KENTUCKY TALKS ABOUT WIN OVER MICHIGAN
March 31, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Kentucky – 75
Michigan - 72
THE MODERATOR: The University of Kentucky is with us, and we'll go to Coach Calipari for an opening statement and then take questions.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, I just coached a game and these guys just played. We don't know if it was another classic kind of game, but I'll tell you this: They weren't going to go away and neither were we. And whoever had the ball last is going to win it.
I can just tell you the last play we set up is: Aaron, just step back and shoot a deep 3, they won't guard you.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student?athletes.
You guys lost a game at South Carolina and afterwards you said this was going to be a great story that everybody was going to talk about before the season was over. Could you have seen this coming and just what's the emotion like now?
AARON HARRISON: I said it, so I guess I saw it coming. I wouldn't say that "I told you so" or anything. But we knew we had a few things to fix.
And yes, that was a bad loss, but we knew what kind of team we could be. So that's pretty much why I said it.
Q. Aaron, can you just take us through that last shot, what you saw, how close was LeVert's hand to your shot, and just take us through it?
AARON HARRISON: Well, Andrew gave me a hand?off, and I kind of fumbled it. I had to get control of the ball back and I tried to create some space. He was up on me. He touched my hand a little bit, actually. And the shot just fell, so...
Q. Aaron or any of you guys can answer this, can you just kind of explain or describe the toughness that you guys have shown; you've knocked off a No. 1 seed, a No. 2 seed, No. 4 seed. Aaron and anybody.
AARON HARRISON: We showed a lot of toughness. We're just a group of tough young guys, doesn't matter about the age or anything anymore. We just try to go out and fight and keep our heads down and swing the whole game, and we just fight so hard.
JAMES YOUNG: Like Aaron said, we're just real tough and we take it game by game and just try to stay in the moment and just really feed off of each other.
Q. Marcus, your play in the first half, 15 minutes played, 10 points, eight rebounds, seven offensive, couple blocked shots. Could you talk about your contribution and Coach would take you out, put you back in, and you just continued to play hard?
MARCUS LEE: I mean, Coach just told me to always be ready. So I just tried to stay ready, no matter what the time was and contribute to the team.
COACH CALIPARI: Tell them what I told you for two days before this game.
MARCUS LEE: So you all know Cal's always right. So... (Laughter.)
COACH CALIPARI: I was wrong, 1978, but it's been a while.
MARCUS LEE: He told the team I was going to have a big day. Knowing us, none of us believed him.
COACH CALIPARI: And everyone in the world would be talking about you is what I said.
MARCUS LEE: Right.
COACH CALIPARI: Proud of you, kid.
Q. Players and Coach, you guys have played some of your best basketball yet. Just how have you guys been able to do that being together for only three or four months, you've beaten three?quarters of last year's Final Four teams?
JULIUS RANDLE: We just stayed the course. Didn't really let any of the criticism or whatever just waiver us. And just kept listened to Coach and developed as the season went on.
We've just got a tough group of guys. That was the biggest thing, we just never let criticism get to us.
COACH CALIPARI: It's a process. Every year it's a process. Some guys get it quicker than others. It took these guys a little longer, and it took me a little longer to figure them out.
You know, we played six?? no, we played seven freshmen today, didn't we? We played seven freshmen in that game. And it took me a while to figure them out.
So it's not all them. They were trying. Loving the grind, learning to work, becoming self?disciplined. Counting on one another, being their brother's keeper, all that stuff. Losing themselves in the team.
It's hard when all seven of them scored 28 a game in high school to give up something and then you're looking at the other guy, and when they all just settled in and lost themselves in the team, the game became easier. They became better. They had more fun. They became more confident. And all of a sudden this is what you have.
But it took us four months.
Q. Julius, when the shot went in from Aaron, you turned completely around, facing the other way and had a look almost of amazement in your face and a huge smile, it was like you just opened a Christmas present. Do you know what was going through your head at that point? If you see a picture of you doing that you'll remember it.
JULIUS RANDLE: I'm pretty sure I'll see a picture of it. They've been getting a lot of pictures of my facial expressions.
But when he made that shot, I mean, it was just ridiculous. In that stage, that atmosphere, that game, to make that shot to send us to the Final Four, it was just amazing.
And I was just proud of him and it was shocking at the same time because it was such a tough shot. But I was just happy at that moment.
Q. Julius, your mom had to go back, had to leave during the game I guess to get back to work tomorrow, I walked out with her, you were down 4. She said she told you before the game, Bring it home, the Final Four being in Dallas. What do you say to her and what were you thinking down the stretch after a rough first??
JULIUS RANDLE: I'm coming home to my mom. We get to play in the Final Four in my hometown. And the biggest thing is it's not about that. We just gotta take it one game at a time. And I'm just happy and proud of all my teammates. And it will be a great experience for us.
Q. Aaron, Dakari Johnson just told us it took a lot of guts for you to take that shot. He used a different word at first, we got a G?rated version. Does it take guts in that situation? And after you made it, they chased you down to the other end of the court, you had a big smile on your face, didn't look like you were saying anything, what were you thinking?
AARON HARRISON: What was I thinking when they were chasing me?
Q. At that point when they're chasing you when they catch you and, again, what does it take to take that shot?
AARON HARRISON: I mean, I knew I had to take the shot. I wasn't really sure how much time was left. But I knew that it wasn't that much time, so I just tried to take the best shot I could take. And it fell.
And in making that shot and seeing my teammates so happy and running toward me, it's the best feeling in the world.
Q. Marcus, how much of a challenge was it for you this year as the guy who averaged over 20 points a game in high school to not play that much? How much of a challenge for you personally was it?
MARCUS LEE: I mean, spending this time with my family and my brothers is not challenging at all. Once you see that glare in your brother's eyes when they're playing hard and winning games, you can't be mad about it at all.
COACH CALIPARI: He started at the beginning of our year. He was a starter. He got sick and it kind of set him back, then Dakari and Willie went crazy, both of them playing so good. That's what happened more than anything else. But I know he had it in him.
Q. Coach, taking you back to the Champions Classic in Chicago, I think you said that night it's going to be a long process, four?month process. What did you have to say to these guys that are freshmen, there's talk about being undefeated, to let them know this process, you can't shortcut it, how much did you have to??
COACH CALIPARI: I had to accept that, too, now. I started reading what everybody was writing. I'm thinking: This is going to be easy.
This was very difficult for all of us. It was difficult because my choice coaching them was to allow them the body language, the effort less than it needed to be, the focus less than it needed to be, at times selfishness. And now I became a little mean because we had to get it changed.
And the other thing I kept telling them: You've gotta fail fast, which means go play and don't be afraid to make mistakes so we can see what we have to do.
But at the end of the day, like I try to do with all my teams, you could see this team is empowered right now. It's their team. It's not my team. And I'm just there to maybe call a timeout to settle them down, to pick them up, to sit guys out when they're not doing what they need to do for their team. That's my job right now.
Their job is to go play and have a ball playing, and that's what they're doing right now.
Q. Cal, you said a little bit about the shot, but did you draw something up, did you want anything from Aaron?
COACH CALIPARI: We figured they were going to foul. So we had to take it on a side?out, which shortened the clock for us.
But let me just say this, and I've been around guys who make these kind of plays, and he'll love I'm mentioning Sam Cassell, and he always said: You cannot be afraid to miss.
He's not afraid to miss (pointing to Aaron). That's the whole thing about making those kind of plays. You can't be afraid to miss. If I do miss, I'm making the next one, and I will shoot the next one. That's where he is right now.
I'm telling you that when you look across this board at all these guys, they're doing this for each other. Like he just told you, I made that shot for us. And I wasn't afraid to miss it because our team needed that.
We're still not all the way there. We've got a couple of guys that gotta take a couple steps up.
He's played good (pointing to James), but not where he is capable of playing. So we're still?? we're going to go back and practice. We're going back to see if we can get better between now and the Final Four. These guys aren't real happy about that, but we are.
Q. Marcus, you said Cal said he believed in you. You went from not playing a lot of games to you were trending on Twitter as Slim VP during that game a little bit. Did you the whole time believe that you were going to be able to do that throughout the?? to have a moment like this in the tournament?
MARCUS LEE: I mean, I actually didn't. I was just trying to do my part to help my team win. And throughout our practices and our shoot?arounds I just got more confident because my team got more confident in me.
Q. Cal, two questions for you. First, you were asked yesterday about the road you guys have taken. When you saw your draw would you imagine you would beat a 1, 2 and a 4; what does that say about your team and also what does it say about your team that Aaron could make his last three 3s after he picked up his fourth foul, I believe?
COACH CALIPARI: The first question, you know, I knew when I saw what was out there we were going to have a tough road. Kansas State is really good, too, by the way.
When you think of who we just had to play, and the games were epic games, all of them, we got down in each of them, maybe double digits. Can anybody confirm that? Did we get down in double digits every one of those games, the last three?
And I hate to say this, they played better when they're down and I don't know why. They play fearless. They play aggressive. They get emotion. They bow their neck. And they want to win. They have a will to win.
And each of those games we got down and all of a sudden we're down most of the game and we come back and win it at the end. And somebody's gotta make a play, which means they can't be afraid of missing a shot. Just play.
What was your other question?
Q. Aaron's last shot and he had four fouls.
COACH CALIPARI: I stuck him back in. I took him out with the fourth foul.
Part of the reason was Dominique did such a good job defensively and I wasn't afraid to leave him in, I said, Go play.
We took James out, he was breaking down defensively. We put Alex in.
I put him back in at the end of the game and I'm going to tell you why: Throughout this year he's made huge shots and big rebounds and big stops. He's done it all year.
Now, he's broken down in the last couple of games, and I've had him, yesterday or two days ago he hugged Alex. Today he had to hug Aaron, who saved him.
But like I said, the whole thing about building a team, especially young guys, it's a process. And you cannot skip steps. You want to skip steps, but you can't.
Q. Aaron, could you go back elaborate when the Coach said it's his job to turn it over to you guys and you guys are now going out and playing and it's your team, what kind of empowerment does that give you?
AARON HARRISON: Well, before I think Coach was he was coaching emotion and he was coaching energy. Now he's just teaching us. And I think that we have our own emotion. We bring our own energy to the game, and Coach doesn't have to force that in us anymore.
THE MODERATOR: Take a few more.
Q. First to Aaron. At South Carolina, you just lost to South Carolina, a team that finished with a losing record. Your head coach's head had just about popped off his shoulders during that game. What specifically had you seen in that post?game to say we're going to write a story that's going to be a great one? And to the rest of you, did you think: What is this guy saying right now?
AARON HARRISON: I mean, I just felt that even though we lost that game we came together in that game. We became stronger in that game because we knew that everyone else on the outside wouldn't be on our side after taking a loss to a team like that. I knew we just had to come together. If we came together we could do some things.
Q. Question for Coach, any comparisons that you see with this team and the team you had two years ago, or are they totally different animals?
COACH CALIPARI: Totally different animals. You had four guys on that team that had gone to a Final Four and they went back with the expectation of winning a national title, and they convinced our other guys, Michael, Anthony, and Marquis Teague, what we had to do.
We're going in a little bit blind. But I'm going to tell you, we've got good skill. We've got good size. We've got good toughness. We've got tougher through football practices.
Now they're playing a little bit different. We're able to make tougher shots when we're getting bumped and grabbed a little bit.
But it's two totally different teams and this team is different than the 2011 team that went to the Final Four. That team really played through Brandon Knight. Josh Harrellson did his thing. You had DeAndre Liggins defending Darius Miller, Terrance, and Deron. The group of those guys were pretty young, too.
But they're all different. The crazy thing is I'm coaching different teams every year.
Q. Did you guys watch Arizona? Wisconsin in your hotel last night and your impression of the Badgers?
COACH CALIPARI: Raise your hand if you watched the game.
MARCUS LEE: We're not allowed to watch ESPN.
COACH CALIPARI: But they watched it, I knew they would have.
I hate to tell you, Sean's like family. So I watched the last six seconds in agony when the kid got fouled on the drive. And so I was like: Oh, man.
But these guys?? I'm telling them not to, but it's hard. They're in this thing.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Good luck in Texas.