BASKETBALL: Pre-Game Q&A - Tubby Smith

The Kentucky Wildcats will travel north to Cincinnati for their annual neutral site game at in the Queen City. The game will be Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET at US Bank Arena against the Ball State Cardinals, who return four starters from a year ago. Coach Tubby Smith talked to the media Monday afternoon.

On Saturday's Coppin State game…
"We played a good Coppin State team that was without two starters and their leading scorer. After looking at the tape, I saw there were things we needed to improve on. Coppin State has a team that will be playing for their conference championship at the end of the season. I like the way our guys played, and I like the way we competed. I thought our freshmen did a good job. Kelenna (Azubuike) and Chuck (Hayes) struggled offensively, but they made up with their leadership. That's something you'll see continuously this year. Chuck does it in other areas as far as getting on the boards and getting to the free-throw line. Kelenna needs to be patient. I thought he missed a couple of shots that threw him off. We need to pass the ball better and make the extra pass."

On Ball State
"Ball State has had some extra time to prepare. They will present some problems for us. They do a good job in their offensive screening - moving without the ball - and they have a veteran team returning. It will be a challenge for us. We will rely on veteran players to give us the type of leadership they have been giving us, so the younger players understand what it takes to prepare and how you should prepare for a team. It's a good time for all of the northern Kentucky fans and alumni in Cincinnati to get a chance to see us play. I understand it will be well-attended, so we're looking forward to getting to Cincinnati."

On the brawl during last Friday's NBA game between Indiana and Detroit…
"With a number of our players in the league now, of course, that's something you never want to see at any level. We worry about it at this level after having watched the South Carolina-Clemson football game. That's one of the things (Clemson Football Coach) Tommy Bowden said he had just talked about. I talked to our guys about it Saturday morning before our game. Everyone has mixed emotions about who is at fault, but it's not good for sports. It's especially not good for basketball, whether it's NBA, college or high school, because kids watch that. We have to be constantly vigil about letting them know to play the game the right away. They need to play with good sportsmanship, value the game and play with integrity. That's something we stress all the time."

On the differences between Coppin State and Ball State…
"Ball State plays a lot more man-to-man. They will play more physical, and they are little bigger as far as their physiques are concerned. They have four starters returning, and Coppin State did, as well, but two of their starters weren't here. So, that alone tells you the difference. They will be tested defensively, because they execute extremely well. Tim Buckley's teams are always well-coached and really do a good job of shooting the threes. They have a number of guys that can make the three-point shot. Sustaining our defensive intensity will be tough, as well as handling all of the screens they set in their motion offense. They will play a lot more man-to-man and they will press. They'll shoot the threes more, and they won't utilize the shot clock like Coppin State did."

On what impressed him during the Coppin State game…
"I thought we challenged most shots, we did a good job of rotating out on shots, I thought our big kids made a big difference. Lukasz (Obrzut) had a good game. Shagari (Alleyne) had a good game. I liked our hustle areas. You have to win those areas to win consistently. You have to get on the floor for the loose balls, take the charges and do those little things. Rajon (Rondo) set a great tempo for us with nine deflections at halftime, and I think he had 17 for the game. I don't think I've ever had a player that had 17 deflections in a game."

On his utilization of pressure defense against Coppin State…
"It was very effective, though we had some breakdowns in the back and they got a few layups out of it. A team like Coppin State comes in without their regular ball handler. They had adequate ball handlers, but they made some mistakes in the press that they wouldn't normally make if they had all of their players. I see us doing more of it with this group. I think we can be a good pressing team. I'm trying to wait and see if we're getting better and pressing well. That's why you play the game."

On Patrick Sparks
"He's getting back on the court after taking a year off, and it will be tough to get back into the fray. But, Patrick is a veteran player who plays with a real passion for the game. He plays hard and is very versatile. We can put him at the two or at the point. That will be a big key to our success this year, when he and Rajon or he and Ramel (Bradley) or Joe (Crawford) or Josh (Carrier). He makes everybody better because he can stretch the defense. He can get his shot off and he can make the deep three."

On Ramel Bradley
"He's an excellent passer. He probably should have had eight, nine or 10 assists. He missed a layup when he probably should have passed it. He threw one up under the basket when he should have passed. He probably should have had a double-double. He very easily could have had 10 points and 10 assists."

On Kelenna Azubuike
"He took some bad shots and missed a couple early. He needs to be a little more active and be more mobile against the zone. He would have been much more effective against a man-to-man. Zone has a tendency to make you stand around. He has to learn and adapt to the game. I want to see him get more rebounds. He should average at least five or six boards a game."

On the ‘Live Blue' bracelets being sold in town to benefit the Tubby Smith Foundation…
"It (the sale of the bracelet) will benefit a lot of kids. That's what our foundation does. We had a great weekend. I thought the tennis exhibition was wonderful. We had a good night Saturday night at the (Night OWL) gala and raised a lot of money. This community is awesome when it comes to giving and sharing. When people around the country look at a place like Lexington, that's why it's selected as one of the most livable places, safest places and most charitable places in America. I'm just happy to be a part of it. I'm glad we could do something during this time of year, during the holidays. It's always a time for giving and sharing. The bracelet reads, ‘Live Blue'. It signifies an attitude of caring, sharing, and community that identifies with the University of Kentucky. It's not just in athletics, but in this entire region. Nike did it for Lance Armstrong and it went unbelievably well. We're just trying to piggy-back off of that. You'll be hearing more about it in the future."

On the team's Thanksgiving Day plans…
"We will practice in the morning and watch a little football. It's the first time some of them have not been at home with parents for Thanksgiving, so, it's an adjustment. When I was a kid in college, you wanted to be around family. They appreciate the fact that we've become family, and we have people here that are eager to help them feel home."


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