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March 11, 2016

John Calipari

Jamal Murray

Alex Poythress

Tyler Ulis

Nashville, Tennessee

Kentucky - 85, Alabama - 59

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Kentucky.

COACH CALIPARI: First game is always the hardest game in the tournament to -- because you really don't know what your team's going to give you because we've been off a little while. You also have a team that won their first game, which means they're playing on an emotional high. You don't know what that mix means. I've seen -- across the country, you've seen those games go the wrong way, and those lower seeds have won a bunch of tournament games because of that alone.

But this team in the second half played, we shot the ball well. I thought Alex was outstanding, not just that he made jump shots. He made free throws. He was scoring around the basket. He rebounded.

I love what Dom did coming off the bench. We need that. And then Jamal made shots. Tyler ran our team. So we were pretty efficient again.

Q. Alex, just talk about your game. You seemed to be in a great offensive rhythm, both inside and out.
ALEX POYTHRESS: Yeah, from the jump, everybody on the team was just in a rhythm. We were playing great defense, and it led to offense. Everybody was confident out there, making shots, and just getting in a rhythm and doing what you can do offensively.

Q. Alex, seemingly, every time you play against Alabama, you seem to have a big game. Is it when you see the elephant on the chest, you go big game hunting?
ALEX POYTHRESS: I mean, every game I step on the court, I try to have a big game. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it don't, you know. But everybody was just great offensively. We played a complete game today. We're just looking to build on it tomorrow.

Q. This question is for Tyler. When the team is playing as efficiently as it did today, how much fun is it to run the team and to be a part of what this team is -- how they're playing right now?
TYLER ULIS: It's a lot of fun, especially when guys like Alex are making threes. It's just we were out there just having fun and running around trying to get things going in transition, and when guys are making shots, it's just a lot easier.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the job that Avery Johnson has done this year at Alabama and what you see in the future with him?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, I told him before the game, I think he's done an outstanding job. He put a team together, and they played in a way that they had a chance to win almost every game they played.

I remember watching the Oregon game early in the year. Now, Oregon, they're talking about a 1 seed. And the way Alabama played in that game, it showed that, wow. I heard Avery talk. Taylor is that guy that they need to score some baskets, and he didn't today. That's why there was a little discrepancy in this score.

But I think what he's doing to put guys in positions, he's doing a lot of pro stuff. They did a lot of pick-and-roll just to switch who he wanted to guard Obasohan. So he's done a great job.

Q. Coach, talk about in the last month, month and a half, just the level of play of Jamal Murray.
COACH CALIPARI: The people that have watched at the beginning of the year know how much his game has changed. And what's happened is he went from degree of difficulty shots, avoid the contact, and just throw a ball at the rim, not getting to the foul line, not shooting enough catch and shoots. Assist-to-turnover ratio was under water. And we just kept demanding. This is what the best version of you looks like.

He's a great kid. He wants to be coached. And I was on him hard. Not as hard as I was on Karl Towns, but I've been on him really hard. All of a sudden, you're seeing an efficient player who's volume scoring.

And, again, today he took 15 shots. I mean, he's been averaging 13, 12 shots. He's not shooting the ball 25 times. Again, he only got to the line twice today, but he had a couple others where he had opportunities. Four assists, one turnover.

The biggest thing people are not catching, though, is he's starting to defend, like he's staying in front of people. He's rotating. He's just -- he has come so far in the last two months, it's kind of scary. It's kind of like what Karl did.

Karl was this and that, and all of a sudden, by the end of the year, Karl was the number 1 pick. And it wasn't close, and it's proven to be right.

And I will tell you now that on that board, this kid is moving in the right direction, and he has a chance to do whatever he wants.

And he's on a team with Tyler Ulis and all these kids that have accepted what he is, and they know we need him to score points for us to be any good.

Q. If you were an opposing coach preparing to coach against your team, now that it appears everyone is healthy, what would worry you the most about game planning for the weapons looking into how you all played tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I think you say, if they make a bunch of threes, we've got problems. And what you have now is Skal scoring around the basket, Alex scoring around the basket. We didn't have that a month ago.

Marcus Lee is into the role that he is. Run that court, dunk balls, tip, offensive rebound, and let these other guys do that skill stuff, and he's doing great at it now.

And then you've got Derek Willis who's a stretch four, and he makes the game different.

So if we're shooting the ball well, we'll be a difficult team for anybody to play.

And what you just said, we haven't had a healthy team until now all year. Either Alex was out, Derek was out, Dom was out. Dom played great today. We had Isaiah out. I mean, we've had guys out who are healthy now. And those guys being out kind of helped us build our team in terms of depth.

Q. You had 83 points tonight, and usually a college team does that, they'll had a lot of layups and dunks and a lot of free throws. You didn't have that. You had 20 points in the paint. What's going on -- I mean, this team looks very comfortable with jump shots, perimeter, in a variety of places. What's gone into kind of bringing that into place?
COACH CALIPARI: This is the first team that I've had in a long, long time where we always seem to be shooting less free throws than the other team, and at times, 20 to 25 less free throws than the other team.

We're trying to drive the ball now, and we're trying to throw it in, but we're just -- either we're not getting hit hard enough, but that's a fact for this team, which means you've got to try to win. It forces you to shoot jumpers.

We're not a team that likes to shoot 22 threes, but we like to shoot 17. But we are a team that likes to have 18 assists and 7 turnovers. Now, 7's low for me. I'd like them to have about 10 or 11. The reason is I want them to be aggressive, and I want them to attack, which means you're going to have at least 9, 10, 11 turnovers. When you start having 5 and 7, you probably weren't aggressive enough.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the league overall. There's thought about the league maybe only getting three teams in. But is that really indicative of the progress the league has made over the last few months?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, what disappoints me is that there are teams that lost, like some of our teams have, and all of a sudden, it's okay. They're in. And then one of our teams loses, they go from bubble to first four out. You're like, I don't get it. I do know, when our teams are in the NCAA Tournament, they do well.

We've been in Final Fours, the Elite Eights, a number of Sweet 16s. We had three a couple years ago in the Sweet 16 and two in the Final Four. So I think this league deserves five teams that should be in.

I think Vanderbilt should be in. That's just my thought. And I think, if you look at it overall, they should be in, but they lost a tough game. Tennessee played well.

We lost to Tennessee. We lost to Tennessee. So I think they should be in, but I'm not on the committee. If I was on the committee, because I'm a normal person. I'm helping my friends, and those other dudes are not getting in. I'm normal.

Why is everybody laughing?

Q. Early on --
COACH CALIPARI: That will get us an 8 seed, but that's okay.

Q. Edwards from Alabama was shooting his version of the downtown three, and later on, Tyler Ulis had his version of the downtown three back to back. Tell me what effect that had on the game.
COACH CALIPARI: I was saying go to the post. I was saying, you know, punch Alex, punch Alex, and we were going to the post, and they backed away from Tyler because they were going to try to stop us from throwing it in, and the kid made an NBA three.

Now, if you followed our team, he's made, on the year, probably 12 of those at the shot clock in big games, in tighter games than this, on national television. I mean, the kid's been outstanding.

Again, when we talk about Tyler, I know he's up for Player of the Year nationally, and he should be. He should be one of two or three guys that are considered for Player of the Year. When you look at what he's done and his numbers, he's basically made my job, like, way easier. He's made other players on this team even better. He is a disruptor on defense. He's a creator on offense. And he just doesn't turn it over.

Today he had six assists -- no. What did he have? Five and two. Wow, that's a bad deal for him. Usually he has 12, 14, and 1. So proud of him and what he's been able to do and how he's been first team.

Learned to lead off the court. He leads on the court, and now he's learned to lead off the court and be that guy. He's a terrific player. I'm going to miss him too now. That's what I'll miss.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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