Before Kentucky headed to Knoxville John Calipari and players PJ Washington and Ashton Hagans spoke to the media.

John Calipari 

PJ Washington 

Ashton Hagans 

Transcript from UK Athletics

On a key for tomorrow’s game …

“Get Reid (Travis) healthy.”

On Travis’ chances of playing tomorrow against Tennessee …

“We’re going to see what he does today and tomorrow, but I doubt it. What kids try to do is convince you that they can do this, and my whole thing (is) this is about the long season, not the short season. This will be a hard game whether he plays or not. This is a team that doesn’t beat themselves. This is a team that’s physical. This is a team that is a veteran team that’s been through everything. The plays they made at the end of Mississippi to win the game is what they are. They’re just that kind of team. They’re well coached. Rick has done yeoman’s work in how he’s gotten them to defend. They’ve added a couple of things that I saw today again that we’ve got to cover with this young team. The good news is after this game we still have more games.”

On how it will be tougher without Travis …

“One guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity, so Nick (Richards) and EJ (Montgomery) have a chance to step out. How we played, PJ (Washington) may be the roughhouse guy. Even if Reid does play, how many minutes? I mean, I don’t know. I just don’t. The injury is a strained knee, but it’s still one, but we’ll see.”

On Tyler Herro tweaking his ankle in the last game …

“He’s fine.”

On not being on the Naismith national coach of the year list …

“I think I’ve won the thing three times, so it’s not like they’re against me. I don’t know if anybody else has won it three times in the history of the thing. I’m fine. Let me just say this: Those kind of awards go with winning, and if you ask me about us winning a national title or winning 50 of those awards, let’s go win a national title. It doesn’t matter to me. Eric (Lindsey) said something to me and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ The season’s not over. If they think that’s all I do is roll out balls, as long as we win, I roll out balls. Coach my team, try to get guys better. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s your hope more than your opinion. Have at it. I don’t spend any time worrying about it.”

On preparing for the environment in Knoxville …

“It’s like playing in Rupp Arena if you’re an opponent. And it’s one thing playing in Rupp Arena, but when you’re really play against a good team in Rupp Arena – in other words you’re a good team, now you’re playing in their building and they’re really good – that’s a hard deal. And I want to say this: I’ve been here 10 years – 70 – but I’ve been here 10 years and the Tennessee game (earlier this year in Rupp Arena) was the first game I can ever remember seeing the opponents’ fans in our building. I saw orange. I was like, what in the world? Those tickets were expensive. Must mean that they’ve got very wealthy fans. I have no idea, but they were there. Really means that they are into this basketball team, they’re into their coach, they’re into their players. And I’m happy for them. Rick (Barnes) is a dear friend. I would say what he’s done is to take that thing, he’s a class guy and he’s an unbelievable coach. You know, he’s the whole package.”

On how UK was so successful against Tennessee in the previous meeting …

“We made shots and we rebounded so it gave us a chance. Then they missed shots they normally make, which to the start of the second half gave us a run. Now if we didn’t have that, instead of it getting to nine or 10 or whatever it got to, you understand now that would’ve been one or two. Now who knows what would have happened? A year ago that same game it went to one or two and they beat us here. So we made some shots, they missed some shots. Hopefully we create great opportunities for each other, but it’s going to be rough. You’re going to have to make shots with a body on you. If you watch the tape, Reid was unbelievable keeping an eye on (Grant) Williams defensively. Never really lost him, yet he still blocked shots. Are we capable of doing that with the guys we have? I don’t know. We’re going to see.”

On if there is a guy on Tennessee that doesn’t get the attention he deserves …
“(Jordan) Bone is really the one. Bone, in my mind. Williams was obviously the (conference) player of the year a year ago. Possibly again player of the year. (Admiral) Schofield has beat us down. Bone gives them – they’ve got a couple other shooters – but Bone gives them that attack dog who can run, who defends, who gets his hands on balls. He’s really, really good, too. I mean, the eight guys that they play, all can play. There’s no, ‘Alright, let’s let that guy alone.’ No, they all can play.”

On how Bone will match up with Ashton Hagans …
“It’ll be a good matchup hopefully. I mean, we just have to have guys that understand that we came in with an unbelievable energy last game and we’re going to have to do that (again). But they’re going to come back with the same. They’re at home. The good news is they have as much to lose as we do. It’s always nice, every once in a while, maybe three times a year, to have a game like that where the other team has as much to lose as you do. We play games and the other team has nothing to lose. They’re launching shots, they’re making banks, they’re hitting lights. The ball’s are going in. They’re playing, they’re back-slapping and they’re going nuts. It’s nice when you play North Carolina, Louisville or somebody else that has as much to lose as you do. But they’re good and they’re a terrific team.”

Quotes from UK Athletics

#2, Ashton Hagans, Fr., G

On the team’s mindset going into Saturday’s game …
“Just the same mindset that we came with the first time we played them. They’re a very good team. We’re down a big, we’re trying to see if he’s going to play or not, but even if he doesn’t, we’ve just got to come in with the mindset just to ‘kill’ like we were at the beginning (of the first game), with the same energy. We were more physical than they were, so we’ve just got to come out physical.”

On what Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery can bring to the team …
“They can bring a lot to the table. These past couple of games, they’ve been big time for us. For them to step up, that would be a big-time win. Nick is playing very well in practice right now. EJ is doing the same. They’re brining intensity and that’s all we need from them coming off the bench.”

On how comfortable he is with his shot …
“I’m confident. It just comes with being in the gym more. Working out with a coach, helping me with my shot. So that’s really all it is. Consistency, staying in the gym every night, just getting up shots.”

On his matchup with Jordan Bone in the first game …
“He’s a very tough guard. He’s fast. He’s a great defensive player, too. He attacks the basket very well, knocks down open jumpers. It’s going to be another tough matchup, but coming in practice and competing against Immanuel (Quickley), he gets me prepared very well and I’m just ready for the matchup.”

On how much he looks forward to going against the tough point guards in the SEC …
“A lot. They are on the best point guard lists. So that’s something I’m looking at, going out there and competing, trying to make a name for myself and just doing what we can for this team to get a ‘W.’”

On if he enjoys playing on the road …
“Yeah, kind of, but I’d rather be at Rupp. On the road, not too bad. We bring the same intensity, crowd is going crazy, sometimes we just have to hush them up.”

On what he expects to get from Tennessee after beating them the first time …
“We just know they’re going to come out fighting, try to hit us first. We just can’t let that happen. We’re down a big, so EJ and Nick are going to have to step up, or I believe they are. When they give us something, we’re going to have to feed off that and see where we go from there.”

On what he has heard about Thompson-Boling Arena
“First, I heard it was a very hot gym. That their fans are real crazy. Like any other team we play on the road, we’ve just got to go out there, stay with each other and stay focused.”

On what the team learned from the Arkansas game …
“You can’t start off slow. It’s just energy. We’ve got to come out there fighting. We’ve got to hit them first. Knowing that the last game, we started off slow, picked it up in the second half, though. But with this team, you can’t let them get to an early start, and we’ve just got to get it going.”

On if the backcourt of Tennessee is as physical as the frontcourt …
“It goes all over the floor. Their guards are very physical. They’ve got some great guards who can play ‘D’ very well. But the bigs, it is a physicality game. EJ and Nick are going to have to step up and fight down there, and then we’re going to be straight.”

#25, PJ Washington, So., F

On the first Tennessee game …

“It was a very physical game. Made a lot of shots, played well on the defensive end and we came out victorious.”

On how the game plan changes without Reid Travis …

“Just guys gotta step up. Me, Nick (Richards) and EJ (Montgomery) gotta play a bigger role than we did in the first game, on the defensive end especially, and just try to be physical with them and not let them get easy baskets.”

On whether he expects to guard Grant Williams more often …

“We haven’t really talked about it yet, but I’m pretty sure I will. I would be surprised if I wasn’t.”

On what he needs to when matched up with Williams …

“On the defensive end, you just gotta be physical, not really try to let him catch the ball. And when he does catch the ball, you gotta play him early and keep your hand up. When he jumps to shoot, you gotta jump and contest as well.”

On attacking Williams on offense …

“Just be physical and try to get position. Once you get position, just try to be calm and go into your move.”

On what they learned from the Arkansas game …

“That we gotta play like we did in the second half, not the first half. The first half we played pretty—extremely bad actually. Weren’t sharing the ball, a lot of turnovers and we can’t really do that going into Knoxville tomorrow.”

On the environment at Tennessee …

“It’s a tough environment. Obviously we lost last year. They’re a good team, they’re a good program and they got guys there that are willing to win and do anything they can to win. We gotta be the tougher team and I feel like the tougher team wins that game.”

On the importance of not falling behind …

“We can’t dig ourselves into a hole like that against a great team like Tennessee. They won’t let us back into the game. If we do that, it’s going to be a long night. We just gotta come and play hard from the get-go.”

On how much of a surprise it was that they dominated Tennessee …

“It was our game plan to be the more aggressive team and we came out really aggressive at the beginning of the game and kept that pace the whole 40 minutes. If we can do that in Knoxville, I feel like we have a great chance of winning the game as well.”

On the idea of length bothering Tennessee …

“Our game plan was to go up and contest all their shots. We felt like if we didn’t contest it, it was going down. We tried to make sure we contested every shot and tried to get the rebound and not let them get second-chance points.”

On why he plays well against Tennessee …

“They’re a great program, great team, great coach. They’re always going to fight, so I just love games when it’s physical like that. Going into a competitive environment and just trying to get a win, that’s the best the thing when you can beat a team on the road. That’s obviously our plan. We’re going to try to go up there and execute that.”

On what he makes of the back-and-forth about Tennessee being “afraid” of him …

“Nothing. It’s just words going both ways. I don’t really care anything about it. At the end of the day, it’s what happens on the basketball court. You gotta come in and play.”

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