Kentucky – 68
Cleveland State – 61
An interview with:
COACH JOHN CALIPARI
Q. Can you talk about the way Andrew (Harrison) played down the stretch.
COACH CALIPARI: I think we showed a will to win, which is good. We made the plays we had to make down the stretch. We made the free throws down the stretch.
James Young just fought like crazy and came up with balls when we were dead. If they got those balls, we would lose. That's why I looked at the other guys and I say, ‘Fight like he's fighting.’
But I thought Andrew made the plays. It's nice to know we got two or three guys now we can go to if the game is in the balance.
This is a game we needed. The question we all have is, ‘If you can play this way, down against Michigan State, down against Cleveland State, then play the way you just played. Why don't you start that way? Why won't you say, ‘That's going to be who we are, not just being down?’’
I was calm. If we lost, we lost. That's where it is.
One of the things I want to say is we got to have the greatest fans, the classiest fans anywhere, where they give a standing ovation to Cleveland State as they walk off the court. I want to know what other arena that would happen in. They enjoy basketball. They enjoy the challenge.
We were down 10. I kept saying, ‘These guys are pretty good now.’ What happens is they're well‑coached, their scorers shoot the ball. They run stuff to put those kids in position, and their rebounders run at the rim. If those shooters miss, they go get it. If one guy breaks down, they're getting baskets.
I thought they played well and played well enough to win the game. We were lucky to get out. But it's a game we needed. We needed, ‘Okay, are you ready to start changing? Are you ready? Because if you're not, we're going to play other people. You're going to get down, you're not coming back to win. You can either start games and play...’
We will see.
Q. The way you saw Andrew play down the stretch, is that what you wanted from him? If you were calm, you did a pretty good job of disguising it during the game. Didn't look too calm during the game.
COACH CALIPARI: I was. I mean, I know when I wasn't. The main thing is, this is a process of getting this team to change how they approach the games, how they think about the games, their mentality of the games.
The only way that can change sometimes is a crisis. So you got to get beat and you got to lose. Not to a Michigan State where you come back and you almost win and you think you're okay. All right. You know, Cleveland State now. They deserved to win this game. But you guys fought the last seven minutes, down seven, and played. So these are good experiences for a young team.
Also we got to learn, ‘Who can we go to late? Who is going to panic? Who is going to be scared to death?’ The 3 that Aaron (Harrison) made in the corner kind of ended the game. Had to do it. Making free throws. Who can make 'em down the stretch? Who can make the plays? Who's not afraid to make plays?
I told them after the game, ‘Don't worry about losing; you play to win.’ That's how I coach. I'm never thinking that we're losing. My whole mentality is we're going to win, how are we going to win. Losing doesn't enter my mind until the horn goes off, I look up and say, ‘Dang, they got us.’
Q. How much of tonight was a maturation process for a team that young?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, it was. We had to do some things against the zone. Again, they played a funky zone, a 1‑1‑3 zone. They kind of guarded different people. It looked at one point they went to a box‑and‑one. Whatever they did, they took James Young away.
Again, I may call a man‑to‑man play against a zone. Run it, it will work. They're looking at me, ‘That's a man play.’ Doesn't matter.
But it's all stuff that, again, tells me we're still growing.
Q. Andrew tonight not only played well down the stretch, he showed a lot of emotion, body language. Did he kind of grow up tonight in a way?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, but these guys, when they don't have the ball, are not in a position to play. He and Aaron both. So he's catching it. I'm screaming, ‘Drive it, drive.’ Then he drives and he makes that play. Well, that can't be how this is. It's, he catches it, he knows he's a playmaker for us. Get in there.
Julius (Randle) missed some shots. Again, we got a little confused in the zone. But five turnovers... A lot of rough stuff going on. Again, the point is, if the offense created it, if a guard drives in and creates it, it's the same. It's not a foul. You don't call it. Hands go up, you created it, they're saying it's not a foul. Okay, don't call it then.
But if you're telling me that's what Julius is, then anytime a guy leans and there's contact, there should be no call.
They're coming at him with three. He needs to pass the ball. He's still learning that. If they're bringing three at him, these other guys are so wide open, it should be easy for us.
Right now we're still trying to figure it out.
Q. When you were down 11, you called time in the second half, then it ended with James shooting a three. Was that what you were looking for?
COACH CALIPARI: Again, there was a couple times we went to Randle, three straight times, then we did another play. The reason I did the other play is because they got to be talking about that one thing, Let's go to something different.
No, we came out. Maybe he didn't have a three. Maybe it would have been a post‑up. Maybe it would have been something different. But James Young, yeah, we came out and that was the set.
Q. How concerned are you at this point, with all the good things he does, the turnovers for Julius? He's got like 24 turnovers, twice as many as anybody else on the team. How do you approach that with him?
COACH CALIPARI: Pass a little bit, stop turning it over, but keep getting those double‑doubles, they're really nice (laughter).
Q. Coach Gary Waters debunked the age‑old philosophy or theory that you have to lose to learn. He said he don't believe in that. What's your theory on that?
COACH CALIPARI: I'd rather it be a close win. But sometimes it comes to a point, you got no choice, you got to take an L.
I think, again, close wins are better learning experiences. I just hope they understand that you can't start games like we're starting 'em. You can't. You got to come out of the gate ready to go, get somebody down 15‑0, not because they missed shots, but because you played the right way. Making easy plays, giving it up early.
We're still not a good team. We're just not. I keep telling them. Rod came in at halftime. We're talking. He said, They don't talk to each other out on the court. They're all into their own thing. When you're into your own thing, it's really hard to play basketball.
But they're young. It's what we're fighting. It's what we're battling.
We just had three days, I'm telling you, I went back to old school UMass stuff that I did. Alex (Poythress) had his heart rate up to 90% for the first time since I've coached him. So we're doing things to just make 'em work harder so they understand what it feels like, that their legs are burning. Really, it's supposed to do that? Nothing's wrong with that.
It's just a process. Probably should have done that from day one. But until you figure out your team, you just don't know.
Q. You have Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, who actually beat Cleveland State.
COACH CALIPARI: And Robert Morris and Arlington. They're like 5‑0. They're going to play 40 minutes of zone.
Q. Schedule gets tough. Have you made it clear they're not playing Popcorn State anymore?
COACH CALIPARI: The good news is other than Michigan State, we kind of built them up. Now Eastern Michigan is the next step. When we go farther, every other team takes us to another level.
If you have letdowns like we've had, again, let's be real, Cleveland State took advantage of everything we did wrong. They did. Then they missed some shots. We rebounded. We made it a little tougher.
How about the straight‑line drives? Julius goes up and guards the guy, the guy goes directly from him to the basket. I'm in the timeout, That's your man, guard him.
Again, we are what we are. We're very young. As the game wound down, I was good one way or another. I don't want to lose any games. But if we didn't fight, then we were going to learn.
We fought, which was a good thing. We learned about our team. But, again, you can't let a team come out and have way more emotion than you, you just can't. This is not about who looks the coolest. It's not.
All right, who wants this the most when the ball is thrown up? That's what we got to have.
Q. Is it absurd to think Julius could get a double‑double every game this year?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, it is. But I'd like him to try to. I'd like him to go out there and do it, if he can. They're trapping him. They're being really physical. They're whacking down, doing stuff. He's got to play through. If three guys come, he has to pass. You got to pass. You're not getting to the rim. It has to be a quick read. Can't be a hold. Just get rid of it. We'll get it to the other side of the court and let them guys make plays. We can get it back to you and post you again.
It's all stuff we're learning. These guys are trying to feel their way. I'm trying to make it as hard as I can in practice now to make the games a little bit easier. But obviously it didn't work.
Q. Marcus Lee was in the starting lineup again. Played four minutes. Was he not fitting in with this game?
COACH CALIPARI: Got scored on and didn't rebound. Got scored on right away, played behind a guy. We talked to him. You're getting three quarters. Willie (Cauley-Stein) is playing well. I wanted to give Dakari (Johnson) a chance. Dakari didn't rebound either. Willie made things happen. We were trying to throw lobs to Dakari. Fell on the floor. One time he didn't jump.
You know that's how we play. Again, you got to have lively legs. Willie, of the three of them today, was the best, so he played the most minutes. He played 30 today. There may be another time that it's Dakari or it's Marcus Lee. That's what is great about having three of them.
Q. Coach Waters credited the crowd for helping a young team sort of pull through when things got a little shaky. How much credit do you give them?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, you know, it's funny. As I watched Cleveland State, they were so jacked up to be playing this game, having an opportunity to beat a ranked team. I looked around, I told John (Robic), Look, they're excited. He said, Look around. Wouldn't you be excited to play in this kind of venue? It's 25,000 people going nuts. This is what it is.
But here is what our guys don't understand. Every team that comes in here has that same feeling. Our guys, you just got to understand that. If you don't come in emotionally, mentally, you're passionate about how you're playing, you're going to be down against good teams. They're going to come in and try to kill you, so...
But it was a great crowd. Again, let me say classy, classy move by our fans giving them a standing ovation because they deserved it. They never cease to amaze me, our fans. Yeah, they're into basketball. Yeah, they're watching the tape three times, all that other stuff. But they're classy about what they do.
Cleveland State Student-Athlete
#3, Trey Lewis, G
On if he ever thought that Cleveland State had the game won …
“The whole game. From the beginning of the game. We’re Cleveland State, and we came in with the mentality that we can play with anyone in the country. We really believed we were going to win this game, and it showed out there. But, down the stretch, we were just a little bit undisciplined.”
On what the defensive gameplan was …
“Our gameplan was to stay on the inside of them and make them take outside-contested shots.”
On being right with UK on rebounding …
“Rebounding is about heart. That’s what it comes down to. It’s not necessarily about size like everybody thinks. It’s about heart, it’s about boxing out, it’s about going after the ball and gang rebounding. (The rebounding total) showed we were right there rebounding with them. Nobody thought we would be in the game, but rebounding is about heart. A lot of times we kept them to one-and-done, up until the end.”
On what he thought about being up 10 with seven minutes to go …
“I mean, we were in control of the game, but down the stretch we let the adversity get to us and we let the environment get to us. This is a learning experience for our team, so what we took out of it is that we are going to grow from being in this situation. You’ve got to go through these situations to get better and go where we want to go to.”
#30, Julius Randle, F
On Cleveland State…
“They were a really good defensive team. For me personally, they just sent all their guys out so it was kind of hard to make plays. They just played really hard and they were a really good team. I give them a lot of credit.”
On James Young’s play…
“He played really good and he was aggressive. He was a big lift for us.”
On the crowd at Rupp Arena…
“Rupp was huge for us. The fans were amazing and they gave us energy down the stretch. They were a big lift for us. We kind of fed off of them.”
#1, James Young, G
On Andrew Harrison’s play down the stretch…
“He was being more of a leader. He really stood out. He directed us a lot and told us where to go and what to do. He really stepped up.”
On the atmosphere at Rupp…
“I have never felt something like this. It was amazing. I want this feeling when we are not down. I want it to be like that all of the time. I have never felt something like that before.”
On playing more physical tonight…
“I just have to play more physical. The coaches have been getting on me a lot for not being as physical. During practice I just try to get more physical and it really showed tonight.”
On his mindset down the stretch…
“I didn’t want to lose. I felt like if we lost then there would be a lot on our shoulders like Michigan State. I just, for whatever reason, did not want to lose and did what I could to help our team win.”
#5, Andrew Harrison, G
On whether he felt like a different player tonight…
“Definitely, I feel like I was letting my teammates down pretty much, getting those fouls in the first half and not being as aggressive as I should be. This is definitely, hopefully, a turning point. Tomorrow we’re just going to go to practice and start getting better.”
On how the comeback felt at the end…
“It was great. You never want to lose, no matter who you play. We could have played better but, at the same time, they’re a great team. They have good guard play and everything, pretty athletic so it’s still a good win.”
On whether he felt like the team needed him to step up at the end…
“All of us stepped up. James Young played great. Julius [Randle] in the paint; nobody was getting a rebound at that point, nobody but him. So, it wasn’t me at all. It was (the team) and I was just getting them the ball. They were just making me look good.”
Cleveland State Head Coach Gary Waters
Opening Statement …
“Before I speak, I always give honor to God, he’s first in my life. I am going to say this to you, I thought Kentucky did a great job fighting back. I whispered into (John) Calipari’s ear ‘hey, you need this more than I need it.’ They came back, and I thought they fought hard to come back. I felt bad for our kids because I thought they put themselves in a position to win a game. We kind of faltered at the end if I want to call it that, that’s something that we need to get better at. I asked them in the locker room what happened at the end, and they came up with all different kinds of answers. I said one thing happened, we were undisciplined at the end. You have to be disciplined in those closing moments and execute, because when you are in an environment like this, and this is a pretty good environment, even this press conference, we don’t have this many people at our press conferences. I’m excited for our guys because they know that they have the potential to be a pretty good team this year, and we are going to continue to work hard and continue to compete.”
On Kentucky’s freshman battling back for the win …
“Well, you know, Kentucky is the youngest team in the country right? Last year we were the youngest team in the country, so what you see out there is just a bunch of sophomores trying to do what freshman completed there. We are both going to make some mistakes but I give Kentucky credit, they never quit, never stopped fighting. I think that’s what you get when you are at home, your fans help you through this thing. They have great fans and they helped lift them up when they are down.”
On the roll of 3-point shots in their game plan …
“Well we came in realizing they weren’t a great 3-point shooting team. We know that (James) Yacoung can shoot the ball and we tried to stay with him as much as possible. He literally hit a big bucket, he hit that big 3, and then I think (Julius) Randle hit another that we didn’t anticipate. You can only go to that well so many times, eventually somebody is going to hit a shot, and I thought that went well. You know what I thought gave them the advantage? It wasn’t the missing free throws or anything like that, what I thought gave them the advantage was on the glass. I thought they got some rebounds that were key down the stretch, they turned it around. As I sit here and look, they got 18 offensive rebounds. They may be the best offensive rebounding team in the country. A close friend of mine, Tom Izzo, he works hard on rebounding the basketball, that’s one of his identities. I’m telling you, this team rebounds as good or better than Michigan State I thought when I watched them. It’s hard to keep them off it, and it’s more than one.”
On the play of Andrew Harrison down the stretch …
“I thought he did a good job. He got his team into what they needed to get. They realized they weren’t hitting from the outside, so they were trying to get to the basket. One of our plans coming into this game was to tighten it in on the inside and make them kick it out. Down the stretch we did not do that as well.”
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