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Notes: Cats wary of the Hilltoppers' comeback magic

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UK fans flooded the KFC Yum! Center for Wednesday's open practice. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK fans flooded the KFC Yum! Center for Wednesday's open practice. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.

To pull a season-long comeback, Western Kentucky has used thrilling rallies during some of its most important victories.

Tuesday night's turnaround in the final five minutes against Mississippi Valley State has been the headline of Western Kentucky's remarkable late-season run, but the Hilltoppers erased two different deficits of 13 during the Sun Belt Tournament, a tourney they had to win to make the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague didn't see Western's improbably comeback against the Delta Devils - the team left John Calipari's house once the lead grew to double digits - but he's aware of the momentum and team camaraderie comebacks can build when they become contagious.

"It probably just gives them confidence and lets them know if they play until the end, good things will happen for them," Teague said. "They play hard at every position from what I've seen. They all crash the boards. They don't give up anything."

With the exception of Vanderbilt, this Kentucky team has been very good at knocking its opponent out once it's started to waver.

Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper is aware, joking with reporters Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, that his team needs to go ahead on the opening tip, hope the shot clock breaks and "then hold the ball the rest of the game."

"You don't want to start out the game bad against a team like this," WKU forward Vinny Zollo said. "It's kind of like horse racing. When you're racing a really big horse, you don't want to get behind too much because the race is only so long."

Wiltjer was in a "flow"


Kentucky's locker room was buzzing Wednesday after Kyle Wiltjer's ridiculous numbers during a five-minute shooting drill in Tuesday's practice. The freshman forward hit 76 3-pointers - missing just six shots - to break Darius Miller's old record of 74.

"That's crazy," Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said. "That's Kyle's game right there so I knew it was going to happen eventually."

Six players participate in the five-minute shooting drills while managers feed the players balls. Around 50 is considered a pretty good mark and anything above 60 is great.

"Sometimes you just get in your flow," Wiltjer said. "I've really done a lot of work with Coach (Kenny) Payne to help when I'm tired shooting the basketball. It felt like nothing."

Wiltjer's work in practice has paid off in games. He has hit 19 of his last 37 3-pointers (51.3 percent).

"I feel very confident going into games," Wiltjer said. "I put up a lot of reps before and after practice, so it just builds your confidence when you're able to do that every day in practice."

Davis needs a new trophy case

Anthony Davis' résumé of awards is growing longer and longer by the day.

He's already been named the national player of the year by Sporting News and CBS Sports, a first-team All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and he was tabbed the Wayne Tisdale Award winner Wednesday, given annually to the national freshman of the year.

That's just the tip of the iceberg for Davis, who seems to win a new honor every other day (depending on the day of the week, it's been every other hour).

"Somebody texted me today and said you're going to need a whole new trophy case," Davis said. "I guess I'll get another one."

Humbly, Davis said he has no idea how many awards he's won already.

The freshman phenom is widely considered a favorite alongside Kansas' Thomas Robinson for national player of the year.

UK fans turn U of L's building blue

How do you turn a rivals' home building your color? Send Kentucky to Louisville for the NCAA Tournament.

An estimated 7,000 to 8,000 fans showed up for UK's NCAA-mandated open practice on Wednesday at the KFC Yum! Center, home to Kentucky's archrival, Louisville.

With a neutral NCAA floor in place of the Cardinals' usual court, Big Blue fans packed the lower bowl to watch the Cats go through a quick shoot-around. Girls screamed, cameras flashed and fans applauded.

Coach Cal took the arena microphone after the session and thanked the fans for their support.

Home-state feel 'neat'

Kentucky isn't the only team from the Commonwealth making a short trip to Louisville for the NCAA Tournament.

Obviously, Western Kentucky lies within the state borders, but Murray State is also in town for the second and third rounds. Three teams from the Bluegrass State won their respective league tournaments to earn automatic bids into the Big Dance.

"I think it says a lot about basketball in this state," Calipari said. "Three of the teams won their conference tournament. We did not. You're talking three of the teams at the end of the year, they're all on win streaks right now. ... It's neat stuff for our state."

Jones glad he came back


One of Terrence Jones' primary reasons for putting the NBA on hold a year and coming back for his sophomore season was to avenge a loss in last year's Final Four. He wants a national championship.

Despite a sometimes inconsistent season, Jones, who is playing his best basketball of the year heading into the tournament, doesn't regret his decision.

"I'm really happy I came back just to be on a special team like I'm on right now with the family and brothers I got on my team and the chemistry we created on the court," Jones said. "I've just been having fun playing with these dudes all year."

Do or die?


Kentucky freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was asked Wednesday if anything short of the national championship was considered a bust.

"No," Kidd-Gilchrist quickly answered, "I'm still a kid. I'm just trying to have fun and play my heart out. That's it. Everything else will fall into place."

Something's got to give?

UK has led the nation in field-goal percentage defense for much of the last half of the season. Western Kentucky is ranked 321st in the country in field-goal percentage offense with a 39.4 percent mark.

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