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November 14, 2015

John Calipari

Lexington, Kentucky

Kentucky - 87, NJIT - 57

COACH CALIPARI: We proved today that we could have a pretty good defensive team. That team knifes and dices you. They can shoot it, they can drive it. They're not going to beat you posting up, but no Princeton team beats you posting up. That's not how they beat you.

For us to have now -- now we did cheat in that we worked on Princeton for three days. My team had no idea why we were working on it. Like as we worked on guarding -- you can't show them today, Princeton, and then play the game tonight. They would have scored a hundred.

You saw the beginning of the game. Even though I talked to them, they didn't believe me. So now all of a sudden they're scoring and their going under pick and rolls, they're back-dooring us and it's 25-25.

And then we settled in and guarded it the only way you can guard it and give them tough twos. And if they're making tough two's, you're getting beat.

They're going to win a lot of games and our length bothered them. It bothered their shooting. Now when you say grit, we all defended better. I thought Alex showed his athleticism after I got on him again. I mean I'm not accepting -- he's going to block and dunk and do what he's capable of doing. I'm not accepting anything less. If he could only do that for less minutes, then do it for less minutes.

I thought Marcus Lee did a pretty good job. And then the biggest thing was, Isaiah makes us a different team. He does. I knew it when he wasn't playing the first game. I thought we were going to lose.

And then Derek went in and went crazy. Derek was good again today. Derek is just doing what he does. Did you notice like he got it and started dribbling. He didn't go crazy, he gave it to the guard and went down and he ends up driving and we throwing it to him for a three in the corner. Derek is really helping us. You're talking about a 6-9, 6-10 athlete that's long, can block, can guard, can shoot. Proud of him too.

Q. You've had a lot of big guys that developed their offense over the course of a season. But can you recall one that was this polished, offensively, as Skal in the ways he can score?
COACH CALIPARI: The thing is, I've got to figure him out. I haven't done a really good job. And this is what happens:

He's totally different than Karl. He's just a different player. He's totally different than Anthony. And I'm not comparing him to them two, as far as he's as good as them, he's different.

So, now you want to play him like Shaq. He's not Shaq. He's never going to be Shaq. So when you get him the ball in seven, eight feet from the basket and he can turn and shoot, I don't know how you guard him. He's 7 foot and he raises that thing up.

Made free throws today. He just -- he's got to rebound more. And I told him the one thing that I can't do for him is teach him fight and grit. He's going to have to do that. But he made strides, he did good today.

Q. Can you talk a bit more about what it is specifically about Isaiah that you like so much?
COACH CALIPARI: He has a winning attitude. He's going to do what it takes, he's going to play to win. He will do all -- he and Jamal are perfect partners on the court.

Jamal can do stuff that he can't do. He does stuff that Jamal can't do. And they both do one thing pretty well. Turn it over. They had seven between them. They both turned it over.

But short of that, those two, and then Tyler, he's not making shots right now, which is surprising to me. But if it's this kind of game he doesn't make shots, I'm happy.

But, again, I was happy with Alex. He's not nearly there yet. But at least he's trying.

Q. What are the plus and minuses to playing a team like Duke this early?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, they're mostly minuses. The only good news is we're both trying to figure out our teams.

So we're both going to go in with that not knowing. And, like, I haven't watched any Duke stuff. I even told the team, I'm going to watch this tape tomorrow at noon. We're going to cover this game. That will give me time after noon to get the tape work together for Duke and then we'll watch that.

And then we'll come back at six tomorrow and probably just work on Duke at 6 o'clock.

But up until -- we need to still worry about us. There were things we did defensively that we have to do and the ways we got to play. There were still mistakes we made.

There are things we have to show them. Let's just learn game to game. We got better today. From last game to this game -- now part of it was Isaiah played, no question.

But I thought Charles did better. These guys and Derek, it looks as though Derek moved into that seventh spot with Alex and those three. I told the guys after, what I really appreciate is Isaac. Isaac knows he's a good player, but I'm not as good as those three. It's a hard position to be in. He's just -- you're really good, too, but you're not as good as those guys, so you're going to have to wait your turn. He was fine. He went in there and battles. And he knows, if I want to stay in the game, I got to fight. He did. Happy for him. Really happy for all the guys.

Again, Jamal, great game for Jamal. You got to go 1-10. That's good. Go 1-10, we still won. Now, you can't go 1-10, you go 1-5 or 6. You don't keep shooting that one, you go and shoot another shot. You drive the ball, you get the ball, you get fouled. You do something to make a basket so if you get a three, you just don't keep going 1-10. And he learned.

But how about how he defended full court at the end of the game? I told him it was great to see him do that. So now he and Tyler can do it.

Q. You were talking about Isaac. Was Derek like that the first two years, I know I'm good, but I'm not as good as the guys in front of me?
COACH CALIPARI: No, Derek was behind some guys and Derek's trying to figure out how he had to play and how he wanted to play. That's been the battle.

Now, you're seeing a guy -- like what exactly would very done wrong today? Maybe not grab a rebound or two that he is a 50/50, he missed.

Short of that, he didn't -- he's making easy plays now. So instead of coming down and turning it over, making one good play and four turnovers, he's now saying I'm not making that, that's not who I am. I am a shot maker. I'm a finisher. I'm not a point guard playmaker at 6'-9". That's not who I am. But it's taken some time for him to accept that.

So I look at him now and I'm like, you know, he plays that way, I like my team. If we'll defend it and we don't rebound yet, Alex has got to rebound.

Marcus Lee has made great strides. How about he makes free throws today. Marcus Lee. Where is it? 2-2. Come on now. He's 1 or 2-7 last game. It's a big deal.

Q. Do you especially like the 1-10 for Jamal because it helps bolster your argument with him that such a thing exists as a bad shot for him?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I asked him if the one that he was falling down and threw it in, was that a bad shot? He said, no, I got fouled.

You know what, I grabbed Skal after and he said, Coach, I just got to rebound more. He said I know, I'm trying, this is all new to these guys. We got a brand new team and I told them this is going to be a process, I can accept it, I've done this 25 years. I'm not the most patient guy in the world and I told them I'm going to hold them accountable and I hold them accountable the moment that -- I'm not changing that part of me.

But when they start accepting what they're capable of doing and going out and chasing that, they start liking themselves.

Q. There were back to back possessions for Derek where he blocked shots, blocked a three, blocked a driving layup and finished at the other end with threes. I'm wondering if that's the kind of demonstrated performance that --
COACH CALIPARI: Builds him. Builds him. Like, but, the biggest play was, he got that ball and started driving down the left side right in front of us, and he was ready to go boop, boop, boop, spin and throw -- it was in there.

And I said, Derek, Derek, and he pulled it back and went (made noise). Then he went down and made a three.

But that's the -- like, I'm not trying to -- I want him to fail fast. And then let's correct and let's figure out what's the best way to play. And he's figuring it out.

I'll say this, he wants to play. He wants to play. He came up and told me, I want to play, Coach. He's not here like wanting to sit -- he wants to play. You know what? He's earning the time himself. I'm not giving it to him. And the way Isaiah played today I had to tell some guys in the room, guys, if Jamal plays and Isaiah plays and Tyler plays, there's not a whole lot of minutes for a couple of you, you just got to accept it and be ready when that opportunity comes. It's just how it is.

Q. When you look at Tyler right now, his numbers the first two games, not anywhere near like what they were last year, but do you sense he's pressing just too much?
COACH CALIPARI: 5-1 finally. 5-1. He was not. He had a turnover. He's not a guy -- he turned it over five times and I showed he and Jamal and Isaiah those 10 turnovers those two had. This game we had Jamal and Isaiah had seven, along with Skal, those three had 10. Come on now. Tighten it up. We had 14 turnovers, not bad in how fast we're playing, but let's get that to 10, 11. And Duane reminded me, my first year, we were getting like 23, 24, 25 turnovers a game. Now I'm trying to get them to 10, 11 and they're all freshmen in their first year. I don't know if I answered your question. I just started talking.


Q. Following up what you were saying about Isaiah, what did you like about the combination with Jamal and Tyler, him Tyler and Jamal?
COACH CALIPARI: He just plays off of him. He's not -- he's playing north and south. Is he doing anything east and west right now? Everything is north and south. If you leave him open he's going to shoot it. He finally got that one going to the elbow, the foul line shot. He makes that shot. Go shoot that more.

He missed a couple layups at the rim. I looked at him and I said, how did you miss that, he said, I don't know. You know, but he did some good stuff, except he turned it over. One, he tried to throw a left-handed one handed pass off the run, just didn't need it. I can't remember the other one. There was another one I remember. I looked at and I said, they were unnecessary.

You're going to have a couple turnovers playing aggressive like he is. But you can't do the casual turnover. A one handed pass or a cross court look away or try to throw it through two guys' legs. You can't do that.

So, proud of him, this is a good one, we got better. Now we got to go to Chicago and now the bright lights are on. And let's see what we are. We're going to learn about our team. That's why you play these kind of games and we know how good Duke is, how good their players are, how good their coach is, how well organized. They will fight. We know, they're that good and we're going to find out what we are at this stage by playing a good team like that.

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