UK started off it’s quest for title number 9 with an easy win over Stephen F. Austin (SFA) Friday night in Rupp Arena. UK trailed 3-2 before taking the lead and never looking back. The Cats were out rebounded by the Lumberjacks but were able to force 28 turnovers. Neither team could get in much of a rhythm do to foul problems. The men in stripes called a mind numbing 51 total combined fouls resulting in 49 free throw attempts. Let me put that in perspective. That is 1.275 fouls a minute. In other words nearly every trip down the court results in a stoppage in play due to a foul call. That doesn’t include timeouts, out of bounds stoppage and pretty soon you have an arena full of people who are awaken by the buzzer for a substitution. It didn’t help much that UK big man Bam Adebayo played 2 minutes in the first half due to foul problems.
On the brighter side, DeAaron Fox broke a UK record with 12 assists in his first official game. Fox finished with 12 points on 3 of 9 shooting and 6 of 6 from the foul line. The Cats shot a dismal 5 for 18 from three point land. Kentucky placed 5 players in double figures led by Briscoe with 17 and Willis with 15. They were followed by Fox with 12, Monk 10 & Gabriel with 10. Humphries chipped in 9 while Mulder had 8, Adebayo had 5 and Hawkins finished off the scoring with 1 point.
Leon Gilmore III led SFA with 12 points and 11 rebounds. SFA never gave up but simply could not match UK’s length and speed.
Friday, November 11 2016 –John Calipari
Men’s Media Conference
Q. Derek Willis list your senior, really, 10 points, the way that your veteran guys sort of took charge of those guys early.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he is. We started him based on the fact that I just didn’t feel comfortable starting the first game out of the gate with four freshmen on the court. He proved me right. He gave up some offensive rebounds, what hurt us, but if he’s playing with that much confidence, the good outweighs the bad. So, Bam, we talked for a week about not fouling. He is so big, when he moves, he fouls. And I told him, you just got to be just be aware, you got to have high hands, you can’t be pushing in the back, you can’t have hands on people, you can’t go after a block you had no business getting. But that was a bunch of freshmen and you could tell. We didn’t defend, they shoot 44 percent, 45 percent, and we gave up some baskets. I liked the fact that we had 21 assists, 13 turns for the first game out of the gate. And that team denies wings. Kyle has them denying passes, denying wings, which could lead to turnovers. And so we had 13 and four of them were Isaiah Briscoe. So, he and De’Aaron had seven of our 13, which is pretty good, being that the other guys have six turnovers amongst our team.
Q. Did De’Aaron make up for his turnovers with his 12 assists though?
JOHN CALIPARI: De’Aaron, the issue for he and Malik are defensively and rebounding. Now I got on De’Aaron and he started rebounding at the end of the game. He ended up with five rebounds, I think. Is that what he had? Four? But Malik ends up with no rebounds? Come on. Come on. If you can put your head on the rim, you can go in and rebound the ball. So, those guys, off the ball, it’s typical freshmen stuff. Sacha, first game out, I thought Isaac looked a little more comfortable, mainly because he’s played here for a year. But we’ll see how we go forward. And I played guys a lot of minutes. Now we played three guys 30 minutes. And that’s a lot of minutes for — I thought Wenyen was terrific, too, by the way. I thought Wenyen played well. Could have played more. Probably should have played him more.
Q. That kind of leads into my question, for Wenyen to be in that kind of situation, how much of a surprise was that for him to have those kind of points?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, he’s been doing it. It’s just that — he has been starting in practice, I just changed up two days ago, because I didn’t feel comfortable starting four freshmen. But you know what I like is five guys in double figures, and the other two with nine and eight. That is how we play here. Now you say, well, they’re all McDonald’s All-Americans, they scored 30 points a game in high school. Yeah, you’re not playing that way here. The biggest thing is having discipline defensively and that’s going to take us a lot of time. Now, Stephen F. Austin, you got to understand, they’re going to win their league. I’ll be stunned if they don’t win their league. That’s a big team, they got good guard play, they shoot the ball well. You know what they did, they came in and fought us now. There was no, like they weren’t giving us an inch. And we needed that kind of game. And Cannissius is going to do the same. And then the game in New York, Michigan State just lost. So what we’re going to be playing a mean dog up in New York. So these three games to start off the year against or when we’re a bunch of freshmen, it’s going to be a rough go.
Q. Could you just talk to me about the way that Willis started out and then you also briefly touched on your guards rebounding, Isaiah only had one, your five guards only had a total of five rebounds and De’Aaron had four of them.
JOHN CALIPARI: Right, and he got those at the end. So, it’s something that we’ll show on the tape, but, look, I’m so proud of Derek Willis. He came up to me in practice to remind me of something we did in a zone offense. Like he’s the first one at practice, and he’s the last one to leave. That went from, I blow the whistle, we are done with practice, and he would run to the door. And I would say, Derek, can I talk to you guys first before you leave? And the last one — now, he’s on a mission. And it’s just, look, you build your own self esteem, your own confidence, it’s not what I say and what I do on the sideline, it is about you. Isaiah Briscoe has been in the gym working on his shootings, that’s why he made that three. Missed some free throws. Bam the same. These guys are in there, they spend extra time. But in Derek’s case, you know, it’s taken time. And everybody’s on a different calendar. Derek’s showing great maturity and it’s nice to have him and Dom to be able to say, look, we got two seniors that are in this rotation that are going to be able to give you quality minutes.
Q. Isaac said yesterday that he’s been working to develop some skills out away from the basket so he can play the four more and sort of be on the floor at the same time as Bam. He showed some stuff tonight that we really hadn’t seen from him, getting the ball up high and attacking. What do you like about the way he played?
JOHN CALIPARI: The first one he did because he just reacted to what happened. The second one he tried to do. Look, I really, with these guards, I don’t need you to drive the ball, I need you to finish. What I would say to you with — again, he’s in better shape than he’s ever been in his life, he’s bouncy, he now can guard pick and roll better. He’s in the post, he can continue to move his feet. He has better discipline than Sacha and Bam because he’s older. But again, that discipline defensively, we, it will, it’s going to hurt us as we go forward, but it is what it is. I talked to the staff, I mean, it’s going to be a process, I can get on them to hold them accountable, but the reality of it is they’re 17 and 18 year olds. And you got Isaac who is an 18-year-old sophomore and you got Isaiah Briscoe who is a sophomore. You got all young kids. These guys, they, I love the fact that they were not, they were like, man, no way, we’re not, you’re not doing this to us.
Q. Do you foresee — you said you had De’Aaron Fox play 30 plus minutes — do you foresee him playing extended minutes, being your floor general, much like Ulis last year?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t think so, because we didn’t have anybody else I felt comfortable putting the ball in their hands. We do now. But here’s what I would say, if he catches up defensively, he’ll play every minute he can be out there. But you can’t just be out there. Like I said at halftime, you guys that are getting the minutes, you need to sub yourself, be respectful of the other players on this team. If you’re tired, come out. Don’t try to just stay in the game. These other guys deserve to play, too. And that’s kind of what I’m saying to him. But he was really good today. He’s just so good with the ball, he’s long, he can finish around the goal, he’s a terrific passer. He’s special. You saw Malik come to life a little bit, but he still is too casual. Can’t be casual out there. You’re like this, you’re not like that, you’re coming — I’m coming after you. I have a wide open shot, I’m not taking a tip toe. I’m making it like I’m guarded. Give me this one, I’m jumping and shooting it. So, they — look, they’re freshmen, they have things to learn. They will be held accountable here in this program, they know it. They know they have to share. Other guys here can play. And they’re doing that.
Q. I know it’s ridiculously early, is there any one thing that you like to see the team improve on Sunday before you head to New York?
JOHN CALIPARI: Probably defensively. I don’t think Cannissius will play that type of man-to-man, which makes you play a little different. I’m glad they did it. What they do is they disrupt your offense, they take you out of what you want to do and make you play one-on-one. The issue is we’re pretty good at playing one-on-one. But that’s what they make you do. I think Kyle what he’s done with that team and he’s just taken over and, shoot, he’s done a good job. And now Cannissius, I don’t know, I’m glad they played us some zone, we got the ball right where we wanted it, we didn’t make the plays, but we’ll watch the tape and show them what was there. I thought that, again, I thought it was pretty good stuff.
Q. After the last game you said that you can’t play winning basketball without feeding the post. And can you comment on the progress that you’re making in that area?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I thought that we did okay. Dom had a play in the wing away from us here that the guy was wide open. Throw it in. There is no reason, don’t tell me, I don’t want to hear it, throw the ball into him. I thought the last play that Malik shot, Sacha was open. But you just got to show them on the tape. You got to show them — Bam got in foul trouble. Then I started the half, I didn’t want to go with Bam right away, because I’m like, he’s going to get another foul. He’ll charge, do something. So let’s just let him get going. Which is what we did. He was — I had him shoot the technicals. Why did I have him shoot the technicals? Basketball bennies. Just let him build his own confidence. And if he misses, good. Now what are you going to do? You going to cry or are you going to figure out how to make some free throws? I mean, you, he missed a couple more and then he went up and he made two. And now, okay, now he’s thinking good thoughts instead of bad thoughts. And so, like I said, we’re one of those teams that is so young, not enough discipline defensively, should be a better rebounding team, we got out rebounded. They had 14 offensive rebounds. They out rebounded us by eight rebounds? They out rebounded us.
Q. If there’s been one question about will this catch up to you, it maybe outside shooting, Mychal Mulder tonight —
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah and he’s got to do better defensively so I can leave him on the floor. But you have Mychal, I’m confident in Malik, I’m confident in De’Aaron. Isaiah’s shooting it better. You have Dom, you have Mychal, how about Derek Willis. Now you saw Wenyen, I mean — you can say that, it’s kind of like politics, just keep saying it, it will become true, just say it and say it and say it, over and over and over and over and now it’s true. I don’t think it’s true, so.
Q. Can you talk about the rebounding and they had 14 offensive rebounds.
JOHN CALIPARI: We’re going to go watch. A bunch of them were on Derek. A bunch of them were like on Sacha. Some of them were over the big guy’s heads and the guards were taking off. I mean, we’re just, we’ll go look at it. Probably something we’ll do on Sunday will be some rebounding things. To get them to understand that and we’ll see.
Q. You said a lot of this was building up your own confidence, how much of it is the mental aspect of the game for these guys at this point in the season?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, they’re just, they had 21 assists, so their instincts are good. We have enough in, I don’t want to put any more in right now, let’s just get good at what we are. We only have a few things, you saw us, I’m not out there running 17 different offenses, we’re just not ready for that. I’m more concerned about defense and rebounding and blocking shots. We had eight today, which is good, but they had five. So, like I will tell you, this was a good game to wake everybody up to understand, okay, this is college basketball. You’re not just walking, you’re not beating people by 80, you’re not just trying to dunk balls. You got to play basketball, you got to be disciplined, you got to create good shots for each over, you got to rebound, you got to be tough. You’re not fouling tough, you were fouling tough. Yeah, that’s tough, but you’re not playing now. So, all that stuff, you know, it’s just going to be a process for us. I have not watched any tape on Cannissius yet, so if you ask me I haven’t.
Q. What’s with the zone defense? Are we going to see more of that this year?
JOHN CALIPARI: It looked good, didn’t it? I put that in yesterday. It was pretty good. We’ll watch it on tape. We’re big and long and active. Got the ball in the middle, but, you know what, you get the ball in the middle and everybody’s big, it’s a tough play.