COACH JOHN CALIPARI
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. How do you think about the way you defended them?
COACH CALIPARI: We had pressure on the ball. We picked up. Like I say, we're trying to figure things out as a team, how we have to play. I wish we had played that way, with that kind of pressure on the ball. The other thing we were able to do in this game is we were able to switch a lot. There's other games you won't be able to do that. But there was a lot of good play. (We) turned the ball over way too much, just cross‑court passes, give it up earlier, holding onto the ball with three guys, bad post feed for no reason. We had a lot of turnovers. It was a sagging man‑to‑man. It was like they were out‑trapping us and going nuts. Let me say this. That team is as hard to guard as any team you'll play. They spread the court. They can shoot 3s. I told them before the game, I told coach, ‘You guys run the dribble‑drive better than we ran it back in Memphis.’ They spaced the court. The guys, (Derrick) Marks, who can get to his left hand, No. 3 (Anthony Drmic), No. 11 (Jeff Elorriaga). They missed some 3s they normally make. (The) game would have been closer. But we rebounded the ball, did some good stuff.
Q. What did you think of the effect Willie Cauley-Stein had on the defensive side?
COACH CALIPARI: He was able to switch out on guards and play them. They couldn't score on him. That's a problem. When you're a guard, you drive right around them. The nine blocks, it's incredible what he did. I thought Andrew (Harrison) ran the team better. James (Harrison) and Aaron shot the ball better. Scored the ball better, I should say. Started the game again missing free throws, but then down the stretch made them all. Look, this is a work in progress. We still have stuff we're going to keep experimenting with and trying until we get it right. But whatever we do, you have to take it personal and look at the other guy and say, ‘I'm going after you.’ You have to take it personal. Whether we're trapping, whether we're zoning, whatever we're doing, you got to go and play. Hopefully we will.
Q. Cal, you said yesterday obviously you wanted to go to your bench more. How much of a concern was that for tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: I loved it. This was a hard game for Dakari (Johnson). I told him before the game, ‘Look, they got nine guards out there at one time. You got no one you can guard. They're going to put you in every pick‑'n‑roll, try to make you guard guards.’ They don't play a normal way. That's why what we did today was special. But I thought Dominique (Hawkins) played well. I thought Alex (Poythress) played well. It's nice to be able to take Willie (Cauley-Stein) off. I like Alex and Julius (Randle) in together. I mean, that's a good team. We worked on that yesterday. Okay, you two are together, here's what we're going to run.
Q. You said before that you didn't think you'd be able to do that, switching with everybody. What sort of factors would cause you not to be able to do that? What do you turn to in those circumstances?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, there's a couple things you can do. You can turn down pick‑n‑rolls, make them go down the sideline, playing to your big people. Can you trap pick‑n‑rolls, make us more aggressive. You can wall up and make the guard fight over the top. Now, that's what we did at Baylor, and our guard hit dead center of the screener every time, ran in place three steps, tried to get around the screen. Today, Andrew, Aaron, all of them, fought over the screen. We're capable of doing it, but it's hard. I'd rather not do it that way because it's harder. We have some things we can do. Look, we can be a terrific zone team, too, we're so big and long. But you got to work at zone. In other words, you got to play harder in the zone than you do man‑to‑man. You can't stop. You're bouncing, you're covering. In most cases you got to give them low‑percentage shots, which means short corner shots. You can't just give up 3s. Even though you're in a zone, they'll get some. So we've been working on it. Whether we're able to go to it, I don't know yet. But I think we've got some things. We're pressing more now. We did a couple different things in the press. This team is a hard team to press. They have four guards. You basically just go man‑to‑man, try to pick them up, wear them down a little bit. That's what we were doing.
Q. You said in future games you might not be able to switch as much with your big guys. Why not?
COACH CALIPARI: Because they may have a center that our point guard cannot guard, that they're going to throw to. Now all of a sudden you trap, you're giving up shots. You're better off fighting over the top, walling up, making it a tough shot, forcing it down, doing something different. The other side of it, with Dakari, you cannot switch because he can't guard the guard. So you can't switch. But with Julius, with Alex, with Willie, you can switch.
Q. When you talk about guys going after guys, looking them in the eye, is that something you saw tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: I think they were better. I asked them after the game, Did you talk better? Yes. You notice we huddled. How about this one: We touched each other. In the huddles we talked to one another. You may have noticed when a guy came out of the game, they all stood up, except one time they didn't. I jumped the bench. They touched him. You touch and talk. That's how you start becoming a team and coming together. Again, you can't be into your own thing. It's stuff that we have to teach. I thought we moved our feet better. All the stuff we've been working on we did better today. It's that we've got so many areas we've got to continue to work on.
Q. You've always said with your teams at some point they'll be unleashed and you'll be able to see it. How close is this team to that?
COACH CALIPARI: We're not close. I'll give an example. 20 seconds on the shot clock, Andrew ran in and ran the kid over. Pull it out. He should know that. He doesn't know that yet. What I did like is we went to our grind‑it‑out stuff and he yelled at Julius so he and Julius knew what the play was. He caught it, drove baseline, got fouled, made two free throws, game over. Big for us that we're communicating. It's two of us working together, three of us working together, five of us working together. But we have a ways to go. We had one of these games and we came back and we reverted, we stepped back. This is going to be an everyday process. We now have to go to North Carolina on the road. It's going to be a hard game. We have two days of practice. Good news is, then we got finals and we got time. After that we got a week, then I believe we have another week. We have time, whatever we're going to do, whatever changes we're going to make.
Q. What was your reaction when you saw Willie for the first time after his trip to the barbershop?
COACH CALIPARI: There's two things I said I'm not: I'm not the tattoo police and I'm not the hair police. I don't care how you make your hair look. I'll say this, looking like that, you better play, Willie. There was a guy that used to do that to his hair. He also wore wedding dresses. But he killed you. He would shut you out and get every rebound, play 40 minutes. Then I saw him on the treadmill after the game in our building. Who is on the treadmill in there? Coaching the Nets. It was (Dennis)v Rodman. He played 40 minutes, had like 18 rebounds, and he went on the treadmill. You can paint your hair all you want; just be like him.
Q. Before the season, you said that Willie had the potential to be one of the better players you maybe ever coached.
COACH CALIPARI: Here is the problem now. What happened last game, all you Basketball Bennys? What happened last game? The game was very physical. He didn't perform. So that's his last challenge. That's his last test. When it gets physical, will he get lower and play that kind of game? Because when he gets that, it's on. Right now he does not have that. If the game gets real physical, he gets tired, he stands up and gets knocked around. That leverage of getting low, he doesn't know it yet. Also making shots. He may fade on that now versus the way he's playing right now, which is attacking the basket.
“Communication. We fixed a lot of things from last game. We talked a lot better on the floor. We still had some breakdowns but we got better.”
“Yeah, way harder. It’s nothing I can’t handle. The mental aspect of getting yourself ready everyday. It’s not high school or AAU where you can take days off. You have to be ready to compete every day. Coach is going to coach you hard every day. You have to be mentally prepared to do that as well as physically. You have to take care of your body.”
“First, I think about how the team did. I think collectively we did well. Next, I can assess my individual play. Still left a lot out there. Four turnovers—that’s easy to fix. One of them I did something stupid and threw it to Dakari (Johnson). One was caught in the post. It’s just little stuff. It’s easy to fix. It’s not like I’m trying to do something outrageous, other than that Dakari pass.”
“I was just really feeling it tonight. I got some extra shots up before practice and as I got here I got a little bit better. I just got a lot of shots up before the game.”
“It was real important. We really needed this win. We don't ever think we are going to lose here at Rupp. We don't ever have it in our minds that we are going to lose. It is just not something we think about.”
“We are doing it a lot during practice now. If you can see like after a free throw we all touch each other and when you come off the court everybody stands up and gives you a high-five. It is just little stuff that is making us become better as a team.”
“I think I just found more blocks. I know what I have to do now. Last year I was in between what I was trying to do and this year I was just running around and blocking every shot that I can.”
“It is the system. It allows you to do that. Any shot-blockers that you asked would probably say the same thing. If you are a shot-blocker or a center you are obviously going to excel.”
“They just run around. They have shooters and drivers so they put up so many points. We have to really make sure we are focused on what they are trying to do and what we are trying to do defensively. This game our defensive emphasis was on talking, we did a really good job of talking to one another and helping each other. The couple days of practice we had after Baylor were really helpful for us and this game.”