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March 13, 2011

John Calipari

Josh Harrellson

Brandon Knight

Darius Miller



THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kentucky. We'll go ahead and have an opening statement by coach.
COACH CALIPARI: We played well. We defended and rebounded after the beginning of the game. They got eight offensive rebounds, or seven in the first eight minutes, and then after that, we rebounded.
But let me just tell you, our veteran players, because DeAndre could have very easily been all-conference, too, or all-tourney team. Josh and Darius, the way they're playing right now let's Brandon be Brandon. He doesn't have to do more. And he's running our team as a freshman, 19 years old, we had six turnovers today in a meaningful game.
But those veterans make it easy on Darius or on Doron and on Terrence. So I'm really proud of them. And I said all along, I think Darius Miller has the talent and ability and skill to be the best player in our league. And this week obviously, he was. And I'm proud of him.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Darius, talk about your perimeter defense on Florida's guards and how you closed out on them and then they really couldn't get anything, any clean looks.
DARIUS MILLER: We really try to focus in on keeping them away from shooting open threes and then rebounding the ball. We wanted every shot they had to be contested. So we tried to help each other. It more of a team thing, team defense. We did a great job of rotating today and we just tried to make them uncomfortable.

Q. Guys, just talk about the crowd. I know Darius and Josh, you experienced it before. Brandon talk about how many people came down here and what it was like to play in that environment.
DARIUS MILLER: We have been here for three years now, so you can't really say you expect it, but it's just amazing. And playing in front of people like that, I mean all of them came down, it felt like a home game, really. They did a great job of cheering us on the whole time, the whole tournament. So I'm happy to play for them.
BRANDON KNIGHT: My first year here at Kentucky, that's really been a crazy factor, is just the way the fans travel and the way they support us. And when we go to a neutral site, it really feels like a home game most of the time. So I think they do a great job looking us up and providing us with confidence.
JOSH HARRELLSON: Just like they said, it's amazing to watch. Wherever we go, they travel with us. We played in Maui this year and we had 3,000-plus fans in Maui. We so we appreciate everything they do for us and we love playing for them.

Q. Josh a few years ago you were playing junior college ball. Today you're a second consecutive SEC championship team, all-SEC team in the tournament. How does that feel?
JOSH HARRELLSON: It is my last year, so we just wanted to come out and win. And the guys' first year, and they all had the same goal as me, just come out and play as hard as we can and win the whole tournament. We might have been underdogs, but we were comfortable coming in.
We have been playing really well and we knew we had confidence coming into the tournament winning our last road game, and we came out here and played Kentucky basketball like it should be.

Q. For all three players, this game you didn't just win by a small margin, you dominated this game. What does that do for your confidence now going into the tournament.
DARIUS MILLER: It means a lot to us. Especially in a game of this caliber, how much it meant to us. As far as to play that well against a team as talented as them, and they did a great job, in my opinion. They're a really talented team, and for us to play that way, I think it should give us momentum going into the tournament.
BRANDON KNIGHT: Florida's a great team, they have been. They did really well in our conference and they did great in this tournament, coming back from being down and winning games. So that shows how good of a team they are.
But I think that it just shows us if we come out and play, execute, don't have any breakdowns and just listen to our game plan, that we can play with anybody in the country.
JOSH HARRELLSON: Florida's one of the best teams in our conference. To come out and beat them like we did tonight and just execute and play team basketball like we have been playing these last couple games, it just built a lot of momentum and confidence for us going into the NCAA.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for coach.

Q. As you head to the tournament how worried are you considering how you struggled on the road and what do you do to address that at this point, win-or-go-home situation?
COACH CALIPARI: We have gotten better, and these are all neutral games now, so it's not where we struggled and we struggled because we were so young. Inexperienced.
The games we lost, we had chance to win all of them. The only game that we didn't have a chance was the third game in three days, we played Connecticut and that little kid went nuts on us, too. He is really good.
But short of that, we could have won every other game we played. North Carolina on the road, Arkansas on the road. We had both of them. Alabama on the road, had one point lead with the ball, Mississippi had one point lead with the ball. We could have won them all.
So our thing was finishing off. We also have had 18 point leads and they evaporated. But we're learning. I'm also learning about the team. What we are is a speed team that then grinds it out. That's what we are. It took me five months to figure it out, but these guys are all new. They're freshmen and inexperienced guys. And putting them all together, I told them after, I've been doing this 20-some years now, can you imagine I'm saying that I've been doing this a long time, and this team, for Josh Harrellson to do what he's doing and Darius Miller.
And I've been hard on them. I've been hard on Brandon now. I mean I've been really hard. I'm proud of DeAndre Liggins, where he's come. And this is about them. This is about these players. And the great thing about playing at Kentucky, it's not about a style of play. Everybody knows the players. They know their names, they know their stats. It's about these players. And that's a great thing about coaching here and the program we try to run.
But I think we'll be fine. I don't know where we'll be seeded or where we'll have to go, but the way my team is playing right now, I'm like, let's have it. Come on. Bring it. Let's go.

Q. Billy said he thought this game was won at the free throw line. What's your analysis of that?
COACH CALIPARI: We did shoot a high percentage. We shot 83 percent. So that was a gap that would be hard to make up. But a lot of the free throws were down the stretch. They started fouling with two and a half minutes to go. So we probably shot, would you say, 10 plus the technical? Maybe 10 or 12 of the free throws were at that end. So in realty, throughout the game, we shot about 18 or 19 free throws. We shot 10 more than them and we're making 80 percent and probably a big part of it.
But we didn't turn the ball over. We didn't give them a chance. We had six turnovers. Now I'm saying are we playing fast enough? Do we need to play faster? I mean, I don't know.

Q. What do you think this does or should do for your seeding?
COACH CALIPARI: I imagine that our seeding and Florida's was probably done before. They couldn't have reworked the board. So wherever we were, you know...
And maybe Florida and us were the last two spots in and they were going to say one was going to be here and one there, I imagine. I don't know that. But I hope, I really hope that Georgia's in, I really hope that Alabama's in. I really do.
This league is better than everybody wants to give it credit for. The coaching and the players are outstanding. And there was talking heads today. And again, I usually don't listen to Digger Phelps, because he's usually wrong, but he said that those teams get in the tournament, three win games. And I'm telling you, we lost to both of those teams. They will win games.
So let's hope they got in. And they may not have, because of all of the other stuff, but I just hope for those two programs and our league that those two get in.

Q. You talked about Darius and Josh and DeAndre and how important they are. Over the last three weeks, what have they done? Have they been better?
COACH CALIPARI: They performed at a high level. Josh has just gone, his climb has been like that. Darius at times has been up-and-down. We have seen sparks of just greatness and then we have seen like, Oh, my gosh, is that the same guy?
Now, as we wind this down, he's just steadily playing. I mean he's really skilled and he's got great athleticism and he's strong physically. If you're a small player, he'll jump over you. Terrific free throw shooter, and really smart. This is a very smart team, too. I can do stuff out of timeouts that I couldn't do with some other teams. And just the basketball sense of this team, the savvy of this team, is pretty darn good.

Q. You led by I think five at halftime, and then came out and went on a 11-4 run in that second half. Did you do anything at halftime or say anything that ignited that?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, my halftime talks are one of some of the best you've ever heard. So that's probably it (Laughter). The thing I told them is, if you stop them from offensive rebounding, you get back in transition and form a wall, you're going to make it hard on them. We want to make sure we're guarding their 3-point shooters, make them beat us shooting twos. And that's what we tried to do.
We wanted them to drive in and beat us shooting twos. And if they missed, let's rebound. And that's basically what we talked about. If you're going to guard Florida, you better guard pick and rolls and you better be good at it. We threw a zone in there just to buy time.
And how about Eloy Vargas today? What a great story that is. And just played so well and gave Josh a chance to get a breather. But we went zone and did some of that stuff and I thought it was good too.

Q. You might have just alluded to this a minute ago, but everyone talks about the talent on last year's team. Is there anything about this year's team that this year's team can do that last year's team couldn't?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, this team can shoot (Laughter). Last year if you played us you played us zone. Or you sagged in. And you ran back real fast and you tried to make us shoot jumpers. If we were making jumpers, you knew you were getting beat. If we weren't, you had a chance to beat us.
And there were games where we could not make a shot. We went 0-32 from the 3-point line in the NCAA tournament for back-to-back games. 0-32. It's never been done in the history of our sport. Even when they had the baskets up there nailed to a wall, it's never been done.
So that's what we didn't do. But we were athletic, we were long and we were deep.
This team is skilled. We play a different game. I'm doing stuff with this group, handoffs, and I've never done that. But we're trying to create space. They're not imposing like to go by you and bump. And where we were a year ago, this team needs a little space and then they will make plays. So we're doing stuff to create space for them.

Q. Can you talk about Doron how his ankle is now did you expect him to play?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, I did. I did. We put him on crutches so that you guys would see him on crutches and make a big deal out of it, but he didn't need the crutches coming out of the locker room. I mean we went and got crutches and we were going to make him doubtful, and we were trying to win the game. And Billy knew. Billy said, Yeah, he's going to limp out like Willis Reed and I didn't start him because it was a little tender.
And I wanted to make sure we were aggressive on the start. But I did tell him he will start in the NCAA tournament. I said, You're a man choosing to play.
And it's a little bit of swelling, it was a slight sprain. And I know it looked like he got shot by a sniper when he went down, but.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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