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Lamb living up to Calipari's preseason proclamation

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Doron Lamb has scored 50 points over his last two games. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Doron Lamb has scored 50 points over his last two games. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
A few months ago, John Calipari called Doron Lamb Kentucky's "best basketball player."

Since his 2011-12 roster would feature a wealth of talent and future first-round draft picks, his declaration was met with some puzzled reactions from fans and media alike. Following a coldly efficient outing in an 82-50 defeat of Samford in front of 21,984 fans in Rupp Arena, many of those quizzical looks are turning into nods of assent.

However, the praise Calipari heaped on his sophomore shooting guard was contingent on Lamb making a commitment on the practice floor and in the weight room. He has responded and the dividends have been plainly evident.

"The extra time that he's spending on that basketball court before practice, after practice, you're all seeing the benefit of it," Calipari said.

Already UK's leading scorer, Lamb tallied his second consecutive 20-point outing in tying a season high with 26 points. He needed just 12 shots to do his damage, scoring four-and-a-half points for every shot he missed. Lamb hit 3-pointers (four of them), layups and floaters. He got to the line seven times and committed just a single turnover.

He upped his season average to 16.7 against Samford and has been happy with his start to the season, but he also recognizes what it will take to sustain it.

"I think I'm playing good so far," Lamb said. "I've got to keep it up though, keep working out in the gym and keep doing what I'm doing."

Lamb remembered games during his freshman season when tired legs prevented him from making shots in the clutch, so he decided he needed to work on it. He has undertaken a regimen of shooting following intense treadmill workouts.

Calipari often talks about how dedication and hard work will be rewarded with results; Lamb is a shining example.

"You get what you deserve in basketball and in life," Calipari said. "You want to spend that extra time, there's going to be a result. It doesn't happen in a day, but when you start linking days together, weeks together, months together, you start seeing it."

He's always been a self-assured player, but he's taken his confidence to another level now that he knows no one who steps on the floor with him is working any harder than he does away from it.

"Every time I shoot the ball, I always think it's about to go in," Lamb said. "I've got a lot of confidence in my jumper and my floater. (Lamb's confidence) increased a lot. I put a lot of shots up when I'm tired and in the game when I'm tired I'm making shots and I'm still playing defense. I'm never really tired on the court."

Lamb's floater was particularly deadly against Samford. Anytime he had the slightest amount of space inside 10 feet, Lamb used the shot to great effect and it has been a signature move of his for most of his basketball life.

"I always had a floater when I was young, even when I was playing AAU basketball," Lamb said. "It was one of my go-to moves."

Lamb, though, can remember a time when the floater wasn't part of his repertoire, but his mother, Brigitte Grant, suggested he incorporate the shot when he was a youngster.

"She taught me to do that when I was young," Lamb said. "I used to always go to the rack and I would always get blocked and my mom told me to start shooting floaters over big guys."

Lamb will continue to use the floater extensively, but he's also much less timid in attacking the shot blockers he used to avoid. He's shooting an average of 4.2 free throws per game after going to the line just 2.6 times a game as a freshman and it's no accident.

"I'm just going to the rack a lot more because I know if I get fouled, I'm going to knock the foul shots down," Lamb said. "I'm creating more plays for me and my teammates."

Creating many of Lamb's opportunities is freshman point guard Marquis Teague, who continued his evolution with a 14-point, five-assist performance against the Bulldogs. Lamb garnered a reputation as a dead-eye shooter in 2010-11, but Teague knew he was much more before setting foot on campus

"I knew he had a great feel for the game," Teague said. "He can score in many different ways: pull-up jumpers, spot shooting, jumper, 3's, he's got a great floater game, he can get to the rim and he can knock down free throws."

Other than Lamb himself, no one stands to benefit from the work the shooting guard has logged more than Teague. When Teague gives the ball up to his backcourt mate, it's not a matter of whether he'll score. The only question is how he's going to do it.

"That makes my job real easy," Teague said. "I can just give him the ball and let him do what he does and know he's going to put the ball into the hoop."

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