Notes and quotes from this afternoon’s game between the Kentucky Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies.
Team Records and Series Notes
• Opening its home Southeastern Conference schedule, Kentucky is 10-5 overall, 1-1 in the SEC. Texas A&M is 12-3, 2-0 in the league.
• The series is tied 2-2 with all games played in Lexington. This was the first men’s basketball meeting between UK and Texas A&M as members of the SEC.
• On Tuesday, Kentucky will have its third game in six days as the Wildcats play host to border-rival Tennessee. The 7 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN.
• Kentucky started with the lineup of Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein for the third-straight game.
• Elston Turner of A&M came out hot with 20 points in the first 13 minutes of the game as the Aggies had their largest lead of the half, 29-20, at the 7:12 mark.
• Turner finished the first half with 25 points as A&M led 36-31 at intermission.
• The first half continued to tell the tale for Kentucky as the Wildcats are 10-0 this season when ahead at halftime, 0-5 when trailing.
• Trailing 40-31, Kentucky rallied with a 12-2 run to take the lead at 43-42.
• Tied at 63 with 4:33 remaining, A&M got 11-straight points, including a pair of three-pointers at the expiration of the shot clock, to go up 74-63 with 1:32 to play.
• Kentucky got no closer than nine points the rest of the way as A&M went on to victory.
• Turner led all scorers with 40 points.
o The last UK opponent to score 40 was Chris Jackson of LSU, who had 41 on Feb. 15, 1990. UK won that game 100-95.
• Kentucky is 67-12 in SEC home openers, including 3-1 under Coach John Calipari.
• Willie Cauley-Stein had six points and three rebounds.
o Has made 21 of 29 shots (72.4 percent) over the last six games.
• Archie Goodwin led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points, his 13th double-figure game of the season.
• Ryan Harrow tallied 14 points.
o Harrow has scored double figures in six-straight games and is averaging 16.2 over that stretch.
• Julius Mays had seven points, four assists and no turnovers.
o Has a 24-6 assist-turnover ratio over the last eight games.
• Nerlens Noel had 15 points, 11 rebounds, set a career high with six assists, tied his career high with seven blocked shots and had four steals.
o His second double-double of the season
o Has at least six rebounds in every game this season.
o Has blocked at least one shot in every game this season and at least two rejections in eight-straight games.
o Has made 32 of 44 shots (72.7 percent) in the last eight games.
• Alex Poythress had 12 points and six rebounds.
o His 10th double-figure scoring game of the season.
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari Postgame Press Conference
COACH CALIPARI: Well, in the NBA coaching, obviously there’s a couple guys that would do that to you, but in college, that was like phenomenal.
I think it was 63-59 with about 4:00 something to go, and it was a situation that I talked to the team yesterday about, gut time, stop the runs, stop the bleeding.
And they were listening to what I was saying, but I don’t think they heard me, what you do defensively, what you do offensively, because we had Maryland do it to us; we had Duke do it to us; we had Vanderbilt the other night do it to us. We had other teams and this team went on a 16-1 run, and you’re not winning that way and it’s both on defense and offense.
But I will tell you that that performance was — that’s as good as it gets, the way he shot the ball.
Q. Talk about Nerlens Noel.
COACH CALIPARI: I thought he was outstanding. Nerlens played well. You know, what happened, again, when you’re in that game and it’s four minutes to go and it’s crunch time, it’s gut time, you don’t take chances.
So we took a chance on their guard, left our feet, drove in, made a basket. We took a chance on (Elston) Turner who went behind a screen and we tried to flick it from him instead of just guard him. We took a chance on their post player, Alex (Poythress) got switched on him, instead of just guarding him he tried to steal. That’s six points. That’s six, and there was one other, which was eight of their 16.
So even if it were an 8-1 run, now it ends up being a three-point game with a minute to go, you’ve got a chance. And we just don’t have the discipline as a team yet because we’re so young. But Nerlens was good, and I thought Willie (Cauley-Stein) worked, but they were physical with Willie. He didn’t get to the basket like he had. And they were talking about it. There was a lot of talking going on out there.
Q. Elston Turner said he could tell the youth of the team with the body language, when one team goes on a run, and he felt they were able to take advantage of that. Can you speak to that a little bit?
COACH CALIPARI: Probably. He’s probably right. But there’s probably only one or two guys he’s talking about. You have one or two guys that are right in his area that he’s looking at, I don’t think it was a whole team, but again, this is a young team. He’s trying to learn.
We were lucky to win on the road. Every game we play in this league is going to be a hard game for us, every single one.
Q. On having Archie Goodwin guard Elston Turner.
COACH CALIPARI: Mistake. It was a mistake. I was talked into it. I didn’t want to do it and it was my decision. It was a mistake. Because from that point on, he was getting 50. Stupid on my part to do that.
As a staff, we said he’s going to have to guard a 5-11 guy or Turner. And I said, let him guard — it was just a mistake. He’s not ready to guard a kid like that, he’s just not. Doesn’t have the intensity. You’ve got to have an unbelievable fight in you to guard a guy like that to have pride that you’re not going to do this to me. And he may have done it anyway to be honest with you; it may not have mattered who guarded him.
But when you start that way, making every shot; he had seven points of their first nine or something, seven of the first ten, now you’re feeling pretty good.
I thought the zone slowed them down. We tried to go zone. But again, we didn’t have to go zone in the second half. It was a four-point game with four minutes to go. We were up four or five — I don’t know exactly the time. So we were fine.
Then we took all kind of chances on defense and we took some bad plays on offense, and all of a sudden, you’re reeling. And this team to this point has not been able to stop the bleeding, and we’ve talked about it, but now we’re going to have to address it again.
Q. On taking chances late in the game.
COACH CALIPARI: And if they take chances, they are going to make the basket, because you are giving them an easy basket. When it’s a tight game like that and it’s a gut time in the game, it’s a crunch time; you don’t take any chances. You don’t try to steal any balls unless something is deflected and you get a run through. Other than that, you’re not going to give them an easy basket.
We did. We left our feet. Like they had made jumpers, one kid did. We leave our feet and he goes in and shoots a four-footer. What? Why did you do that? He has not made a jumper all game. Try to steal from Turner; you can’t steal from him; now he had a shot. Why did you play behind the post and try to steal? Why did you — you know what I’m saying? It was all discipline.
And again, this is big stuff for these guys. I mean, you think about it: There’s a bunch of young guys and they are at Kentucky, every game is a Super Bowl we play, and you know, it’s not easy.
But, you know, they are — we showed signs again tonight. One guy goes for 40 out of their 80. Think about what I just said. One guy went for 40. And we trapped a little bit. We put — we did a lot of different things.
So I look at it and I look at our numbers, and I say, those numbers are good enough to win. Again we have 14 offensive rebounds to their 15. We could have had four or five more. And that’s one of those areas, just an effort thing.
Q. On his reaction when Elston Turner hit the three late in the game.
COACH CALIPARI: I was okay. I thought he did okay. I thought he did a pretty good job in the end there. The one three that he made when we were up four, he got whacked on a screen and we didn’t switch out.
I mean, we sat there and let him shoot it, and that’s — again, it’s young freshman errors to recognize that and say, we know who is beating us and who is not going to beat us. This guy is not beating us. You just huddle and — but again, we are still coming together.
Q. On the team’s practice efforts transferring over to games.
COACH CALIPARI: Got to practice that way. Can’t just do it in games. Have to practice every day and have everybody know that you’re preparing yourself to be great. And as he does that, yeah, he could be one of those guys.
Q. I want to talk about Alex a little bit. He had a really good first half, and had a big play in the second half, and one of the teammates came up and really pumped him up. What do you think of the effort level of him and the team as a whole?
COACH CALIPARI: It was okay, but we need more from him.
Q. On what they got from the game.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, I mean, we did what we were supposed to to stay in the game with a kid going nuts on you, and then we cave in at the end.
Just stuff that we are trying to teach them: How you play, when a team — when they start to go on a run, it’s a 6-0 run and you call a time-out, you have got to stop the bleeding.
One, you have to get fouled.
And two, you have to offensive rebound, man. Go after every ball because it stops the bleeding.
And then three, you have to make easy plays and you’re not making hard plays; you’re not making the hardest shot. And we talked about it, and we didn’t. On defense, I just told you, you can’t let them rebound and you have to make them make hard plays, and you don’t foul. And at that point, you’ve got to become really a disciplined team, and that’s that will to win. The will to win is having discipline with three, four minutes to go.
Right now, we don’t, have that discipline.
Q. On his thoughts about the team.
COACH CALIPARI: I like my team. I wish we could get Alex with more, you know, scream, yell: “Ahh, I want to win, stopping this guy.” That’s what the guy was talking about. I’m looking at the dude and he’s got his head down. I mean, that’s — you know, we need him to play better. We need — you know, Archie (Goodwin), he’s got to play in better control.
But these guys, they are all freshmen. We are expecting them to be finished products. It’s still early January. It’s going to be another month before this team comes together. I just hope we are winning enough games as we learn to do this. To win on the road against Vandy ends up being a big game now.
Think about it: Any road win in this league is a good game.
Q. That emotion you were talking about with Alex, there was one time when Nerlens dumped the ball and you turned around –
COACH CALIPARI: No. What happened when Nerlens went back clapping: “Yeah, yeah, let’s go.”
And I just said, “You do that. You do that.” And again, got to get him just more energy and more fight and more of that to get him to play at his best. But he’s a freshman. He’s playing like a freshman should play. He doesn’t know any of this stuff. But he’s at Kentucky. You’re on warp speed here. We expect you to play like you’re a junior, and their coach included.
So you know, but like I said, this is part of the growth of the team. You lose a game, you’re disappointed, a guy goes crazy on you, and you do what you have to to stay in the game. There’s four minutes, you have your chances, and now learn what you did. Accept what you did, and let’s watch the tape and learn from those last four minutes and say, what happened, what did we learn from this, what do individual players learn from this, and then come together.
I mean, what happens as our team doesn’t do well, each individual player starts, like you start questioning each guy. That’s what happens, fans, media and everybody else. And that’s why they need to come together to stay together, keep working through it. We are 1-1, see where it goes.
Q. You said you hope that you win enough as you learn. Are you talking about winning enough to keep yourself in the NCAA Tournament?
COACH CALIPARI: I think we’ll be fine, but no, you’ve got to win games. For us going forward, each game we play, we just have to worry about being the best team in the gym. We don’t need to worry about anybody else. Just be the best team in the gym and do what we are supposed to be doing.
As a coach, this one is done now. I’ll go watch the tape now. We’ll show a little bit of it tomorrow. Done, next game. We have a game Tuesday, third game in six days.
I think we showed fight. I think we showed fire. You know, we are getting tougher. There were a lot of good things. We had 11 turnovers and two were at the very end of the game. So we had nine turnovers in that kind of game.
You know, a lot — we shot 77 percent from the free throw. There was a lot of good. But again, it was taken away, with four minutes to go, you start taking chances on defense, you start fouling; and on offense, you’re trying to make too hard a play. Takes away all your effort for 30-some minutes.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
#3, Nerlens Noel, F
On Elson Turner’s shooting throughout the game…
“I haven’t seen anyone shoot like that. He is a great player. We should have done a better job as players to close out on him and force the drive.”
On his feelings about how he played and the outcome of the game…
“I just tried to play hard tonight and give us the best chance of winning. We came up short but us, as players, have to take responsibility. Coach Cal has done a lot for us but I think its time for us as players to come around and start clicking.”
On his energy throughout the game and his emerging leadership…
“I’m really just trying to get everybody in it and try to get our intensity up.”
On what happened in the last four minutes of the game…
“A couple of mental break downs for myself. We broke down defensively because they went through screens and made big shots.”
#12, Ryan Harrow, G
On Elston Turner’s performance…
“That was crazy what he was doing out there. I have never played against something like that before.”
On the performance of the Kentucky team…
“We had some discipline lapses and when it got down to gut-check time we just didn’t step up all the way.”
On the conversation about how to stop Elston Turner…
“We had talked about him for a couple of days now and Coach (Cal) was telling us if he was driving right that means he was going to pull up, if he’s going left it is going to be a step-back, and if he is facing up you know he is trying to do a crossover, but he is never going to go to the hole. He was just knocking down shots today and I don’t believe he went to the hole once so, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do on him.”
#10, Archie Goodwin, G
On Elston Turner’s performance…
“We just tried to contain and make him take tough shots. He was just on, got going early and we tried all we could do. In the second half, we shut him down a little bit but it still wasn’t enough for us to get a win.”
On losing the lead…
” Very frustrating knowing we had the lead with four minutes to go. We just have to continue to work on game time situations like that. These are the ones that we can’t lose.”
On Nerlens Noel performance…
“Noel played very good. It was the only reason we stayed in the game, with his effort on defense and offense. Guys couldn’t hold him in the post and we should’ve done a better job of giving him the ball more than we did. He should’ve been the focal point of our offense tonight. On defense, he gave us his all as well and we really depended on him. He really stepped up for us.”