Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Transcript: Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy Pre - UK vs @Ole Miss Comments

Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy Pre - UK vs @Ole Miss Comments

On where he thinks his team is heading into SEC play …

“I think we’re starting to get a better understanding of who we are and the way that we have to play in order to have a chance to be successful. I think we’ve shored up some things defensively, which has helped us – as we discussed earlier, just some of our rotations and some of the different things that we’ve tried to do. Personnel wise, we’re still trying to figure out the right combination. Certain guys are better with other guys on the floor to take advantage of strengths and weaknesses. But at 9-3 heading into SEC play, I feel like we’re probably about where we deserve to be.”

On if he expected his team to be where it is now coming into the season …
“I’ve tried to be pretty forthright in letting you guys know. Honestly, I was probably a little over-optimistic initially thinking that the transition of blending the old with the new would come about more easily than it has. Deandre Burnett and Cullen Neal, probably most specifically, (are) guys that are veteran players in my eyes having been around the college game for a number of years, however, they’re new to Ole Miss and they’re new to this set of circumstances, and with that is going to come a bit of a transition. Then you couple that with a guy in Justas (Furmanavicius), who’s new to this situation, a guy like Terence Davis, who went from literally not playing last year to playing a prominent role in our rotation. Those things take a little more time than I probably was expecting. I’ve tried to make some adjustments to help them ease into this, but now as you look at an SEC opener against a powerful Kentucky team in 48 hours we’ve got to be ready for what the challenge is moving forward.”

On junior guard Cullen Neal, who transferred to Ole Miss from New Mexico …
“Cullen is a kid that’s played a lot of games and has played them in real environments at New Mexico. The dynamics of him playing there for his father have been well-documented. He’s a guy that I can trust has been in big games. I think if you look at his numbers, he’s been pretty efficient shooting the basketball for us. He’s over 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover (ratio). I think he’s getting more and more comfortable just based on the way that we play and understanding strengths and weaknesses of his teammates. He’s a guy that we’re going to be demanding more of moving forward, because as a veteran – a guy that’s played a lot of college basketball – he’s going to have to shoulder more of the burden as we head into league play.”

On the SEC having a higher RPI than it has in the past and the overall state of the league as conference play begins Thursday …
“I think that it just provides more opportunities for all of us. As we head into the league opener, not only do we have the 18 league games, and as you said, sitting here today we’ve got 10 of the 14 league teams are rated in the top 100 in the NCAA RPI, and five in the top 50, which is I think the third most of any conference in the country. Twelve of the 14 have a strength of schedule in the top 150, and just as a preview of our game against Kentucky, Kentucky is sitting at 10 in the RPI with a strength of schedule of 6. We’re sitting at 33 in the RPI with a strength of schedule of 31. So, I think it just lends to more opportunities for all of us moving forward. I think that was the premise by which the league started really looking hard at non-conference schedules so that as we enter league play, league games are only helping one another, not hurting one another. As I said, not only do we have the 18 league games, we also have Baylor in the (SEC/Big 12) Challenge coming in late January, and they’re a top-10 team in the country. So, there’s a number of opportunities for us. We’ve got to get better so we can take advantage of some of those.”

On his impressions of Kentucky …
“Another outstanding team. A team that’s going to be in the conversation for the Final Four, and readily so, throughout the season. It’s amazing to me what (Coach) Cal is able to do year-in and year-out of taking, really, a bunch of new guys and defining them into a role of a team – and an outstanding team. He’s done that again this year.

“The thing that jumps off the page when you see Kentucky is their team speed. I’ve been here, this is my 11th year, so I’ve seen a lot of great Kentucky teams and a lot of great Kentucky players, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one as fast as this team.

“It really starts with (De’Aaron Fox), who in the open floor is as fast as on tape, I’ve never seen the kid – it’s funny, I’m very familiar with Malik Monk, but De’Aaron Fox I don’t remember seeing. He’s a Texas kid, and unless I was recruiting someone on his AAU team I don’t know what the reason I would have seen him other than just happenstance, but I haven’t really studied his game until he got to Kentucky. He just jumps off the screen with his speed in the open floor with the ball, and if you’re fast on tape that means you’re going to be doubly fast in person.

“So, De’Aaron Fox’s speed and the way that Malik Monk has shot the ball, and Bam (Adebayo’s) strength inside, they just have a plethora of weapons.”

On the importance of limiting turnovers against Kentucky …
“It’s always important for us. Live-ball turnovers are critical at this juncture of the season, and it’s an issue that we’ve had problems with, quite frankly. It may be because typically when you remember our teams we’ll typically have one or two guys dominate the ball, whether it be Stefan Moody or Jarvis Summers, or back in the day Chris Warren, which was the last time we beat Kentucky (in 2011) when Chris Warren hit the shot here back many years ago. So, we typically have guards that we just allow to dominate the ball and quarterback us and get it to where we want to go. This year, our team is built differently. As a result, we have more guys touching it, and as a result we’re turning it over more. That’s something that I’m very conscious of and I’m trying to remedy. But, until we have some guys offensively step up where we can feel comfortable with the ball in their hands and their decision-making process throughout the course of a game, we’ll continue to have to try to find a way. But we have turned it over too much, and that’s a recipe for disaster on Thursday night.”

On opening SEC play against UK for the third straight season …

“Yeah, just clean living, I suppose. I mean, this is karma coming back to me. At least this time when I saw the schedule I texted Cal, I said, ‘Boy, you must have really pissed somebody off in the league office because they finally sent you back to Oxford.’

“I don’t know. I don’t get too caught up in things I can’t control. I know that, preferably, my Christmas afternoon would have been a little more pleasant if I wasn’t staring at Big Blue in 72 hours. I’ll be honest with you, I started focusing on them just after the last present was opened. So now we get a big present on Thursday. I know that our guys came back excited because Kentucky brings that. SEC opener, national TV against one of the best teams in the country. I’ve said this many times, I think (Kentucky is) the program by which you judge all others. They’re the gold standard. It’s an exciting way to open, but obviously very, very difficult because they’re so good, again.”

On if beating Kentucky gives the other teams in the league credibility nationally …
“Well, certainly, because anybody that can beat them – and only two teams have so far – those wins are obviously going to resonate throughout the course of the season because Kentucky is going to be one of the last men standing. They’ve got a lot of weapons and Cal does an incredible job of putting them in the right position.

“So, it’s a great opportunity for us, but as I said earlier, we’ve got to get better. We’ve shown flashes. I know that we’re capable, and now I’ve got to do a good job to try to get that more consistently, and that’s what we’re working on.”

On if there’s a common theme he’s noticed in Kentucky’s two losses …
“They lose to lose two top-five teams. That’s one thing I noticed.

“UCLA is outstanding and they go into Rupp (Arena) and score 97 points, which is incredible. It was an incredible game to watch. I wish I could have enjoyed it, as opposed to stressing over all the things I’m seeing that we’re going to have to try to defend. And then at Louisville it was a one possession game and Louisville I thought really shot the ball well.

“For us to have a chance, we’ve got to control the things that we can. I think Kentucky may be number one in the league in rebounding margin. They’re at least in the top two or three, and I think we’re in the top two or three, so battle of the boards is going to be huge. And then we’ve got to make open shots. You’ve got to shoot the ball well. When your opportunities come, they’re so athletic and they get to the ball so quickly that your windows are going to close rapidly. So, when we have windows to score we’re going to have to make open shots, more so than you would against an opponent who’s just not quite as potent offensively. Because they’re going to get out in the open floor we’re going to try our best to slow them down as much as we can.

“But again, De’Aaron Fox with the ball is a special, special talent, and the way that Malik Monk is shooting it off the catch, off the bounce. You get extended, now it leaves you unprotected inside where Bam, physically, is as imposing a freshman as I think I’ve ever seen. They’ve got a lot of weapons, so we’ve got to battle, we’ve got to do what we do, limit live-ball turnovers, try to battle on the glass and then when you’ve got an opportunity to make a play offensively we’re going to have to make it.”

No comments: