Tonight’s transcript from John Calipari’s postgame press conference:
COACH CALIPARI: I thought Alex was outstanding in the second half. I thought Marcus Lee was really good in the second half. And I thought Skal made strides. He’s not there yet, but he mixed it up. He dove on the floor. Now, he hurt his elbow, he said. But he did dive on the floor. I mean, so he’s making strides. I keep telling him, it has nothing to do with what you do offensively. You’re all seeing that’s pretty good offensively, but that’s not what it is.
We’re still a ways away, folks. I was happy about some of the stuff, but we’re not — we don’t come up with stops to put people away. It’s been all year this way.
I can tell you, Dan did a great job with his team. I watched his tape. They got to be excited about watching basketball up there. The way they play and skill guys that can all make shots. They missed some against us, but we defended and made them drive into bigs. And, but that team’s going to win a lot of games.
All these teams that we have played, like EKU, they’re all good teams.
Got to shoot a little bit better. Tyler and Jamal didn’t shoot it particularly well, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m more worried about us, how we’re playing. This was a game where we were going to play up-and-down because that’s how they defend. They let you get into a running game.
But I was disappointed in turnovers. We had 17 turnovers. Four from Jamal, four from Marcus Lee, three from Skal. I mean, come on. Most of that is just being tough with the ball, making easy plays.
Q. Coach McHale said that Alex is a pro when he wants to be. What makes the difference, do you think, when Alex wants to be and a apparently when he doesn’t want to be?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. We’re bringing out Alex? You can ask him.
Q. Marcus Lee, coming back from that injury, obviously looked good shot 5-5 from the field. What did you see out of him?
COACH CALIPARI: In the first half he wasn’t particularly — did well and in the second half, he played. I thought he blocked balls, he came up with rebounds. I even liked the fact Skal blocked somebody out so that the other guy could go get the ball.
But there was a late-game rebound that we really needed to finish the game off. Skal let the other guy get it from him and you’re out. You can’t be in. We’re trying to win. And even though we’re learning as we go, again, we’re the most inexperienced team in the country and we show it. I’m probably expecting way too much from these guys, probably because we have all been spoiled that when we step on the court, everybody thinks we’re just supposed to win.
The UCLA game kind of got everybody in check like, oh my gosh, are we that team or are we that other team? And this is what happens when you have inexperienced guys.
Q. Alex is a senior. Consistency should be a heck of a lot better than it is —
COACH CALIPARI: He’ll come out, you need to go ask him. Next question. He’s coming out. Go ahead. He’s ready. Fire away.
Q. Anything you would like us to ask him?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, you guys will all ask him. You know what we’re all saying. I mean, I want the kid to be the best player in the country, that’s what I want him to be. He’s capable of that. Made free throws today, he just — he stopped on one rebound and he brought it down his old self and he lost it. And then on one defensive play he knew he stopped and the guy drove for a lay up and he knew it. I mean, he eliminates those two, he plays like a near, missed a couple shots, but a near perfect game.
Q. Coming up close on the semester break, I wonder if Camp Cal, the no 20 hours, is that going to be more important for this team than other teams?
COACH CALIPARI: It will be important because, plus we have Tai coming. He’s 6′-10″, 260. Could he be the answer to toughness? Then the other guys got to take a back seat? I don’t know until we get him here and we let him get in there and mix it up.
But the other side of it is, we got finals, we got two practice days, and a game Saturday against a really good opponent who is playing really well right now. Beat Texas A & M going away.
Then we have finals. So they’re off Sunday. We have Monday, Tuesday, we’ll have an individual workday on Wednesday.
Thursday, Friday, we travel to Brooklyn and then they got Christmas and they’re off for awhile.
So when they come back, we have a couple practice days and we play Louisville who is playing really well right now. So we have no — this stuff is on now. Like it’s on.
After that, we may have some space. I haven’t looked at the schedule. But we’re going to do a lot of scrimmaging. They got to bring this out of each other. Can’t do it with drills. Let’s just throw it up and scrimmage and let’s figure it out. You want to take somebody’s spot, go beat them out, go play better.
Isaiah did some good stuff today, but he’s got to make free throws. You can’t go 0-3 and one was the front end one-on-one and that means your 0-4. You can’t do that as a guard. Plus it’s demoralizing. He’s a good enough player that you don’t need to do that. But, boy can he can he get to the basket, is he good with the ball? How physical was he? And he defended pretty good.
Q. You said yesterday, maybe, it doesn’t have to be Skal, maybe Alex can be the guy to establish that post presence —
COACH CALIPARI: Or a guard.
Q. Where you throw the ball —
COACH CALIPARI: Or a guard. It doesn’t have to be a big. You just have to be able to throw it to somebody in there and create some havoc.
Q. As far as big guys go, is he your best chance?
COACH CALIPARI: It’s early. I would like to have more than one. I would like to have Skal and Alex. I would like to be able to throw the ball to Marcus Lee when they try to be physical with him, where he spins and gets to the rim.
Q. What about the spark that Charles Matthews gave you off the bench in that first half?
COACH CALIPARI: He played good. And then again, they didn’t play him. Okay, so he’s got to figure out, what am I going to do if I’m not being played.
So, at halftime, I went right on the board and said, okay, they’re not playing a couple of you. Like, literally not guarding you. You must slash and be around that lane area where we can find you. Because you’re not being guarded.
Second half, he stood, he threw it to the corner, and he’s pointing to the post, and he stood there. And that’s the time Skal got tripled teamed by his man. And I took him out. I said, look, come on now, we want you in the game, I want you to do those things, you got to listen. If you’re not being guarded, you can still be a heck of a player, slashing, offensive rebound — you saw him get a dunk. But he did all right. It’s, like I said, he’s young, I’ve been tough on these guys, I’m driving them pretty hard, most of it is based on we just, we, if they can’t take me hounding them, where can they take an opponent? And every game, here’s what I said to them before the game, every game we play, the other team plays loose as a goose, and they play hard. Because they have nothing to lose.
And I’m telling them, we got to play that way. That’s got to be who we are. Because we’re not last year. This is who we are, we’re a good team, got good players. So that’s what we’re trying to get to.
Q. You mentioned that y’all are going to start scrimmaging more?
COACH CALIPARI: We have scrimmaged the last two days.
Q. And you mentioned the playing time is up for grabs.
COACH CALIPARI: No, no, no, no.
Q. Is it one through five playing time is up for grabs?
COACH CALIPARI: No, no. There’s one or two guys, if you want to play, play better and do it in practice. But you got five, six, seven guys, it’s locked in who they are. Skal wants to give it up to those other guys or Tai when he comes, then give it up. If you don’t want to give it up, fight, fight like crazy and go get, go get it done.
Alex and Marcus Lee are playing. Those three guards are playing. Who are the other couple guys? You want to play? Prove it in practice. That’s the old school way of doing it, I hope you know. That’s, like, how they do it. And then the other guys don’t play. Now, it’s, you know…
Q. You kind of talk about how Tyler is talking right now, the last couple games he’s 5-22 shooting.
COACH CALIPARI: Arm’s still bothering him. It was his right arm. There are times he doesn’t want to make that shot. We’re telling him, look, you got to shoot it, whether you’re making it or not, because if they’re not playing people, it’s the only thing can you do. But the other one was Jamal. Just missed a lot of open shots. I mean, and he’s a good shooter. Made the couple that we needed to space the game, but when it’s ready to bury people and put them out of their misery, we’re not making those plays and we’re breaking down defensively.
Q. One other thing about Tai, how far along is he in his development and when does he —
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know, when he comes here on the 18th — I don’t have any idea. I’ll see him. I watched him on tape, but I haven’t seen him in person. Haven’t seen him against our guys. We’ll see what he is and what he’s not and whether he’s going to be able to help us this first year.
Q. What does he look like on tape to you?
COACH CALIPARI: He looks like he’s 6′-10″ and about 260. 250.
Q. Will he play regardless for you or is it still a possibility he might red shirt?
REPLACENAME: He could red shirt, but the plan is, let’s slide him in there and go. But again, okay, we play on the 19th. He gets here only the 18th. Then we go on Christmas break. And he’s going to come back here and I got to have staff working with him over Christmas. Then we have two practice days and we play Louisville. Not probably the ideal game to shove him in, with two days practice. But then let’s just see where he is and let’s, we’ll figure it out.