Tubby Talk: Q&A with Coach Smith

Coach Tubby Smith talked to the media on Saturday's game against Louisville. See what the coach had to say about the Wildcats chances against the in-state rival Cardinals.

On the Louisville game…
"This is always a big game. It's an important game for the fans and the people in the Commonwealth and around the country. It's one of the best rivalries going and we've been on the short end of it the last two years. It will be a tough time going into Louisville. It's always a challenge. Coach (Rick) Pitino has his team playing pretty well. They went into Gainesville (Florida) and beat the (Florida) Gators. That's always a sign that you have a pretty good team. In their top six, with Otis George if he's healthy, you've got as good of a top-six players that you're going to find in the country. In (Francisco) Garcia, everyone has seen what he's done. He's able to beat you. He and Taquan Dean, along with Otis George, I thought they made a difference in the game last year. It will be a real test with a young team like ours with only a couple of guys that have been in the fires under duress like Chuck (Hayes) and Kelenna (Azubuike). The first time we did it, we didn't have much success going into Chapel Hill (N.C.). I'm hoping we can respond better now that we've had a few games under our belt. We'll have to get a lot of good play out of Chuck, Kelenna and Patrick (Sparks), because they are our veteran players."

On the team's success during final exams…
"They did okay. Everyone will be okay. We had a pretty good semester."

On the importance of the UK-U of L game…
"It's one game in a number of games. That's not to make it sound insignificant. It's still a very important game because it will give us a good feel for where we are and the things we have to work on. A guy like Rick Pitino will make you make all the adjustments and you will have to beat him because his teams don't beat themselves. They have playmakers. You have to really be on top of your game in all phases. We're not at the top of our game. We came close in the Indiana game, but looking at some film and breaking it down, there's a lot more work we need to do. Getting back in transition, Louisville's the type of team that can really hurt you with their outside shooting if you don't get out to their shooters. For the players, they probably don't get caught up in it like the fans that live here, although they want to win it as bad as anybody. I would think guys like Chuck and Kelenna, after losing the last two years, should have a lot of incentive to want to play well."

On Louisville's biggest strength…
"It's their outside shooting. They have a great perimeter game with (Larry) O'Bannon and Taquan Dean and Garcia and (Juan Diego) Palacios. They have four outstanding shooters and guys who look for their shots. They are a much better outside shooting team than we are at this juncture."

On whether Kentucky will emphasize its inside game against Louisville…
"I don't know, we'll see. We feel like that's one of the things we're doing better. I just mentioned we're not shooting the ball well from the outside. We're shooting it better inside. We'll have to find ways to maybe get the ball to our post players."

On whether December games are important in regards to NCAA Tournament seeding…
"I think strength of schedule has a big part in it as well as how you're playing in your last 10 or 12 games. That's important. I don't think December has much to do with it at all, to be honest with you."

On what makes Louisville's defense so tough…
"The pressure they put on you. They really pressure you. They pressure the dribbler, they swarm the ball and really go a great job of taking away the passing lanes. Again, if you're not patient, you will take a rushed shot or hurried shot and you're playing into their hands because now they're on the break and that's their style. They'll pull the three (point shot) in transition and make it. That's what they do best."

On Rajon Rondo…
"I think he has developed into a pretty good point guard. He just needs to be a little more aggressive and look for his shot because he's shooting for a good percentage. Other than his free-throw shooting, he's shooting for good percentages all the way around. I think he needs to be a little more active defensively, especially in transition. That's where we've had some concerns. His hesitancy to either come up and attack the ball or stay back (is a concern), because in our system, the point guard is responsible for stopping the initial break. He's been sometimes caught in between, not knowing whether to leave and rotate up or stay back. That's one of the things we ask him to do. It will just take time."

On the offense at Kentucky and the offense Rondo ran at Oak Hill Academy…
"We have a little more offenses. Where he was last year, he had a lot more options. The passing lane is not the same, as well as the pressure. I just saw the other day, the shot clock was running down and a guy blocks a pass. I think those are the areas of adjustment that any freshman has to make to the speed of the game, the size and athleticism you will run in to."

On Shagari Alleyne…
"Shagari has come on. He's probably one of our most efficient players right now. When you combine his defensive ability, how he's altering the game defensively and now offensively, he is able to make his free throws when he gets fouled. He's had a lot of confidence that he could get it done, it just took a little more time. Now that he's making contributions, it has given him his self esteem and confidence. You have to have all areas of your life in order. I think he's starting to get all those different aspects of his life in order, and that helps."

On Patrick Sparks seeing more time at point guard…
"His maturation is a factor. You've got a point guard out there in Rajon who hasn't played at this level before. This is his (Patrick's) third year at this level. Even in practice last year, he was going up against some pretty talented guys in Cliff (Hawkins) and Gerald (Fitch), so he knows what it takes. He has the ability to make shots, and that's a dimension that he looks for with his shot, which keeps the defense honest. That's what I need to get Rajon to do a better job of, to stretch the defense a little bit more when he makes the outside shot. I think the experience factor is why he's able to go from a shooting guard to a point guard without seeming like there's been much adjustment."

On Louisville's Francisco Garcia…
"He's just such a complete player. He has the ability to put it on the floor at 6-7 and drive by you and create shots for other people. With his ability to shoot over you from the outside, you just don't find guys like that. He reminds me a lot of a Tayshaun Prince. He's so long and can make everyone else around him better. At the other end, he's a very aggressive defender."

On the key to beating Louisville…
"Not being caught up and allowing Louisville to force you to play their style. I thought that happened to us in the past. We tried to match three-point shots, and we had the wrong people taking shots at the wrong time. We didn't make the extra pass. It's critical. Not just against Louisville, but any time you play anybody on the road. That's the most important thing, that you try to keep the crowd out of it and control the tempo."

On whether he'll consider sending a guard to attack the boards against Louisville…
"We've been having so much trouble (with rebounding), we probably should do that. We've had pretty good rebounders in the back court for the past few years. That's something we're having to deal with. Those are the things we're still learning about this team. Do you send two back? Do you come and challenge the outlet pass? Those are adjustments we haven't had to make."

On whether he feels any pressure after suffering two consecutive losses to Louisville…
"Not really. All you do is do your best. Sometimes that's not good enough. I don't want to just do our best. We're going down there expecting to win just as any one team that goes out expects to win. If we can execute our game plan, then our chances will be enhanced. If we don't, we'll have a long day."

On whether the players are feeling any added pressure after two consecutive defeats to U of L…
"No, because we don't have that many that have participated. I know they take pride. They all take pride in winning and playing, and they have practiced that way with the intensity. Those guys you mentioned who have been a part of the game. So, we'll see, I don't think they feel any more pressure."

On whether Sheray Thomas will dress for the game…
"He could possibly dress, I haven't decided yet. We're just watching how he does today. He has been practicing well, and we're really happy for him. He feels good. He's playing like he never left the court. He doesn't have the physical strength and stamina."

On Louisville's Ellis Myles…
"He's a guy that really can hurt you. Ellis is a guy who bangs and does all of that. He's a blue-collar worker. He's in the trenches and he doesn't mind mixing it up. To come off knee surgery like he did tells you a lot about his courage and heart. He's a tough kid."

On whether he enjoys the UK-U of L rivalry…
"It's something you deal with. As coaches, you know you're going to play someone. You're playing a team that's right down the road. With all of the scenarios that surround Louisville-Kentucky and all of those things and then you hear about it on a constant basis from everyone, you can't help but know that it's a different atmosphere. It's a real happening. Every game, pretty much, is a happening for us here at Kentucky, it really is. That's what you have to get the players to understand. You have to prepare the same way with an even keel, but you've got to bring your best game. Against Louisville, you have to go beyond that. You have to bring a great game in order to win."


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