UGA MBB VIDEO: Tom Crean Kentucky Pregame Press Conference, Monday, January 9, 2020

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UGA MBB VIDEO: Tom Crean Kentucky Pregame Press Conference, Monday, January 9, 2020

UGA men's basketball head coach Tom Crean during Monday's Kentucky pregame interview, January 6, 2020
UGA men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean during Monday’s Kentucky pregame interview, January 6, 2020

On Monday afternoon, UGA men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean discussed the Bulldogs’ upcoming SEC opener versus Kentucky in Athens at Stegeman Coliseum, which is set for a 9:00 p.m. ET start on Tuesday night, January 7th. The game will be televised on ESPN and will be streamed on WatchESPN and SECN+.

On the importance of building off of the win against Memphis…

“It’s important to build on what a win like that does for the team, spirit-wise. We know we’re playing an extremely tough team— there’s no doubt about that. There are similarities [between Memphis and Kentucky]. There’s tremendous athleticism. There’s a great burst, and they play both ends. Memphis was getting 30 percent of their points in transition; Kentucky is getting 32 percent of their points in transition. The difference right now is the physicality. Kentucky is a tremendously physical, aggressive team. They’ve shot 100 more free throws than their opponent. A sign of a really good team is when you’re making more free throws than their opponents, and they’re doing that. They just happen to be doing it at 80 percent. A lot of times with Kentucky, part of the best part of their offense is the second shot, but right now it’s getting fouled. They do a great job of driving into you, getting positioning and trying to hit you to get the call. They do an excellent job of that. They always have. You’ve got to be able to deal with that and keep the ball in front of you. You’ve got to have verticality. I can go on and on about things we’ve got to focus on, but the bottom line is we want to move forward and remember what that feeling [of the win over Memphis] felt like, not just winning the game, but most importantly, how we did it and the toughness, perseverance and belief these guys had to have on the road to do that.”

On how so many of the young guys are getting so much poise late in games like Memphis…

“We’re still very young. It’s a win on the road against a really good team. We have nine freshmen. That hasn’t changed, and every game you hope is just a little more experience that they have, a little bit more knowledge but, most importantly, confidence and belief. When you win a game like that or you win some close games [like] SMU— that game helped us. Coming back from behind against Georgia Southern— that helped us. Those kind of things help you get better. Hopefully how poorly we played against Arizona State or how poorly we played against Dayton helped us realize they can’t play that way and compete at this level. You’ve got to be consistent. We made jump shots [against Memphis], and we haven’t always done that. You’ve got to make jump shots if you’re going to win on the road. You’ve got to do a lot of things if you’re going to win on the road, but you’ve got to make your jump shots. We were able to do that in that game. They’re growing, they work and are growing every day, and I think that’s the most important thing you can have with any type of young team.”

On whether he liked the way his players responded in the 48 hours following the Memphis victory…

“Absolutely. We didn’t do a ton of live yesterday, but the bounce was excellent and we’ll go today. I thought they were really good. We spent a lot of time in the film room, and we went right to the film room when we got together. We didn’t talk about that win; we went straight to what Kentucky does, because there’s not enough time in two days to get ready for all that, so we better get ready for the spirit and the tenacity and the energy they play with and then try to get a feel for their physicality.”

On the free throw disparity in the Memphis game…

“It is what it is. We overcame, but we’ve got to get better shooting free throws. We have to get better getting fouled. We’re not a team that fouls a lot when you look at the numbers. That could go up as the league goes up, because you’ve got to be physical to compete in this league. That’s what it’s coming down to now. There’s no getting around it. If you don’t block out, have five guys rebounding or are not willing to rebound, you’re going to have a hard time playing. It’s the same thing with fouls. You’re going to have to play with fouls— it’s part of it. It is what it is.”

On whether he sees tomorrow’s game as a benchmark matchup…

“It’s all part of this process. Kentucky sells out wherever they go, and we’re excited about it. We’re excited that ESPN is here, excited that Jay Bilas, Marty Smith, guys like them are calling a game like this. I think that’s a big deal. It’s all part of it. I’m happy for the fans. I’m happy for our team to get a chance to feel what they felt the other day, and we turn back around now and have to do it in an even better way. This is a process for us. It’s a huge process, and I’ve been part of processes. I think that every time, as a coach, you lose perspective on where you are, you set yourself up for failure. I have perspective on what we’ve got to do better at every day. I don’t always have patience, but I think you have to have perspective. It’s hard to coach with perspective, but you better have it because we’ve got a lot of young guys out there who have a lot to learn, and they are learning. I’m exciting about the atmosphere [tomorrow night]. We’re going to need every one of those people to have a chance to beat this game.”

On if there are any concerns of the game becoming too big with so many freshmen…

“We can’t control that. When you play at this level you’re going to play in a lot of big moments. I think the biggest thing is, I’m more concerned about… the stakes are high every game but how are we going to stay in character. Staying in character is not worrying about how I’m going to score, how many times I’m getting the ball. Staying in character is moving without the ball. Staying in character is setting a good screen. Staying in character is hitting the open man. Staying in character is understanding that if I really want to play I better get on the glass on both ends. Those are the kind of things that you try to get your team to focus on what htye have a chance to control. They can’t control how bright the lights are and all that. They can’t control what the other team is going to do. They can control their attitude, they can control their mindset, they can control their energy and I think that’s the most important thing with any team, especially a young team to understand. I think anxiety hit us early the other day. The adrenaline of the game hit both teams a little bit. It was almost like early on in the game, the air was taken out of both teams. Now both got it back. They [Memphis] have a young team too and I think when you have youth you have to be able to stay even keel. That’s how I continue to understand all this is such a part of the process.”

On what stands out to him how Coach Calapari has handled his team this year…

“They’re outstanding defensively. He’s outstanding. They have so many different things that they can go to. He’s got his base line screening action. They are physical. They are extremely physical. Now they have a four and five that can step out and shoot it. Pick and pop with [Nate] Sestina. Which gives him an added bonus there. Their guards are so active. They are so quick. I was talking to a coach recently that played them that said ‘film doesn’t do justice to how explosive and how big [Tyrese] Maxey is.’ Right? So that just puts another thing in your head. They’re so explosive. [Immanuel] Quickley is playing at a high level. Obviously, Ashton Hagans is one of the best league guards in the country. Maxey has got a burst and is explosive. They can go to their front line and be deep. Keion Brooks Jr. has stepped up. John always to me, he gets a lot of talent, but he also gets a lot out of that talent. Very few times are guys in his program not going to…they’re going to produce. Or they’re not going to play. I think when you’ve coached as long as he has and had the success on the level that he has. He gets them better. They really understand how to make it about each other and I think that’s what he does best and I think he’s doing it again this year.”

On how late game situations in practice have helped this team…

“I think it’s huge. Some of the first times we’ve done it and it’s a seven-point game with a minute-fifty to go, and I’m saying we don’t need a three; guys are looking at me like I’ve got three heads. Right? No, you don’t need a three. You don’t need a three until you need a three. It’s more important for guys to understand how long the game is and I think young guys struggle to understand how long the game is. How much time is there in the game? How you shorten a game or how you lengthen a game? I’ve been trying to understand that mindset is more important than any scheme. It’s more important than any play. It’s getting to understand that there are so many things there that they can control if they just put their mind to it and work together. I think those things are paramount and we’re definitely behind in that area with a younger team. We’re trying to do more with it. With so many things this group has had to get, situational basketball has not been as much as a focal point as it’s needed to be but it is now and I’m hoping it’s something that we can learn from.”

On Anthony Edwards going into this game and his impact…

“With any young player, and especially one as good as him, I’ve said this before and again this is all a part of the process, don’t predetermine. We’re trying to get him to understand don’t predetermine the game. Maybe I shouldn’t say the game, don’t predetermine the play. What we want him to do is play with his eyes up more. To be ready for the catch and shoot more. When he puts it down, what he’s so unique at, he can go both ways with the ball. Very rarely can somebody that age go equally that well right or left with the ball. So a lot of times when you have that kind of weaponry inside of your game you have to take advantage of it. Again, it’s just getting him to read the game, understanding how much more efficient he is when he attacks. I thought he made some tremendous passes the other day. More and more people are commenting about the pass and that’s one of his strengths and I think he enjoys it. What we want him to continue to understand is, like I said, don’t predetermine an offense, get on that glass both ways and keep being the stellar defender that he can become for multiple times in possession. Not just one or two times in a possession, but the multiple times in a possession because he’s certainly capable of that.”

On if this game is about proving something to America about Georgia basketball…

“With that, we start to make it bigger than what it is. It’s the next game on the schedule. It’s not about proving anything to America. It’s about getting ready to play a great team. It really is. It’s about playing Kentucky which is an outstanding program year in and year out. The benchmark of this league. Long before I ever got here. No question about that. It is the benchmark. It is what people look to. It’s a chance to compete against that in the best possible way coming off a great win for the program and one that we know that every… this is another example. There’s similarities in all really good teams, but there’s also differences in every really good team and us figuring out how we deal with that. It’s the next game on our schedule and it’s a big one, but so is Saturday’s, so is next Wednesday’s against Tennessee and so will the following Saturday against Mississippi State. When you’re in a league like this every night is a big night.”

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