Stony Brook coach on Cats: “They are better than I thought.”

DES MOINES — Here’s what Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell had to say about Kentucky after Thursday’s loss to the Wildcats:

Q. Steve, again, just like Jameel Warner was saying about the number of bigs that they were able to run at you, does that kind of just shake everybody’s confidence when they’re seeing something they’ve never seen before?
STEVE PIKIELL: They’re so athletic at every position. I mean, Vanderbilt wasn’t like that. The guard, Ulis, is right from the bat and their bigs are athletic, their wings are athletic and they have a lot of guys coming off the bench and they’re well coached and I thought they played, like, really well, too.

I saw the film and they’re very good but they played really well tonight. Unfortunately we didn’t. I thought we could hang around a little bit. I thought the three-point play at the end of the first half hurt us because we were hanging around and we needed a good shooting night. We knew that we had 25 offensive rebounds. We worked hard in the game. But you’ve got to shoot the ball in these games when you play a team that’s well coached who does a great job, they were really, really in us and wouldn’t allow us to do a lot of things. Very difficult game and the way they played, that’s a very, very good basketball team.

Q. Kentucky shot 32% in the first half, 76% in the second half. Do you think fatigue was a factor going on?
STEVE PIKIELL: I mean, I think they’re — yeah, could have been, but among they’re very good, they made some difficult shots, too, and then the score kinda get away from you, too, then and we’re rushing shots down at our end trying to get back into the thing, so the way you play in offense hurts your defense, too, sometimes and I thought that happened for us in the second half when we got down.

Q. Coach,  one of our players said he thought Kentucky was a Final Four team. What do you think of that?
STEVE PIKIELL: I watched a lot of tape. I thought they were excellent, and seeing them live they’re better than I thought, you know. They can just overwhelm you. Their size is — and they have a point guard that just kinda runs things, and Jamal Murray is shooting the ball. I thought we did a pretty decent job deporting him, too. Some of the shots he hit were kinda unguardable for us. They got a great coach, so they’ve got a great combination and they played today — if they play like that they’re going to go very far.

Q. Is there any part of you that wishes you could have had a different match-up even on the same lining against the other 4 seeds compared to this one?
STEVE PIKIELL: I mean, whew, that is a really good team. So if there’s teams — I saw a lot of basketball today. That’s a really good basketball team. You can’t pick who you get in the tournament, and we’re excited for our young university to be here, and, you know, we just played a great team today. So we have to play who they put us in the bracket with, and we played a great, great program, 55th trip to the tournament. Maybe our 55th time we’ll look like them, too.

Q. Coach, what’s your assessment of Skal Labissiere? Did he surprise you in any way?
STEVE PIKIELL: You know, he really did. You try to take away a few things and Ulis and Murray, we wanted those guys to shoot the ball, keep the ball out of Ulis’s and Murray’s hands, and he started the game off and he started making shots and obviously he’s big, he’s long and that caused problems for us for sure. I thought he played really well.


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  1. The team played great D all night but they really weren’t on their game in the first half. SB wasn’t ready for this team. I don’t think a lot of teams are. Even in the second half the team could have played better. Ulis only scored 10 points and he actually had 3 turnovers. There are times when the whole team doesn’t have many more turnovers than that. SB played good D themselves but UK was tight. They seemed to have a serious case of the first tournament game jitters. They can play much better than they did. For one thing Ulis missed some things that he normally would never do. Take a look at this photo. No pass was made to Willis here. Unbelievable.

  2. This team is playing at a very high level, and has been since it lost in Knoxville. The transformation from the team in decline that we watched in November, December, and most of January began after the loss at Auburn, but the back to back losses at Kansas and Tennessee set the progress back slightly.

    At this level of play, they should not lose to anyone remaining in this field, including Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Xavier, Michigan State, or Kansas.

    Go Big Blue

    1. Sure hope you’re right Prof.. They are playing well especially on defense. And yeah I know they have the top ranked offense in the country. It’s a great combination.

  3. King, I saw that play when it happened, and it amazed me when Tyler missed him. I admit to being shocked when he makes the wrong play, because it is a rare occasion. Kyle Macy was like that, and when the game was on the line you wanted him to have the ball in his hands because good things were going to happen. I feel the same way about Ulis.

  4. By the way, we all know who the best coach in the country is. He loses seven great players to the NBA, starts over with three players with any experience and a talented group of freshmen, gets them to play unselfishly and has them primed in March. I don’t know any other coach who could do that every year.

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