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March 13, 2010

Eric Bledsoe

John Calipari

DeMarcus Cousins

John Wall


Kentucky - 74
Tennessee - 45

THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Kentucky. We'll ask Coach Calipari for general comments on the game, and then we'll take your questions just for the three student-athletes.
COACH CALIPARI: The thing that I liked is we really talked about the first five minutes of the game. When we played Tennessee up in Knoxville, we were down 18-4. From that point on, we won the rest of the game, but we never could recover from an 18-4 start.
Today we just said, let's come out of the gate and then go, and then let's keep it on, and we did. The biggest difference, again, when you go 2 for 22, it's hard to win any game, let alone be in the game. Today we make threes, there's going to be a gap.
And I'll be honest with you, I'm not embarrassed to say it. Just about any team we play, we're making threes like that, because of the way we guard, because of how big we are, because we have a post presence, we become pretty good. But there are games we're not going to make them. Let's win anyway. Let's win by four. Let's win by three.
We were 1 for 13 yesterday. 1 for 13. That same team went 8 for 22 today. Same guys, same stuff, playing against a really good team in Tennessee. But I was happy, I was happy with our effort. I was happy with our defense.
Good game for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take your questions for the three student-athletes.

Q. What would it mean to play in the SEC Championship Game and maybe get a championship for UK that you haven't had since 2004?
JOHN WALL: It would mean a lot. Working hard in the off-season and just going through everything to prepare us for the season. We just try to get better every game and hopefully win a championship tomorrow.
ERIC BLEDSOE: It would mean a lot because we have three freshmen in, and so far we're doing it. So we're just going to keep on playing.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: It would be a big accomplishment for us. Just show our hard work and try to bring it back to Kentucky.

Q. Eric, you seem to be shooting the ball better than last time you played. Like Coach Cal was talk talking about. Can you talk about what it felt like when you were letting the ball go today? Did it feel like it was going on?
ERIC BLEDSOE: He always tells me don't give up on your shot. Even though I went 1 for 30, he just said, weep shooting the ball. And that's what I did, and it paid off.

Q. Could you guys talk a little bit about the game. Was it chippier than normal? Was there a little more trash talking? What did you all think about the way the game played out in that respect?
JOHN WALL: We knew it was going to be a tough physical game. Coach told us we come out, they're going to be physical. Don't let them punk you, and don't let them play hard on you.
That was our game plan when we first came out. Try to play hard and don't get punked by them. I thought we did a great job.
ERIC BLEDSOE: Coach told us, don't let the man play harder than you. That's how we came out. We knew it was going to be a battle when we first set foot on the court.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: We knew it was going to be a tough game from the start. I mean, the first two times we played them, it was the same way. We're two competitive teams with competitive athletes on the team. It was a battle, but we came in with the win.

Q. Guys, talk about how the crowd picks you up in a tournament situation like this, all the people that came down and filled up the arena today.
JOHN WALL: It means a lot. I feel like we were playing at our arena to see our fans there. We just feel like everywhere we go, our fans support us the most.
We build out there. We get a lead going or try to make a run, we get ourselves into it as players, but the crowd also get into it, and you see how loud they are in the background.

Q. This is for Bledsoe. Can you talk about the inside presence early and how that might have opened things up from the three-point range.
ERIC BLEDSOE: It was big because everybody be focused on DeMarcus. So when they focus on DeMarcus, that leaves openings for me and John to penetrate and get everybody else open shots.
Coach told us, me and John, we're the leaders. If we make the shots, that gets everybody else confident. So it was a big part.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse you back to the locker room. We'll continue on with Coach Calipari.

Q. Hey, John, what happened with Orton in the first half. He left the bench.
COACH CALIPARI: It's really coaching a team of 19-year-olds, there are some things that I shake my head at. But we got good kids. They're just -- they react to things wrong. They react to things on the court wrong at times, and that's my job to teach them without trying to embarrass them.
But we've had things happen and guys say stuff, and you just shake your head. But he's a good kid. He'll be fine.

Q. John, before you came, you said that you were most concerned about the SEC Tournament looking at the NCAA for seeding purposes. Now that you're here, has that changed at all, or is that still how you look at it?
COACH CALIPARI: Let me tell you what's changed for me, only one thing, because I'll tell you, I've never worried about a league championship or a tournament championship. It's all based on the seed national NCAA Tournament. Anybody that says the seed is not important has never coached in the NCAA Tournament.
It's the most important thing. It's like you're golfing the 1st tee. Whatever you say on the 1st tee is the most important thing.
So for us to play here and finish so that we keep that seed is important. Here's what's more important: When I see a building full of blue fans who paid a lot of money for the tickets -- $500, $1,000, probably people that could not afford to pay a $500 or $1,000, they're taking their vacation in Nashville, Tennessee, to watch our team play. Well, then, you kind of feel as a coach you owe it to them to give it your best.
They tell me 180,000 fans came to Nashville. Is that true? Kentucky fans. And only 17,000 could get in the building. There were people selling tickets -- they would sell their ticket to anybody except a Kentucky fan. That's what they had a sign. Are you a Kentucky fan? I'm not selling you the tickets because we're not having a building full of Kentucky people.
But it's unbelievable. The blue dust is everywhere. It's incredible.

Q. Coach, can you talk about what Eric brings to the team as far as kind of emotionally being the opposite of what John and DeMarcus -- they're more emotional on the outside, bring intensity to the game. Eric kind of calms that down, just makes the basket.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, Eric's -- when Eric plays like unbelievably intense and aggressive, I know we're in good shape. When he backs up a little bit, I'm a little worried. Then somebody else better steps up and plays.
When he plays, I know we're fine. Today I told him before we got on the bus, I said, look, I want you to go crazy from the beginning of the game. You get on Maze, make him go left and go nuts. When you need a break, take yourself out. You take yourself out and then put yourself back in the game. We want you to go.
If you miss a shot and it gets to you mentally, take yourself out and then go back in. That's what I said to him. He is a competitor. He's a battler. I've won with guys like him. People say he's undersized. Let me tell you, he puts his head on the rim, and he makes big shots. He has all year for us. He's made big free throws for us all year. When we beat Tennessee at home, he did the same thing at home. He made the shots that beat them in our building.
No one else made a shot. His shots were the only ones that went down.

Q. Coach, you've made several deep runs with different teams and a lot of young stars. As you're on the crest of this next tournament, what is the difference between the young stars and the playmakers and veterans at that position? What's the key to taking it all the way?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, my team at Massachusetts was a veteran team, juniors and seniors. My team at Memphis were juniors and senior and then Derrick. This team, they don't shave yet.
So now all of a sudden, a guy will get up and leave the bench and go in. What, have you got to go to the bathroom? What are you doing? We have stuff here -- look, I don't know what to expect at times. We did a shootaround this morning. I never do a shootaround on a 12:00 game, especially back-to-back games. We did it this morning. They told me, we'd better do it because we've got a couple of guys who might not wake up for the game.
This is new to me, believe me. I'm walking along trying to figure out what do I do? What buttons do I push? How am I -- to have good discipline on our team yet not crack a guy that is so immature he doesn't even know better. And so we're kind of walking.
I mean, I don't know what to expect from us. I know this, if we play like we did today, we'll be fine, we'll march. But we've had others where we think we're going to beat a team, we get up early, we're up 18, next time I look, we're up 2. We've done that about six times this year.
But I'll say this, they want to win. They have a will to win. They refuse to lose. I've got to give it to the team. These freshmen and Patrick Patterson, we've got some sophomores who have not played. Darnell did not play college ball last year. He didn't. He's a sophomore. The other two sophomores played five minutes a game last year on an NIT team, did not play. That's our team with Patrick Patterson right now. We're very young, very inexperienced, yet we're a talented team. We've got some size.
John Wall is coming in like my other point guards. He's catching it right at the right time, just like those other two did. He listens. He wants to be coached. He wants to lead. He wants to make the game winner. He'll tell you he wants to make the game winner. He's talking to players in the huddle. He's doing a lot of good stuff.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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