UK’s press conference after the 56-55 loss to Connecticut in Final Four.NCAA MEN’S FINAL FOUR
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with Kentucky. Coach, if you could make a couple of opening remarks.
COACH CALIPARI: Like I told our team after, I’m really proud of these guys. The way we played in that first half, to give ourselves a chance to win the game, which is what we did. Doron Lamb making shots, these guys fighting. In the first half, these three didn’t give us enough; in the second half they came out an fought like crazy. So we had our chance to win the game.
As a coach, that’s all you can ask of these young people. Give us a chance to win. They gave us a chance. We had our opportunity.
You know, it’s disappointing, but it’s been a heck of a year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. UConn held you down shooting in Maui and then again tonight. What is about their defense that makes it difficult?
JOSH HARRELLSON: I just think we missed a bunch of open shots. We had good looks. Me, personally, I couldn’t knock anything down in the first half. Missed a bunch of one-footers. We had a bunch of good looks in the first half. We just couldn’t make anything.
DeANDRE LIGGINS: I think I wasn’t aggressive enough in the first half and throughout the game. I mean, when I hit that three, I gave my team a chance to win.
I just think overall I wasn’t aggressive.
Q. You went into the half down by 10 and came back. It was close throughout the rest of the game. What happened in the locker room?
JOSH HARRELLSON: I just think everybody was a little nervous. Nobody on our team has ever been this far. They had some veterans on that team that’s played this far in the tournament. I think we came out tight in the first half. The second half we turned it up and I think everybody came out loose.
DeANDRE LIGGINS: I think we was timid, missing shots. They played better than us in the first half.
DARIUS MILLER: Like DeAndre and Josh said, we came out playing timid. We didn’t play as aggressive as we should have. In the second half, I think we kind of loosened up and played better.
Q. DeAndre, it seemed like you achieved what you wanted to defensively, making Kemba work for everything he got. What was the key there? What’s the feeling coming out of this game with that kind of defense as opposed to at Maui?
DeANDRE LIGGINS: In Maui we played three games in three days. I was fresh this game. I just tried to make him work for everything he got. He a great player. He made some tough shots. I can live with that.
Q. DeAndre, is this your last game in a Kentucky uniform?
DeANDRE LIGGINS: I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m just thinking about academics right now. We’ll see. I’ll talk to my family and we’ll go from there.
Q. DeAndre, can you talk about the last shot. Was it designed for you coming out of that timeout?
DeANDRE LIGGINS: No, it wasn’t. I should have drove it. But I hit a three and I got fouled and I made a shot and I thought I had the hot hand a little bit. It was a good shot, but it fell short.
Q. You talked about being timid and nervous at the start. Did you feel that at warmups or when the game started?
JOSH HARRELLSON: I guess it was just after the tip. We’re used to playing in front of large crowds at home. We sell out every game, 24,000. This was triple that.
We came out. I guess we weren’t expecting everything that goes on with the Final Four, all the pressure and everything. We just came out and let it get to us. In the second half, we came out and changed that.
Q. Josh, can you talk about what these last three weeks, playing so well in the SEC tournament, the NCAA tournament, has meant to you.
JOSH HARRELLSON: It’s meant the world to me, not only for me but for my teammates, what they’ve done. You know, as much as I’ve matured, everybody has matured with me. As well as I was playing, they were playing the same.
You know, it makes me happy because, you know, maybe I have a career after Kentucky now, which I didn’t have before that. That’s probably what I’m going to start focusing on now.
Q. Y’all really came together incredibly well. You integrated a lot of freshmen with your leadership. How proud are y’all of the leaders of this team?
JOSH HARRELLSON: I’m just happy, like you said, how well our team came together. Early in the season, we didn’t play well as a team. From there we just got better and better each game. A lot of people doubted us. We proved a lot of people wrong.
We fell short from our goal we wanted, but I’m happy with my teammates and I’m happy how they played and I’m happy how far they’ve come.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. You can go back to the locker room. We’ll continue with questions for Coach Calipari.
Q. About four minutes left, Brandon got a steal. If he hadn’t hit the layup, were you thinking about calling a timeout?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I can’t remember exactly the play you’re talking about. But we had a couple plays where his legs and what we were telling him at that point were, Look, we’re playing through you, you don’t have to score. Just get somebody a shot. Right now, Doron’s not missing, DeAndre just made a three, Terrence is driving the ball pretty well. So just play off.
Again, we had our chances. I mean, we fought back in the second half. I told them after halftime, We’ll shock the world because we’ll make some shots. You guys made no shots, you’re down 10, that’s why. We held a good team to 56 points. I hate to tell you, if we defend this way, they’re going to score around 56, maybe 60. I just didn’t think we would score 55. We’re a team that scores 75.
Again, we just missed some looks. Even the last one, what we said was, Brandon, look, we’re going to play through you. You got a bunch of scorers out here. If you can’t get it to the rim or get something you like, give somebody a shot.
Q. How much did Napier change the dynamic in the game?
COACH CALIPARI: He played well. I mean, he got in and did some good stuff.
Again, when you shoot four for 12 from the foul line, you’re two for 12 from three in the first half, you’re going to be down 10.
We came out in the second half and played and gave ourselves a chance to win. That’s why I told them I’m proud of them. As a coach, you want to make sure your team has a chance last minute or so with a chance to win. If DeAndre makes a shot with two seconds to go, now all of a sudden we win.
But, you know, they fought. I thought they did a great job. Kemba had to work really hard to get baskets. Lamb made some baskets but didn’t get a whole lot of shots up because we guarded him. You got to make shots now.
I’ve been doing this a long time. If you come in and miss free throws, a bunch of threes, it’s hard to advance. Just hard.
Q. Pat Riley once said in the NBA there’s winning and there’s misery. Would you say the same calculus applies or doesn’t apply to college basketball?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, what happens in college basketball, when it ends, you fall off a cliff just then. I didn’t know it till he missed that shot and that kid made both free throws. I thought if he missed one, the same play we ran, we were going to run and get that shot and it was going to go to overtime. Then all of a sudden he makes it and you’re thinking, Maybe they’ll foul on a three-point shot. You know it, you fall off a cliff, it’s over.
We just went six months, no days off for the coaches. We also went to Canada, so we spent another two or three weeks doing that. And now it just ends, it’s done. So for all the coaches out there, they know what I’m saying. It’s a tough deal.
Q. You all had a lot of shots that hit the front end of the rim. Josh talked about being nervous. Do you attribute that to nervousness?
COACH CALIPARI: We were tight in the first half. And, you know, again, we were tight. Our veterans were 1 for 12, I believe, in the first half. We still had a chance to win the game. We had our chances.
Doron Lamb came in. I told him the whole pregame stuff for three days that he was going to have a big game. I just felt it. I really thought he did.
But they were a little tight. First time out. So many days to get ready for this thing. I wish we had played and we had two days and had to keep playing, I think we would have been better off.
But give Connecticut credit. They played well. They defended us. They were physical. They blocked some shots down the stretch that were killers for us. Like, why did we just pull it out, don’t just throw it at the basket. There were a couple of those. Kemba saved one in front of me.
But that was plays Connecticut made, so give them credit.
Q. Talk about DeAndre’s defense on Kemba and how well did you guys contain him to make others do it?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, it was good. We played some zone today and we did some other things when they went middle pick-and-roll. We brought our four-man up to clog up the middle if they went two-on-one four flat or went to a middle ball screen. That was effective. We played zone. I’m not a zone coach. I don’t play much zone. We did today just to change up the game. All I was trying to do was let’s keep this close so we have a chance to win this thing.
We weren’t playing very well. A lot of that can be attributed to UConn, how physical they were and got after us. We weren’t playing well. I was saying, Let’s hang around and see if we can make a play.
DeAndre shot it. I’m like, Please go in, because we were just basically dying for a bunch of that game.
Q. UConn-Butler, can you assess it?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know enough about Butler to do that. I haven’t watched them at all. I have not watched a game that they’ve played. I’d rather just stay away from it ’cause I don’t know. Connecticut’s a good team, though. Butler’s a good team, too.
Q. How much was fatigue a factor with Brandon?
COACH CALIPARI: Probably. I tried to get him out before the 12-minute timeout. I told him, I’m giving you a break right now. If there was another spot I could have done it, I would have.
But he has played that kind of minutes all year and has done fine. But there was some anxiety to this game now. I kept saying, It’s just another game. I could say that all I want, but there’s some anxiety that goes along with this game that may have gotten to him a little bit because I can’t remember one or two games where the last three minutes he wasn’t at his best.
And I think he was a little bit fatigued. But, again, if I had a chance, I would have taken him out one other time before the eight-minute mark, but the game never stopped. It just kept going and going and going.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH CALIPARI: Thanks, folks.