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February 23, 2016

John Calipari

Lexington, Kentucky

Kentucky - 78

Alabama - 53

Q. -- what did you think you got out of him tonight and his return?
COACH CALIPARI: I was really proud of him. He could have stayed out a couple more days. He knew the team needed him. He was sick over Texas A&M. He felt like, I probably could have gone in and helped. But he just wasn't quite there.

So to have one day practice, to do what he did, amazing. He looked comfortable. He took himself in and out. So he was good. He was good.

Q. Cal, with your experience in the pros, Avery Johnson said that Tyler Ulis was comparable to some past NBA players. Can you talk about that.
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, Tyler, he controls the game. We only had four turnovers today. I mean, you think about that. We're playing fast, we're being aggressive, we're moving the ball. We had four turnovers.

I think, again, he's a guy that his middle game, like he can make that stuff. Probably got to be a little more consistent with the three, which he will be. He's disruptive defensively.

They're trying to post him with seven-footers and he's hanging around. So it's not like they're going to do that. I think he's going to be a really good pro. I think he'll have a long career.

Q. Cal, how different was your defense tonight without Willis, with the lack of threes and attempts...
COACH CALIPARI: We had to play different. If you watch, some of you guys are the 'Basketball Bennies' in the room. You saw we did some stuff different. We put in some different things based on who we have now. We're going to try to zone in on that.

I told Dom, he and Mychal, You are the other three-point shooters for us. You can't go in and pass up shots. You don't have to make 'em all, you just can't miss 'em all. So one of you guys step in and make a couple threes.

You still have Jamal, you still have Tyler. Now Isaac and Skal playing give us another shooter.

Then what happened was we were pretty good defensively. Ended up defending a little bit better and we rebounded better. We gave up 15 rebounds in the first half down at Texas A&M.

Q. Cal, Alabama didn't have much offensively tonight. Retin Obasohan had 29 points. What is it about his game?
COACH CALIPARI: He was really good. When I walked in, I walked in here around 5:00, they said he was already on the court warming up. That was over two hours before the game.

I grabbed him and I told him, I heard you were in here really early. I told him, Just keep working.

He is shooting the ball, he's driving. He gets to his right hand. He's got a soft touch around the basket. He had 15 at half. Ends up with 29 out of 53. He did it not taking a whole lot of shots. It wasn't like he shot 25 balls.

So he's a terrific player. He's one of the best players in our league, and most improved.

Q. John, the decision to start Isaac, how much of that was performance related, and how much was it to let everybody know nobody blames him for last week?
COACH CALIPARI: It wasn't the second because no one did blame him. I think he knows. The team was really good about it. The staff, we told him, Don't worry, just go do your thing.

But, you know, I knew he would get that kind of ovation, because that's who our fans are. Again, I expected more rebounds from him, and I told him, There were four balls in the first half. One you went after with one hand. A couple others you didn't pull in. You're not going to play.

I went to Skal. I thought Skal did some good stuff today. Grabbed a couple rebounds.

You got to fight for your minutes. You got to prove you need to get on that court more.

Q. How concerned were you about the chemistry, the rotation, with getting Alex back and starting Isaac?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm going to tell you what's worse: When you're in your office, and 22 minutes before the game they say, Isaiah is out, he sprained his ankle.


In the warmup line.

That's a tough one.

Alex is out for the game.

For what?

His knee.


Like right before the game.

We had an idea what we were doing. I had a day to do some stuff. It's next man up. I've always coached that way. Then the guy that's sitting out, you're playing real well, don't sit out long. I tell them the Wally Pipp story. Never be heard of again.

I mean, just how it is. Next man up. Let's go.

Q. I know every season's unique, especially with your teams. Is there one season that you would compare this one to in your coaching career as far as the injuries and ups and downs?
COACH CALIPARI: No. We got really good guards. Like we have really, really good guards. If we can shore up that front line, I like what we have here. As you know, my teams normally, as the year winds down, play their best basketball.

This team got empowered early because of that South Carolina game, when I saw that they really don't need me as much as I think they need me. They ran all the stuff that we work on. They did it without me telling them. They also coached each other.

That's what I want. It's not just calling plays, it's that when a guy doesn't do his job, they should tell each other, not me. Then I don't have to do it. Now I'm just saying, Okay, what adjustments are we making? I'm thinking basketball instead of effort and energy. I shouldn't have to coach that.

That's where we are with this team. Look, we shoot the ball well and do some stuff. We can create havoc for people. But the biggest thing is if you defend and rebound, you got a chance to win every game you play. If your guards are really good, you really have a chance to win any game you play.

But we've proven that we can also get beat.

Q. Cal, can you sense that Alex recognizes that that clock is ticking, that his time is sort of winding down?
COACH CALIPARI: I don't think that had anything to do with it. I don't think so. I just think he wanted to be on the court and he wanted to play.

Both he and Marcus, like Marcus had 12 rebounds, but there were two others, a grab and a stick-back that he looked timid on. The last rebound where he could have grabbed it and dunked it... I said, Maybe I want more for you than you want for yourself.

If that's the case, just come and see me and say, Coach, you're trying to make me be too good. Just let me be who I am here. If that's what you want from me, that's what I'll give you.

He is like, No, no, no.

Just be a beast, do it. You can do it. When he does it, we all sit there and say, If he's that guy, we're really good.

It's hard to be that every night. But guys that want to be unique and be elite, that's what they do: they figure out how to do it every night.

Q. I know late in the game it looked like Jamal took a shot you weren't pleased with.
COACH CALIPARI: It wasn't a shot. It was a crossover, hit off his knee. It was stolen and going the other way.

It's only one time this game. Do you remember early in the year? Now you look and he did it one time. That's why we were laughing after the game. I mean, how much better is he? Oh, my gosh, he's not even the same player.

His shot selection, he's not turning it over, he's defending better, he's getting by people, he's drawing fouls. He's that big guard that he can be. You put him in pick'n rolls, we did that late, he got to the rim. He's a lead guard who scores it and is playing pretty well right now.

Q. What impressed me is when he was at the other end of the court, you were yelling at him, he ran down to get with you.
COACH CALIPARI: No, no, he looked right away. He looked right away and said, That's me.

Q. Earlier in the season, he would have stayed far away from you.
COACH CALIPARI: No, he's doing good. He's doing good. Again, the kid ends up with 23.

We've had more balance. But this team needs him to score baskets. He does it. And that team was almost playing like a box-and-one. They just said, Do not let him get the ball. Do not let him score. And he still got 23.

Q. There were a stretch of games where you were blowing people out without Alex. There was buzz, Is this team better without him?
COACH CALIPARI: No, it's not better without him. When Alex is the best version of himself, he's as good as any guy his size in the country, but he's got to come every day and be that guy.

Today he played it without having played for two, three weeks. He was close to it for spurts. Now it's like, Okay, it's time to finish.

Q. Do you have an update on Derek, when you expect him to be back?
COACH CALIPARI: I have no idea. Going to take another picture of his ankle so everybody could see. He was fine.

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