Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury
February 21, 2012 9:30:00 AM
With the political season heating up with a Republican Party presidential debate what seems like every week, The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog wondered what the Monday media session would be like if it was in the form of a debate......
Moderator: Thank you and welcome to the 2012 Southeastern Conference Super Tuesday debate event with John Calipari - the University of Kentucky head coach - and Mississippi State University head coach Rick Stansbury. Thank you gentlemen for being available 24 hours before your two teams take the floor (8 p.m., ESPN) when Brad Neessler, Jimmy Dykes and Shannon Spakes will take care of the television coverage. Coach Calipari, with your team being 26-1, 12-0 in SEC play, you will be addressed first: What are your thoughts on your two games this week at Mississippi State and a home contest against Vanderbilt?
Calipari: "The two games we have coming up are very difficult for us but in February you need tests and you need to find out where you are at this point. This isn't football. You can drop games in February and still be fine. We're worried about us. Let's play our best and see if that's good enough."
Moderator: Coach Stansbury, with your team coming off a three-game losing streak to lower-level SEC teams, this can't be the way you'd like to have your team momentum wise before arguably its toughest matchup of the season.
Stansbury: "Guys, it's a fine line. We wouldn't have even been thinking about having these conversations if we make one more play in two games. That's what a fine line it is. There's two games we lose in overtime, it's one play. We wouldn't even be having these conversations - talking about leadership - we'd be totally on the other side of the fence. When it doesn't go exactly the way we don't want it to go, and it doesn't very often for every team, you've got to survive that rough spell and you've got to stay focused. They all count as one win and one loss, unfortunately you've got a Kentucky at home that nobody has beaten all year and it's so important to protect your home court and nobody's done that yet. That's our challenge."
Calipari: "I know they've dropped a couple games but it doesn't matter. I don't even like watching those game tapes because they won't play that way against us. They're going to have their best effort."
Moderator: Okay....thank you Coach Calipari for that quick rebuttal but please wait for me to address you for the rebuttal opportunity. Coach Stansbury, clearly one of the knocks folks have had against your 2011-12 campaign is your defensive plan (11th in SEC allowing 71 points per game in conference play and 10th in SEC in field goal percentage defense). What are your thoughts now that you have a chance to address that criticism?
Stansbury: "We haven't been as good defensively. That's well documented. Stats document that, especially when you go on the road, that's the one thing you can pack with you that's constant. And that's the one thing that Kentucky is packing every game. It's constant for them and that's what gives them that opportunity. When you're not consistent with that, you better be able to do some things offensively more consisstent. We were right there against Auburn, defensively we didn't shut nobody down, but we were there enough still, just didn't make some shots. Really made some shots against LSU, but didn't maintain for 40 minutes."
Moderator: Coach Calipari, you've said the Mississippi State offense concerns you and your staff and I was hoping you could address those issues.
Calipari: "They all do because of how they play. The talent on the team, no one's questioning it and I'm not. I watched them. I think they've got a bunch of really good players and any of them can go off at any point. They run a lot of pick and rolls, they run a lot of diagonal screens, screen the screener, they're not afraid to shoot threes, they're not afraid to let loose, that's how they play. What if they come in and they make 15 threes, which they're capable of doing? Well then we go on to the game Saturday. Arnett could go for 35 or 40, it could happen just like (Vanderbilt's Jeffery) Taylor went for whatever he went for against Mississippi. What you're doing is you just try to make that stuff difficult but they may do it anyway. Then you go on to your next game. They're a really good team. They've got great size. They're big too. And they're skilled. That's what makes them what they are. I know they've dropped a couple games but it doesn't matter. I don't even like watching those game tapes because they won't play that way against us. They're going to have their best effort. "The guards are good too though. Dee Bost is good. You've got guys that could go for 30, you've got five of them that could go for 30 so all of a sudden it's let's stop this guy. You can't do it that way. You've got to play basketball and try to make it difficult for them but they're at home. It's going to be sold out and white out and blue out, black out, whatever they've got going down there. It's THE game so we're going to walk in and they're going to play their best. They're going to play great and we're going to have to play a good ballgame to have a chance."
Moderator: Coach Stansbury, your thoughts on what was just said about your team?
Stansbury: "If that's the case, we'll score 150 points and we'll win the game. Write that back....send that back."
"In a game like this, we've got to score points. Kentucky is too good offensively. They beat you too many different ways. To have any kind of chance we have to be good offensively. We have to make shots. The game we've made shots in, we've been pretty good. That's our challenge. Kentucky is the best defensive team in the country. They don't give you a lot of open threes. They fight over those threes, they've got that big boy back there at that basket and you don't get much going in that rim. That's why they're so good defensively. They don't have to prepare differently for anybody on a ball screen, because they have the big boy. They're going to fight over that screen every time and take away that 3-point shot. You have to be able to understand that and figure out different ways to score baskets on them. You have to score points against Kentucky to win."
Moderator: Thank you. Coach Stansbury, is their any chance you'll play a primary zone defense because normally Kentucky's team under Calipari have struggled against the zones this season?
Stansbury: "This year they're great against zones. They don't have but two guys in the starting lineup that has made any shots. That's Lamb - really one guy. Teague is the next best shooter and he's made seven. You'd think you could zone them if thy don't shoot it well but I'm telling you they kill you with Davis around that rim lobbing it to him. They've cut people's zone offense up. Just cut them up. How many times you watch them play and they dunk? They dunk it over and over."
Moderator: Coach Calipari, your thoughts on your team's maturity this season?
Calipari: "The reason we appear to be mature is because early in the season it was like mugging, grabbing, pushing, shoving and having to play through guys trying to throw you into the cheerleaders. You couldn't fight, you couldn't swing, you just had to play and figure out how do I combat this. If the officials are going to let this go, I've got to play basketball. That's what we had to get by. We're still trying to be able to physically combat teams that come in and say, 'Hey, you've got to go right after these guys physically, body-to-body, hard screens, get up in them, put two hands on them.' We've got to be able to negate that but we're getting better. That's made us grow up. That's what we understood, like these dudes are trying to kick sand in our face. Are you going to let them or are you going to battle back? And you can't battle back punching and elbowing in the face. You can't do that. You battle back by playing and understanding leverage and angles. They've gotten better with that."
Moderator: Coach Calipari, you always have thoughts on the NCAA tournament, so how many SEC teams do you see making the postseason in March?
Calipari: "I think we've got five teams that'll be in. I think that if somebody crazy, one of those other teams wins our tournament, we may have six in. Now people have to finish the year. They have to play it out. People could fall flat on their face these last two weeks and then you've got no one to blame but yourself. But what our league has done nonconference and what we've done within playing each other, we've got five teams in. And then I would tell you, does someone win the tournament and get us a sixth team in? Where I hope this league goes is that we're a seven-, eight-team league. Adding the teams we're adding, (Texas) A&M and Missouri, I think we start saying, 'OK, we're going after eight or nine bids.' Our league is as strong as any. You're talking about whether it's the ACC or the Big East or us, the Big 12 at the top of their league, but they've got some teams faltering. The Big 10 has got some teams faltering. We're all the same. Now you can hype them different, but the reality of it is when you look at the teams, look at who's played who. I think Marquette lost at LSU. Michigan lost to Arkansas. All teams that are top 10. Those teams lost to people in our league. So you're looking at a league that's just got to keep promoting each other. We've got to keep promoting all of our coaches and the jobs they're doing so people get the right picture of this league."
Moderator: On that topic - Coach Stansbury, for your rebuttal - talk about the job Coach Calipari has done this season.
Stansbury: "He's done a great job with them. You get these new guys to come in and those kids have got to be great kids. Six weeks ago, they were a different team than they are now. They've gotten better in every way -- offensively and defensively. Davis has taken his game to another level and Jones has turned it back on. Earlier in the season, the game they lost (at Indiana), he was a no-show against Indiana. I think he had four points but he was on the bench most of the second half -- not because of foul trouble but just becuase he wasn't playing. They've got great pieces. The guy they talk about the least is the glue guy for them and that's Miller. He's the one guy they move around more than anybody else. He plays two, three and four. He's an experienced guy and knows all those positions. He guards multiple positions. He can post you and he's one of their better shooters. I think that's a huge key for them off the bench."
Moderator: Coach Stansbury, how are you going to contain Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis, who has a chance to win Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year and National Player of the Year?
Stansbury: "This press conference has gone on too long and too far. Cut it off with that question. Hey, we're going to put out what we got now. Am I confident that....it'll be a challenge. No one yet has taken Davis out of anything yet. It's very obvious we want to go at him and getting him out the game in foul trouble. Because he's so smart, he'll back off after you and still get that blocked shot against him. He got in foul trouble early (against Ole Miss) and didn't play but eight minutes. He changes the game more than any one player in a long time. I've never seen anybody change the game in so many different ways around that rim offensively and his defensively abilities."
Moderator: Well....on that note - I want to thank the two coaches for joining us today and hope that everybody will join us tonight for a 8 p.m. contest at Humphrey Coliseum or on ESPN.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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