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SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE MEN'S TOURNAMENT


March 14, 2014


John Calipari

Willie Cauley-Stein

Andrew Harrison

Dakari Johnson


ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Kentucky ¬Ė 85
LSU - 67


THE MODERATOR:¬† We'll go ahead and get started with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH CALIPARI:  I'm really proud of the guys and how they performed.  We had three days of football and they responded and they listened.  They're like, Tell us what you want us to do, and then they carried it over on to the court.
Then we start the game, and we're not ready for how they were trapping.  Not their fault, that's my fault.  So when I called a timeout, I just said, Settle down, this is not on you, this is on us.  Just keep playing.  We're going to be fine.
So with how we played down the stretch, they could have gotten rattled.  They didn't.  It showed me a ton.
LSU makes a run, they had a will to win.  That's exactly what we wanted to see and I'm really proud of them.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Take your questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  For Willie, how tough were the practices?  Did it make that much of a difference?
WILLIE CAULEY‑STEIN:¬† Absolutely.¬† We did a lot of body‑to‑body contact, and all of our drills that we did, not just one or two, but everything from the beginning of practice to the end was all bodying each other like on drives or trapping in the post.¬† We knew if we had to play LSU that it was going to be a battle in the post.
Then with our guards it's the same way.  Guys just body us.  We just got to try to play through it.  That's what we did for the three days of practice.

Q.  For all of you guys, what was it like to look up and see the crowd just going crazy?
ANDREW HARRISON:  It was amazing.  It felt like a home game.  That just proves that we really do have some of the best fans in the world.
WILLIE CAULEY‑STEIN:¬† Me, being here the second year, it's no surprise.¬† Big Blue Nation travels everywhere.¬† They went to Dallas, and it was an ice storm, and we still had almost a home game worth of fans.¬† It was amazing and humbling that people really care about us that much to travel that far.
DAKARI JOHNSON:  Same thing.  It was amazing seeing the fans just go crazy out there after we score, and I think we really fed off of that.

Q.  Willie, coach alluded to the rough start.  It seemed like you brought some energy off the bench.  What was your mindset coming in at that point?
WILLIE CAULEY‑STEIN:¬† My mindset was just go in try to rebound everything, try to block everything, and sprint both sides of the floor.¬† That's all I really tried to do.¬† If a ball came to me on offense, just try to go up strong and either get a foul or get it off the rim for somebody to rebound it.

Q.  Andrew, the tweak, it looked like a lot of it was with you tonight to sort of penetrate, to kick out, and then really open up the offense.  How much more comfortable did you feel executing that tonight?
ANDREW HARRISON:  We were all playing as a team.
COACH CALIPARI:  That's not the tweak. (Laughter.)  Keep guessing though.
ANDREW HARRISON:  Yeah, well, we just all playing as a team.  Our wings was knocking down shots, big shots.  Alex probably hit one of the biggest shots of the game.  If he plays with confidence, it's tough to stop him, too.  If we play as a team and play defense and get stops, it's pretty hard to beat us.  I think we're starting to have more fun out there.

Q.  Dakari, talk about how much emotion you play with.  Aaron said he loves to play with you because of the emotion you bring to the game, and you kept them in the game tonight.
DAKARI JOHNSON:  Yeah, I just like to go out there and have fun.  When I do something or my teammates do something, I like to get with them, so we all just like to have fun out there.

Q.  Both times tonight after their hot start and then again after they made a little run in the second half, you guys really locked down on defense.  What did you think you did better defensively tonight that maybe you haven't done in some games coming into this?
WILLIE CAULEY‑STEIN:¬† One of our things throughout the whole season was helping each other out.¬† So even this week, one of our big emphasis was just on stunting, and when a dude drives stunting and get back to your man, and that's what we did to stop them offensively and get our runs going.¬† Our defense, it felt like we had eight people out there.
ANDREW HARRISON:  Same thing he said.  We practice a lot on stunting and getting back to your man.  Practice a lot on to slide with your hand up.  Keep a hand up high on the guard that can really shoot the ball from LSU.  We worked on doubling the post, so...

Q.  Willie, it looked like you guys played desperate out there.
WILLIE CAULEY‑STEIN:¬† Yeah, that's one of the things that we also been talking about as a team is we always got a target on our backs.¬† When we play against other people, it's like their back's against the wall and they fight like it's their last game.¬† That's how we have to fight.
Now that it's one game and out, that's really the mentality you have to go with when you play the game is, look, this could be your last game and you got to try to fight out of it.

Q.  For any of you guys, maybe the big guys, how much did you need tonight to sort of answer this question, can you go toe to toe with a team that wants to bully you and sort of push you around and push back?
WILLIE CAULEY‑STEIN:¬† We're lengthy, so our length is obviously going to bother people in the post, but it helps when our guards are big, too.¬† So they can come and stunt and dig and trap, too.¬† So then it helps us out a lot.
So if we played another team that they have a really good big man, our guards really help us a lot.  So we should be all right.
DAKARI JOHNSON:  I think the physical practices also helped us, just being physical with their bigs.  Also our guards did a good job of following what the coaches told them.  We went black at first, and then we changed it up and started digging and stuff like that.
So the coaches did a good job of telling us what to do.
THE MODERATOR:  All right.  We'll excuse you to the locker room and take questions for coach.

Q.  Willie has been in and out of the starting lineup, but when he comes off the bench, do you like what he brings in terms of that shot blocking, that energy?
JOHNNY CALIPARI:¬† Well, he can do that starting, too.¬† I just think that Dakari, there are times where he's just so effective, they both are, and even played them both together.¬† We had two 7‑footers out there today.¬† Willie can play four.¬† He can do it.
I thought Alex did some good things.¬† Alex made the biggest shot of the day in the three in the corner.¬† Got in a little bit of foul trouble, but Julius missed six one‑footers or he would have had 30 points today.¬† We missed a lot of free throws, too, but so did they.
But I like our big guys.  We're a good big team.  We're a big time rebounding team.  We're a driving team that tries to get fouled.  When we shoot more fouls than the other team and we're able to play through the bumps, we're usually pretty good.

Q.  If it wasn't the tweak, how important was the way Andrew played tonight sort of creating for everybody?  It looked like everything he did was looking first to get it out to his teammates.
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, the tweak was I had those two cut their hair different, so Aaron is Andrew and Andrew is Aaron. (Laughter.)
So that's what you didn't realize I did.  So that was Aaron handling the ball today.
No, he played well.  And the biggest thing, I thought he did a pretty good job defending.  He pushed the ball.  That's how we want him to play.  We shared the ball.  It wasn't just Andrew, we all shared the ball.
But again, some of this stuff we should have done before and it's on me as a coach.  I think you saw a little different team today with what we had been working on.  Then you ask the question, Well, why weren't you doing it early?  I don't know.  We have a bunch of freshmen, I was trying to figure out how they needed to play.

Q.  There were a lot of improvements tonight.  Was there one in particular that pleased you more than any?
COACH CALIPARI:¬† Yeah, 15 assists and nine turns.¬† I say that, I mean, think of the one‑footers we missed.¬† We literally missed eight shots at one, point blank range.
Then from the free throw line, Julius is nine out of 16.  Come on.  I mean, he's a really good free throw shooter.
But again, what I liked is that I think in these tournaments what you know is, even when you're a terrific defensive team, you have to score, because the other team may be able to.¬† So you got to make shots.¬† We made those today.¬† You can go 2‑19 from the three and win, not when all the teams are good.
So that's one of the emphases that we talked about that and we did it.  I was a little disappointed in our free throw shooting because we had been making free throws.  But we got to the line a ton, and deservedly so.

Q.  You made second shots well all year, but tonight they made first shots better.  Does that go back to sharing the ball?
COACH CALIPARI:  You say that, but I'm telling you, Julius missed at least six like right at the rim.  Instead of going right at the rim, he was going like this (Indicating).  I don't know why he was doing it.  Maybe because the last time we played them down at LSU he got eight shots blocked.  So maybe that's why he was doing it.
But that's not who he is.  At the end of the game you saw him getting to the rim and making those layups which he makes.  But again, they're in the right frame of mind.  They had a swagger.  They had a swagger for two days.  The start of the game was me, and they knew it and I told them.
They're like, Well, who should go and they're playing...
Stop.  We're not going any more.
They made a little adjustment.  So we're going to have to go back to just digging.  We're not going to go trap.  Then after that, the game kind of settled down.

Q.  With the way that the referees had called the basketball for the whole year, what made you think that you could come in here and start playing physical, use hands?
COACH CALIPARI:¬† Because the last month of the season, every game got more and more physical.¬† The teams that were playing that way and body‑to‑body stuff were having a big time advantage.¬† I said we're not going down because of that.
All year we had taught one way, which is keep your hands off them.  There's no body contact.  We're doing exactly the way these rules were going to be called.  It's just a natural thing, as the season went on, it got more and more physical, almost to the point where it was last year again.
Now I think what will happen in tournament play in the NCAA tournament, the best officials will be doing these games, and they want to advance.¬† You won't believe this, they want to advance.¬† So if there's body‑to‑body contact, they're going to call the foul.¬† They want to advance.¬† If there's seven of them, they don't call, they're not advancing them.¬† So it will settle down.
But it was good for us.  It wasn't just for us to foul the other team, it's so that we could play through the bumps we were getting, if you know what I'm saying.  We even missed a couple today because they got a little bit physical.

Q.  It seemed like the intensity level through the whole game was picked up a notch.  How much do you think the football type practices contributed to that?
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, we went longer than I've ever coached at this time of the year.  We went two and a half hours, two hours and 15 minutes, an hour and 45 minutes.  Then yesterday, we went 45 in here and went 50 at the Hawk's facility.  The 50 at the Hawk's facility, I told them, This is our game.  LSU is playing tonight, we're playing for 45 minutes, and we got after it.
The issue becomes what if someone got hurt.  I was really willing to roll the dice because we were not going to play and change unless I did something like that.  Again, they have to respond to it and they did.  They want to do well and they want to win.  They have been built up and all the other stuff, and they had a lot of stuff.  We're playing all freshmen, couple sophomores and all freshmen.
It's been a tough road, and I think they have had a fabulous year.¬† I really do.¬† Yeah, there were two losses, maybe three that I thought we should have gotten.¬† One non‑conference, a couple conference wins, should have won those games.¬† We didn't.¬† So okay.
Difference between three games and where we are?  Come on.  I think this team has done well.  Now let's see if we can continue on this path and really make some people mad.

Q.¬† You talked about it ever since you've been at Kentucky, but‑‑
COACH CALIPARI:  Why do I do this?  I can't help myself.  Then you all know it's true, but go ahead.

Q.  Could you comment on the presence of the crowd tonight and how it may have helped your young team in its first tournament appearance for lot of these guys?
COACH CALIPARI:  Yeah, I think when they made their run and we needed to have a will to win, and we made a basket or two, they got this team going.  They really did.
I think the other thing is, LSU gave everything they could.  They just played last night.  I mean they had just played.  So I think at that last five minutes, it was tough for them because they played a game.  Good news is from this point on, everybody's played.  So now maybe a team that's on its third game, you have a little advantage, but we'll see.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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