Before Kentucky faces off against Kansas Coach John Calipari and players Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson talk about the match up.

John Calipari 

Reid Travis 

Keldon Johnson 

Transcript from UK Athletics 

Head Coach John Calipari

On Keldon Johnson being the most amped up guy during games and Reid Travis being the most calm …

“This is one where we’ll learn about each other –  who’s amped up, who’s calmed down. This is the kind of game you do that. So, we’ll see. They’re (Kansas) going to come in – they’re terrific. They’re a top-10 team. (Dedric) Lawson is as good as we’re going to play against. He’s averaging 25 and 15 the last five games. Guard play is good. They shoot the ball with (Lagerald) Vick. They kind of play like us. They’re not going to shoot as many 3s, but they attack that rim and they rebound the ball. Our staff said, [mumbles]. They’re a top-10 defensive team. What do they do well to be a top-10 defensive team? Don’t tell me they can’t do this. They’re a top-10 (team)! So, we know they’re going to be good and I just want to see where we are at this point against that kind of team.”

On if wealth of numbers will help against Dedric Lawson …

“I’ve seen him play 30-38 minutes a game and he’s averaging 25 and whatever, 15, and 29 and 18 last game. They threw six different guys at him, so I’m not sure that’s affecting him.”

On why this is a good game to get a feel for this Kentucky team …

“Because this is a team you’ll be playing if you’re lucky enough to get into the tournament and advance. At some point you’ll play a team like this so let’s see how good we are. Right now, again, them being more of a veteran team, they’ll be a little bit advanced in what they’re running, their execution, probably sustaining effort where we have those break downs and let teams back in the game. We do it, and at some point they’ve got to learn it’s going to end your season if you play that way. It’ll be a good challenge for us.” 

On if Kansas feels like a conference game playing the Jayhawks nearly every recently …

“I don’t know if we play them every year, but this (SEC/Big 12) Challenge has given us that game. We play them in the Champions (Classic) every third year.”

On where the improvements have been made defensively …

“Mainly on the ball. I said we were playing a pick-up game down in the Bahamas and everybody got excited. We were playing 19-year-olds who couldn’t beat us on a dribble and the ones who could did. We were getting beat on straight-line drives 25 times a game, and I kept saying you can’t play this way. It wasn’t what we’ve been doing offensively; it was that we couldn’t guard anybody. And the main reason we couldn’t stay in front of anybody. Now, we’re starting to learn what a college team has to do to defend and be in games, and we’re starting to get better. But because they are being more confident defensively, they’re becoming more confident offensively because they aren’t getting smashed. They’re just getting drive and dunk on you. ‘Wow watch me down the other end.’ It doesn’t happen that way. And so now, you’re going to play a team that is trying to drive the ball. They are going to ball fake you, they are going to drive the ball, they are going to drive the ball or they are going to throw it to Lawson. They can make 3s, make shots. They could go for 30. But, you know what they do. They want breakouts. They want to get those kind of baskets, the same stuff that Auburn did. Second half we broke down, gave Auburn a chance. Made probably five baskets in transition, six. They didn’t have any in the first half. We know that that is what this team does. They are a top-10 team. Last time I think they were in this building they beat us, I believe. They’re not coming in here afraid.”

On Kansas’ point guards turning it over in their three losses and what that means for Ashton Hagans …

“Yeah, but like I said, he’s just got to play how he’s been playing. You may have to make a shot. Historically they’ll throw defenses at us a bunch, a triangle-and-two, a funky zone to try and get you off pace, so hopefully we’ll be prepared for that. You now, he’s going to have to keep playing how he is and keep pushing the pace, being a creator of shots for us. He’s been getting four or five turnovers a game himself so.”

On the concern for fans to show up for ESPN College GameDay.

“The only thing to be concerned about is the parking and all to get to the arena. It’s like crazy right now. Someone says the crowd is late arriving. Yeah they’ve been here for 30 minutes; they can’t get in the building. So, that’s made it tough, but no, I think our fans will come. Juts reminding them that it’s a big deal and let’s take advantage of it.”

On what he meant by saying the team was vulnerable …

“Just that we’re playing a really good team and we’re vulnerable to that so let’s see how we do.”

On how he thinks they will match up if Kansas goes to four guards …

“We could go Keldon at four, we could do that one big and Keldon at the four and play. So we have stuff in it if we need to go that route we can do it.”

On the puzzle with EJ Montgomery …

“He’s better. Last game was better. This game will be a rough-house game. It’s the only thing between him and breaking through and people saying, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Like, you can’t get knocked down. You can’t. It’s a dog fight and you’ve got to grab it. You can’t fumble a rebound because it got rough. Bring them in because our whole team – I said, ‘Well, how are your skills?’ Off the charts. So it has nothing to do with your skill. How is he defensively guarding the ball? Pretty good. Blocking shots. So what’s the difference? What’s keeping him where he is? What’s taking away his confidence? He’s getting roughed up. But every team we’ve played for the las t10 years have said the same thing. They’ve got young players, rough them up, be physical. So our guys over a period of time have had to learn to play that way because they’re coming in with that idea.”

On if Travis has been a good answer to that this season …

“Yeah, I just wish – I think (Grant) Williams had 23 foul shots. I think they’re exactly the same kind of player. We throw him the ball a lot; he just doesn’t seem to get 23 foul shots. He’s seems to get one or two.”

On why Travis is only getting a couple fouls shots …
“I have no idea. He (Williams) is a very good player. He’s a very good player. Twenty-three foul shots. That’s a pretty good number.”

On how PJ Washington playing well offensively early sets the tone for him in other areas …

“Well, he’s going to be guarding a guy that can really bounce the ball. And if you’re getting beat or grabbing and holding, you’re not going to be confident offensively. What you didn’t bring out basketball wise: If you saw him run the floor in this game – we put it on film. If you’re that fast, why don’t you run that way all the time? Run that way every single time or else take yourself out. Same with Keldon; he ran so hard that last game. We told him this how fast you are. I can’t believe it. Why don’t you run like that all the time if you can run like that? I mean, all this stuff; the energy you play with is your responsibility. You can’t expect coaches to bring it out of you. You’re responsible for that. This is a game that if I have to talk energy there is no shot we win the game. This will be an energy game.”

On if College GameDay affects the players …

“I don’t think so. They don’t go down there. They don’t see it. I don’t think it does, but it’s great for our fans. It’s great for the people to see. It’s funny, that building, whatever’s in it, most of them don’t have tickets to the game. And then there will be 24,000 at the game and whatever thousand, 20,000, is at that thing. You think about it, one day. It’s a pretty big deal.”

On what makes Bill Self a good coach and what his teams usually do …

“They don’t beat themselves, and they always think they have a chance to win. And so you watch a lot of close games, they make plays. I can still remember the kid make the 3 in the far corner against us or we were going to beat them in Lawrence. They’re not afraid to make the plays, and they expect to make the plays. Usually, they feed off the coach for that kind of stuff.”

On PJ Washington shooting 3s …

“He’s shooting 40 percent from the 3, over 40 percent, so if he’s open from 3, that’s fine. But I would also say if you’re open and the guy is running at you and the lane is open, go dunk the ball. Just go dunk the ball. He is so skilled. He is athletic and long. Be that guy. Be the best player in the country. I understand every time when you do that, you got to try and do it every time and it’s really hard to live up to that, but that’s the challenge. That’s where you’re conquering yourself. You’re trying to compete against yourself. That’s all we’re trying to get that message to him. Be who you’re capable of being, and it’s hard. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a dogfight. I’m just trying to get him in that frame of mind. It’s in there. To be consistent with it means being in great shape, staying focused, not having one play affect the next. You make a bad play, don’t act like you don’t care now and I’m going to be cool. You can’t do that. If I make a bad play – when I had Derrick Rose, if he made a bad play or you stole the ball from him, he blocked your shot. Every time. Not 80 percent of the time. You stole the ball or he did something or threw a wing pass away and that guy’s breaking away for a layup, he pinned that on the backboard. That’s how he was. You’re not doing this, and it’s never I’m going to be cool. We’ve got to get a team full of guys. Look, you make mistakes, you turn it over. I’m telling them if you miss a shot, next shot, just think, ‘Shoot it straight.’ Don’t think anything else. So, we’ve got a good group. This’ll be a great challenge and a great experience for our guys and see how we do.”

Quotes from UK Athletics 

Kentucky Players

#22, Reid Travis, Sr., F

On playing against Kansas when he was at Stanford …
“I would say the biggest thing I remember is the physicality , the speed of the game. They’ve always had good shooters, good guard and solid post players. They get the ball up quick, they look for their big. I think that’s exactly what they have this year, too. They can space the floor with their weave action, really penetrate but also have dominant bigs, so it’s going to be a good test for us.”

On defending Kansas forward Dedric Lawson …
“He’s a good player. It’s going to be by committee. Everyone that’s in there that goes against them has got to stay active. I think the biggest thing is every time you’re guarding him, just stay active, try to limit his touches, try to limit his low-post scores, things like that. That will help us be effective. It’s going to be a tough task, but I think, with a lot of guys guarding him, able to have a chance at it, continue to work hard, stay active, we should be good.”

On if anyone has asked to guard Lawson …
“No, no one has said that. The coaches are going to put the right person on him and we’re going to have the right scheme to try and shut him down because he’s a big part of what they do offensively. So, it’s going to be a team effort. I’m looking forward to the challenge when I get my chance.”

On what the team’s motivation is for this game …
“Motivation-wise, it’s just exactly like another game. I think we’ve been good at taking it week by week, our preparation has been the same. Coach has done a great job, even if we lost a game, we still have the right mindset. OK, we’ve got to go back, watch film and get better. That’s kind of been our mindset that has helped us get on this winning streak. For us, obviously it’s a big game. We want to win this game a lot, but also just looking at, what are the little things that have helped us throughout the season and stay true to what we’ve been doing all year?”

On if the team is starting to prove that they were worthy of a high ranking early in the season …
“I don’t know if we necessarily get caught up in that. I think the big thing in our locker room is not worrying about the noise outside. A lot of people, after the first game, kind of jumped off a little bit and thought we weren’t the team that we were and now what we’ve won some more games, kind of came back on. But for us, just understanding it’s a long season, up and down, and never really getting too caught up in expectations or what other people are saying. We understand the journey of the season and understand where we want to be, so just staying true to who we are is the biggest thing.”

On how much the team will feed off the crowd on Saturday …
“A lot. I think it’s great that we get to have a game like this at home. There’s going to be a lot of energy, a lot of hype around it, so as much as we can feed off the crowd, we’re going to use that to our advantage.”

On how satisfying the game against Mississippi State was for him …
“For me, that’s a big thing, I always have that in my head that I want to try to get as many rebounds as possible. So it was nice to get those big rebounding numbers (and) that’s something that I want to continue to do as we move on. I feel like if I can get double-digit rebounds, that’s just going to help my game and help the team, so that’s one things in the back of my mind every game.”

#3, Keldon Johnson, Fr. G

On the matchup with Kansas …

“Excited, man. Just can’t wait to get out there and put everything we practice into play.”

On how he keeps his emotions in check …

“Just come out prepared to play. Of course your emotions are going to be high. You gotta control them. We just have to go out there and go after them.”

On who the calmest person on the team is in big games …

“Reid (Travis). He’s been through it. He’s been through this process a lot, from being at Stanford. He’s played in a lot of big games. It’s pretty much—it’s him telling us, ‘Stay calm, have the right energy and just go out and perform.”

On who the most fired-up person for games is …

“Me.”

On what he does to keep calm …

“Just listen to music, get in the zone. Just be calm. Just think about all the good things.”

On what he has learned from previous big games …

“I learned that it’s going to be a lot of ups and downs throughout the game. Nobody’s going to have a perfect game. You’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. The other team, of course, is going to make some runs; you’re going to make some runs. It’s all about weathering the storm when they make runs and just staying focused.”

On playing a big game at home …

“Of course it’s a good advantage to have. I think we still treat it as a game as if we were on the road, coming in focused – laser focused – and we’re coming in knowing what we have to get done.”

On how much they will feed off their home crowd …

“It’s good to play in front of the home crowd. I think that we’re still going to come in with that focus to come and do whatever it takes to win. I think we’re just—it’s good to be playing in front of Rupp, in front of the Big Blue Nation, but we’re still going to come with that same focus.”

On how previous big games have prepared them for this game …

“Every game’s a learning experience. We take something away from the game every time we play, go out there and give it your all. I think that we definitely learned some things from the road games that we’ve played, going to these different places and playing all these really good teams. I think that we learned a lot.”

On what they will take into this game having proven themselves in big games over the last month …

“I wouldn’t say we’ve proved anything yet. I think we’re just going out there giving it our all. Regardless of the outcome, we’re going to learn something from it. I think the main thing, we’re just playing for each other out there. We won some big games and don’t want to say we feel like we’re trying to prove something. We feel like we’re just trying to be the best team we can be.”

 

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