Calipari Gets Ready To Travel To Arkansas

Calipari Gets Ready To Travel To Arkansas

On this week’s matchups …

“(They’re) both really hard games. Arkansas is playing as well as they’ve played all year. (They’ve) only lost one home game. Missouri already beat us. My team is getting better and that’s all I can ask. We’re trying to, you know, just get in a rhythm of how we’re going to play. The kids are trying. But, there’s no break in the schedule. When you look, I’ll say it again, eight or nine teams should be getting into the NCAA Tournament. Eight or nine teams. When we beat each other it should be good. It should be good for everybody. Because of how everybody is playing, no easy wins.”

On the type of matchup problems Arkansas presents to Kentucky …

“They’re going to play a fast game. They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s. The young, big kid (Daniel Gafford) has really gotten better. The last five games he’s playing his best basketball, which makes them a different kind of team, even though they still have four seniors. They’re experienced. They’re good. They’re a really good basketball team.”

On what the Alabama win does for his team’s confidence …

“Well, it helped us. We just had to win a game. Again, you start with Tennessee, we had a lead late and gave it up. We go to Missouri, they beat us pretty good. We have a chance to win at (Auburn). We had a lead with five, six minutes to go and give it up. Texas A&M hit us pretty good. We had a chance with Florida late. Like I told them, I wish I could talk them through an experience but you can’t. They’ve gotta go live the experience themselves. They’ve got to go through it and learn from it. They’ve got to grow from it. They’ve gotta get stronger from it. You can’t skip steps with them. It is what it is. These kids have so many experiences they’ve never been through. They’ve never worked harder in their life in the game of basketball. They’ve never been more disciplined off of the court than they are now. They’ve never been asked to do, both on and off of the court, as much as they’ve been asked. And they’re all freshmen. And then this league has never been stronger, and this is my 42nd year or whatever it is. This is the strongest, by far, this league has ever been. We have the fifth – I’m going to guess the fifth, maybe it’s even higher; it might be the fourth or the third – strength of schedule with all freshmen. So, we’ve thrown everything at these kids, and it’s all experiences. Now, we have to go to a team that plays really aggressive, plays really physical, bumps and grinds, moves the ball, shoots 3ss, flies for rebounds, has unbelievable senior guard play. Has a young, big kid that can play. It’s another experience for us.”

On Arkansas’ motivation since no player on the current roster has beaten Kentucky and with Tuesday being a sellout …
“It’s about like every other team we play – on the road and they’re all sold out. They’re all big games and, ‘This is it, we’ve gotta win this game.’ I would expect them to play and get after it. You’re telling me something with numbers and facts (that) I did not know. I mean, maybe they know it, but I did not know it. It’s going to be a hard one. Again, they’re starting four seniors, we’re starting five freshmen. It’s a hard game for us, but it’s another chance to learn and grow and see where we are. Competitive fight. You know, playing teams that understand what it takes. And like I said, they’re playing as well as they’ve played these last four to five games.”

On what he likes about Daniel Gafford’s game …
“Well, his length and his skillset. He plays – he’s so long and blocking and doing the things that he does, but the biggest thing is he’s not afraid. That’s why, you know, right now he’s averaging 16 or 17 and six the last whatever it is. His numbers are outstanding. He’s one of those guys. When you have someone with that kind of length and that kind of skillset, it’s pretty good stuff.”

On what things he’s looking at with freshmen going against seniors …
“I’m just concerned about us being in a mode, that desperate mode. I’m worried about watching and just saying, OK, are we moving into the roles that we’ve now defined for every player? Are guys accepting how they individually have to play for their team? Are they losing themselves in the team? If they are not playing great individually, is that really affecting their team play? Stuff that we at this point in the year, you have to get by. You have to get by all that stuff. So I’ll be watching, but, you know, like I said, my team is getting better. I don’t know what that means walking into Arkansas. Like they said, it’s a sellout. It’s cup night. You know, red out, white out, whatever they’ll have. You know, they’ll have students hanging out the night before, you know, sleeping in tents. That’s what happens to us. So we understand they are going to play as good as they play. They are not going to give us the game, so you’ve got to go and say we are going to have to try to take a game from seniors, and it’s a hard task. All we are doing is, like I said – you know, they are rolling into the way they individually have to play. And it’s become encouraging, and now we will see where we are on the road in this kind of environment.”

On the importance of ball security vs. Arkansas …

“No, it is. They are going to force some turnovers and they’ll force you into bad situations because they are really good at, I but you can’t have unforced turnovers. You can’t have guys just driving in and losing the ball and saying, ‘My fault!’ You can’t have plays that are not forced because they are going to force turnovers. You know, against Alabama we only had 13 turnovers but nine of them were between two guys and most of them not forced. When we played West Virginia we had six unforced turnovers in the first half. Well, you can’t play West Virginia (that way). That’s why you are down 14 at the half. You can’t play them that way because they are going to force turnovers, and Arkansas will do the same.”