Q. What were you telling your guys at half?
JOHN CALIPARI: Pick’n roll. We had to put it on tape, show them, talk them through it, say, This is what you have to be doing. Why are you backing away? Why are the bigs coming up late? Why are you not talking?
Again, we’re a team that’s trying to work all kinds of stuff. So they came out in the second half and played it. That was the one thing that hurt us in the first half, that right there. We kind of took that away from them in the second half. They had a couple layups late, but we were better.
Q. How long have EJ and Immanuel been back? Been practicing very long?
JOHN CALIPARI: EJ practiced a little bit in the halfcourt. Immanuel has been back a day. I told them we got to get through this weekend, then we got one game a week for six weeks. That’s when we start camp, when we’re doing some stuff in the mornings. We’ll catch up.
I think they all showed some good signs. Tyrese had five assists. That’s what I’m demanding of him. He’s capable of getting 10, but I’m demanding it of him.
I think Ashton still is a little bit undisciplined both offensively and defensively. He’s got to tighten it up.
Again, we only get six offensive rebounds. C’mon. It’s not like we made every shot. We shot over 50%, but there’s still 25 rebounds and you get six. That’s not acceptable. It’s just not.
I’m telling them, Whoever in this room wants to play more, offensive rebound. I’m going to leave you in the game.
Well, that’s rough. It’s hard. Can I just shoot some threes?
Q. Talk about Khalil, the message your trying to get to him, how he’s receptive to you?
JOHN CALIPARI: He’s just got to figure stuff out. Here is what I told all these guys. What got you here, you can’t play that way here. You’re talking about older players, more structure, the game is way faster, guys are in way better shape. The things you got away with in high school, you’re going to be uncomfortable for a while because it’s stuff you’ve never had to do.
He’s capable of being that defender and that rebounder. You saw some offense today, things that he’s capable of doing. But we also had 20 assists, which is why he and Keion and other guys had shots and plays. We finally passed the ball to each other.
The reason, it’s contagious. If you don’t pass it when you get it, I’m not passing it. Look, five guys out there playing for themselves. Today you saw a team that passed the ball and created shots for each other.
It’s like we got to show it. Then we back up a little bit and we hadn’t worked on pick’n roll defense in the first half. How did that look? Got to talk about that.
Our zone offense. You’re trying to get us to go man and pass the ball. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re throwing at these kids.
But Immanuel made shots. Great to have him back. The guy that made the difference is EJ. You would have never known he was not playing for a while. I mean, not having him really affects us. Having him, when he’s playing, he’s a difference maker.
Q. You’ve talked about offensive rebounding several times. What makes that difficult for these guys to go after?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, here is what happens. Your mentality has to be every shot that we take, the three, four and the five, sometimes the two, off guard, this is a miss. You got to train yourself every shot we take offensively is a miss, I’m going to go get it.
When you go get it, that’s three more steps you got to run to go back on defense, so it’s a little easier just to, I can’t get that, I’ll be at the top of the key and start running so I got a five-step lead on this guy. If he’s right next to me and he runs, I got to sprint. If they get it, I turn and fly.
We’re working on it. We’re doing stuff. Obviously it’s not taking hold. I’m telling you, if I get a guy that will offensive rebound, he’s staying in the game. If anybody wants so-and-so to play more, he’s given you the answers. He’s giving you an A, go rebound offensively. That means do not accept being blocked out, fight for every ball, and if you don’t get it sprint back.
How about if we had three guys doing that, which some of my teams were that way? We were getting 17, 18, 19 offensive rebounds, which gives you four or five or six easy baskets. Which means if you play how we play, it’s hard to beat us. That’s tough, mentally stronger, experienced kids.
Q. Why do sometimes teams not pass the ball?
JOHN CALIPARI: Because they’re concerned about how they’re playing. They’re all trying to figure out what they are. Immanuel is even trying to figure out with my mindset who am I now. Got to get him to pass. Tyrese went crazy against Michigan State shooting every ball. They all went in. Kind of fool’s gold. How am I going to play to create shots for my teammates?
You have other guys, if they’re not getting the ball because people aren’t passing, when they get it they shoot it. They take a tough shot, turn it over. I only got two chances, what do you want?
We’re not a team yet. But today we made strides. We made some strides defensively, too.
Q. (Question about Nick.)
JOHN CALIPARI: Nick is capable. He gets tired. I played him 32 minutes. But he gets tired. He’s not the same guy. But when he’s alert and active, whew. His minutes should be about 28 minutes a game. Those extra four, he fouls at halfcourt, exhausted, just grab the guy. All that kind of stuff, late to guard his man in the post, leaves his feet. All that stuff happens in those extra four or five minutes. Short of that…
I don’t know if you remember the play in front of their bench. The guy went down the sideline, he showed hard. The guy went up the middle on the dribble. Wasn’t his man. A guy drove baseline and he blocked it, all in one play. It shows you can do that, but not when you’re mentally exhausted. You need to come out.
We got the guys. We got enough guys. We’re not playing with seven like we did last game.
Q. Is the pick’n pop with Nick, is that a new thing for him?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. Well, it’s not a new thing. When he’s in practice, everything we’re doing, he’s leading us in shooting, then he’s going to shoot. I’d like to get more shots. Make more shots and then you’ll get more shots. Not going one for nine and say, Let me shoot more.
He missed a shot at the elbow. We ran a play for him. Instead of shooting the ball, again, it shows where he still is right now, he tried to drive it, turn it over. What are you doing? That’s for you to shoot. We ran it again, he made it. Why didn’t you shoot the last one? I missed the last one, I was kind of afraid to shoot. What?
We don’t have amnesia yet. We don’t move on to the next play. I keep telling the guys, shoot the ball straight. I don’t care if you make it or miss it, shoot it straight. Part of the reason we can’t rebound, when you miss a ball left to right hard, no chance of going in, it doesn’t bounce the way you can rebound. It comes off like a bullet. Ain’t offensive rebounding that, my man. Shoot the ball straight. You can’t miss left or right. You can miss, you’re not going to make every shot, just shoot it straight.
Q. This is a little off subject.
JOHN CALIPARI: Really. Surprised. Never heard you off subject (laughter).
Q. It is basketball. Next week, Thanksgiving, the Maui Invitational, you’re reluctant, but what is your reluctance about Kentucky playing in that?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s just a long way. I mean, we don’t need to play in it. Again, this is why we need fans in this building cheering these kids on. We played Michigan State. We got other games coming up. We always have a young team. You can’t play five top 10 games in your first seven games.
Okay, now we get totally rattled. Now you got a team of young guys that are 1-5. It would be okay here in Kentucky to be 1-5, wouldn’t have a problem. Everybody would be fine. The games pass me by, everything else.
I got young guys. We schedule the way the kids benefit. I know fans want me to schedule for fans. I schedule for the kids. At the end of the day we still have one of the best schedules in the country every year. Just can’t do it up front. You can’t.
These kids are trying to figure themselves out. You’re looking and saying, What about Keion, Khalil? Tyrese played, but not yet. They’re fragile, not sure yet.
We’re struggling against the teams we’re playing. You put us in that kind of event, traveling 12 hours, just not good for us.
Q. What prompted you today to have the message encouraging fans to come to games? Did you think that would be something you’d ever have to do here?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, I don’t need to do it. But I want the fans to understand the part they play for these kids. When they walk in this arena, these fans are for them, even when they’re struggle, it’s a big deal to help me build this team up. You help me.
The tickets are sold. I mean, they’re sold. That’s not the issue. The issue around the country, not here, but around the country, getting students to games, then getting ticketholders to make sure someone is sitting in their seat. Not just a Kentucky issue, it’s everywhere.
You think if it’s a little issue here, it’s a huge issue in other places. All I’m saying is we got the greatest fans. What if a player comes in here, an opponent, gets a 50-point game or 40-point game, he’s walking off the court? He’ll get a standing O from our fans. We got the greatest fans.
Everybody wants to play here. There’s no liquor, people spitting on people, throwing things, cussing, that doesn’t happen here. This is an unbelievable crowd. We need them here building up our kids because it’s still going to take some time.
We showed signs in the second half. We’re not there. I mean, we may be two months away with this team, I don’t know.