SEC MBB Teleconference 2.17

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Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Florida head coach Billy Donovan. Ole Miss hosts two top-20 teams at home in the same week for the first time since 1999. The Rebels play No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN) and then No. 2 Florida on Saturday (11 a.m., CBS).

Opening statement:

We're hosting the two best teams in our league, starting with Kentucky on Tuesday night and then Florida on Saturday. They are two tremendous challenges for our group, but also tremendous opportunities.

On the up-and-down play of his frontcourt:

For us, we have a pretty inexperienced front line, and really as it occurs across the league and across the country, kids that are a little more inexperienced, whether it be because they're freshmen or sophomores or because they've never really played the roles that they're currently holding, they typically play better at home. They're more comfortable at home. They play more confidently, more assertively, and that's been the case with our guys. We go on the road and we're not nearly as assertive as we need to be, and as a result we're not nearly as productive.We have to take the right approach. We have done that when we have been at home and we just have not been able to carry with us on the road. You're well aware of the number differential from a productivity standpoint home and away, and as a result we're not having as much success on the road.

On the first Kentucky game earlier this season in Lexington:

We stayed around for a while. I believe it was a two- or three-possession game maybe until the 10-minute, 12-minute mark of the second half. We couldn't get a rebound, which has really been kind of a broken record for us. But we just could not get a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but the first one that an Ole Miss Rebel had I believe was under two minutes to go in the second half. We zoned them quite a bit, and they did not make a 3-point shot in the second half, but even the ones that they missed they got every rebound. Willie Cauley-Stein probably played his best game in a Kentucky uniform and just dominated on both ends. They certainly got some run-outs, but they got control of the game at about the 30-minute mark, and then we were just trying to hold on for dear life.

On bringing Marshall Henderson off the bench on Saturday at Georgia and how it worked: 

It worked out pretty good. He's just really been struggling with his shooting percentages in road games, non-league and SEC. Going into Georgia, he was shooting close to 30 percent from the floor and less than 25 percent in the first half. I was just doing something to try to change the way that he approached the game, allow him to see it for a few minutes on the bench and, I don't know if that directly affected his performance but he came out and made shots. I think he had 14 (points) in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, something like that. As a result, we were leading at the half. Second half, he struggled a little bit and as a result we came up a possession short. But that was the thinking: just trying to find a winning combination.

On NCAA Tournament bubble status entering the week:

Well, it's out there anyway for sure. We lost two heartbreakers last week. Really our focus is on winning a game, and Kentucky presents the next opportunity to do that on Tuesday night. We know it's going to be a difficult challenge because we've seen that firsthand a couple weeks ago in Rupp. But for us right now, we've lost two in a row and we're sitting at 16-9 through 25 (games), but those 16 seem like a faint memory simply because we haven't won one in a week. So for us the focus is just on winning a game.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari

Opening statement:

We're playing two teams that have given us problems. Mississippi at home was anybody's ballgame with six minutes to go in the game. LSU had us down double digits most of the game and almost got it 20, so they'll be two tough games for us.

On Ole Miss this year without Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner:

Those younger guys are pretty good players now too. And they're different. They're more athletic. They may be, you know, more slender. But those two, anyone would be more slender compared to those two. They're athletic, they're long, and they give them a little different dimension. Those other two were veteran, big-bodied guys, hard to go against. But I'm liking Mississippi's team.

On what his team did to have success against Ole Miss earlier this season in Lexington:

With six minutes to go, it was anybody's ballgame. And then we got a couple breakouts and made a shot and all of a sudden it was 12, and then we got going a little bit. But that was late, late in the game. You're at the mercy of them making jumpers. And again, their point guard (Jarvis Summers) makes them go. They have other players on that team that can score baskets, and then (Marshall) Henderson at any time can make five straight shots. Can you keep your head about you if he does? And he seems to do it at home more than he does on the road.

On whether being out of the conference championship race changes the psychology of the rest of the regular season:

I've never been big on conference championships or conference tournaments. Every game we play is to prepare us for March, and that's how we approach it. The history of my teams have done well in conference play and conference tournaments because they're not the goal. The goal is to be at our best in March. And so, with the last game we played, (for) 30 minutes that's as good as we've played all year. What happened down the stretch was that mental discipline that I talked about before the game. But it showed me that we can beat anybody in the country. We've got to shore up how we finish games off. It showed me our goals do not need to change -- at all. And I told the team this: It's about chemistry, energy and a will to win for your team. There were three rebounds you would have figured our best rebounder would have got balls, and he was right there with another guy, and they got all those balls. (Dorian Finney-)Smith got one, (Casey) Prather got one down the middle, they got another one, and they tipped back one for a 3. There was all that will to get that ball that they had more than we had. But, again, our goals haven't changed. I'm happy with my team. What that game showed me: We're as good as anybody in the country; we can play with anybody. Now let's shore this up, let's get this chemistry together and this energy together, let's create a little more will to win down the stretch and execute. They got to the line by driving it. We took bailout 3s. Can't do that. Can't do that late in the game. But again, we're still learning.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan

On Marshall Henderson as an X-Factor:

Andy (Kennedy) puts him in a lot of really, really good situations for him. Since I have been in this league, I don't recall a players as fast as he is coming off screens and getting shots off. He is incredible doing that. There are times that you play really, really good defense and it doesn't make a difference. That's probably a tribute to Henderson and his ability to shoot the ball. He is a unique, talented player. The thing that I admire most about him is what a great competitor he is and how much he loves playing. He's certainly a handful to get ready for, but they also have a lot of other good players besides who him are playing well.

On what impresses him the most about Kentucky's Julius Randle:

Besides what people can see with his talent and his skills, the way he puts it on the floor and his size. And again, John can probably comment better about this than I can because I had him for a short period of time. The thing I was impressed with him is, when I had him he was the same guy every single day. He was the same guy. We went double sessions because there was a lot to get prepared for because we only had about a week of practice before we competed so we had to do double sessions. As a young kid, being in high school and maybe not going through college practices before and playing against other good players, he was always there early, he was getting shots up, he was always ready to go, he had a smile on his face, he enjoyed playing, he enjoyed working and competing and trying to get better, and I thought he was an everyday guy. Now obviously that was only for a couple weeks and a college basketball season is a lot longer. I'm sure like most guys there are going to be ups and downs, but I always appreciated his disposition in practice each day.

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