Kentucky head coach John Calipari and players Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress talk about the win over Marshall in the last game before Christmas. Also, there are quotes from Kyle Wiltjer.
Q. How much progress did you see since the last game?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, we got better. A couple guys had lapses, and those lapses will kill us in our league. But the reality of it is we got way better.
Now, we could all say, we walked in at halftime up nine. Could have been more if they made free throws. We missed five layups. Archie missed four layups, one breakaway. 1-for-13 from the threepoint line, and you’re up nine. We could have been up 25.
The thing I liked about Marshall, very physical, bumpandgrind team that we outrebounded, and they were big. That’s what we needed. We needed a game like this. We needed a team that would play that way.
Marshall is going to do fine. Their guard being hurt really affects them, but they’re going to be fine. They get into Conference USA, and they’re going to be one of those teams playing for that NCAA bid. No question in my mind.
Q. Is Ryan Harrow back to where you thought he would be?
COACH CALIPARI: Here is what I told him. When he’s playing the right way with aggressiveness, talking to his teammates, that look in his eye, he’s as good as anybody in the country right now. I’m looking around at point guards, he’s fine.
That other guy you ready the cool guy, he’s not very good. The guy that runs in and gets bumped and falls on the floor, throws the ball, that guy is not very good. That other guy we saw? Spurts today, just play that way. Every minute you’re on the court, play that way.
But, they all made strides. It’s not going to be perfect right now. You see we’re stronger because we’re eating better now. We’re training. We’re lifting weights. We’re together all the time. Did you see some emotion out there? Wasn’t it great when Nerlens stole the ball, they all huddled? You’re like, ‘Geez, I haven’t seen that all year.’
We’re starting to get into each other now versus ourselves and it’s nice to see.
Q. There was also a play where Alex Poythress rebounded his own miss and Nerlens Noel rushed over to encourage him, telling him to keep that up.
COACH CALIPARI: Look, Alex Poythress did some good things and then he reverted at times. (He) just grabbed a guy on a foul, wanted to stop playing, left his feet three times because he was late getting to the guy. Instead of being ready and in and then you can close with your hands up, or you can stand straight up and down, be late going to the shooter so you got to leave your feet, which he did three or four times.
But then again around the basket, rebounding the basketball, I think he had his careerhigh in rebounds. Think about some of the other teams we played where he was going against a 6’2″, 6’3″ guy and he couldn’t do what he did today.
Let me say this. I’m pleased. We’re a long way from home. But it shows that this team, and I keep saying – this team has more upside than any team in the country. We’re going to have games where we don’t shoot it well. Doesn’t matter. If you defend, you’re tough, you’re rough, create shots for each other, you’re going to be fine.
There’s going to be games where we’re on the road, we get a little rattled. If we’re going to be the team I think we can be, that’s going to hit us and we’re going to adjust and grind it out and play better.
But I’m not worried about missed shots. You can’t. That stuff happens. It happens to every team.
Q. Why did you say your team needed a game just like this?
COACH CALIPARI: Needed a physical team and a big team.
Q. Because of who you’re playing next week?
COACH CALIPARI: No. Just for us. Who are we playing next week?
Q. Might be Louisville, I believe.
COACH CALIPARI: We’re playing Louisville? Whoa, that’s going to be a hard game.
I’m worried about my team right now.
Q. About having to call a timeout in the early going of the second half again
COACH CALIPARI: Again, we got cool. We had a couple guys that just want to kind of go out, look around like there’s not a game here. It’s an AAU game.
You have to be in a dogfight every minute or sit down, let someone else play. We didn’t match up one time. We didn’t match up in transition one time and something else happened that we gave up two 3s and a fade screen. We didn’t talk, Archie didn’t fight. We gave up a three on the weak side.
Not the way we want to start the half.
Q. You said you were looking around at point guards around the country. You think Ryan Harrow is as good as any of them? What is he doing that makes you think that?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he has a good feel for the game. He can run our team. I mean, there are point guards that are tougher than him, but if he would be tougher, then he’s just as good as them.
I mean, the guys that are better than him right now are tougher. They’re more physical, play a rougher game. Has nothing to do with his ability to shoot, score, make free throws, none of that. It’s, are you going to play a roughhouse game? If you do, you’re as good as anybody out there. That’s hard, though. You got to want contact.
He’s made strides these last two weeks. Like I said, the difference in our team, he’s playing well and he’s able to put our players in a better position for themselves.
Q. You said you’re not worried about missed shots. How did you think Archie Goodwin played overall tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: I was disappointed. He missed four layups. I think he’s flipping. Rod (Strickland) thinks he’s looking down, not seeing the basket, looking up at the last moment to shoot it. I don’t know what it is. I’ll watch the tape, see if I can figure it out.
You can’t miss layups. Bad enough missing open shots. But missing layups, c’mon, you’re not going to win.
Q. You said you liked the way your team performed today. How did that help, especially before you play Louisville next week?
COACH CALIPARI: Believe me when I tell you, I’m not worried about anybody we’re playing. I’m worried about my team. If we go in and Louisville is way better than us, we move on to the next game.
We’re going to go in, we’re going to play our game. We’ve gotten better. Is that good enough? I don’t know. They’ve got a veteran team. They’ve got everybody playing well. They’re beating everybody by 30 and 40. Hard game for us. They’ve got terrific players, really good players. Hard game for us. I’m worried about us getting better.
What Marshall did for us physically, they had confidence, they have a swagger. We couldn’t make shots and they’re looking at it like, We’re in this, and they were. They come out at half, do what they did to us, exactly what we needed. We needed to go against a big, physical team to see if we got tougher in the last two weeks.
Last game, it did not carry over, all the work. This game it did. So that’s why I’m happy.
Q. You put a lot on your point guards obviously. You have since you’ve been here. Is this team’s potential rooted in what Ryan Harrow gets?
COACH CALIPARI: What about Alex Poythress? C’mon. Play the whole game the way you’re playing in spurts. Just do it. There’s no excuse why you stop on plays. Just quit playing when the ball is in play? There’s no excuse. How did you get beat to that rebound? It was you and the guy. How do you let him get it?
Well, I don’t know.
I know. He outworked you. You weren’t ready to make that play.
When he stops that, when Archie gets his head up on drives, when Julius (Mays) and Kyle (Wiltjer) are prepared to shoot and then, listen to me, hold your followthrough. I like it that way, it looks better. Yeah, but the ball doesn’t go in. Why don’t we do the old way from 1940; hold your followthrough.
We weren’t very good in the post again. We’re throwing balls. But I thought Nerlens played well in the first half, and he talked the whole game. We need that energy.
Q. Can you elaborate on Jon Hood’s status.
COACH CALIPARI: Upper respiratory.
Q. You were talking earlier this year about the attitude you want to see your kids play with. I don’t know if you’re aware, the Kings just suspended DeMarcus Cousins indefinitely.
COACH CALIPARI: You’re just telling me. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t want to comment.
I want to wish all of you here a Merry Christmas, and any one of the fans that are listening, Merry Christmas. Hug your kids. We know what just went on up in Connecticut. Hug your kids. Hug your wife. Hug your spouse.
If you get a chance to reach out to someone else, even if they don’t know who you are or what you’re doing, I tell you, do that.
One of the things we’ve tried to do with this basketball team is get them to understand fame and even fortune are fleeting, money has wings. When you’re in those positions, you have a chance to help and make people feel good and special for a short time.
I love the fact they told me Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) gave out thousands of backpacks in Charlotte. That’s what we want these kids to be about. We want them to attain their dreams and fame and fortune, but we want to look back and see what they’re doing with it.
I would tell you Merry Christmas. I wish everybody a great, great holiday. Thanks.
#12, Ryan Harrow, G
On being the physical guy on the court …
“I can’t be the cool guy. I have to be the aggressive guy that shows emotion and plays hard.”
On when the tough guy came out …
“It’s just me wanting to be out there and playing, its not really a tough guy, its me playing basketball. When I’m that cool guy its me laid back acting like I don’t care, and I can’t do that for the team to do well”
On being physical on the court …
“It’s hard because I’m not a big individual, but I’m getting stronger. It’s just being mentally disciplined. I’m sure you’ve all heard that, that’s what I have to do so he (Coach Calipari) will keep me on the floor.”
#22, Alex Poythress, F
On preparing for Louisville…
“When we get back we’ll have practice, we’ll have our three practices. We’ll just get ready for them.”
On playing a Top-5 team…
“It’s just building our confidence. We’re trying to get our confidence up so we can get prepared for the battle next week.”
“I’ve seen a couple games. They’re a good team, very athletic team, well-coached team. They have great guards, they have size and it’ll be a great game.”
#33, Kyle Wiltjer, F
On Ryan Harrow’s performance …
“We are really happy to have him back. He makes the team that much better. He makes really good decisions and we are just happy that he is back and playing well.”
On team building and Nerlens Noel’s emotion …
“It’s great. Coach (Calipari) wanted us to show emotion. Nerlens really brought intensity and it boosted our team and helped us play great defense”
On treating the Louisville game like any other …
“It’s just a huge rivalry with the fans and we just want to treat it like another game and get ready for them.”