Big Blue Links for Saturday:
- Kentucky views WVU as grudge match, writes Jerry Tipton of the H-L.
- Calipari can’t escape 1-8, writes me in my column.
- Terrence Jones’ shot needs to get healthy, says Mark Story of H-L.
- Players dismiss Huggins’ dominance, writes Tipton with more notes.
- Mathies still struggling a bit, reports Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader.
- Cal-Huggins tighter than 1-8, says Rick Bozich of the Courier-Journal.
- Cats-Neers to be a battle, says Brett Dawson of the C-J.
- Cal and Huggins are kindred spirits, writes Matt May of the Cats Pause.
- Time for UK’s freshmen to shine, writes Tom Leach.
- Poole has no plans to leave, reports Larry Vaught of the A-M.
- Cal and Huggins share a friendship, writes Nick Craddock of the Kernel.
- Different Cats get ready for 1-3-1, writes Eric Lindsey of Cat Scratches.
- UK Hoops begins last leg of journey, writes Guy Ramsey for Cat Scratches.
- A UK-WVU preview from Mark Schlabach of espn.com.
- UK fans still wish they had Billy Donovan, writes Mike Bianchi of the Sentinel.
- Long-time friends become NCAA foes, writes Steve Megargee of Yahoo.
- Bryant back in service, writes Bob Herzel of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
- Miller’s emergence has been key, says Adam Atkins of Tampa Tribune.
- This isn’t exactly a rematch, writes Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette.
- Uniforms are same, but names different, says Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette.
West Virginia’s eligible Turkish player, Deniz Kilicli, talks about his friendship with Kentucky’s ineligible Turkish player, Enes Kanter.
It’s been a very Champions League-centric week, so I’m glad to see the return of the Premier League this weekend, so we can return back to normalcy, which is typically filled with excitement and plenty of goals. Today, we have several enticing…
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After his Tennessee Volunteers were destroyed by Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Charlotte Friday, Vols Coach Bruce Pearl was asked by a reporter if he thought he’d return next season as Tennessee coach considering the NCAA sanctions the school will likely soon face thanks to his egregious NCAA – and ethical – violations.
In response, Pearl said:
I think our program is on very solid footing. We’ve got to go before the committee of infractions in June and it’s going to be difficult.
We made mistakes and we’re going to try to be accountable for those mistakes.
My goal and my desire is to be the basketball coach of Tennessee.
As everyone knows, the first rule of the NCAA is admitting you have a problem. (more…)
UK freshman Doron Lamb said that he twisted his ankle during Thursday’s win over Princeton, and that it was sore today. He said he should be fine for Saturday, however. He also said he did not know until after the game that he failed to take a three-pointer against Princeton.
This was a very strange game. It was a game that had you only seen the box score you would have assumed it looked far different than it did watching it unfold.
On one hand you had three Tar Heels score 20 or more points and two of those players scored 20 or more points in a half. John Henson covered the first half scoring 20 and ending with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks. Tyler Zeller pulled his weight and then some in the 2nd half posting 25 after halftime on his way to 32 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. If that wasn’t enough Harrison Barnes hit 24 points and 16 rebounds. Kendall Marshall dropped 10 assists versus two turnovers and Dexter Strickland chipped in nine points. UNC shot 50% from the floor and hit an unbelievable 31-42 FTs. The only complaints from a stats standpoint is 18 turnovers and poor three point shooting. In other words the offense was pretty good. The main issue was a lot of bad decisions with some of the passing and the shot selection became far too perimeter oriented. I imagine the film session tomorrow will include all those long passes which were intercepted. I think the issue most of UNC fans had was the lapses on offense. It could have been a great offensive performance instead it was just good due to some poor “mental” stretches.
On defense I am not sure the Heels played as badly on that end as the score might indicate. LIU took advantage of the UNC turnovers to get some points and it seems like anytime UNC gets into a game with a team willing to run with them the defense suffers a bit. Basically, UNC’s transition defense is not all that great or rather could stand to be better at times. LIU did end up with some open shots they just did not hit and there were moments where UNC players simply did not close out properly on three point shooters. This is the last game UNC can afford that kind of absence to detail in the defensive execution or execution in general.
Survive and advance is the name of the game at this point. If you remember 2007, a team this one has been compared to, UNC jumped out on Eastern Kentucky in a #1 vs #16 game. The Heels were up 39-15 and early in the second half EKU closed it to 48-44 before UNC woke up and closed them out. The common thread with this team and that one is both were putting mostly freshmen and sophomores on the floor. Youth in the NCAA Tournament often produces inconsistent results. In the case of this team, they seem to have adopted Barnes’ personality of playing good only in stretches. They also have shown the annoying propensity to play to the level of the competition. LIU is a decent team but when UNC went up 31-19 that half should have buried them then and there. It didn’t happen but it should be noted the Heels responded at that point and to open the second half. Consistency will be needed from this point forward regardless of the opponent.
Jimmy Kimmel sent his cousin Sal to ask average football fans about the lockout. The results are hilarious. (Via The Score)
Kentucky upperclassmen Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson talk about what they remember from UK’s loss last year to West Virginia in the Elite Eight.
After the UNC game
Southwest(Tulsa, OK): #8 UNLV vs #9 Illinois, 9:20 PM, TBS
East(Charlotte, NC): #7 Washington vs #10 Georgia, 9:45 PM, CBS
Southwest(Chicago, IL): #6 Georgetown vs #11 VCU, 9:50 PM, TNT
East(Cleveland, OH): #3 Syracuse vs #14 Indiana St., 9:57 PM, truTV
While UNC was playing you had Kansas-Boston Univ., Purdue-St. Peters and Xavier-Marquette.
The game writeup is forthcoming, until then do a little scouting for the next game with Washington vs Georgia. Washington knocking off UNC is a trendy pick but let’s first see if they can beat Georgia whose only losses to a non-NCAA Tournament team were to Alabama in the regular season and SEC Tournament. Georgetown is supposed to bring Chris Wright back making them more dangerous than their seed would indicate.
Oh do you think there is any chance Indiana St. can clear the road for UNC assuming the Heels get by the WA-GA winner?
Transcript of Kentucky’s Friday press conference previewing Saturday’s game vs. West Virginia:
March 18, 2011
Q. Terrence, in the NBA they talk about a rookie wall. Is there a freshman wall in terms of you sort of hit the wall in college basketball, and if so, have you had to fight through that?
TERRENCE JONES: I’m not too sure about the NBA wall or anything like that. You know right now it’s just a tough part of the season and every team is fighting to survive and keep their season continuing going. Right now that’s the most difficult time since everyone is fighting for survival.
Q. For Brandon, the shot you hit last night, how many times have you watched it since, and what kind of reaction have you heard from other people about it?
BRANDON KNIGHT: I’ve only seen the shot just once, and people were just happy I hit the shot, relieved that I hit it, family members and stuff like that, just happy to see the last shot go in.
Q. Terrence, Darius seems to have really elevated his game as of late. Can you talk about the boost he’s giving you going down the stretch and especially yesterday in the tournament?
TERRENCE JONES: Yeah, a lot of experienced guys on our team really have stepped up late in the season, just getting more comfortable and everything meshing together. The chemistry is better. It’s just giving us more weapons, and Darius right now is just playing well. And he saved us yesterday just keeping us in the game scoring 15 points in the first half when no one else really had it going. It’s just been great to have. He’s saved us a lot of games in the SEC tournament, too. He’s just helping us out as a team.
Q. Doron, I was just wondering, I know when you were going through your recruiting process last year, it was coming down to Kentucky and West Virginia, and I was just kind of wondering what similarities or any kind of good stories about how Cal recruited you as opposed to how Coach Huggins recruited you, if there was any differences or similarities, and what was it like being recruited by both guys?
DORON LAMB: West Virginia recruited me, but they wasn’t in my top five. Coach Cal recruited me hard, wanted me to be a shooting guard in the system dribble‑drive offense, and I liked his coaching staff and the fans really. That’s why I came here.
Q. You obviously want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season. Looking at what you did in the SEC tournament and advancing, do you feel like right now you’re really starting to come together or do you feel like your best basketball might even be ahead of you?
BRANDON KNIGHT: Yeah, we definitely feel good about that. And like you said, our team is really starting to mesh right now, and guys are really starting to play better together. So we’re really looking forward to the next couple of games, and we’re really happy to see how our team is playing right now.
Q. Terrence, did you expect it to be that way just because there are so many contributors on this team, you’re all freshman? Did you expect it would take until this point in the season for you guys to really come together and see what your team is capable of?
TERRENCE JONES: Yeah, I didn’t know exactly when it would come together, but I feel it’s came together weeks before now. We’ve been under like a seven‑game win streak. And I think in those seven games, we’ve had team wins and everybody contributed and everyone stepped up. It wasn’t just us three or the three older guys. Everyone had a big part and a big play to make an impact on the game.
Q. Doron, you made mentioned of the offense. We hear a lot about the dribble‑drive offense. Can you just kind of explain to those of us who don’t see it all the time what it means, what it is?
DORON LAMB: Well, dribble‑drive offense is if the man can’t guard you, go by him and create for other players but we do a lot of hand‑offs now because we play better doing hand‑offs, getting guys in the post like Terrence and Darius in the post, but we do a lot of hand‑offs now.
Q. I’d love for all three of you guys to answer this, but did you watch the game last year between West Virginia and Kentucky? And how excited are you for the opportunity to maybe give your fans of experience of beating them which they didn’t get to experience last year?
TERRENCE JONES: Well, I can tell you that all three of us were watching it together at the McDonald’s All‑American game. Right after the practice the game was on, and we all three were right there in front of the screen watching it. We seen the whole game and how they struggled to shoot the ball and to get them out of the zone by shooting the ball, and that’s what we seen at the game.
BRANDON KNIGHT: At the McDonald’s game we were able to watch it all together like bits and pieces of it because we kept switching back and forth to other games. We definitely saw how the team last year struggled to shoot the basketball and how West Virginia basically made every shot. It was kind of tough to watch that.
DORON LAMB: Just like they said, we watched it together, but I only saw the ending because I was playing video games and stuff. But we saw how they were struggling shooting jump shots and they were 0 for 20 from the three‑point line. But we hope tomorrow we’ll be better than they did last year.
Q. Brandon, I’d ask you a similar question that I asked Doron about the offense. Is that why he said basically it allows you to go past guys that can’t guard you, is that why it’s so attractive to guys like you?
BRANDON KNIGHT: Yeah, you think that’s one of the reasons why it’s attractive. It’s kind of like if you feel like you have a guy that can’t guard you, you just kind of go by him. And if someone steps up to help, you kick to the next guy and he has an advantage now because the guy is going to be running out of him and he can drive it. So it’s kind of just a driving machine, I guess. He’s a guy that can drive a basketball and try to create for other players on the team.
Q. Terrence, a two‑parter. Have teams changed the way they’ve played you as the season has progressed? I noticed last night you were coughing. How are you feeling today?
TERRENCE JONES: Today is one of the best days I’ve had. The trainer has really been taking care of me.
Yeah, teams played all of us different, I’d say, just depending on what the coaching staff sees in their scouting. I’ve been double‑teamed or in the post or just leave your man and come if I’m driving. But we’ve got other guys that have been making plays and really been trying to make teams pay for just focusing in on a couple guys.
Q. Brandon, you shot the ball eight times yesterday. That’s obviously not a career high for you. How do you balance in your mind getting other guys involved, running the offense, but also being mindful that you are one of the biggest weapons offensively?
BRANDON KNIGHT: Just knowing when to attack and when not to attack. At the beginning of the game yesterday, guys around me were knocking down shots. A lot of guys were finishing. Darius was on a roll. So at that point in the game, I didn’t really have to shoot the ball a lot. We were doing just fine. So in the beginning of the game, I wanted to start the game off by facilitating getting guys involved, getting my teammates going so they could be better prepared down the road to make shots and make big‑time plays.
Q. Could you talk about Darius Miller and the lift he’s given you?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he’s been really good. These last two and a half, three weeks he’s been as good as anybody. I told him at the beginning of the year, my vision for him was to be the best player in our league, and I don’t know if he believed me, but I didn’t change. And he showed signs of it different games, but there was no consistency. Then he’d go one game and get no points and two rebounds, and now the last two weeks he has performed. If we had 12, 13, 14 big shots like Brandon made, half of them have been made by Darius, big three, big free throws, big lay‑up, he’s made half of them. So he’s really turned around, and I’m proud of him.
Q. A lot has been made about your friendship with Huggins ‑‑
COACH CALIPARI: I can’t stand Bob Huggins.
Q. He said the same thing. Why do you think you guys get along, competitive people?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we’re from the same neck of the woods. I remember him when he was at Walsh College. I remember him even before that when he’d come to the Pitt fieldhouse in the old day. No one got booed like Bob. I’m not even sure he was allowed in Duquesne’s building because he screamed at B.B. Flenory very hard one game if I remember right.
Joe Fryz, who was a teammate of mine, ended up going to West Virginia and was a teammate of Bob’s. So I followed West Virginia closely because of Joe.
You know, and I’ve just followed his career. I can remember him at Walsh when he was getting it done, and I can remember him at camps going up to him. I was still a counselor, and talking to him. And our paths have crossed, and obviously we’ve stayed friends, and in this profession that’s not easy.
Q. On a similar line, Bob said that not winning a national championship in some cases or in his case, it’s just a matter of luck, or in his case a lack of luck, I guess. My question is: Is it really that simple? Does it really come down to that? Is that how thin the line is?
COACH CALIPARI: You know, it’s funny, I just saw Tyus Edney make that shot against Missouri and UCLA won that national title. Kentucky won it when Tubby’s team went to overtime and two bounces of the ball, one bounce of the ball, they don’t get to play Utah. So there is some of that. Some of it is just you’ve got enough players and they’re talented and they’re veteran. But luck plays a part of all of it. I don’t think ‑‑ some of it is the luck of the draw; who are you with, who are you playing against, and how are they playing.
I would imagine there have been teams that have not won the national championship because they played the national champion and they were the second best team. I can remember we played Kentucky. At that time they didn’t seed the tournament this way. That’s basically why they changed it, because we played in the semifinals. That should have been the last game. And we played a team with nine or ten NBA players on it. I mean, I had a good team, now. Marcus Camby, Edgar Padilla, Carmelo Travieso, Donta Bright, Dana Dingle, Tyrone Weeks. Do you want me to keep going and I’ll name them all? But I had a terrific team. And that’s part of it.
And I think, again, where you’re coaching, there are guys ‑‑ Jim Larranaga gets to a Final Four at Mason. Well, he won the national title. Won the national title. I mean, come on. There are guys who have not won it or have been to Final Fours that I think are Hall of Fame coaches. Gene Keady comes to mind. You know, John Chaney is in the Hall of Fame. So it’s where you’re coaching and all those things play a part, too.
Q. I was just kind of wondering with the relationship you and Bob have, does it put any kind of extra spin on it when you guys recruit against each other? For instance, like Devon a couple years ago, Doron this last year? Obviously you guys are close, but this is kind of a different spin.
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t take recruiting personal. If the families decide that they want to play for another coach, whether it’s Bob or anybody else, I move on. I don’t take a whole lot of transfers. So when kids call and say I made a mistake, I’d like to come, I never take them. You get the first round and that’s it because we’ve moved on to other guys. I’ve never yelled at a coach or a player for not coming with me, and I wish you luck and hope you do well unless we play you and I hope we smash you if we play you.
With Bob or anybody, I try real hard not to take this stuff personal, move on to the next young man who really wants to play for us or me personally.
Q. Can you clear up a little bit of the legend here? Coach Huggins insists he knows the story better because, A, he was there, and two, he was the one dying, but can you clear up the ambulance‑nephew story?
COACH CALIPARI: He was out cold, and he tells you he remembers everything? He was out. He knew something was wrong. He sat down on the curb at the Pittsburgh airport, and the ambulance comes up, and it’s my cousin. And he goes and figures out who it is, and we’re going to have to get my cousin because you know Bob does embellish. And he said, you know, “I’m Coach Calipari’s cousin and I’m here, you’re going to be fine.” And that’s when Bob said, “Oh, my gosh, I’m not making it.”
But that was the scary thing. Let me just tell you. I can’t remember where I was, but I flew back to Pittsburgh because I heard about it because it was scary. You know, because he’s such a big, tough guy, which he’s a teddy bear, I mean, he’s not, but he comes across like he wants to fight ‑‑ no, he does want to fight everybody, but he comes across ‑‑ but reality is here’s a guy, June was there, family was there, and he had the paddles, you know. And he’s one of those guys that now he takes care of himself, he’s doing what he’s supposed to, and it was just scary for us and him and anybody that’s a friend or a friend of his family.
But his story is my cousin hasn’t beaten you yet so you’ve got to live. Is that what it is?
Q. We hear a lot about your offense. Could you describe what it is, and both your players said the offense sort of is part of what attracted them. Why do top players want to play in that offense?
COACH CALIPARI: There was the motion offense where they double bounce the ball. We talk about Coach Rupp and his former players, Mike Pratt, who travels with us and does radio, said that all he wanted to hear was squeaking feet, and that ball was not to hit the floor.
Well, you know, it’s kind of evolved now. Now guys are more athletic, they can get by you, they can put it on the floor. You get to the foul line more.
The reason I went to the dribble‑drive motion was points per possession. I think your efficiency is better because you’re trying to get lay‑ups or open threes, you’re trying to get to the foul line. You’re not going to have a whole lot of assists, but you’re not going to have a whole lot of turnovers, either, so your efficiency is better.
Kids like to see it. They look at it and say, he lets them play. Well, there’s organization to what we’re doing. It’s not just, here, go do your thing. Obviously when they watch it on TV, they may think it.
The other side of it is you’ve got to be in great condition. You’ve got to be tough because when you drive, they’re not just letting you drive. You’re going to get bumped, jammed. Can you going to keep going or do you spin away and shoot fade‑aways. What it does is it unleashes players. They feel good that they can drive left to right. There’s no ‑‑ you can drive wherever you want and we’ll play off of you.
This year we’re running dribble‑drive, but we’re doing it different because we need guys to have a little bit of space so you’re doing some hand‑offs, some back‑cuts and different. We’re doing pick‑and‑rolls more than I have in the past. I never wanted to bring a guy to Derrick Rose, and now I see him in the NBA and I probably should have brought a guy to Derrick Rose. But we didn’t do it with Tyreke and we didn’t do it with John Wall. They were so fast and long and active, they didn’t need another defender.
In college, if you brought two defenders to the ball, they were going to stay with the best player and then you were going to pass the ball to a player that’s not quite as good, so I just kept the guys away.
This team we’re kind of bringing them together to create for both guys. So there’s things we’re doing different, but the concept is we want to beat you on the dribble.
Q. You spent time in New Jersey obviously. Did it pleasantly surprise you to see that Newark had evolved to the point over time that it could host an event like a Regional?
COACH CALIPARI: I spent time in New Jersey? They fired me; what are you talking about? Quality time? I don’t know.
Yeah, Newark, you know, you have to be a fan of a city that’s gone through what Newark has gone through, yet there are people behind the scenes that are very wealthy, very charitable that are doing everything they can to help rebuild that city. And I’m not going to mention names because some of them do everything they can to keep their names out of the paper, but there are people behind the scenes that have invested millions and millions and millions to try to say how do we get this back, how do we help these young people in this city. That arena, I mean, it’s ‑‑ what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it, yeah, it’s a great story, it’s a great American story.
Q. Just one more question on you and Coach Huggins. You two guys, the one thing you have in common, you both built programs out of nothing. But on the other hand, very few people are neutral when it comes to you two guys. No Switzerlands. They love you; they hate you. Some people say we love this guy and other people say we don’t like the way they do things. Are you kind of kindred spirits with Bob that way?
COACH CALIPARI: Look, you guys either put a black hat on some of us and you put a white hat on some of us and I’m not going to be able to fight it. I just do my job, take care of kids, Bob does the same, graduate our kids wherever we’ve been. We’ve helped them reach their dreams and develop habits that have helped them later on in life. They’ve all stayed in touch.
I mean, at the end of the day, 50 years from now, what we’ve accomplished, Bob and myself, it’s there, and when there’s no emotion to it, you look at what we’ve done in the communities we’ve been, with the athletes we’ve had, the graduation rates we’ve had, what we’ve done on those college campuses, what we’ve done to give back, and people will judge us that way.
Right now I’m just trying to win another ballgame. Can we win one more? That’s all I’m worried about.
Q. Your high school baseball coach will be there tomorrow. What did he mean to your life?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he was one of the Italian coaches, Ray Buzetti, Bill Sacco, Skip Tatalla, Mark Capuano, Jim ‑‑ we had all Italian. I got into coaching because I was Italian and I thought all Italians coached. That’s what I thought.
But he still plays softball now. He just went into the Hall of Fame for softball. They put ten a year in across this country. He and my dad played softball together. My dad is here with me, too. It’s just great seeing him. I mean, I ended up playing basketball. I played baseball and he coached me, and then I stopped playing all the other sports and just played basketball, but I was his bat boy when I was in third grade, and I used to go on the team bus. You know, then I went with Bill Sacco, I was the ball boy as a third grader. I had the clip‑on ties and so forth. That’s where I got started. I wanted to be a teacher and a coach because I looked up to my coaches and my teachers.
I never thought about college basketball until I went to college, and I thought, geez, maybe I’ll do that. I went to college, did that, and I said, maybe I’ll do the pro thing. And then I got fired, so I’m back doing the college thing.
Q. Sort of a multi‑part question, but this is obviously not your first time coaching a team that’s full of young players, but your team is really starting to play its best basketball maybe in the last three or four weeks. Is that something you expect to happen when you have a young roster like that? And how are they different from December and January at this point?
COACH CALIPARI: We’re an inexperienced team. My veteran players did not ‑‑ they weren’t the significant guys of a year ago. They’ve taken on new roles. This team has changed because DeAndre, Darius and Josh have challenged the rest of us and they’ve elevated themselves. The freshmen have been on a steady climb. They’ve been on that steady climb.
I’ve had other young teams ‑‑ really we gear everything toward this time of year, and we’re just playing to play our best. If that’s not good enough, if you hit a bad day, the one and done thing, but we just want to make sure we’re doing everything that they’re fresh mentally, they’re fresh physically, and we’re in the greatest frame of mind this time a year. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Historically my teams have been fairly good in March.
Q. What are you not getting from Stacey Poole that has kept him chained to the bench for most of this year? What is it that he has to work on to get himself on the floor?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he and Jon Hood both haven’t played a whole lot. Jon deserves the first opportunity because he’s played better and played better in practice and done more. But the greatest lesson for he and Jon, Darius Miller, Josh Harrellson, if you’re going to do the same things over and over again and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity. What Josh has done and what Darius has done is they have changed their bodies, they have changed their skills, they have changed their mentalities, which has changed the result and what they’ve done. And Josh didn’t play but, I’d say, 35 minutes, but someone told me today 88 minutes last year. That’s all he played.
And he came back, he’s in the best shape of his life. He trains 30 to 40 minutes before every practice, then he practices. We have guys that are the last ones to walk out to practice and then not the last ones to leave. Those are the habits that must change if the result is going to change. And so ‑‑ but I love him. He’s a great kid, and he’s been a great teammate. He’s done all those things.
We’ve been in so many close games. I mean, we’ve lost six league games by how many points, 18? And they’ve all been like nail‑biters, and now when you don’t play a guy here’s what happens to you as a coach. You haven’t played a guy for a while and all of a sudden you want to put him in and there’s a close game and you’re like do I really want to do that to him? If he costs us the game, what do I do to him? So then you get on a run where you’re not up enough and you’re not comfortable. But he’s a good kid and he’s a terrific player.
Q. Can you speak to the season long development of Eloy and how far he’s come from point A to point B?
COACH CALIPARI: Really gotten better. The one thing I haven’t done is played he and Josh together, and I wish I would have more because the way Eloy is playing right now, he and Josh both deserve more minutes. Josh, I can’t take away his minutes, but Eloy deserves more minutes. And if I was comfortable enough playing them both together, he would be getting more minutes.
He went into last game and really helped us. He went in the Florida game and really helped us. He went in the Tennessee game and really helped us. So he’s done ‑‑ he’s really done good, and I’m proud of him. He’s another one that hasn’t gotten the minutes. Part of the reason is the guys you’re playing behind are pretty good. But he’s done well.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Official transcript of West Virginia press conference today previewing Kentucky game:March 18, 2011
Q. Joe, obviously you had a magnificent game last year. Was there anything in the scouting report about Kentucky you thought you were going to go off like that and how does that build your confidence heading into the game tomorrow?
JOE MAZZULLA: Not really, just the way they run their defense, if we can get them spread and if we can get them kind of chasing us, then obviously we’ll be able to dribble penetrate and either finish or kick it out for shots. It’s pretty much the same thing this year.
Q. Joe, on the same lines, you admit some surprise last week when Marquette actually picked you up before half court and guarded you. And then of course yesterday Clemson did the same thing with everybody. Given what you did to Kentucky, do you expect them to pressure you considerably more than what they did a year ago when you played?
JOE MAZZULLA: Um, I mean, yeah. Obviously I think they were trying to speed us up a little bit and force us into making difficult decisions in the half court. But I’m not sure they’re going to get away from what they’ve been doing the entire season. We’re expecting them to pick us up at half court and really defend us, so we’re going to have to depend on our motion offense to, like I said, get them spread so we can get them to chase us and we can open up lanes for Truck and I.
Q. Question for Kevin: Yesterday Deniz was talking about when he catches the ball in the post, now he doesn’t even think about what he’s supposed to do, and I’m wondering is that a good thing or a scary thing for him? And also, did you see anything different in him yesterday that you haven’t seen the last few weeks?
KEVIN JONES: I mean, to answer your question, I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. I guess when he scores it’s a good thing. He’s just being more aggressive, and he’s not forcing as much stuff as he did early. He’s letting his offense come to him. We’re really going to need him in this tournament, and he’s going to be a big key for us on being successful, so I hope he keeps on playing aggressive but not forcing anything.
Q. This is for Joe: You hear so many things about Coach Huggins, you know, from outsiders. No one is neutral on Coach Huggins, they love him, they hate him. What do you love about the guy, the give and take? What do you love about his wardrobe?
JOE MAZZULLA: As a guy he tells it like it is, he’s honest. I think that’s something we all respect about him and I think that’s why we’re able to have a relationship with him because we know what we’re going to get from him on and off the court.
I mean, his wardrobe, it is what it is. He’s a relaxed guy, doesn’t really let too much bother him, and I think that kind of shows. He’s just a relaxed guy, I guess.
Q. Cam, on Huggins, as well, how would you describe just kind of how he feels about West Virginia, just the passion he has for West Virginia, seeing how it’s his alma mater? Does that come across when he coaches or when he gives it to you guys in any way?
CAM THOROUGHMAN: Yeah, it comes across a lot. Coach Huggins really cares about the state of West Virginia. And any time that we have a game big or we have a bad game, he always make sure that he talks about that and he lets us know that we let a lot of people down when we don’t play as hard as we should and we don’t leave it all out there. And also when we win a big game or we’re in the Final Four last year, we can see how much the fans really care about us. Yeah, he definitely cares about the state and he has a lot of passion for it, and he uses that to coach with.
Q. Joe, in the game against Kentucky last year, I think y’all held them to 4 of 32 to shooting from three point range. I know their three point shooting numbers have been improved this year. From what you’ve been able to see from them, what do you see as the difference in their perimeter shooting this year versus maybe a year ago?
JOE MAZZULLA: Last year when they went 4 for 32, a lot of their shots were contested, under duress from the one three one. We got them off of the three point line and probably a few steps back.
That’s just what we’ve got to do tomorrow. We can’t let them get standstill shots and we can’t let them set their feet. If we can make them rush their three pointers, and if we can get a hand in their face, then hopefully it’ll be the same result.
Q. For Joe, when you look at this year’s match up against Kentucky and last year’s, like Truck didn’t play in it last year, Da’Sean and Wellington are gone. They have a lot of new guys this year. Does this even feel like a rematch at all?
JOE MAZZULLA: I don’t think so. Like they have a completely different team. I’m not sure they have that inside presence what they had from Cousins, even though Harrellson does a pretty good job.
On our end we’re a much different team. We kind of spread the load out as far as what we’re going to do offensively, and we really have to rely on defense and rebounding. So I don’t really think it’s too much of a rematch.
Q. Kevin, last year Darryl didn’t play in the game, they had five first round draft picks, including the No. 1 pick in the game. Can you explain how you guys were able to win that game?
KEVIN JONES: I guess heart and determination and them missing shots and us really making them chase us, like Joe said earlier, and spreading them out, getting easy drives. Joe was a big part of that game, and I guess we’re just going to try to do the same thing this year and try to let our offense control the game from the start.
Q. For Truck, as a point guard, can you explain how you use Cam’s screens near half court and what that does not only to you but on the defense, as well?
DARRYL BRYANT: Well, that does a lot because that’s what Cam wants to do. Cam wants to get jump shots or to make plays. Cam just is a great guy. If you run down the court and Cam sees an opening for you, he will scream, he’s like run behind me, run behind me. He just looks for anybody to get them a shot, and that’s just what he brings to the table with the rebounding and everything else he do.
Q. Truck, just what it feels like for you to be back out on the court at this time after last year not being on the court at this time?
DARRYL BRYANT: Well, it feels good. It still was a part of something special, but now it feels extra good to be on the court at the time and just looking forward and really can’t wait till the game tomorrow.
Q. Can you just talk about the philosophy, Coach Huggins is always talking about how he’s got to be able to keep you on the floor and yet so many times you’ve had to slide over and try to defend and help. Can you just talk about your philosophy on do you be more careful because they like to penetrate a lot? Any different philosophy on that for this game?
JOHN FLOWERS: I really like to help my teammates, but sometimes I’ve just got to take a charge instead of trying to get a block. You can’t go for everything. I’ve just got to play smart and be aggressive at the same time, and I try to play too aggressive at the same time and some people call it stupid (looks at Cam), but I get a lot of blocked shots, and I like to get blocked shots, but I’ve just got to play smarter.
Q. Cam, when you come up to mid court and you’re setting those screens, do you physically feel or hear the guard that comes into you give way, or do you see it taking a toll on them over the course of a game?
CAM THOROUGHMAN: Yeah, definitely. Sometimes I get a pretty good shot in on them and they don’t see me coming, they hit the ground pretty hard. Other times they see it coming and it doesn’t really affect them that much. Either way, whenever they’re pressuring Joe and Truck, after I get them once or twice pretty good, they’re turning their heads and I don’t get to apply as much pressure. So a lot of it is trying to get our offense better. But I’d love to go up there and tee off on those guys like that. (Laughter).
Q. Joe, you talked yesterday after the game about Dalton’s performance and how it was a little bit out of character. How was practice today? And were you all going hard at him?
JOE MAZZULLA: Probably was just back to normal. We didn’t do too much for Dalton to be exploited. He did a good job of hiding. Everything was back to normal today. We had a good practice and Dalton was the same as usual. Hopefully he can carry the confidence from yesterday’s game into tomorrow, and that’s it.
Q. Joe, last year you broke a lot of hearts in Kentucky, and you can say what you want, but it’s a different team, but the fans are going to know you as soon as you step out of that locker room. Talk about that and what that game meant to you and your career, and they’re gunning for you because the kids that didn’t play were on the bench watching what you did to them. The freshmen said they wished they were out there, that they could hit some of those three pointers. Could you reflect on that? And do you know what you mean to the Kentucky fans?
JOE MAZZULLA: Not really. It’s not something I ever really thought of. You know, obviously last year was a great experience, but that was last year. And like I said, it’s a much different game this year and we’re a different team, they’re a different team, so it may not be the same result and we may not go about trying to win the game in the same way. We’re just going to focus on what we have to do to try and win tomorrow.
Q. A lot has been made of your friendship with Cal, and I’m just curious, why do you think you guys hit it off?
COACH HUGGINS: I don’t know. I’m struggling to find something that I really like about him. (Laughter).
No, we he played with one of my teammates in high school. He played with Joe Fryz. I’ve known John for a long, long time, long, long, long time, and we’ve been good friends for a long time.
Q. Are there more similarities than differences between you two?
COACH HUGGINS: No, he dresses, I choose not to. He buys expensive suits, mine stay in the closet. No, you know, I think what Cal and I have is from the time we were young is a great passion for this game. You know, John was the ultimate camp guy. He was at Five Star, he was at all the camps and just loved being around the game. I kind of grew up in the gym, my dad being a high school basketball coach, and so I spent countless hours in the gym.
Q. We, here in Tampa, were not at the Elite Eight last year. Can you clear up the story? There seem to be two different stories.
COACH HUGGINS: That was your loss.
Q. Absolutely, without a doubt. Could you clear up the heart attack ambulance story? There seem to be two versions: yours and Cal’s.
COACH HUGGINS: Cal wasn’t there. (Laughter).
I wasn’t going to tell it. Cal likes to tell it better than I do. Of course Cal wasn’t dying and I was. (Laughter). No, they come in and they kind of scooped me up off the sidewalk there in the Pittsburgh airport and put me in an ambulance and hooked me up, started pumping some morphine in me to slow everything down, and I’m kind of in and out of consciousness. I mean, I know I’m not doing very well, you know.
So I say to the EMT, I said, “How much longer?” And I was out, and I kind of woke up, and I said, “How much longer?” And he said, “Don’t worry, I’ve never lost a patient. You know, and I said to him, “I ain’t no old lady now. I know when I’m hurting. I’m not going to make it a lot longer.” So he says, “What’s the ETA?” And they said, “I don’t know, 22 minutes or something like that.” And I heard him say, “Abort, abort, abort.” And then I passed back out.
When I woke up he was a lot more serious about it. He was he kind of put his hand on my shoulder, he said, “Coach, I’m Cal’s cousin.” Now, Cal says it his nephew, but the guy said, “I’m Cal’s cousin. We’re not going to let you die until he beats you at least once.” And that’s the story.
Q. He has beat you, though.
COACH HUGGINS: I know. I don’t think he had then. I don’t think he had then. But what are you trying to say, I can die now? (Laughter).
Q. You and Cal go after a lot of the same guys. I was kind of wondering when one of you gets a guy or he gets a guy, just kind of wondering if that affects or changes anything or do you guys just keep going on about it?
COACH HUGGINS: If I was upset with everybody that we recruited against, I wouldn’t have any friends. Everybody beats us. No, I mean, we I think when you have mutual respect for each other, it’s we recruited a guy against Andy Kennedy, and AK and I are very, very close, as you know. What are you going to do? He’s a heck of a guy, he takes care of his players, he does the right things.
Q. When you’ve done as much as you’ve done in your career but not won a title, I think there may be some people in this business who that would maybe eat them up. You don’t strike me as a guy that’s consumed thinking about that. Does it drive you? Is it even a present thought? What’s your perspective on that?
COACH HUGGINS: I was at the Final Four doing a little speaking thing with Denny Crum, and we were doing question and answers, and the guy asked Denny, “What does it take to win a national championship, seeing that you’ve won two?” And Denny said, “You have to be lucky and you can’t be unlucky.” And he looked at me and he said, “That’s the most unlucky guy that I’ve ever seen in coaching.”
I mean, I don’t think if you followed basketball we were the best team in the country in 2000 when Kenyon broke his leg.
In ‘92, we lose in overtime to Carolina, who goes on and wins the national championship and Alan Jackson tore up his knee.
In, what was it, ‘95 or ‘96, I can’t remember one of those, when Keith LeGree broke his foot and we got beat in the Elite Eight.
You know, things have happened. I can’t control them. I mean, all I can do is do the best I can. I mean, I think it would be very special to win one for the state of West Virginia. You have to understand, unless you’ve spent any time in West Virginia, you can’t understand how important Mountaineer athletics are in the state. We don’t have professional sports. You know, that’s what everybody rallies around. Everybody rallies around the Mountaineers.
A year ago the governor had them put the games into all the workplaces. They pumped them down in the mines. It’s that important to people. So it would be special, you know, but I mean, I’ve been through a lot, so I don’t you kind of do the best you can. I guess the older you get, too, you learn you can’t do anything more than the best you can. It’s impossible to do more than the best you can. I can’t control and I couldn’t control Da’Sean got hurt a year ago, I certainly couldn’t control when Kenyon got hurt.
And I think the thing that just, I don’t know, eats at me, but the thing that I remember, you know, I remember going out and everybody made such a to do about Kenyon or with Da’Sean, and the same thing with Kenyon. And I went out, and he said, “Why, coach, why? I came back to win a national championship. I came back to be with my teammates.”
Here’s a guy who was going to be the first pick in the draft, and he could have very well said why me, why this, what’s this do to my draft chances, none of that. I went out and Da’Sean was apologizing because he didn’t think he played as well as he should have.
You know, they’re just quality, quality guys. Then you wonder why does that happen to quality guys like that. Why couldn’t it happen to a knucklehead? Why does it have to happen to those guys? But you know, you do what you do.
Q. Do you like coaching against John, and more to the point, is 9 and 1, is there any point at which you can needle him about it or he can needle you?
COACH HUGGINS: If you would go back and look at the games, the games have been I mean, we’ve just been lucky, that’s all. We’ve made some shots. We beat them in Memphis one time, I think it was a tie score, and we take a shot at the end of the shot clock, and we fortunately get the offensive rebound, my guy starts dribbling it out because he thinks we’re ahead and Cal’s guy jumps over and shuts him off to keep him from dribbling the ball back out to the top of the key so there’s nobody between him and the basket so he goes and lays it in. He didn’t realize we were up by two until they called time out. I’m like, “What are you doing, man?” He said, “Coach, I thought we were ahead. I didn’t know what was going on.” It was a tie score, we win by two.
Q. You don’t needle him?
COACH HUGGINS: No, we’ll probably play again the next NCAA Tournaments, so why would I do that?
Q. The Kentucky team this year is pretty dramatically different than last year’s. I’m wondering about the unique challenges defensively to stopping this version of Kentucky.
COACH HUGGINS: It’s kind of like I told our guys at halftime yesterday; we just have to stick by our principles. You know, you saw Cam; that’s my center. When you have when I had Kenyon, it didn’t matter. I had three freshman guards, and they didn’t have to guard really. He erased all their mistakes. We can’t do that, so we’ve got to be very fundamentally sound. You know, and for being as non athletic as this group is, they’ve done a really good job. You know, but we can’t get away from the fundamental things that we have to do defensively.
Q. If you win you’ll advance to play in Newark, and I know you’ve played there against Seton Hall and you’ve recruited there. Can you appreciate what that would mean to the city to have this event come there?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I think any time the NCAA Tournament comes to down in any city, it’s a heck of a deal. There’s basketball people obviously in Newark and basketball people love March. They love the NCAA Tournament, they love college basketball. I think it would mean a great deal to the city of Newark.
Q. You talked about being unlucky with teams that could have gone to the Final Four and won the championship. Besides the obvious trait of being really good, are there common traits of teams that do make it that far and that win it all?
COACH HUGGINS: Yeah, they’re lucky. They’re lucky and they’ve got players. You know, I think you get to a certain point where, you know, hopefully Cal is not going to out coach me and I’m certainly not going to out coach him, so it’s decided by players. And I think the further you go in this tournament certainly, the better and better the players.
And if you look, historically the teams that win have great players. They have pros. They have first rounders. They have lottery picks. And they make plays at the end of games.
I learned a long time ago, I started at Walsh College, and I had these 6′3″ guys and I thought I could coach. I was 26 years old or whatever, and I thought I’d teach them to block out and do all the fundamental things. Well, what you find is at the end of the game, those 6′8″ and 6′9″ guys go over those 6′3″ guys and rebound it every time, and I very quickly learned I’d better go get some players. That coaching stuff was overrated, you know.
Q. Going back to what you said about the defensive match up, last year you had to play almost exclusively one three one because you didn’t match up with the man to man. Do you feel like you can match up with them man to man a little bit better this time around?
COACH HUGGINS: I don’t know. We thought we could do a better job man to man a year ago than what we did. You know, we’d put Dev on a lot of really good players, and because he was so long, he bothered people. You know, John Wall went by him a couple times, and he came over to me and said, “Coach, man, that cat is fast. I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying.” He couldn’t stay in front of him. So he had to try to do something else. We didn’t go in planning on playing one three one as much as we did. But you know, you’re just trying to win.
Q. There was a debate in the SEC this year about Kentucky defending them this year as opposed to last year, and some coaches thought they’re more difficult to defend this year. How would you assess the challenge this year as opposed to last year?
COACH HUGGINS: I’d like to talk to the guys that thought that. They’re good. You know, I think Darius Miller has had a heck of a year, and Darius is a guy who presents a lot of problems because he can play in the post, he can play off the bounce, he can make shots. You know, this group has more experience really when I think about it. They’ve got some guys that have been around a while, understand probably a little bit better what Cal wants to do and to a degree maybe and I’m not in any way indicating they panicked a year ago, but you know what I mean, they probably just stick to the course, probably kind of like our guys do. I mean, our guys know to stick to the course. They’ve been around long enough and know what we want done.
Q. What do you think the percentage is on Flowers on him fouling his own guy as opposed to him sliding over and helping out and fouling that way? And with the way Kentucky likes to penetrate, I know you want to keep John in the game. Is that a major concern for tomorrow?
COACH HUGGINS: No, not really. Shot blockers make plays off the ball. They’re very rare guys that can make plays on the ball, but most of them make plays off the ball, the really good shot blockers, and John has got to get the help. Like our other guys do. John is our only shot at changing a shot or blocking shots, so we need him to do what he does. And he hasn’t really got in foul trouble blocking shots. He got the first one yesterday, but I mean, the rest of them haven’t been trying to block shots. I think he said what it was, if I heard right.
Q. Regarding your center that you just mentioned, his screens at half court, they obviously open up your offense and do some things, create space, but what does it do to the other team beyond basketball, maybe psyche, in terms of where their eyes have to be guarding the guy?
COACH HUGGINS: Honestly I think absolutely nothing. You’re going to probably if you run into him pretty good, you’re going to start turning around looking, you know, which alleviates some ball pressure. But aside from alleviating ball pressure, absolutely nothing.
Q. You are fairly animated on the sidelines during games
COACH HUGGINS: Oh, you should have seen me back when. (Laughter).
Q. Have you ever watched tape of yourself and thought, is that me? You’re saying you’re not mellow? This is mellow Bob Huggins?
COACH HUGGINS: Oh, very much so. Very much so. I don’t have any choice but to see it because we go back and watch game film, and so I don’t have any choice but to see it. But I don’t know. When I was at K State, we played Big Monday against Texas Tech, and I said to Coach Knight, “I don’t know if they can get all the cameras in the building.” We may have one camera doing the game because I’ll have two on you and two on me.
What you see on TV really the majority of the time is just because they have a camera on me all the time. They don’t have a camera on those other guys all the time. They have a camera on me all the time just waiting for me to do something stupid, and generally I oblige. (Laughter). Yeah, I guess yes would be the answer you’re looking for.
Q. I wonder if you could tell us what tangibles and intangibles Joe Mazzulla brings for you guys.
COACH HUGGINS: Well, he’s done a pretty good job of taking care of the ball for us, and he’s Joe really understands what we want done, and Joe understands where the ball is supposed to go because of his understanding. I could put Joe at any position of any set of anything we do, and he knows it. You can’t say that for all the guys on our team. Cam is the same way. I mean, Cam knows everything. Those guys have a they’ve got a really good aptitude.
Remember when they used to give us those aptitude tests, they probably told you to go ahead and write or something? I forget what they told me. I know it wasn’t be a doctor. But it’s to show you what your aptitude is, and everybody has different aptitudes. You can work like crazy at math, and if you don’t have an aptitude to learn math you’re never really going to be a mathematician, and it’s the same way with basketball. There’s a lot of people who try, but they can’t learn it. They just don’t have the gift to learn it. And Joe has really got a good understanding.
Da’Sean had a phenomenal understanding. Da’Sean came in and picked up all of John Beilein’s things as a freshman. He knew everything and then everything that we were doing a year later. But you don’t get those guys. I don’t get them enough, I know that.
Q. Obviously three years ago Truck Bryant came in here, into this program kind of raw and inexperienced. Can you explain kind of how he’s progressed over the years, and obviously he’s done a lot better scoring wise these past few years. Can you talk about his development and where you see his progression to this point?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, Truck got kind of thrown into the fire, so to speak, when Joe hurt his shoulder. Really truck was backing Joe up, and then Joe hurt his shoulder. We really had one guy that could dribble other than Da’Sean. Da’Sean was really our backup point guard. And really all of last year, because Joe could really up until probably a week or two before the Big East tournament couldn’t shoot the ball left handed, so Truck was kind of just kind of thrust on the scene, so to speak.
He’s gotten better. He’s gotten better. He’s a worlds better defender. He’s a pretty good defender now. You know, I was just hoping when we started practice, I was just hoping that maybe when the games started and the guys had their name on the back, he’d be able to find his guy because he had a hard time finding him in practice. I thought maybe the but he’s really gotten better. I mean, he’s really gotten better defensively.
Q. I read something where you said you didn’t have creators and shooters on this team, and I wondered if I read that correctly and how much you guys rely on physical play to get done what you need to get done.
COACH HUGGINS: You saw them sitting up here. They’re far from physically imposing. We have to run good offense. You know, we have to use screens, we have to set screens, we have to have good spacing. You know, we have to do the things that good basketball teams do, and we can’t rely on end of the clock.
A year ago we gave the ball to Da’Sean at the end of the clock and Da’Sean got something pretty good for us. We don’t have anybody like that. So it’s got to come out of it’s got to come out of offense. It’s got to come out of what we do.
And you know, we rely so much on whatever you want to call it, it’s motion, it’s passing game. Passing game means you pass the ball more than you dribble the ball. But those are the kind of people that we have right now.
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