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Young fixes shooting stroke, joins Cal's 25-point club in win over UTA

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James Young scored 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting in UK's 105-76 win on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) James Young scored 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting in UK's 105-76 win on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Before the season, John Calipari said he had as many as eight players capable of scoring 25 points on any given night.

Five games in, the Wildcats are well on their way to proving him right.

"Our whole team can score," James Young said. "If we all have open shots, we just tell them to take it because we can all score or get to the basket. If a guy has a hot hand for the night, we just try to get them the ball as much as we can."

Tuesday night was Young's, as the freshman guard became the third Kentucky player to reach the mark. He poured in 26 points in UK's 105-76 win over Texas-Arlington in Rupp Arena, following in the footsteps of teammates Julius Randle -- who had his fifth straight double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds -- and Aaron Harrison in breaking Coach Cal's 25-point barrier.

"When you're 8 for 14 the way he played," Calipari said. "He had three assists, no (turnovers), played pretty good."

It took a little coaching from Calipari to make it happen.

Through his first four games, Young -- whom Coach Cal regularly calls the nation's best shooter -- had shot just 35.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range. Watching the tape from UK's win over Robert Morris on Sunday, Calipari noticed Young's problems were primarily mechanical.

He observed that Young was leaning back on his shot and not setting his feet, so Calipari summoned him into his office on Monday.

"You lean your shoulders back because your legs aren't under you and you're trying to get a little more oomph on your shot, and when you do that, you're basically fading away," Calipari said. "You're not going to be an aggressive consistent shooter on fade-away shots."

Unaccustomed to missing so regularly, Young applied his coach's advice willingly and immediately.

"I was frustrated," Young said. "I usually make shots, so when Coach Cal showed me that, I was just mind-blown. We easily fixed it."

Young would score 15 points on Tuesday before he missed a shot, rendering his struggles a distant memory. On the night, he made 5-of-10 3-pointers and 5-of-7 free throws.

"When I saw that most of the mechanics was right and just doing what Coach Cal told me to, I knew it was going to be a good night shooting," Young said.

To ensure that continues, Calipari is challenging Young. Even though shooting has always come naturally to the lefty, Young needs to hone his craft, says Coach Cal.

"He's one of those ones that you've got to love to get into the gym more," Calipari said. "Just get in there and shoot. You're 12 steps, you walk across the street."

But even if he does that, Young knows he won't be hitting shots every night. For that reason, he knows he needs to learn to respond better to misses. He's valuable to this Kentucky team in too many ways to disappear entirely because of a brick or two.

"I tend to put my head down a lot when I miss shots so he's just been getting on me and just saying let the shot go and keep moving on," Young said. "There will be more shots. I just listen to him and try not to put my head down and just keep moving on with the game."

And even if he did become the first shooter to ever avoid the occasional off night, Young is surrounded by too much talent to expect to be the featured scorer every time out.

"I can't score as much because we have a lot of people that can score," Young said. "If it's somebody's night, we just try to get them the ball as much as we can and I guess tonight was my night. They tried to get me the ball as much as they can and I just tried staying with my normal form and just getting some open shots I was hitting."

Young is one of three players to lead Kentucky in shot attempts through three games, and more will surely join the club in the coming weeks and months.

"We got too many guys that have that kind of talent so you know that some games you're feeling it you're going to get 10 or 12 (shots) and some games you're going to get four," said Willie Cauley-Stein, who posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. "That's just how it is here."

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