Much to the chagrin of a certain spectacularly-haired beat writer, no UK players were made available for postgame interviews after the win over Loyola Maryland. Coach Cal, however, did talk to the media after the game. Here’s some of what he had to say (via UK Athletics):
Q. Could you talk about what Kyle (Wiltjer) did offensively and then what you still need him to do defensively to give him an opportunity to do those things more?
Well, one, we’ve got to help him defensively. I mean, we’ve got to do some schemes with him because there are certain match-ups that he’s just not ready to go with. But we need that shooting and that scoring on the floor. So I’ve got to come up with some schemes to help him.
I was really happy because he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well last game, and in the last huddle I said, we’re going to see what this kid is made of. He hasn’t been close to making a shot. We’re going to give him another one I want to see. And he swished it. I think the kid has a toughness at heart, but we’re just going to have to help him. I’ve got to get him to take more charges, not going to block shots, charge, block out more, and then when he’s in the post we’ve got to do some things.
But let me say this first of all about Loyola: I knew it would be a hard game. They were 8-2. I watched the tapes. I knew it would be a hard game. They’re athletic and tough and older than us, and they weren’t afraid. They came right after us.
I’m going to say they’ll probably win their league. I mean, that’s what I think they’ll do. You know, from the 3-point line I was scared to death because I knew they had some guys that could launch 3s, but I thought we did a fairly good job.
Here’s — just so you understand, when we break down on a 3-point shot, a guy goes under a screen, a guy goes under a handoff, they make them all against us. If we don’t get a rebound that we should and they kick it out and there are open 3s, teams are making all of those against us. In transition, we don’t match down, they are making them. They’re not making the ones we guard.
We have to be focused each time now, which we’re not because we’re young, to be able to say, ‘Hey, get up on these guys.’ But they defended, I loved that they played us a little zone, I loved that they did some things on the out-of-bounds plays to make us think, and I love that they played a power game against us because it’s what we needed.
Q. You said it helps when you guys need the shooting and scoring on the floor from Kyle (Wiltjer). What difference does that make when he’s doing —
Stretches out the defense. I mean, it really, really stretches out the defense. But we — you know, in the first half we had no toughness. We had guys — other than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis, no one even tried to rebound. Darius Miller had one rebound, and had a couple where his man ran right by him and just laid it in. Doron Lamb had a rebound, Marquis Teague had one rebound. No one rebounded except those other two. They had almost every rebound. Well, we can’t be that way, and that’s why they rebounded against us in the first half.
So the toughness kind of jumped up at us a little bit, but at the end of the day, we had some pretty much balanced scoring, and we’re doing some good things.
Let me just say this: We all need a break. I mean, what I said to them after, I’m fighting guys too much, and I’m not fighting Anthony (Davis) and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) because they’re just getting after it. But I’m fighting my point guard to be a point guard, I’m fighting Darius (Miller) to be tougher, fighting Kyle (Wiltjer) for defense and fighting Eloy (Vargas) to come up with balls. You can’t — they’ve got to want that stuff more than I want it. But we all need a little break.
I knew this would be a hard game, one, because of the opponent, and Jimmy (Patsos) is a terrific coach, the way they play and what he does. They had a chance of being up at half.
Q. What can you say about Michael’s (Kidd-Gilchrist) mother? I know there was some tweeting and stuff, and his play despite whatever that situation.
Well, we were trying to figure out whether we should send him home this morning early, and we just — the way and what she’s going through right now, it wasn’t so immediate that there was going to be things done today. It’s in the early process, and like I said, I hope that what we find out is all good. But I would say, again, the Big Blue Nation prayers are strong, and I would say everybody say a prayer for his mother and their family.
Q. Talk about the way that Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) played. Jimmy talked about he was surprised and thought maybe they actually had a mismatch or an advantage at that position, that he kind of underestimated him. Is it hard for you to imagine anybody underestimating Michael with what he’s done?
I’ll be honest with you; he’s dragging our team, which is great stuff. He’s dragging us. He’s doing it whether it’s rebounding, scoring, making free throws, making 3s when he has to. In transition if you give it to him ahead of the pack and it’s him and one guy, he’s scoring 99.9 percent of the time or he’s going to get fouled. You know, he drags us in practice, he drags us in morning workouts. He means so much, it’s becoming — I said this this morning: My job as a coach is to teach all these young people how to lead, but as your season goes on, a couple of leaders will stand out amongst that group.
Teaching players how to lead starts with leading and serving. The second part of it is you lead by example, you don’t lead by talk. And then you’ve got to go on the court and perform to lead. So they’ve got to look at you with confidence for you to lead. Well, I’d like to have 12 leaders. Now, one or two at a time are leading, but I’d like to have 12 guys capable. That means I’ve done my job teaching young people what it takes to lead in whatever organization they’re in.
Q: Closing statement …
Merry Christmas to all of you here and to all of our fans out there. Let’s catch our breath and come back. We have one third of our season gone. Can you imagine, we still have two thirds to go? We’ve got a long way to go with this team.
To this point I’m happy, even though I’m dragging some of these guys more than I want to. At the end of the day, I like my team. I’ve got a good team. And when we click and we all come together and we’re all playing aggressive and we’re all bouncing and talking and we’re all making easy plays, this stuff gets scary. We’re not close to that right now. But this thing could get scary. Thanks.
Emphasis on that last line is mine. I can’t wait for it to get scary.