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October 2012 Archives

John Calipari will coach the Kentucky Wildcats in their first exhibition of 2012-13 on Thursday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) John Calipari will coach the Kentucky Wildcats in their first exhibition of 2012-13 on Thursday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

It's no secret that John Calipari changes his style of play to fit each of his teams.

His flexibility has been on display through his first three years at Kentucky, as he's molded three very different sets of players into teams contending for championships late in March and into April.

He's now in the initial stages of that same process with a fourth team, but it turns out style of play isn't the only thing he's changing up.

"I'm having more individual meetings than I've had collectively since I've been the coach here already and where are we, 21 days into practice?" Calipari said. "But that's what this team needs, and that's fine. I'm here for them."

The 2012-13 edition of the Kentucky Wildcats is Coach Cal's youngest team to date. It lacks the veteran presence of a Patrick Patterson, a DeAndre Liggins or a Darius Miller, so Calipari is compensating. Regardless, living up to a No. 3 preseason ranking early in the season is a tall order for a team returning just one regular rotation player - Kyle Wiltjer - from last season's title team.

Everyone from fans to players to Calipari himself will get an idea just how far UK has to go on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET when the Cats play host to Northwood in the first of two preseason exhibitions. The Rollie Massimino-coached Seahawks have 11 juniors and seniors and are coming off a trip to the national championship game.

For Northwood, it will be the second game this week against high-profile Division I team after the Seahawks lost at Michigan State 85-57 on Tuesday.

"The greatest thing about playing a team like this, the No. 1 team in NAIA and a team that was down six to Michigan State at half that made nine 3s, that has some post-up game, that has a really quick guard is that the weaknesses or the things we're not doing well will be glaring," Calipari said.

Calipari knows early-season challenges will help his young team, but they don't come without stress. A few more practices, Northwood and Transylvania are the only things that stand between UK and a regular-season schedule that starts with neutral-site games against Maryland and Duke.

"It's kind of scary," Calipari said. "Us getting dinged is not the worst thing, I'm telling you, for these guys to understand you've got to listen, you've got to create habits. You don't have them right now."

Calipari won't hit the panic button if UK should stumble in November or December, and neither should UK fans. Unless Coach Cal stops using his usual refrain, there will be little cause for concern.

"I like my team," Calipari said. "I think we will be good in time."

Perhaps the best reason to like this latest bunch of Wildcats is its remarkable versatility. For all the talent that has paraded through Lexington in recent seasons, it's quite possible that Coach Cal has never had a set of weapons this diverse.

There's Archie Goodwin, the athletic freak who can freely switch between point and shooting guard.

There's Alex Poythress, the matchup nightmare who plays on the perimeter and in the post.

There's Wiltjer, the 6-foot-9 forward who also happens to be probably the best outside shooter on the team.

Don't forget transfer guards Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays, one lightning-quick and the other a wily veteran.

Oh yeah, what about 6-foot-11 Nerlens Noel and 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein, the big-man duo that has forced Calipari to bend former UK head coach Joe B. Hall's ear about playing a twin-tower lineup.

Calipari has experimented with basically every conceivable combination in practice this week.

"It's been interesting," Mays said. "You might see Alex at the four and then you might see the two bigs in together, so it's been an interesting but it's all part of the learning process. Once we continue to practice and continue to put those lineups in at practice, I think we'll show that we mesh better."

Thursday's exhibition will be the first chance for Calipari to do his tinkering against real competition. For the players, that's a welcome change.

"It's tough playing against each other every day," Mays said. "We know the plays, so guys cheat and it's hard to execute. It'll be fun to actually get to play against somebody else."

With just one year of eligibility, Mays' time is short. He is looking forward to playing games, but doesn't want to press the fast-forward button on any of these experiences.

"I'm not in a rush for anything," Mays said. "I know it's going to take time for us to all come together and to get on the same page since we are a brand-new group just now coming together."

Mays' realization is an important one. Players must avoid frustration when their talent doesn't immediately translate into on-court results. At the same time, Calipari is looking for a sense of urgency out of his team, making it a balancing act.

"I think it's more hard work than patience," Calipari said. "I think it's more of a focus on what you're doing than patience. I think it's more taking caring of your body, getting rest, taking care of business off the court, no distractions, let's go. We don't have time for that."

Nothing gets a team's attention like a little adversity, which is exactly what Northwood is going to try to create come Thursday.

"As much as I don't like to play a team this good this early, this is going to be great for this team because the more I'm watching tape, the more I'm seeing they've got to change and they've got to understand that it's got to be a habit," Calipari said.

Video: Coach Cal's pre-Northwood presser

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Julius Mays - Guard

Alex Poythress - Forward

Kyle Wiltjer - Forward

Video: Towles on bouncing back from Missouri

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Jon Lipsitz and the Kentucky women's soccer team will open play in the SEC Tournament at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Missouri. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Jon Lipsitz and the Kentucky women's soccer team will open play in the SEC Tournament at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Missouri. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)

On Wednesday, the Kentucky women's soccer team opens play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala. At 8:30 p.m. ET, the Wildcats will face a rematch with the Missouri Tigers, a team that handed them a 2-1 overtime loss less than a month ago. It's also a matchup of two teams hoping to position themselves for a bid to host a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, UK has plenty to play for.

After closing out the regular season last Thursday with a 3-0 victory over Vanderbilt, Jon Lipsitz could have gone all in on this Missouri game, turning to every conceivable measure to win it. With the talent of the Tigers, it certainly would have been understandable if he had, but Lipsitz has chosen another path.

It's not that he doesn't want to win or that he doesn't respect UK's opponent. The fact is that Lipsitz has chosen to approach this week as one long tournament, not a series of games.

"We have to understand that we're trying to build not just toward one game," Lipsitz said. "We're trying to build toward multiple games. That's our goal in single-elimination situations: to play multiple games."

What that has meant over the six days since the Cats last played is plenty of rest to allow them to recover from the grind of having played 19 matches in a little more than two months. When they have practiced, the sessions have been short and sweet.

"When you're training for one game, it's very different from training for multiple games so we've treated this more like training for an entire tournament because that's our plan," Lipsitz said. "Therefore it's been very crisp and very detailed, but short training sessions."

The approach is a bold one, because neither Lipsitz nor any player on the roster has yet won a postseason game at Kentucky. Last season, UK lost its first match in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. Two years ago, the Cats fell in penalty kicks in the SEC Tournament to South Carolina before missing out on an NCAA big.

For the most part, Lipsitz has stayed away from changing what he says to his team with the postseason set to begin, with a notable exception.

"The one thing that I have said is that we're in postseason time now and this senior class has never won a postseason game," Lipsitz said. "We've got both the SEC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament coming up. It's time for this program to take the next step. I think putting those expectations out there is important because those are our expectations."

Outside of that, Lipsitz is coaching the same as he did during a regular season that saw UK go 13-5-1 and earn the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament. The reason why he hasn't had to talk to a team with a sophomore - Arin Gilliland - and two freshmen - Courtney Raetzman and Kelli Hubly - among its top three scorers about the increased intensity of playing in a one-and-done format is the leadership of UK's five seniors.

"Quite honestly, the last time I felt this way about leadership was my last two years at Charlotte," Lipsitz said.

The two 49er teams to which Lipsitz compares these Wildcats won a combined 34 games and reached back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.

"It takes time to build leaders in a mold that you want as a coach," Lipsitz said. "This says absolutely nothing negative about the leadership that we've had before, but it takes time and it takes multiple leaders."

With that kind of leadership, Lipsitz has found that he doesn't have to concern himself as much with making sure his team is in the right frame of mind. He's not shirking that responsibility, but he trusts his veterans to set the tone.

"The other thing leadership allows coaches to do is stay more even-keeled," Lipsitz said. "If I'm not having to be the emotional center of a team and the players can be the emotional center, then coaches can coach and can worry about the tactics."

That's a particular luxury with Missouri looming.

The Tigers represent a marked contrast in style with UK's possession-based attacking approach, relying on athleticism to create chances while the Cats prefer to use passing to do so.

"We're just very different teams," Lipsitz said. "They are an extremely physical team, they are very direct, their backs want to get the ball forward as fast as possible and they want to get the ball behind the other team as fast as possible."

The Tigers used that approach to create 19 shots when they hosted and defeated the Wildcats on Oct. 5. Only one time this season has UK allowed more shots in a game.

"There are many different ways to play this game, just like in any sport," Lipsitz said. "There are lots of different ways to win and they've been very successful their way and we've been successful our way. It's not right or wrong, we're just different."

The winner of the UK-Missouri match - which will be live streamed on the SEC Digital Network - will go on to face either top-seeded Florida or No. 8 seed Ole Miss on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Cats are loving their beachfront hotel and temperatures in the mid-70s, but the biggest reason why they want to stick around Orange Beach is because they are enjoying each other's company so much.

"It's just about spending time together right now," Lipsitz said. "We've been in a bus all (Monday) and we were still in a bus (Tuesday) and we're enjoying ourselves. We're enjoying being together and I think that speaks for itself."

Former Cat Woodyard named AFC Player of the Week

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Wesley Woodyard returned to Commonwealth Stadium for Homecoming on Oct. 20. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Wesley Woodyard returned to Commonwealth Stadium for Homecoming on Oct. 20. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

Wesley Woodyard had carved out a niche for himself in Denver. He was the Broncos' special teams ace and captain, as well as a backup at linebacker who stepped in whenever he was needed.

Even so, the former Kentucky star recognized he had an opportunity heading into his fifth professional season. With D.J. Williams suspended, Woodyard stepped into a starting role.

He is taking full advantage his opportunity.

Through seven games for first-place Denver, Woodyard leads the team with 61 tackles to go along with three sacks, two interceptions, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. He is one of just two players in the NFL with at least 50 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

His best effort of the season came this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. He had 13 tackles (9 solo), one sack, one interception, two passes defensed and one forced fumble on Sunday, which earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. More importantly, he helped limit Drew Brees and the prolific Saints offense to just 14 points and 252 totals yards.

As the Denver Post writes, Woodyard is definitely making the most of his starting role.

Video: Phillips on injuries, Vanderbilt, Towles

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First-year head coach Johan Cedergren has UK men's soccer on the rise. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) First-year head coach Johan Cedergren has UK men's soccer on the rise. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

For the most part, first-year head coaches tend to struggle. Not necessarily because they were the wrong hire or they are unsuccessful coaches, but various factors play in when taking over a new team.

As a new coach, you inherit sophomores, juniors and seniors, you did not recruit, who have stuck around the program. With these players, you have to gain their trust and belief in your system to play in a way that fits your coaching philosophy, which could be completely different from what they have been used to playing in the past. First-year head coaches also come in without a full year of offseason recruiting to bring in the players they feel are right for their coaching style.

And while these are just a few factors that new coaches face when stepping into their inaugural seasons, the University of Kentucky can take a deep breath and throw all the doubts out the window when talking about men's soccer head coach Johan Cedergren.

When the 2012 season kicked off, it looked as though Cedergren would go through the bumps and bruises that are expected during the first campaign. The Wildcats didn't have an ideal start to the year, beginning 1-4. But a win over intrastate rival Louisville, kick started the Cats. UK is 8-2-1 since that slow start and in second place in the Conference USA at 4-1-1.

Of course as a coach you have to be positive, but who really could have seen this turnaround coming this quickly? This season has basically caught everyone off guard; even Cedergren is a little surprised.

"I would say I'm a little surprised," Cedergren said. "I think we were just looking to make the conference tournament but again I think we have developed a kind of competitive spirit and comaraderie. The best guy and the worst guy are working just as hard and they want to get to that next level. "

With Cedergren taking over the Wildcats this season, several players have shuffled through different positions in an attempt to find the right lineup. To name a few, freshman Isak Krogstad began the year at forward and is now playing right back, Charley Pettys was at right back and is now in the midfield, Matt Lodge began in the midfield and is now at forward and Dylan Asher has moved from centerback, to midfield, to right back and now to the forward position, where he has excelled.

Cedergren also changed formations midway through the year, switching from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2, which has paid major dividends for Kentucky.
The biggest areas where the Cats have improved since the beginning of the season is organization and communication. With two games left in the season, it is evident the team has really come together and accepted Cedergren's style.

"It took a while for me to make up my mind where our players fit in best for our system," Cedergren said. "We thought we had a good idea about the team after the spring but at the same time when you bring in so many freshmen that kind of changes the equation. It just took a while for us to really find the strengths of the team and how we could all gel together."

Last Saturday, UK defeated the 23rd-ranked Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 2-0, on the road to pick up its fourth consecutive conference victory. The win improved the Cats road record to 6-2 on the year, which is a welcome change after going winless away from Lexington in 2011. The game marked the third victory over a top-25 opponent this season, tying a program record.

What Cedergren likes most about this team the fact that his players have come to believe they can go anywhere and play with anyone in the country. This team is unique in that Cedergren doesn't think his squad has a so-called best player. The Wildcats are loaded with depth and a group of athletes that have formed a family bond.

"We have some special players but mostly we are a good team and everyone works for each other," Cedergren said. "There is a real camaraderie in the squad, everyone is working really hard, pushing each other and they have a sense of belief that we can play with anyone in the country."

Before the game at Tulsa, Cedergren challenged his team. Even though UK had seven returners coming back this season, coaches around the league picked the Cats to finish seventh in the league. With second place on the line, the match had huge implications. After an impressive 2-0 win, Kentucky has reeled off four C-USA wins in a row and has locked itself into the conference tournament, which was a team goal looking ahead to the season.

Now with two home games standing in front of them and the league tournament, the Cats have a chance to earn a bye with the No. 2 seed or win the regular season conference title with a little help from Memphis this week against first place SMU.

Cedergren's team has exceeded their expectations and goal of making the conference tournament, but why stop now? Coach has set new goals for the squad and isn't ready for this ride to be over yet.

"Hopefully we can win two at home, especially on Senior Night when all the parents are here and the big crowd," Cedergren said. "I think the goal for us is to get to the conference tournament final. If we get there with the belief that we can play with anyone in the country, then you never know what's going to happen."

This season has been one heck of a turnaround and it's hard to pinpoint one word or quality that describes this team.

Instead, Cedergren narrowed down three characteristics to summarize this year and his Wildcats: Passion, work and belief.

"Passion for the squad and for Kentucky; work rate because we basically go out and outwork every team that we play; belief as the results have gone our way after the 1-4 start, the guys realize we are just as good as the coaching staff is telling us," Cedergren said. "I think now we have gotten to the point where the guys believe in themselves without us having to tell them."

The way things look right now, soccer fans in Lexington might have a few more chances to see matches after the end of the regular-season schedule.

Both the Kentucky men's and women's soccer programs appear to be locks for the NCAA Tournament and, with the two programs riding late-season hot streaks, hosting a game or two is looking like a more realistic possibility.

Let's take a look at the resumes for each:

Men's soccer
Record: 9-6-1 (4-1-1 Conference USA)
Last five matches: 4-1-0 (won four straight)
RPI: 14 (best in school history)
Key RPI wins: at No. 8 Louisville, at No. 22 Tulsa, at No. 26 UAB
Worst loss: at No. 57 Dayton

After starting the season 1-4-0, the Wildcats have put together a remarkable six-week stretch against one of the nation's toughest schedules in Johan Cedergren's first season as head coach.

UK has two regular-season games remaining against UCF and South Carolina on Wednesday and Sunday, both at home. After that, the Cats will travel to Birmingham, Ala., for the Conference USA Championship from Nov. 7-11. The bracket for the NCAA Tournament will be announced on Nov. 12.

Forty-eight teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament in men's soccer, with 16 receiving first-round byes. Teams seeded 17-32 will host first-round games on Nov. 15 against teams seeded 33-48 for the right to travel to face the top-16-seeded teams in the second round on Nov. 18.

With UK's strong RPI, a first-round bye is not out of the question, particularly with a solid finish over the next two weeks.

Women's soccer
Record: 13-5-1 (8-4-1 Southeastern Conference)
Last five matches: 5-0-0
RPI: 26
Key RPI wins: No. 9 Florida, at No. 13 Tennessee, at No. 39 Louisville
Worst loss: No. 128 Samford (played in Louisville)

Outside of a six-match stretch during the middle of the season when UK won just once in six tries, it has been a banner season for Jon Lipsitz's team. The Cats are the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament and will play fifth-seeded Missouri on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET with potential semifinal and final matches to be played on Friday and Sunday before NCAA selections are announced on Nov. 5.

A victory in the conference tournament would likely assure Kentucky of hosting an NCAA Tournament game for the second time in as many seasons. Sixty-four teams will be in the field, with the top 32 hosting first-round matches Nov. 9-11.

With No. 9 Florida and No. 31 Missouri on UK's side of the SEC Tournament bracket, the Cats will have opportunities to grab resume wins and potentially the right to host beyond the first round.

Oct. 28 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 28:

Volleyball: Christine Hartmann

Senior Christine Hartmann led a multitude of UK players with standout performances in helping guide UK to a pair of five-set wins on the road against SEC Eastern opponents. Hartmann was masterful in all phases of the game. On Friday she helped lead UK from a 2-0 deficit to a win at Tennessee for the first time since 2008. Against Tennessee she totaled a career-high nine kills on a career-high .500 hitting percentage while recoding her second-straight double-double effort with 52 assists and 11 digs. She was one kill shy of recording what would have been the second triple-double in school history. Against the Lady Vols, Hartmann directed the offense to the tune of a .244 hitting clip and found four players for 10 or more kills for the first time this season for the Wildcats. She directed Ashley Frazier to a season-high 19 kills in SEC action on a sizzling .472 hitting percentage. Against Georgia, Hartmann led the Wildcat defensive effort with a career-high 19 digs while logging her third consecutive double-double. She passed out 58 assists (one shy of a career-high) as well as notching four blocks to couple with the 19 digs. For the second-straight match she found four players for 10 or more kills including 18 on a .452 hitting clip by Whitney Billings, and a career-high 15 kills from Alexandra Morgan on a .500 percentage.  For the week she set new career-highs in a match for kills (9), hitting percentage (.500) and digs (19) while also leading the Wildcats to an average of 14.50 kills per set on a .288 hitting percentage with four players logging 2.60 kills or more for the weekend.

Men's soccer: Steven Perinovic

NOTES: Junior defender Steven Perinovic had a dynamic game in leading Kentucky to a shutout win at No. 23 Tulsa on Saturday night ... UK's vocal and physical leader at center back, Perinovic led UK to the shutout vs. the Golden Hurricane, a team ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in goals scored ... Perinovic was a force on Saturday, with his ability to play the ball in the air thwarting scoring chances for the Golden Hurricane throughout the game ... UK finished with four saves in the win, its fifth shutout of the year ... A native of Delafield, Wis., Perinovic has been a major weapon for UK's defensive unit in 2012, with UK owning a 1.29 goals-against average ... On the year, Perinovic has started all 15 games at center back with one goal.

Volleyball: Sara Schwarzwalder

Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder provided a defensive spark in helping lead UK to a 2-0 weekend on the road with both victories coming in in five-set fashion. Schwarzwalder had a season-high nine kills within SEC action in the five-set come-from-behind win at Tennessee. She added a career-high three digs as well as a team-best four blocks while dishing out the first assist of her career from her middle blocker position. In a win at Georgia on Sunday, it was her presence at the net that helped fluster Georgia into 26 errors in the match with a career-high-tying eight blocks against the Bulldogs. It marks only the second time this season a UK player has logged eight or more blocks - and she has achieved them both. She also provided seven kills on a.353 hitting clip.

Just in time for basketball and the end of football season, Cat Scratches will be undergoing maintenance on Tuesday beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

The blog's administrative will be getting an upgrade, meaning we will not be able to publish any new posts on Tuesday afternoon until the upgrade process is complete. During this time, readers will be able to view any content posted before 1 p.m., so your experience won't change during this time. Once we are back online, expect to see stories about men's and women's soccer, football and basketball.

In the meantime, make sure you are following @UKAthleticsNews on Twitter for any breaking news since you won't be able to find it here.

21 former Wildcats begin season on NBA rosters

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Thumbnail image for NBA-Logo.png

With John Calipari coaching at Kentucky, you knew it was a matter of time.

The regular season tipping off on Tuesday night and 20 former Wildcats are NBA rosters. UK has been among the schools with the most professionals over the last few years, but the six draftees from the national championship team have sent Kentucky past Duke and into the top spot.

Here are the colleges with 10 or more players on opening day rosters:

Kentucky - 21

Duke - 18
North Carolina - 17
Kansas - 14
UCLA - 12
Connecticut - 12
Texas - 11
Florida - 10

And here is the list of all 20 former Cats and their teams:

Eric Bledsoe - Los Angeles Clippers
Keith Bogans - Brooklyn Nets
DeMarcus Cousins - Sacramento Kings
Anthony Davis - New Orleans Hornets
Josh Harrellson - Miami Heat
Chuck Hayes - Sacramento Kings
Terrence Jones - Houston Rockets
Enes Kanter - Utah Jazz
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - Charlotte Bobcats
Brandon Knight - Detroit Pistons
Doron Lamb - Milwaukee Bucks
DeAndre Liggins - Oklahoma City Thunder
Jodie Meeks - Los Angeles Lakers
Darius Miller - New Orleans Hornets
Nazr Mohammed - Chicago Bulls
Daniel Orton - Oklahoma City Thunder
Patrick Patterson - Houston Rockets
Tayshaun Prince - Detroit Pistons
Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics
Marquis Teague - Chicago Bulls
John Wall - Washington Wizards

With UK players on 15 of the NBA's 30 teams, there's a pretty good chance you'll see a familiar any time you turn on a game this season. The NBA's opening week is proof.

These are the games that feature former Cats that will be on national television this week:

Tuesday, Oct. 30

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat - 8 p.m. ET on TNT - This game will pit Rondo, one of the point guards in the world, against Josh Harrellson's new team, the Miami Heat.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 10:30 p.m. ET on TNT - With Kobe Bryant's status uncertain due to a foot injury, Jodie Meeks could start in his Laker debut.

Wednesday, Oct. 31

Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls - 8 p.m. ET on WGN - DeMarcus Cousins will be looking to assert himself as one of the NBA's top big men beginning with this game. He'll play alongside Chuck Hayes and against Marquis Teague and Nazr Mohammed.

Thursday, Nov. 1

New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets - 7 p.m. ET on TNT - UK will play in the Barclays Center on Nov. 9, but former Cat Keith Bogans will play there first.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs - 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT - DeAndre Liggins won a battle for a roster spot with the Thunder and Daniel Orton joined him after Oklahoma City traded James Harden.

Friday, Nov. 2

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
- 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN - This will be your first chance to see potential breakout performer Eric Bledsoe suit up for the Clippers.

Video: Sanders, Minter talk Vandy

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Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders on quarterbacks

Defensive coordinator Rick Minter on Vanderbilt offense

It's been over six months since I wrote a post here on Cat Scratches mentioning, so as I'm sure you can guess, I was pretty excited when Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings on Tuesday morning.

In both the Associated Press and coaches polls, Kentucky checks in at No. 3 behind Indiana and Louisville, but Pomeroy disagrees - or at least his computer does. According to, the Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the land based on a formula that combines last season's results with incoming talent.

This marks the second year in a row that John Calipari's Cats have been Pomeroy's preseason No. 1, and I think we all remember how that worked out last season.

It also bears mentioning that UK fell from its perch atop the rankings in November before ascending back to No. 1 as the calendar hit March. This season, Coach Cal has his most inexperienced UK team to date, so I think it's safe to assume the Cats will fall from No. 1 early in the season as they find their feet. Whether the 2012-13 team matches the the 2011-12 edition's return to the top is more of a question.

No matter what happens, you can be sure to find plenty more mentions of how UK is looking in Pomeroy's tempo-free ratings over the next five months or so.

"Not many guys get to experience being one of the brand new guys and be a veteran guy being looked at as one of the leaders. I've enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoy being a (veteran) but also a guy who is learning every day like everyone else."

That is the unique dual role that Wright State transfer Julius Mays is playing in his only season at UK.

Mays had other options that might have assured him of more minutes and opportunities for points but he also knew the best path to getting a championship ring was to take the tougher road of competing for playing time on a national title contender at Kentucky.

"I haven't been worked this hard since I've been in college. I feel like I've been pushed like I've never been pushed before and I've liked every minute of it," Mays said at media day.

"I had a lot of offers and opportunities to go places and be a starter immediately or have a greater role coming in and be a scorer but from my decision, I wanted to be able to compete with the best of the best and have the best chance to win and I feel that Kentucky gave me the best opportunity to do that," Mays noted.

We'll get our first look at Mays and his teammates against outside competition this Thursday night, when the Cats play their first preseason game.

Mays is embracing coach Calipari's mantra that nothing is guaranteed for any player on this team.

"(He said) 'You have the same opportunity as everyone else who steps on this court,' and I really like that when he told me that. If it's not starting and it's coming off the bench, I am fine with that and I just want to be able to compete, help my team out and have a chance to win," said Mays.

In his media interviews, Mays comes off as unassuming and classy, but there is clearly a quiet confidence there as well, such as when he was asked about the difficulty of scoring around the basket against the likes of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein.

"When I first got here, it was more difficult but the guys will tell you I find ways to get it over them," Mays said with a smile. "I'm not the most athletic guy but I've always known how to put the ball in the hoop ever since I was younger. I shoot the ball well but I also score the ball well. And when that brings attention to me, Coach Cal says I won't have to worry about being double-teamed."

The book on Mays is that he brings a keen shooting eye from the perimeter but Mays says that is something that he has developed over time, with lots of hard work.

"You cannot just snap your fingers, come in the gym and become a shooter. It's developed over time. When I was younger, I couldn't really shoot the ball, I was more of a driver, but as you stop growing and might not be as athletic as another guy, you have to pick up something else that you do really well, and that is when you start being able to shoot the ball really well," Mays explained. "It's a lot of repetitions. Not being a guy that changes the shot all the time, but just coming into the gym and shooting the same shot every time, just starting out slow and speeding it up."

Mays says the UK coaches have not made many tweaks to his shooting form but they have worked with him on getting better at coming off screens and scoring against the more athletic defenders that he's likely to see more often, playing for a team like Kentucky.

"Shooting guard" is the label that goes on Mays but he says he's not a one-trick pony.

"I really define myself as a combo guard. I am not a point guard, I am not strictly a two-guard. I feel that I can play both," he said. "If it's distributing the ball, I can do that. If I am needed to score, I can do that. My ability to shoot the ball, I feel that I can stretch defenses out."

Mays has competed against enough big-name schools that he knew what to expect in terms of facing a greater on-court challenge when he came to Kentucky.  But what he didn't know as much about was the passion of the Wildcat fan base.

"I feel like, until you live it, then you don't know anything about it. Obviously I heard about how crazy the fans would be but until you experience it and live it...I have never seen anything like it," he acknowledged, adding that he is quite comfortable with it, too.  "I am a people person and I love seeing people smile and if me taking a picture or signing an autograph (makes that happen), I am all about it."

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Oct. 29)

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- The UK defense continued to improve, limiting Missouri to 273 yards of total offense which was the lowest number of yards UK has allowed all season.
- The Wildcat defense also created a season-high three turnovers in the game, getting two interceptions and a fumble recovery. J.D. Harmon was impressive in the effort for Kentucky, earning a career-best seven tackles on top of the two interceptions.

- Senior setter Christine Hartmann narrowly missed out on a triple-double with nine kills, 52 assists and 11 digs against Tennessee. She directed four players to 10 or more kills in the match including 19 on a .472 hitting clip from senior Ashley Frazier.
- With 21 digs against UT, senior Stephanie Klefot moved into sole possession of fourth place on the SEC all-time career digs leader list.
- In the victory over Georgia, UK saw Hartmann lead the defensive effort with a career-high 19 digs. She passed out 58 assists and again found four players for 10 or more kills.
- Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder led the defensive effort for the weekend with team-highs in blocks in both matches including matching a career-high eight in the victory against the Bulldogs.

Women's soccer

- UK's eight SEC wins marks the most conference wins for the Wildcats since the 1999 season. It ties a program record for most SEC wins in a season.
- The Wildcats have shut out four of the last five opponents they have faced, as goalkeeper Kayla King has only allowed one goal in the last 422 minutes of action in the net.
- UK finishes the season having six different freshmen score a goal, as the class accounted for more than 30 points on the season.

Men's soccer
- Jack Van Arsdale notched his fourth shutout of the year and UK got splendid play from defenders Steven Perinovic, Jacob Kemper, Jacob Speed and Isak Krogstad in a win at No. 23 Tulsa.
- UK has improved to 6-2 on the road in 2012, with the Wildcats tied for the second-most road wins in the NCAA entering the Saturday win.

- The No. 2 University of Kentucky rifle team defeated No. 15 Tennessee-Martin 4656 - 4577 Sunday in Barker Hall.
- Freshman Connor Davis led the Wildcats with an aggregate score of 1170.
- Junior Aaron Holsopple finished with a match high in smallbore, shooting a 582.

Women's soccer

- Senior Jessica Stiles finished the weekend 3-0 in singles play and 2-1 in doubles. Stiles' play left her in second for singles champion, one point off first.
- Junior Khristina Blajkevitch capped off a perfect singles weekend with a 6-1, 6-1 win on Sunday.

Cross country
- Cally Macumber achieved a feat no other University of Kentucky Wildcat had accomplished in 23 years when she won the SEC Cross Country Championship by a four-second margin with a time of 20:23.29 in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday.
- The UK women placed fifth overall, while the men finished sixth.
- Luis Orta was the first Wildcat to finish on the men's side in 24:10.83 over 8K.
- Three Wildcats earned spots on the All-SEC teams by virtue of their performances at the Conference meet as Macumber and Oswald were named to the First Team, while Orta made the Second Team.
- Macumber and Oswald each received All-SEC honors for the second time in their careers. Orta, a senior, reached All-Conference status for the third time.

Swimming and diving
- The Kentucky men and women's swimming teams picked up their first wins of the season against Southern Illinois in a tri-meet.
- Kentucky's men were led by sophomore Lucas Gerotto who picked up his second victory in the 100-butterfly (49.70) and took third in the 50-freestyle (21.15). The men also earned their first relay victory of the season in the 4x100-freestyle as Chris Lott, Will Heidler, Gerotto and Chris Thomas combined for the winning time of 3:05.62.The women pulled out two wins with senior Mandy Myers taking home first in the 100-buttefly with a time of 55.53. Sophomore Christina Bechtel earned her first win of the season as well with a win in the 200-butterfly with the winning time of 66.10.

Upcoming schedule

Monday, Oct. 29
Women's golf at Alamo Invitational (San Antonio, Texas)

Tuesday, Oct. 30
Women's golf at Alamo Invitational (San Antonio, Texas)

Wednesday, Oct. 31
Women's soccer vs. Missouri (Orange Beach, Ala.) - 8:30 p.m.
Men's soccer hosts UCF - 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 1
Men's basketball hosts Northwood - 7:00 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 2

Volleyball hosts Ole Miss - 7:00 p.m.
Men's tennis at Collegiate Clay Court Tournament (Orlando, Fla.)
Swimming and diving hosts Auburn - 2:00 p.m.
Women's soccer SEC Tournament Semifinals (Orange Beach, Ala.) - TBA

Saturday, Nov. 3
Men's tennis at Collegiate Clay Court Tournament (Orlando, Fla.)
Rifle at North Carolina State
Football hosts Vanderbilt - 12:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 4
Volleyball hosts South Carolina - 1:30 p.m.
Men's tennis at Collegiate Clay Court Tournament (Orlando, Fla.)
Men's soccer hosts South Carolina - 1:00 p.m.
Women's soccer SEC Tournament Championship (Orange Beach, Ala.) • TBA

Senior setter Christine Hartmann is leading UK toward a strong finish in 2012. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Senior setter Christine Hartmann is leading UK toward a strong finish in 2012. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It's been a mixed bag for the Kentucky volleyball team this season, but as the Wildcats hit the stretch run, they're playing at a high level. Some have been unfavorable, but there likely isn't a situation the Wildcats haven't been faced with this season.

Last weekend, Kentucky found itself trailing its biggest Southeastern Conference rival, the University of Tennessee 2-0 as the two teams went into the break. After UK swept the Lady Volunteers in Memorial Coliseum earlier in the season, it looked like UT was well on the way to returning the favor.

Trailing by two sets at the break was not a new situation for the Wildcats. They had gone into the locker room facing that deficit multiple times this season, but have been unable to climb that hurdle. Florida was able to overcome that deficit when the Cats had the Gators on the ropes, trailing 2-0.

Of course, Florida had the luxury of playing in front of ots home crowd that day. The Cats, well, they were on the road playing in a building in which they they had not won since 2008.

But as you probably already know by now, the Wildcats pulled it off. They won three straight sets against Tennessee and swept the season series with the Vols for the first time since 2007.

Georgia, an up-and-coming program in the SEC East, gave the Wildcats quite a test as well as the Lady Bulldogs threatened to end Kentucky's 13-match winning streak over the Bulldogs. After UK pounded UGA by 12 points in the first set, Georgia came back and took the second set, 26-24. The Cats took the third set, then the Dogs the fourth.

In the fifth set, Kentucky flexed its road warrior muscles once more. For the second straight road match, the Cats won the decisive fifth set 15-12.

And when the dust settled, Kentucky found itself right back outside of the top-25 in the AVCA poll as the top vote-getter not to crack the list. UK sat alone in second place in the SEC East. The Cats also saw themselves ascend to No. 15 in the RPI.

Speaking of mixed bags, senior setter Christine Hartmann has had her share of variety this season. After finding herself on the bench behind freshman Morgan Bergren early the in the season, Hartmann has battled all the way back, much like her team did this weekend, to find a great deal of success.

For the second time in three weeks, Hartmann was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week after posting a near triple-double against Tennessee in which she had a career-high with nine kills, 52 assists and 11 digs. She posted another double-double against the Bulldogs, leading UK to a .338 hitting percentage for the match. That number was good for best in the league by any team in SEC play this season.

Several offensive players had great matches over the weekend, but you have to credit Hartmann for putting them in position to do so. Much credit goes to the attackers for putting the balls away, but given the .338 hitting percentage, chances are  that Hartmann was money for most if not the entire Georgia match.

Kentucky is yet to put together a really solid stretch this season. The Cats' longest winning streak of the season is just four, dating back to the early portion of the SEC schedule. Now riding a three-match win streak, the Cats can match and surpass that with SEC opponents Ole Miss and South Carolina looming this weekend back in Lexington, Ky.

While UK is likely going to continue its approach of taking the season one match at a time, it appears its toughest test will come when the Cats head back out on the road to face Arkansas. The Razorbacks dismantled an unsuspecting Wildcat team when the Hogs came to Memorial Coliseum in mid-October. The rest of the schedule looks quite favorable for UK.

A strong stretch run in its final seven matches paired with a strong RPI could do wonders for Kentucky's position in the NCAA Tournament. After a brief moment of speculation, Kentucky appears to be a lock for the Big Dance this December, and if UK handle business the rest of the way, could end up hosting and grabbing one of the top 16 seeds.

That is all, of course, if UK can find consistency and no longer produce a mixed bag of results. At this point in the season is typically where teams find their identity.

Have the Wildcats found theirs?

Only time will tell, but they have to feel confident in the direction that they are headed over the last few weeks of the season.

Notebook: Cats go back to work with Vandy next

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Sophomore Bud Dupree leads UK with 6.5 tackles for loss and is second on the team in tackles (64) and sacks (3.5). (Chet White, UK Athletics) Sophomore Bud Dupree leads UK with 6.5 tackles for loss and is second on the team in tackles (64) and sacks (3.5). (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Like any high-level college athlete, sophomore linebacker Bud Dupree always despised losing.

He had always been familiar with the empty feeling that comes after falling short in a game. But nine weeks into this Kentucky football season, Dupree has come to hate losing in a new way. He's discovered that, in addition to the emotional pain of losing, there's a physical side to it too.

"After a loss, you find out everything that's wrong with your body," Dupree said. "You'll find out your finger's hurting, your toes hurt, somebody stepped on the back of your calf, the front of your shin. After a win, you probably won't even know you're hurt until like two days later."

In the wake of UK's 33-10 loss at Missouri, Dupree doesn't have any injuries that will force him to miss time, but he has plenty of bumps and bruises he's feeling acutely with the Wildcats in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.

The Cats, in spite of the final score, felt they could have beaten Missouri, which only made the loss worse. Even so, there's only one thing to do with Vanderbilt coming to town for a game on Saturday (noon on ESPNU).

"Don't think about it," Dupree said when asked about UK's approach. "Just put it in the past and try to beat Vanderbilt."

On Tuesday, UK will get back down to business on the practice field. With losses mounting and a bowl berth no longer a possibility, that may seem a monotonous task, but UK head coach Joker Phillips has no concerns over whether his team will be ready to go. Anyone who has seen a Kentucky practice in recent weeks would agree.

"I've had a lot of guys, friends come to practice and ex players, and all of them talk about how upbeat and energetic practice is," Phillips said.

Phillips credits the senior leadership of players like Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham in helping to demand that kind of unwavering effort, but also sees UK's youth as playing a factor. In recruiting players to Kentucky, Phillips and his staff offer nothing more than an opportunity to compete, but injuries and other circumstances have forced youngsters into prominent roles. Their eagerness has injected energy into the program.

"Those young kids are just excited to play," Phillips said. "Not only they came here in hopes of playing, but when you come on campus and that's what it is. It's hopes of playing. You don't expect to."

Harmon emerging in defensive backfield

Cornerback J.D. Harmon is one of those players getting his first opportunity to see the field, and he isn't squandering it.

He earned a spot in the rotation in fall camp and has only seen his role expand, culminating in the Missouri game. The Paducah, Ky., native had seven tackles against the Tigers and a pair of interceptions. The two picks came on back-to-back defensive plays in the third quarter.

Harmon's story is an interesting one. He was offered a scholarship, but did not commit right away and, as a result, lost his spot. Eventually, he decided he wanted to play for his home-state school, scholarship or not.

His options were limited though. He could either gray-shirt and delay his enrollment by a year or enroll immediately and walk on. Harmon didn't want to wait, so he came to UK, paying his own way and even forgoing academic scholarship money so he could join the team right away.

"For him to do that speaks volumes because he had to give up some academic money to do it," Phillips said. "Otherwise, he would count (against UK's scholarship limits) because he was a recruited walk on. He would count on our scholarship numbers. He had to give up some academic money to come in and play. I'm really happy that he did get here."

When he arrived, Harmon worked out as a wide receiver, but those plans quickly changed. Redshirt freshman cornerback Marcus Caffey was ruled academically ineligible, meaning there was a hole in the secondary. Phillips and UK's positional coaches had not yet seen him in action, but strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver told them the 6-foot-2, 197 pounder was well-suited to make the move to corner.

"This summer, we knew we might lose a defensive back," Phillips said. "Coach Rock said this guy was definitely talented enough to play it because he had worked with him all summer. So we decided to move him, and it's worked out well for not only him but us also."

Depth chart and injury news

For the first time, freshman Patrick Towles is listed on the depth chart at quarterback. He is listed as the backup to Jalen Whitlow and the two are once again expected to split time against Vandy ... Junior Patrick Ligon is the new starter at tight end ahead of Ronnie Shields ... Starters at the two cornerback positions are Cody Quinn OR J.D. Harmon and Carter Rice OR Fred Tiller ... Freshman linebacker Pancho Thomas dislocated a bone in his wrist against Missouri. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday but could return after UK's bye week against Samford wearing a cast ... Defensive tackle Donte Rumph (knee), Quinn (hamstring), tight end Tyler Robinson (back) are all day-to-day ... Linebacker Jabari Johnson is doubtful with a hamstring injury.

Video: Phillips' pre-Vandy press conference

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Bud Dupree - Linebacker

Ashely Lowery - Defensive back

Kevin Mitchell - Offensive lineman

Kentucky men's soccer - Weekly update (Oct. 29)

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Overall Record: 9-6-1, 4-1-1 C-USA
Record Last Week: 1-0-0, 1-0-0 C-USA

Recent Results
Saturday, Oct. 27 - defeated No. 23 Tulsa - 2-0

Upcoming Schedule (times eastern)
Wednesday, Oct. 31 - vs. UCF - 7 p.m.

R-Jr., D, Steven Perinovic (Delafield, Wis.)

NOTES: Junior defender Steven Perinovic had a dynamic game in leading Kentucky to a shutout win at No. 23 Tulsa on Saturday night ... UK's vocal and physical leader at center back, Perinovic led UK to the shutout vs. the Golden Hurricane, a team ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in goals scored ... Perinovic was a force on Saturday, with his ability to play the ball in the air thwarting scoring chances for the Golden Hurricane throughout the game ... UK finished with four saves in the win, its fifth shutout of the year ... A native of Delafield, Wis., Perinovic has been a major weapon for UK's defensive unit in 2012, with UK owning a 1.29 goals-against average ... On the year, Perinovic has started all 15 games at center back with one goal.

The Kentucky men's soccer team continued its blistering pace over the last 11 games, picking up its third road top-25 win of the year, beating No. 23 Tulsa, 2-0 on Saturday night at the Hurricane Soccer Complex. UK will return to action with a two-game week to wrap up the regular-season schedule, hosting UCF on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET, before hosting South Carolina on senior day Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at the UK Soccer Complex.

Kentucky (9-6-1, 4-1-1 Conference USA) pulled into second place in the C-USA standings with the dominating 2-0 result at Tulsa. The Wildcats have now won eight of their last 11 games after a 1-4 start to the season and own top-25 road wins at No. 18 Louisville, No. 25 UAB and No. 23 Tulsa.

UK got goals from seniors Matt Lodge and Gabriel Conelian in the shutout win at Tulsa Saturday. Jack Van Arsdale notched his fourth shutout of the year and UK got splendid play from defenders Steven Perinovic, Jacob Kemper, Jacob Speed and Isak Krogstad. The shutout vs. Tulsa came against a team that entered the game ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in goals scored, with the Golden Hurricane leading the conference in nearly every offensive category.

UK has improved to 6-2 on the road in 2012, with the Wildcats tied for the second-most road wins in the NCAA entering the Saturday win.  

UK has been paced by an explosive offensive attack in 2012, netting 1.94 goals per game and averaging 12.6 shots a contest. Defensively, UK has a 1.29 goals-against average, with Van Arsdale owning a 1.16 goals-against average with 41 saves. Freshman Callum Irving has also started three games in goal, with a 2.00 goals-against average, seven saves and a shutout.

The Wildcats have been led offensively by junior Tyler Riggs, who has seven goals and four assists in 14 games. Lodge, a native of Rossington, England, has seven goals and two assists, while senior Charley Pettys has added six goals and three assists. Conelian has four goals and three assists, with junior Dylan Asher adding four goals. Freshman Bryan Celis has a goal and three assists, with Kemper leading the club with five assists. Perinovic and Dustin Scibilia each have added a goal.

Kentucky now sits in second place in the league standings and entered the game on Saturday with the No. 13 strength of schedule in the nation and the No. 18 RPI in the NCAA. UK's win came against Tulsa, ranked No. 16 in the NCAA RPI. The Wildcats now sit just behind SMU in the C-USA regular-season title race, with UK's last 11 games pushing the Wildcats into the thick of the NCAA Tournament race.

Live blog: Volleyball at Georgia

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Live blog: Volleyball at Tennessee

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Video: UK Rewind weekend preview (Oct. 26)

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From the Pressbox: Pre-Missouri notes

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With young quarterbacks, coaches stress the importance of avoiding negative plays, to start out of second-down-and-long or third-and-long situations. That will be an especially tough challenge for the Cats this Saturday at Missouri.

The Tigers rank third in the SEC with 59 tackles-for-loss - that's 27 more than Kentucky has in one less game.

One positive trend for the Cats is that they have not turned the ball over since the fourth quarter of the South Carolina game. And Kentucky has only lost two fumbles all season, both against Louisville in the season opener.

And both UK and Mizzou are having trouble hitting big plays. The Tigers and the Wildcats rank 13th and 14th respectively in yards-per-pass attempt this season.

Former Cat Van Note relates to 2012 struggles

Staying focused on your job, ignoring distractions, keeping a positive attitude. Those are the things coaches talk to their players about when a season doesn't go as well as they hoped it would. Former Wildcat and NFL star Jeff Van Note knows all too well what it takes to stay true to those things.

In three seasons of varsity football (1966-68), "Note" played on a teams that won a combined eight games. But it did not deter him from improving as a player and eventually earning a paycheck in the NFL for almost two decades.

"You do all the things to prepare to win and when you don't, there's a huge letdown. Back when I was in college, there were two papers and the coverage was minimal and it wasn't talked about day in and day out and your coach's job wasn't in question on talk shows (and the like)," Van Note said in a recent appearance on "The Leach Report" radio show.  

"This is a young football team so they'll have to lean heavily on their leadership. They need their seniors to stand up and make them realize that this is a week-by-week grind. The 24-hour rule comes into effect - whether you win or lose, you get past that game," added Van Note, a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. "You have to be mentally tough. More than anything I learned in college was how to mentally tough. The mental toughness is so very important, to block out that outside influence."

How does one learn mental toughness?

"It's a combination of things. What are you there for? What am I doing with my life at this time? Life is nothing but overcoming a series of obstacles, in every walk of life. 'People are down on us, they don't believe in us. Do I believe enough in myself and my teammates to prepare myself mentally and physically to be the best I can be?' " he explained. "You get better or you get worse every day of your life. I always wanted to improve and the right kind of coaches teach people how to get better. Winning is habit-forming and so is losing."

DeCourcy on Harrow, UK

Like the previous three, John Calipari's fourth Kentucky basketball team is blessed with an abundance of talent. But any squad, especially a young one, comes into a new season with some question marks.

For veteran college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy of, they start at the point guard position.

"My first question is Ryan Harrow. I think he's a talent and I think that playing under Cal will help him. Cal finds a way to make his players succeed and he's willing to change until he finds that level of success.  I think he'll be fine but how fine does he need to be? That's what we don't know. It depends on how good (others are)," said DeCourcy, adding that the one player he has the fewest questions about is Kyle Wiltjer.

Conventional wisdom about college basketball pundits is that this is a more wide-open year, with less strength at the top than last year. Does DeCourcy agree?

"I don't think that the level of players entering college basketball this year rises to that level (of seasons like last year). We don't have a lot of veterans who have hung around. You look at most preseason All-America teams and there's a lack of proven talent," he said, noting that is why he expects more unpredictable results.

Long talk about Harrow stepping in at the point

Brian Long doesn't have any questions about Harrow at the point guard spot. Long has seen him in practice for more than a year now and he's convinced the NC State transfer will do just fine.

"It will definitely help him in the long run because I feel like being the point guard in Coach Cal's system is the hardest thing to do," Long said of Harrow's opportunity to go through a season of Calipari's practices at UK. "Watching Marquis (Teague) from the beginning of the year, he struggled and then we couldn't have won in the end without him. So, for Ryan to have a year under his belt should help him a lot. Still, it will be difficult, have a new group of guys and a lot of factors but it should help him a lot."

Why is the point guard spot so difficult to master?

"Because you have to control, know when to let go, when to pull back," Long observed. "You have to control everybody. The ball is in your hands 80 percent of the time probably. So you just have more decisions to make than anyone else."

Junior Dylan Asher has benefited from the new 4-4-2 formation scoring four goals in the last two games, including a hat trick last Sunday against FIU. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Junior Dylan Asher has benefited from the new 4-4-2 formation scoring four goals in the last two games, including a hat trick last Sunday against FIU. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
If you were to rewind the clock back a month ago, it would have been crazy to say the University of Kentucky men's soccer team had a shot at a regular season Conference USA title. But now, the Wildcats currently sit in third place in the league at 3-1-1 with three games remaining on their schedule.

UK has come a long way since opening up the year at 1-4. The Cats are 7-2-1 since, including three consecutive victories.
According to head coach Johan Cedergren, a conference title hasn't been all that far-fetched for the squad. The first-year coach and his staff believed from day one that his team had the talent to compete with the top schools in the league.

"We had goals that were just within the squad and the staff and one of them was we could make a run for a conference title," Cedergren said. "That might be ridiculous to the outsiders after going either .500 or less in the last two years but we have a good enough squad that we can definitely go all the way."

This Saturday, The Wildcats will face a crucial road matchup against Tulsa (10-4-1, 4-1-1 C-USA), who will come into the match ranked 23rd in the country and are currently in second place in conference play.

Not only is this game important for the Cats' conference title hopes, but also for the NCAA officials when looking at the final seedings for the postseason tournament. UK has a RPI of 18 and would receive a major boost with either a road win or a draw against Tulsa, who is No. 16 on the RPI list.

Following the Tulsa contest, Kentucky will return home for its final two games of the regular season against UCF and South Carolina. There are still games to be played and a lot can happen as the season draws to a close.

"We are in a good spot right now but there are still three games to play and that's nine points and anything can happen," Cedergren said.

The Wildcats have gone through several changes in the offseason and throughout the year. The transformation of the program began with the hiring of Cedergren and things have taken off for the men's soccer program since.

To start the 2012 season, Cedergren implemented his preferred formations of 4-5-1 and 4-2-3-1. However, Cedergren and his staff decided to introduce the 4-4-2 formation a few games ago. It calls for two forwards up front, and the offense has taken off with the new look.

Junior Dylan Asher has started up front alongside senior Matt Lodge the last three games, due to an injury to Tyler Riggs, and the two have jelled immediately.  Asher, who served as a defender during his first two-and-a-half years at UK, has scored four goals in the last two matches, including a hat trick in the Wildcats' 5-1 triumph over FIU last Sunday.

UK is loaded with depth at the forward position, which resulted in Cedergren using a formation that takes full advantage of his play-making athletes.

"I think it has definitely helped with Dylan Asher being a good forward," Cedergren said. "We have Dylan, we have Lodge, we have Riggs and we have Caleb (Richardson). So we have four good forwards and it made sense to play with two up front rather than one."

Kentucky scored three goals in the first half against FIU, which marked the first time the Cats have netted a goal in the first half in six contests. Statistically, UK has been a better second half team, outscoring its opponents 19-12 in the second half compared to just 10-8 in the first stanza.

The Wildcats are a patient bunch that likes to keep the ball on the ground and wait for the right opportunities to open up rather than forcing the issue and giving their opponents easy chances at the ball.

Although it may seem Kentucky typically gets off to slower starts, they are actually setting themselves up for a second-half push.

"I think it's a tactic of ours to wear a team down," Cedergren said. "If you are keeping the ball, moving the ball and not trying to go forward every single time, you won't score that many goals right away but you will wear a team down. That's why I think we have scored a lot more goals in the second half because teams get tired and we get a little more confident."

The Wildcats' final run at a conference title starts on Saturday at Tulsa. Cedergren is not foreign to the Golden Hurricane, as he saw them in action last season when he was on the Dartmouth coaching staff.

Tulsa presents a lineup with the most firepower in the conference. UT leads the league in goals scored (38), assists (30) and points (106). It is a team that likes to attack the ball and will be an even tougher test for UK with so much on the line.

"Just like the other teams, we watch three-to-five games and we look for tendencies and weaknesses," Cedergren said. "I think we have a pretty good idea of what to do Saturday so we feel good. They are a good team and have had a great season so far and there is a lot on the line after this game."

UK ranked third in AP preseason poll

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The Associated Press released its annual Preseason Top 25 on Friday and Kentucky is once again near the top.

UK is ranked third, trailing only No. 1 Indiana and No. 2 Louisville. The Wildcats received two first-place votes. Kentucky has not been ranked outside the top three of the AP poll since the final poll of the 2010-11 season when the Cats were ranked 11th.

Fellow Southeastern Conference teams Florida and Missouri are also ranked high. The Gators check in at No. 10 while new SEC member Missouri is No. 15.

Here is the complete poll with first-place votes in parentheses.

1. Indiana (43)
2. Louisville (20)
3. Kentucky (2)
4. Ohio State
5. Michigan
6. North Carolina State
7. Kansas
8. Duke
9. Syracuse
10. Florida
11. North Carolina
12. Arizona
13. UCLA
14. Michigan State
15. Missouri
16. Creighton
17. Memphis
18. UNLV
19. Baylor
20. San Diego State
21. Gonzaga
22. Notre Dame
23. Wisconsin
24. Cincinnati
25. Florida State

Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer is the lone returning regular rotation player from last year's national championship team. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer is the lone returning regular rotation player from last year's national championship team. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
If you have listened to or read anything John Calipari has said during this preseason, you've likely heard him talk about how new his team is.

His favorite statistic on that front is that not a single returning player on his 2012-13 Kentucky squad has started a game in his career as a Wildcat. In fact, only Kyle Wiltjer among that group of returners was even a part of UK's regular rotation during last year's national championship run.

That's a fairly unique note on its own, but when compared to schools throughout the nation, it becomes even more interesting. Confirmed by research by Deb Moore of UK Media Relations, there is not a single other team in any of the so-called BCS conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference) without a returning player who started at least one game with his current school last season.

In fact, there are just six other schools with two or fewer returners who made a start. Let's take a look at them.

Kentucky - SEC - Zero returning starters

NOTE: UK has two transfers who made starts at previous colleges. Julius Mays started 34 games in three seasons at Wright State and North Carolina State. Ryan Harrow started 10 games in one season at North Carolina State.

Missouri  - SEC - One returning starter
-Phil Pressey, junior guard - Preseason SEC Player of the Year started all 35 games last season, averaging 10.3 points and 6.4 assists

Vanderbilt - SEC - Two returner starters
-Rod Odom, junior forward - Started two games and averaged 2.4 points
-Kyle Fuller, junior guard - Played in 18-of-36 games with one start, averaged 0.9 points

Mississippi State - SEC - Two returning starters
-Jalen Steele , junior guard - Started 16 games and averaged 8.7 points
-Wendell Lewis, senior center - Started six games and averaged 3.8 points

Nebraska - Big Ten - Two returning starters
-Brandon Ubel, senior forward - Started all 30 games and averaged 6.7 points
-Dylan Talley, senior guard - Started one game and averaged 8.9 points

Florida State - ACC - Two returning starters
-Michael Snaer, senior guard - Preseason All-ACC selection started 34-of-35 games, leading FSU with 14.0 points per game
-Okaro White, junior forward - Started 12 games and averaged 7.7 points

Utah - Pac-12 - Two returner starters

-Jason Washburn, senior center - Started all 31 games and averaged team-leading 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds
-Cedric Martin, senior wing - Started all 31 games and averaged 7.4 points

Somewhat strangely, the two teams that come closest to UK in terms of lack of returning starting experience are both on the Cats' schedule and both in the SEC. Vanderbilt returns just three combined starts from last year's SEC Tournament championship team, while Mississippi State returns 22 from a team that took UK down to the wire in Starkville, Miss., in February.

As Coach Cal often says though, comparing UK to any other school is a relatively pointless endeavor these days. No other team comes close to replicating the annual roster turnover the Cats deal with. But at the same time, no team can match the 102 wins and two Final Fours UK has the past three seasons.

With that in mind, perhaps the best comparisons for this year's Kentucky team in terms of experience are Calipari's first three teams in Lexington. Let's take a look at the returning contributors (not just starters) from all four in terms of games played and started and per-game averages from the previous season.

NOTE: Team per-game averages are adjusted for percentage of games played by each player, which is why columns appear to not add up.

2012-13 Kentucky

  Games Starts Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Kyle Wiltjer 40 0 11.6 5.0 1.8 0.4
Twany Beckham 16 0 2.8 0.0 0.5 0.1
Jarrod Polson 22 0 2.8 0.1 0.4 0.1
Sam Malone 6 0 2.2 1.0 0.3 0.2
Brian Long 12 0 1.4 0.2 0.2 0.0
TOTAL 96 0 15.0 5.3 2.3 0.5

2011-12 Kentucky

  Games Starts Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Terrence Jones 38 35 31.5 15.7 8.8 1.6
Doron Lamb 38 14 28.4 12.3 2.0 1.6
Darius Miller 38 37 10.9 10.9 4.6 1.7
Eloy Vargas 38 0 7.7 1.5 2.0 0.1
Jarrod Polson 17 0 1.8 0.4 0.1 0.0
TOTAL 169 86 79.3 40.6 17.4 5.0

2010-11 Kentucky

  Games Starts Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Darius Miller 38 32 21.2 6.5 2.4 1.5
DeAndre Liggins 29 0 15.3 3.8 2.3 0.8
Josh Harrellson 22 0 4.0 1.3 1.2 0.0
TOTAL 89 32 35.2 10.2 4.9 2.1

2009-10 Kentucky

  Games Starts Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Patrick Patterson 34 34 33.7 17.9 9.3 1.9
Perry Stevenson 36 34 28.1 7.8 5.9 1.5
Ramon Harris 31 28 22.1 5.5 3.8 1.6
Darius Miller 36 2 21.2 5.3 3.1 2.0
DeAndre Liggins 33 1 16.5 4.2 2.4 2.8
Josh Harrellson 34 2 9.3 3.6 2.5 0.2
Mark Krebs 13 0 1.9 0.2 0.3 0.2
TOTAL 217 101 124.8 42.1 25.7 9.5

Even among Coach Cal's Kentucky teams, the 2012-13 group is unique. Never before has he had so little experience on his roster and so much production to replace.

The 2010-11 team is the closest comparison for what Kentucky has this season. That year, the Cats lost five players to the NBA's first round and brought in a class of Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Eloy Vargas and Stacey Poole to fill the void. That group would of course go on to an SEC Tournament title and the Final Four, but not before some early-season bumps in the road.

If you'll remember, the Cats lost a pair of non-conference games and were 19-8 in late February before reeling off 10 wins in a row. Coach Cal has lost just eight SEC regular-season games in his three years at Kentucky, but six came that season.

However, even that team still had Darius Miller, a player who had started all but six games the year before along with DeAndre Liggins, whose role expanded in 2009-10 as the season wore on. This season, UK has less than half the returning per-game production that 2010-11 team had.

So, what conclusions should we draw from all this?

Should another Final Four be ruled out entirely? No way. This group of newcomers is far too talented and Coach Cal has too good of a track record with young teams to even consider that.

What we should do is listen to Calipari when he says how much work is ahead. Particularly with challenging games against Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor before Christmas, the beginning of the season will not be easy. Transforming these Wildcats from a group of talented players playing together for the first time into an elite team is not going to happen overnight, but that's not the plan. The plan is for UK to be elite in March and April.

Video: Rockin' with the Rookies - Jalen Whitlow

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Senior defender Natalie Horner helped UK to a 3-0 shutout of Vanderbilt on Senior Night. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Senior defender Natalie Horner helped UK to a 3-0 shutout of Vanderbilt on Senior Night. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Three years ago, a group of Kentucky freshmen watched Senior Night festivities. The players on the field for their final home game were fairly certain that no postseason berth lay ahead, that the end of their college career was at hand.

"That Senior Night was actually really rough," senior defender Alyssa Telang said. "We lost 4-1 to Ole Miss, but those seniors were here last weekend on Alumni Weekend and it was cool to see them. It's crazy to think of the freshmen that we were then and the seniors we are now."

Their own Senior Night may have seemed a lifetime away back for Alyssa Telang, Kirsten Robinson, Brooke Keyes, Cassie Ransdell and Natalie Horner - then spending a season a redshirt following her transfer from Michigan - but on Thursday night, it arrived.

The circumstances, though, were quite different from back in 2009.

Instead of reminiscing about their careers on Senior Night, this group was more concerned about looking forward. These seniors have too much still to play for.

"I don't think that it's really different tonight for the seniors than any other night," UK head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "They know what we're playing for and they're the ones that decided that we weren't going to have any craziness in the locker room before the game."

By "craziness," Lipsitz is referring to giving presents to the seniors, something customarily occurs in the locker room immediately before the game. UK's five seniors opted instead to move any gift-giving to the morning of the game, clearing the Cats' schedule and their minds for an important match against Vanderbilt.

"That takes a lot of focus and puts it on the seniors and doing it for them," Telang said. "But our class, we wanted it to be about soccer and our team, not us."

Entering the 2012 regular-season finale, UK had already locked up a bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. With a top-25 RPI, these Wildcats were playing more for the right to host in the NCAA Tournament than just to make it.

By defeating Vanderbilt 3-0, UK (13-5-1, 8-4-1 SEC) closed out SEC play on a five-match winning streak, the longest in the regular season since 1999. The win also secured at least a five seed for UK in the SEC Tournament and means the Cats will face a rematch with Missouri in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Junior Caitlin Landis delivered the game-winning goal in the 52nd minute following a scoreless first half. Minutes later, she added her third goal of the season. Freshman Kennedy Collier would score the first goal of her career in the 74th minute for the final margin.

Telang and these seniors will take their experience over the one they witnessed as rookies any day.

"It's almost like a relief because we know we're good, but we've got to continue to know that we have a target on our back," Telang said.

Painting these seniors as lucky to be in a better situation would be unfair, because they have been instrumental in transforming UK from a 5-9-4 team in 2009 to one that is thinking about playing - and advancing - in the postseason.

"It's so hard for me to put into words who these seniors are as human beings," Lipsitz said. "You can see that they're great student-athletes, but they're just special people."

Typical on-field Senior Night festivities preceded the game, complete with flowers and hugs and family members, but the seniors got another nice moment in the waning minutes. With all five on the field, Lipsitz substituted for them as one big group, embracing each on her way to the bench as the crowd cheered.

There will be plenty of time for more such emotional displays once the season is over, but these Cats are all business right now. They now will prepare for the SEC Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, with an eye on enhancing their resume for what comes after.

With no match this weekend, the first step in that process is taking it easy for a couple days.

"A lot of rest, a whole lot of rest," Lipsitz said. "I'm going to take off recruiting, the team's going to get some rest and then we'll come back together and we'll build toward a great game on Wednesday."

With momentum on their side and a steady senior class to guide them, it would be unwise to bet against the Wildcats.

"Ever since that loss against Ole Miss (on Oct. 7) I think that we've come out and we've competed extremely hard every day in practice," Telang said. "It's not just winning and losing in games. It's winning and losing in practice. Every drill is winning or losing and it's become so competitive that we get wins in games."

Video: Women's soccer Senior Night

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Cats ready for new experience heading to Mizzou

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Freshman Jalen Whitlow has 368 yards passing, 78 yards running and three total touchdowns in three starts. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Freshman Jalen Whitlow has 368 yards passing, 78 yards running and three total touchdowns in three starts. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
With a team as young as Kentucky's, the 2012 season has been full of new experiences, but even the relatively few veterans on the roster about go through something for the first time this weekend.

Not a single current Wildcat was alive - or within even 20 years of being born - the last time UK and Missouri matched up in 1968. In fact, Joker Phillips was five years old and 13 years away from even beginning his playing career at Kentucky.

The Cats will be making their first-ever trip to Columbia, Mo., with the Tigers as members of the Southeastern Conference, which means everything from landing at the airport to driving to Faurot Field Memorial Stadium to taking the field will be unfamiliar.

"Only three of our coaches have ever been there," Phillips said.

The game between Kentucky (1-7, 0-5 SEC) and Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC) doesn't kick off until noon ET on Saturday on ESPNU, but the Wildcats are going to take an opportunity to get the lay of the land after they arrive on Friday. The coaching staff wants to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible.

"With us going into Columbia, we'll drive by the stadium just to get familiar with the locker room, get familiar with the field, which sideline is ours, all of those things because it's a lot of guys who are unfamiliar with the place," Phillips said.

Reducing uncertainty is definitely desirable, because there will be plenty of it regardless of where the game is played considering the Cats will be alternating between two freshman quarterbacks.

Since Maxwell Smith went down to injury, Jalen Whitlow has been UK's starter. However, the initial plan was to rotate him with Patrick Towles, but that was temporarily undone in the first half of a game against Mississippi State when Towles was lost to a high ankle sprain.

Towles missed two games, but proved himself to be a quick healer as he claimed and has practiced all week leading up to Missouri.

"It was really his fourth day working with the varsity," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said after practice on Tuesday. "It's easy to forget when he got hurt against Mississippi State that was really his first week of not being down running off cards on scout team."

However, Towles did have the benefit of two weeks spent learning. Rather than staying in the training room for treatment, he was on the sideline for every practice during his absence. He was also in all quarterback meetings.

"I think he understands a little bit more, but again, understanding it on paper or understanding it in the meeting room or on film is still a whole lot different than executing it," Sanders said. "I do think he's put in a lot of effort in staying into it mentally."

With his expected return, the planned rotation between Towles and Whitlow is back too, but that doesn't mean Morgan Newton is completely out of the mix. Each of the last two weeks, Newton has spelled Whitlow at quarterback. Last week, Newton was particularly effective in red-zone relief, throwing and rushing for touchdowns.

"We'll still have a little small package for him, try to get him involved also," Phillips said. "Gives those young guys a chance to step away, if they're struggling or a lot of times on the road it gives them a chance to get things to slow down for them. So we'll have a little small package for Morgan also. I've never played three quarterbacks in a game before."

Barring injury, Missouri won't be playing two or even three quarterbacks, but the Tigers are unsettled at the position too. Junior James Franklin (sprained MCL) had a superb 2011 season, but is doubtful for this weekend. Likely starting in his place will be redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser.

Berkstresser is a combined 31-for-59 passing for 315 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions after replacing Franklin against Vanderbilt and starting against Alabama.

"He played a lot in the Vanderbilt game and he played against a great defense against - it would be tough for anybody to go in against Alabama," Phillips said. "He's a guy who knows their offense. He's been in their program for two years."

With a bye week following that Alabama game and preceding Missouri's matchup with Kentucky, Phillips can't help but be concerned by what offensive guru Gary Pinkell might devise with a week to spare.

"We may have to adjust to a new offense," Phillips said "We've seen what we've done last year in just three days (installing Matt Roark at quarterback against Tennessee). There's a lot the other team can do in two weeks."

Junior Greg Ferrucci took home a first and second place finish in UK's opening meet against Indiana and Tennessee. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Junior Greg Ferrucci took home a first and second place finish in UK's opening meet against Indiana and Tennessee. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There are a lot of reasons why Kentucky's diving team should be behind schedule.

Early on in the season, divers are often tired, sore, and stressed out from the daily grind of a student-athlete. They are also behind the eight ball because head coach Ted Hautau was unable to be with his team as much as he would have due to doctor's visits with his wife in anticipation of the birth of his daughter.

But they aren't behind schedule. And as last Friday's home meet against Tennessee and Indiana revealed, UK is actually further along than Hautau expected.

"I was very impressed because I thought at this time of the year we would be very broken down," said Hautau. "I was happy with how we performed, but it's really early."

In the meet, junior Greg Ferrucci won the three-meter diving event (423.25) and grabbed second place (361.95) in the one-meter. The women were the pleasant surprise of the meet as freshman Rebecca Hamperian won her first collegiate event in the one-meter with a top score of 298.35. Sophomore Sarah Chewning followed Hamperian up in second place scoring 282.20. Sophomore Christa Cabot grabbed a victory of her own in the three-meter event earning a score of 308.05, and Chewning placed third (305.05).

Chewning was particularly encouraged by her team's strong start out of the gate.

"I think it's a good indicator of what we can see the rest of this season," said Chewning. "Indiana and Tennessee are some of our biggest competitors and to come out with this performance is really spectacular, but we do want to stay humble and hungry. We know that we have a lot of great competitions ahead of us."

However, it's only early with respect to the competitive portion of the Wilcats' schedule. The diving team has been hard at work since this summer in preparation for the 2012-13 season.  

With Hautau in and out of the facility for a portion of the summer, the Wildcats were still able to make the most out of the situation even in the absence of their head coach. Perhaps that's where this team has taken off. And perhaps that's why this team is special.

Despite Hautau's absence, the divers continued to get into the Lancaster Aquatic Center to hone their craft.

"All of them want to be here and they all want to train," said Hautau. "I don't have to make any of them be here. Never. When I'm not here, they are there working out every single day. They want to train on their own. So they are highly motivated and just a great group of people to be around."

That's not just coach speak. Hautau's love for his team is easily observed on a daily. The divers come up to him before practice and they talk about each other's days. They joke around and share laughs. Hautau even broke down in practice and showed his athletes how to do proper pushups as they gathered around and enjoyed Hautau's demonstration.

And as much as all the divers appear to love their head coach, the affection they feel for one another is every bit as evident.

In a sport as individual as diving, Kentucky's diving team is anything but. In fact, they will be the first to tell you that they're more akin to a family than just a team. Though the athletes are tired and beat up as they battle through the fall semester, it's the family atmosphere that Hautau and his divers have created that help push this team through the difficult moments.

"Typically diving is a very individual sport with individual performances," said Chewning. "But being part of this team has been probably the most influential part of my experience here. I come in every day and the upbeat attitude of every single person is just incredible.

"It really pushes you through times when your body hurts and you feel fatigued and maybe you don't personally have the best attitude, but being surrounded with these people with the hunger for competition and the joy of life is just really incredible."

Ferrucci agrees. The high scorer on the men's side last season has seen this program grow over the last two years now into his third. He's witnessed it grow into a cohesive unit where no secrets are kept. They have become siblings under the Hautau household.

"(They're) Like family," said Ferrucci of his teammates. "Brothers and sisters. There's nothing they don't know about me. Nothing I don't know about them."

While Hautau deserves a lot of the credit for the culture he's built at UK, he'll be the last one to accept it. He gives all of the credit to his athletes, a group so special to him that he hopes that no member ever leaves. One diver in particular, senior captain John Fox, drew quite a bit of that praise from Hautau himself.

Fox doesn't possess the typical diver's body. He's a bit longer than most of his teammates, but it was just something about him that caught Hautau's eye. Not highly recruited by many major programs, he was highly coveted by his current head coach, and with purpose.

"There was something I just felt and liked about him a lot," said Hautau. "Just the look in his eyes, it's kind of as simple as that. When he got here, he was hard and he was insecure and it was a really high level for him. But, he showed some toughness. And I just told him, you're going to be the leader of this program."

In his senior year, he's already delivered. Though he registered just a fourth-place finish in the men's three-meter dive, he may have been the biggest reason for UK's success last Friday.

"For the first time," said Ferrucci, "(Fox) being a captain, he pulled us together before the meet and had a little talk with us which he's never done before. It really made us feel calm and cool and good about competing."

And then Kentucky went out and had the meet it had to open the season with three individual victories. That's a sign of a good leader.

Now this family looks forward to a tough schedule up ahead leading up to the SEC Championships and eventually zone diving with an eye toward qualifying for the NCAA Championships is March. The road ahead won't be easy as the SEC has added two talented diving programs in Texas A&M and one of UK's opponent this weekend in Missouri.

This weekend, Kentucky will face the challenge of Missouri, Arkansas and Southern Illinois. After a great start to the season, they will look to improve while fighting through the physical and mental drains. But if they struggle on Friday, as Hautau expects they will at some point during the season, it won't deter this team from their long-term goals.

Even though winning is a lot more fun.

"We take all of our competitions seriously, but we don't bank our performances on just what we see at the beginning," said Chewning. "Good or bad meet, we still have hope for our futures. But it really is encouraging seeing good performances right off the bat."

Julius Mays scored 13 first-half points to help lead the Blue team to a 46-38 halftime lead in the Blue-White Scrimmage. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Mays scored 13 first-half points to help lead the Blue team to a 46-38 halftime lead in the Blue-White Scrimmage. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Kentucky's last two men's basketball teams have been notable for plenty of reasons, but depth has not been one of them.

John Calipari has played regular rotations of just six and seven players the last two seasons. But each Coach Cal summoned someone from the bench, you knew that player would be talented. In 2010-11, it was normally DeAndre Liggins serving as the sixth man. A year later, Darius Miller and Kyle Wiltjer came off the bench.

Liggins and Miller have moved on to the NBA and Wiltjer likely to the starting lineup as a sophomore, but if the first half of Blue-White Scrimmage is any indication, the Cats appear to have at least two more super subs as they look to defend a national championship.

In fact, Calipari took things a step further after he saw what Julius Mays and Willie Cauley-Stein did in the opening 20 minutes.

"I told them at halftime, if you (asked) me Julius would start, Nerlens would start, I don't know who else would start," Calipari said.

It's obviously early, but UK began the first half with what seemed to be the likely starting five of Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and Nerlens Noel on the White team. They were opposed by Jarrod Polson, Tod Lanter, Jon Hood, Mays and Cauley-Stein on Blue, with Twany Beckham as a reserve.

With three McDonald's All-Americans, the nation's top incoming freshman in Noel and a significant size advantage, White seemed poised to exert its will. Led by possible sixth and seventh men Mays and Cauley-Stein, Blue had other ideas.

"We came out ready to play and the White team had a bunch of young guys and we had an old man," Hood said. "We had Julius and Julius is an old man. He knows how to play and he knows how to get prepared for a game. He's done it all his career."

He certainly did in the first half.

The second group raced out to a 25-7 lead within the first eight minutes and were ahead by double digits most of the half. Mays lived up to his reputation as a wily veteran, using an arsenal of shots, moves and changes of pace to keep defenders off balance. He scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go with two steals and two rebounds.

"I'm just trying to find my niche," Mays said. "I just want to do whatever this team needs me to do, whether that be score, whether that be coming in and distributing the ball and creating for others. I'm just willing to do whatever it takes to win."

After halftime, he didn't score a point, but he had four assists and three rebounds in his switch to the White team to finish with 13 points and five assists in an 89-88 Blue victory. In Calipari's estimation, Mays's contribution this season will be reminiscent of his sixth-man predecessor.

"(Mays will bring) What Darius brought us," Calipari said. "He'll make an open shot. He's better with the ball. You'll see him. He'll push it really hard. He's really strong, really heady. It's just Darius was bigger, but he brings the same kind of stuff."

Cauley-Stein, meanwhile, more than held his own against Noel, even swatting his way to a halftime blocked-shot draw at 3-3 with Noel, a player noted for his defensive prowess. Along with his blocks, he had 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. Playing all 40 minutes in an up-and-down game, Cauley-Stein scored just three points after the break, but did have nine rebounds and two more blocks to finish with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

"I did alright, I played pretty hard the first half and then I got extremely tired," Cauley-Stein said. "In the second half my legs were kind of dead."

Cauley-Stein and Mays only reinforced why they're expected to be major parts of UK's rotation in the first half, but Hood made a case for himself as well. Returning from a knee injury that cost him all of last season, Hood had 17 points and five assists on the night, but simply being on the floor for 40 minutes of basketball would have been enough to please him.

"I was just happy to get out there and play," Hood said. "That's why I never stopped smiling the entire time. The White team had been on a bit of a run and Jarrod looked at me (and said), 'Why are you smiling?' Because I get to play."

As Hood hinted, the five who started on White eventually showed flashes of why everyone in Rupp Arena believed them to be the starting group. Harrow and Wiltjer switched to the Blue team late and finished with 20 and 20 points, respectively, and Noel did a little bit of everything with nine points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, but it was Goodwin and Poythress that nearly rallied White to victory.

Poythress was somewhat quiet in the first half, but finished with 25 points - 18 in the second half - including the play of the game on a thunderous dunk over the 7-foot Cauley-Stein.

"Alex is mean," Cauley-Stein said. "Alex is a beast. He's so strong. He dunks on somebody, it's going to hurt them."

Goodwin led all scorers with 32 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there. In the end, the freshman guard had a chance to tie the game with three free throws after some heavy campaigning by Calipari for a foul call with 0.1 seconds left. That will likely be the only time Coach Cal successfully changes a call by arguing with an official. Goodwin would make 2-of-3 for the final one-point margin.

Goodwin's point total was impressive, but Coach Cal wasn't shy about asking for more. On one exchange in particular, Goodwin opted to go in for a fast-break dunk himself rather than pass ahead to wide-open Mays, the kind of play Calipari won't accept.

"It's not fun when you're being told in an aggressive way," Calipari said. "But we don't have time here. This isn't for funsies."

It definitely won't be for funsies when the Cats get back down to business at a 6:30 a.m. defensive practice on Thursday morning. There is a lot of work ahead, but Calipari can visualize a trajectory for his team that will have them contending for another title.

"Hopefully in a month you'll watch us and say, man, they really got better," Calipari said. "And in another month you say, man, they've got a chance. And in another month, you say man, they're right there. That's our hope."

Archie Goodwin - Guard

Julius Mays - Guard

Willie Cauley-Stein - Center

Jon Hood - Forward

Video: Highlights from the Blue-White Scrimmage

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Live blog: Blue-White Scrimmage 2012

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For the second day in a row, freshman Patrick Towles participated in practice. Head coach Joker Phillips said Towles was not quite as crisp throwing the ball on Wednesday as he was on Tuesday, but some uneven performances are to be expected in light of the fact that he has not practiced in more than two weeks.

Phillips did say that Towles moved around in and out of the pocket better than he did on Tuesday after consulting with the training staff and taking off an air cast he was wearing on his ankle.

With Towles looking more likely to be ready for Saturday's game at Missouri, Phillips discussed how quarterback snaps will be divided. He said it would be "pretty similar to the Mississippi State game" when Whitlow started and played the first two series before Towles came in for the next three.

Senior Morgan Newton, who played quarterback extensively in the red zone against Georgia, won't be completely phased out of the rotation either.

"We'll still have a little small package for him, try to get him involved also," Phillips said. "It gives those young guys a chance to step away if they're struggling or, a lot of times on the road, gives them a chance for it to slow down for them."

In other injury news, senior safety Martavius Neloms (hamstring) was limited in practice but is still working to return to action. Senior safety Mikie Benton "did a little bit more" than Neloms and freshman offensive lineman Zach West did not practice. If West is unable to play, Teven Eatmon-Nared will start in his place.

Here's video of Phillips' post-practice comments on Wednesday.

Junior Cally Macumber has twice been named SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week this fall. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Junior Cally Macumber has twice been named SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week this fall. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
After sitting out last season due to injury, Cally Macumber has had quite a season.

The junior member of Kentucky cross country finished in the top two in each of her first three meets of the season before turning in an impressive eighth-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational two weeks ago. She has twice been named the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Athlete of the Week and now will have a chance to see exactly how she stacks up in the SEC.

Sean Cartell from the SEC Digital Network takes it from there.

The 2012 SEC Cross Country Championships will start at 11 a.m. ET in Nashville on Friday. Macumber has thrived under the guidance of UK's new coaching staff and women's cross country coach Hakon DeVries. Now, she will look to add a conference crown to an already solid season.

Her breakout meet came at the Greater Louisville Classic, where she placed second individually in the race. Macumber finishing ahead of Washington's Katie Flood, the defending Pacific-12 Conference champion and a 2011 top-10 NCAA finisher, at that meet made a resounding statement.

Two weeks later at the highly competitive NCAA Pre-National Meet, also in Louisville, she placed eighth overall against a tough field and was the highest-finishing SEC runner in the field.

Those two performances make it very plausible that Macumber could claim the league title on Friday. She would be the first Wildcat since Valerie McGovern in 1989 to accomplish the feat.

"I definitely expect her to challenge for it," DeVries said. "Between her and some of the other individuals around the SEC, it's definitely going to be a very challenging race up front. If Cally can put her position and just wait for the final kick, I imagine that she will have herself in it. It's just a matter of getting it done that day."

Macumber also has her sights set on the conference crown, but has a modest approach to her next race.

"It's a goal, but you never know what's going to happen the day of," Macumber said. "I'm just trying to stay positive, keep working and hope everything turns out well. I try to work hard every day, try to be the best that I can be and hopefully that will pay off."

It's just a Wednesday in late October, so it doesn't seem much would be going on in the world of Kentucky basketball other than a practice or a team meeting.

If you know how things work with John Calipari at the helm, you would know that's not the case.

UK is holding its annual Blue-White Scrimmage at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Rupp Arena. It will be televised on Fox Sports South and the UK IMG Network and live streamed on ESPN3. At the exact same time, the second episode of the "All-Access Kentucky" series will premiere on ESPN.

The Big Blue Nation need not worry though, there are plenty of ways to solve this dilemma and watch both.

First, for fans who will be in attendance for the Blue-White Scrimmage, the first two episodes of "All-Access Kentucky" will be shown back-to-back in Rupp immediately following the conclusion of the game.

For fans watching at home, ESPN has scheduled ample opportunities for fans to watch the second episode of All-Access Kentucky. Here are all the times the second episode will be re-aired on the ESPN family of networks.

All times eastern.

Wednesday, Oct. 24
7 p.m. - ESPN (PREMIERE)
9 p.m. - ESPNU
10:30 p.m. - ESPN
11:30 p.m. - ESPN2

Thursday, Oct. 25

2 a.m. - ESPN2
8:30 p.m. - ESPN2

Friday, Oct. 26
7 p.m. - ESPNU

Saturday, Oct. 27
2:30 a.m. - ESPNU

Tuesday, Oct. 30
6:30 p.m. - ESPNU
11 p.m. - ESPN2

Thursday, Nov. 1

8 p.m. - ESPN2

Friday, Nov. 2
11 p.m. - ESPNU

Tuesday, Nov. 6
11 p.m. - ESPN2

For those who have not yet gotten to watch the first episode, it will be re-aired on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

ESPN has provided some exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage from All-Access Kentucky. Some of this will be in the episode tonight, but some you will be able to watch nowhere else but here and Take a look.

Link: Meet new UK practice player Tod Lanter

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When you tune in to the second episode of "All-Access Kentucky," odds are you'll notice an unfamiliar face. He'll be wearing the same practice gear as the 12 Wildcats you already know, but he's the new guy.

His name is Tod Lanter and he is UK's new practice player. He is the son of Bo Lanter, who walked on and scored 43 points as a Wildcat from 1980-82, and his story is an interesting one.

He is a product of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington and played a season at Gulf Coast State College before taking a year off from school to refine his game. After lots of work, he managed to earn a shot on John Calipari's team. Eric Lindsey from has the story:

Assistant coach John Robic granted him a workout in mid-August, but Lanter didn't hear anything until that Wednesday before Big Blue Madness. Robic told him to come by that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and watch a couple of the workouts just so he "wasn't completely lost."

A few days later, he was meeting and competing with some of the nation's top players.

"It was interesting," Lanter said of that first morning practice. "I'm sure everybody is going to want to hear, with me being a local kid and everything, that it was crazy to see this machine work from the inside, but as far as it being surreal, once I got out there it just became back to work. Everything else just went away. It was like, 'Alright, I'm back out here, let's do what needs to be done.' It was basketball."

Sure, it was just basketball, but it was also one of his father's proudest moments.

"He's always told me that if he could take his experiences and give them to me, he would do it in a heartbeat," Lanter said. "Any father would do that for their son. It's kind of surreal now thinking back about that, realizing how close I could be to experiencing some of the stuff he did.

"He would have been proud no matter where I ended up. Obviously being here, not only because of where Coach Cal has this program, but just because it's his alma mater makes it that much better for him."

Lanter is not an official walk-on just yet. At this point, he has only the promise of an opportunity to play his way onto the roster, but nothing is guaranteed. Regardless, it's quite an experience for the Lexington native and son of a former Cat.

Make sure to check out Lindsey's full story here.

ESPN will premiere a new sports series this fall focusing on the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.  All-Access Kentucky debuts this month and will follow Coach John Calipari and his staff as they guide the new faces of the defending national champion Wildcats from Big Blue Madness to the start of the 2012 season.  The multi-part series will consist of 30-minute weekly shows airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET with the first three episodes scheduled for October 17, 24 and 31. 

Check out the final preview for the Oct. 24th episode:

Video: UK Rewind weekend recap (Oct. 23)

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Video: Swimming and diving intro 2012

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A'dia Mathies speaks to reporters at UK women's basketball media day on Tuesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) A'dia Mathies speaks to reporters at UK women's basketball media day on Tuesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Matthew Mitchell talks often about the way the Kentucky women's basketball program has "transformed in front of our eyes" during A'dia Mathies' career.

Mathies, a Louisville native, arrived in Lexington and joined a UK team that was coming off a 16-16 season. Immediately forming a potent inside-out duo with forward Victoria Dunlap, Mathies help lead the Wildcats to 28 wins and an Elite Eight berth in 2009-10.

Two more historic years have followed, culminating in the school's first Southeastern Conference championship in three decades in 2011-12. Meanwhile, Mathies has gone from the conference's Freshman of the Year as a rookie to its Player of the Year as a junior.

"My first year here, we had an outstanding year," Mathies said at media day . "Not too many people expected us to have that great of a year. It's a culture now. The first year shocked everybody, but now it's consistent."

Consistent enough that, for the first time ever, Kentucky has been tabbed as preseason SEC champion by the media. The honor serves as proof of the development of the program since Mathies - the preseason choice to repeat as SEC Player of the Year - arrived three years ago.

"Four years ago we were picked 11th so it at least gives you some idea that progress is being made for the program," Mitchell said. "I'm confident that our fans are excited about that and take pride that we are now considered to be a good program."

That's all well and good, but those preseason prognostications mean little to the players and team about which they are made.

"When you turn it to the team, it literally means nothing," Mitchell said.

In fact, being chosen as the league champ before a game has been played means nothing for exactly the same reason why it says so much about the evolution of the program. Thinking back to Mathies' freshman year, UK was chosen to finish second-to-last in the conference. The Cats ended up finishing second.

"When we were picked 11th (out of 12 teams), we didn't pay attention to that at all, and we saw what that team did," Mitchell said. "So if it didn't mean anything to that team it can't start meaning something now."

Mathies is on the same page

"We can't just go by what other people think," Mathies said. "We've got be able to put in the work to fulfill that."

Though Mitchell and Mathies put little stock in projections being made in October, that doesn't mean they don't understand why the experts are so high on UK. The Cats return 79.5 percent of their scoring output from last year and add talented new pieces to the mix.

With the addition of Cal transfer DeNesha Stallworth, freshman point guard Janee Thompson and Jennifer O'Neill - who missed all of last season due to injury - Mitchell now has five McDonald's All-Americans at his disposal. For the sake of comparison, John Calipari's latest team features just three such players.

"We do have a good team - well, let me say this: We do have good players and we have the capability of becoming a good team, but there is nothing automatic about that," Mitchell said.

The distinction is an important one.

No one is hiding from the vast potential that this team possesses. Never before has Mitchell had a roster this deep, this well suited for playing his "40 minutes of dread" defense and making it truly live up to its name. UK has dynamic perimeter scorers in Mathies and Bria Goss, versatile post players in Stallworth and Samarie Walker and do-it-all role players in Kastine Evans and Maegan Conwright. None of them hesitate in acknowledging lofty goals for their team.

"I think we all have gotten a lot better," Walker said. "It's amazing, I've never seen a group of girls work as hard and work hard together. I think we're going to be even better than we were last year."

If that's going to happen, the work must continue. With 28 wins, an SEC title and an Elite Eight appearance, the 2011-12 team did set the bar pretty high after all.

"We're working hard in practice every single day, working on drills, defense and everything imaginable just trying to get prepared and make a final run this year," Mathies said.

Mathies is speaking for herself and fellow senior Brittany Henderson when she talks about making that final run. The accomplishments listed in the paragraphs above only begin describe Mathies' Kentucky career, but there is one notable item missing from her resume: a Final Four berth.

The Final Four will be held this season in New Orleans and Mitchell acknowledges that his team has the talent to make a trip to the Big Easy.

"They're a potential Final Four team, that's easier for us to say than it is to happen," Mitchell said. "But if you look at our roster and if everybody were to come together and play really hard and you get some breaks, I think they are - they have that potential."

It's hard to imagine a more fitting sendoff for the player who has been instrumental in the program's transformation than leading it to college basketball's biggest stage.

"We are definitely thinking about it more this year," Mathies said. "We have been to an Elite Eight since I have been here, so to take that extra step and reach the Final Four would be great for our program."

Video: Sights and sounds from UK Hoops media day

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Head coach Matthew Mitchell spoke about the 2012-13 basketball season Tuesday at media day. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Head coach Matthew Mitchell spoke about the 2012-13 basketball season Tuesday at media day. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
With Tuesday's news of the Kentucky women's basketball team being selected to win the Southeastern Conference this season, women's basketball media day certainly had plenty of topics to be discussed. With head coach Matthew Mitchell at the center of attention in the Memorial Coliseum media room, the answers to the questions were bound to be entertaining. And in true Matthew Mitchell form, he delivered.

Mitchell was quick to thank the administration including University of Kentucky President Dr. Eli Capilouto and athletic director Mitch Barnhart for the commitment given to him and his staff to continue to build the program into what it is today. He was also very appreciative of his own staff and other members of the athletic department. And he also wanted to point out just how excited he is to be coaching this team this season.

"I think right now Kentucky is the most exciting place in the country to play college basketball," said Mitchell. "We have just great, great people involved, and for us, it starts with our players."

Tuesday's media opportunity gave Mitchell and his players the platform to talk about the prospects of a new season with the potential for such a high ceiling. With last year's team reaching unprecedented success for the program, the team is focused on building this team into a Final Four contender after falling just short last season.  With the talent returning to Mitchell's team and a new group of recruits in the fold, Kentucky has set its sights even higher for the 2012-13 season.

Expectations high as UK looks to break through to Final Four

One of the early questions Matthew Mitchell was asked at his press conference on Tuesday was if his team was Final Four-caliber.

His answer?

"They're a potential Final Four team," said Mitchell. "That's easier for us to say than it is to happen. But if you look at our roster and if everybody were to core together and play really hard and you get some breaks, I think they are they have that potential."

After falling just short in the Elite Eight last season to Connecticut, with a talented roster intact this season, the expectations have been raised this year. Kentucky is picked as the favorites in the SEC, and they think they are capable of reaching that elusive Final Four destination this season.

"That is the big step we are trying to make this year," said senior guard A'dia Mathies. "We are definitely making strides to do that. We are working hard in practice every single day. We are working on drills, defense, and everything imaginable to make that run this year."

After falling just one game shy of the Final Four in each of the last two seasons, Mathies believes it's time for the program to break through and take the next step for a chance to play for a national championship.

"We are definitely thinking about it more this year," said Mathies. "We have been to the Elite Eight twice I have been here, so to take that extra step and reach the Final Four would be great for our program."

Depth, chemistry to be keys to success in 2012-13

Watching Mitchell coach his team, it becomes clearly evident that he is a player's coach. He doesn't need to rely on stats or scouting the other team as much as he does worry about the team he is coaching on a daily basis. He doesn't over think things. What matters most to him and his team is to build the best team possible. Where does that begin for Mitchell? Chemistry.

"I am a feel-based coach, emotionally-based coach at times," said Mitchell. "I'm not analytical. I'm not stats driven. I'm thinking about chemistry and I'm a big believer that if we get the intangibles right with this team, that's going to be the difference more so than a certain play or certain scheme."

Where that becomes a challenge is getting every player on board with the game plan. With a roster loaded with talent, including five former McDonald's All-Americans, keeping players happy with playing time and building team chemistry isn't always easy.

Keeping players happy and doing what's best for the team is a constant balancing act, but it's a problem Mitchell is excited to have. That doesn't make the job any easier, but it certainly makes for a better product on the floor.

So rather than basing his starting lineups on reputation or what players have done in previous seasons or prior to coming to Kentucky, he allows his players to compete against each other every day in practice for that precious playing time.

"The best way I've found to really help that situation function well is to make your practice competitive," said Mitchell. "Be very clear on what you're looking for, and then give everybody an opportunity.

"At the end of it what I'm going to try to do is give everybody an opportunity to produce in practice and that will be what dictates who takes the floor in games."

But keeping everyone happy is a priority for Mitchell, so he continues to search to find ways to make sure every member of his team buys into the team mentality. Mitchell believes that if his team doesn't find the right chemistry, reaching their goals might be out of the question.

"I would be lying if I told you that's not something I think about a lot," said Mitchell. "I want to make sure the chemistry is good because if you're not concerned about team chemistry, you aren't concerned with winning a team championship because that's a huge part of it."

Early-season test awaits Kentucky in defending champion Baylor

With high expectations for the Wildcats this season, UK will get an early opportunity to measure up against the best team in the country. When Kentucky travels to play the defending champion Baylor Bears and Brittney Griner on Nov. 13, the Cats will likely be facing the No. 1 team in the country in just their second regular season game.

With bull's eyes placed squarely on their backs in the SEC this season as the new top dogs in the conference, the Cats will become the hunters in a game they will almost assuredly be considered underdogs against the Bears. Mitchell knows that with Baylor's undefeated season last year and the talent they return, his team will have its hands full when they travel to Waco, Texas in less than a month.

"That will be a stern test early in the season and everybody, I think, is familiar with the season they had last year," said Mitchell. "Coach (Kim) Mulkey and all those players and notably Brittney Griner certainly (pose) a strong challenge."

And the players, specifically Samari Walker and DeNesha Stallworth, who could potentially be matched up with national player of the year in Griner, are looking forward to the challenge. Though going up against Griner won't be a particularly new experience for Walker, she's been working hard to give herself the best chance to succeed if her and Griner matchup in the post.

"I played against her my freshman year (at Connecticut) so I kind of have a little bit of experience against her but we both have gotten better, stronger and older," said Walker. "This whole preseason we have been working on shot fakes and different moves around the basket but I don't know how many shots we are going to get off down there."

Mitchell becoming fan favorite with Madness moves

It's become a ritual of sorts, almost a rite of passage for each basketball season. There will be no basketball played until Matthew Mitchell busts a move.

In seasons past, Mitchell has cut a rug with a mean rendition of the once-trendy dance move "the Dougie." Last season, the Big Blue Nation, and the rest of the nation for that matter, enjoyed his rendition of Michael Jackson's "moonwalk."

But this year, Mitchell proved to everyone in attendance and to those watching on national television that his antics were not temporary. When it comes to celebrating a new basketball season at Big Blue Madness, Mitchell is just "too legit to quit" his dancing ways.

As the crowd waited in eager anticipation of what Mitchell would bring to the table this season, donning parachute pants, a shiny jacket and some sunglasses, the head women's basketball coach brought the house down to some of M.C. Hammer's greatest hits.

And just like last the past two years, he was a rousing success.

"It's been overwhelmingly positive," said Mitchell in jest. "People are extremely impressed with my ability to entertain. Madness, it has just been fantastic and I know my parents are so proud of me, my wife, my two daughters - well, one of the daughters doesn't really know what's going on right now - but I'm sure they are very proud of how I go out and represent our family and dress in those ridiculous costumes."

Not only has Mitchell become a crowd favorite, but he's earned some credentials from his players as well. As a player's coach, Mitchell has done an admirable job of being personable, entertaining, but stern when necessary. That's exactly why he's found himself in such a favorable position at the University of Kentucky.

"He definetly laughs and jokes around with us in practice because there are times for that," said senior forward Brittany Henderson. "But he is also very serious and wants us to work hard and do our best at times as well. We love him."

With his office just an earshot away from head men's basketball coach John Calipari and both sharing the main stage at Big Blue Madness annually, Mitchell is yet to approach Calipari about a dual act.

"I try to bring things up to him that don't waste his time," said Mitchell. "He's a busy man, and, no, we are not talking about that."

Mitchell-Calipari relationship continues to evolve

While Mitchell may not approach Calipari with idea of potential dance routines, since Calipari arrived in Lexington, Ky., the two men have formed a valuable relationship.

"I think my relationship with Cal has helped him tremendously," said Mitchell jokingly. "He won the national championship last year and I've been working with him extensively on, really, every phase of the game and mainly on his public relations skills."

As the entire room filled with laughter, Mitchell was eager to talk about his colleague and mentor in a glowing light.

Mitchell praised Calipari, a man who has built programs from the ground floor, for his willingness to share his knowledge. Calipari has gone out of his way to include the women's program whenever he can to get it extra publicity, and Mitchell knows that his friend is always willing to lend a helping hand.

"I guess I need to start with just his willingness to help me, and his availability and his encouragement," said Mitchell. "Those are all functions of him making himself available to me, and from what I can tell anybody on campus that needs his help, he will do that."

As Mitchell has seen his program flourish over the last few seasons, he can attribute some of it to the direction to the man across the hall. Though Calipari is a busy man these days, Mitchell makes sure to pick his brain any chance he gets to take advantage of his wisdom and experience. With an eye on building his own program into what Calipari has built at Kentucky and his other programs in the past, Mitchell is never shy about asking for Calipari's advice.

"In particular with our relationship," said Mitchell, "It is so helpful to be able to walk across the hall as a young coach and go to somebody with experience who has done something that we're attempting to do, take a program that didn't have a lot of tradition and people didn't expect those things and trying to move into that spot where we are now where people do expect good things from us."  

Video: Player interviews at UK Hoops media day

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Senior guard A'dia Mathies

Junior forward Samarie Walker

Sophomore guard Bria Goss

Junior forward DeNesha Stallworth

Former Washington State, Iowa and Southern Cal head coach and current Director of International Basketball at Nike George Raveling posted a series of videos with Joe B. Hall earlier this month in his "Conversations with Coach" series. John Calipari, a close friend of Raveling's, talks with him about getting his 2011-12 national championship team to buy in.

Video: Sanders, Minter on Missouri preparations

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Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders

Defensive coordinator Rick Minter

Will Bishop captured his first collegiate victory at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate tournament this fall. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Will Bishop captured his first collegiate victory at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate tournament this fall. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
At the dawn of the fall portion of its 2012-13 schedule, Kentucky men's golf coach Brian Craig said he hoped that his team would build consistency. The quest for consistency was a direct result of an uneven 2011-12 season which found Kentucky all over the map, especially in their '11 fall campaign.

With a fifth-place, a fourth-place, and two second-place finishes in their four fall events this season, the Wildcats made significant strides on that front.

"We made a lot of progress," said Craig. "We were consistent. That was the biggest thing we were looking to gain coming into this year because last year we were wildly inconsistent and it cost us."

What it cost them was a shot at an NCAA tournament berth, a destination that Kentucky hasn't reached since the 2008-09 season. Last season, the Cats were considered a bubble team, but Craig felt that his team had a few more quality wins than some of the other teams on the bubble. But despite their success in the spring, it was their fall struggles that kept them from returning to the NCAA field.

Craig was fairly confident heading into the fall that his team would resurrect its game and find success this fall. And as the team improved from tournament to tournament, a leader emerged for the Wildcats.

Though he's just in his second season of collegiate golf, sophomore Will Bishop has become a budding star and a leader on this Kentucky golf team, both on and off the course.

Bishop picked up an individual tournament victory, albeit a weather-shortened championship, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The Lexington, Ky., native picked up his first collegiate win shooting a career-low equaling two-under-par 70 in the lone round of the tournament, propelling Kentucky to a second-place finish behind Ole Miss.

And while his game has been on a steady rise since last season, his work ethic off the course has been equally impressive to his head coach.

"I'm really happy for Will because in the spring semester he really buckled down, changed his attitude, matured," said Craig. "He's one of our team leaders now, on and off the golf course. He does everything the right way, great kid, works hard, super-talented, great fundamentals. There's no reason he shouldn't keep getting better."

The Querencia Cabo Collegiate tournament was the final tournament of Kentucky's hectic fall schedule. With the Wildcats finding success and consistency over the last four events, they head into the winter with a much sweeter taste in their mouth than a year ago.

While Kentucky's play in the fall may not carry over to the spring, the Wildcats should carry a bit of momentum at least into the winter. Craig says his team will a more cheerful disposition and that seeing the fruits of their labor will help them continue to push harder in the offseason.

Now, as UK takes a bit of a break from the game to recharge the batteries as the seasons change, the Wildcats continue to work with an eye toward the spring. The golfers are still getting into the weight room bright and early at least three times a week to work on their bodies and strength.

Though the Wildcats are working on their physical strength individually, they will be much stronger as a team with a new addition to its roster. Craig reeled in junior transfer Ben Stow from England, and after sitting out the fall portion of the schedule, the transfer from the United Kingdom will now be competing for UK in 2013 as the most accomplished amateur player on its roster.

His teammates are cognizant of Stow's success as well. Craig says Stow's presence and track record alone has immediately elevated the team as a whole.

"Ben, you can tell clearly, demands a little bit of respect because of his record," said Craig. "It's also because of the way he takes care of his business. He doesn't fool around. He works hard in the classroom. He works hard on the golf course. That's a good model for his peers."

With how the Wildcats performed over the last few months and the addition of Stow to the 2013 rotation, the bar has been raised with an eye towards a run in the Southeastern Conference and a return to the NCAA Tournament.

"This year, for us, I think that our expectations are pretty high because we add a new player in Ben Stow in the spring," said Craig. "Stow is the most accomplished player on our team in amateur golf. And by far."

But the one thing the Cats must carry in their bags with them this spring over from the fall competition is its consistency. Consistency was the biggest key to UK's success this fall, and consistency will be instrumental for the Wildcats again in the spring.

Without it, those high expectations and dreams of postseason success may not come to fruition.

"Consistency in golf is huge," said Craig."That's where all the rankings and postseason births are based on: consistency."

From the Pressbox: Reflecting on 1977

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For whatever reasons, Kentucky usually plays Georgia tough in football. After last Saturday, five of the past seven matchups have been decided by 10 points or fewer. But this year marks the 35th anniversary season during which the Wildcats demolished the Bulldogs 33-0 in Athens. It was arguably the signature performance of a memorable 10-1 campaign that saw UK finish the year ranked in sixth in the final Associated Press media poll.

When you see the way Alabama's defense dominates SEC foes nowadays, it's fun for a Big Blue fan to reflect on a unit led by All-American Art Still that was just as dominant.

Only two teams during that 1977 season scored 20 points on Kentucky. One was the Baylor team that beat the Cats 21-6 on a sultry Saturday on the artificial turf in Waco, Texas. The other was Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 10-0 lead but a Dallas Owens interception return for a touchdown sparked a UK rally that saw Kentucky storm back to win 24-20 in what turned out to be the only loss that year for Joe Paterno's squad.

For Kentucky, the ascent to the top of the Southeastern Conference had its genesis in a 2-8-1 season in 1975, according to quarterback Derrick Ramsey.

"I remember the year in 1975 when we were 2-8-1 and I knew we would be a great team the following year," recalled Ramsey, now the athletics director at Coppin State. "People say 'How did you know that?' and I think that if you go back to seven of the eight games that we lost and we lost them by a total of less than 20 points. I knew who was starting that next year and we were all sophomores and so we all matured."

It wasn't like the transformation was instantaneous though. A year before that 33-point rout of Georgia, the Cats lost 31-7 at home to the Bulldogs. Then, UK went to Maryland and dropped a regionally televised matchup 24-14 to fall to 4-4. Fourth-year coach Fran Curci's first two teams just missed bowl games by one win but after that two-win season in '75, the middling performance through the first eight games of '76 had UK fans grumbling. But Ramsey, Still and company answered the challenge.

Kentucky finished the season with three straight wins, as that defense that would become dominant in '77 started to grow up. In the '76 finale, UK shut out Tennessee 7-0 in Knoxville to earn Kentucky's first bowl bid in 25 years.

Coming off the Peach Bowl win over North Carolina, the Cats' prospects were bright but the '77 campaign began with a hard-fought 10-7 win over the UNC program that Kentucky had defeated just months prior.  Then came to the trip to Baylor, where UK lost not only the game but Peach Bowl MVP Rod Stewart to a knee injury.

History, however, shows that the Wildcats soon asserted themselves as a dominant gridiron force, with a suffocating defense and a power-oriented offense directed by Ramsey, who would transform to a tight end in the NFL.

Ramsey recalls his team as one with strong leaders who were determined to change the culture of football at Kentucky.

"When we first got to Kentucky, people all asked, 'Why did you come to Kentucky? It was a basketball school.' And I think that I knew I won three straight state championships in football and I wasn't concerned about being a basketball school. I was concerned about getting there and making things happen with some like-minded guys that won at their high school, that weren't aware that Kentucky was meant to be (only) a basketball school," said Ramsey. "We thought it was a winning school and when everyone comes in with that mindset, (good things happen).

"I think that for any team to be successful, someone has to be a leader and make decisions because there are times where everyone is looking around to see who is going to do what. On the offensive side, that was always my job and I made damn sure that I knew what we were going to do," Ramsey said. "And once they believed that you going to make things happen, even when the greatest odds are against you, you have a greater tendency to perform. On the other side (defense) was Art and Jerry (Blanton) and Dallas in the secondary.  We had a plethora of guys that could make things happen for our team."

Oct. 21 Performances of the week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 21:

Men's soccer: Dylan Asher

Junior Dylan Asher registered a prolific week in leading the Wildcats to two crucial Conference USA wins ... With UK leading scorer and starting forward Tyler Riggs out for both games due to injury, Asher - a two-time All-Conference USA defender - made his two first career starts at forward ... He finished with his first four career goals in the two games, with the eighth hat trick in UK history during a win over FIU ... During the 1-0 win at 10-win Marshall on Wednesday, Asher scored the game-winning goal in 54th minute, his first-career tally ... In the win against FIU, Asher had a career day for the Wildcats, notching goals in the third, 41st, and 57th minute to record the eighth hat trick in Kentucky soccer history ... His goals were dynamic during the week, including a diving header for the hat trick in the 57th frame vs. FIU ... The Richardson, Texas, native fired a total of four shots in the week, connecting at a 1.000 clip with all four finding nylon ... A two-time All-Conference USA selection, a preseason All-Conference USA honoree and a freshman All-American in 2010, Asher has played in 45 games with 43 starts in his career with four goals and three assists.

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Junior Whitney Billings provided magnificent defensive play in guiding UK to a 1-1 weekend. Billings led the team in every statistical category this week in kills (4.17), hitting percentage (.367), digs (22) and blocks (8). She paced the Wildcats in both digs and kills in both matches this week including a five-block, 14-dig performance in a 3-0 win over LSU. She also provided an offensive spark with a team-high 16 kills on a blazing .481 hitting clip for her 23rd career double-double and the 10th of the season against the Tigers. She logged 32 serve-receive chances and did not commit a single error in that category. The win over LSU marked the 10th time this season the junior topped 10-or more digs and just the third time with five or more blocks. For the week she was well over her season averages in both digs (3.67 vs. 2.70) and blocks (1.33 vs. 0.87).

Football: Landon Foster

Foster was key for Kentucky in switching field position, launching six punts and pinning UGA inside its own 20-yard line three times. Foster averaged 44.5 yards per punt against the Bulldogs while also drilling a 53-yarder. He also did not have a touchback. Individually, Foster ranks fifth in the conference and 21st nationally in punting with a 43.1-yard average. He is third among true freshman punters in the nation and first in the conference in that category. As a team, Kentucky sits 20th in the nation and fifth in the Southeastern Conference in net punting at 39.95 yards per punt.

Women's soccer: Arin Gilliland

Sophomore Arin Gilliland continued her stellar season, capturing the game-winning goal vs. South Carolina on Friday night in a 1-0 defensive showcase and also scoring in Sunday's 2-1 come-from-behind win over Auburn. Gilliland has now scored a point in five of Kentucky's last six games, including scoring a goal in each of the last three games, with two game winners.

Women's soccer: Olivia Jester

Freshman Olivia Jester picked a perfect time to score her first-career goal, as the Cincinnati, Ohio native tallied the game-winning goal on Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over Auburn. Jester has played over 1,400 minutes this season and has started in every game this season. The goal was a header off an Alyssa Telang corner kick, and helped guide UK to its fourth-straight win.

Rifle: Henri Junghänel

Senior Henri Junghänel recorded a historic performance in Kentucky's record-breaking win over No. 4 Army. Contributing to Kentucky's 4716, a new school record, Junghänel bested the previous smallbore program high with a 592. The previous school record, held by Junghänel, was 590. Junghänel added a 594 in air rifle to bring his aggregate score to 1186, also a new program best. Two days earlier, Junghänel led the Wildcats to a 4676 - 4605 win over No. 10 Murray State. Junghänel recorded team highs in smallbore and air rifle, shooting a 587 in smallbore and 590 in air rifle. Through three matches, Junghänel leads the team in smallbore scoring average (589.5) and air rifles scoring average (591.7) on the year.

Women's soccer: Kayla King

After a weekend in which Kayla King recorded back-to-back shutouts, the Louisville, Ky., native backed it up with a 2-0-0 weekend in net, in which she made seven saves and also shutout South Carolina on Friday night. Until Auburn finally got a shot past the line, King went 322 minutes in the cage without allowing a goal. In addition, Auburn missed a PK while King was in net that would have given AU the 2-0 lead in the opening half of play.

ESPN will premiere a new sports series this fall focusing on the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.  All-Access Kentucky debuts this month and will follow Coach John Calipari and his staff as they guide the new faces of the defending national champion Wildcats from Big Blue Madness to the start of the 2012 season.  The multi-part series will consist of 30-minute weekly shows airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET with the first three episodes scheduled for October 17, 24 and 31. 

Check out the second of three previews for the Oct. 24th episode:

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Oct. 22)

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- UK's rushing attack was solid against a tough UGA defense, posting a season-best 206 rushing yards on 43 carries. Jonathan George led the way with a career-high 87 yards on 12 carries, while Morgan Newton and Raymond Sanders had rushing touchdowns. Newton also threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Boyd, while starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw for 86 yards, rushed for 31 yards and caught a 33-yard pass.
- Kentucky entered the game having played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to three of the computer rating used in the official BCS rankings. Georgia was Kentucky's fifth top-25 opponent this season. The Wildcats are using a young squad against the best teams in the nation, ranking top-five nationally in true freshmen played, and frosh (true freshmen and redshirt freshmen) played this season.


- Junior Whitney Billings led the way for the Wildcats with an average of 4.17 kills, 3.67 digs and 1.33 blocks per set for the week. She logged her 23rd career double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs against the Tigers.
- Senior Ashley Frazier was named a Senior CLASS award finalist during the week. She is the first player in school history to advance to the final 10 seniors for the prestigious award.

Women's soccer

- Sophomore Arin Gilliland has scored a point in five of the last six games for UK, including scoring a goal in each of the last three games, with two game-winners.
- Goalkeeper Kayla King recorded her third-straight shutout Friday night in a 1-0 win before allowing her only goal of the weekend to Auburn, snapping her 322-minute scoreless streak in net. King now stands at 11-2-0 in the net.
- The win Sunday over AU was UK's fourth-straight SEC win. It is the first time since 2006 that UK has won four-straight SEC games.

Men's soccer

- Kentucky (8-6-1, Conference USA 3-1-1) posted a 6-1 goal margin in its two games, as the Wildcats got the first career goal from veteran Dylan Asher against Marshall, as well as Asher's hat-trick, and Kentucky's eighth all-time, vs. FIU. Senior midfielder Charley Pettys netted a goal vs. FIU off of a handball in the box allowed him to take the penalty kick.

- Kentucky set numerous program records in Sunday's win over Army, including total aggregate score (4716), total smallbore score (2348), individual aggregate score and individual smallbore score.
- Senior Henri Junghanel recorded a historic Sunday as an individual, posting a program-best 1186 total score and another program-record 592 in smallbore.

Women's tennis
- Freshmen Nadia Ravita and Kirsten Lewis had impressive outings in West Lafayette, Ind. The duo went 2-1 in doubles competition. Lewis advanced to the round of 32 while Ravita won two matches to make it to the quarterfinals of singles play.

Men's tennis
- The men's tennis team was in Memphis, Tenn., this weekend competing in the ITA Ohio Valley Regional Indoor Championships.
- Jomby and freshman Kevin Lai have earned a spot in the doubles championship match on Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET. Lai and Jomby are the No. 2 seed in the draw, and will face No. 1 overall seeded John Collins and Mikelis Lieibtis of Tennessee.

Men's golf

- The UK men's golf team finished tied for second at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate, shooting 11-under-par.
- Sophomore Will Bishop was the individual champion, carding a 2-under-par, 70 for the tournament.

Cross country
- Cally Macumber was named SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week for the second time in a row on Tuesday.
- The Rochester Hills, Mich., native's 6K time of 20:09.0 at Pre-Nationals currently ranks as the best time in the conference this season at that distance.
- Macumber and Oswald led Kentucky to 12th-place overall in Louisville.

Swimming and diving
- Kentucky's lone victory of the swimming meet came from sophomore Lucas Gerotto who took home first in the 100-butterfly (49.70).
- The diving team had a strong opening meet with multiple victories. Junior Greg Ferrucci won the three-meter event with a score of 423.5 while senior John Fox placed fourth 332.50. Ferrucci also claimed second in the one-meter dive (361.95). For the women, in the one meter diving event Rebecca Hamperian took first for the Cats with a score of 298.35, while Sarah Chewning followed her in second scoring 282.20. Christa Cabot took first place with a final score of 308.05 in three meter diving.

Upcoming schedule

Monday, Oct. 22
Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.)

Wednesday, Oct. 24
Men's basketball Blue-White game - 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 25
Women's soccer hosts Vanderbilt - 7:00 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 26
Cross country at SEC Championships - 7:00 p.m. (Nashville, Tenn.)
Volleyball at Tennessee - 7:00 p.m.
Women's tennis at Knoxville Hidden (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Swimming and diving at Missouri (Arkansas, Missouri, SIU) - 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 27
Women's tennis at Knoxville Hidden (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Men's soccer at Tulsa - 8:00 p.m.
Football at Missouri - 12:00 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 28
Volleyball at Georgia - 1:30 p.m.
Rifle hosts Tennessee-Martin
Women's tennis at Knoxville Hidden (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Women's golf at Alamo Invitational (San Antonio, Texas)

The outcome didn't end up being what the Kentucky football team was looking for, but the Wildcats came as close as they have all season to putting together a four-quarter game against Georgia on Saturday.

"I just think it was important for us as a team to come out and compete and I think a lot of it had to do with how we started, how fast we started," head coach Joker Phillips said. "It gave a young team some confidence."

As they prepare for a road game at Missouri (noon ET Saturday, ESPNU), the Cats are looking to carry some of the momentum they generated into this weekend and the final four games of the regular season.

"It was a good game," senior defensive end Taylor Wyndham said. "We played hard. We didn't get the result we wanted to but a lot of progress has been made. There's a whole lot more that needs to be made for us to be able to turn things around."

In a 29-24 loss, UK outgained Georgia - ranked 10th in the latest BCS standings - on the ground 206-77. Star quarterback Aaron Murray more than made up the deficit through the air, but Phillips says the simple fact that UK forced Georgia into being unbalanced is what allowed the Cats to hang around.

"You stop one thing and get them to do the other, I think it gives you a chance," Phillips said. "And then offensively we ran the ball pretty well which gave us a chance to possess the ball a little longer than we have been."

With the running game racking up a season-high in yardage, Kentucky's time of possession was just shy of 28 minutes, the Cats' second-highest total of the season. Helping the cause was UK's relative success on third down. In spite of facing multiple third-and-long situations, the Cats converted 6-of-14 chances, their best rate in three weeks.

In multiple long third downs, UK recognized light boxes and ran the ball to great effect. In fact, the Cats ran five times in third-and-six or longer and gained an average of 14.4 yards. Three of those rushes resulted in first downs and four in runs of 12 yards or longer.

"I thought it was a bad play when we tried to run the ball third and long," Phillips said with a smile.

Missouri will surely have recognized that tendency watching tape, but that could make life just a little easy on UK's quarterbacks trying to throw the ball in long third downs.

Young secondary gaining more experience

There's no disputing the fact that Kentucky's injury-depleted secondary is extremely young. But by the end of this season, you're not going to be able to call them inexperienced.

UK's defense was on the field for 72 plays against Georgia. True freshman defensive backs Cody Quinn and Zack Blaylock played every single one, while Fred Tiller played 60.

Mistakes with a group like that are inevitable and, considering UK gave up over 400 yards through the air to the Bulldogs, there have been plenty of them. Nonetheless, Phillips sees players who aren't backing down from the challenges they're facing.

"They're doing a really good job of competing, showing up every day and competing really hard," Phillips said.

They're also not getting discouraged, which is one of the most important characteristics for any developing defensive back.

"You don't see those guys change when they get beat," Phillips said, "and they will get beat. They're young kids that still try to find their way, but their demeanor doesn't change when they give up a play."

Phillips has been particularly impressed by Quinn, a cornerback he calls one of the strongest players pound-for-pound in his class.

"Cody Quinn gave up a big pass and then a touchdown on the slant, and when he came off, I grabbed him and just wanted to look him in his eyes and see what I saw, and I saw still a confident guy but really didn't believe that the guy had beat him," Phillips said.

Wyndham's beard a hot topic

Before Phillips steps to the podium for his weekly press conference, select players are made available to the media. This week, Taylor Wyndham was one of them.

He faced a distinct line of questioning.

The first 12 questions of his 10-minute session with the press were about his beard, which he has not shaved since the start of training camp. The beard, along with some liberally applied eye black, makes for an intimidating look on game day, but it's a bit of a hassle away from the field.

"Usually I'm clean-shaven," Wyndham said. "I usually don't have that much facial hair and it kind of gets out of hand sometimes. When I'm eating I've got to rub my face every two seconds and lift my beard when I drink something."

Wyndham sees Pittsburgh Steeler defensive lineman Brett Keisel as the model for his beard, but finds that he is more often called "Mountain Man." Phillips, for one, calls him "Wilson," a name inspired by the Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away." In the movie, Hanks grows a long beard on a deserted island, where his only companion is a volleyball he names "Wilson."

"He likes it," Phillips said. "I like it. I don't know what his mom thinks about it."

As Phillips suspects, Wyndham's mother is not a fan.

"She hates it," Wyndham said. "When I saw her on the Catwalk the other day, her eyes got huge and she was like, 'Uh oh.' "

Injury update: Towles back in the mix at QB

Patrick Towles (high ankle sprain) is planning to return to practice on Tuesday, Phillips said. The freshman quarterback did not practice last week and has not played since injuring his ankle two weeks ago against Mississippi State, but has proved to be a quick healer.

His status is still up in the air, but if Towles is able to successfully practice, expect to see him on the field.

"If Towles can play, he'll play," Phillips said. "It will be the same situation as we did in the Mississippi State game, but again he hasn't taken a snap yet. And we'll take a look and see tomorrow."

As Phillips suggests, Towles and Whitlow will rotate if Towles is able to suit up.

Against Georgia, Whitlow split time with Morgan Newton at quarterback, but there were two series in which UK was down to Newton alone. Whitlow left the game with a migraine headache, reporting his vision was distorted before he recovered and was able to return.

It was the first time Whitlow has had a migraine at Kentucky, but the training staff learned he had problems with them as a child. From now on, preventive measures will be taken with Whitlow.

"We understand it now, which will help us be able to deal with it," Phillips said.

Towles is officially listed as day-to-day and is joined by Mikie Benton (ankle), Zach West (shoulder), Martavius Neloms (hamstring) and Cartier Rice (hip flexor). Benton is expected to practice on Tuesday, while West, Neloms and Rice all will try to practice on Wednesday.

Media picks UK as preseason SEC favorite

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You're not going to believe this, but the experts are expecting a lot of out of John Calipari's Kentucky WIldcats this season.

The Southeastern Conference released preseason media picks on Monday and UK was voted as the league champion by 17 of the 24 local and national panelists. In second place with five votes is Florida while Missouri and Tennessee come in at third and fourth place, respectively, with one first-place vote each.

The media also picked preseason All-SEC teams and a pair of Wildcats made appearances. Forward Nerlens Noel is a first-team selection and forward Alex Poythress is on the second team. The two Wildcats are on the only freshmen among the 11 players recognized.

Here the media's complete picks:

Preseason Media Poll  
Kentucky (17)    328
Florida (5)          310
Missouri (1)       286
Tennessee (1)  269
Arkansas           226
Alabama            222
Ole Miss            186
Georgia             149
Texas A&M        122
Vanderbilt          120
LSU                    116
Auburn                95
South Carolina  54
Mississippi State 37

First-Place Votes in Parentheses

First Team All-SEC

BJ Young - Arkansas, G, 6-3, 180, So., St. Louis, Mo.
Kenny Boynton - Florida, G, 6-2, 190, Sr., Pompano Beach, Fla.
Nerlens Noel - Kentucky, F, 6-10, 228, Fr., Everett, Mass.
Phil Pressey - Missouri, G, 5-11, 175, Jr., Dallas, Texas
Jarnell Stokes - Tennessee, F, 6-8, 270, So., Memphis, Tenn.

Second Team All-SEC
Marshawn Powell - Arkansas, F, 6-7, 240, Jr., Newport News, Va.
Patric Young - Florida, C, 6-9, 249, Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - Georgia, G, 6-5, 205, So., Greenville, Ga.
Alex Poythress - Kentucky, F, 6-7, 239, Fr., Clarksville, Tenn.
Michael Dixon, Jr. - Missouri, G, 6-1, 190, Sr., Kansas City, Mo.
Jeronne Maymon - Tennessee, F, 6-7, 260, Sr., Madison, Wis.

SEC Player of the Year: Phil Pressey, Missouri

Video: All-Access Kentucky preview

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All-Access Kentucky

ESPN will premiere a new sports series this fall focusing on the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team.  All-Access Kentucky debuts this month and will follow Coach John Calipari and his staff as they guide the new faces of the defending national champion Wildcats from Big Blue Madness to the start of the 2012 season.  The multi-part series will consist of 30-minute weekly shows airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET with the first three episodes scheduled for October 17, 24 and 31. 

Check out the first of three previews for the Oct. 24th episode:

Video: Phillips weekly press conference (Oct. 22)

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Taylor Wyndham - Defensive lineman

Darrian Miller - Offensive lineman

Former Cat Cobb continuing ascendance with Packers

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Randall Cobb was a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers after starring at Kentucky for three seasons. (UK Athletics) Randall Cobb was a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers after starring at Kentucky for three seasons. (UK Athletics)
When Green Bay selected Randall Cobb in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, any Kentucky fan that watched him during his three years as a Wildcat knew the Packers had gotten a steal. Early in Cobb's second professional season, football fans around the nation are finding out why the Big Blue Nation was so sure about that.

Week by week, Cobb is becoming a more featured piece in the Packers' explosive offense. As a rookie, he starred as a returner while finding his feet as a receiver. In 2012, he's still getting in done on special teams, but Cobb has also become one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets.

In a 30-20 win over St. Louis on Sunday, Cobb had eight catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came after halftime and the second - a 39-yarder - gave Green Bay a two-touchdown lead with barely three minutes left. Cobb also had one carry for 19 yards, developing in a sort of hybrid running back role in which he lines up in the backfield.

Through seven games, Cobb has already exceeded his offensive production from his rookie season in every major category. He has 37 catches for 435 and three touchdowns, putting him on pace for approximately 85 catches for 994 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has three carries for 67 yards and 574 combined kick and punt return yards. With 1,076 all-purpose yards, he trails only Percy Harvin of Minnesota for the NFL lead.

Cobb has been good all season, but especially over the past four weeks. During that time, he has 26 catches for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Particularly over the past two weeks, Green Bay's offense has rounded into form and it doesn't seem to be a coincidence that Cobb has been so heavily involved.

With Cobb doing such big things, he is starting to garner a reputation around the league. After Sunday's game in particular, experts are gushing over his play. Here are links to some of the best stories.

'Star in the making' Cobb does it again (ESPN Wisconsin)
Cobb continues to rise to stardom (
Packers Jordy Nelson and Cobb a dynamic duo (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
Cobb surpasses 1,000 yards in seven games (Green Bay Press-Gazette)
Ex-Cat Cobb scores two TDs in Packers' 30-20 win against Rams (Herald-Leader)

It was a winning weekend for Kentucky women's soccer, as the Wildcats got two one-goal Southeastern Conference wins over South Carolina and Auburn. The victories have UK on a four-match winning streak heading into Senior Night on Saturday against Arkansas, but it's a pair of freshmen that we're talking about this morning.

Midfielder Courtney Raetzman and forward Kelli Hubly are UK's second- and third-leading scorers in their first college seasons. They have combined for nine goals and 24 points, helping the Cats to seven wins in SEC play for the first time since 1999.

Two freshmen playing so well is a story on its own, but making it even more interesting is the fact that Hubly and Raetzman have known each other since before they started kindergarten. The grew up together in Elk Grove, Ill., played on the same club team and are now college teammates and roommates. However, they weren't a package deal for UK head coach Jon Lipsitz.

Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network has the story

As hard to believe as it might be, the decision to come to Kentucky was not a joint one.

"We didn't go into the college decision-making process together," Raetzman said. "One day, we were talking at our practice and asking each other what schools we were interested in. It happened by chance that we basically said all the same schools. We both visited Maryland and Kentucky. We talked to each other after our visits, but we weren't planning to go to school together. We wanted to do what was a better fit for us, but if it worked out that we ended of as the same school, it would be what we dreamed of when we were little kids.

"When we thought of our lives when we were younger, we planned to be roommates when we went to college," Raetzman continued. "It all fell into place."

The final verdict came down to dinner at a restaurant that featured the perfect table cloth for a major decision.

"After we found out we both wanted to go to the same places, our parents took us out to dinner," Hubly said. "You know those places that have tables with paper on them? We wrote down on the table the pros and cons and we both had our own list. We each made our own decisions at different times; Courtney did before me. We helped each other, but we made our own individual decisions."

Things certainly have worked out so far.

In other women's soccer news, we posted a story from UK's 2-1 win over Auburn on Sunday that you can read here, but didn't get a chance to show you highlights. A day late, here they are along with some of Lipsitz's post-match comments.

Kentucky men's soccer - Weekly update (Oct. 22)

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Overall Record: 8-6-1, 3-1-1 C-USA
Record Last Week: 2-0-0, 2-0-0 C-USA

Recent Results
Wednesday, Oct. 17 - won at Marshall, 1-0
Sunday, Oct. 21 - won vs. FIU, 5-1

Upcoming Schedule (times eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 27 - at Tulsa - 8 p.m.

Jr., Dylan Asher (Richardson, Texas)

NOTES: Junior Dylan Asher registered a prolific week in leading the Wildcats to two crucial Conference USA wins ... With UK leading scorer and starting forward Tyler Riggs out for both games due to injury, Asher - a two-time All-Conference USA defender - made his two first career starts at forward ... He finished with his first four career goals in the two games, with the eighth hat trick in UK history during a win over FIU ... During the 1-0 win at 10-win Marshall on Wednesday, Asher scored the game-winning goal in 54th minute, his first-career tally ... In the win against FIU, Asher had a career day for the Wildcats, notching goals in the third, 41st, and 57th minute to record the eighth hat trick in Kentucky soccer history ... His goals were dynamic during the week, including a diving header for the hat trick in the 57th frame vs. FIU ... The Richardson, Texas, native fired a total of four shots in the week, connecting at a 1.000 clip with all four finding nylon ... A two-time All-Conference USA selection, a preseason All-Conference USA honoree and a freshman All-American in 2010, Asher has played in 45 games with 43 starts in his career with four goals and three assists.


The Kentucky men's soccer team completed a successful week with a win over 10-win Marshall on the road, 1-0, and a home 5-1 win, against Florida International. UK will return to action on Wednesday, when they travel to Oklahoma to face 10-win Tulsa at 8 p.m. ET.

Kentucky (8-6-1, Conference USA 3-1-1) posted a 6-1 goal margin in its two games, as the Wildcats got the first career goal from veteran Dylan Asher against Marshall, as well as Asher's hat-trick, and Kentucky's eighth all-time, vs. FIU. Senior midfielder Charley Pettys netted a goal vs. FIU off of a handball in the box allowed him to take the penalty kick. Veteran midfielder Gabriel Conelian set up multiple scoring chances for UK as he accounted for three assists on the week with two coming against FIU. Along with Conelian, senior Matt Lodge helped set up two goals with two well-placed balls leading to goals for the Wildcats. Newcomers, Bryan Celis, Dylan Murphy, Caleb Richardson, and Dustin Scibilia all chipped in on the action, with Celis, Murphy, and Richardson grabbing assists while Scibilia netted his first goal in his UK career.

The Wildcats have been led offensively by Tyler Riggs and Matt Lodge, who have accounted for 13 goals (Riggs-7, Lodge-6) combined through 15 games .The duo has also connected for seven assists (Riggs-4, Lodge-3) through 15 games this season. Pettys has added six goals and three assists. Conelian (3), Celis (2), Steven Perinovic (1) and Scibilia (1) have each added goals while Conelian (5), Jacob Kemper (5), Celis (2), Kristoffer Tollefsen (2), Caleb Richardson (1), Dylan Murphy (1) and Jacob Searce (1) have all registered assists.

A native of Richmond, Ky., UK keeper Jack Van Arsdale has allowed two goals in his last three games. He now owns a 1.25 goals-against average, saving 37 shots with three shutouts. UK freshman goalkeeper Callum Irving has also started three games, with seven saves and a 2.00 goals-against average.

As a team, UK has averaged 1.93 goals a game and 12.9 shots a contest and a 95-75 advantage in corner kicks. Defensively, UK owns a 1.37 goals-against average.  

Kentucky entered the week owning the No. 33 RPI in the nation according to the NCAA and the 21st hardest schedule in college soccer. The Wildcats opened up the year with a 1-4 mark, before running off a 7-2-1 stretch over their last 10 games. UK has played seven ranked foes through 15 games and has suffered five of its six losses to ranked foes, including No. 25 Northwestern, No. 15 St. John's, No. 4 Charlotte, No. 11 Indiana and No. 25 SMU.

UK will travel to Tulsa for the Saturday game at 8:00 p.m. ET and then return home to take on UCF on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Junior Dylan Asher recorded the eighth hat trick in UK men's soccer history Sunday evening in the Wildcats 5-1 victory Junior Dylan Asher recorded the eighth hat trick in UK men's soccer history Sunday evening in the Wildcats 5-1 victory
Sunday, October 21 was a memorable night for University of Kentucky men's soccer player Dylan Asher. The junior turned 21 years old and, to top it all off, he recorded the eighth career hat trick in UK men's soccer history.

Asher, formerly a defender for the Wildcats, was transitioned to forward for the second consecutive game due to Tyler Riggs' hamstring injury. The Richardson, Texas native netted his first career goal on Wednesday at Marshall before tallying three more in the Cats' 5-1 triumph over Florida International on Sunday at the UK Soccer Complex.

Asher wasted no time getting Kentucky on the board, firing a low ball to the far post past the diving keeper in the third minute of the contest, giving the Cats a 1-0 edge. After Charley Pettys converted on a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, Asher gave UK a 3-0 advantage in the 41st, capitalizing on a great service from Caleb Richardson. The junior finished off the hat trick with a diving header from a Gabriel Conelian cross in the 57th minute for a UK 4-0 lead.

With four goals in the last two matches, the Wildcats look as though they have found a new threat up front. However, the success hasn't come without putting in the hard work.

"It makes me feel really good," Asher said. "I've been working really hard in training and I'm glad to see the goals pay off."

Asher's goal in the third minute snapped a streak of six games in which the Wildcats have failed to find the back of the net in the opening half.

Overall this season, UK has been a stronger team in the second half as a result of the amount of goals scored compared to the first half. Head coach Johan Cedergren said Asher's goal helped relax the Cats and forced FIU to expose themselves.

Although Cedergren would love to see more goals in the first stanza, he is not shocked that his squad has been more successful beating the keeper in the second half.

"I'm not surprised that we score a lot in the second half because it takes a while to wear the other team out so they open up," Cedergren said. "I think it's easier to stay with your man and follow your marking assignment but as we play and move the ball there are going to be openings."

With Asher's electrifying performances the last two games and Lodge always presenting a challenge to opposing defenders, Cedergren has decisions to make with a very deep lineup when Riggs returns. The Wildcats have switched from a 4-5-1 formation that they opened up with to begin the year, to a 4-4-2, which allows more opportunities for his forwards to score goals.

Cedergren joked postgame saying a couple of his guys complain because he doesn't reveal his lineup until about an hour before the game. How can you blame a head coach that has depth at each position on the field.?br />
"I'm to the point now where we are about 15 or 16 deep and there are no easy decisions," Cedergren said. "I think Dylan is a fantastic player and can play anywhere on the field. He was laughing at me when I called him in the office and I said listen I think we are going to play you at forward but you see the results, two games four goals. He's a fantastic player."

The Wildcats are in third place in the Conference USA standings after improving their record to 3-1-1 in league action. Kentucky has all but sealed its position in the conference tournament, which was a goal presented to the squad before the season by Cedergren.

Another highlight to touch on for Kentucky is they Cats are 7-2-1 since beginning the year 1-4-0. Cedergren still admits that all the success dates back to the 1-0 victory at Louisville on Sept. 14.

Next up for the Wildcats is a showdown with currently second place Tulsa, on Saturday, Oct. 27. With three games to play, UK could really make a statement and possibly have a shot at an NCAA bid and even claiming a league title.

Kentucky has come a long way since losing four of the first five games of the year and Cedergren credits the grueling non-conference schedule for preparing his team for an end of the year run.

"I think that we stressed all along, especially when we were 1-4 that there is a method to our madness," Cedergren said. "This is preparing us for conference play and it shows that now. Our non-conference schedule definitely prepared us for Conference USA play."

Video: Cedergren, Asher on 5-1 win over FIU

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Highlights, post-match with Cedergren

Junior forward/defender Dylan Asher on his hat trick

Olivia Jester scored her first goal as a Wildcat on Sunday, the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Auburn. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Olivia Jester scored her first goal as a Wildcat on Sunday, the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Auburn. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky and Auburn found themselves in similar places heading into a match on Sunday. Both the Wildcats and Tigers have clinched places in the Southeastern Conference Women's Tournament and now have their sights set on seeding and reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Even though the two teams were in comparable positions, UK head coach Jon Lipsitz didn't think they looked like it through 45 minutes. Kentucky headed to the halftime locker room trailing 1-0 and Lipsitz delivered a very simple message.

"The message was just that it looked like they were playing for more than we were," Lipsitz said.

Lipsitz didn't throw things. He didn't break out a fire-and-brimstone speech.

"I just felt like they were playing harder than us," Lipsitz said. "It was a calm talk. It wasn't yelling or anything like this. It was just, 'We're better than this.' "

The Wildcats didn't waste any time heeding their coach's advice. UK erased the halftime deficit in just 183 seconds on one of the Cats' prettier goals of the season. Defender Alyssa Telang delivered a perfect cross in front of net and forward Arin Gilliland deftly volleyed it into the net for her third goal in as many games and team-leading seventh of the season.

"I assume we'll respond," Lipsitz said. "It would have been more surprising if we hadn't."

The goal seemed to give UK a shot of energy. Less than six minutes later, the Cats scored the go-ahead tally and it was Telang triggering the attack again with her fourth assist of the season. She sent a corner into the box and freshman Olivia Jester headed in the first goal of her career.

"Obviously when it's a goal, it means more in the end, but I think we're just motivated by watching our teammates really work hard and that's as a coaching staff too," Lipsitz said. "When we see people really putting out everything on the field, it's exciting."

It wasn't just the UK offense that got a boost from the goals. Facing a Tiger attack that has scored three goals or more three times in SEC play, the Kentucky defense turned a solid first half - one that was marred only by a missed assignment on a set piece that resulted in a Tatiana Coleman goal - into an even better performance once the Cats grabbed a lead.

"Really, really good," Lipsitz said of the play of UK's back line, "but it always comes down to 11 of us defending. It doesn't come down to a back line just like our attack never comes down to just three forwards."

With the defense holding it together and the offense keeping the pressure on, UK came away with a 2-1 win to move to 12-5-1 (7-4-1 SEC). The victory means the Cats are on a four-match winning streak heading into the regular-season finale and Senior Night against Vanderbilt on Thursday at 7 p.m.

"I'm pleased to get six points," Lipsitz said of the two wins this weekend over South Carolina and Auburn. "I'm pleased with many things that we did, but it's not enough. We've got to get better. We've got to be better tomorrow than we were today and we've got to be better Tuesday than we were Monday."

Highlights, post-match with Craig Skinner

Lauren O'Conner - Outside hitter

Whitney Billings led Kentucky with 16 kills and 14 digs. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Whitney Billings (No. 1) led Kentucky with 16 kills and 14 digs. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The weekend didn't go particularly as planned for Kentucky. With two Southeastern Conference opponents coming into town in Arkansas and Louisiana State, Kentucky hoped to defend its home court and bolster its SEC record.

Then came Friday night when Arkansas came into Memorial Coliseum and stunned the Wildcats, leaving with a 3-0 win.

But as the Wildcats have been able to do often this season, they bounced back right away on Sunday and atoned for their loss to Louisiana State earlier in the season with sweep of the Tigers. It was a much-needed win for the Wildcats' psyche after Friday's match.

"It's always important to respond after not getting the win you want on Friday night," said Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner. "LSU has been very good over the last couple of weeks and it was important for us to jump on them early. Our blocking defense did a good job of that."

It looked like Kentucky would be in for another battle early on. The Tigers came out firing early and the first set appeared eerily similar to Friday night. But UK never wavered and continued to fight back as the first set went back and forth. Led by the efforts of sophomore outside hitter Lauren O'Conner, who pitched in seven first-set kills, Kentucky created some distance from LSU towards the end of the set.

Kentucky's defense was also instrumental in winning the first set 25-19 victory over the Tigers. The Wildcats were physical at the net from the onset of the match, including six blocks of their eight blocks in the first set led by junior Alexandra Morgan's three.

"Their offense is really fast, especially the middles," said O'Conner. "It was definitely important to get back with them and get back to base and be up on them to get blocks and get touches."

The second set was a forgettable one for both teams early on. Each team committed several unforced errors early as they traded points once more. But Kentucky would manage to clean things up.

Grabbing an 11-7 lead in the second set, Kentucky forced former Kentucky head coach and current LSU head coach Fran Flory into taking a timeout. That didn't slow the Cats down much as Whitney Billings continued UK's dominance at the net and blocked another LSU attacker.

While Billings was discouraging LSU attackers, she was infuriating their defenders in the second set with eight of her team-high 16 kills after tallying just two in the first set.

The Tigers looked to have something cooking near the end of the second frame as they pulled to within two points of the Cats at 18-16. It would be too little, too late, however, as the Wildcats rallied to put the Tigers down 25-18 in the second.

It looked as if LSU would make some noise in the third set and try to hop back into the match. The Tigers got off to the exact start that they had hoped, jumping out in front to a 12-6 lead. The 12-6 lead turned into 15-8, and it felt like LSU was going to cruise to a third set win.

Not so fast.

As Kentucky had seen earlier this season, even a 2-0 set lead isn't safe, so in order to ensure a win, the Cats decided that three sets would be enough on this day. The Wildcats, fueled by a 7-0 run and a great serving display from senior libero Stephanie Klefot, came all the way back to take a 23-20 lead late in the third set.

The Cats would grab a 24-22 match-point opportunity, and on her 32nd attempt of the match, O'Conner put the hammer down for her 14th kill of the match to give the Wildcats the three-set sweep.

O'Conner and Billings were huge for Kentucky all day, and were instrumental in their comeback effort in the third set, but Billings' was particularly more impressive with her defense. She picked up her eighth double-double of the season with a match-high 14 digs to go along with her team-leading 16 kills. Klefot and senior setter Christine Hartmann kicked in 13 digs apiece as well.

It was an impressive victory for the Cats, especially after Friday's disappointing result. Skinner was particularly proud of his team's bounce-back effort Sunday afternoon.

"I was proud by the fact that we were able to come back and make plays at the end," said Skinner. "We had a nice serving run at the end that gave us some momentum. Something definitely to feel good about."

Kentucky's upset bid against No. 24 Georgia fell short, 29-24. (Chet White. UK Athletics) Kentucky's upset bid against No. 24 Georgia fell short, 29-24. (Chet White. UK Athletics)
Before he went down with a season-ending injury, senior tailback CoShik Williams had a hard-earned reputation for his violent running style. Despite his small stature, Williams made sure tackling him was an unpleasant task for any defender.

The injury, though, put an end to not only his season, but his career, relegating him to watching from the sideline or his living room.

Junior Raymond Sanders took it hard when he learned of his teammate's fate. Williams' absence gave him a more prominent role, but Sanders would have preferred sharing the backfield with his friend. Instead, he was left trying to come up with a way to pay tribute to Williams.

Eventually, Sanders settled on wearing Williams' jersey number, but doing so was a responsibility. Sanders knew it wouldn't be a proper tribute if he didn't do No. 26 justice against Georgia.

"I think he would be pretty satisfied with how I ran the ball tonight," Sanders said.

Even though it was in a 29-24 loss to the No. 12 Bulldogs, there's little doubt Sanders did the jersey - and Williams - proud.

Sanders carried the ball 18 times for 72 yards and a touchdown, finishing his runs with a kind of physicality that maybe even made a few of the 54,553 fans in Commonwealth Stadium think Williams had made a miraculous recovery.

"I'm pretty sure he'll be giving me a call soon like he does every game," Sanders said. "I was just trying to represent his number well and show him how much I love him as a brother."

Sanders wasn't the only Kentucky back to run with a Williams-like fervor. Starter Jonathan George carried 12 times for a career-high 87 yards, leading a UK rushing attack that rolled up 206 yards on 43 attempts.

"With the way we haven't been able to run the ball the last couple weeks, it was really nice to go out there and run the ball efficiently against these guys, especially with the size they have up front," center Matt Smith said, assuredly thinking of 358-pound nose tackle John Jenkins. "They're not easy guys to move."

With the ground game leading the way, UK (1-7, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) was in it to the very end against Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC). After Sanders scored his touchdown from three yards out with 3:59 left in the fourth quarter, Joe Mansour was mere inches away from recovering an onside kick that would have given the Cats the ball down by five points with a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown.

Instead, Georgia recovered the kick and picked up a pair of first downs, leaving UK with just nine seconds for one desperation attempt at the end zone. Freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow completed a pass to La'Rod King, but the senior wide receiver was unable to lateral the ball to a teammate before he was wrapped up.

"It's tough because we see what we can do playing 60 minutes," Raymond Sanders said. "Playing 60 minutes of football we can compete with the best. A lot of the guys are down. We wanted this win badly."

If the cliche that winning and losing always comes down to running the ball and stopping the run were always true, the Cats would have blown out the Bulldogs. UK held a Georgia team that was averaging 226.5 rushing yards a game and had two backs averaging more than seven yards a carry to just 77 yards on 32 attempts, or 2.4 yards per carry.

"The positives are we held the rushing down, got better on third down (Georgia was 5 for 12 on third down and 1 for 6 after halftime)," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "We don't take any solace in losing. That's where the buck stops, but this is a team that averaged (41.3 points) a game so we knew we were uphill."

The reason why Georgia has been so good offensively this season is their balance, but the Cats knocked it completely out of whack on Saturday night. However, star junior quarterback Aaron Murray responded with the best statistical game of his career. He threw for four touchdowns and a career-high 427 yards on 30-of-38 passing.

"We took some shots," Minter said. "They attacked our quarters coverage. We're a cover four team in certain respects and they know how to do it."

A young Kentucky secondary got even younger when senior cornerback Cartier Rice exited in the first half after aggravating a strained hip flexor. Freshmen like Cody Quinn, Zack Blaylock and Fred Tiller showed flashes with some big stops on third down, but Murray consistently took advantage of their inexperience with pump fakes and shots down the field. Wide receivers Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell combined for 18 catches, 291 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"You'd love to be sitting around here talking about kids who played years," Minter said. "We're talking about guys who have played days and now weeks and now two games."

From the freshmen to the seniors, there was no fear and certainly no quit on the part of the Wildcats. UK's best four-quarter performance of the season may have fallen short, but the Cats have now seen what it looks like when they play the way they're capable of from start to finish.

"It's tough to take, but a lot of positives came out of this," Smith said. "I think this team is finally understanding, a lot of these young guys especially, how they can play if we come together."

Smith now knows he won't be playing in a bowl game to cap his time as a Wildcat, but he isn't closing the book on his Kentucky career.

"It's tough being a senior knowing I'm not going to make it to a bowl in my final season, but there's still a lot to play for," Smith said. "We're still trying to make some noise in the SEC with the games we have left."

Jonathan George - Running back

Morgan Newton - Quarterback

Raymond Sanders - Running back

Randy Sanders - Offensive coordinator

Live blog: Football vs. Georgia

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Gilliland's return to forward paying dividends

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Arin Gilliland scored her team-leading sixth goal in a 1-0 victory over South Carolina on Friday night. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Arin Gilliland scored her team-leading sixth goal in a 1-0 victory over South Carolina on Friday night. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
With his team in mired in a three-game losing streak, Jon Lipsitz was looking for a spark. Kentucky had scored just two goals in over 300 minutes, spanning five games in Southeastern Conference play.

The Wildcats needed offense, so Lipsitz naturally turned to his back line.

Arin Gilliland had played outside back through the season's first 14 matches. She had excelled in a defensive role, going forward when the situation called for it. The versatile sophomore had four goals and four assists from her back position, but Lipsitz believed her talents would be put to better use attacking full time.

"She's a special player," Lipsitz said. "We knew we moved her up top we needed help up there. It wasn't that other people weren't doing well, we were just missing something."

They found it.

Gilliland assisted on the game-winning goal in her first game at right forward against Tennessee before scoring the decisive tally the next time out against Georgia. Most recently, she helped lift her women's soccer team to a third straight win, scoring the lone goal as Kentucky (11-5-1, 6-4-1 SEC) defeated South Carolina (5-8-4, 2-6-3 SEC) by a score of 1-0 on Friday night.

"What a coincidence that is," Lipsitz said with a sarcastic smile. "Somehow Arin goes up top and is involved in every goal. I can't figure out. I don't know how that happens."

It may seem a bit of an oddity for a defensive player to so seamlessly transition to attack, but it should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Lexington native in her two seasons as Wildcat.

Gilliland started her freshman season as a forward, playing there every game until deep into the season. Ironically, her move to outside back came against Tennessee almost a year to the day before she returned to forward on Oct. 12 against those same Lady Volunteers as a sophomore.

"He told me one day I was going to start up there and when I did it kind of gave all the forwards some energy and gave us what we needed," Gilliland said. "From there we've been building and it's been really good."

Gilliland's goal on this chilly Friday night came when she received the ball along the left side in the 37th minute of an otherwise sluggish first half for the Cats. She beat a defender, fired a low shot that was deflected by a Gamecock defender and into the near side of the net.

She can't quite put her finger on why her transition to forward has been so seamless, but Gilliland does have a couple ideas.

"I have a really aggressive mentality when I'm on the field," Gilliland said. "I think that's pretty big. When I get up there, I have a feel for the ball and when I have it, I want to keep it. When I do give it up, I want to get it back. When you have a mentality like that, it's easy to get at goal."

Her athleticism and skill have a little something to do with it as well. Those are the kinds of things Lipsitz and his coaching staff are constantly seeking.

"It's something that we do a huge amount in recruiting," Lipsitz said. "We look for players that can play in multiple places. We try to recruit soccer players rather than just people that are experts at one position."

If not for a player like Cara Ledman having comparable versatility to Gilliland, the move wouldn't even be possible. Ledman has spent the majority of her freshman season as an attacker, but when Lipsitz called on her to switch with Gilliland and take over at right back, she and the UK defense as a whole didn't miss a beat.

"Part of our ability to do that has to do with how our back line is playing," Lipsitz said. "Let's recognize also that, as she's moved up, we've had three shutouts without her in the back. It's about everybody doing their job."

In the second half, the Gilliland-led UK offense looked dangerous, but the Cats couldn't net an insurance goal. With the score stuck at 1-0 in the 83rd minute, Lipsitz moved Gilliland back to right back to protect the narrow lead. She made a handful of solid plays to preserve the victory, which clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament for UK.

Gilliland will likely start at forward for the final two games of the regular season, but she will surely be needed both up top and at the back the rest of the way. Others might prefer to play the spot that afford more opportunities on goal, but not Gilliland. She's just looking for a challenge.

"If we're playing a team that has really good forwards, I like to play against them," Gilliland said. "If we're down or something like that, I like to play up top and try to get my team back in it."

Video: George Raveling sits down with Coach Cal

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Former Washington State, Iowa and Southern Cal head coach and current Director of International Basketball at Nike George Raveling posted a series of videos with Joe B. Hall earlier this month in his "Conversations with Coach" series. John Calipari, a close friend of Raveling's, is next up on the hot seat.

First-year head coach Johan Cedergren has the Wildcats off to a 2-1-1 start halfway through conference play. (UK Athletics) First-year head coach Johan Cedergren has the Wildcats off to a 2-1-1 record halfway through conference play. (UK Athletics)
Coming off of a three-game road swing, the University of Kentucky men's soccer team returns home to Lexington on Sunday, playing host to Conference USA foe Florida International. The Wildcats will be playing in front of their home fans for the first time in nearly three weeks and will be a nice change of pace as UK hosts three of its final four matches of the regular season.

So far this season the Cats have played nine of their matches on the road or at a neutral site. This year has been a pleasant surprise for UK as they are 5-2-0 in road contests after going 0-7-1 last season away from Lexington.

Even with its success on the road, UK will be glad to be back home this weekend in front of what should be a good crowd on homecoming weekend.

"We have one of the best fields in the country," head coach Johan Cedergren said. "If you can't play on that field, you can't play on any field. We love being home, we have a nice crowd that supports us and there will be a lot of events going on for Homecoming."

Following the Wildcats' 1-0 win over Marshall on Wednesday evening, the squad has reached the halfway point of conference play. Through four league matches, the Cats are 2-1-1 and have set the table for themselves to make a run at the conference tournament, which remains one of the team's main goals.

UK opened up C-USA action against Memphis on Sept. 30, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. Cedergren admits the team came out flat against the Tigers and felt like they took a step backward in the match.

Next up for the Cats was a very good SMU squad on Oct. 6 that was ranked No. 25 coming into the contest. UK was defeated 2-0 but Cedergren believes it was one of the best games his team has played all year and had one costly mistake that was the difference in the match.

Kentucky returned to their winning ways on Oct. 13 as they topped the 25th-ranked UAB Blazers 2-1, playing one man down for the majority of the second half.

And then we fast forward to the Wildcats 1-0 win over the NCAA's second best defensive team, Marshall, on Wednesday. UK was without its leading goal scorer, Tyler Riggs, and received a huge boost from junior Dylan Asher, who started up front for the first time in the 2012 season and scored his first career goal.

Kentucky is riding a two-game win streak following Wednesday's match and the Cats have the toughest part of their conference schedule behind them.

"Our schedule has been grueling but I think what it has done is it's prepared us for conference play," Cedergren said. "Whether we are on the road or at home and playing a conference opponent, I think we are ready for it and we know what to expect. We are confident and peaking and getting ready for the home stretch."

The Cats now turn their focus to Florida International on Sunday at the UK Soccer Complex at 5:00 p.m. The Panthers support a 0-3-1 record in conference play but are 7-4-2 overall.

The match has big implications for both teams as UK is in a position to not only make a run at the conference tournament but also an NCAA bid, while FIU will come in hungry for their first C-USA victory.

"FIU is a team that has had some success this year and has a lot of wins," Cedergren said. "They like to play us so I'm expecting it to be a great game, but if we had to pick we always want to play at home because we have one of the best fields in the country."

Kentucky looks to another hot start against the Razorbacks on Friday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Kentucky looks to another hot start against the Razorbacks on Friday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky is in the midst of playing its best volleyball of the season. The Wildcats have won six of their last seven matches including four wins in straight sets. That one loss, a five-set heartbreaker on the road at No. 11 Florida, came after UK took the first two sets from the Gators.

The common denominator in all seven of those matches is that Kentucky has won the first set. And in five of those matches, Kentucky has won the first two sets.  While getting off to fast starts hasn't been a perfect recipe for winning during this stretch, it's been close to it.

With dangerous teams like Arkansas coming into Lexington, Ky., Friday for a 7 p.m. match and Louisiana State at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Wildcats will likely need to continue to be the aggressors.

Interestingly enough, Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner and his players aren't exactly aware of just how important their fast starts have been to their recent success. Maybe that's because their focus on the match and a point-by-point mentality has set them up to play that way.

"Lately, we're not saying let's play well the whole time, but let's stay focused the whole time," said senior setter Christine Hartmann. "So I think it's just a different amount of pressure when it comes to focus or playing well the whole time."

A fast start can put a lot of pressure on the other side of the net. It can also serve as a way to grab momentum early in the match.

"We've typically gotten off to fast starts and done pretty well," said Skinner. "It's certainly not the end all as we've seen a few times across the country. You just have to be really good in the third set that you have to win, and that's really the most important part."

While Skinner believes that a fast start is important, he puts a larger emphasis on sustaining concentration throughout the match. Kentucky fell victim to that lack of concentration just two weekends ago.

Of UK's last six wins, Kentucky had found ways to seal the deal and terminate their opponent. In its lone loss, it looked as if UK would return the favor that Florida had dealt them early in the season. In Kentucky's first Southeastern Conference match, Florida came into Lexington and left with a three-set sweep over the Cats. Kentucky conversely went into Gainesville, Fla., and put up the early 2-0 lead on the Gators. But it wasn't how Kentucky started, but rather how they finished that determined the match.

"(Florida) made a couple of adjustments and I guess we didn't really respond," said senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier. "I feel like we maybe got a little too comfortable with our lead and we didn't have the same focus we had in game one and game two."

From that point on, it appears the Kentucky has gotten the message. The Wildcats have since swept Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

But even against Mississippi State it took some time for Kentucky regain that focus.

"Against Mississippi State we had little periods in there where we gave up some points, but it was a team we were able to do that and still come back," said Hartmann. "We had to learn by Sunday that Texas A&M was not isn't going to be a team where we can do that, and we definitely learned from that mistake within that weekend."

And apparently that's been the message, as Frazier echoed those sentiments of her setter.

"I think we learned a lot," said Frazier, "Because when we went to the locker room against Texas A&M, our focus between games two and three was to make sure we got it done and don't let up on our focus because we know it can happen."

Another factor, and perhaps the most important factor, is that Kentucky is just a better team. After facing arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, experiencing failure and success both losing and winning close matches, the Wildcats have seen just about everything this year.

Because of those wide-range of experiences over the course of the season up until this point, it appears UK is starting to hit its stride and find itself as a team. With how good the Wildcats have been playing, it's no surprise that this team is getting off to great starts.

"We've definitely improved from the beginning of the season until now," said Skinner. "We have the capability of playing at an extremely high level. Typically you're going to see results from how you practice and the things you work on in practice. When we have started well, you've seen us execute at a pretty high level."

"Coach (Mike) Cassity said 'you're going to have a chance to play early,' but I didn't expect to start."

Cody Quinn made his first start at Florida and made a strong first impression. He's done nothing but improve ever since, challenging receivers and playing strong against the run. The Middletown, Ohio native is one of the fastest players on the team but he says he learned quickly that speed alone would not make him successful.

"Technique is very important. In high school, I could get away with stuff with my speed.  At this level, everybody is just as fast and they're bigger and stronger," said Quinn.

The rookie carries himself with an air of confidence and he says that comes from the games in which he played as a youngster.

"Playing with older guys. Since I was little, I played with older guys and felt like I had something to prove," Quinn said. "Little man syndrome, I guess."

Woodyard, Tamme returning to Lexington during bye week

It's Homecoming weekend at the University of Kentucky and two members of the Denver Broncos are using the open date on their NFL schedule to return to their alma mater.

Wesley Woodyard and Jacob Tamme will be at Keeneland for an autograph signing today as part of the track's See Blue Day and then they will attend the Georgia-UK game tomorrow.  

When I talked to Woodyard earlier this summer, he said Lexington is always going to be special to him.

"This is where I became who Wesley Woodyard is, where I became a man, and the memories me and my teammates put together," he said.  

Woodyard and Keenan Burton are good friends but their practice battles were legendary for their intensity in leading the defense and offense respectively.

"To me, that's where the game starts, on the practice field. There would be days where me and Keenan would go at it," Woodyard explained, "and people would say 'how can you guys be best friends?'  To me, that's the competitive atmosphere that made us who we were."

Georgia a big-play test

When it comes to big plays, Georgia's offense is among the best in the SEC.  The Dogs have a league-high 45 plays that have gained 20 or more yards.  Kentucky ranks last in that category, with 20 such plays.

Many of those big plays have come when Georgia QB Aaron Murray throws on first down.  He's completing 74 percent of his first-down throws (according to and off his 55 completions, 31 have resulted in first downs for the Bulldogs.

Reflecting on the first doubleheader with Keeneland

Did you know Georgia was the opponent for Kentucky's first October night game and thus, the first-ever UK football-Keeneland doubleheader?  The year was 1949 and the Cats pounded Georgia 25-0.

Video: Rockin' with the Rookies - Cody Quinn

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ESPN announces reruns for 'All-Access Kentucky'

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Based on the flurry of tweets on Wednesday night, it would seem that almost every member of the Big Blue Nation tuned in for "All-Access Kentucky." Even so, fans are going to have plenty of chances to watch the behind-the-scenes show, and then watch it again.

ESPN announced that it will reair the first episode of "All-Access Kentucky" 10 times from Friday until the premiere of the second episode next Wednesday at 7 p.m. Take a look at the times and channels below, then set your DVR accordingly.

All times eastern.

Friday, Oct 19
5:30 p.m. ESPNU
11:30 p.m. ESPN2

Saturday, Oct 20
3 a.m. ESPNU
6 a.m. ESPN2

Sunday, Oct 21
5:30 p.m. ESPNews
6 p.m. ESPNU
8 p.m. ESPNews

Monday, Oct 22
7 p.m. ESPN2

Tuesday, Oct 23

11:30 p.m. ESPN2

Wednesday, Oct 24
6:30 p.m. ESPNU

UK fell 19-10 in a hard-fought game at Georgia in 2011. (Photo by Victoria Graff) UK fell 19-10 in a hard-fought game at Georgia in 2011. (Photo by Victoria Graff)
The Georgia Bulldogs entered a matchup with South Carolina ranked in the top five and hoping to declare themselves contenders for both the Southeastern Conference and national championship. Instead, the Gamecocks delivered their best performance of the season, sending Georgia home with a 35-7 loss, its first of the season.

A bye week followed the defeat, meaning Bulldogs haven't been able to do much other than practice and stew over the loss as they awaited their next chance to hit the field. That next chance will come this weekend when Kentucky plays host to Georgia. The Wildcats expect to have a hungry team on their hands.

"We've got to be prepared to play against a team that has a chip on its shoulder," UK head coach Joker Phillips said.

Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC) isn't coming off a bye, but the Cats have spent the last week preparing for No. 12 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC). The game will kick off at 7 p.m. in Commonwealth Stadium and will be televised on FSN South.

Not only does Georgia have one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference, but the Bulldogs also have one of the best. Junior Aaron Murray has thrown for more than 7,500 yards and 71 touchdowns in his Georgia career. He has won 21 games as the starter and came into the season as a consensus All-SEC selection.

Kentucky, meanwhile, is coming off a game in which a young Wildcat secondary allowed 372 yards through the air to Arkansas' Tyler Wilson. Even so, Phillips and his team are expecting Georgia to go to the ground early and often.

"They've got two great running backs and a veteran offensive line," Phillips said.

True freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have combined for 1,040 rushing yards through the season's first six games with both averaging over seven yards a carry.

Perhaps UK's best chance at slowing a Georgia attack second in the SEC in points per game at 41.1 is to keep the Bulldogs off the field. To do that, the Cats will need major contributions from their own backs: Jonathan George, Raymond Sanders and Dyshawn Mobley.

Those tailbacks have faced an unenviable situation following the loss of Maxwell Smith to injury.

Recognizing the diminished threat posed by the UK passing attack in the absence of the sophomore quarterback, opponents have loaded the box to stop the Wildcat running game. Holes have been hard to come by, and so too have been yards. Kentucky has averaged just 3.3 yards per attempt on the ground in its last four games after gaining 4.7 yards a carry with Smith playing almost exclusively the last four games.

They figure to see more eight-man fronts this weekend, but those backs are going to be asked to get the job done nonetheless to help freshman Jalen Whitlow, who will make his third consecutive start at quarterback.

"We've got to run the football," Phillips said. "We've got to take some pressure off the young quarterback. How do you do that? You run the football. We've got to try to establish the run early so we can take some pressure off this guy."

It's a two-way street though. Over the last two weeks, Whitlow has completed just 12-of-31 passes for 156 yards. He'll need to improve on those numbers for UK to have the kind of offensive balance it needs. Whitlow is hoping that the final pass he threw in a weather-shortened loss at Arkansas - a 61-yard touchdown to La'Rod King - will give him so momentum heading into this weekend's test.

"After I threw it, I felt like a light shined on me," Whitlow said.

Facing Georgia's talented defense will be difficult no matter what, but it could be made just a little easier by the potential absence of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. The junior has accounted for 5.5 of the Bulldogs' 10 sacks, but his status for Saturday is uncertain due to an injured right ankle.  If he is unable to play, freshmen Jordan Jenkins and Josh Dawson will try to fill the void. Jenkins is second on the team with three sacks while Dawson has 1.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role.

No matter who is on the field for the Bulldogs, Phillips believes they compare favorably to anyone the Cats have played.

"This team probably has the best personnel we've seen from top to bottom," Phillips said. "We've played South Carolina, which you guys say that their defensive front is as good as anybody's in America. We've played Florida, who you've got to say their linebackers have great team speed. This team from top to bottom -- you're talking secondary, the defensive line, the linebackers -- this is probably the best personnel we've played."

Football's 2013 schedule unveiled

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UK football's 2013 schedule features seven home games and five road, including a trip to Nashville to face Western Kentucky University. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) UK football's 2013 schedule features seven home games and five road, including a trip to Nashville to face Western Kentucky University. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Fans in Commonwealth Stadium are going to be seeing some pretty good teams come next fall.

On Thursday afternoon, the Southeastern Conference unveiled eight-game conference schedules for each of the league's 14 teams. Kentucky's schedule features home games against Florida (Sept. 28), Alabama (Oct. 12), Missouri (Nov. 9) and Tennessee (Nov. 30). UK will play road games against South Carolina (Oct. 5), Mississippi State (Oct. 26), Vanderbilt (Nov. 16) and Georgia (Nov. 23).

The SEC's terms this year's slate a "bridge" schedule as the league adjusts to the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M. Athletic directors from each school will meet in spring of 2013 to determine the scheduling model for 2014 and beyond.

Before that new model is adopted, each SEC team will play every team from its own decision. For UK, that means six games against the East. The remaining two games are filled by West opponents. Kentucky's permanent West rival has historically been Mississippi State and the Bulldogs are once again on the schedule, joined by defending national champion and currently No. 1-ranked Alabama.

In addition to the conference schedule, UK also released its four nonconference games on Thursday. Kentucky will continue its series with Western Kentucky University, playing the Hilltoppers in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 31, the season opener for both teams. The Cats will also host Louisville with the Governor's Cup on the line on Sept. 14. Remaining home games will be played against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 7 and Alabama State on Nov. 2.

UK has two open dates of the course of the season. The first comes between home games against Louisville and Florida, the second between Alabama and a road trip to Mississippi State.

Here is the complete week-by-week schedule.

Aug. 31: vs. Western Kentucky (Nashville)
Sept. 7: MIAMI (OHIO)
Sept. 21: OPEN
Sept. 28: FLORIDA
Oct. 5: at South Carolina
Oct. 12: ALABAMA
Oct. 19: OPEN
Oct. 26: at Mississippi State
Nov. 16: at Vanderbilt
Nov. 23: at Georgia
Nov. 30: Tennessee

Video: Phillips' final pre-Georgia update

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Junior goalkeeper Kayla King is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week after posting back-to-back road shutouts against Tennessee and Georgia. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Junior goalkeeper Kayla King is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week after posting back-to-back road shutouts against Tennessee and Georgia. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For the first time this season, the Kentucky women's soccer team was dealing with prolonged struggles.

Following a 7-1-0 start to the season and the first Southeastern Conference weekend sweep of the Jon Lipsitz era, the Wildcats went 1-4-1. Mired in a three-match losing streak at the tail end of that stretch, UK had not picked up a victory in more than two weeks.

With five days to lick their wounds after a 2-0 loss at Ole Miss, the Cats set about preparing for a third SEC road weekend in four weeks. Lipsitz, meanwhile, set about delivering a stern message to his team.

"I think that there was a challenge posed to players that this isn't good enough and either step it up or you're not going to be on the field," Lipsitz said.

Lipsitz often points to a saying on the wall of his office in the bowels of Commonwealth Stadium. The heart of the message is "You're either in or you're out," that there is no middle ground between players fully committing themselves to the culture at UK and not doing so.

In practice this week, an admittedly meaner Lipsitz was aggressive about making his team decide whether they were in or out, and it wasn't just the coaches laying down the gauntlet.

Based on the results at Tennessee and Georgia, it's safe to say the Cats are all in.

"I think it took a level of toughness and demands being placed on players and the group both from myself, but more so from the leaders," Lipsitz said. "Practices were really tough and the captains and just some leaders of the team made it very clear how much harder we needed to work."

UK accomplished another first under Lipsitz, sweeping a pair of road contests with 1-0 victories over the Lady Volunteers and Lady Bulldogs.

That this team would find itself in a midseason lull was unacceptable to Lipsitz, but that doesn't mean it wasn't understandable. Young players have played significant roles from the outset, with four freshmen among UK's top nine players in terms of minutes played. Three of the Cats' top five scorers are newcomers, meaning Lipsitz relies heavily on 18 and 19 year olds who have never been through the grind of a college season.

"I think that our young players hit that wall that happens with young players where they just don't know if they have more to give," Lipsitz said. "I believe that they have more than they know. I believe in them, a lot of times, more than they believe in themselves."

He is turning out to be right.

One of those freshmen, Kelli Hubly, scored the game winner at Tennessee with under 21 minutes to play. Against Georgia, it was a relative veteran in sophomore Arin Gilliland scoring the decisive goal early in the first half even though the Lady Bulldogs outshot the Cats 21-8.

The victory was a bit of a role reversal for UK.

With their high-possession approach, the Cats have lost matches this season in which they dominated the ball and launched more shots than their opponents only to falter due to their inability to convert chances and a stray miscue. Following those defeats, Lipsitz would keep his focus on possession and passing percentages, saying the results would come.

Now, there are just three matches left in the regular season. After that, the Cats will face single-elimination formats in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, so the time has come for UK to learn to get the result even when they don't play as well as they would like.

"We spent so much time in the preseason and in the early season working on possession and priding ourselves on possession and talking about our passing percentages because that's part of building the team that we want," Lipsitz said. "But in the end, no matter how good you are at that, you have to have the guts and you have to have the depth of courage and work to win games."

There's no clouding the importance of goalkeeping in winning those types of matches and this weekend, Sunday in particular, is exhibit A.

Junior Kayla King took over in goal on Friday, making three crucial saves. Against Georgia, the Louisville, Ky., native stopped 10 shots en route to SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

"She was really good," Lipsitz said. "She did her job. I'm not big on individual awards. I tweet a bunch, but I never retweet individual awards. I never even tweet that my players get individual awards and you'll never see me do it. It's not going to happen."

Lipsitz doesn't minimize individual awards because he doesn't want good things for his players. He does it because he knows those awards are a byproduct of team success.

"If we had lost both games 1-0 and Kayla had played just as well, she wouldn't have gotten an award," Lipsitz said. "And that's not to take away from how well she played. Kayla's going to get recognition from me for the work she did in the offseason to get ready for her moment, not for anything she does right now. Right now she's doing her job."

For UK to extend its two-match winning streak and improve its 10-5-1 (5-4-1 SEC), King is going to need to keep doing her job. The SEC has been remarkably competitive this season. UK recently played four overtime matches in a row and there have been nine ties in conference play this season after there were just three in all of 2011.

In other words, UK should expect more close matches starting on Friday night at 7 p.m. against South Carolina (5-7-4, 2-5-3 SEC). Eight of the Gamecocks' 10 matches have ended in ties or with a one-goal margin.

"They're just very, very difficult to break down defensively and they're very difficult to stop on the counter," Lipsitz said. "Here we are, this team that wants to possess it to a fault and we make one bad pass and they could be in behind us on a breakaway. It's a difficult matchup, but one that we have to love."

A wider audience than the one at the UK Soccer Complex will have a chance to see how the matchup plays out, because the game will be televised on Fox Sports South. Kentucky's first televised game of the season is certainly an opportunity and an indication of the progress of the program, but Lipsitz hardly has time to think about any of that.

"If people don't hand me food and water and stuff, I don't even notice right now," Lipsitz said. "As you get down to this point, you start zeroing in on these little things and I've got to make sure that nothing's missed. Do I think it's cool? I really do. Is it exciting to get to show who we are to the country? Yeah, it really is. But until that camera's in my face, I won't even remember."

Coach Skinner joins us for our fourth installment of Coaches Corner. Kentucky faces Arkansas on Friday and LSU on Sunday.

Dyan Asher netted his first career goal on Wednesday evening, resulting in the game-winner against Marshall Dyan Asher netted his first career goal on Wednesday evening, resulting in the game-winner against Marshall
HURRICANE, W.V. -- Another road game and another victory for the University of Kentucky men's soccer team. The Wildcats traveled to Hurricane, W.V., on Wednesday evening, defeating Conference USA foe Marshall, 1-0, improving their record to 7-6-1 overall and 2-1-1 in conference action.

As UK was boarding the bus Wednesday afternoon, something was different about the squad. The Cats were traveling without leading goal scorer Tyler Riggs, who stayed back in Lexington due to a hamstring injury.

To fill the void, junior Dylan Asher started up front for the first time this season alongside Matt Lodge to complete the Wildcats' 4-4-2 formation. Asher, an all-conference defender his freshman and sophomore seasons, had been called upon to take the field at a position he was not all too familiar with. At first, the junior felt a little strange playing up front but as the game got going he just got into the rhythm of the match.

"It was definitely different, but once the pace of the game got into it I picked it up pretty quickly," Asher said. "Playing with Lodge up there with me was a big plus. It's pretty easy when you've got a senior captain up there right beside you."

Not only was this Asher's first game this season playing the forward position, but he had played in 44 career contests without scoring a goal.

Until tonight.

In the 55th minute of the contest, Lodge received a ball from the midfield, who played it into Asher, before the Richardson, Texas native made a great touch around the Marshall defender to net the lone goal of the night.

Although Asher has been mostly a defensive mind throughout his career at UK, he does admit he has been training on the offensive side and it was a matter of time before he would find the back of the net.

"It feels great, it's been a long time coming," Asher said. "I've been working hard in training and it's good for it to finally pay off."

With the win, the Cats have improved their road record to 5-2 on the year. Their presence on the road has taken a drastic turn from a year ago where UK was 0-7-1 away from their home pitch. UK is now 6-2-1 in their last nine contests and look to be well on their way to the conference tournament after beginning the season 1-4.

The Wildcats have gone through an injury-plagued stretch recently but have demonstrated the common phrase of "next man up." Kentucky has shown off its depth over the last few weeks as various players have gone down with injuries. Head coach Johan Cedergren is ecstatic the way his team has stepped up to the challenge, especially Asher.

"Of course we miss Tyler, he is always around when there is a scoring chance but you have to give Dylan a lot of credit," Cedergren said. "The good thing about our squad is we have enough depth to take care of one or two or three injuries. Yes, our leading goal scorer is out but if Riggs is out this weekend I feel confident with Dylan up top."

Road wins never come easy and picking them up in conference is an even taller task. The Wildcats have gotten through a difficult stretch of games where they traveled to SMU, UAB and tonight at Marshall, earning two victories in the process.

UK has four games remaining on its schedule, three of which the Cats will host back in Lexington.

"We are very happy, it's two road games in a row now in conference we have gotten wins," Cedergren said. "That's not easy in a tough conference like the Conference USA, so I feel like we are going in the right direction and this result says that."



Live blog: Men's soccer at Marshall

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Video: Fan feature from Big Blue Madness

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Christine Hartmann was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday. (UK Athletics, Britney McIntosh) Christine Hartmann was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday. (UK Athletics, Britney McIntosh)
Resilience is one of the most desirable qualities in any athlete. The ability to shake off some bad luck or a poor performance is not one that's easily acquired. Being able to get off the mat after taking a hard shot to the gut demands heart, courage and character. And being able to earn something back that had once been lost is perhaps one of the fulfilling accomplishments an athlete can achieve.

Kentucky senior setter Christine Hartmann was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday for the second time in her career. But looking back on the season leading up to that award, it's a testament to her that she's been able to battle her way back to the top.

Hartmann came into the 2012 season knowing that she would be the starting setter come Aug. 24 against North Carolina in the season opener. She believed that she had earned that right based on her previous three seasons and last season's trip to the Sweet 16.

Everything started off as planned. Kentucky swept its opponents on the opening weekend of the season to win the Kentucky Classic, and UK was riding high on a three-match win streak. But losses to Louisville and Oregon thereafter had the Wildcats wavering.

The following weekend in Nebraska, Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner made the decision to shake up the lineup and give his talented freshman setter Morgan Bergren the reigns in favor of Hartmann, a senior.

"It's never easy (to bench) someone that's been a starter for us a couple of years," said Skinner. "(Hartmann)'s been an all-conference player. But as a staff, we're always going to make the best decisions for us to be successful on the court as a team."

And, at least initially, it looked like the move was a slam dunk.

Freshmen are often oblivious to how big moments can be, especially when their first start comes in Lincoln, Neb., home to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Huskers just happened to be the No. 1 team at the time of their matchup with the Wildcats. And it just happened to be Bergren's first start of her collegiate career.

With a freshman setter, the Wildcats took the No. 1 team in the country to four sets, and arguably should have won the match. For Bergren's efforts, she was named SEC Freshman of the Week.

Meanwhile, Hartmann was soul searching. With such high expectations coming into the season with dreams of leaving her imprint on the Kentucky volleyball program, Hartmann was left watching from the sidelines.

"Once I was benched and we were losing while I was sitting out, that was the hardest thing," said Hartmann. "I sat in Craig's office and told him that I felt helpless and felt like I couldn't do anything."

But this was hardly a new situation for the senior. Time after time throughout her career, she's battled for the starting position. And as it should be, she was never handed the starter tag. It would have to be earned.

The last two seasons saw Hartmann battle for playing time with Elizabeth Koberstein at the setter position. Each year, when the Wildcats went to the NCAA Tournament, it was Hartmann taking the floor for Kentucky. The end result was Koberstein transferring to Marquette and Hartmann looking like the indisputable heart of the team.

One glance at Hartmann, you can see why she's had to battle for her position. She doesn't quite pass the  eye test for a high-major collegiate setter. Hartmann is listed at a very gracious 5-foot-11, but Skinner will tell you she's closer to 5-foot-10. Meanwhile, her teammate and competition in Bergren is every bit of 6-foot-1, a much more desirable size for the position.

Hartmann did not take the demotion easily. It was particularly hard for her given that it was her senior season. But thanks to the encouragement of her fellow seniors, Hartmann realized her responsibilities to her team were far from finished.

"Initially, it was hard to handle," said Hartmann. "Ashley Frazier and I are good friends, so I talked to her quite a bit so she could help push me through it and work harder in practice. I started talking more to Stephanie Klefot too, and she told me I was still a part of this team and to continue to work hard.

"So, it definitely helped having teammates that, even though they were on the other side of the net during practice, they were still going to push me as hard as they can."

So Hartmann pushed back.

From that point on, Hartmann made a decision that she would do all that she could to make her teammates better, even if it meant that she wasn't playing with the starters.  A new dedication, an extra edge to prove herself to her teammate and coaches and a bit of humble pie transformed Hartmann into a better player.

Skinner took notice of his reinvigorated senior.

"There was a time where I was talking to Craig and he told me that I was having the best week of practice I've ever had even though I wasn't on the starting side," said Hartmann. "The way I was competing was what I needed to do, and so I told myself that that's what I was going to do every single day."

But where Hartmann may lack in certain physical attributes, she supplements her deficiencies with a plethora of intangibles: experience, leadership, heart, determination, hustle, communication, chemistry, and if her latest SEC Player of the Week award serves as validation, she's been resilient once more.

As a result, not only is Hartmann having more personal success, but more importantly, the Wildcats are back to their winning ways.

A five-set win at Texas A&M nearly a month ago helped Kentucky break a four-match losing streak. It could easily be argued as the turning point of their season. It also happened to be the first time Hartmann was reinserted into the UK starting lineup.

"When I came back as a starter against Texas A&M, we ended up winning in five sets, getting that feeling back and winning that match was great for us," said Hartmann. "It was the hump that we needed to get over at that point in the season. So it's been great to come back, and since then it's been pretty positive for us."

And she's right. Kentucky has taken off since her return. Since the Texas A&M match, UK is 6-1 including a sweep of Tennessee with the lone loss coming at Florida, a match Hartmann believes the Cats should have won after jumping out to a two-set lead.

The success of this team isn't all due to Hartmann, but she's certainly accounted for a large part of Kentucky's current cohesion. For Hartmann to be able to do her job to the best of her ability, she needs the assistance of her teammates, particularly the passers, to put the ball in good positions along the net to set up her attackers.

With the team apparently clicking on all cylinders, it sets up the perfect situation for Hartmann to be at the peak of her game as Kentucky hits its stride in the middle of the SEC schedule. With the naming of Hartmann as the SEC Player of the Week, it appears that a lot more people are taking notice just how good this Kentucky team is.

"We've only won a few awards this year," said Hartmann. "I don't know how many we had last year, but last year it seemed like we had more. So to be able to get in there and get that for our team again and have another person on our team receive that means a lot to us."

Video: Freshman QB Whitlow on building experience

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Video: Phillips updates injuries, talks Georgia

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After practice on Tuesday, Joker Phillips announced that freshman quarterback Patrick Towles (ankle), senior safety Mikie Benton (ankle) and senior safety/cornerback Martavius Neloms (hamstring) are all out for this weekend's game against Georgia (7 p.m. Saturday on FSN). Sophomore safety Ashely Lowery (head) practiced in a limited capacity but is expected to be available. Watch the video above to see all of what Phillips had to say after practice on Wednesday.

Men's basketball No. 3 in preseason coaches poll

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UK is ranked in the top 10 of the preseason coaches poll for the fourth time in as many years under John Calipari. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK is ranked in the top 10 of the preseason coaches poll for the fourth time in as many years under John Calipari. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Is it really that time of the year already?

On Wednesday, USA Today released its preseason coaches poll and the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats check in at No. 3. John Calipari loses his top six scorers and all five starters, but UK still received five of 31 first-place votes based on its fourth straight top-ranked recruiting class.

This is also the fourth straight season UK has been ranked in the preseason top 10 under Coach Cal. A season ago, the Cats were second.

Kentucky will hold its annual Blue-White Game at Rupp Arena on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.

The coaches poll has a decidedly local flavor, as Kentucky is behind only No. 1 Indiana and No. 2 Louisville. UK defeated both the Hoosiers and Cardinals in its path to the title last season.

Joining Kentucky in the poll from the Southeastern Conference are No. 10 Florida and No 17 Missouri. UK will face Florida twice in the final month of the season, traveling to Gainesville, Fla., on Feb. 12 and hosting the Gators in the regular-season finale on March 9. Missouri will visit Lexington on Feb. 23 for a game that will be featured on ESPN College GameDay.

In addition to traveling to archrival Louisville on Dec. 29, UK's nonconference schedule features games against No. 8 Duke (Nov. 13), No. 18 Baylor (Dec. 1) and No. 23 Notre Dame (Nov. 29).

Here's the complete poll:

UK opponents in bold. First-place votes in parentheses.

1. Indiana (21)
2. Louisville (5)
4. Ohio State
5. Michigan
6. North Carolina State
7. Kansas
8. Duke
9. Syracuse
10. Florida
11. Arizona
12. North Carolina
13. UCLA
14. Michigan State
15. Creighton
16. Memphis
17. Missouri
18. Baylor
19. UNLV
20. San Diego State
21. Wisconsin
22. Gonzaga
23. Notre Dame
24. (tie) Florida State
24. (tie) Texas

Video: All-Access Kentucky - Starting from scratch

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No one will envy whoever follows John Calipari as the coach at Kentucky - a day the Big Blue Nation  hopes will be far in the future - but Ryan Harrow faces a task almost as unpleasant. He's the latest in a line of Calipari-coached first-round draft picks at the point guard position and fair or not, he'll be compared to the standards they set.

"I don't feel the pressure because I feel you put pressure on yourself, that is when you start to worry about it too much and not doing as well," Harrow said. "I know that there have been great point guards coming before me and I feel that I am capable enough to be the next one in line to keep the tradition going."

Playing point guard for Calipari is rewarding - both financially and from the standpoint of becoming a better player. But it's not easy. Calipari empowers his point guards but he's demanding, too.

"He says it's really mental for me. He is not really worried about the basketball stuff. It's just me being out there being a leader and making sure everyone else is uplifted and not getting down on themselves and just being more of a leader-type, that is what he is looking at me for the most," Harrow explained, adding that he's ready to embrace that challenge. "I try to hang out with the team as much as I can and build a relationship with all of the guys. We are all different in some way but we still gotta hang out with each other and build relationships."

Harrow says Calipari is pushing him to speak up more as an on-court leader and the sophomore transfer from North Carolina State acknowledges that part of his personality is a work-in-progress.

"I have been a leader by play and actions, not the vocal-type leader because I am not really the vocal type. But I think if that is what is going to be best for me to get everybody up and playing better then, that is what I have to do. He wants us to speak up and I have been working on that and that will be the biggest thing," Harrow noted.

Harrow is the first point guard since 2007 who is not in his first year playing for Calipari.  Harrow spent his transfer year practicing with the Cats but now that he's in the spotlight, he knows Calipari is pushing him harder and Harrow has to remember that any criticism from his coach is just a means to make him better.

"I think the biggest adjustment is stepping up and taking his criticism. He could be a little loud and it could come off mean but he is trying to make you the best player, so you can't get down on yourself when he gets mean or starts yelling at you," Harrow explained. "He doesn't back down from anybody. He always says if he didn't back down from DeMarcus Cousins, he is not going to be scared of any of us and he makes a point to tell us all that."

What is Harrow's game like?

"Just somebody that is trying to win. A lot of people say my game is flashy and I know my game is a little different than what most people see, but it just happens like that. I am just trying to win and do whatever coach needs me to do to get the win," he said.

What does "flashy" mean?

"With the way I dribble the ball," Harrow said. "I have always been able to dribble the ball really well and it has progressed as I have gotten older, so I may take it a little overboard sometimes, but Coach Cal has gotten me to the point where I just make one move and then get to the basket."

Each of Calipari's point guard has brought his own unique skill set to the court. Harrow is regarded as a better outside shooter than his predecessor, Marquis Teague, but he's not as strong as Teague was. Harrow says he enjoys setting up his teammates but he's always been a scoring point guard too.

"I modeled my game a little after Allen Iverson," Harrow said, "because I feel he did whatever he could to win and that is who I looked after."

ESPN will premiere a new sports series this fall focusing on the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.  All-Access Kentucky debuts this month and will follow Coach John Calipari and his staff as they guide the new faces of the defending national champion Wildcats from Big Blue Madness to the start of the 2012 season.  The multi-part series will consist of 30-minute weekly shows airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET with the first three episodes scheduled for October 17, 24 and 31. 

Check it out in the latest preview:

With All-Access Kentucky set to premiere on Wednesday evening, John Calipari is headed to Bristol, Conn., on Wednesday morning to go through ESPN's media "car wash."

His tour will begin with "Mike and Mike in the Morning" at 9:15 a.m. before bouncing between ESPN mainstays like SportsCenter and SportsNation. Each appearance will be live, so tune in to the shows below at the listed time to see Coach Cal.

9:15 a.m. - Mike and Mike (ESPN2)
10:20 a.m. - SportsCenter (ESPN)
10:50 a.m. - First Take debate (ESPN)
3:15 p.m. - Scott Van Pelt Show (ESPN Radio)
4 p.m. - Numbers Never Lie (ESPN2)
5 p.m. - SportsNation (ESPN2)

Video: UK Rewind weekend recap (Oct. 16)

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Wednesday at 7 p.m. marks the debut of All-Access Kentucky, the show on ESPN that will give a behind-the-scenes look into Kentucky basketball. Above is a video of footage shot by ESPN cameras before Big Blue Madness that was posted on the "ESPNAllAccessUK" channel.

Dermontti Dawson went on to a Hall of Fame NFL career after playing at Kentucky from 1984-1987. (UK Athletics) Dermontti Dawson went on to a Hall of Fame NFL career after playing at Kentucky from 1984-1987. (UK Athletics)
Dermontti Dawson knows what it's like to be recognized for his outstanding achievements on the football field.

The former Pittsburgh Steeler center was named to seven Pro Bowls and six All-Pro teams in his 13-year career. He was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team and received one of the sport's highest honors when he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

Even with all those accolades, there's still something special about being celebrated by his school, the place where Dawson said "a light went off" for him as a football player.

This weekend, he will return to the University of Kentucky for Dermontti Dawson Day as part of Homecoming festivities.

"I am very honored that UK is honoring me during homecoming," Dawson said. "It is going to be fun. We are having an autograph session and then I am going to have a luncheon with the Board of Trustees and come over to walk-through practice Friday morning as well. I am truly honored that UK is honoring me this week."

Dawson, who played at Kentucky from 1984-87, will attend UK's game against Georgia at 7 p.m. ET. Two hours before kickoff, he will sign autographs at the Wildcat Refuge. He will also be honored on the field during the first half of the game and the first 10,000 fans to arrive at Commonwealth Stadium will receive a Dermontti Dawson rally towel.

UK head coach Joker Phillips was a teammate of Dawson's during his time as a Wildcat. The Kentucky football team had just begun fall camp at the time of Dawson's enshrinement, meaning Phillips was unable to attend. Phillips is now looking forward to catching up with Dawson, who played on both sides of the ball before settling in along the offensive line at UK.

"Congratulations to Dermontti Dawson, teammate and Hall of Famer, getting honored this week," Phillips said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him and getting a chance to visit with him."

Dawson will be returning to more than just his alma mater this weekend, as he is a native Lexingtonian and alumnus of Bryan Station High School. There, he was coached by UK's current UK Associate Dean for Academic and Student Services, Steve Parker. In fact, it was Parker and future UK teammates Marc Logan and Cornell Burbage who helped give him the push he needed to give football another try after quitting the sport as a youngster.

"I never would have played football again if it hadn't been for Coach Parker coming up to me in the hallway in Bryan Station and asking me to try out," Dawson said. "Sometimes you need a little push from someone and an encouraging word from a coach or teammate and that was what made me try out again and Mark Logan and Cornell Burbage asking me as well."

Parker ended up accepting Dawson's invitation to serve as his official Hall of Fame presenter in Canton, Ohio.

After playing for Parker, Dawson chose to stay home and attend UK so he could participate in both football and track and field. With Jerry Claiborne as his head coach, Dawson would come to realize his future was on the gridiron, but the lessons he learned extended well beyond the football field.

Dawson recalls one specific instance that reflects everything Claiborne taught him. Players would head to the locker room after practice and discard tape, which usually resulted in more trash landing on the ground than anywhere else. One day, Claiborne intervened.

"Coach surprised us one day and said, 'Hey, there is a lot of tape on the floor and I don't care if you put it on the floor or if someone else put it on the floor, but I want you to pick it up,' " Dawson said. "So he just wanted to teach those lessons about character when people aren't sitting there watching you. That attention to detail and the small stuff, those are the things that Coach Claiborne used to talk about and those are the things that I carry with me each and every day."

For all the life lessons he picked up as a Wildcat, he had plenty of fun too. Dawson was an All-SEC performer as a senior and played on the 1984 team that went 9-3 and won the Hall of Fame Bowl.

"I tell you what, my time at UK was a great time in my life being in college," Dawson said.

He figures to make some more memories this weekend.

Video: Sanders, Minter on coordinator Tuesday

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Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders on QBs offense

Defensive coordinator Rick Minter on injury-plagued unit

Video: UK Baseball visits Miracle League

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Video: Preview of All-Access Kentucky

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ESPN will premiere a new sports series this fall focusing on the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team.  All-Access Kentucky debuts this month and will follow Coach John Calipari and his staff as they guide the new faces of the defending national champion Wildcats from Big Blue Madness to the start of the 2012 season.  The multi-part series will consist of 30-minute weekly shows airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET with the first three episodes scheduled for October 17, 24 and 31. 

Check it out in this preview:

Video: Rockin' with the Rookies - Pancho Thomas

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Kyle Wiltjer scored a scrimmage-high 19 points at Big Blue Madness on Friday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Kyle Wiltjer scored a scrimmage-high 19 points at Big Blue Madness on Friday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
They are somewhat of an odd couple, Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiltjer.

One is a skinny point guard known best for his flashy ball-handling skills and gravity-defying dunks. The other is a 6-foot-10 big man much more likely to score on a 3-pointer or hook shot than a rim-rattling slam. One sports a flat top inspired by teammate Nerlens Noel, the other a close-cropped hairdo about as traditional as his post moves.

Once they hit the basketball court, though, Harrow and Wiltjer are like kindred spirits.

"I can just run down the floor and know that he's behind me," Harrow said. "I don't even have to look. I can just throw it behind me and he's going to be there to catch it and shoot it and do whatever he has to do."

But where does it come from? How have two players who haven't even played an official college game together yet already developed that kind of on-court telepathy?

Wiltjer and Harrow are both sophomores, but their paths to that class designation have been quite different. Harrow, a native of Marietta, Ga., transferred to Kentucky from North Carolina State, sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Wiltjer grew up almost 2,600 miles away from Harrow in Portland, Ore., before playing a seventh-man role for last year's national championship team as a freshman.

Harrow may have been redshirting last season, but he had something in common with Wiltjer, something that served as a foundation for the pair's relationship. With six players now in the NBA on the 2011-12 roster, Wiltjer was on UK's second team for almost every practice, drill and scrimmage. So too was Harrow.

"People ask us why we're so good at playing together," Wiltjer said. "We had all last year in practice to go against that first unit so we kind of translated this year and really emphasized it early only because we really feel like we can be a big part of this team this year."

That chemistry was on display at Big Blue Madness on Friday. Granted, the scrimmage was closer to a Harlem Globetrotters game than the NCAA Tournament battles they hope to play in this March, but Harrow had 18 points while setting up a good portion of Wiltjer's game-leading 19.

"It's almost like we've been playing together for a long time because we played together so much last year and every time we were in open gym we'd play on the same team," Harrow said. "It's just a natural thing for us now."

In less than four weeks, Harrow and Wiltjer will finally get to put the bond they've built to the test in a regular-season game when the Wildcats face Maryland on Nov. 9. In the meantime, John Calipari is asking them to become even closer, citing a powerful professional example.

"They need to be in practice early together," Calipari said. "They need to be after practice together, kind of doing what (Dirk) Nowitzki and Steve Nash did (when both played for the Dallas Mavericks), where they did their workouts together and they got real comfortable with each other on the court, especially in a late game."

For Wiltjer, the fact that Calipari brings up the two former NBA MVPs is particularly significant. Nowitzki's game is pretty much the model for any sweet-shooting power forward, while Wiltjer knows Nash well. This summer, Wiltjer attended training camp with the Canadian National Team, for which Nash is the general manager.

"I'm pretty good friends with Steve," Wiltjer said. "(Nash and Nowitzki) had a really good relationship off the court and I think that really translated into how well they were able to play on the court. Me and Ryan have sat down with Coach and we've really worked hard at becoming really good on the court, but (also) off the court."

Calipari's comparison of Nash/Nowitzki and Harrow/Wiltjer is more about how he wants them to interact than how he wants them to play, but Harrow sees some common ground in the latter area too.

"Steve Nash can go off the pick and roll so well and he can hit the shot or make a good pass to Dirk," Harrow said. "That's basically what me and Kyle do every day in practice or every day in open gym. He sets the pick for me and, if they don't guard me, I'm going to go score. If they don't guard him, I'm going to throw it to him right away and he's going to knock the shot down."

Calipari has not yet hammered out how his latest team is going to play in the half court, but it's clear that Harrow and Wiltjer are going to play major roles no matter what. Because of that, the connection the two share will help not only themselves, but the team as a whole.

"Me and Ryan have been trying to do that, become close off the court, because that's really key, having a strong relationship with your point guard because he's going to give me the ball in different spots," Wiltjer said. "And when I'm playing well, he's going to be playing well. It will open up for him as well as everybody on the court."

No matter how close they become, don't expect Wiltjer to mimic the hairstyle of his point guard and teammate, but not because he doesn't want to.

"I think if Kyle was able to do it, he would do it," Harrow said.

Oct. 14 Performances of the week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 14:

Women's soccer: Arin Gilliland

Sophomore Arin Gilliland scored the game-winning goal Sunday in a 1-0 win on the road at Georgia while also collecting the assist on the game-winning goal to Kelli Hubly in a 1-0 win at Tennessee as UK completed the weekend sweep. The Lexinton, Ky., native now leads Kentucky with 15 points on the season, striking for five goals and five assists. The game-winning goal by Gilliand was her second on the season.

Volleyball: Christine Hartmann

Senior Christine Hartmann directed the UK offense to a pair of sweeps of SEC Western Division foes including handing Texas A&M just its second loss of the season in league action. Against the Aggies, Hartmann led the Blue and White to a .351 hitting percentage which is the highest percentage yielded by Texas A&M this season. The Aggies lead the league in opponent hitting percentage allowing .143 for the season and .159 against league foes - and that's following yesterday's match. The previous best hitting clip allowed by A&M was a .229 clip, also to Kentucky. Hartmann dished out 39 assists and led UK to 14 or more kills in all three sets including 18 in the second set and 17 in the set-clinching win. UK hit above .400 for a stanza twice in the match. Furthermore, the 39 assists for a three-set match is a season-best for the senior. Hartmann's defensive prowess guided the Wildcats to a win over visiting Mississippi State. Hartmann had a squad-best eight digs and as well as a team-high three blocks to lead the way against the Bulldogs.  

Rifle: Emily Holsopple

Junior Emily Holsopple led Kentucky in air rifle during the first match of the year, posting a 592 Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. To go along with her 592 in air rifle, Holsopple posted a 587 in smallbore to record an aggregate score of 1179. Holsopple's 592 came from steady shooting throughout and was just above her 2011-12 air rifle season average of 591.9.

Women's soccer: Kelli Hubly

Freshman Kelli Hubly added to her team lead, scoring her fifth goal of the season in Knoxville, Tenn., as UK charted a 1-0 win over Tennessee. The tally was the game's only goal, and was struck in the 70th minute. The game-winner was Hubly's second of the season and now stands second on the team with 12 points.

Rifle: Henri Junghänel

Senior Henri Junghänel opened the 2012-13 campaign with a bang, shooting a 590 in smallbore against Nebraska. Junghänel's 590 marks the highest smallbore score for a Wildcat since Ethan Settlemires shot a 590 in the 2011 NCAA Championships and goes down as a personal best. Junghänel led the team with a total aggregate score of 1181, after shooting a 591 in air rifle. Junghänel's performance helped the preseason No. 2 Wildcats knock off No. 4 Nebraska, moving the Wildcats to 1-0 with the conference win.

Women's soccer: Kayla King

Junior Kayla King had her best weekend in the Blue and White, recording back-to-back, 90-minute shutouts on the road at Tennessee and Georgia. The Louisville, Ky., native had a career high 10 saves on Sunday in Athens and kept a clean sheet vs. Tennessee on Friday night as the Wildcats picked up a crucial six points. King fended off 36 shots over the two games and dropped her GAA to 0.81 on the season. The back-to-back shutouts was a career first for King, as she had recorded one prior in her career entering the weekend.

Men's soccer: Matt Lodge

Senior midfielder Matt Lodge connected on his first career penalty kick goal as the game-winning tally in leading UK to a 2-1 comeback win at No. 25 UAB on Saturday ... Lodge finished the penalty after freshman forward Caleb Richardson forced the attempt by drawing a foul on a run in the box ... The win for UK was its first over UAB since the 2008 season and marked UK's first comeback win of the year ... A native of Rossington, England, Lodge has six goals in 2012 and owns 23 in his sparkling four-year career ... He ranks tied for fourth in UK career history in goals and sixth in points (61) ... With his eighth career game-winning goal - and his second in 2012 - Lodge ranks tied fourth in program history ... In the win at UAB, Lodge fired a club-best three shots and now has a school-record 177 in his career.

Men's golf: Chase Parker

Chase Parker recorded his best finish of the year thus far, finishing in a tie for sixth individually at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational, Oct. 8-9. The Augusta, Ga., native fired a 3-over-par, 75 in round one before concluding the 36-hole stroke-play tournament with a 2-over-par, 74 in the second round. Parker was 5-over for the event and helped lead the Wildcats to a fourth place finish against a competitive 11-team field.

Volleyball: Sara Schwarzwalder

Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder returned to the lineup this week and provided a spark for the Wildcats en route to a 2-0 weekend. Schwarzwalder was magnificent in helping lead UK past Texas A&M for the second time this season. The freshman logged seven kills on a .667 hitting percentage. Both the kill total as well as the hitting percentage are career-bests for the Ohio native within SEC play. She also pitched in with a career-high two digs in the victory. Her three blocks against Mississippi State ranked as a team-best in leading UK to a win over the Bulldogs in Rupp Arena.

Men's soccer: Jack Van Arsdale

Junior goalkeeper Jack Van Arsdale saved five shots in a stellar performance to lead UK to a win at No. 25 UAB on Saturday night ... Van Arsdale charted five saves, including several leaping, diving and fully extended efforts to thwart scoring chances for the physical Blazers ... On the year Van Arsdale has a 1.39 goals-against average in 11 games and 970 minutes, saving 32 shots with two shutouts ... The native of Richmond, Va., has now shined in UK's two wins over top-25 foes on the road in 2012, also posting a six-save performance in a 1-0 win at No. 18 Louisville on Sept. 14 ... Van Arsdale has now started eight consecutive games in goal for UK, sporting a 1.34 goals-against average in those games, with UK owning a 5-2-1 record.

Video: Preview of All-Access Kentucky

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ESPN will premiere a new sports series this fall focusing on the University of Kentucky men's basketball team.  All-Access Kentucky debuts this month and will follow Coach John Calipari and his staff as they guide the new faces of the defending national champion Wildcats from Big Blue Madness to the start of the 2012 season.  The multi-part series will consist of 30-minute weekly shows airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET with the first three episodes scheduled for October 17, 24 and 31. 

Check it out in this preview:

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Oct. 15)

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- The Kentucky football team fell over the weekend to Arkansas 49-7 in Fayetteville. The game was suspended because of lightning twice. The second delay was with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter and Arkansas leading 49-7. The game would not resume.
- In the third quarter, freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 61-yard play to La'Rod King. King now has 1,569 receiving yards in his career, moving past Anthony White for seventh place on the UK career receiving yardage list. He also has 17 receiving TDs in his career, tying Steve Meilinger for fifth place on the UK career list.
- Kentucky is fielding one of the nation's youngest teams, playing 14 true freshmen and 26 total (true and redshirt) frosh, one of the nation's top-five teams in each category. True freshman cornerback Cody Quinn led UK in tackles with a career-best seven.

- The Kentucky volleyball team enjoyed a 2-0 week against SEC Western Division foes racking up a pair of sweeps over Mississippi State and Texas A&M. UK captured the win over the Bulldogs in Rupp Arena in front of a Craig Skinner era record crowd of 5,162 fans.
- Kentucky then turned around and earned an impressive sweep of the Western Division leading Texas A&M Aggies. Senior setter Christine Hartmann directed the offense to the tune of 49 kills on a blazing .351 hitting percentage. The .351 clip is the highest hitting percentage surrendered by the Aggies this season who currently lead the league in opponent hitting percentage.
- Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder led the offensive effort against the Aggies with seven kills on .667 hitting, which both rank as career-highs within conference action.

Women's soccer
- Junior Kayla King recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time in her career, dropping her season GAA to a miniscule .833. The Louisville, Ky., native had a career high 10 saves on Sunday in Athens and kept a clean sheet vs. Tennessee on Friday night as the Wildcats picked up a crucial six points. King fended off 36 shots over the two games
- Arin Gilliland scored the game-winning goal vs. Georgia, scoring her fifth goal of the season, adding to her team lead of 15 points on the season. In addition, the Lexington, Ky., native tallied the assist in the game-winning goal to Kelli Hubly in the win over Tennessee.

Men's soccer
- The Kentucky men's soccer team continued its rugged schedule to open the 2012 season, traveling to face No. 25 UAB on Saturday and posting a 2-1 comeback win with a pair of second-half tallies.
- Kentucky faced off with its seventh ranked opponent of the 2012 season in facing UAB, with the Wildcats falling behind 1-0 early and rallying with goals from senior midfielders Charley Pettys and Matt Lodge for the comeback win. Lodge's goal marked the 23rd of his career, ranking fourth-best in UK history.
- The Wildcats have been paced by a dynamic offensive unit in 2012 that has netted 23 goals in the first 13 games, averaging 1.77 goals per game and 12.2 shots a contest. Defensively, UK has a 1.51 goals-against average and owns an 85-69 advantage in corners.

- The Kentucky rifle team started off its season with a 4666 - 4643 victory over No. 4 Nebraska.
- Senior Henri Junghanel led Kentucky in smallbore, posting a 591. Junghanel also shot a 591 in air rifle.
- Junior Emily Holsopple shot a team-best 591 in air rifle after shooting a 587 in smallbore.

Women's golf

- Kentucky finished tied for 12th in the Tar Heel Invitational that was filled with 13 top-50 teams.
- Junior Liz Breed was the high finisher for the Wildcats, finishing tied for 32nd at 9-over-par.

Men's golf

- The UK men's golf team placed fourth at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational this week, finishing just four strokes off from first.
- The Wildcats also competed in the Bearcat Invitational this week as head coach Brian Craig sent Harrison Greenberry, Joseph Barr, Seth Blann and Matthew Anderson to compete in the event as individuals.

Cross country
- The Kentucky women's cross country team produced a 12th-place performance at NCAA Pre-Nationals on Saturday in Louisville.
- Macumber raced across the challenging E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park 6,000 meter course in 20:09.00 to notch her fourth top-10 finish in as many meets this season.
- Oswald earned a time of 20:32.70 to finish in 23rd ensuring UK was the only unranked team at the nationally competitive meet with multiple top-25 performers.
- The Wildcat men finished in 25th-place overall.

Upcoming schedule

Monday, Oct. 15

Men's golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico)

Tuesday, Oct. 16
Men's golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico)

Wednesday, Oct. 17
Men's soccer at Marshall - 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 18

Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.)
Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.)

Friday, Oct. 19

Women's soccer hosts South Carolina - 6:30 p.m.
Volleyball hosts Arkansas - 7:00 p.m.
Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.)
Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.)
Rifle at Murray State
Swimming and diving hosts Tennessee and Indiana - 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 20
Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.)
Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.)
Football hosts Georgia - 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 21
Volleyball hosts LSU- 1:30 p.m.
Rifle hosts Army
Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.)
Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.)
Women's soccer hosts Auburn - 2:30 p.m.
Men's soccer hosts Florida International - 5:00 p.m.

Having made 29 starts in four seasons, center Matt Smith has five regular season games left in his Kentucky career. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Having made 29 starts in four seasons, center Matt Smith has five regular season games left in his Kentucky career. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Particularly for a senior like Matt Smith, these are tough circumstances.

The Louisville, Ky., native is now over halfway through his final season as a Wildcat, and it's been a difficult one. Injuries and losses have mounted, most recently a road defeat against Arkansas that was cut short by inclement weather.

With the clock ticking on his college career and his next opportunity coming this weekend against Georgia, Smith isn't about let any moments go to waste.

"You just want to keep playing," Smith said. "I grew up a Kentucky fan and as the games go on, I keep realizing that my time here is shorter and shorter. I only have five games left to put on the Blue and White."

Smith, a center, is just one of 11 seniors remaining on Kentucky's offensive and defensive two-deep roster. His teammates seem to get younger by the week, which makes winning in the Southeastern Conference that much harder.

The freshmen and sophomores seeing the field for the first time have a radically different point of view than the upperclassmen, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Sometimes it helps to have young guys in there who are a little naïve at what's going on," Smith said. "They're in there trying to compete and they know they have a long future ahead of them so they're trying to show these coaches what they can do and just stay out there on the playing field."

Whether it's to a first-year player or fifth, the coaching staff is delivering the same message.

"They're staying positive and they're telling us to stay positive as well," junior linebacker Avery Williamson said. "It helps us out to see that they're staying positive. If they were down, I think it would make me feel more down. As long as I see them staying positive, it helps me out a lot."

In the wake of UK's loss to the Razorbacks, head coach Joker Phillips used a powerful example as a means to both encourage his team and deliver some perspective in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

"I got a text last week from a former player that is battling liver and lung cancer, and you know, at the end of his text it said, 'All I know how to do is pray and fight,' " Phillips said.  

Phillips declined to name the player, saying only it was a former Kentucky player under the age of 40. Regardless of the identity of that player, it's a tragic instance of a member of the UK football family putting into practice the lessons learned while he was a Wildcat.

"What do you think we teach, do you think we teach these guys to lose?" Phillips said. "We teach the guys to fight with everything that comes up in their lives. It's not just football."

Cats looking for more pass rush against Georgia

Starting three true freshmen in the defensive backfield like Kentucky makes it difficult enough to win on its own. It's close to impossible to do it against a senior quarterback like Tyler Wilson while the front seven gets little done in the way of pass rush.

Wilson was not sacked on Saturday night and he made the most of the ample time he had in the pocket, throwing five touchdown passes.

UK's next opponent doesn't have a senior under center, but Georgia's Aaron Murray has enough experience that he might as well be.

"We got to get more pressure on the quarterback," Williamson said. "Tyler Wilson, I feel like he was kind of comfortable out there. We got to help those young guys out as much as possible and just running more blitzes."

Secondary still overrun with injuries, Towles recovering but doubtful

Up and down the Kentucky roster, injuries have been a problem, but no position group has been more decimated than the defensive backs.

Last weekend, UK started senior Cartier Rice alongside freshmen Daron Blaylock, Zack Blaylock and Cody Quinn. After that game against Arkansas, Rice found himself on the injured list with a strained hip flexor. On Monday, Phillips termed the veteran cornerback doubtful for the Georgia game. Also doubtful is senior safety Mikie Benton (high ankle sprain).

The (somewhat) good news is that safety Martavius Neloms (hamstring), safety Ashely Lowery (head) and cornerback Fred Tiller (shin) are all day-to-day. Phillips said the plan is for Neloms to test his injured leg on Wednesday and Lowery will visit with a doctor on Tuesday to determine his availability.

At quarterback, Maxwell Smith remains out, which is no surprise given how recently he underwent surgery on his ankle. Freshman Patrick Towles has made progress with his high ankle sprain and can now "get up on his toes." Phillips termed that a good sign, but Towles is still doubtful for the Georgia game. He will be evaluated on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Video: Phillips weekly press conference (Oct. 15)

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Avery Williamson - Linebacker

Matt Smith - Offensive lineman

Collins Ukwu - Defensive end

Criticism comes with success for Calipari and Kentucky

John Calipari speaks to fans at Big Blue Madness on Friday in Rupp Arena. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari speaks to fans at Big Blue Madness on Friday in Rupp Arena. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
When you're the Kentucky basketball coach and "arrows" and "bazooka shots" are being fired in your direction, there is no foxhole to take cover in.

For a guy like John Calipari who doesn't hide his opinion or the way he runs his program, you're practically target practice for the haters and the critics.

"If you want to coach here, you take a lot of crap," Calipari said in roundtable Q and A with local reporters a month ago. "If that's what I have to do to be the coach here then I'll take a lot of crap."

Coach Cal's shield? A bubble surrounded in apathy.

"Whatever you think I am, I agree," Calipari said at Thursday's Media Day. "Now let me go coach my team."

The phrase "Coach Your Team" is emblazoned to the left of Coach Cal's desk in his office at the Joe Craft Center. It's a daily reminder to him that no matter what is said about him, what rumors circulate and what "crap" is fabricated, it doesn't matter because his sole job is to coach his team.

"All our jobs (are) to care about those kids," Calipari said. "It's players first. Their job is to care about winning championships. Our job is we're about them. Every decision we make is about them. Then their job is to go out and basically drag us where we're trying to go."

So when things like an Internet poll come out or a fan tries to provoke Coach Cal on his social media outlets, he doesn't pay attention to it, quite frankly because he doesn't have the time. If he did, it would impair his ability to do his day-to-day duties.

That's why he has a staff in place (this writer included) to gauge the public perception. If it isn't a problem he needs to address, he picks up his whistle and moves on with his day.

"I don't have a computer," Calipari admitted to the media. "I don't look at Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, nothing.  If something's gone on, I get up in the morning, I'm getting a coffee and say, 'Anything I got to deal with?'  If it's something I have to deal with, (Executive Association Athletic Director for External Operations DeWayne Peevy) tells me.  If it's not something I have to deal with, he doesn't tell me and I go about my business."

Part of Calipari's indifference is that success breeds jealousy. After winning a national championship, sending 15 players to the NBA over the last three years and reloading with top-ranked recruiting classes, people try to slow the machine down, Calipari said.

"There are people that are not rooting for you," Coach Cal said. "There are people that are not rooting for this school, and you've got to deal with all that. It's OK. Right now we're at that point where it's like, 'How do you slow this down?' "

Calipari confessed that the criticism can sometime get to his staff. Some of them will wonder why he doesn't stick up for himself and the brand they've built.

Ultimately, Calipari believes it does more harm than good and would prefer to let the results of his players-first program speak for themselves.

"What do you want them to say?" Calipari said. "We're getting the kids. We're winning every game. What are they going to have a party for you? They're not going to have a party for you. They're not going to be happy."

He also understands that when you're at a "magnifying glass" like Kentucky, non-issues that arise at other schools become top-of-the-page stories at UK.

"Stuff that goes on other campuses, it goes on here, it's a big deal," Calipari said. "If it goes on over there, ah, he didn't mean it, the guy walked into the kid's fist. If it goes here, I'm telling you, it is huge."

The pressure to succeed and deflect the criticism that comes with it can be suffocating at times, but as Coach Cal often says, this isn't for everybody.

"It's just part of what it is," Calipari said. "It's not being paranoid. It's what it is. And you know what? To be here you deal with it, or go somewhere else and coach."

Men's soccer - Weekly update (Oct. 15)

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Overall Record: 6-6-1, 1-1-1 C-USA
Record Last Week: 1-0-0, 1-0-0 C-USA

Recent Results
Saturday, Oct. 13 - won at No. 25 UAB, 2-1

Upcoming Schedule (times eastern)
Wednesday, Oct. 17 - at Marshall - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 21 - vs. FIU - 5 p.m.

The Kentucky men's soccer team continued its rugged schedule to open the 2012 season, traveling to face No. 25 UAB on Saturday and posting a 2-1 comeback win with a pair of second-half tallies. UK will return to action on Wednesday, traveling to face Marshall at 7 p.m. ET in a conference tilt. 

Kentucky (6-6-1, 1-1-1 Conference USA) faced off with its seventh ranked opponent of the 2012 season in facing UAB, with the Wildcats falling behind 1-0 early and rallying with goals from senior midfielders Charley Pettys and Matt Lodge for the comeback win. Lodge's goal marked the 23rd of his career, ranking fourth-best in UK history. 

UK is now in the midst of a strong 5-2-1 stretch over its last eight games, owning a pair of wins over top-25 foes, with UK's only losses coming vs. No. 11 Indiana and at No. 25 SMU. UK has faced seven ranked opponents in its first 13 games, 54-percent of its schedule, including a current stretch of three consecutive games. 

The Wildcats have been paced by a dynamic offensive unit in 2012 that has netted 23 goals in the first 13 games, averaging 1.77 goals per game and 12.2 shots a contest. Defensively, UK has a 1.51 goals-against average and owns an 85-69 advantage in corners.

UK has been led offensively by junior Tyler Riggs, who has seven goals and four assists, with Pettys adding five goals and three assists. Lodge has six goals, with senior Gabriel Conelian adding three goals and senior defender Jacob Kemper leading the team with five assists. In goal, junior Jack Van Arsdale has a 1.39 goals-against average with 32 saves in 11 games, while freshman Callum Irving, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, has started three games with a 2.00 goals-against average, saving seven shots.

Kentucky will travel to Huntington, W.Va., on Wednesday for the circuit matchup with the Thundering Herd, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. ET.

Sr., MF, Matt Lodge (Rossington, England)

NOTES: Senior midfielder Matt Lodge connected on his first career penalty kick goal as the game-winning tally in leading UK to a 2-1 comeback win at No. 25 UAB on Saturday ... Lodge finished the penalty after freshman forward Caleb Richardson forced the attempt by drawing a foul on a run in the box ... The win for UK was its first over UAB since the 2008 season and marked UK's first comeback win of the year ... A native of Rossington, England, Lodge has six goals in 2012 and owns 23 in his sparkling four-year career ... He ranks tied for fourth in UK career history in goals and sixth in points (61) ... With his eighth career game-winning goal - and his second in 2012 - Lodge ranks tied fourth in program history ... In the win at UAB, Lodge fired a club-best three shots and now has a school-record 177 in his career.

R-Jr., GK, Jack Van Arsdale (Richmond, Va.)

NOTES: Junior goalkeeper Jack Van Arsdale saved five shots in a stellar performance to lead UK to a win at No. 25 UAB on Saturday night ... Van Arsdale charted five saves, including several leaping, diving and fully extended efforts to thwart scoring chances for the physical Blazers ... On the year Van Arsdale has a 1.39 goals-against average in 11 games and 970 minutes, saving 32 shots with two shutouts ... The native of Richmond, Va., has now shined in UK's two wins over top-25 foes on the road in 2012, also posting a six-save performance in a 1-0 win at No. 18 Louisville on Sept. 14 ... Van Arsdale has now started eight consecutive games in goal for UK, sporting a 1.34 goals-against average in those games, with UK owning a 5-2-1 record.

Christine Hartmann helped lead Kentucky to a sweep over Texas A&M with 39 assists. (UK Athletics, Britney McIntosh) Christine Hartmann helped lead Kentucky to a sweep over Texas A&M with 39 assists. (UK Athletics, Britney McIntosh)
Texas A&M had made quite an impressive start to its inaugural Southeastern Conference season. The Aggies had won seven of their first eight matches in the SEC, led the Western division by two games, and held the second-best record in the conference.

If it weren't for Kentucky, they'd be an undefeated 8-0 in the conference.

Kentucky, however, appears to have the Aggies' number. The Wildcats traveled to College Station, Texas, for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament last season, and defeated Texas A&M for the right to go to the Sweet 16. In the Wildcats' first return visit to College Station this season to face the Aggies for the first time in SEC play, it was Kentucky who came out victorious once more in a five-set thriller.

With the Aggies traveling to Lexington for the first time as members of the SEC, they would be looking for revenge against the team who had beaten them in their last two matchups and accounted for their lone blemish in conference play.

However, it was Kentucky who showed up and looked angry seemingly having its way with the Aggies for most of the afternoon in UK's annual "Dig Pink Match."

In their earlier matchup, both teams were rough around the edges and made several errors throughout the match. In the first set on Sunday, all the mistakes were coming from the Texas A&M side of the net while UK was nearly flawless. A first set score of 25-11 certainly reflected that. Kentucky forced nine Aggie errors including five-and-a-half blocks. The Wildcat presence at the net was nearly impenetrable for most of the set.

On the flip side, UK attacked at an impeccable .419 clip making only one attacking error compared to 14 kills. It was a truly dominant statement for Kentucky to open the match.

"It was at one point we were up 8-2 and we were like, 'That's it, we're going to keep this up,' because in our last match we were up 8-2 and let teams come back," said senior setter Christine Hartmann. "So we just made sure we learned from our past mistakes and weren't going to let that happen."

Junior middle blocker Alexandra Morgan and sophomore outside hitter Lauren O'Conner each led the way with four kills and three blocks each.

Texas A&M regrouped quickly in the second set, as the Aggies knew they could ill-afford to go down 2-0 on the road to the Wildcats. The Aggies tightened up the screws while Kentucky was far from sharp in the second set. Kentucky looked far more pedestrian than they had in the first set, while it appeared that A&M was back to the form that had taken them to a 7-1 record in the conference.

Each team swapped scores for nearly the entire set. Texas A&M grabbed an early 6-4 lead. Then Kentucky would storm back to go up by two. It went that way for most of the set between the two teams for the duration. Kentucky grabbed momentum late as junior right side hitter Whitney Billings started to get going. She broke a tie at 16 with a thunderous kill off an Aggie defender, one of her four in the set, and it looked like Kentucky had gained some momentum.

The Aggies continued to battle to the wire, but Hartmann all but sealed the deal for the Cats in the second set with a dump into the center of the Texas A&M defense to give UK set point at 24-22. Texas A&M tried to stall Kentucky with a timeout, but on the ensuing play, the Aggies sent their attack long and Kentucky jumped out to a familiar 2-0 score in the match. Despite the early dominance in set one, UK knew that Texas A&M wouldn't lay down in the second set.

"We knew that that's what they were capable of," said Hartmann who dished out 39 assists. "They're a good team and that wasn't their best and we knew they could come back."

It was the fourth time in the last four matches that Kentucky had taken a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the break. They finished off matches against Ole Miss and Mississippi State in two of the four, but they were unable to finish the job against Florida last weekend on the road as UK was in the midst of an upset bid. The Cats had the opportunity to finish off the Gators in three sets last Sunday, and on this Sunday, the same opportunity presented itself.

However, this time, Kentucky would finish what it started.

As Hartmann continued to guide an incredibly balanced offensive attack, Kentucky held on to a comfortable lead for most of the third set and at no point did UK seemed threatened by the Aggies. O'Conner led the way for the Cats in the third set with six kills to give her a team-high 12 for the match. Billings added four to give her 11 kills on the day to go with 14 digs to give her the seventh double-double of the season.

The Wildcats went on to finish the set with a 25-19 victory and give Kentucky its third sweep in its last four matches and four out of the last six.

Kentucky (12-7, 6-3 SEC) is now responsible for both blemishes on the SEC schedule for Texas A&M (15-3, 7-2 SEC) this season. Though Skinner wouldn't say that Kentucky has the Aggies' number, he does believe that their win over Texas A&M back on Sept. 23 may have been the turning point of the season for his Cats. He now hopes that momentum they've built helps them going forward as they prepare for another tough weekend ahead in SEC play.

"It was a start of a succession of good matches," said Skinner. "If that was the turning point, it certainly turned our confidence level and how we were playing the game. It's continued for a few weeks now and we've got an important weekend next weekend with Arkansas and LSU and we've got to get back into the gym and get better on Tuesday."

Highlights, postgame with head coach Craig Skinner

Senior setter Christine Hartmann

Senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier

Video: Big Blue Madness 2012 highlights

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Big Blue Madness 2012: Top five moments

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The 2012 edition of Big Blue Madness is in the books, and what a show it was.

There were dances, dunks, video displays like you've never seen before and more dances as fans packed Rupp Arena to its rafters for the annual spectacle that rings in the start of the college basketball season.

Since it wasn't an event where the final score mattered and no coaches or student-athletes were available for interviews afterward, we're going to take a little different after-the-fact look at the proceedings than your typical column or game story.

Without further ado, here are the top five moments from Big Blue Madness 2012:

5. Men's, women's players show off dance moves

After the volleyball team swept away Mississippi State to start the evening and the volleyball court turned back into one for basketball, the women's basketball team was ready for its introduction.

The Wildcats broke normal tradition, coming to the floor as a team before being introduced individually. There were a few stray moves shown off in the initial intros, but the women kept things pretty simple before their coach came out - which we'll address later.

They collectively stepped their game up after a few drills and a short scrimmage. The team - which will be ranked in the top 10 preseason - split up into three groups of four for impressive choreographed routines, drawing big reactions from fans. When they wrapped things up with a dance medley featuring the entire roster, they brought the house down.

As for the men, there was a lot of media day chatter about who would impress with their dances. Ryan Harrow proclaimed himself the best dancer on the team and his moves were solid, if a little reserved. Nerlens Noel had perhaps the funniest move, framing his flat top, but the clear victor was Archie Goodwin. He was confident about his dancing for a reason.

4. The men's scrimmage

In theory at least, Madness is a basketball practice, but anybody who has seen or attended the event knows it's about much more than that.

Nonetheless, Madness builds up to a 20-minute scrimmage between members of the men's team. Defense is somewhat scarce and the competition a little less than top level, but the athleticism of John Calipari's latest team was on display.

The two teams combined for 111 points in the 20 minutes and there were plenty of dunks along the way. Goodwin's speed was clear, as was Noel's ridiculous range on the defensive end. Willie Cauley-Stein ran the floor like he was playing wide receiver again, Julius Mays showed off his sweet shooting stroke and Alex Poythress used his versatility to tally 18 points.

The standouts, though, were a pair of players who participated in Madness last year. Kyle Wiltjer still shoots it as well as anybody, but also backed up talk of his improved strength and quickness. Many of his baskets came on assists from Ryan Harrow - the player Coach Cal wants to be the Steve Nash to his Dirk Nowitzki. Harrow scored 18, while Wiltjer led all scorers with 19 points.

3. On-court video show

I'm going to keep this short, because I'm not sure there's any way to properly describe the introduction video shown on the Rupp floor. Workers spread out two giant white sheets over the entire playing surface, then this happened.

2. Mitchell tops himself once more

It's a familiar script. Fans head to Big Blue Madness wondering how Matthew Mitchell would beat his Michael Jackson imitation of 2011 and his Dougie of 2010. He turned to "Hammer Time" to make it happen.

Backed up by members of the UK dance team and decked out in parachute pants and a sparkly silver jacket, Mitchell danced to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" and "2 Legit 2 Quit." Here's what it looked like.

1. Re-raising banners

When Coach Cal was introduced, he talked of building a players-first program that would eventually led to more banners being raised in the Rupp rafters. On Friday night, those two things intersected.

Members of the seven teams that won national championships at UK before 2012 joined Calipari in re-raising the eight title banners in Rupp Arena. Wah Wah Jones (1948, 1949) Cliff Hagan (1951); Vernon Hatton and Adrian "Odie" Smith (1978); head coach Joe B. Hall, Kyle Macy and Jack "Goose" Givens (1978); Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer (1996); and Jeff Sheppard (1998) all stepped to midcourt as a giant white rope dropped from the ceiling. Pulling the rope, Coach Cal and the 11 UK legends lifted the eight banners back to where they belong.

Video: 2012-13 men's basketball intro

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The match had been set in stone for Oct. 12. Mississippi State was scheduled to come into Lexington to play the Kentucky volleyball team for one of several scheduled matches at Memorial Coliseum.

Until it wasn't.

Chasing a dream of his, Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner began talking to some of the UK Athletics administration about possibly changing the venue of the Mississippi State match.

Why? Because that date coincidentally was scheduled for the same night as Big Blue Madness.

Since becoming head coach at the University of Kentucky eight years ago, Skinner had hoped to play a match at Rupp Arena in front of a big crowd. After exchanging some ideas with men's basketball coach John Calipari, the dream became much more of a reality. With some help from Calipari and support from the administration, Skinner's dream was starting to look more like a reality.

After figuring out the logistics of playing a volleyball match at Rupp Arena, Skinner and the volleyball team were given the green light to be the opening act for Big Blue Madness before the women's and men's activities got underway.

Last season, Kentucky was given a similar opportunity on the road, also at Mississippi State, to play at their Maroon Madness. After UK fell to the Bulldogs last year, it was time for Kentucky to treat Mississippi State to a similar opportunity.

Come Friday night at 5 p.m., it was actually happening. Kentucky had the chance to play in front of 5,261 fans that arrived early to Big Blue Madness to check out the Skinner-led Wildcats which broke the attendance record for the Skinner era.

Though Kentucky originally hoped to possibly break the national attendance record for an NCAA volleyball match, Skinner was just hoping to expose people to a new sport.

"I had no idea what to expect," said Skinner. "I doubted we'd get the national attendance record a few hours before the madness. I think what I wanted to see out of it was to get some people exposed to a high level sport that our athletes compete at and give them a chance to see it and hopefully come back and see us at Memorial Coliseum."

Speaking of Memorial Coliseum, Rupp Arena it is not. Other than their spaciousness, they bare little in resemblance or atmosphere. For one, Rupp Arena, capacity wise, is nearly three times the size. Memorial Coliseum, known for its warm temperatures and sticky air, provides a much different climate than what Kentucky and Mississippi State experienced Friday night.

"I think the air conditioning currents (in Rupp Arena) were up a little bit," said Skinner. "The ball was floating a little more than usual serving and passing-wise. I think for both teams it was very difficult to serve and receive and both teams served pretty tough too. It cost us some points, but overall it was a great experience for us."

Kentucky seemed to handle the conditions much better than Mississippi State, as the Cats sailed past the Bulldogs with relative ease winning in straight sets (25-18, 25-18, 25-18). Alexandra Morgan and Ashley Frazier led the way for Kentucky offensively with eight kills apiece.

For Morgan and her teammates, the opportunity to play in Rupp Arena was something that they had looked forward to ever since they got the news.

"If anything I think we were excited and kind of forgot what we were here for," said Morgan. "We were really excited to come here, it hadn't been done before. We had been talking about it for awhile."

Kentucky started off well in each set, but took longer to put the Bulldogs away than it had hoped. Part of that may have been due to the new atmosphere. And though it was considered a home game for the Cats, in a lot of ways it felt like a road game with the brand new conditions.

"It was a great experience," said Morgan. "In a way it was kind of like playing at an away gym because we weren't used to the lighting, the crowd and everything. But, it being our fans and seeing all of the blue and all of our students, it just felt like we were at home."

Though Kentucky fell way short of the national attendance record they hoped to achieve, the 5,261 fans was far and away the highest number ever recorded during the Skinner era.

But no matter the attendance and no matter the venue, Kentucky was going to come out and play as hard as they could for whatever fans happened to show up Friday night. But they were certainly appreciative of those that did.

"If we had one fan out there, we would play as hard as we could for that one fan, so we tried to do the best we could," said Morgan. "We appreciate everyone that came out because I know they're all mostly basketball fans, and we really appreciate that they came out early."

Video: Mitchell channels MC Hammer at Madness

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Video: UK Hoops' Madness intro

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Live blog: Big Blue Madness 2012

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Cally Macumber has finished in the top two in each of the Wildcats' first three meets, including a first place finish at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational. (UK Athletics) Cally Macumber has finished in the top two in each of the Wildcats' first three meets, including a first place finish at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational. (UK Athletics)
Everyone has a hobby that they love doing in their spare time. Growing up, you have all the time in the world to play the sport you love or participate in activities that interest you. As you grow older, your time for hobbies dwindles due to the real world and the working life.

Not everyone has a chance to continue balancing their lives with work and personal time. University of Kentucky cross country runner Cally Macumber is a rare breed that has taken full advantage of her talents to continue doing what she loves.


"I just always run," Macumber said. "I started running in third grade so it's just a part of me."

Macumber is off to an excellent start in her junior season, placing in the top two in the Wildcats' first three meets, including a first-place finish at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational on Sept. 22. After claiming second at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic, Macumber was named the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Athlete of the Week.

The year has been a successful one thus far for Macumber and possibly even more successful than she may have thought.

"I was pleasantly surprised, not running for so long," Macumber said. "I was happy with it and it gives me some confidence heading forward. It felt good being named athlete of the week, because there are some great athletes in the conference. I got the award my freshman season but it's always exciting."

However, not everything has come so easy for the native of Rochester Hills, Mich. Last season, Macumber was forced to miss the entire season due to an injury. During the offseason of 2011, she suffered from iliotibial band syndrome, which is a frequent injury for runners and affects the knees.

Macumber took a break in the offseason and decided to try her luck once she returned to school, but her right knee was still bothering her and it started to affect her back as well. She was forced to take a medical redshirt and watch from the sidelines.

This was a tough year for Macumber and she quickly realized how much of a blessing it is to be healthy and out there competing.

"I didn't like sitting on the sidelines watching and realizing how lucky you have it when you're healthy," Macumber said. "It definitely made me more excited to start training again."

Being from Michigan, Macumber made her way down to the Bluegrass state and the cross country team has benefitted tremendously from her presence. Macumber's parents pushed her to take a visit to UK and she loved every bit of the university.

This season, the track and field/cross country program has experienced a change of direction as first-year head coach Edrick Floreal has taken over the team. Floreal brought with him Hakon DeVries, who is in charge of the women's distance runners.

The beginning of the season was a reminiscent of freshman year as the athletes went through a new set of coaches all over again.

Macumber admits the change brought on some nerves, but everything is working out for the better. The coaches have brought a new system to UK and are implementing new drills that are bringing about signs of progress.

"Change scares me but everyone was so nice and they are really good coaches," Macumber said. "We have been doing new things and they have really helped. We do doubles now so we run twice a day, a couple times a week. We do strengthening, hurdle drills, speed drills and long runs on Sundays."

The Wildcats will run in their final regular season meet this Saturday in Pre-Nationals at the same course where Macumber finished second just two weeks prior. This weekend will be a 6k event as opposed to a 5k two weeks ago but Macumber admits it does help being familiar with the course, having run on it previously.

This weekend is the final meet before the SEC Championships on Oct. 26 in Nashville, Tenn. As the postseason quickly approaches, Macumber has goals for the team and is confident they will be ready to compete and make an impact to conclude the year.

"We are just trying to get better every time out and hopefully we make it to nationals," Macumber said. "That's the ultimate goal and just trying to do as best as we can. At the SEC's we want to try and finish higher than we ever have and I think we can do it."

Senior Emily Holsopple looks to lead No. 2 Kentucky over No. 4 Nebraska this weekend. (UK Athletics, Britney McIntosh) Junior Emily Holsopple looks to lead No. 2 Kentucky over No. 4 Nebraska this weekend. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky rifle team finished second in last season's NCAA Championships. As the Wildcats open up their 2012-13 campaign on the road at Nebraska on Saturday, Kentucky is ranked preseason No. 2 in the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association poll, once again right behind defending national champions Texas Christian University.

Kentucky didn't come away empty handed last year, taking home some hardware in the smallbore competition as national champions. With such high expectations coming into this year, head coach Harry Mullins feels comfortable with the lofty ranking placed upon this year's squad.

"I think we're in the top three or four," said Mullins. "We definitely have the talent pool equal to some of the other teams. Depth-wise, I think we haven't shown our depth like some of the other teams have so I think we're going to have to work on that some. We try to put ourselves in the situation to be in contention to have a good season."

If that's the formula they've followed the last several seasons, the team should be in good shape to compete for the national title once more this season. Over the last four years, Kentucky has finished fourth or better, including two second-place finishes and a national championship in 2011.

With what Kentucky has returning this season, the Wildcats should be able to carry the momentum of a runner-up performance last season. With the No. 2 preseason ranking, the players are likely to use that as motivation rather than added pressure.

 The players expect and welcome the high expectations.

"I think for some of them it's an expected thing," Mullins said. "That's good and bad. It's unfortunate when you take that for granted. I think they look at it a little bit and the season's so long and the polls move differently and we change our team around differently."

Mullins certainly seems excited about those returning players as well. He mentioned junior Emily Holsopple and senior Henri Junghanel as workhorses for this year's squad. Freshman Connor Davis is expected to make an immediate impact.

With Kentucky's depth, the Cats have the luxury of moving some pieces around from event to event to get some experience for some of their younger shooters while still being competitive.

But the road certainly won't be easy for Kentucky as the Cats face several of the top-20 teams in the nation starting this weekend with No. 4 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are an up-and-coming program after hiring Stacy Underwood as head coach prior to this season. Underwood served as an assistant coach to Mullins from 2007-12, becoming the first full-time assistant rifle coach in NCAA history.

Underwood was instrumental in helping lead Kentucky to its first NCAA national championship in 2011 and now looks to take her own program their starting this season in Nebraska. From the looks of things, the Huskers are already heading in the right direction. In its first competition, Nebraska defeated now No. 5 Alaska-Fairbanks, a perennial power in the sport.

With Nebraska already facing stiff competition in its first meet, the Huskers will already have a leg up on Kentucky, as the Cats will just be participating in their first event of the year. Though it's only their first event, this road meet could be very important down the road.

"I think what Nebraska did last week against Alaska-Fairbanks definitely earned them a lot of respect," said Mullins. "I think our (shooters), if they don't treat them with respect, will probably have to pay for that down the road. So this is a good test as far as making sure that we do give them the due diligence and respect that they deserve because they're a very strong and up-and-coming team."

With what Underwood accomplished during her time at Kentucky and the bonds she built along the way with some of the shooters on UK's current roster, emotions will likely be running high for both the players and Mullins himself.  But despite what impact Underwood left on the program, UK isn't going to Nebraska for a reunion.

Mullins fully expects his team to put all emotions aside in Lincoln this weekend.

"I think we'll be competing against the course just like Nebraska's going to do," said Mullins, "Having the stigma of intimidation or whatever, I think Nebraska is a very viable opponent for them to compare our scores. And our guys are going to want to show Coach Underwood we love you, but we want to beat you."

But what Mullins really hopes to see is that the hard work in the offseason and preseason pays off. Though they are getting a bit of a late start to the season compared to other programs around the country, Mullins thinks his Wildcats will be ready to compete, even if they aren't quite to their potential just yet. He just hopes to see this team to continue to improve the rest of the season.

That all starts this weekend at Nebraska.

"I think our guys and girls have worked really hard in the last month and a half, and some of them during the summer, to perform at the level where they feel they should," said Mullins. "Are we 110 percent match-mode-ready? Probably not in that sense. Even if we shoot a big number, I think you'll see some really good things from us towards the end of the semester and beginning of next semester as well."

By all accounts, the chemistry on John Calipari's fourth Kentucky basketball team is outstanding. And yet, there was a hint of good-natured disagreement at yesterday's Media Day - over the subject of dancing.

John Wall created a sensation with his dance that was first introduced at Big Blue Madness in 2009.  And Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin both say they have some special moves planned for Big Blue Nation tonight. But Harrow says he cannot understand how Goodwin can claim to be the team's best dancer.

"I don't understand that. I taught him how to dance. I'm the best dancer and then him," a smiling Harrow told reporters.  

"Best dancer?  Probably me or Archie," Harrow responded. "Worst dancer?  Alex Poythress or Kyle Wiltjer."

So what is Harrow's plan for tonight?

"I'm dancing  My sister says I have to dance. We throw parties at our home and me and her are always dancing. I may get a little interactive with the fans," said Harrow.

And Goodwin?

"I'm going to do a little something special. It's a dance from back home," Goodwin replied.

Who will judged as the best dancer?

"We'll see tomorrow," said Goodwin. "Y'all be the judge."

Ultimately, both of them could be trumped by the dance moves of UK women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell.

Goodwin can do more than dance

Spectacular dunks are always a part of Big Blue Madness, so we asked Goodwin to tell us "who is the best dunker on this team?"

"Me," Goodwin quickly proclaimed. "Alex is the most powerful dunker - no question about that - but if we're talking about tricks and being able to elevate higher, I'm the best dunker."

Goodwin supporting football team against Arkansas

Goodwin is a proud product of Little Rock, Ark., but there's no doubt about his loyalty for the football matchup tomorrow night in Fayetteville.

"Kentucky, of course. I'm a Kentucky fan. I can't root for Arkansas. I can't do it," he said.

A look at the Razorbacks

Stats would suggest turnovers will play a key role in the Kentucky-Arkansas game. The Cats rank 12th in the league at minus-4 for the season but the Hogs are minus-10 through six games.

Could this be the breakout game for UK in terms of big plays?  Arkansas' opponents are averaging a league-high 338 yards per game in passing yards and a league-high 8.4 yards-per-attempt. And the Hogs have surrendered an SEC-worst 15 touchdown passes.

Kentucky is 2-0 against the Hogs in Fayetteville but the Cats lost on their first trip to Arkansas - a 27-20 setback in 1998 in a game played in Little Rock. And I'm not sure I've ever a louder road stadium that night than War Memorial, even though its capacity is only 55,000.

UK's quarterback that night was Tim Couch - and he'll be working the telecast Saturday night for Fox TV.

Nerlens Noel and his signature flat top participated in media day on Thursday afternoon. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Nerlens Noel and his signature flat top participated in media day on Thursday afternoon. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari was starting to come around to this big-man lineup idea that friend and former coach Joe B. Hall has talked about so much when he decided to plop down next to him Thursday and ask for a few more details.

Coach Cal started talking, but the man he was sitting next to didn't say much. In fact, the bronze-casted statue didn't say anything at all.

"He wasn't real talkative," Calipari said. "He usually is."

Jokes aside, whenever Calipari asks the real Coach Hall about how to play big men together, Hall can't stop talking. The frequency and allure of the persuasion has become so compelling that Calipari appears to be warming up to the idea of playing freshmen big men Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein together.

"I may stack them together, put them both on the same side of the court," Calipari said Thursday at UK's annual Media Day. "I may put them on the elbow. I'm going to mess around. I don't know how much per game we'll play those two. I really have no idea. It may be five minutes, 15 minutes. What if they're both really good together? It may be 25 minutes. So I don't know yet."

And what about three bigs together like Calipari proposed this summer with either Kyle Wiltjer or Alex Poythress at the small forward position?

For a man that never stops coming up with ideas, the possibilities seem endless with the stable of thoroughbreds Calipari has collected this year. But while the pieces are there, Calipari doesn't know how he will assemble them, as is the case in every preseason.

"Literally, we don't know how we're going to play yet," Calipari said in an interview last month. "And that's the disadvantage. You have all these teams that know how they're going to play. They have the same team back. They're just going to touch up. They added a couple of guys to see if they can get better, and then they build that base. Well, we have no base."

In a sense, it's fun for Calipari. Like a mad scientist, he gets to mix and match, experiment and re-assemble every year with the constant roster turnover.

"This is all exciting," Coach Cal said. "I mean, think about it. It would be boring to have the same team every year, I think. We're coming in and have no idea. I have in my mind things that I think will work, and they may or may not work."

And one of those ideas is the trio of big men.

For all the talent Calipari has amassed over the years, he has never really had two twin towers like he does this season, much less a trio of them.

Last year he had Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas, but Jones was closer to a small forward than a center, Wiltjer filled a role as a 3-point shooter and Vargas played sparingly. The year before he had Josh Harrellson and Jones, big guys by most standards, but neither was overwhelmingly long. In his first season at Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins roamed the middle, but Patrick Patterson was transitioned to more of a combo forward position to ready him for the NBA.

With every group, Calipari changed how they played to emphasize their strengths.

Touted for his Dribble Drive Motion Offense, the Cats actually used very little of it in Coach Cal's first season on the job. The Dribble Drive showed up more in year two, but so did dribble handoffs with Harrellson and Brandon Knight. By year three, last year's championship season, Calipari incorporated pick-and-rolls, an offense he once thought was archaic and he had gone away from.

"The handoff stuff we started doing happened because Josh Harrellson popped out, grabbed the ball, and handed it to Brandon Knight who made a shot," Coach Cal said. "It was not anything designed. I said, 'Oh my gosh, that looks good.' And all these handoffs came from that play."

What the handoffs showed is that Calipari is willing to play to the strengths of his team. While other coaches have a system they make players play to, Calipari's system is to adapt to his players.

The handoffs were the strength in Harrellson's senior season because of Knight's ability to shoot. Last year, Marquis Teague's physical play and Davis' ability to catch nearly every lob opened up the pick-and-roll game.

What will it be this year? Calipari doesn't know. The only certainty is that his team will play fast and that it will use the Dribble Drive. How they get into the Dribble Drive remains a question, but playing off the strength of an extremely long team, one Coach Cal says is longer than last year's giants, could be the route he goes.

"We may do both elbows, two guys on the elbows," Calipari said. "We may even open the court wide open and have both bigs on the baseline five feet off the block. So now figure the court. You've got wings wide, and now if you drive, if you help, we throw lobs. You've got both of them. You can throw a lob to either one, 7 feet, 6-11. It's all kind of stuff you can try, but it's what will work."

It's hard to imagine anyone catching - and dunking - as many lob passes as Davis did a season ago, but it doesn't sound like the lob pass is being phased out. With all that length and a crafty player like Ryan Harrow running the point, the lob will remain an integral part of the offense.

"Every drill in practice ends with a lob," Cauley-Stein said. "Everything we're doing is lob-based. A lot of points are going to come from lobs."

Cauley-Stein, UK's first 7-footer since Jared Carter, will present problems for opposing defenses because of his speed. After watching the former wide receiver finish first or second in nearly every sprint in practice, Calipari has emphasized to Cauley-Stein and Noel to take advantage of transition opportunities.

In a sense, Calipari can afford to play those two together because they're not your typical big men. There are few liabilities with that size and speed combination.

"It's different than any bigs I've played with before because Anthony could get up and down the floor, but I feel like they run a lot faster and they jump a lot faster off the floor," Harrow said. "That's kind of weird to see because of how big they are. It's a good thing for me because we can just get out and run and I can just throw the ball up there to them."

But where does the up-tempo style leave Wiltjer, who is that potential third big man piece? At 6-10, Wiltjer certainly has the size to form a towering trio, but he isn't exactly a jackrabbit in the open court.

Calipari sees him as the trailer to the offense because of his ability to shoot the 3. It's how the Boston Celtics used Larry Bird late in his career.

"He'll be behind the ball all the time," Calipari said. "So now he'll take it out, we are flying, and if he rebounds it, he'll be behind it. If he doesn't rebound it, he'll still be out ahead and he'll be fine. And we still may try him into a dragging screen. What I like is we fly and as the ball comes back, it's coming back to his hands. Now you have a skilled player."

If Coach Cal decides to use the three trees in the paint, he said it will force him to use a zone on defense.

"Kyle would be in the middle of the zone," Calipari said. "Those two guys (Cauley-Stein and Noel on) the wings because they're really active and have quick feet. Kyle is the middle big at 6-10. You'd be 7-foot, 6-11, 6-10. It would be hard to practice against because we'd have Jon Hood and Jarrod (Polson) be the frontline of the other team. It would look good though."

Cauley-Stein thinks it would look more than good. He said it would "create havoc for everybody."

"If you were to see the lineup on paper, you would be saying nobody is getting a shot up," Cauley-Stein said. "It would be tough."

Calipari has toyed with using a 2-3 or a 3-2 zone, but Hall is trying to get him to employ a 1-3-1. While he has warmed up to Hall's idea of playing a big lineup, Calipari may need more convincing on the 1-3-1.

"Could you put (Cauley-Stein and Noel) on the wings of a 1-3-1 and let them be your wings?" Calipari asked himself. "I don't know. I'm worried about us step slide, step slide, close out with your hand up."

Thursday isn't the first time Calipari has thrown out the idea of using zone and it probably won't be the last. He's rarely used a zone in a game during his time at Kentucky (which begs the question, is he just playing mind tricks with the rest of the country?), but should he decide to experiment with it early, there could be some early bumps in the road.

"It's hard because you're going to be experimenting against Maryland and Duke (to start the season)," Coach Cal said. "Can you go down twice, take two Ls and still be good? A couple years ago we lost a bunch of league games and everybody was in a full blown panic. I kept saying I like my team, and we were a basket or two away from winning the national title in Houston."

For all the ideas and questions, not even Calipari knows just yet how his team will play this year.

Willie Cauley-Stein

Archie Goodwin

Ryan Harrow

Jon Hood

Julius Mays

Nerlens Noel

Alex Poythress

Kyle Wiltjer

John Calipari speaks to reporters gather for media day on Thursday afternoon. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari speaks to reporters gather for media day on Thursday afternoon. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari is nothing if not an idea man.

The trait extends to every facet of his position as head coach of Kentucky basketball, including his team's style of play. Some coaches find offensive and defensive systems and stand by them no matter the circumstances, but not Calipari.

His schedule, though, is hectic to say the least. If he's not on the road recruiting, he's spending time with his family or his team. If he's not coaching practice or a game, he's at a speaking engagement or advocating for a charitable cause.

Where then does he find the time to innovate?

"He's in a lot of planes," junior guard Jon Hood said at media day on Thursday.

This is Hood's fourth year under Calipari and he's noticed a trend. Whenever Coach Cal travels by air, he seems to come up with something new.

"He always seems to come back to us with, 'I was thinking about you while I was on the plane and this is what I thought,' " Hood said. "Every off day he'll go recruiting and he'll come back, say we have an off day Wednesday, he'll come back that Thursday with, 'Well, we're going to put this in now or we're going to change this.' "

In the estimation of Hood, Coach Cal's willingness to change is among his best - and most underrated - attributes.

Hood can remember when Calipari arrived in Lexington. Outside of his reputation as a recruiter, the buzz was about Coach Cal's vaunted dribble-drive motion offense, the style of play that unleashed Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.

"Everybody thought, 'Oh, we're going to have this great new offense that we're going to run nonstop and that's just going to be the entire game is all this dribble drive stuff,' " Hood said.

Three-and-a-half years later, the dribble drive is still in many ways synonymous with Calipari. But in reality the Wildcats have deployed a more traditional attack, with pick and rolls, dribble handoffs and even post-ups.

"My freshman year we ran up and down the court and then at times we'd throw it into DeMarcus (Cousins) and let DeMarcus be DeMarcus," Hood said. "He's an animal, he always will be an animal and Patrick (Patterson) as well."

Even so, Coach Cal uses the dribble drive to great effect, even when his teams don't use it extensively in games. It's among the first things taught in early-season practices.

"All that does is teach you how to play basketball," Hood said. "That's it. You can't play in a system or run plays without knowing how to play basketball."

Just as importantly, the installation of the dribble drive gives Calipari a chance to learn about his team and get an accurate appraisal of its strengths and weaknesses. From there, he begins to shape a game plan around the Cats' strengths, whether it's Cousins in the post, Brandon Knight as a shooter or Marquis Teague in the pick and roll.

The strange thing is that he hasn't always been that way.

While most people fall into a routine as they age, Coach Cal is the opposite. He recalls his first few years as a head coach at Massachusetts. At that point, his basketball strategy was nothing more than a melting pot combining the things he had learned as a player and assistant.

"When I was at UMass, I'm going to be honest with you, five of those years, I had exactly the same lesson plan," Calipari said. "We were going to play, and we won a lot of games and day lot of good, kids did good, but we could have done better. I could have coached better."

Twenty-five years into his career as a head coach, Calipari is quite different. As he prepares to coach a team that returns just one major contributor from the group that won a national championship in 2011-12 (Kyle Wiltjer), he has an idea of how things are going to start, but little beyond that.

"The beginning will be the same, but after we get started we'll probably do more scrimmaging this year than I did a year ago earlier," Calipari said. "But normally I'll have four to five practices already planned.  I've got two, and those are in pencil, let me put it that way."

Coach Cal is keeping his eraser at the ready because it's impossible to know exactly what he's going to see out of his team once the Cats can practice 20 hours a week beginning with Big Blue Madness on Friday. If Jon Hood is right, the changes Coach Cal implements in the coming months will start on airplanes.

The reason they'll likely work is also because of the work he does in between those flights. Calipari recruits players who are willing to change with him.

"Whatever I ask our guys to do, they'll do it," Calipari said. "I just have to make sure whatever I ask them is the right thing."

Volleyball seeking attendance record in Madness kickoff

Before the men's and women's basketball teams hold their first open practice opportunities of the season at Big Blue Madness, the Kentucky volleyball team will take the floor for its first-ever match in Rupp Arena. The Wildcats will take on Mississippi State at 5 p.m. with doors opening at 4 p.m. hoping to break the national volleyball attendance record of 17,340 set at the 2008 Final Four.

For Craig Skinner, playing in front of a crowd that large would be a dream come true, one that started when Skinner was introduced as UK head coach before a basketball game in Rupp in 2005.

"Obviously Midnight Madness is about basketball, but for us and our players to have a chance to compete in front of as many people as we hope will show up tomorrow (is special)," Skinner said.
The volleyball and basketball teams are accustomed to sharing facilities, as all three squads practice at the Joe Craft Center. The close proximity has helped breed friendships between student-athletes, so the basketball Cats know what the event will mean to their volleyball-playing counterparts.

"That's definitely real cool for their program," junior guard Jarrod Polson said. "They're really good so I definitely think it's going to be fun for them. They're really hyped about getting to play in front of so many people."

Video: Sights and sounds from media day 2012

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Calipari press conference on media day

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Part one

Part two

Freshman Jalen Whitlow will make the second start of his college career on Saturday at Arkansas. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Freshman Jalen Whitlow will make the second start of his college career on Saturday at Arkansas. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
The 2012 season has been one of baby steps for Jalen Whitlow.

First, the true freshman quarterback played his way into the No. 3 spot on the depth chart in camp. As the opening weeks of the season wore on, his coaches began to groom him for the backup role. In a win over Kent State, Whitlow played the final series for his first collegiate snaps.

At Florida, Whitlow came on in fourth-quarter relief. The outcome wasn't in doubt, but his first playing time in a conference game was meaningful, particularly in an environment as hostile as The Swamp.

A week later, Whitlow was the backup to the returning Maxwell Smith, prepared to play after getting some of his first reps with the first team. It turned out he needed to be ready, as Smith went down with an ankle injury on Kentucky's second offensive play. The game was Whitlow's the rest of the way.

Last week, with Smith sidelined indefinitely, Whitlow knew he would be starting against Mississippi State. However, the plan was for him to rotate with fellow freshman Patrick Towles, at least until Towles left with an ankle injury of his own.

It hasn't happened by plan - because no one plans to lose two quarterbacks in two weeks - but the last few months have been building to this Saturday for Whitlow. As UK hits the road to take on Arkansas, Whitlow goes into the game knowing for the first time in his career that things are on him and him alone.

"I'm the guy this week," Whitlow said.

As UK (1-5, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) prepares for a game against Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 SEC) in Fayetteville, Ark., (7 p.m. ET, FSN) Whitlow has been getting approximately three-quarters of the snaps with the first team. Even when Morgan Newton is working with the ones to make sure he's ready in case of the unexpected (or in the case of this season, the not-so-unexpected), Whitlow is working with the twos.

"I told Jalen he's going to be tired each day this week when he leaves the practice field this week, because I need to get him every rep I possibly can," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.

Through now four games of action, Whitlow has completed 23-of-50 passes for 199 yards. He also has a pair of touchdowns and 37 yards on the ground. Impressively, Whitlow has just two turnovers - both interceptions as the Wildcats were trying to mount a late comeback against South Carolina - but Sanders and head coach Joker Phillips are demanding more. The way Whitlow took care of the ball against Mississippi State is great, but that has to be balanced with aggressiveness.

"I don't know if the concern about turning the ball over kept him from throwing it, made him a little hesitant to do that," Sanders said. "That's very possible. Sometimes interceptions happen, but if you ever start playing too conservative or start playing scared at quarterback, it gets hard to pull the trigger. And I'm not sure that's not what happened Saturday."

The good news is that Whitlow has consistently shown an ability to maintain an even keel through mistakes and a willingness to learn from them.

"I've never seen a guy that's a freshmen that's as calm, as laid back, comes off the field and can communicate with you what he's seeing," Phillips said. "He makes mistakes and he understands (them)."

After Saturday's loss, Whitlow was forthright in evaluating his own play, saying he simply did not throw the ball as well as he's capable of doing. Since then, he's been focused on mechanics to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"I'm focusing on technique, footwork, getting my body lined up to deliver the ball," Whitlow said.

Halfway into his first season at UK, Whitlow already has a significant amount of experience. But each time he's played, he's had company. Against Kent State, it was purely mop-up duty. Against Florida, he was replacing Newton. Against South Carolina, he assumed Smith would play the entire game. Against Mississippi State, Towles was there to shoulder some of the responsibility.

Now, he's on his own, but in some ways that's been a good thing.

"He's played against some pretty good opponents and I think he's more than ready now to go down and be the starter," Phillips said. "One of the things is he has no choice now."

Also without a choice are Kentucky's young defensive backs.

The statuses of experienced players like Martavius Neloms, Mikie Benton and Ashely Lowery are very much up in the air due to injury, meaning senior Cartier Rice and sophomore Eric Dixon will play alongside true freshmen Cody Quinn, J.D. Harmon, Zack and Daron Blaylock and Fred Tiller.

"We expected them to help us this year; didn't expect them to be starting in our fourth SEC game," Phillips said. "But we'll play them, throw them out there and see how it goes."

The challenge for the defensive backfield is a big one, as senior quarterback Tyler Wilson leads a Razorback passing attack that averages 301.3 yards per game and ranks among the top-25 nationally. Arkansas lost four games in a row after climbing to No. 8 in the polls in early September, but is fresh off a 24-7 win over Auburn.

"You name it; they can do it," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "Tyler Wilson's a great quarterback. They've got good, ample receivers."

Cobi Hamilton headlines that receiving corps with 38 receptions for 677 yards and four touchdowns. Against Rutgers, he set SEC and Arkansas records with 303 yards receiving.

Most of the youngsters that will try to limit Wilson, Hamilton and company were on the field three weeks ago when UK traveled to Florida. So too were Whitlow the offensive players that will play major roles. Because of that, Phillips expects to see a football team better suited to deal with a tough road environment.

"I don't anticipate this one will be a real shock to them," Phillips said.