"Well I thought that was a great college game. We're very disappointed to have lost. We've turned into a pretty tough, battle-tested road team. I really, really liked how we competed and how we fought. A play here or there and we had us a victory, but we certainly congratulate them. They played very hard also. It was a really good game. It was just a really good, hard, competitive game. They just made, unfortunately, a play or two more than we did."
On having forward Jeffery Taylor defend Kentucky guard Brandon Knight, and how effective that was...
"We did that the whole game. He started on him at the very beginning of the game and did a great job on him I thought. Brandon still had 17 points but he took 14 shots to get them. That's OK for us. I thought Jeff played a great defensive game. Of the 17 that (Knight) got, he got some of those when we were switched off or when I had subs in and we went under a ball screen in the first half when he made a 3 that was totally against the scouting report. But, Jeff was phenomenal defensively, I thought, the whole game."
On if the plan was for guard Brad Tinsley to intentionally miss the second free throw at the end of the game...
"Yeah we were going to try to miss the free throw and it almost ended up working out. He almost got to it. He missed it long and kind of to the middle. I was hoping more for a directional miss. We had an end around kind of thing but we still ended up getting it, not in a very good spot, but we ended up getting a look anyway. And I hated to ask Brad to miss that. That kid is shooting 91 percent from the free-throw line in the league. You don't shoot 90 (percent). Kyle Macy does, he's back there, but not many people shoot 90 percent from the foul line. I hated to ask him to miss it but I thought that was the play."
On deciding not to try to make it and then foul Kentucky...
"I just felt like that was the play at that point. We had no timeouts left so we weren't in a position to do something strategically if we did get the ball. I just felt like that was our play at that point."
On if the plan going into the game was to feed Festus Ezeli down low because they may have an advantage there...
"I don't know if there's anything to take advantage of. I mean, Josh Harrellson is a good defender, but they were very pressed up on us on the perimeter. They were trying to take away the 3s. We hurt them with the 3 in the first game. If the defense is strong outside it tends to be weaker inside so we're going to try to attack the defense where it's weakest. They did a great job on us on the perimeter and thus we went inside and had some success."
On what they did to come back against Kentucky after trailing by 15 points...
"Well I thought we started getting stops and clean rebounds. We got the lead cut the first time and then they got it back up and got us in transition a couple times which we thought was a big key going into the game. I did not feel like our defensive transition was as effective as I was hoping it to be. But our guys just have a lot of fight. Sometimes I feel like people think it's a mistake that we're in second, but we've got a pretty good team. Something Urban Meyer said to me last year at the spring meetings; he said, `I really like how you guys play.' It was really a compliment. And he said, `But this stuff of you guys doing more with less...' He said, `You're doing more with more.' He said, `You've got really good players.' We've got good players."
On the difference between this game and the game played at Vanderbilt...
"Obviously they were at home so they had a pretty big advantage in that area. I feel that both of the games were hard fought. I feel like there was a huge difference in the games. At home we got some plays going our way and here they had the ball going their way."
On the last few seconds of the game...
"We were hoping to get a good shot at the end. We were lucky enough for him to travel on the baseline so we got the ball back. Unfortunately, we did not get a good shot in the end."
On what their team can improve on going into the tournament season ...
"Throughout the season there is always things you need to work on. We wanted to do a better job on limiting them getting offensive rebounds in the first half. We are definately shooting to get the second seed, so we need to take care of business at home this weekend and get the win against Florida.
On what they learned about their team tonight...
"We played hard and we played even harder in the second half. We had some key turnovers that can't happen at the end of the game. We need to be better. We learned that when we play hard, we play better. We took some good things away from this game."
On the biggest difference between the first and second game...
"We made more shots back in Nashville. We started off better in Nashville than we did here tonight. That was a key to the game. We learned a little bit tonight and we fought."
On what they need to do to get better before the SEC Tournament...
"We need to start the game with that energy and fire we had in the second half."
#55, Josh Harrellson, F
On his senior season ...
"I am the first person in my family to actually graduate college. I am the first person in my family to actually go to college, so just knowing that I am setting a milestone for my family and setting goals for my nephews when they grow up to go to college and make something of their life (is gratifying). Also for my kids future, to go to college and follow my footsteps and hopefully make something of themselves like me."
On winning a close game ...
"I think it is definitely going to boost our confidence going into Tennessee, knowing that we can win close games now. I know we lost some close ones on the road so hopefully we can pull a close one out, if it's close at Tennessee."
On the last seconds of the game...
"I was definitely exhausted out there. I was really hyped before the game. You can ask everybody. At shoot around I was running around in circles just anticipating this game and really it took (a lot) out of me. I think the last couple of minutes I was exhausted out there and just trying to keep pushing through it. We came up with a couple of big plays, got a couple stops, came up with a loose ball and definitely a big stop at the end there to keep (Festus) Ezeli from scoring. I think we all dug deep and found something that we hadn't done before."
#1 Darius Miller, G
On Josh Harrellson's senior night performance...
"He played really good throughout the whole the game. He had a lot of big rebounds and a lot of big stops. He did a lot for us and gave us a big boost. We fed off of him."
On what a close win like this will do for the team...
"I think it feels good for all of us because this is really a good team (Vanderbilt). They fight to the end and we finally came out and got stops at the end and executed (offensively)."
#3 Terrence Jones, F
On his final free throws...
"The clock was running down and I just wanted to take that responsibility to knock them down for my team"
On winning a close game...
"I'm glad it was at home, but we really showed toughness and we got it going. We found ways to get the ball in the hoop. It was tough but Darius came up with a big layup, Brandon got fouled once and I got fouled once, and Vandy really fought to come back. Down low they were really tough to guard, they just posted so hard and kept getting the ball close to the rim, getting easy layups and dunks."
On needing a close game like this...
"We needed it. We needed the win. We really fought and you could tell everybody needed this win. We just went out hard, trying to be as tough as we could on offense and defense even when the ball wasn't going in the hoop."
#12 Brandon Knight, G
On the physical play of Vanderbilt...
"They are really physical. No, I wouldn't say because they are older. They are in those types of situations a lot more than we are. Just knowing what it takes to compete and how you have to play in situations like that. Being in a situation like this could be really big for us in March and to know what it's like down the road and how to win in these kinds of situations."
On overall team play ...
"I think we all did a really good job (keeping our cool) throughout the game and stepping up and making sure we are playing the right way. Like I said, being cool, calm, and collected and knowing that we execute and not focusing so much on the score. It helps us come out with a win. This is the first time I actually felt like we played until the end, as far as when it gets down to crunch time, and the score was really close. Other times we have played pretty well, but we had a lot of breakdowns that led us to lose. This is the first time I can actually say that we really just played without having any breakdowns that cost us (games). "
On finishing the game for a win ...
"When you are up three points with a couple seconds left, you have to find a way to dig down and make sure you come out with a win. Knowing that, we can do what we just did and can give our whole team confidence. It gives us a lot of confidence because it was the first time we were able to get a win like this. Now we know what we need to be doing in situations like this. "
On shooting free throws at the end of the second half ...
"I just tell myself it's going in. You have to think positive and focus on all the mechanics. I definitely want the ball in situations like that."
Kentucky Coach John Calipari
Q. You guys won a close one, decided by five or less; what was the difference tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, let me start by telling you at halftime I had to call timeout to just get out of the half alive, I told them this is going to be a close one; we need it. We need this to be a close game. Let's start the half the right way. Well, we didn't. A guy comes off a handoff soft. Just pushed out of the way, and they tipped the ball -- that's how we started.
As we had to fight through it, it was good for us. It showed that we have to get tougher. But the will to win was there, making free throws. I would never call a timeout with eight seconds to go except I'm coaching this team, so I've got to call timeouts, and I've got to talk them through every phase, every player. We decided to foul. And they almost beat us, but we decided to foul to say, you know what, you're too good a 3-point shooting team, and if you watch what we did, we gave up two so they weren't shooting 3s. That's how we played today. We just made a decision and said if (Festus) Ezeli goes for 30 -- how many did he go for, 22? If he goes for 30 and they win, well, I know this, they'll make 3s. So we guarded the 3-point line a little differently than we did up there (in Nashville, Tenn.). The guys executed pretty well.
Q. What did you think of Josh (Harrellson)'s overall game, but especially defensively the last few minutes?
COACH CALIPARI: Josh fought like heck. What a great thing. You think about it, here's a young man that played 35 minutes last season and is playing 35 minutes a game, and eight points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals, and by the way, he was invited to Portsmouth with the other top seniors in the country. You have to understand, that's not easy to get in Portsmouth. It's a combine for seniors. It's the first players they they look at. He's worked himself, and he's been invited.
And so a lot of good things happening for him, and I'm proud of him. Just happy for him.
Q. (On Brandon Knight's performance:)
COACH CALIPARI: He wouldn't have been in the game a year ago, but he was good. I thought Brandon, with a 6'7" guy guarding him, did a pretty good job. Terrence (Jones), the walks, some of those missed baskets, but here's the greatest thing: I had two freshmen on national television in a huge game go to the line and make both free throws. Think about that. Think about what we're asking our freshmen to do. Doron (Lamb) didn't shoot it as well as he has, but I thought he played pretty good. And DeAndre (Liggins), not only did he score some points, he did a great job.
We had one turnover at halftime. How do you have one turnover? I don't know if we're not playing fast enough or if we're like the magicians with the ball. I haven't figured it out yet. But we end up the game with nine turnovers, a team that's all over you, mauling you, body-to-body off screens and playing, and they did a good job.
Q. Can you talk about the defense on (John) Jenkins, and early on it looked like he got preoccupied with trying to draw fouls rather than play basketball.
COACH CALIPARI: We just told him he's very good at drawing fouls and flopping and making it appear as though -- just stay down. Guys just got in his grill a little bit better.
Q. What did you think of Darius (Miller) tonight? Seemed like he was a little up and down based on your reactions.
COACH CALIPARI: My reactions or your reactions? He didn't play like he did yesterday or two days ago. He didn't play the same game. Didn't play aggressive. (Jeffery) Taylor got the best of him, and so we switched it around and we put Terrence (Jones) on Taylor. Terrence did a good job. And when he wasn't guarding Taylor, Darius was fine.
There's some guys that he just thinks are better than him, I don't know, and I told him at halftime, you are better than him. Why do you think this guy is better than you? You are better than him. So we switched him off, and from that point on he was fine. He made baskets, we went at him, and he had -- it was an and-one, that layup he had, so he made baskets. He scored points for us. He got 12 points and they were big in a game like this. We needed those points.
Q. Maybe now that will to win and struggling and getting a close win, what do you hope that maybe will do for your team?
COACH CALIPARI: We'll expect to win close games. That's a big part of it. You expect to win close games. You have to understand, based on the history of the last five, six, seven years, we're in a close game, my mindset is we're winning. The problem is I seem to be the only guy thinking that way. But that's because of past performances.
And so now, again, I'm going to be honest, who do we go to? Who do you go to now? How do we get a basket? Who's going to be the guy making the stop? How about the play where they got five straight rebounds and tipped it out and the kid makes a 3? `I hope someone gets this; no, you get it.' There should be three of our guys saying I'm getting this ball. That's a competitive spirit.
But that all happened, we didn't hang our heads. We still executed down the stretch, got the ball where we needed to, got open versus the press, did what we had to do to win the game. And to be honest, at this point in a close game, we're just trying to run off the floor.
Was it smart fouling? We won. What if he would have tipped in a ball? You all would have looked at me, why did you foul? There was eight seconds; maybe you should have waited till five. I've heard that one before. I just made the decision based on our team. I didn't want them to get a look at a 3. They're too good a 3-point shooting team.
Q. With about six minutes left on missed shots you guys rebound, you're putting on the brakes when Brandon is bringing the ball up the floor. Are you trying to shorten the game, change tempo, what?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, we're trying to get a good shot off. We're coming down, flying in, shooting layups and we're not making any. We've got to get something and shorten the game and hope we're going to be the tough guys and make a play and make a rebound. I believe in the team. I mean, I'm looking at us right now, I'll bet you the RPI we're 14 or 13 or 12th rated. Our strength of schedule is probably under 10 now. With that young team, inexperienced team? Come on.
So I believe in them. Now, we just have to go on the court and do it. The game we have left is going to be a senior night, impossible game, how do you even stay in the game? It's going to be a hard game for these guys.
Q. You've talked before in these close games you want better leadership, someone to step up.
COACH CALIPARI: It doesn't need to be better. It needs to be someone has got to run our team and get the ball where we're trying to get it and move people and show some emotion and get guys to do what they're supposed to do. I thought Brandon (Knight) did a pretty good job of it.
What Josh (Harrellson) did is plugged up the hole. Again, this kid is doing stuff, I've not coached a player that's gotten more out of his body, out of his talent, out of his athleticism as Josh Harrellson. There's nothing more he can give. Now, I'm asking for more. I want him to take some charges.
But think about it; here's a guy that jumps that high and had four blocks. How did you get those? What are you doing? It's just an effort, man, just a desire to go make plays.
Q. It seemed like he gave more in these last 24 seconds than he had in other tight ball games.
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah. They all want to win. These kids want to win. But it's the preparation to win. It's the toughness you have to have. It's the play -- there's no fade-aways the last few minutes of the game. If they want to block your shot, put it in the official's hand to either swallow the whistle or not. Don't shoot a fade-away. They're not going to give you a foul; you can never get a foul on a fade-away. We had too many of those today. But we'll learn.