Tubby Talk: Q&A with Coach Smith

Coach Tubby Smith talked to the media prior to Wendesday's game against South Carolina ...

Opening Statement…
"We've been busy preparing for conference play. We realize that the heart and soul of any program for any conference is conference play and we been really focused on. One of the reasons our players come to Kentucky is because they know they're going to play against some of the best players in the country and play in the top basketball conference in America. This is an exciting time for us and I think our guys are starting to feel the intensity and the urgency of getting ready to play a very good South Carolina team. They're a team that has played awfully well even though they lost a couple games to some very good (teams). To play Kansas and Pittsburgh to the wire the way they did says a lot about Dave Odom and what he's done with that program.

"Rocky Trice has come in and done a good job for them. They're a fairly young team with only one senior, so he's going to have a good team for a long time. They're just going to continue to get better and better.

"We've been trying to get our guys all working together on the same page on rebounding and improving areas where we need to improve. Dribble penetration is something else that's hurt us. We've got to constantly be working hard to get our guys to sit down in the defense and guard guys one-on-one. South Carolina brings a very athletic team that gave us problems last year. Antoine Barbour had to make a big play to get the win for us and then we had to make a big defensive stop at the end to beat them. They're very capable of beating us.

On Kelenna shooting better…
"I think it has a lot to do with him feeling a little more comfortable with the personnel and the people out there on the floor with him. A lot of it has to do with Patrick (Sparks) and his penetration because people are really collapsing on our established inside game and that's going to free up shots for Kelenna. We have to have him step up and knock down open shots and he's been stepping up and making that shot. I'd like to see him get to the free throw line a little bit more and that's something we need to work on."

On preparation…
"Our preparation doesn't change. We prepare the same way for Campbell as we do for South Carolina, Kansas and right on down the line. The young players don't realize that, yet. You've got to go about your job and business in a classy, workman-like way and that gets back to being mature enough to know that if I'm going to play my best, I've got to be mentally and physically ready to play. That's something we're trying to teach them, but it's a process, a journey, in changing guy's whole mentality. For young players, that's tough because they've been able to have a good time in high school and just use their athleticism to win the game and it's different at this level."

On South Carolina's defense…
"South Carolina has always been a team that really doesn't beat themselves. They play an up-tempo style and create a lot of turnovers. Over the last few years, they've been one of best teams in forcing turnovers. They have a way of controlling the game with their defense. This will be the best defense we've seen so far. We've got to be patient and take what they give us. We've got to be able to find the open man, make the extra pass and finish. We haven't really shot the ball a good percentage because we haven't finished at the basket. We've missed layups and put-backs all year long, but when you play against better teams, you have to hit all those opportunities when you do get that chance."


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