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January 29, 2011

John Calipari


Q. Can you talk about your defense you gave Thompkins and Leslie?
COACH CALIPARI: I think we -- some of the stuff when I watched us against Georgia, it's more about our -- it's about me and the preparation and their toughness. When it's a one-point game and how we finished it, it must be bad communication between what I'm looking for and what you're thinking I'm looking for. That's on me.
I thought today, they really were zoned in on how we had to play to make it tough for them. Georgia is a good team. They beat our brains in down there. Physical until the second half, and then all of a sudden -- and again, it wasn't the entire team but one guy gets pushed like three or four straight times; we got pushed around again in the second half.
But I'm proud of our team. I thought we played well. Did some good things. And we got a ways to go, but it's a win.

Q. You struggled to close the door against North Carolina and today, any common denominators, any concern there?
COACH CALIPARI: Missed some free throws. Two plays we broke off that we were not trying to do. Just like, how can you -- let's go. And that's what happens with a young team. But one of the things I said, this team has to be about Darius, DeAndre and Josh, our juniors and seniors. It's got to be about them what they accept, what they effect, and they have to be the guys making plays down the stretch, not freshmen. If our freshmen happen to do it, fine. But we can't count on those guys; they are freshmen. Get me those upper classmen.

Q. Speaking of which, in the first half, when guys really built the big lead with DeAndre and even Darius, as well, did a great job making the extra against the zone; is that something you stressed going into that?
COACH CALIPARI: We have talked. They play a little bit of a zone, like a 3-2, but they drop the one wing at times. They kind of move around depending where you are on the board. So they are a little harder to play against.
What I like was we got the ball in the middle, we made the pass, we swung the ball and we knocked down the open shot.
What I also liked was when Darius was in the middle, he went after people and he was aggressive. There was not a fadeaway. It was just, boom, right at it.
And you know, I continue to look at the good things we are doing and showing that this is how we have to play. We have to break down some of the areas and show them like, look, this could cost you the game. We easily left ourselves in a position that we could have dropped this. There was no reason for that. We had this game in hand, and we did some things down the stretch missing free throws, missing a couple little steps, just a guy drives left and missed it. You know, you can't break down defensively, give up a couple 3s, and all of a sudden it's a five-, six-point game.

Q. What are the things you want to see those three older guys do to make those plays that you're talking about?
COACH CALIPARI: You must be the tough guys. You've got to make the tough plays. You're not missing a rebound, can't be. That's one. Two, you've got to be really strong with the ball so you're not getting balls ripped out of your hands, like not happening, and you're making easy plays. And then all of a sudden, you make that big block, you get that big rebound, you dive on the floor and get the ball and make that charge.
Maybe you're counting on those guys to make a basket that you're not as good making. That's okay. But all of those other things, those guys should be able to do.

Q. The word "toughness" keeps coming up. How do you coach that, especially if you have guys who are nice guys off the court?
COACH CALIPARI: I've seen guys -- they are boxers. What a wonderful guy that is, until he steps in that ring and he tries to rip the guy's face off.
Football players. I have friends that are NFL football players; the nicest people you will ever meet. I just wouldn't want them to tackle me. I mean, you can be the nicest guy in the world, have a great heart and be a generous person, but when it's time to battle and fight, you fight.
And you've got to -- the biggest time to do it is crunch time when the game is in the balance. And so we are learning from that. The big thing about this team, they want to do well. Do the guys want to please me? No question. And I like my team.
I'll say it again: We have more upside on this team than any team in the country. I told Terrence: You can be the best player in the country, and I'm not backing up -- I'm not backing up off you. You should be the best player in the country. Go play that way. Go drive the ball, go rebound every basket. Defend how he defended. Second half, he defended pretty good and he rebounded pretty good.

Q. Can you get more upside than any team in the country if you're not getting past six and a half guys?
COACH CALIPARI: Sure. We were that way when I was at UMASS. We had six guys and those six were really, together. Let me say that again, Mike: Together, they were really good.
This team executed in the first half and then broke off stuff in the second half, and they went on their own a little bit.
So what you do is you get up now, and it's my turn to do my thing. Well, we don't have enough people that are good enough to do that. Those teams that have six, seven guys, you just, hey -- they told me earlier when I was with Odie Smith today, Coach Rupp played five guys. If you were No. 6, you may not get in the game; played five guys.
And you go, that was it the in the 60s and 50s and 40s. "The old guys, we don't play too many people anyway."
They all say it: "Why do you play nine guys? We played seven."
"The game is faster."
"What do you think, we walked up and down the court? And we pressed and ran; what are you talking about?" Just, you figure it out. But the biggest thing is, teams that you play, you have to be an execution team. You have to do that for 40 minutes and you have to finish people off.
You know, this is good. This is good. We can be pretty good and you saw it today. And then, all of the stuff that we need to get better at, I've got it on tape. I can show them. And we still won.

Q. The turnovers --
COACH CALIPARI: The one by Terrence was nothing. We had truly only eight turnovers in the game. We are one of the low turnover teams in the country. I'm not worried about. Terrence, I don't know what he was thinking. I didn't even ask him. I didn't even ask him.

End of FastScripts

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