Post-game transcript of John Calipari press conference after 85-55 win over Mississippi State.
Q. Where did Ryan Harrow’s ability to suddenly rebound the ball come from?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. But the last two games it’s been really nice. He had five at halftime. He ends up with seven rebounds. That’s 15 rebounds in two games. It helps your break. It relieves pressures from our fours and fives.
He and Julius (Mays), between them, they had 10. Between them the last two games, I think they had 25 rebounds between them the last two games. That’s big.
Q. You said yesterday it was a matter of whether you were going to try to establish how you were going to play or slide back.
COACH CALIPARI: I thought we went forward. I mean, again, you have five guys in double figures. The sixth, Jarrod Polson has nine points. We shoot a high percentage; hold them to a low percentage.
There were times in the game where I wanted more energy. It’s a 30 point game and it’s hard. I thought Alex (Poythress) started the game really well. In the second half (he) didn’t play as well, but he played well enough in the first half to give us a stretch.
Then I thought Willie Cauley(-Stein) did some great things, blocking shots and doing the things he’s doing.
We’re not the shot blocking team we were, but we had five again today. We had seven or eight the last game. We’re something that playing closer to the basket seems to have helped us on a lot of fronts.
Q. How has your team changed offensively since the loss of Nerlens Noel?
COACH CALIPARI: We’re opening up the court more, trying to play with a spaced court because we do shoot the three well. It gives us lanes to the rim for layups. We’re not full enough to play in a tight court and get to the basket. But that’s one.
Defensively, like I said, instead of funneling everything to Nerlens or Anthony Davis, which is how we played, now we’re playing more conventional defense on the ball, trying to take more charges and play that way.
Q. When Ryan is playing well, how much does that help get things into a pretty good rhythm?
COACH CALIPARI: The biggest thing it does, it’s like what Willie said: I’m going to do my job; you all got to do your job. So now Ryan’s doing his job, it makes it easier on everybody on the team. Julius is doing his job leading and doing the things he’s doing. Alex is playing better. It makes everything a lot easier for everybody.
I think Willie’s comment is the mantra we’re rolling with right now: I’m going to do my job; you do your job. Do what you’re supposed to do.
They’re holding each other accountable more. It’s less about me holding them accountable.
Q. Wayne Turner thanked you for how much you helped him grow up, get his degree. Talk about guys you know from ’96, that kind of thing.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I know him pretty well. We had two scouting reports on him.
Let me just tell you the best thing, they were terrific players. They sacrificed more than any team I’d ever seen. When you talk about guys getting 20 minutes who deserved 40 minutes and accepting it, it was incredible.
The other side of it is you’re talking about a very intelligent group of young people. Now you’re seeing that as they grow and they’re now men, you’re looking at them and what they’re able to do, you’re talking about a group that was really intelligent that sacrificed for each other, that never changed who they are.
Anytime I see them, they’re always kind to us and this program. I’m just happy that the university stepped up and did what they did. I think it shows a lot that we do reach back. If there’s anything that we can make right, we do.
Q. Alex comes out of the gate, scored seven points in the first few minutes. Maybe not sustained today, but another strong effort.
COACH CALIPARI: It’s got to be him doing it because it’s who he is, not because of the opponent or the coach or the punishment. He has made unbelievable strides.
But you’re noticing that like today, that’s a 25 and 12 day if you just go, just force your will on people, versus we’re up 30 so I’m not going to go out, that’s okay. That’s where he still is right now.
But he is way beyond where he’s been with his effort, with his ability, with his toughness, taking charge, talking, his body language. All that stuff has improved immensely. It’s good to see.
Q. How would you describe the trust on this team now?
COACH CALIPARI: It’s getting better. But we still don’t talk enough. When someone does talk at times to switch or do something, they’re not sure I should do it because I’m having to leave my man. Is somebody going to really have my back? So we’re not quite all the way there, but we’re making strides.
Look, this team, what we’ve been through in the last 10 days, you think about it. What this team has been through, what we’ve had to do to adjust to all the things happening around us. We had dirt thrown on us 10 days ago. The coffin was nailed shut and the dirt was thrown on us.
Now all of a sudden we’re like, Wait a minute, what’s just happened, in 10 days. And they’re feeling good about themselves. They should. I’m proud of them.
Q. While everybody else seems like they’re finding the rhythm on offense, Kyle Wiltjer has taken a step back. Have you noticed anything different with him?
COACH CALIPARI: Darius (Miller) went through this a year ago. I told our team, you guys have to come together, get him to do the things he needs to do. The thing we told Darius, instead of shooting jumpers, get a tough rebound, get a great stop, dive on the floor, you’ll get yourself going. It’s the only way you do it.
We need that from him more than we need his offense. Obviously we’re doing fine without his offense. But we need that toughness, rebounding, taking a charge, diving on the floor, so we can leave him in the game.
Q. Can you update us on Julius?
COACH CALIPARI: I think he had four stitches.
Q. No lingering problems or anything?
COACH CALIPARI: No.
Q. What did you think of the ’96 rings themselves?
COACH CALIPARI: I was mad. I think they were nicer than our rings. We let them design their own rings is what we did. What design do you want? They came up with that design. When I looked at it, I said, that’s nicer than our ring, that makes me mad.
But it’s nice. Again, I think they’re really proud. They tried to get back. The ones that couldn’t get back were playing or coaching tonight, couldn’t get away.
It’s interesting, these guys have stayed together, stayed in touch. That’s what this is all about. It’s fun when our players that I’ve coached here are the same way. They stay in touch with each other. They have dinner when they’re in town together, when they’re playing in the NBA, all that other stuff. It’s good.
I wanted to stay out. Was it really nice? That’s what everybody said, it was really nice.
Q. Are the rings only for the players or for coaches too?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know what they did with that. But I do know Scott Padgett, who takes every free lunch he can get, called and said, am I getting a ring? They said, you’re ineligible. Yeah, but I was still on the team. I want that ring. No, you don’t get the ring.
I know Scott didn’t get one. I don’t know if they made them for the coaches or not. They may have.
Q. On Mississippi State.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, let me just tell you, just so you understand, five days ago, now six days ago, they played Alabama at Alabama. With five minutes to go, it was a four point game. They had a chance to beat Alabama at Alabama. They played hard and made shots and played smart and did good stuff and rebounded.
But what happens is they’re shorthanded, so their game is this is going to happen. They’re not going to make shots. They don’t have enough guys to keep running people in.
What I said before the game, Tom Crean went through this at Indiana, had to cut guys loose, had to do this. He went through it and he came out all right. I told Rick (Ray) that.
I feel for you. I’m too old to go through that. I couldn’t go through it. But I said, you’re young enough. (Tom Crean) went through it and look what he’s done. They’re No. 1 in the country. Go for it.
Q. There was a play in the second half where Kyle missed a three and you guys are up 30, Jarrod hustled to the rebound, fed Kyle, layup. What does that say to you, 30 point lead, that kind of hustle?
COACH CALIPARI: When you look at his numbers, four for five, four rebounds, three assists, 20 minutes. It’s big. I mean, the kid relishes every minute he’s on the court.
I think it was last week Julius Mays said every time I put that uniform on, I know how privileged I am to have it on. I’m going to enjoy every minute of having that uniform on. That’s why I’m playing the way I am.
You would say Jarrod is the same way. Jarrod sticks on that uniform and he takes great pride in his chance to be in that uniform and doesn’t take it for granted. So I’m proud of him. Really all these guys.
I told them after the game, what we’ve been through the last 10, 12 days, talk to me. Who had to change what they’re doing, the grieving for your best player, all of a sudden you’re still alive, and now you’re looking at everything in the eyeballs and you’re saying, We’re in good shape. Let’s just keep taking care of business.
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