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For the second time in as many Southeastern Conference games, Kentucky survived overtime. This time, the Wildcats went to double OT at Texas A&M and came away with a 70-64 win.

UK got a big and-one from Devin Booker, a clutch 3 by Tyler Ulis and big plays (including two sets of two made free throws) from Dakari Johnson and Trey Lyles in the second extra period after both Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out.

Afterward, John Calipari talked about the win, saying "we're just not a very good team right now" even though the Wildcats are 15-0. Minutes later, he followed his comments up with a tweet fitting for an NFL Playoff weekend. Check it all out below.


On Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson coming through when they needed to ...
"We're just--I was happy with them, but the shot that Tyler made, the and-one that Devin made and then Dakari rebounding. I couldn't get Karl to rebound. He got traffic and grabbing and pushing and he's looking for fouls and balls are hitting him in the chest. So I thought Marcus Lee defended well down the stretch when we put him out there. But we're just not a very good team right now. And Texas A&M, Billy (Kennedy), he did everything he was supposed to to give them a chance to win and we kind of got lucky and walked out with a W. The thing about this: Texas A&M without their best player. Without their best player. So I'm a big Billy Kennedy. He knows. We're friends. That thing was a war. They did not quit. They did not stop."

On why they are not a good team right now ...
"I don't know. In the last two games, we've kind of--what's happening, again, we're walking out of timeouts, guys aren't paying attention, which means they're into themselves. You make a bad play, it leads to another bad play and another bad play. You miss a shot and now you don't want to be aggressive. You're tentative. So we have a lot that going on and I just told them, 'We need to take a day off tomorrow, get away from each other and self-reflect, including me, and let's just figure out where we go with this.' Because right now, we're not very good."

On players other than Aaron Harrison stepping up in big moments ...
"Well, the one thing I want to tell you is we're learning about our team. We continue to learn. We couldn't get Aaron to drive the ball today. He did not drive the ball. He should have been at the foul line like (Danuel) House, which is just drive in there and jump right at (them). Don't try to jump sideways and shoot fades. But we couldn't get him to do it and so House shoots 11 free throws, he shoots two. And then on top of it goes 4 for 20 and a bunch of them were, just drive the ball, man. Go at somebody. But what happened is, you're not playing great and you get tentative and the bail-out shot is just a jumper. If it goes it goes and if it doesn't I didn't make it. But he wasn't the only one. Willie didn't play particularly well. I mean, we had a lot of--we're kind of hitting that proverbial wall maybe a little bit early right now."

On fouling before the in-bounds at the end of the first overtime ...
"They did and the kid made one. I was hoping he'd miss both but he made one. But it put us in a different position rather than down three and being desperate. We were just trying to escape, just to be honest. I mean, think about Dakari makes the free throws and Trey, who every other time Trey has been in that situation has missed the free throws. You're counting on your freshmen. Devin Booker making a play in transition and Tyler making a 3. Guys fouled out. They were grabbing guys. We were running at non-shooters. Think about what I'm saying. He is not going to shoot it, he's driving and we ran right at him and the guy drives around us. Or how about this one? We fouled the guy. At that point, when you're coaching, let's just try to get out of here. Let's just try to escape."

On needing to work on energy ...

"It's not like we're not playing. What's happened is the other teams are playing out of their minds. But guess what. Is it going to change? Every game's this way for us. We're just not--you can't count on freshmen. That's gotta be the veterans. Your veterans gotta be the core group that drags the young kids, not the other way around."

On what it says that they have escaped with two wins ...
"We have a will to win. Look, like I said, at each point and each time they came in, we play to win here. We're not playing not to lose. Play to win. If they beat us, they beat us. I said it in five straight timeouts. I never thought about us losing. My whole thought was, how do we get this thing and get a gap? Then when we got a gap, we shot a layup. Like, what just happened? There were things that happened in that game that I'm like, oh my god. And then you have to erase and move on and say, 'Come on, let's go.' "

On Tyler Ulis coming up big late ...
"Yeah. I thought he did some good stuff. And I was going with whoever was playing well. I was scrambling and I thought Marcus Lee would defend better than Trey and I thought Trey would be better on offense that Marcus Lee. We were subbing like that. Took Dakari out and times and put Marcus (in). I was doing anything. Andrew is hurt. Andrew got hurt again yesterday. He's trying to play through it, but that's why when he starting limping I said, 'Kid, just stay out.' And he kept saying, 'Coach, let me try.' And so he's beat up a little bit but I'm happy the guys--because he didn't play particularly well, but other guys didn't either. You think about it, what did we shoot? (28 percent) I love that. Do you know how much I love a team shooting 28 percent and winning? What just happened? You shot 28 percent and you won the game. And it isn't like they didn't shoot fouls. They shot fouls too."

On the play where Andrew Harrison shot instead of pulling it out ...
"I just think he had a mental lapse. And again, he ran by me. I don't know why I didn't just yell, 'Pull it out! Pull it out!' And I didn't because I just didn't think I had to. But I should've. So it's a combination of me and him both. It's kind of like when Karl was falling out of bounds at Louisville and I'm standing next to an official and I say, 'Why didn't he call a timeout?' How about this thing? Why didn't I call a timeout? I could have called it too and I didn't. So there are things--these kids, they're not machines. They make mistakes. They do dumb things. But I've got a good group, a group that has a will to win and now I got my work cut out for me. We got work to do. We're not very good right now. We're just not."

On whether that's hard to believe ...
"If you watch the last two games, we just shot 28 percent. We shot 28 percent and we outrebound a team that we're way bigger than by one rebound. I mean, and the guys that won the game, Trey Lyles hasn't made a free throw in pressure yet until then and Dakari would be the first--if one of my guys got cramps and they had to pick a foul shooter on my team, they would pick Dakari. Let him shoot it. And the kid went up and made two. And he made a--big rebounds. He fought in there. I was proud of him. Maybe this gets him to go because he's been really struggling."

On Andrew Harrison's injury ...
"He's got like a hip. He got hit in the hip and it's been bothering him. And then he got hit yesterday. We were doing--it was a nothing drill and he just got hit by Dakari. Just being around Dakari you get hurt. He ran by him and boom, he went down on the floor. So that happened at the end of yesterday's practice."

On UK not having many first-half offensive rebounds ...
"What they did was they just said, 'This guy's not getting it,' and they pushed you into the cheerleaders and they hoped somebody else got the ball. This one and that one aren't getting it and it was a full-force in that way. And we didn't fight it. We just accepted it. And there was one where Karl had his hands up and it was a double foul. I can't wait to see that on TV, when I see the version. But this is a lot of stuff. I come back to, our veterans gotta get this right for our team, not our young guys."

On whether the game was called differently after the double foul ...
"I don't know. I have to watch the tape."

On hitting free throws late after struggling early ...
"We had some guys miss two again. Willie made two. How about the two Willie made? Willie went 1 for 3 last game. He comes in makes two and those were big too. We were just trying to--even in the first half, if we don't make 3s we're down 15 instead of three. The only shot we made was a 3. Dakari couldn't hit the rim again. He had five attempts at shots and didn't get it to the backboard. So you gotta give them credit. They fought and played. I'll say it again: They didn't have their best player and they did it. So my hat's off to Billy (Kennedy). I know how good a coach he is and he's a good man, but I told him 'you guys deserved this one' after."

On being dominated in paint points ...
"Yeah. Just they were more active, more physical. They fought. We kind of accepted it. We were looking at officials, 'Call fouls,' and they didn't. There were three rebounds at the end of the game where my guy's worried about, 'He's fouling me! He's fouling me!' And the ball hit him in the chest. My guy. And their guy got it. You can't--I had to take him out. I said, 'What are you doing?' 'He grabbed my arm.' 'OK, sit over here. Dakari, go in there and battle.' And you got young guys. It's amazing when you have young players, the stuff they say and do. It's like having 8-year-olds. Like, 'You said that, really?' "

On whether he's afraid this won't get his team's attention ...

"We just gotta get better. I'm not worried about all that. I've had teams like this. I am so old that I've had enough teams that I've started like this and they get stale and they gotta get something back. You get your mojo back and then all of a sudden you come out of the gate and you start playing, you're on a roll. I don't us to be great right now anyway. We need to be great at the end of February and March. Right now, let's see where we are, learn about each other. We learned a lot about our team. We really did. That's the whole thing. You're playing this early and it's January, learn. You win and you learn. I don't think there are any losses right now. It's winning and learning and that's all we're trying to do."

Video: Highlights of UK's double-OT win at A&M

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Video: 'This is league now'

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Dominant doesn't quite do South Carolina justice.

The top-ranked Gamecocks are outscoring opponents by more than 31 points on average and feature arguably the nation's most imposing frontline.

On Sunday, Kentucky faces the task of handing South Carolina its first loss on the road. The challenge, significant as it may be, isn't one that has the Wildcats cowering.

"We're certainly not going over there to give it the old college try and hang with them," Matthew Mitchell said. "We're going to go over there to win. It's a tall task, but we have a plan. I think if we go over there and execute our plan and work our tails off, we'll have a great chance to win."

Mitchell has reason for confidence.

His team, after all, enters Sunday's 1 p.m. ET trip to Columbia, S.C., with a No. 10 ranking, a 14-2 record and two wins over top-10 opponents. The Cats, in spite of playing without senior defensive stopper Bria Goss, are off to the same 3-0 start to Southeastern Conference play as South Carolina (15-0).

UK, in other words, is pretty good too.

"To think that we are some prohibitive underdog here and we don't have a chance to win - now could we go over there and lose? There is no question," Mitchell said. "If we don't play well. We are certainly not going over there to just give it all we've got and hopefully hang in there with them. We're going in there to win."

But to win, the Cats will have to adhere strictly to the plan Mitchell mentioned, especially inside. UK will be at a size disadvantage against the Gamecocks, who feature four players 6-foot-4 or taller and block an average of 6.2 shots per game, which means it will have compensate in other areas.

"We are going to have to play real strategically sound basketball, which you can't do in the post against them," Mitchell said. "You just can't go in there without a plan. You can't just go in and shoot the ball around the basket. You've got to have some focus on some technical things you need to do to guard the post. You can't just go chest to chest with them and challenge them."

The likes of Aleighsha Welch, Alaina Coates and freshman A'ja Wilson will have a field day if the Cats try that. Dawn Staley's group might be ranked higher than it ever has been before, but the team doesn't look all that different to Mitchell, and he means that in a good way. He would know since the Gamecocks are a permanent conference rival, meaning two annual matchups between the two teams.

"When you play somebody twice a year, you get to know them, and no matter where they're ranked, if they're ranked No. 1 or we have played them when they are unranked, it just doesn't matter," Mitchell said. "They're always real tough. Always play together, always play real hard, always make it tough on you to score. So really, they're doing the same things that South Carolina has become known for."

Rebounding, of course, is one of those things.

The Gamecocks are outrebounding opponents by an average of 11 per game, which is of particular concern considering the Cats were just bested on the boards 45-35 in a win over Auburn on Thursday. With that in mind, UK will go to work.

"We've just got to figure out a way to be a good box-out team," Mitchell said. "Listen, if we don't rebound well Sunday, it'll be a long day. They can just reach over you and go get the ball, so rebounding will be really important and we'll do everything that we can today and Saturday morning and Sunday morning to remind them and we'll go out there and see if we can make some improvements from Thursday night into Sunday afternoon."

To that end, Mitchell and his coaching staff reviewed film from the Auburn game and counted missed box-out assignments. The guilty parties were then assigned to run based on those missed assignments.

A few weeks ago, the Cats had to do something similar when turnovers became an issue. They have responded, most notably by committing 15 or fewer turnovers in three SEC wins, which suggest similar improvement on the glass is possible.

"This group has shown some ability that once they start focusing in on something, that they can do some things and correct some things," Mitchell said. "We've corrected our turnovers so far in league play, so hopefully, we can have that kind of improvement on rebounds."


UK Hoops is off to a quick start to the 2014-15 season, but rarely has that been the case in any single game.

The Wildcats have been consistently sluggish out of the gate, even in their best wins of the season, which Matthew Mitchell knew was unsustainable if they wanted to reach their goals.

On a bitterly cold Thursday night, UK reversed the trend.

"I thought we got off to a very good start," Mitchell said. "I will tell you the kids worked really hard this week on their games and on their minds. We tried to improve, so hopefully all of the hard work paid off with a good start."

Hosting Auburn, the Cats grabbed leads of 9-4 and eventually 21-10. The Tigers would battle back, but UK's lead never dipped below seven points en route to a 78-57 win in Memorial Coliseum to move to 14-2 (3-0 Southeastern Conference).

"I think we did a good job of starting off strong this game," said Jennifer O'Neill, who scored 17 points due in large part to her five made 3s. "Usually we start out real flat or real slow, but we started off faster than we normally do, which got us off to a good pace."

UK's focus after a Sunday win over Ole Miss on improvement wasn't limited to getting off to a quick start.

In that victory over the Rebels, Mitchell was forced to rely on O'Neill, Janee Thompson, Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper to play a combined 140 minutes due to unpredictable post play. All week and against Auburn, Kentucky's young bigs took steps forward.

"I thought we played a little bit better tonight at times," Mitchell said. "They worked real hard. They've worked really, really hard since our game Sunday. They put a lot of time into it. We still have a lot of improvement that we need to make, but we're working like crazy to try to get up to speed."

Included in that group is Azia Bishop, the veteran of the group. The senior, now trying to step into a leadership role, says she's never worked harder.

"(Assistant) Coach (Adeniyi) Amadou pushes us really, really hard," said Bishop, who had eight points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and four steals. "We get in before practice, after practice, before games and he believes us a lot and he motivates us really well. So I think that this is the toughest year for me, but I think it's helping me and it's going to help me in the long run."

Though UK is more consistent in the backcourt, the guards haven't been excused from the hard work, most notably in taking care of the basketball. Through the first 10 games of the season, the Cats committed 20 or more turnovers six times. In the last six, they haven't done it once, including three straight in SEC play with 15 or fewer.

Considering Auburn was forcing 21.6 miscues per game with its full-court press and UK turned it over just 12 times against the Tigers, it's clear the Cats are on the right track.

"I'm just happy that we have been able to show some maturity in that area," Mitchell said. "I've really faulted the team throughout the year about our lack of maturity. It shows that they have taken it seriously."

With a trip to face an unbeaten, top-ranked and overwhelmingly big South Carolina team on Sunday looming, the next order of business is to address rebounding. UK was bested on the boards by a count of 45-35 against Auburn, but with the way the Cats dedicated themselves earlier this week, there's no reason to think they can't progress in that area against the Gamecocks.  

"I can't tell you how hard the players and the coaches have worked this week and we're just fighting every day to try to get better and see if we can become a good team," Mitchell said.

John Calipari leads Kentucky into a road matchup with Texas A&M on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari leads Kentucky into a road matchup with Texas A&M on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari took a new approach to the holiday break this year.

For this edition of the practices, workouts and film sessions known affectionately (or un-affectionately, depending on who's talking) as Camp Cal, Calipari shifted the focus from team to individual. He asked his players to name an area of their game they wanted to add or improve before the end of the season and committed to helping them do it.

Willie Cauley-Stein said he wanted to handle the ball more effectively. Andrew Harrison picked out his mid-range shot as an area for growth. So too did Dakari Johnson, who even attempted one such shot in Kentucky's first game after the break.

"I kind of scrunched, like, 'Phew, not now,' " Calipari said. "But we've been working on that. That's one of the things he's added to his game. So I can't now work on it with him and then tell him not to do it."

Johnson's shot, which missed, came in the second half of an overtime win over Ole Miss with UK up just two, so it's only natural Calipari cringed a bit when his bruising 7 footer decided to show off his newfound range. So then, does that reveal he may have erred in changing things up for a team that had steamrolled through its first 13 games?

Ahead of a Saturday trip to Texas A&M (9-4, 0-1 Southeastern Conference), Coach Cal thinks not.

"I'm not backing up," Calipari said. "Each individual by the end of this year, I want you to look at and say, 'He is a better player.' Every one of these guys you look at: 'He is a better player.' And if that happens, then our team has grown, we're doing all the kind of stuff we need to do."

Karl-Anthony Towns, meanwhile, acknowledges there's a balancing act for UK (14-0, 1-0 SEC) in adding new individual elements, but he's on board with Calipari's point of view. He used one familiar phrase and a new metaphor in the span of a sentence to make his point.

"Of course, but at the same time, if it's not broke, don't fix it, but if the pencil is good enough to use, why not make it sharper?" Towns said. "We can still do a lot of things to improve your game and make it even a more valuable part and asset to your game. That's my thing. I just want to make sure I continue growing and doing new things, but also, like I said, make the pencil sharper."

It's not as if the pencil was dull to begin with, which is why the fact that UK played its first close game after Camp Cal might concern some. Once again, Calipari isn't buying in. He just wants to make sure the new focus doesn't detract from what has made UK so dominant.

"My thing was not 'it's not broke, don't fix it,' " Calipari said. "It was did they focus more on what we were trying to teach them individually and got away from the energy that they need to play with? I'm going to talk about it today. But I'm still -- I'm telling them, 'I'm counting on you to bring energy.' "

If nothing else, Ole Miss proved the Wildcats don't have any choice but to bring energy if they want to keep that unblemished record much longer.

"It was definitely a wake-up call for all of us, I think," Trey Lyles said. "They're going to come out and play that much harder against us. It's SEC play now, very physical. I'd say it was the most physical game we played so far this year and we're going to get every team's best shot so we just have to be prepared for it."

That "everybody's Super Bowl" thing goes to another level on the road, too, and that's exactly where UK will go this weekend against the Aggies. Fortunately for the Cats, they have some experience to call on from their win at Louisville on Dec. 27.

"I learned we really just have to come out with energy," Towns said. "No matter where we are, we have to take control of the game from the get. If we can do that we can have a lot easier time during the game. If we allow the opponent to be the aggressor, it can be a rough night for us."

A&M dropped its SEC opener against Alabama, 65-44, but did so without leading scorer and rebounder Jalen Jones, who missed the game due to a sprained ankle suffered Jan. 3. Second-leading scorer Danuel House was also limited to 21 minutes after picking up two early fouls.

"They're great at pick-and-rolls," Calipari said. "They've got players at every position that can score. They're playing a pack-line defense, man-to-man. They'll also play a tandem zone like all these teams are now playing us. So, they're going to come in with one thought: Let's slow these guys down. They'll run offense. They'll shoot it quick when they get into transition, but they're going to make us play in the half court. They're a good team."

UK will have to respond, and there's only one way to do it.

"It's all effort and energy, but these guys are young," Calipari said. "What we're asking them to do is really hard. They'd rather not do it. They'd rather do it their way: Let me jog and stand straight up and shoot a fade away. You just can't win playing that way."

Marrow's decision to stay all about relationships

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Vince Marrow signed a contract extension through 2018 to stay at UK. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Vince Marrow signed a contract extension through 2018 to stay at UK. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The offer was tough to pass up.

Jim Harbaugh, one of the most respected coaches in the game, was returning to his alma mater, Michigan, to resurrect the winningest program in college football history. So when Harbaugh called Vince Marrow to offer him a job, Marrow had to listen.

Marrow, however, just couldn't leave what he was helping to build at Kentucky. More importantly, he just couldn't leave the people he was building with.

"Michigan, being a Midwest guy and being from Ohio, it was very tempting," Marrow said on Wednesday, "but it was just my relationship here with the administration and our staff and even the kids that I have coming in this year and the kids that I have recruited the last two years played a big part of that."

On Monday, Marrow signed a contract extension that will keep him at UK through the end of the 2018 season as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. The news ended a week of speculation about whether Marrow would stay or leave.

"The last three days I couldn't really go anywhere without people saying things to me," Marrow said. "We were in church and the guy doing the offering said something, that is how deep it got. Relationships played a big part to just be honest with you guys."

Building relationships is the biggest reason why Marrow has developed a reputation as an ace recruiter, establishing a pipeline to Ohio and reeling in 14 prospects in UK's 2013 and 2014 signing classes. As for the 2015 recruits who have already pledged to come to Kentucky, even they were a little surprised he told Michigan thanks but no thanks after sleepless nights last weekend.

"I know that a lot of our recruits were very fired up because for some reason they just assumed I was gone," Marrow said. "I told people that it wasn't a slam dunk and a lot of people were saying that it was a slam dunk I was going."

Marrow, at the end of the day, had invested too much in Mark Stoops' vision for the future of UK football to leave even for an opportunity like the one he passed up. And with an athletics department so willing to invest in Marrow, as well as in more than $150 million in ongoing facility upgrades, he sees that vision become reality.

"It shows that our athletics director, Mitch (Barnhart), the route he is going, our administration and it shows were the program is going and I believe in that wholeheartedly," Marrow said. "You look at the stadium renovations and just at the type of support that we have been getting over the last two years here. That always plays a big part in it."

His decision made, Marrow's attention goes back to recruiting. He played a crucial role in securing classes ranked 17th and 29th by Rivals.com in the past two seasons, the two best classes in the history of the recruiting service. Marrow expects similar success come signing day in February.

"We are going to finish strong just like we did the last two years," Marrow said. "We have a couple more slots that we have to fill and it is just a situation where I know with me staying here a lot of those guys were very fired up to see that. We will see where we are going to finish, but I feel pretty good about it though. It is going to be pretty good."

Video: Coach Cal on UK's trip to Texas A&M

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  • CHRIS OSEDO: I love the job Coach Call is doing in UK. I hope my son comes there soon. read more
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