve been putting in.”

On what the plan is with Dontaie Allen going forward after his big game and if he’ll start Tuesday …

“[Flint laughs]. I just coached the game for the last 10 minutes, so I’m not the head coach. Coach Cal had been telling Dontaie to be ready, and he was. You’ve got to give him credit. I would say the same thing: Be ready. I’m just happy he got in the game and he had some success. I hope he brings confidence because he does add shooting to the team. But, again, got to be ready. But the whole starting thing, that’s not what I’m here for. Probably discuss it, but we just need Dontaie to come in and be ready no matter what position he’s in.”

On how he thinks the guys will handle being a solid favorite for the first time since Morehead State …

“I just think that we were elated, like I said before, about winning a game because we’ve lost so many close games. It gave us some positive thoughts going into the next one just because we were able to pull this out. We’ve lost three one-possession games this year. For us to be able to pull out, go double overtime and win on the road, I think that was big. I think sometimes you want to see the fruits of your labor, and I think we saw that. Hopefully going forward, the guys know this is how we’ve got to work, and if we work this way like we’ve been working, then we’ve got a chance to win some games.”

On any update on Terrence Clarke and if he’s still the point guard when he returns from his ankle injury or if Devin Askew has taken that starting spot back …

“No, I have no updates, and no, I can’t answer that question. When Terrence comes back, I’m sure we’ll have a game plan for him, but right now he’s out and we’re just hoping that he gets healthy. That’s the bottom line.”

On what the key is for Boston to getting things going and how much they need him to play better for UK to reach its potential …

“I will say his overall game has been better — the things we’ve been asking him to do. What he hasn’t been doing is making shots. I think he’s played better defensively. He’s done some rebounding, which we’ve been asking him to do. The things you learn as a freshman – communication – they’ve all been better. We just hope he has a breakout game and makes some baskets. The kid has really been working hard. Again, it goes back to, you want to see some fruit from your labor. So for him, it’s about making some shots for us, but a lot of the other things we’ve been asking him to do he’s been doing better. They have been on the scoreboard. He has been rebounding the ball a bit. Hasn’t been turning the ball over. So, those types of things we’ve been talking to him about have been a lot better for him. You guys just look whether or not he’s 9 for 11 or 1 for 11, but a lot of the other things we’ve been asking him to do, he’s been able to do it. We’re just hoping he can start knocking some shots down because he’s been working at it.”

On the staff’s reaction to how Devin Askew handled his early struggles and how he has responded …

“One thing he’s done is he’s never stopped working. I’ve said that before about the kid: He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around as a coach, period, in all my coaching career. So, in that respect, he never stopped. And, again, he’s been working hard and he’s been doing the things that Cal’s been asking him to do: run the team. I think I said that in the radio show after the game. Cal’s just been asking him to run the team, be a better floor general, and I think he’s done that. It’s just taken him some time. This is my first year and I know the expectations for some of these freshmen, but in all my career, it takes freshmen some time sometimes to get it done. We just had a tough schedule and we’ve been hurt a bit by it, but you see the improvement of all the guys, and Devin is one of them.”

On his impressions of the intense interest in Kentucky basketball and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing …

“[Flint laughs]. It comes with the territory. I’ll put it to you that way. I was at Indiana before and it’s somewhat intense there too, so I get it. It comes with the territory. We sort of talked to the kids about keeping the noise (away). Don’t keep making it a distraction. But, you know when you come here, that’s what you’re going to get it. The fan base is rabid and they, the Big Blue Nation, they have high expectations. But it comes with the territory I would say. We always try to tell them to block the noise and keep doing what we need to do to improve.”

On what challenges Vanderbilt presents on Tuesday …

“To be honest with you, at this point in time, we’re just looking at us improving and getting better. (Scotty) Pippen is a very good guard. They have some tough matchups for us. They have a lot of perimeter big guys who get out on the floor and they run a lot of things for them to come off screens, which big guys aren’t used to doing. So, it’s going to be a tough game for us. Right now, all of our games are tough. That’s why we talk more about us doing what we need to do more necessarily than the other team. I think one of the things the team has done a really good job of in the last couple of weeks is following the game plan. You know Coach Cal is going to have a good game plan for us. As long as we improve that and do the things we need to improve in, we’ve got a chance to win the game.”

On what he saw from the players after John Calipari’s ejection …

“After the two technicals, I just think our focus was there, especially on the defensive end. I thought we did a lot of good things defensively to get ourselves back into the game. We actually did a great job defensively and the offense. We got some 3s in transition. We got a couple easy layups. But, I think the biggest thing for us, and it’s been happening not just this game, our focus. I know it was great for me sitting in the huddles, was our focus sitting in the huddle with the players. Just them guys knowing what we needed to do. We’ve been talking a lot about that. Seeing them able to do it without Coach Cal being there, that was big. If they did not do that, then we were not going to win the game. So, when he got thrown out, ‘OK, let’s get focused on what we need to do.’ That was a big part. We just carried it over from what we talked in the huddle, from what they talked about in their own huddles, and that’s why we were able to win the game.”

On the team responding with a 10-0 run after Calipari’s ejection …

“You want Cal to get thrown out every game? [Flint laughs]. I mean, that usually happens in most instances with teams. I mean, not just with Kentucky but other teams. Something like that happens, usually the team – which is good to see – they regroup and they get themselves together and they go on a run. That usually happens with most teams. I remember watching one of the games when I wasn’t a coach here and actually speaking to Cal in the locker room when he got kicked out, they came together, they came back and they won. So, that’s one of the things they’ve done here a few times, so I’m sure you’ve seen it before. Hey, it is what it is. Like I said, you’re talking about a Hall of Fame coach and he’s prepared those guys to do what we need to do to be able to win. Like I said before, those guys said, ‘OK, we know what we need to do. Let’s go out and do it.’ That’s what we did.”

On Lance Ware’s progress and if he knew Calipari was going to get thrown out …

“[Flint laughs]. No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t think he was going to until he turned to me and said, ‘Yo, Bru, I’m going to get kicked out of the game.’ I’ll be honest with you, I thought they had some moving screens. Maybe I might get fined or something, but there were a few tough calls out there, to be honest with you, during the game. I understood why he was on the referees a little bit. But, Lance is one of our smarter players as a freshman. He just does what we’re asking him to do. That’s as simple as you can get. We ask him to rebound the ball. We ask him to play with some physicality. He’s not trying to score every time he catches it. He’s a great screener. He’s good with the ball. He makes good passes out to people. So, he’s making progress because he’s doing what Coach asks him to do. Coach Cal is asking him to do simple things and he’s doing them. And he makes a difference out there. He’s pretty smart out there. He always does a great job with being in the right position. Because of that, he’s making some progress. But I think you could look at all the guys in that way, you know what I mean? They’re young. It just took a little bit of time for them to get where we needed to go, but we still have some ways to go.”

Devin Askew

On his mentality when he was asked to come off the bench after early-season struggles …

“I kind of looked at it as like I needed it. Like, Cal, he did that to take pressure off of me and I’m in for whatever the team needs and that’s what we needed at the time. So, I went with it and I was confident in it. I had no problem stepping back and it worked out.”

On Dontaie Allen’s performance against Mississippi State …

“Yeah, man. Everyone in the world right now is like, ‘That man can shoot the lights out of the ball.’ Yeah, he can shoot it. He’s a cool kid. He’s a great teammate and he’s never been negative towards the team. He got his shot and he showed what we can do. He made the best out of the situation.”

On what the impact is for the team when someone is shooting the ball well …

“Oh, it made us a much better team, because when you have someone who is just shooting the lights out of the ball, you can just keep going to him and say, ‘Here, take the ball. Keep shooting.’ It takes a lot of pressure off of the team. I mean, even when plays break down or when situations break down, have a late shot clock, give it to Dontaie and let him shoot it.”

On Allen’s work ethic …

“He’s always in the gym. Similar to me, I always see him in the gym or like walking past each other. Either I’m in there and I see him walk in or he’s walking out and I’m just walking in. So, we just like interchange, keep interchanging. But man, he worked so hard, and it showed when he got his shot. It showed how hard he works.”

On Brandon Boston Jr. and Terrence Clarke’s offensive struggles …

“They’re going to pick it up. They’re great offensive players, both of them, and they’re just waiting on that one game, that one situation where they get their feel back. But honestly, they’re a part of our team. We know what they can do and how special they are to our team. We know what they can do offensively. We have no doubt in them and we keep believing in them. We keep going back to them, so we trust them.”

On the team’s mentality after Calipari was ejected on Saturday night …

“We saw our leader go down, so we kind of–it was like, we kind of felt like we just had to step up a little more because our leader wasn’t out there. But we did it. We knew we had to come through with a win, so that’s what we did.”

On what he’s learned from the early stages of the season and if it took time to adjust to the college game …

“I would say it was my confidence, just keep having confidence in myself and keep doing what I do. I know what I can do. Just keep working hard and playing through the struggles, and that’s all it was. I just felt like I gained a lot more confidence out there on the court after the Notre Dame game and it just keeps improving. I’m back to myself, so I feel great.”

On if the team’s confidence has been enhanced after winning a close game on Saturday …

“It boost our confidence. We finally got the taste of a win. We just want to keep going. Our confidence is high right now. And in our perspective, we’re 1-0 right now. The season just started, so we’re 1-0 so we’re happy. We’re undefeated.”

On what he gained by having pressure taken off of him and stepping back early …

“It kind of just calmed me down when I stepped back. It calmed me down. It allowed me to see the game from coming off the bench and it calmed me down. It slowed the game down a little bit for me, so I got to see it. Then when I got my chance to start again, it was the same. I feel like I was in the same situation. Like I watched film and the game was a little bit slower for me, so I felt a little more confident.”

On what part of his game has made the most progress thus far …

“I feel like just running the offense, I’ve been more calm. That’s where I’ve been. Making shots and shooting jumpers and all of that stuff that’s just part of the game. Like, you take those opportunities when you’re open. But one of the things that I needed to work on was just being calm and running the team, getting us into the offense. That’s where I think I’ve improved at.”

On picking up his dribble being indicative of the sense of panic that he’s seemed to shake off now …

“For sure. I mean, I was young, I still am young, but it was a new experience for me and it kind of just got thrown at me. But I just believed in myself no matter what I was going to get through it and those early struggles didn’t bother me. They don’t bother me anymore.”

On whether or not shooting really is contagious …

“It just gives the whole team confidence. When you see your teammates making shots, when you get the opportunity to shoot it next you’re like, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose. I’m going to make this one.’ Your confidence goes up as well, and that’s what I think he means by it contagious. People are making shots, the whole team’s morale is up, it’s high.”

On Calipari being on him hard …

“When he gets on me it’s because he wants the best for me. He believes in me. He’s only doing it because he loves me. He’s our coach and he’s just an animated type of guy. But I just take it as he’s just trying to make me understand and get me better. So, I just take it in a positive way. I don’t take it in a negative way. There’s no need for that.”