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December 20, 2014

Bryce Alford

Steve Alford

Kevon Looney


Kentucky – 83
UCLA - 42

STEVE ALFORD:  Well, obviously a very difficult first half.  Haven't been involved in many halves like that, and I'm sure our guys haven't, either.  That was the tough part.  I thought we settled down much more in the second half, had a little bit of a tendency to do that in the Gonzaga game, as well.  But when you're playing a team like this, you just can't get yourselves in a hole like we got ourselves in a hole in the first 20 minutes.  That's a tough one.  There are no excuses.  We just didn't get the job done on either side of the ball in that first 20 minutes, and that made it really, really difficult for us.

Q.  Bryce, Coach Alford mentioned starting the Gonzaga game.  What explains that tendencies to start games like that?
BRYCE ALFORD:  I can't really tell you honestly.  We've just got to focus more and be ready to play right out of the gate.  We can't come out scared, we can't come out tentative or passive.  We've got to come out and know the capabilities we have as a team and trust each other and trust our abilities and just be aggressive right out of the gate.

Q.  Could you maybe talk about how much credit does Kentucky maybe deserve for the way the game started, 24‑0?
BRYCE ALFORD:  Yeah, obviously they're one of the best teams in the country if not the best team in the country right now.  You've got to give credit to them.  They made it extremely hard on us and they took our confidence out of us right at the beginning of the game, and they put it to us from then on.  Definitely a lot of credit to them.

Q.  Steve, when they jump off to that 16‑0 start and you call a time‑out what do you say to the guys in the huddle?
STEVE ALFORD:  You know, it's not because they don't care and they're not trying.  The guys are trying hard, and they're giving great effort.  It's just when nothing goes right, it gets very frustrating and kind of steamrolls.  I think that's what happened at the start of the game.  The ball didn't move.  We took shots off 0, 1, 2 passes, and you're playing a defensive team like this, this team is long‑‑ I've been here 24 years, and I thought Bo Ryan's team, my fourth year at Manchester, when we were both 31‑0, I thought that was an awfully good team that we played in the championship game from a Division III standpoint.  I don't know in my 20 years of coaching at the Division I level that I've coached against a better team than what this team looks like.  They have everything.  They can shoot the basketball much better against us tonight than they have in the long time, but they're long, they're athletic, they present so many problems for you because they're so deep, and your first question to Bryce, how does it happen when you list Carolina and Gonzaga and Kentucky?  When we played them, I think Carolina was sixth, Kentucky is one, Gonzaga is nine.  This is a team that is full of inexperience.  It's not an excuse.  We had three guys go hardship.  This team we just played had three guys that could have entered the draft and came back.  There's a reason why they're where they're at, and our guys are fighting.  As long as they keep fighting and we learn, we're probably not ready‑‑ now, I'm not giving any excuses for 41‑7.  That should not take place.  That's bad, and our guys know that, and they feel bad about it.  The next 20 we settled down.  We had similar games against Carolina and Gonzaga, but they're not ready for that.  We've got one returning starter, Norman Powell.  He was the only guy in the starting lineup for us last year.  In my mind those are the reasons for those three games.  Now, in a month from now will we be able to play a team that's nationally ranked and do the things?  I hope so.  That's what we have to be able to do.
But the expectation obviously is big, regardless, but we do have to be a little bit‑‑ I've told the media at the beginning of the year, you've got to be patient.  I've said it, there are going to be games where you go, whoa, how did these guys do that, and then there are going to be games just like today where you go, whoa, how did that happen?  But I'm not going to quit on these guys.  Am I frustrated and down?  Sure, but we'll get back.  After the break, we'll get back and we'll keep fighting, and this group will keep getting better.  But they're a little bit inexperienced now to play a team‑‑ at least I told these guys, in my 24 years of coaching, this is the best team I've coached against.  This team is really, really good.  It doesn't excuse a 41‑7 half, but we'll get better and we'll learn from it.

Q.  Bryce, when you go to the locker room with seven points, what do you say to each other and how do you come up with a plan coming into the second half?
BRYCE ALFORD:  That's the hard part.  None of us have ever been in that situation.  None of us have ever had a seven‑point half before, been down that much at half or really at any point.  Yeah, it's tough, and as leaders with Norm and myself and even Kevon, we've got to try to just keep our spirits up and just have everybody believe, not only in themselves but each other and just try to keep the spirits up and get us ready to go out and have a better second half.

Q.  Kevon, I don't think you've seen a team‑‑ you definitely haven't seen a team this tall, probably won't see a team this tall again.  What's it like to play against a team that has three guys that are 6'11" or taller?
KEVON LOONEY:  It was pretty difficult, hard to get scoring angles on your layups and try to finish over the top, the real long, great shot blockers.  But it was a lot of fun and a great experience playing out there.  Hopefully we see them again, because that was embarrassing and we want another stab at it.  But it was a lot of fun, and that was really good.  It makes it really difficult.

Q.  Kevon, what goes through your mind when it gets to 24‑0?  Are you even conscious of the score at that point or do you just write it off as a bad day?
KEVON LOONEY:  Very, very conscious of it.  You've got to score a basket.  That's terrible.  You never should play a game where you score seven points in a half.  Coach drills us better than that in practice and we're a much better offensive team than that.  Going through my head, we've got to score.  We've got to make the game closer, and we couldn't do it.

Q.  What was it that was different about the way Kentucky plays defense than other teams you've faced?  Obviously size is a part of it, but what stood out to you?
KEVON LOONEY:  I would say mainly just the size.  We couldn't get to the basket how we wanted.  When we did get there it wasn't easy to finish.  When we was driving we wanted to kick it out and we didn't get no movement in the first half, so their shot blocking really made a difference.

Q.  Steve, when he says we hope to see them again and like another stab at it‑‑
STEVE ALFORD:  Not right now.  (Laughter).  I appreciate Kevon's enthusiasm, but not right now.  But Kevon, I've been around a long time as a player and as a coach, and I played for the best in Coach Knight.  When you talk about a Dream Team, a team that‑‑ other than Ulis, who then Ulis comes in and gives you a whole different element because the starting five that they have, they can basically switch five ways, and Coach Knight, I think that was always his dream, that he could get five guys 6'7" and 6'8" and just switch everything.  That's hard to score on.  That's why if you look at their numbers‑‑ they've played 12 games now.  Look at their numbers.  They're holding teams ‑‑ we scored 42, we came into this game, they were holding teams to 48.  We're not the only team that they've really pounded that way from that standpoint.  They're really good defensively.  They can switch on you, they guard the pick‑and‑rolls well, and then when you beat them‑‑ and I thought we did, we got some angles, we beat them, but then you've got two guys 6'10", 6'11", 7‑foot, one of them jumps, if he misses it, the other one gets it.  You don't see that kind of size, and I think that affects you, and that's hard to prepare for.
Going into a week here and trying to prep for this, you can't simulate what you see.  I joked with Cal before the game because Coach Schilling came up to me before the game and said, hey, I know when you prepare for teams and then you see them in person, the majority of the teams have over‑hyped sizes and the sizes aren't correct.  He came up to me, and he goes, that's not true with this team.  It's legit.  What they are size‑wise is legit, and when you have that kind of size, you can do so many different things defensively.  Give Cal credit, give his staff credit.  They've really got this team playing hard at the defensive end.  They continue to play at that level defensively, I'm a firm believer they've got a chance to run this thing out.  They're that good, they're that talented.

Q.  You talked about the lack of experience on your team.  How do you use this game as a teaching tool?
STEVE ALFORD:  Well, you communicate with them just like we did at halftime, just like we did at postgame.  You come back‑‑ I don't know how much video you want to show them of this game because it's a sensitive deal, because we've got to have confidence moving forward.  But there's teaching moments.  For instance, in the first half, the ball didn't move.  We're a team where the ball has got to move.  In the second half the ball moved, and we got better shots, and we made shots.  Even if we would have missed those shots in the second half, we got better shots in the second half.  So we can teach that way.
Defensively we've got to look at how we're guarding, how we were set up.  For instance, Booker, we didn't want to‑‑ we didn't really want to come off Booker and we give him all kinds of open looks, so we have a lot of breakdowns, and right now our defense is too much predicated on what's happening offensively.  If we're good offensively then we do some better things defensively, and that's what a young, inexperienced team does.  We've got to learn from that.  We've got to get tougher and nastier and better defensively, which I think that'll help our offense.  These three ranked opponents, they bring those things out in you.  That's why they're ranked.  That's why they're really good.  They're going to exploit that and bring it out, and those things have been exposed.  It hadn't been so exposed in the other games.  We've been able to do pretty well in those, but when you play teams like that, that's going to get exposed to you.

Q.  When you watch the tape on them, do they look different when the jersey is Kansas or UCLA or even when they played Texas?
STEVE ALFORD:  You know, that's hard.  Obviously they probably played really well against Kansas and they played really well against us.  Cal told me it was the best they've played all year.  He might have been just being nice.  But those are two games that I would say they played at a really high level.  But you're 12‑0.  What's the win margin?  28 coming into tonight?  That didn't go down.  You've got a win margin of 30‑plus and you've played 12 games and you've played the likes of Kansas and UCLA and played Providence and played Texas, and they played a pretty‑good schedule, and they're 12‑0 with a plus‑30 win margin and they're holding teams to about 45 points.  So even if you say, hey, Columbia played them a little bit tougher or Boston ‑‑ you've got a target on your back the size of the state of Kentucky the way it is.  For them to perform at the level‑‑ you're coming into break, those are always tough games to begin with.  I thought they were tremendous.  Cal has got them playing at a very high level, believing in what they want to do.  Like I said, I don't know of too many teams in my career that I've coached against that's been any better.

Q.  Barring additional injury for them, what is it going to take?  What kind of team is it going to take to beat them?
STEVE ALFORD:  You know, they're a hard team to man, and we tried zoning, and that didn't work.  So we went man, and they're a very difficult team to man because they've got very good inside out, and if the Harrisons, if they'll shoot and play that way and that‑‑ I thought they were really under control and did a lot of good things tonight as far as shot selection, and if they make shots like that, they even become harder to play against because they're just so hard to guard.  I would think if a team can come in with a lot of length and throw a zone out there that's got length and really gets them out of the paint to where they have to shoot jump shot after jump shot, okay, and that might sound like a good game plan, but they rebound‑‑ for every two shots they take, they rebound one of them.  It's just a hard team to play against.  I think their key is defensively.  I really think this is a team that if you guard them well and they score 50 points and shoot 20 percent from the field, they still beat you because they hold you to 35.  I just think that's their makeup.  This team is focused, it's driven.  There's not a weakness on the team.  It is, it wasn't a fun team for me to watch today, but I'll enjoy watching it the rest of the season, because it's good basketball that's really well coached with really good players.

Q.  You know what it's like to make it to a title game undefeated.  What does it take or what will it take for this Kentucky team mentally to be able to‑‑
STEVE ALFORD:  You know, I did it at the Division III level.  Bo and I both had undefeated teams going into that, but that was fun.  You're going to be down six or seven with a minute to go and try to figure a way that pull that out.  Who knows what's going to happen in league play.  But they're such a dominant team, I think it really is a mindset.  If they have no injuries, further injuries, it's really a mindset within the players.  They know what they have to do.  It's just staying driven where you've got to play pretty much all of us are going to be playing two games a week now, so you're away from the three games in three days, or we went through seven games in 14 days.  You're away from that now.  Now it's two games a week.  Really taking care of their bodies off the court, not listening to all the‑‑ it's going to be hard because they're going to get praised a lot, and they deserve that praise.  But if what they truly want and what they're truly trying to get to, you've got to kind of block all that out and listen to your coaching staff and know that there's still room to get better, and that's the scary part about them.  I think they can probably still get better as they continue to get more and more experience and they go along this thing.  As it grows, I think a lot of times you think that there becomes more pressure.  I think as it grows, they're going to get hungrier with it.  Just looking at their demeanor, this thing reaches 18, 19, 20 in a row, you may not get them because I think they'll get really hungry and think that they can do it now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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