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Wildcats dominant in final exhibition vs. Georgetown

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Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks in UK's win over Georgetown College on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks in UK's win over Georgetown College on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
To say Chris Briggs showered Kentucky with praise would be an understatement. It was more like a downpour.

The Wildcats had just dismantled Briggs' Georgetown College team in an exhibition, and he couldn't help but express his wonder.

"We had the same problems that the rest of the country probably will have the rest of this year," Briggs said. "Those guys are unreal. I told the guys in the locker room, they could have beaten some NBA teams tonight, there's no question in my mind."

There were no NBA teams in Rupp Arena on Sunday night, so the Cats had to settle for a 121-52 win over perennial NAIA power Georgetown. UK was every bit as dominant as it was in its first exhibition win over Pikeville, with Aaron Harrison leading seven double-figure scorers with 17 points. Harrison shot 5 of 7 from 3-point range and the Cats 12 of 27 as a team.

The Cats shot 46 of 72 (63.9 percent) from the field and had 32 assists, rendering Georgetown's short-lived 2-0 lead to start game a distant memory. UK's defense stifled the Tigers to the tune of 27.9-percent shooting, nine blocks and nine steals.

"We played really well," Harrison said. "We came out a little slow, but we picked it up and got going. It was fun."

The 21,490 fans in attendance surely agreed, what with the dunk show Willie Cauley-Stein highlighted with a hand-behind-the-head pose for two of his 12 points. Of course, Cauley-Stein channeling Hall of Famer Karl Malone wasn't the last time the NBA would be invoked.

Briggs, even though he felt a little guilty adding fuel to UK's hype machine, even went on to say he had a hard time imagining how the Cats will lose this season. A season removed from 40-0 expectations defining his team before an NCAA Tournament run, John Calipari made sure to distance himself from the talk.

"Coach, did you do that to me?" Calipari said. "So he also said we're going to have 40 wins and win by 25, right? No, this will be a process. We're going to hit some bumps in the road."

Though the ride was smooth on Sunday, the Cats don't need to be told the regular season - which begins on Friday against Grand Canyon - will bring challenges.

"We know that the opponent is a little small and at some point we're going to play against bigger people and bigger size," Dakari Johnson said. "But we do have 12 people that can play at that high level, so I think it's for our benefit."

Few players are benefiting from UK's two-platoon system more than Johnson.

The sophomore had 12 points and 10 rebounds, needing just 17 minutes to tally a double-double. Even though he's in the best shape of his life after adopting a new training regimen and diet in the offseason and his playing time is limited to four-minute spurts, Johnson is still finding ways to tire himself out on the court.

That's the idea.

"He was exhausted in the last time out," Calipari said. "He grabbed his shorts was breathing so hard. I told the guys, 'Look at him, that's what you all should feel like walking off this court.' A friend of mine watched our game last week and said, 'As soon as your guys realize they can play even harder than they're playing it becomes scary. It becomes scary.' "

The platoon system might mean the Cats won't put up the same gaudy individual numbers they otherwise would, but they're having no trouble adjusting to this point.

"Not anybody in the country has as many guys that deserve to play and can play at a high level like us," Johnson said. "It's just--once the other team gets fatigued, it's tough. And once we keep on getting fresh and keep on going in, we can have a lot of fun with it."

They already seem to be having plenty of fun, evidenced by the fact that they spend a bulk of their time on the bench not sitting at all.

"The team, we're just together," Johnson said. "We like to have fun and we just cheer on our teammates. If they make a great play, we're going to let them know that they made a great play. It just feels like--on the court and off the court, we're more together."

That togetherness, Coach Cal says, is why he's comfortable trying something few coaches ever have in using the platoon system.

"I just went on TV and I said the only reason this will work is because the players are allowing it to work," Calipari said. "And that means you've got kids with high character. You have kids who care about one another, that trust each other. Basically trust what we're doing here that we got their back."

That trust will be tested throughout the season, as well as the system Coach Cal is using. He said on Sunday he would evaluate the platoons after 10 or 12 games, stating plainly that the approach is not set in stone.

"They're going to be a game or two we're going to lose and you're going to look at me and say what, and I'm going to say it's about these kids, I'll figure it out, I'm not doing it yet," Calipari said. "And this is going to play out. It may be a tweak. It may be more than that. We'll figure it out."

The players know they have work ahead of them too, but that doesn't mean they're not confident.

"We're just a really good team and a lot of talent," Harrison said. "I think if we continue to work together and play together, I think we can do really well this year."

Stanley Stanley "Boom" Williams rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in UK's 63-31 loss to Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For Mark Stoops, every game, including losses, provides teachable moments.

His custom is to watch video with his staff on Sunday and reconvene with his team on Monday to begin the learning process, no matter what the film shows.

He's considering making an exception after Kentucky's defeat on Saturday.

"I'm not much on throwing things out, but I may have to throw this one out," Stoops said.

It was a 63-31 loss at the hands of Georgia that gave Stoops pause. The Wildcats (5-5, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) didn't force a Bulldog punt all afternoon in allowing 559 yards, only preventing Georgia (7-2, 5-2 SEC) from scoring thanks to a fumbled kickoff and the ends of both halves.

"I don't want to keep on going on and on, but when I say I'm embarrassed, I'm embarrassed," Stoops said, restating for the final time a sentiment that came up often in his postgame press conference. "We didn't play good, and I'll sit here and accept that, and it is what it is."

It all started with the opening kickoff, taken 90 yards for the first of two return touchdowns by Georgia's Isaiah McKenzie.

"That's just kind of how the day went," Stoops said. "It's hard to have an explanation for that. It started with a terrible kick and some guys not doing their job. You play a very good football team and they make you pay like that, it kind of takes the air out of the stadium right from the start."

More air left the stadium as Georgia scored twice more before the end of the first quarter to take a 21-0 lead. The Cats would battle back by halftime, scoring 24 points on their next four drives to make it 35-24 at the break, but the outcome was all but sealed when Patrick Towles' pass tipped off Ryan Timmons' hand for a Corey Moore interception.

"I really felt like we had a chance coming out of the half if we could have--what, were we down 10, 11 or something like that - if we could have done something positive, put some points on the board," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I don't know at the end of the day if we were good enough to win it, but it wouldn't have turned out like this."

In spite of some offensive strides (UK had 214 rushing yards, including 100 by true freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams), 22 Wildcats had their Senior Day spoiled and the 60,152 fans in attendance saw a loss in the final game played in Commonwealth Stadium before the completion of a $120 million renovation. Included in that group is star defensive end/linebacker Bud Dupree.

"It was embarrassing," Dupree said. "We gotta watch film. We really don't know what happened. Just not executing calls and not playing with a lot of effort. Just different things that we gotta fix. But you can't point any fingers. We just gotta go on to the next game."

Even though he called Saturday's game "not acceptable," Stoops agrees that moving on is UK's only reasonable course of action.

"We'll look at all the things we could do better," Stoops said. "But the fact of the matter is we're a .500 football team with two big games left, starting with Tennessee, and we'll see."

The other game, of course, is a season finale at Louisville, meaning UK will play its final two games on the road against its two biggest rivals. In doing so, the Cats have a clear motivation.

"Just try to get win No. 6," Dupree said. "We got two more games to win No. 6, to go to a bowl game. We're still going to end up having a good season, be over .500 and it's just up to us if we want it or not."

UK might be in the midst of a four-game losing streak against four bowl-bound SEC teams, but the Cats haven't backed off in their preparation to this point. Stoops doesn't expect that to change.

"Our guys, they've had a good attitude in practice," Stoops said. "They've worked. They've given me no indication throughout the week. This team was better than us and played much better than us and took it to us. They had a lot to do with it. I think we'll see. This will be a test of our character here this week. We'll see how we respond and dig down and how we come back and play."

Fortunately, the Cats have proven performance to call on as they look to bounce back. UK has won a pair of conference games against South Carolina and Vanderbilt and played well in two more against Mississippi State and Florida.

"We know what it takes to win," Towles said. "We've done it. We just have to do it more consistently. I have all the faith in the world in these seniors, these guys."

One of those seniors, defensive tackle Mike Douglas, was asked whether the veterans will call any players-only meetings or do anything special to rally their younger teammates. The time for that, he said, has passed.

It's time, simply put, to do.

"There comes a point in time where there are no more words that can be said it's all about action, you either put up or shut up," Douglas said. "... Now we are at a point where we need to come out and be focused and come out and know the mission at hand. Thank God that we still have two games to prove that we are better than we have shown."


By Connor Link, UK Athletics

After losing the second set of Friday's match to Georgia, allowing the Bulldogs to tie the Wildcats 1-1, No. 17 Kentucky headed to the locker room in desperate need of adjustment.

By the time the ball was served to begin set three, they did just that.

"I feel like as a team, the first and second game were one mentality," said senior Lauren O'Conner. "We came in at the break and just changed everything."

Allowing four team blocks from UGA to UK's zero in set two, Kentucky flipped the script in the third set and blocked four Georgia shots without giving up one of their own. The Cats' hitting percentage rose from a dreary .239 to a dominating .480, while the Dogs' attack dropped all the way down to .156 in set three.

"We challenged our team to be better defensively in sets three and four," said head coach Craig Skinner. "Obviously, our defense and blocking were a big difference in those sets. I'm just proud of the mentality we had to close out the match."

After a 25-16 win in set three, Kentucky (21-4, 10-2 SEC) cruised to a 25-13 victory in the fourth and final set. O'Conner proved to be the offensive catalyst the Cats needed, posting 21 kills by herself, just one shy of her career high, and not a single error.

"I feel like (the adjustment in the third set) just helped me step up even more, because my team was just fighting," said O'Conner. "I wanted to step up and make the plays so we could come out on top."

O'Conner, one of only three seniors on the Kentucky roster, has been playing some of the best volleyball of her career just as it comes to an end. With only three home games remaining before the NCAA Tournament, the Taylor Mill, Ky. native's playing days are glaringly numbered.

"(O'Conner) is playing with a ton of confidence," said Skinner. "She knows what shot to hit at the right time, and sees the block and the court really well."

Earning All-SEC Freshman team honors in 2011, O'Conner saw action in 97 of 98 matches--recording 67 total starts--during her first three seasons in Lexington. Fast-forward through her illustrious career to 2014, and O'Conner still finds a way to impress her coach with each passing game.

"Before, she had a cross-court shot, and now she has every shot in the book," said Skinner. "Her cross-court off-speed is doing a really nice job."

Looking ahead to Sunday's match with the defending SEC champion Missouri Tigers, O'Conner chooses not to revel in her spectacular 21-kill performance or her .512 hitting percentage.

"Just take it as any other game," said O'Conner. "(I) just try to do the best that I can on that night, and (take) the opportunities that are given to me."

No. 17 Kentucky will face Mizzou (15-12, 6-6 SEC) Sunday at noon at Memorial Coliseum. The match will be televised live on ESPN's SEC Network.


Barry "Slice" Rohrssen is a man of many talents.

On top of being a respected coach and recruiter, Rohrssen has famously dabbled as an actor, starring alongside the likes of Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey.

Nonetheless, one subject escaped him in school.

"You know, for some people, even like myself, chemistry was the hardest subject," Rohrssen said.

The same is true, though not in quite so literal a sense, for the Kentucky basketball team. The Wildcats, set for the second of two exhibitions on Sunday at 7 p.m. against Georgetown (Ky.), are still in the process of figuring out exactly how they fit together.

John Calipari knows UK, at least to start the season, will operate in a two-platoon system. Last Sunday, the Cats dominated Pikeville by sharing time in two groups, the first featuring Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns and the second Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson.

Whether those platoons remain the same is still a question mark.

"It's Friday now and we've still got two more days and maybe three more practices to go before that," Rohrssen said. "So it could change; it could be the same."

In that victory over Pikeville, all 10 members of the two platoons played at least 16 minutes, and none more than 20. The system calls for that kind of balance on paper, but the coaching staff doesn't expect for it to play out that way when the season heats up.

"It's still to be determined," Rohrssen said. "I think Cal might've spoken to you guys already; he said it's not communism. That was kind of his phrase about it, where those that will produce are going to get more time or find themselves with the opportunity for more time."

Taking on the in-state Tigers, boasting a 3-0 record and a No. 8 ranking in NAIA Division I, will arm UK with 40 minutes more of data to evaluate the platoons. Just as importantly, it's another chance to adjust to the game-day routine.

"One of the things that's nice about college basketball is you get a chance to get out there, simulate game days, go through a shootaround or a walk-through in the morning the day of a game, have your pregame meal with your team, just to get in a rhythm and get comfortable, and especially for the new guys," Rohrssen said. "... So it's good to get some of those exhibitions under your belt, and this will be another step towards our improvement."

Booker getting better


Devin Booker. (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics) Devin Booker. (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
Though he showcased his talent at points, Devin Booker was relatively quiet during UK's Big Blue Bahamas tour.

The 6-foot-6 guard averaged just 5.2 points and shot 34.4 percent from the field, but Rohrssen pinpointed Booker as the freshman who has improved the most since.

"Well, one guy that's really improving rapidly and on a day-to-day basis is Devin Booker," Rohrssen said. "He's really made some very good strides since he's been here on campus, like most of the freshmen."

Those strides were apparent last Sunday, as Booker scored 16 points and had three assists in 16 minutes of UK's exhibition win over Pikeville, leading the second platoon in scoring in the process. Booker did his damage in a variety ways, showing the dead-eye shooting for which he's known in hitting 2-of-4 3-pointers, but also running the floor and scoring at the rim.

"He's just finding things a bit more comfortably now, getting up and down the court a lot quicker, using some of his athleticism," Rohrssen said. "He moves well without the basketball. He's releasing his shot a lot quicker."

Rohrssen talks recruiting

When he first committed to using the two-platoon system in the preseason, Coach Cal said it could represent a "watershed moment" should it work as planned.

By making it work, he said UK could change the face of college basketball just like in 2010 when five Wildcats were drafted in the first round by proving so many talented players could coexist and succeed both as a team and individually.

But for now, UK is sticking to a more familiar script on the trail.

"Recruiting, these guys have been very receptive," Rohrssen said. "It's nice to be ranked No. 1 in the polls. It's a nice way to have a conversation, go into somebody's home."

Pitching the platoons, according to Rohrssen, is premature. Could UK have a similarly constructed roster with 12 players deserving of time next season? Sure. Is it a guarantee? No.

"I mean, that's to unfold next season," Rohrssen said. "If we're talking about this season, Kentucky is very well received no matter where you go and who you speak with it. It's nice to have that royal blue UK on your chest when you're walking into a high school or a home."


Even as spoke of high hopes for the season, Matthew Mitchell was quick to point out it would take time for Kentucky to round into offensive form.

For that reason, he was unsure what to expect as the Wildcats played their lone exhibition vs. Pikeville.

"To be honest with you, I was a little concerned what it might look like offensively if it got into a half-court game," Mitchell said.

Fortunately for UK, that rarely happened on Thursday night.

UK Hoops raced paced visiting Pikeville both on the floor and on the scoreboard, 141-63. The Cats shot 56-of-89 (62.9 percent) from the field in putting together an offensive night that would have eclipsed the school record for points in a game had it been a regular-season affair.

"I was just happy to see them run. No matter who the opponent is--I hope Pikeville has a great season, but we just really weren't concerned with the opponent," Mitchell said. "We were just trying to run tonight and I thought they did that really well."

Though the final box score showed just 18 fast-break points, the Cats continually sprinted past the Bears, scoring 52 points off 37 turnovers. Jennifer O'Neill and Alexis Jennings led eight players scoring in double figures with 20 points apiece.

"I think we have potential to be like we were today," O'Neill said. "But the thing that got us into the one hundreds was the fact that everybody was running the floor."

The most impressive statistical performance, however, belonged to Makayla Epps. The sophomore flirted with a triple-double, posting 18 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

"Honestly, I was completely unaware until I came off the bench and (assistant) Coach Adeniyi (Amadou) was like, 'Oh, two more rebounds,' " Epps said. "And I was like, 'Wow, I've never even been close to 10 rebounds.' Ever, like in my life."

Mitchell, however, was more concerned with the way Epps looked than her stat line.

"I don't even really look at the numbers, just the way she moved out there," Mitchell said.

On that front, Epps is unmistakably a different player than the one who had an up-and-down freshman season.

"That is easy to spot, which is a compliment to her because that shows you hard she's worked," Mitchell said. "She's worked really hard and she just looked super."

Epps, like her teammates, has room for growth though, but that's to be expected with the regular season still eight days away from starting with a Nov. 14 matchup with Appalachian State.

"I thought the players did what they were charged to do tonight," Mitchell said. "We really tried to talk about energy and effort and playing hard. We are a long, long away from being a finished product, but we have worked very hard on our effort and conditioning and running the floor."


After a season in which coaches and players agreed they fell short of their potential, the UK men's soccer team reconvened.

In returning from the holiday break, the Wildcats discovered their head coach was just a little different.

"I've been extremely demanding," Cedergren said. "I'm not a very nice guy. I'm very impatient and the guys have put up with me and now we're sitting here seeing the end result."

The end result has been a special 2014 season.

Riding a nine-match unbeaten streak, UK (10-3-4, 5-0-2 Conference USA) is set to host its regular-season finale on Friday against Charlotte at 7 p.m. at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex. With the Wildcats sitting a point ahead of the No. 5 49ers, UK can clinch the C-USA regular-season championship with a win or draw.

Though it all comes down to 90 minutes on Senior Night, UK's path to a potential title started back in January with a meaner Cedergren. In spite of being picked sixth in the conference before the season and relying on a roster that features 20 freshmen or sophomores and only two seniors, the Cats have responded to Cedergren's tough coaching and embraced his high expectations.

"We worked a lot with the players becoming problem solvers, being disciplined, selfless, humble and having a UK attitude," Cedergren said. "That means focusing on all the little things, having belief no matter where we go, no matter who we play and whatever happens we do things together."

UK's togetherness has been tested repeatedly this season, first through a challenging early-season schedule that brought two losses in its first three games. The Cats then responded with a 1-0 win at Notre Dame, the defending national champion.

More recently, UK has played four of its last five matches on the road, the only home match coming against defending C-USA champion and ninth-ranked New Mexico. All the Cats have done is win four times and draw once.

Considering all that, playing in what amounts to a conference championship game shouldn't faze this team.

"We have a lot of experience to look back on to prepare us for Friday," Cedergren.

The fact that UK has a defense that's allowed a school-record and conference-best 0.55 goals per match doesn't hurt either.

Cedergren knew junior Callum Irving would be the anchor of the unit, calling his goalkeeper one of the best in the country in the preseason. Irving has been as advertised, but Kaelon Fox, Jordan Wilson, Charlie Reymann and Matt Quick have made the defense elite.

"He's been as good as I know he can be," Cedergren said. "I think what has been exceeding my expectations is the back four, the guys that are in front of Cally."

On offense, UK relies on sophomore Napo Matsoso, who is second on the team with 12 points and consistently leads the Cats in distance covered during games. Cedergren estimated that 80 percent of UK's attacks involve Matsoso in some way.

"As many games as I've watched, I can't say that I've had a better playmaker on a team," Cedergren said. "So Napo is huge for us."

The role of big crowds at the Bell Soccer Complex shouldn't be discounted either. The average home crowd this season is 1,199 and UK will eclipse the 10,000 mark in 2014 attendance on Friday. With free admission, a prize pack for the 10,000th fan and "Blue-vuzelas" for the first 500 fans, Cedergren expects to blow past that mark.

"Friday, we're hoping we can get north of 2,000 people to come out to the game and support us, which is I think very, very doable," Cedergren said.

With a loud crowd behind them, Cedergren and the Cats are out to make a special season historic.

"We've put ourselves in a place where we have everything to play for still," Cedergren said. "We need to finish strong. The Kentucky men's soccer program hasn't won a title since 2004, so it's about time for us to do it again."

Dupree, seniors out to make final home game count

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Bud Dupree is among 22 Wildcats who will participate in Senior Day festivities before UK's game vs. Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree is among 22 Wildcats who will participate in Senior Day festivities before UK's game vs. Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Bud Dupree heard the cliches from his older teammates about how he should treasure his time at Kentucky because of how quickly it would pass.

"I remember when I was a freshman and all the upperclassmen were telling me that it would fly by. I kind of just brushed it off, just thinking they were talking."

Three years later, Dupree has changed his tune.

"But now that I'm in their shoes, I'm telling the freshmen now everything's gonna fly by," Dupree said.

Dupree, now second in school history with 21.5 career sacks, will be one of 22 players honored as part of Senior Day festivities before UK's game against Georgia at noon ET on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The star defensive end/linebacker will have family up from his hometown of Irwinton, Ga., including both of his parents, and knows it will be an emotional day, though his focus is elsewhere.

"I try not to think about it, because I don't want to get soft, you know?" Dupree said.

Dupree doesn't want to "get soft" because the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) have an important game to play. UK, having lost three straight against tough league opponents, will try once again for bowl eligibility.

"It would mean a lot to me as well as the fellow seniors to go out on Senior Night, last game at Commonwealth, and win," Dupree said. "Just get the program another boost that we have been working so hard for and just put us in the (position) to get to a different, a bigger bowl. At the end of the day, that's the goal, just get to a bowl and just keep winning games, one week at a time."

This week, the No. 17 Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC) presents the challenge at hand. The Bulldogs are coming off a 38-20 defeat against Florida, but likely only makes them more dangerous.

"They bring a very good football team," Mark Stoops said. "I think they bring a power running team that we know has hurt us in the past as well. They can run the heck out of the football. They're very talented. They can throw it. They're very balanced. They're playing great defense."

Georgia will once again be without star running back Todd Gurley, who is serving the last of a four-game suspension for a violation of team rules, but Nick Chubb has gained at least 174 yards from scrimmage in the three games Gurley has missed. The Bulldogs, in other words, have been effective on the ground no matter who has carried the load, ranking third in the SEC with 250.2 rushing yards per game.

"Georgia is very multiple on offense and they can do a lot of things in a lot of different ways with different players," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "So you have to prepare for them and be able to defend them in a lot of different looks and versus a lot of different plays. So that's quite a challenge."

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs present a similarly stiff test. Georgia is fourth in the SEC in total defense, allowing just 336.1 yards per game.

"They're very talented up front," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I think when you talk about the best teams in our league, much like Missouri, the ability of their guys up front. They have length."

UK, of course, struggled on offense against Missouri. Patrick Towles was sacked just twice, but faced regular pressure in the pocket and completed just 19-of-37 passes for 158 yards after a big game the previous week against top-ranked Mississippi State.

"Georgia is going to present a real problem to us because, first of all, they're not going to give you anything," Stoops said. "They're one of those aggressive defenses. They're very well coached. They're not going to give you anything easy."

To overcome that, Stoops said there is no "magical little scheme." Of course UK's coaches can refine and enhance the game plan, but this week has been about challenging the Cats more than anything else.

"It comes down to winning some matchups," Stoops said. "If you just watch them, take a couple examples, they need a third and five or something, they're going to create space, they're going to catch it and get it. We get covered and there's nowhere to throw the ball."

Stoops has delivered that message all week, starting on Monday with the first team meeting after the Missouri loss. Dupree called the scene "ugly," but necessary.

"Coach Stoops said he was going to give it to us, and he did," Dupree said. "He did exactly what he said. But we needed that. You need a reality check sometimes and guys need to be called out for situations that they were in and things they do on the field - and off the field."

That challenge would be more difficult to respond to if they Cats hadn't already proven themselves capable of winning those individual battles against the likes of Mississippi State, South Carolina and Florida.

"We've just gotta be more consistent as a whole," Towles said. "We've had some really good games; we've had some not-so-good games. We just gotta holistically execute better."

To that end, Stoops has relied on a "special group" of seniors UK will bid farewell to on Saturday as he has all season.

"I think it's important to show some leadership and some character," Stoops said. "We need those guys to step up and push us over the top, push the younger guys to, again, be more disciplined, to do the little things right, to create those winning habits."

Dupree and his fellow seniors have balanced a lot this week, from thinking about the approach end of their college careers to planning time with family to leading their team, but Saturday will be all about one thing.

"It's going to be a lot of emotions flying around, but we just gotta bottle all that up and focus on the win," Dupree said.


Kentucky continued its work ahead of a Senior Day matchup with Georgia on Wednesday. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot left the practice field happy with the Wildcats' effort.

"We had a good day of practice," Eliot said. "Kids were into it, flying around, good and physical. It was a good Wednesday; it's what we're looking for."

The coaching staff is getting what it wants out of practice on the heels of a performance at Missouri that Mark Stoops said was among the most disappointing of his two-year tenure. Unsurprisingly, that drew Stoops' ire in the team's first meeting of the week on Monday.

"It was ugly," senior Bud Dupree said. "Coach Stoops said he was going to give it to us and he did exactly what he said. But we needed that. You need a reality check sometimes."

Dupree certainly would rather have avoided that reality check, but he knows it was necessary.

"At the end of the day, he still cares," Dupree said. "But that shows a lot that he cares that much about us that he really thought we could win the games that we've been losing. It was coming and the time couldn't be at a better point in the season."

With three games remaining and therefore three more chances at gaining bowl eligibility, Eliot says the Cats have "responded well."

"They got the message and they came out in practice all week and have focused on being disciplined and doing the little things right, practiced hard and paid attention to detail," Eliot said.

UK will call on that work on Saturday at noon ET when the No. 17 Bulldogs come to town.

"Georgia is very multiple on offense and they can do a lot of things in a lot of different way with different players," Eliot said. "So you have to prepare for them and be able to defend them in a lot of different looks and versus a lot of different plays. So that's quite a challenge."


In Their Own Words: Junior Montana Whittle

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Whittle Journal Graphic.jpg
Throughout the fall, each UK gymnast will share her thoughts about the upcoming 2015 season, what it's like being a Division I student-athlete at Kentucky and what makes being a Wildcat so special. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

Next up is junior Montana Whittle, a native of Lincoln, Neb. Whittle talks about some of the non-athletic team bonding activities the team has done this year. From going bowling and community service projects, the team chemistry is better then ever thanks to the team spending more time together away from the gym.

A full archive of all the gymnast's "In Their Own Words" entries can be found here.

This year, we have been doing a lot more non-athletic team bonding activities which has really created a good chemistry within the team. From community service projects and organized team activities to informal things put together by the upperclassmen, I have noticed a difference in this team. Doing things together and hanging out more voluntarily has made us closer, and therefore we are working together better. Our team chemistry and ability to work well together as a team is all really important for competing well together.

Having spent more time together as a team, we have gotten to know each other better, which helps develop that good chemistry. This makes it easier to trust each other and know what we need from each other to get better in the gym. Whether you are the type of person that needs encouragement, needs someone to be hard on you, or needs someone to tell you everything's going to be ok, we will be able to fulfill those individual needs better by knowing each other's personalities.  

In the past, I personally wasn't as close with each one of my teammates as I am now. We were close as a team in the gym and on the road, but outside of team events, we did not hang out together, all of us as a team. At the end of last year, we went to Tim and said that we wanted to do more team bonding activities and things that would make us closer as a team. The coaching staff has really taken that on and helped us get those opportunities.

The time we spend together outside of the gym has really forged those bonds between us as teammates to a whole new level. We are more apt to hang out with each other as a team outside of the gym, not just the teammates that we live with. We are one team, in and out of the gym, that share the same goals and are fighting for the same thing in practice.

My favorite team bonding activity was a surprise organized by the coaches. Tim had us all get ready for practice, taped up and all, and then he told us we were going bowling instead of practicing. That was really fun. Kirsten beat me on the last couple of bowls in the first game, and in the second game, Tim went crazy and beat all of us. At first we thought he was terrible, but he was letting Reese, his son who is a toddler, play for him. That was probably the most exciting thing we did, especially because it was a surprise and broke from routine.

Doing community service work with Habitat for Humanity was also a really cool experience. About a month ago, we helped a family finish building their home, which was the first of several community service projects we have done this fall. It felt great to help a family build a home, and to be able to do that together as a team was a neat experience.

Because of the team bonding and working together, everyone a lot more prepared. Especially with the chemistry going, there's a really good vibe every day in the gym. There's a nice flow and energy to practice.

After a strong end to last season and a great start to the fall, both in and out of the gym, we are feeling more confident in each other as a team. The freshmen have really helped with that too. They came in confident with their skills, and they bring a lot to the team. Together, we have all grown over the past year and had a lot of improvements. Everyone is confident in what they can do, and when you put that together we can accomplish anything.

Together, we will keep getting stronger as a team, both in and out of the gym. When it comes time for competition to start in January, we'll be ready.

Go Cats!

While six of Kentucky's 11 NFL alumni spent the weekend at home enjoying their respective teams' bye weeks, the remaining five former Cats went home with losses in NFL Week 9. Fullback John Conner's New York Jets fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 24-10, while offensive tackle Garry Williams and the Carolina Panthers lost to the New Orleans Saints, 28-10.

With Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan sidelined by injury, only two UK skill players saw the field on Sunday:

Cats in the Spotlight

Stevie Johnson | #13 WR | San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
Despite three catches for 41 yards from Stevie Johnson, the 49ers fumbled away a chance for a go-ahead touchdown with only two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. San Francisco was upset by the St. Louis Rams, 13-10.

Jacob Tamme | #84 TE | Denver Broncos (6-2)

In what was perhaps an even more surprising outcome than the conclusion of the 49ers-Rams matchup, the AFC West-leading Broncos were embarrassed by the New England Patriots on the road in Foxboro, Mass. Targeted five times by quarterback Peyton Manning, Jacob Tamme connected on one recpetion for 10 yards. Tom Brady's Patriots emerged victorious, 43-21.

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