On a scale of 1-to-10, 10 being the highest, how good was the defense?
We were really good defensively. We were really good. You know, the way we scored the ball in the first half, we were able to create a gap. But (Renaldo) Woolridge came out and makes five 3s, and I’m looking at guys, after he made two, and then he made the third, you’re like, ‘Are you not watching the game?’ But they were tough shots, and he made them.
Again, I thought we were good, and we played good in a rough game. It was a rough game. I mean, we played good in it. But again, you go back to Terrence Jones playing like he played physically, it makes us better.
Coach (Cuonzo) Martin talked about Anthony Davis for a second, called him one of the best, if not the best players in the country and said a player like him comes along once in a lifetime. Your thoughts about the way he played tonight and putting that in perspective?
Well, I had one already. I had Marcus Camby, so that’s twice in a lifetime now, and I’m hoping for three and four in a lifetime. But he doesn’t command the ball. I mean, he’s just playing. If you pass him up, he doesn’t get mad about it. He rebounds, he blocks shots. Today (he had) three assists, one turn(over). He’s a special player.
And mainly because he’s about his teammates. It’s not just what he does. Look, there are players out there (who are) really good players and all that, but their teammates don’t want to play with them, don’t like them. This kid let me just say this: He whistles and skips going to class he’s so happy. I heard him the other day. I said, ‘Who’s that whistling?’ and it was him going to class, just skipping like he’s having fun, he’s enjoying himself, he’s not putting any pressure on himself, he’s just playing.
When you look at Terrence (Jones’) numbers tonight, not like they were Saturday. What things did you see that you liked just as much as you did Saturday?
The biggest thing is he’s being physical. See, you can’t negate how we’re being played. Hopefully people watched tonight and know that kind of game plan even if it’s not coach wise, it’s player wise watching us, looking at this and saying, ‘You know, it’s hard to play them that way.’ But Terrence gives us a physical presence. He can score the ball. He’s a skilled player. He’s got to compete and battle, and that’s what he’s doing now.
I’m wondering with (Anthony) Davis hitting a couple of face the basket shots, blocking (Jarnell) Stokes early on, how much credit should he get for setting the tone early?
Well, he should get a lot, but again, we’re a team, and I thought a lot of guys did a lot of stuff. We’re not even talking about Michael (Kidd-)Gilchrist; he goes 16 (points), 8 (rebounds), and again, two steals, and he defends and gets a steal late. I mean, he’s just he’s playing. You know, you can go right down the line. Darius (Miller) and Doron (Lamb) didn’t play great, but they played good defense. And it’s not like they played bad.
We’re not going to be pitching shutouts now, so I’m happy with the team. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to keep improving. You know, we’re not turning it over that much.
We play and you saw us at the end of the game, we love to play fast. We want to play fast. But if we have to grind it out, we can, and we did at the end. The last seven (to) eight minutes, we just grind it out. We want to grind it, we’re going to grind it, so we can play both ways if we have to.
It looks like this team is really starting to come together and create some continuity among each other. Talk about that. These guys have only known each other six months.
Well, and really it’s less than that. But they have they want to win above how they’re playing. So a guy like Marquis Teague, who scored 28 a game in high school, is running our team, not scoring as many points. A Michael (Kidd-)Gilchrist who scored 25 a game. We’re not running one play for Michael Gilchrist, not one play. Well, we ran a slice cut twice, so I ran two plays for him. Whether it’s Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones or Darius Miller, veterans, quote, two sophomores and a senior, and they’re accepting that these freshmen are really good, yet they’re still stepping up and playing. So there’s a good thing going because they want to win. They like each other. They really do like each other.
The one thing I like that happens during that we call it Camp Cal where we’re together, they just get together and they get with one another, and I love road trips. I love going on the road because it’s just us. You know, you’ve got 11 players and our staff and that’s it, and we’re together for two, three days. So that kind of stuff helps this team because we are four freshmen, two sophomores and a senior playing most of the minutes.
You may have answered my question with that right there, but do you feel like just in the last couple of weeks this team has made a lot of strides, and if so, what’s been the key to that?
Marquis Teague. The guy that has the ball, if he’s playing well, you’ve got a chance. If he’s not playing well, you have no chance. Now, he can play well and you still lose because everybody else is playing bad, but they can all play well and if he’s playing poorly and you can’t win. He is really listening. He’s playing the way we need him to play. Again, we go 1-for-10 from the 3 point line, and he found guys, they just didn’t make shots. So his four assists could have been eight. They were wide open, they just missed them.
So he’s playing (and) that’s helping us. Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) is getting better, Anthony (Davis) is getting better, Terrence (Jones) is finally more physical, Doron (Lamb) and Darius (Miller) are doing things to help us. Kyle Wiltjer is way better than he was. Today Kyle Wiltjer got five rebounds. Come on now, we’re use to him shooting 3s. So they’re all getting better. But it’s kind of like having a quarterback and that guy has to get us all in tune, and he is. He’s doing really well.
Off the beaten path a little bit, you guys both have your teams to worry about, but do you have a chance to chat and compare notes with Matthew Mitchell, both being highly ranked teams?
Well, he and I talk twice a week. I’ll stop in the office, he’ll stop in my office. I’ll stop in his practice, he’ll stop in my practice. You know, he has done such a fabulous (job). He’s selling out Memorial. We played Alabama, sellout; Valerie Still was back. And they’re really good, like they’re really good. They’re fun to watch. My players love watching them play. Coach, why don’t we play a little like them, let us go a little bit. So it’s been a unique experience in that there are other programs that have had teams like this, but I just don’t know if they’ve gotten along like our two teams have.
You said a few times throughout the early part of the season, different times you said if this or that happens, when this or that happens, this will be scary. These last two games when you watch this team, is that in your mind’s eye when you would say if this or that happens this will be scary, are these last two games sort of what you saw?
I would. I would tell you, they’re different games. Now, LSU was rougher than this game, and it was allowed to be rougher. This game was not allowed to be rougher, but we didn’t make any 3s. Last game we were 7-of-14 or 15 from the 3 point line. This game we missed them all. Lucky we made one. What was the streak? We have knocked down the streak there. How many games have we made a three? It almost went down the drain today. Who’s the one guy that made it? Doron Lamb. I know it wasn’t Darius (Miller).
Is it overstating it to say that your guys are starting to relish that physical play you’ve talked about, or are they getting much closer to where you were?
We had our guards at times. Doron (Lamb) went in there, Darius (Miller), there’s still plays you’ve got one where Terrence (Jones) went baseline and (Skylar) McBee kind of pushed him and he never got to the rim. Come on now, that’s got to be a dunk. Just go dunk the ball. So we’re still not there.
What they did to Anthony Davis is absolutely when he caught the ball at the top of the key, mushed it, and again, that means toughness, and he just got rid of the ball a couple times. He wasn’t ready to really be physical. So we’ve got a long way to go with that. But we’ve made strides.
Earlier today the task force recommended a renovation rather than a new (Rupp) Arena. What was your thoughts on that and the tentative plans for the renovation?
I just heard about it on the way to the game. DeWayne (Peevy) called me and told me. I’m fine. Look, whatever is good for our city is good for our university, and whatever is good for the university is good for the city. That being said, we need to rebuild our campus, too, so I would encourage all the state legislators. This is the flagship campus. We have 500 new beds out of 6,000, 50 year old dorms, 60 year old dorms. We need new classrooms. They need to rebuild the campus, and they need to do it over a four or five year period ASAP. And now they build a place down there? If that’s what they choose to do, rebuild Rupp, I’m fine, because it’s good for our city. But whatever is good for our university is also good for our city.
Again, I’m not in the middle of it. What do they say, ‘My name is Bennett, and I ain’t in it’, so I’m good.