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UK has a couple extra days to prepare this week with the Wildcats' game at Missouri not until Thursday night. John Calipari joined the Southeastern Conference Coaches' Teleconference on Monday to talk about the matchup, as well rule changes he would implement to improve college basketball, Devin Booker -- named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third straight time this week -- and other topics. Read it all below.

Coach Cal

On this week's games against Missouri and Alabama ...
"You talk about what Kim's (Anderson) doing to have Arkansas come down some free throws and shots at the end. The job he's doing with his new team and pretty young team is amazing. And I think Alabama, we all know how they play, how hard they play. Their zone and how they space you out. They had a rivalry game, they've had sellouts and they win that game against Auburn, which is a huge win, especially in the state. But not just in the state, in our league, as teams start to maneuver for position. But I think both programs, again, what bothers you in our league is there will be another league where a team will lose to one of the teams that's struggling in their league, 'But it's just a tough place.' Or a win at the buzzer and, 'Yeah, it's just a tough place to play.' And then in our league it's just a different ending. And I think we've gotta all- very coach and any media that's watching's gotta stop it. This league top to bottom right now, you can lose any road game. It doesn't mean you're not a good team. You have ranked teams in other leagues lose on the road or get right down to the wire against teams that should not have beat them and did or made the games close and it just shows the parity of the leagues. We've gotta be the same. This league right now is solid. Just because we're really good doesn't mean the league's not good. It's the opposite. I just heard Johnny (Jones) talking about Vandy. Vandy's really good, and yeah they gotta make shots to do it because of they play, but they do. They do make shots and make you guard them all the way to the shot clock. And if you don't and you make and error or you don't sprint back, they're making a 3. And as soon as they win a couple of these close games, you're going to see Vandy go on a run of games. That tells you how good this league is."

On UK taking it to another level after the two overtime wins ...
"Well, I went back a full platoon for a minute when we had 10 guys and Dom's (Hawkins) been injured. He didn't practice last week for a couple days so he didn't get in the rotation. But we got kind of back to what we were. But let me say this: A&M didn't have their best player. They didn't have their best player when we played them. Billy (Kennedy), it's amazing the job he's doing and it's kind of getting overlooked. But the guy, he's got really good players who make plays, he's coaching his brains out, it's another team that's doing it. Now, my team, again, we're an energy team. If we come out and the other team is more excited about playing than we are, you're going to have a close game or we're going to lose or it's going to go to overtime. So you gotta make that other team match our energy. Not the other way around. And you gotta go through that. I love the fact that the games are close. I love the fact that one game we needed freshmen to step up and make plays, the next game we needed our vets. And I say vets. Our 19-year-old vets. But they had to come up and make plays and that's how this has been all year for us."

On if being every team's Super Bowl can drain his team ...

"How about it drains the coach? You walk in every gym and they have all the same colored t-shirts and it's filled to the top of the building and the students are there at 1 o'clock. Let me just say, it's, you can look at it as a situation where this is ridiculous, or you can look at it as more of an honor. Let's go in there and let's prove that it was worth them all coming here. I talk about it all the time with our team. We're trying, and it's what I do every year, how do I keep these guys fresh mentally, how do I keep them fresh physically, yet continue to improve. That's the balls we juggle here. There's not one game we will walk into where that other team's not ready. There's not one game we will walk into where that other team is not going to make their best and make shots they never make. Unless, we come out and play, you're getting beat. It is draining, but it's more of an honor than anything else.

"I think as kids come to Kentucky, they understand it's not for everybody. If you're not ready to be in the Super Bowl every night you play, being in one, being in that ready to go. If you want to be the only guy shooting balls, you're not coming here. If you want to be the face of the program, you have to be the center - you don't come here. If you think this is going to be easy, just let me play, don't coach me, you can't come here. I think through the recruiting process they get it, but they don't realize until we start playing games that it's even worse than what he said."

On what rule he would change in college basketball if he could change one ...

"I like what he (Jay Bilas) is saying with the shot clock, put it at 30 seconds or lower. That wouldn't bother me. Our teams are shooting at every 19 seconds. Last game, what we did is, my teams historically, if it's time to grind it out, we finish people off then. That's historically if you look back. Sometimes I do it earlier in the game. I mean, we played Kansas in the championship game. I did it with 17 minutes left in the half we started grinding it. Coach (Joe B.) Hall said, 'Why'd you do that?' I said, "Because I'm trying to win the game. What are you talking about?' So we'll use the rules the way they are, but most cases we're going to shoot it inside of 20 seconds anyway. I think that would be good.

"But I also think if you want to make the college game better, one, you start playing exhibition games - real exhibition games, play two of them. If it's during the school term, early, do it on weekends. Play whoever you want. Get with that other coach if you want to play your starters half the game and the other guys half the game. You do like the NBA does and you play exhibition games.

"Second thing is, I think you use the summer. College basketball should own August. Should own it. I figured it out last year when we went to the Bahamas and got that television coverage. Well, then why don't we have like football, and spring football? Why don't we have 10-12 days of practice in the summer where you can play exhibition games? Teams from Europe can come and play you, or if you want to take a trip, you have time to go take a trip and go do what we did in the Bahamas. And I think that's some different things I would roll with that, again, I just like to use the term common sense. 'Well, we've never done that.' I know. I know you haven't done it. We're always looking to, what's next? How do we improve this? What can we do? That Bahamas trip we took was huge for this team. Why should we have an advantage? If you don't choose to take a trip, practice 10-12 days. Now, you're not going to kill your kids, but, you know, hey, I don't want to fall behind because this, that's all, every year, you want to take a foreign trip two out of every four years, do it, but every year you should be able to practice 10 days and if a foreign team wants to come over - Greece wants to come over - to play 12 of our teams, why not? Let them come over and play. Televise them. Who cares? So, I think those are things that we can do that don't change what we're trying to do, just continue to grow our sport."

On what else he wants to see from Devin Booker that he isn't currently seeing ...

"I want to see him attack the basket better. Right now, when he attacks the basket, he doesn't avoid people. He's still flailing a little bit. I don't want him to just be a catch and shoot player. I want him to be an offensive threat.

"I'm telling you, you all can talk about what he's doing offensively. I saw his dad after the South Carolina game and I said to Melvin, 'Look, I never thought he would defend this way. Do you remember me coming and watching you and your friends - 45-year olds - playing against your son? He couldn't guard anybody in that game.' Now all of a sudden, he's guarding. His dad laughed and said, 'You were there, you saw it.' I said yeah, I never thought he'd guard like this.' So, aside from where he's growing offensively, early in the year remember I made him get shots off quick. You can't wind it up, it's not high school. The guy guarding you is not 5-7. He missed a lot of shots early if you remember, but then it caught up. Now he gets it and it's a wing, man. He gets it, it's off.

"The second part of that now is, how do we make him aggressive? If you saw Aaron (Harrison) last game, we're on Aaron for the same thing. Don't settle, man. Take that thing to the rim. I'm not telling you not to shoot 3s, but attack that basket. Get to the foul line, put them in jeopardy. So, we're doing different things to try to get him to that best version of himself."

Missouri head coach Kim Anderson

On how he will prepare his team for UK after being blown out Rupp Arena ...
"We really--when that game ended we obviously addressed it, but we didn't prolong our discussion on it. I think that Kentucky is the best team in the country. They have so many weapons. They're extremely well-coached. They just don't have a whole lot of weaknesses and for us I think the thing that I'm going to try to talk to our guys about is, 'Hey, this is an opportunity to play the best.' And they are coming to Columbia, so I know we'll have a good crowd. We're going to prepare kind of like we would any other game. I just hope we prepare better, we perform better than we did in Lexington. When we went to Lexington, I thought it was a great environment. I thought Coach Calipari obviously had them ready to play. They were coming off a couple of close games and they responded extremely well. We're excited about the opportunity to play and tough loss on Saturday. So we're looking forward to getting back on the practice floor and getting ready to play the best team in the country."

On how they will attack Kentucky's defense differently ...
"Well, we've changed some things since then. I really think the thing that bothers you so much with Kentucky - and we all do this - they just do such a great job on their ball-screen defense because they're so long. They can switch, they're quick, they can switch. If they mess up, they have the advantage of having the guy at the basket to swat the basketball. I think we have to do a better job of executing. When we went to Lexington, I thought we got kind of in a scramble mode and didn't play with the precision that we need to play. Now it's hard to play with precision against them, but I think you do have to do a better job of whatever it is we decide to run, of executing and making harder cuts. I think they force you to play at a little bit quicker speed sometimes and that's something that we responded pretty well against Arkansas. So hopefully there will be some sort of carryover."

On the role UK's perimeter players play in the defense ...
"I think their whole team's pretty good. Perimeter, front line, whatever you want to call them. I think their perimeter guys do a great job of guarding the basketball. The advantage that they have, the comfort level that I think they probably have - at least what I would have - is they know that they can be aggressive on the ball and they know that if a guy does get by them that they do have a lot of help in the back. And that makes it easier to put more heat on them, to put more heat on your opponent. But I think all those guys do--they're giving up 50 points a game. That's phenomenal when you think about that. Their opponents are shooting 32 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3. They've shot almost 200 more free throws than their opponents. Their defense has been phenomenal. In all their games, they've shown the ability to be able to guard the ball pretty well."

On the play of Kentucky guard Devin Booker ...

"He's playing way too good. He's playing really well. I coached his dad, I was an assistant when Melvin was here and certainly Melvin was a great player and a great individual to coach. I don't know Devin. I know we recruited him here last year, but he's certainly an outstanding player. He's really been a key for them. He's shooting the ball well and for a freshman he's really mature. If you think about it, he's shooting 50 percent from 3. That's pretty salty. The only thing I hope, is I hope Melvin is here Thursday so I get an opportunity to say hello, but Devin has done a great job."

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant

On Kentucky's guard play ...
"I thought they really have great balance on the inside and out. They have great depth, great size and physicality. They shot the ball really, really well in our game. They have an excellent team."

On if Kentucky's guards stand out from other teams' guards in any way ...
"They're really good. I don't really know how to compare them to other teams. They have great balance, they complement each other. They play really well together with the rotation that he (Coach Cal) puts in. They complement each other well."

Get to know UK softball's Breanne Ray

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Breanne Ray.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

Sophomore outfielder/infielder Breanne "Buzz" Ray played in 25 games in 2014, gaining valuable time in the batter's box to help adjust to college softball. Ray made the most of her lone start of the season, blasting a home run over the wall in rightfield against Mississippi Valley State. Ray totaled three RBI on the year and drew four walks.

The native of Benton, Ky., saw time in the outfield this fall and showed improvement. Ray was an offensive star at Marshall County High School in Western Kentucky, totaling a .472 batting average her senior season and .512 mark her junior year. An all-state honoree in 2013, Ray played in the Kentucky East/West All-Star Game her junior and senior seasons.

Ray has been a model student-athlete since arriving on campus, being named to the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll with a planned major in human health science.

Come see Breanne and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at  

To help you get to know Breanne better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

What is your nickname? Buzz has basically turned into my real name. In fact, Coach Lawson didn't know what my actual name was the entire time I was getting recruited.

Do you have any pets? I have a precious little puppy named Rupp. Our family revolves around UK if you can't tell.

What is your shoe size? I wear a 9, which I thought was pretty big until I got on the team and realized some people wear Ronald McDonald shoes.

How many shoes do you own? Entirely too many for a girl who only wears tennis shoes ...

Can you solve a rubix cube? Absolutely not!

Why did you choose to play softball at Kentucky? It has been my dream ever since I was a little girl to be able to wear a Wildcat uniform and represent my home state by doing what I love the most.

When was the last time you were moved to tears?
When we finished the running test for the last time this year ... That thing was no joke.

Name the person that has most influenced you in life, why?
My Mom is my biggest inspiration. She is by far the most selfless and hard-working person I know. If I could only be half the wonderful person she is, I would definitely be doing something right.

Name three things you like? Cute little old people, anything red velvet and the color purple.

Craziest thing you did this summer? Does jumping off the rock quarry count? Marshall County doesn't have much to offer, y'all.

What is your favorite dessert? I have a weakness for chocolate cookie truffles.

Describe your perfect sandwich... I'm convinced there's nothing better than a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. But you have to make sure that the bacon is extra crispy and the bread is toasted until it's almost burnt.

Best dancer on the team is... If you're needing someone to show you her signature move, Maisie is definitely your girl.

What is your worst fear? Pulling out all of my eyelashes when I'm using an eyelash curler ... Seriously, how terrible would that be!

What artist gets the most play on your iPod right now?
Sam Hunt stays on repeat.

What song gets you pumped up for a game?
I think I'm probably the only softball player in the world that listens to lovey dovey country music before a game.

Favorite saying or quote you like to live by? I believe that if everyone had the mindset mentioned in Matthew 5:38-48, the world would be a much better place.

Do you collect anything? I like to save my tickets from everywhere I go. It's always cool to look back and see what movies you've been to or games you've been to in the past.

How may text messages do you receive on average a day? I can always count on at least one from my Mom.

How did you get your name? My first name is actually Roni, which is my grandpa's name. I wish I had some cool story for how I got the nickname Buzz, but to be honest there is no reason behind it. Everyone has just called me that since I was a baby.

Get to know UK softball's Shannon Smith

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Shannon Smith.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

Sophomore pitcher Shannon Smith showed her potential last season by earning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors after picking up her first career save against nationally ranked Texas A&M. Head Coach Rachel Lawson and Co. will look for more of the same in 2015 with a challenging schedule ahead.

Smith ended her first collegiate season with 13 appearances and seven starts, striking out 45 batters in 40.2 innings pitched. The native of Milford, Mass., had a 2.93 ERA and opponents hit just .214 against her. The best game of her season came in her first collegiate start, tossing seven scoreless innings against George Washington, including nine strikeouts.

Smith, who was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2014, had a great weekend against Texas A&M last season, throwing 6.1 innings over two games with only two hits allowed and seven strikeouts.

Come see Shannon and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at  

To help you get to know Shannon better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

What is your shoe size? Double hockey sticks, aka 11 ...

What is one thing you could tell us about yourself that others would be shocked to know?
I am afraid of the ocean ...

If you could trade places with Coach Lawson for one day, what would you do?
I would want to see what her house looks like. I would also like to hang out with her cats and then eat her favorite Mexican restaurant with no reservations.

When was the last time you were moved to tears? Laughing about something because I am ALWAYS laughing ...

Person that has most influenced you in life, why?
My sister, Andrea, she is incredibly smart and level headed. She keeps me sane, but also introduced me to the game of softball.

If you had a Derby horse, what would you name it? Sugar of the Sea ... it's a classic!

After softball, what would be your dream job?
A professional chef, but also a physical therapist ...

Name three things you like?
Cooking, sleeping, laughing ...

Craziest thing you did this summer?
Drove all the way to Akron, Ohio (12 hours) to get rained out and drive back. Team bonding for real ...

Where is your favorite place on Earth? I think I would need to see the entire Earth to accurately answer this question.

Describe your perfect sandwich ... One that has a proper ratio of meat to cheese, 2.5:1, lettuce, tomato, and potentially a dressing for added moisture ... Also the bread needs to be soft and fresh with a crust that is not to crispy.

What is your most memorable moment as a softball player so far? Going to the World Series, DREAMS COME TRUE!

Funniest player on the team and why? Kelsey because she says whatever comes to her mind, and her accent just adds to it.

The most famous person you've ever met is...
Jenny Finch

What artist gets the most play on your iPod right now? Nicki Minaj ... Her new album is full of jams

Favorite saying or quote you like to live by: "Follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose." -Oprah

Do you collect anything? Every birthday card I've ever received!

Who is your favorite professor at UK and why?
Conrad Davies, he got to know every student individually, which was really cool.

What three things do you think of most each day? The people I love, what my plans are, what I am going to eat next.

How did you get your name? My mom chose my sister's name, so my dad got to choose mine!

Devin Booker scored 18 points in UK's 58-43 win over South Carolina on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Devin Booker scored 18 points in UK's 58-43 win over South Carolina on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It reads like a recipe for road defeat in the Southeastern Conference.

Not only did Kentucky manage just three offensive rebounds - nearly 12 below its season average - the Wildcats also went more than 10 minutes in the second half without a made field goal.

Unbeaten season over, right? Wrong.

The way UK was defending at South Carolina on Saturday, it was going to take more than that for the Cats to suffer their first loss.

"It was pretty good," John Calipari said of his team's second-half defense.

UK, only furthering its record-setting defensive pace, held South Carolina to 4-of-23 shooting after halftime. The Gamecocks didn't hit a shot until the 15:12 mark of the second half, meaning they had a field-goal drought of more than nine minutes going back to the first half. Before the game ended with a 58-43 win for No. 1 UK (19-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference), South Carolina (10-8, 1-5 SEC) would also have droughts of 6:16 and 5:55.

Incredible as it may be, it makes sense then that the Cats actually outscored South Carolina by a point during their more than 10 minutes without a field goal thanks to 11 made free throws in 12 attempts.

"Well, they were playing rough ball, you know fouling a lot, so we were just trying to get into the offense," Tyler Ulis said. "It was kinda hard to get into a flow with all the fouls called, but I feel like we executed well, we just were at the line more than we usually are."

Thanks to all those fouls and the lack of second chances, UK attempted only four field goals during the drought, suggesting the Cats weren't actually all that inefficient on offense anyway.

"We end up shooting 46 percent and the greatest thing for me is we had eight turnovers," Calipari said. "That's probably a couple less than I'd like, but it just shows you that we're a team that can play. You can play us physical and we can still do the stuff we're trying to do."

Devin Booker certainly wasn't affected negatively by the physical play.

The freshman guard continued his shooting surge of the last month and a half with two made 3s, but matched it with a burgeoning off-the-bounce game. He scored a game-high 18 points and needed only 26 minutes and nine shots to do it.

"I think me going on this little streak opened it up, 'cause now teams know they have to play closer to me," Booker said. "So I use a head-fake and one or two dribbles and get other people involved."

Booker has a ways to go to match Ulis, his classmate and close friend, in involving teammates. Ulis scored only six points, but had six assists and no turnovers.

With the two freshmen playing well in Colonial Life Arena, a place where UK famously lost in both 2010 and 2014, they're showing no signs of trouble dealing with the rigors of facing big road crowds in SEC play.

"I feel like we're both confident in our games and we just come here and take it like another game," Ulis said. "We love the crowd's reaction to us, the boos and stuff like that, so it's really not a lot of pressure on us. We just come out to play."

As good as Ulis and Booker were offensively, the story remains Kentucky's defense, as has been the case for really the entire season. UK had nine blocks as a team - four by Marcus Lee - and eight steals, holding the Gamecocks to a paltry 0.741 points per possession. In doing so, the Cats lowered their season average to 0.772 points per possession allowed, best in the nation and in the 14 seasons has tracked the statistic.

"It just goes with our team concept -- shutting teams out -- and that's what we try to do," Booker said.

UK surely won't ever pitch a shutout, though there are times it doesn't seem impossible, but that won't stop the Cats from trying. That's why Coach Cal had to issue a mea culpa to his team for a late-game coaching decision.

Around the 13-minute mark of the first half, Coach Cal opted to use a 2-3 zone for the first time during meaningful minutes this season. UK played well in it, but Aaron Harrison - who scored 13 points - committed a foul with seconds left on the shot clock.

A little more than six minutes later, heeding counsel from an unnamed assistant, he went back to it with South Carolina in the midst of one of its long field-goal droughts. Justin McKie promptly made the Cats pay from outside.

"They made a 3 and I apologized to the team," Calipari said.

The apology came because Kentucky has spent months establishing its identity as a team that suffocates opponents with a man-to-man defense, not changing based on a scouting report or an opponent's personnel.

"That's not what we do here," Calipari said.

Calipari already knew that, but Saturday served to reinforce it.

Get to know UK softball's Stephanie Martino

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Stephanie Martino.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

Although she did not see game action last spring, infielder/outfielder Stephanie Martino was a vital part of UK's 2014 success, traveling to nearly all road games and severing as the ultimate teammate.

A native of Glen Gardner, N.J., Martino played in five games last fall, seeing time mostly at second base and recording an RBI. Martino was a star player for Voorhees Regional High School, posting a career batting average of .436 as a four-year starter at third base. Martino helped lead her team to the 2011 and 2012 divisional championship and earned all-county first-team, all-conference first-team and Defensive MVP honors two years in a row.

Martino was an honor student in high school and was very active in her community, earning Bronze Level Community Service recognition after volunteering over 100 hours at the Hunterdon Healthcare Physical Therapy Center.  

Come see Stephanie and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at  

To help you get to know Stephanie better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

Do you have any pets? At the moment, I have three cats back home, but in my lifetime I have had a total of 10, which is still not as many as Coach Lawson currently has.

What talents do you have besides softball?
I'm so good with a bow they should have cast me in the Hunger Games.

If you could trade places with Coach Lawson for one day, what would you do? I would go the whole day without yelling at myself.

Person that has most influenced you in life, why?
The person who has most influenced my life is my Nonnie. She has been more than a grandmother and has taught me that family is not just blood. God puts certain people in our lives for a reason. Thanks, Non!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? I would like to master riding my bike. Not just for myself, but for the safety of all others on campus!

After softball, what would be your dream job?
I want to become a physical therapist.

What is your guilty pleasure? I like to play The Sims.

You are a closet _______ fan.
I'm a closet Brett Gardner fan ... but everyone knows about it.

What is your favorite dessert?
Vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles ...

Describe your perfect sandwich.
Ham, cheese, toasted bread and a LOT of hot sauce ...

What is your most memorable moment as softball player so far? Going to the WCWS!

Favorite actor/actress? Mathew McConaughey ... Alright, alright, alright!

The most famous person you've ever met is...
Michele Smith, we went to the same high school!

Most famous person in your cell phone? Coach Lawson.

What artist gets the most play on your iPod right now?  Luke Bryan

Favorite saying or quote you like to live by: Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars.

How do you like your eggs?  An omelet with feta cheese, ham, spinach, and hot sauce ...

Do you collect anything? Mason jars

Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous? My Dad's cousin, Steven Martino, was the lead cameraman for the movie Jurassic Park ...  

How did you get your name? Once upon a time, on a sunny day at the Jersey shore, when my parents were brainstorming baby names ... A big yacht came into the marina across the bay. The name of the boat was the 'Miss Stephanie' and well the rest is history!

UK looking to rediscover energy after bye week

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Matthew Mitchell didn't even need to get back to the Bluegrass to come up with a plan.

Within a couple hours of Kentucky's loss at LSU on Sunday, he had a clear picture of how to move forward. He wasted no time passing it along to his team.

"Before they left the airport after Baton Rouge, we really talked about what the week was going to look like," Mitchell said.

With an open date on Thursday ahead of a Sunday trip to face Missouri (11-8, 1-5 Southeastern Conference), the No. 14 Wildcats (15-4, 4-2 SEC) took an off day on Monday to regroup. Returning to practice early on Tuesday morning, they were challenged physically in the wake of a disappointing performance.

"We showed them on film where just the energy level and the approach to the game did not indicate how important one of these opportunities," Mitchell said. "You only get 16, and we didn't look like it was a very precious opportunity. We just tried to do some soul searching this week and figure out what we are going to do."

The soul searching is all targeted at addressing one core issue.

"Well, there is no in between with our team; it is truly a feast or famine proposition," Mitchell said. "When the energy is not there, we have no chance to make up for some of the mistakes that we are just going to make right now."

The mistakes, oftentimes, come from UK's talented but young frontcourt. Freshmen Alexis Jennings, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Alyssa Rice have all had their moments, but defensive lapses have been inevitable. Searching for an explanation, Mitchell is certain of one thing.

"I'm there with them and it's not physical in my mind," Mitchell said. "They are capable of everything that they need to do and I cannot place my finger on it. My suspicion is or my guess is that they don't trust their ability to play the way I'm asking them to play."

That's not altogether surprising. Playing in UK's fast-paced, high-pressure system isn't easy, especially not for young post players who have never been asked to do what Mitchell is now demanding of them.

"It's just uncomfortable," Mitchell said, "and I don't think any of them want to get beat and that's just the process you have to go through to play here is the understanding that you have to play hard enough and you've gotta accept that people are going to go by you some and your teammates are going to pick you up, taking a charge or forcing the ball out or forcing one more pass, whatever our rotation is able to produce."

Not making things any easier has been Bria Goss' month-long absence and a season-ending injury to Janee Thompson. UK's depth and margin for error have suffered as a result, but the Cats aren't about to make any excuses.

"The situation exists as it exists right now and there is no changing the circumstances," Mitchell said. "The only thing we can change right now is how we are going to deal with these circumstances, what are our actions going to be."

To that end, Mitchell is undertaking a balancing act. On one hand, he has no choice but to accept mistakes. On the other, he has to correct them as they happen.

"It is a fight every day," Mitchell said. "We have a very good group of young players and we just have to coach them up and they have to play hard. We have tried to address who we are going to be and what kind of effort are we going to give on Sunday and that is really what we are focused in on right now. We are going to have to give a really good effort on Sunday to win."

Missouri may have lost six of seven games, but Mitchell has seen a team that could give the Cats fits if they aren't prepared.

"They are a team where their strengths will definitely stretch our defense and we have been working hard this week to make some headway in the area of our defense," Mitchell said. "We will sure get some sort of indication of how we have done this week because they will test us in every way possible."

Get to know UK softball's Haley Andrus

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Haley Andrus.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

After the graduation of several infielders off Kentucky's 2014 Women's College World Series team, utility infielder Haley Andrus is a welcome addition to the 2015 roster as a true freshman. Andrus can play third and second base and did so in the fall while adjusting to college softball. In seven fall games played, Andrus scored one run and had an RBI.

The native of Chattanooga, Tenn., brings championship experience to Lexington as a three-year state champion at Baylor High School. A six-year letterwinner, Andrus ended her high school career with a .478 batting average, adding 30 home runs, 59 doubles, 196 RBI, 215 hits and a .795 slugging percentage. Her strong high school career led to Andrus being a three-time Chattanooga Times Free Press Best of Prep selection, while also earning all-state honors each of the last three seasons.

Andrus, who also played travel ball with the Tennessee Fury '95, was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school.

Come see Haley and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at  

To help you get to know Haley better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

Do you have any pets? I have a French bulldog named Minnie.

Why did you choose to play softball at Kentucky? I chose Kentucky because when I came on my visit the team made me feel welcome and I like the family atmosphere.

If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create? I would bread a pig and a goat.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? I would learn how to sing and play guitar.

You are a closet _______ fan ... Eric Church

Name three things you like? Food, country music and sports ...

Name three things you dislike? Bugs, hair and rain ...

What is your favorite dessert? Cherry cheesecake

Favorite all-time movie?
The Rookie  

Favorite actor/actress? Hugh Jackman

 The most famous person you've ever met is... Chipper Jones or Miley Cyrus

What is your shoe size? My shoe size is a 9 ½.

What is your worst fear? Spiders

What artist gets the most play on your iPod right now? Eric Church

If you were famous would you rather have a statue or a building named after you? I would rather have a building named after me ...

Do you collect anything? I collect all of the concert tickets that I go to.

What trip would you like to take in your lifetime? The trip that I would like to take in my lifetime would be to go to Hawaii.

What do you typically have for breakfast?
I typically have a pastry or some cereal.

Describe your perfect sandwich ...
My perfect sandwich would be peanut butter with grape jelly on wheat bread with the crust cut off.

What is one TV show you cannot miss?
American Idol

Saturday, the Kentucky swimming and diving team will honor its 12 seniors before the Wildcats take on in-state rival Louisville.

The Kentucky-Louisville rivalry already packs plenty of emotion and significance. No matter the sport, it's the one opponent on every UK team's schedule that you don't need help getting excited for.  Add in Senior Day, and it makes for an even bigger meet Saturday at the Lancaster Aquatics Center. Not to mention the postseason begins in less than a month.

Saturday is the last home meet for the 12 seniors. For Christina Bechtel, Christa Cabot, Michael Christian, Brent Dillon, Katrina Keirns, Lindsay Keahey, Blair Kuethe, Abby Myers, Robert Resch, Samantha Shaheen, Derrick Smith and Kristen Wilson, UK vs. U of L is one last time competing in the Lancaster Aquatics Center.

Hours upon hours in the pool for practice. Lap after lap, with a coaching change halfway through their four years.

Lars Jorgensen arrived in Lexington as an assistant coach for the 2012-13 season, and took over as the head coach the following season. As Jorgensen prepares to take the Wildcats into the postseason for the second time and continues to build the program, the impact of this year's senior class cannot be overstated.

"They've been awesome; it's really been tremendous," Jorgensen said of the 12 seniors. "I've been fortunate to have worked with them for three years now, one year as an assistant. Watching them grow as people and as athletes has been a lot of fun. I've loved coaching them. They're great."

It's a group of All-Americans and walk-ons, from as close as Lexington to as far away as Texas and Ontario, Canada. Their shared goal and aspiration to help bring their team to new heights has made this group of 12 student-athletes a tight-knit group.

They bought into his vision and direction for the program when Jorgensen took over two years ago. As his second season nears its peak, Jorgensen's championship mentality and goals have rubbed off on his team.

From record times in the pool to their leadership outside of it, the seniors are a big reason why Jorgensen has taken the Wildcats so far in just two seasons.

It's the perfect mix of leadership and immense athletic talent for a team that has more freshmen (27) than juniors and seniors combined (21).

"They are good people, good citizens and good athletes," Jorgensen said. "We are going to have some big shoes next year to fill. But I think they have been instrumental in helping shape and help turning around the program. We still have a long way to go, but I think that's one of the things that this class in particular, both the men and women's teams, have done is started the transition on becoming more competitive."

Saturday will be an opportunity to honor the 12 Wildcats that signal the start of that transition that began last year.

While several swimmers have already earned NCAA "A" or "B" qualifying times, the next month, with a meet at Cincinnati next weekend before the SEC Championships in the middle of February, is when the competition really heat up. The Wildcats will have an opportunity to add to their total that have qualified for the NCAA Championships, therefore giving them a better chance at improving on last year's 23rd-place finish by the women and 37th-place showing by the men.

It's the teams' performance at the SEC Championships, held Feb. 17-21 in Auburn, Ala., and the NCAA Championships the following month, that will solidify the legacy of this year's senior class.

As Jorgensen continues to build the UK program on a daily basis, the team, led by its seniors, has embraced the change that their head coach has encouraged.

"I think change has got to start somewhere and they have been really good about that," Jorgensen said. "The big thing is creating a culture of expectations both in practice and meets and they've done that. They have been really instrumental in turning our program around. I hope we do hang some banners in the future, and would look back and say this year's seniors had a big impact."

The legacy of the 2014-15 senior class 10 years from now might be unknown, but all signs point to one that leaves a lasting impact on their team and university.

Andrew Harrison and Kentucky travel to face South Carolina on Saturday. (Bob Leverone, UK Athletics) Andrew Harrison and Kentucky travel to face South Carolina on Saturday. (Bob Leverone, UK Athletics)
How things have changed.

In early March of last year, Kentucky had suffered back-to-back losses and sat at 21-8. The second of the two was the most disappointing of the season, as the Wildcats fell behind by as many as 16 points en route to a 72-67 loss at South Carolina.

"I remember we lost," Andrew Harrison said. "It was tough. They were a very good team last year, but we didn't play as well as we should have."

The other Harrison twin, Aaron, would of course say after the loss that the remainder of the season would be "a great story," a promise that drew skepticism at the time only to prove prophetic.

Eleven months later, UK has lost just three games in 29 tries, two to top-ranked Florida and one in the national championship. The Cats, after falling just shy of the title, were back as the preseason No. 1 for 2014-15 and haven't lost since, running their record to 18-0 and reigniting the unbeaten talk that started the previous season.

Now they return to Columbia, S.C. But as much as things have changed, one thing remains the same.

"If we go down there and play like we did last year we'll lose again," Andrew Harrison said.

Last season, in spite of a 14-20 record, South Carolina was able to point to that late-season win over Kentucky as proof the Gamecocks were improving under Frank Martin. In his third season, South Carolina (10-7, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) is offering further proof ahead of Saturday's noon matchup with the Cats (18-0, 5-0 SEC).

"They take on Frank's personality," John Calipari said. "They're balling."

South Carolina has gotten off to a slow start in conference play, dropping four games and three by four points or fewer, but the Gamecocks still check in at No. 48 in's ratings, up almost 70 spots from a season ago. They have wins over Oklahoma State (by 26 points) and Iowa State from the powerhouse Big 12 on the strength of a defense that ranks 22nd nationally in points per possession allowed (0.906).

"They come right at you," Calipari said. "If you drive, you've got three guys running. As you run at them, they run at you. Frank, the one thing I've got to tell you as I watch his team - it's a great concept - they'll pressure you all over the place and deny wings."

The Gamecocks excel at contesting shots and forcing miscues, ranking in the top 40 nationally in both effective field-goal percentage defense and defensive turnover percentage. The Cats will have to respond.

"Got to be strong with the ball," Calipari said. "Got to play through bumps. You got to know that they're coming and find open men."

That's where having two of the nation's top point guards on one roster comes in handy.

UK's two-headed lead guard monster of Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis has combined to average 13 points and 7.7 assists. Both the 6-foot-6 sophomore and 5-9 freshman have had bright moments and a handful of off nights, but it's been Andrew Harrison who has more often drawn criticism.

"When it rains in Lexington, whose fault is it?" Calipari said. "Andrew's fault. There was a car accident on 75, whose fault is it? Andrew's fault. So that's just how it is right now and he has accepted it."

Not only has Andrew Harrison accepted that fact, he also takes joy in deflecting scrutiny away from his freshman teammates.

"I can take whatever anyone throws at me now," Andrew Harrison said. "I know whatever is said doesn't really matter. I've heard it all. I'm just starting to get my confidence back, and just knowing I'm the starting point guard or whatever and I can play just as well as anybody."

Andrew Harrison may be the starter, but that hasn't stopped Ulis from playing nearly 21 minutes per game, a total that's gone up in recent weeks with Calipari more often using them together. Among Coach Cal's many options, a favorite lineup of the two point guards, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson has emerged as a possibility for close-and-late situations.

"It puts two playmakers on the court with me and Andrew," Ulis said. "Then he can play-make it to the basket. It allows him to score more because I like to pass. And you know Book with his shooting ability, and us getting in the lane and finding him, it should be hard to stop us."

South Carolina will try nonetheless, surely confident from what happened not long ago.

"You just have to play your game," Andrew Harrison said. "You can't really worry about last year. Last year was last year. Now we have to go in there for another tough game against South Carolina."

Get to know UK softball's Rachael Metzger

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Rachael Metzger.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

One of two Californians on the team this season, Rachael Metzger showed great promise during the fall with two home runs and spelled senior catcher Griffin Joiner behind the plate. Metzger hit a home run in her first game during fall play and showed her versatility in eight games played by seeing time at first base, third base and catcher.

Metzger was a standout performer in high school for Garces Memorial High School, ending her career with a .545 batting average, 186 hits, 163 runs scored, 170 RBI, 38 doubles, 37 homers and struck out only 18 times, a ridiculously low total. Metzger has that winning mentality after leading her high school team to four straight California Central Section Division II SEYL League Championships.

On top of being a four-year, first-team all-league honoree and league offensive player of the year, Metzger also excelled in the classroom as the 2014 Bakersfield Jockey Club Outstanding Scholar-Athlete and GMHS Dante Alighieri Scholar-Athlete. Metzger was also active off the softball field, volunteering with special needs children and the homeless.

Come see Rachael and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at  

To help you get to know Rachael better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

What is your nickname?
My nickname on the team is Metz because if someone calls for Rachael, me and Coach Lawson both turn our heads to respond.

Do you have pets? I have a cat from France and he looks like he is wearing a tuxedo.

What is your shoe size? I wear a size 11. Big foot!

What is your favorite word? My favorite word is la mantequilla de cacahuete, which is Spanish for peanut butter. Try saying that five times fast!

What talents do you have besides softball? I have some artistic talent. I love to draw when I have time.

What is one thing you could tell us about yourself that others would be shocked to know? Before I started playing softball, I took tap dance and gymnastics lessons and quit because I complained about sweating too much.

Why did you choose to play softball at Kentucky? I love the family environment that Kentucky softball showed while I was visiting and I loved the coaching staff.

If you could trade places with Coach Lawson for one day, what would you do? No running test. Ever.

When was the last time you were moved to tears?
When I watched the video about Lauren Hill and how she didn't give up on achieving her dream to play in a college basketball game despite her being very sick. Determination like that is something I greatly admire and I couldn't help but find myself in tears.

What is your biggest accomplishment to date? Being the first in my family to go to college and be able to play the sport I love at a higher level.

If you had a Derby horse, what would you name it? Run Forrest Run

After softball, what would be your dream job? I want to travel the world and play in the Olympics, when they bring it back in 2020, or play international softball. After that, I want to make prosthetic legs/arms that connect to the nervous system for soldiers who have been wounded in battle.

What is your guilty pleasure? New York style cheesecake

Best dancer on the team is ...
I want to say Darington, but I think the team knows the real MVP is Griffin.

Favorite all-time move? Howl's Moving Castle

Favorite actor/actress? Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson

What actor/actress would play in a move? Ali Hillis

The most famous person you've ever met is ... Ali Hillis

How do you like your eggs?
As dry as they can possibly be while still tasting good ...

Do you collect anything?
I use to collect Pokémon cards ... I still have them.

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