Cat Scratches

Recently in Features Category

Dupree, seniors out to make final home game count

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
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

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
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.

UK in the NBA: Davis, Cousins star in week 1

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment

By Nick Jones, UK Athletics

With the NBA a week into the 2014-15 season, several former Wildcats have dominated national headlines throughout the league.

First, Julius Randle entered his rookie campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers in the most disturbing fashion imaginable. After logging just 14 minutes of play in the season opener against Houston Randle went down with a broken tibia in his right leg.

Randle's injury will leave him out of action for the remainder of his rookie season. But after being selected as the seventh overall pick in last June's draft the power forward is expected to play a significant role in rebuilding the Lakers back up to a championship level franchise.

Randle being carted off the court on opening night stole the attention away from what was a very strong outing from Terrence Jones, who has now solidified himself in a starting role for the Houston Rockets next to All-Star center Dwight Howard. Jones posted 16 points and 13 rebounds against the Lakers and has shown no signs of slowing down through week one.

Jones has been the answer for what was a failed experiment last season in Houston when the Rockets attempted to play Howard and 7-foot center Omer Asik side-by-side in the frontcourt. This offseason Asik decided to go elsewhere and he ended up in New Orleans where he combined with All-Star forward Anthony Davis on opening night for 40 points, 34 rebounds and 14 blocks as the Pelicans defeated the Magic 101-84.

Davis came into the season with sky-high expectations and after a near triple-double in game one, and a 30 and 15 outing in game two, the 6-10 star is more than living up to his No. 3 player ranking by ESPN.

Another ultra-talented big man having his way in the Western Conference is fifth-year pro DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings have been mediocre at best during the first three years of his career, but after winning a gold medal this summer in the FIBA World Championships in Spain with Team USA, Cousins - now 24 years old - seems more than ready to change the culture in Sac-town.

The Kings' week one schedule was arguably the most difficult in the entire league as they faced off against three Western Conference playoff teams from a year ago, recording a 2-1 record in those games. Most recently Sacramento began a two-game road trip on Sunday with a gritty win over heated rival the Clippers at Staples Center. It was a statement game for the 6-11 center as he finished with 34 points, 17 rebounds and five assists. If Boogie can combine consistent contributions like this with his goal of just five technical fouls this whole season, it will be impossible to keep him out of the All-Star game in April.

Two former Cats who are considered to be locks to represent the eastern conference in the All-Star game are point guards Rajon Rondo and John Wall.

Rondo's availability for the season opener was in question all entire offseason after suffering a hand injury, but the Celtics' floor general has not missed a beat in his first two outings. Averaging just shy of a triple-double after the first week, Rondo is among the league leaders for point guards in several statistical categories, a feat that is not likely to change as the season advances.

John Wall has posted a double-double in each of the Wizards' first three games. That sort of production will almost certainly continue as Wall carries the load for his young team during the first several weeks of the season without backcourt running mate Bradley Beal. Washington is looking to build on last season's playoff run and Wall will be the centerpiece for whatever success the Wizkids enjoy in 2014-15.

Wall's former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe was a hot topic this offseason as experts debated whether or not he was worth the max contract he desired. In the end, Bledsoe was able to reach a five-year deal worth $70 million. Now in his fifth year in the league, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound guard has set out to shake off the injury woes that have defined his career to this point and drag his team in Phoenix to a playoff appearance in the West for the first time since 2010.

Entering the 2014-15 NBA season, Kentucky has 19 ex-players on 16 different rosters. Cat Scratches will provide a unique inside look at former UK fan favorites, as well as a detailed TV schedule and updated statistics as the season moves along.

Stats through games on Sunday, Nov. 2)

Rajon Rondo, Boston - 8.5 PPG, 10 APG, 8.5 RPG, 2 SPG
James Young, Boston - Earned a DNP in season opener, scored six points in six minutes in game two
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte - 11.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG in three starts
Nazr Mohammed, Chicago - DNP for the Bulls in week one
Jodie Meeks, Detroit - Out 8 weeks with a back injury
Terrence Jones, Houston - 16.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG
Julius Randle, LA Lakers - scored two points in 14 minutes off the bench before sustaining a season-ending leg injury on opening night
Tayshaun Prince, Memphis - 4 PPG, 2 RPG in 18 minutes per game
Brandon Knight, Milwaukee - 19.7 PPG, 9 APG, 6.7 RPG
Anthony Davis, New Orleans - 28.5 PPG, 16 RPG, 6 BPG, 2.5 SPG
Darius Miller, New Orleans - DNP for the Pelicans in week one
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia - 7.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.3 BPG in three starts
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix - 12.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 6.3 RPG
Archie Goodwin, Phoenix - 2.5 PPG, 1.5 APG in 10 minutes per game
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento - 23.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG
Patrick Patterson, Toronto - 4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG in 21 minutes per game
Chuck Hayes, Toronto - grabbed three rebounds in 12 minutes in his only appearance in week one
Enes Kanter, Utah - 8 PPG, 3.7 RPG in three games as a starter
John Wall, Washington - 21.7 PPG, 11 APG, 4.7 RPG, 3 SPG in more than 37 minutes per game

Week two TV schedule

This week's nationally televised games featuring former UK players:

Tuesday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Miami 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
Wednesday: Indiana @ Washington (John Wall) 8:00 p.m. on ESPN
Thursday: San Antonio @ Houston (Terrence Jones) 8:00 p.m. on TNT
Friday: Memphis (Tayshaun Prince) @ Oklahoma City 8:00 p.m. on ESPN
Saturday: New Orleans (Anthony Davis, Darius Miller) @ San Antonio 8:30 p.m. on NBA TV
Sunday: Philadelphia (Nerlens Noel) @ Toronto (Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson) 7:00 p.m. on NBA TV

Shelby Workman had 10 kills in UK's sweep of Morehead State on Monday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Shelby Workman had 10 kills in UK's sweep of Morehead State on Monday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
A scheduling quirk made for a strange week for the Kentucky volleyball team.

The Wildcats, accustomed to having matches on Fridays and Saturdays, spent their weekend practicing instead of playing following a sweep of rival Tennessee on Wednesday.

"Pretty unusual, actually," head coach Craig Skinner said. "It's kind of weird going through a weekend without playing a match."

For that reason, UK scheduled a match with in-state foe Morehead State on Monday to bridge the gap between the Tennessee win and the Cats' return to Southeastern Conference play on Friday against Georgia. Kentucky came in the heavy favorite and performed accordingly in a sweep.

"When on paper you should win a match it's hard to always be focused the entire way," Skinner said. "For us to--I don't think we had any hitting errors in set three. ... For us to be able to do that and sustain it through three sets I think is good."

After a competitive first set, the Cats were dominant. UK outscored the visitors 50-26 in the final two sets behind an efficient offensive effort. The Cats hit a season-high .449 as a team in reaching the 20-win plateau for the seventh time in eight seasons and fourth in a row.

"I guess I don't think a whole lot about it, but it's the next win," Skinner said. "As we go down the stretch, I think some matches down the road are more important, Georgia obviously being the first one this weekend (in the) middle of a home stretch, which is nice to kind of get some confidence, get some training in."

UK used Monday's match as a training ground of sorts, testing out a new scheme with its two middle blockers, playing 13 total players and getting some important work for Shelby Workman.

"We were able to try some different things," Skinner said. "We've been trying to smooth some things out with Shelby and trying to get some people some playing time in different scenarios. We were able to do that and rest a couple people that have been banged up a little bit. So it was nice to be able to take care of business."

Workman responded, hitting .444 and tallying 10 kills. She trailed only Lauren O'Conner, who followed back-to-back 19-kill performances with an efficient 11-kill effort. O'Conner, it seems, is intent on making the final weeks of her decorated UK career count.

"She's just a veteran leader," Skinner said. "She's confident hitting any shot. She's just really proving herself right now as a true (No. 1 left-side hitter), someone that can carry the offensive load when you need it, which relieves some stress off your setter and also relieves some stress of your other hitters. She's playing well and playing with a lot of confidence."


Almost two years into his Kentucky tenure, Mark Stoops has become famous for his fire.

That passion, one of the driving forces behind the progress of the UK program, is most often seen on the sideline on Saturday, but this week it made an earlier appearance.

Stoops, at his regular Monday press conference, minced no words in evaluating his team's performance in a loss over the weekend and spoke in no uncertain terms about what the Wildcats need to do over the final month of the regular season.

The gathered media, noting his frustration, wondered what Stoops would be like when he met with his team later in the day.

"You can stand out in the street and you'll hear," Stoops said.

Stoops isn't angry for the sake of being angry either. He sees a UK team that has fallen to 5-4 (2-4 Southeastern Conference) but still has every opportunity to address the discipline issues that plagued the Cats in a deflating 20-10 loss at Missouri.

"I feel like our players and our coaches, starting with me, we have a choice in that matter," Stoops said. "We either choose to be disciplined or we choose to be undisciplined. We either choose to be a trained football team and us as a coaching staff need to train them."

To Stoops, that all comes down to details.

"If you're supposed to run a six-step out, run it six, not eight," Stoops said. "If you're supposed to follow the guard on a run play, follow the guard, not just run anywhere you want to run. That's what I mean by 'untrained.' It's creating those habits and training to play when you're under pressure. When we're under pressure, our habits come right to the surface and they're bad habits."

In the midst of three straight losses, the mood around UK football is much different than it was after a 5-1 start that generated talk of the Cats contending for the SEC Eastern Division crown. But just as things weren't as good as they seemed three weeks ago, they aren't as bad as they seem right now.

"We just need to be better," Stoops said. "We're inconsistent. The wheels aren't falling off; we barely had them on."

UK, in other words, is still very much in development mode.

"We've got to scratch and claw and fight and dig down for everything that we get," Stoops said. "To think that you're going to go out there and hope that they happen, we're mistaken. I constantly talk about that. We cannot wait for our moment. We've got to train to go take it and make our moment."

The Cats have three chances left to make their moment in the regular season, starting with a Senior Day matchup against No. 17 Georgia at noon ET on Saturday. The Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 SEC) suffered a 38-20 defeat at the hands of Florida over the weekend, but remain a major challenge for any opponent.

"They bring a very good football team," 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 is the only team to rank in the top four in the SEC in both scoring offense and scoring defense, relying on a ground attack that averages 265.9 yards and a rushing defense that allows just 105.1 yards per game.

"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. So you've got to go earn your yards. You have to win your one-on-ones."

In the wake of an offensive performance that saw the Cats gain just 258 yards, schemes and play calls have been popular topics, but not as much for Stoops. Of course the UK staff will work hard to craft a game plan that will position the Cats for success, but that's not the priority this week.

"There's no magical little scheme or anything like that," Stoops said. "You got to win. You got to block some people, get open, throw good footballs."

Depth chart update: Williams the new starter at running back

  • Following a game in which he accounted for 97 of UK's 258 yards from scrimmage, true freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams has moved by himself to the top of the depth chart at running back. Braylon Heard, Mikel Horton and Jojo Kemp follow him.
  • At wide receiver, there are numerous changes. Garrett Johnson is now listed as a starter at one of the four spots, along with Demarco Robinson, Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons. Joey Herrick has moved into a backup role behind Timmons, while T.V. Williams and Rashad Cunningham are no longer listed.
  • At quarterback, Drew Barker is no longer listed as a backup. Stoops confirmed on Monday the reason for that is it's too late in the season for the true freshman to burn his redshirt.
  • In the secondary, Fred Tiller and Blake McClain are still starters at cornerback and nickelback, respectively, in spite of suffering injuries at Missouri. Stoops said both are expected to be "fine" for Saturday.

Tennessee kickoff set for 4 p.m.

UK's SEC finale on the road against Tennessee on Nov. 15 will kick off at 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. Tickets in the UK section are available now.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points in UK's exhibition win over Pikeville on Sunday. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points in UK's exhibition win over Pikeville on Sunday. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics)
More than once, John Calipari has commented publicly that Kentucky was in for a reprieve when the season finally came.

With all the talent on the floor in practice and the reduced workload on the Wildcats playing in a two-platoon system, Coach Cal said games would be easier.

With one exhibition in the books, he might be right.

"When Coach says the practices are way harder than the games, it's true," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "You really felt it tonight. Like, I feel like I was fresh all the time."

Cauley-Stein and the Cats looked it too.

With no player on the floor for more than 20 minutes and 10 playing at least 16, Kentucky overwhelmed NAIA foe Pikeville in a 116-68 victory in front of 21,036 at Rupp Arena on Sunday night. Karl-Anthony Towns led UK with 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting in just 18 minutes and the Cats racked up 29 assists and shot 65.3 percent as a team.

"We played really well," Towns said. "The team did a really good job. I'm really happy with the assist totals, really. It shows we're moving the ball. Such a talented team, you don't expect a lot like that. We did a great job as a team. We ran the floor, we contested a lot of shots, but we have a lot of things we need to work on. That's what we're going to start back on tomorrow."

The performance led Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells to declare UK "the most talented team in the country" and potentially the most talented in program history, but the visiting Bears hung around in the early going. When K.K. Simmons buried a jumper at the 14:04 mark for two of his game-high 28 points, Pikeville pulled to within 22-18.

Against this Kentucky team, with its mass substitutions every four-to-five minutes, it simply wasn't sustainable. By the end of the first half, UK led 67-40 on the strength of a 21-0 run.

"What you saw is Pikeville came out of the gate and they were flying, and then each sub I made, each time by the third sub and then the fourth sub, all of a sudden you see them missing eight straight shots," Calipari said. "They were making every shot for a while. We left them open and they made it. And that's the whole point of what we're trying to do. Play fast, don't be in a hurry, though we're playing fast."

Fast may be an understatement.

Running off of turnovers generated in both the press and half-court, missed shots and even makes, the Cats scored 26 of their 36 fast-break points in the first half. On the strength of all those easy baskets, UK scored 1.523 points per possession and took, on average, just 8.88 seconds attempt its first shot.

Cauley-Stein has been through everything from a first-round NIT loss to a trip to the national championship game, but he's never seen anything quite like this.

"Way faster, just because the platoon system you can play up and down and you don't have to worry about getting extremely tired or slowing the ball down and playing a half-court game," said Cauley-Stein, who had 10 points and six rebounds. "Now you've got five in, five out every four or five minutes that you can just run and run and run. You just wear people down."

Sunday's exhibition was played with an experimental 30-second shot clock, but UK rarely needed those extra  five seconds. The game featured 80 total possessions, nearly 14 more than last year's national average and three more than UK's 2013-14 season high.

"If we can score quick, we will," Calipari said. "If not, let's create a good shot."

Good shots were all UK got, especially in the first half. The Cats shot a blistering 27 of 33 (81.8 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes.

"They don't ever settle," Wells said. "They don't settle. I've never been a part of a team where we gave up 80 percent field goals in the first half. They don't settle for anything but dunks and layups. You and I make a conventional bounce pass and chest pass and every time they're throwing lobs and we look like middle-school kids out there at times because they're just so big."

Among UK's historically tall frontcourt, Dakari Johnson (13 points), Poythress (12 points) and Trey Lyles (10 points) joined Towns and Cauley-Stein in double figures. The Cats also held a 49-25 rebounding edge and outscored Pikeville in second-chance points by a margin of 35-15.

Devin Booker (16 points on 6-of-9 shooting) was the only UK guard to crack double figures, but Andrew Harrison may have been the most valuable player. The sophomore point guard scored five points on just two field-goal tries, but piled up nine assists against zero turnovers in a performance Coach Cal called "ridiculous."

"Andrew was excellent," Towns said. "He was really taking control of the game as a floor general. He's improved so much since last year. I think everyone can tell the difference in his game from last year to this year. He's a true leader on the court too."

Harrison is setting the tone for a UK team embracing a new platoon system. The result of that system, even though its original purpose is to allow 12 players deserving of playing time to see the floor, is a faster style of play that figures to fluster even the most talented opponents.

"Having a platoon system really makes us--allows us, actually, to expend more energy at given times and then regain a lot more quicker," Towns said. "I feel bad for the players last year having to regain all the energy back in about a minute timeout. This time they get to maybe rest for five-and-a-half, five minutes and really get their legs right back under them."

So, what does UK, which has a week off before a second exhibition next Sunday against Georgetown (Ky.), do for an encore to a lightning-quick debut?

Go faster.

"For us, we still have to push the tempo a little more," Towns said. "I think it was a little too slow. I think we would like it a lot faster, but that's a good start."


Seeking to fill a football head-coaching vacancy nearly two years ago, Mitch Barnhart did his due diligence.

He met with candidates and evaluated many more. He called references and solicited the help of Tim Couch, the quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick who was there for some of Kentucky's best years. For more than three weeks, Barnhart worked behind the scenes to find the right man for the job.

Through it all there was one coach who stuck out, and it was his plan that differentiated Mark Stoops.

Then the defensive coordinator at Florida State, Stoops met with Barnhart and presented his blueprint for success at UK at a meeting in Atlanta. It covered everything from recruiting to an innovative High Performance program and the detail was incredible, such that it almost seemed too good to be true.

Twenty-three months later, it's become clear that Stoops' plan was no fairytale.

"He has followed that to a t," Barnhart said. "Everything he said he was going to do, he has done, and it's on schedule and on task."

For executing his ambitious plan, Stoops was rewarded on Friday with a contract extension that will keep him at Kentucky through the end of the 2019 season, adding another year to a deal that was first extended in May.


The new contract bumps Stoops' average base salary to $3.575 million. The deal also includes a $250,000 incentive for each win beginning with the seventh win each season, as well as incentives for postseason appearances, winning the Southeastern Conference or national championship and team academic performance. New deals for UK's assistant coaches are also forthcoming.

"Mark is guiding our program in the direction we all want it to go and we are proud to reward that," Barnhart said in a release announcing the news. "I was confident Mark was right for this job when I hired him, but he has exceeded my expectations. From leading a group of young men, to recruiting, to fundraising, to becoming an important part of the Lexington community, Mark has embraced and excelled in all facets of being Kentucky football head coach."

In doing so, Stoops led a renaissance of the UK program. Immediately, Stoops made waves on the recruiting trail and awoke a fan base hungry for football success. The wins didn't come as quickly, as the Wildcats managed just a 2-10 season in his first year.

This season, however, has been another story. UK is 5-3 entering a trip to Missouri for a game at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, exceeding its win total from the previous two years combined. The Cats also have a pair of SEC wins after going nearly three years without one.

"I am excited about the progress our team has shown on the field, but this is as much about the next five years as it is the last one and a half," Barnhart said.  "As I've said before, I believe we can compete at the highest level in the toughest conference. Mark is the coach to take us there."

Stoops' work at UK has already caused some national pundits and fans to connect his name to jobs that aren't even open yet. The contract extension curtailed some of that talk, but this was always about something deeper than that.

"This is about our relationship, and I don't ever want it -- I think people, when you start worrying about other folks, that's when you get distracted," Barnhart said. "And Mark is really good about not worrying about other people, and I want to make sure we don't get all hung up on worrying about other people."

It was Barnhart who initiated the talks and Stoops was receptive, mostly because he is "not interested in going anywhere."

"I want to show my commitment," Stoops said. "If you know anything about myself, about my family, past history -- whether it be with my brothers and different people -- loyalty's a pretty big thing with us."

Loyalty, when it comes to Stoops and UK, is a two-way street.

Since that initial meeting in Atlanta, Stoops and Barnhart have built a strong working relationship that's the foundation for that loyalty.

"Fairness is what I think Mark is really all about, and I love that," Barnhart said. "And I love the fact that I feel like he wants to for a good job for the University of Kentucky for all the right reasons. He's a solid, obviously, really solid, great football coach. I really love what he's doing with our football program, but more than that, he's just a great person."

"I just felt like it was always very easy conversations with myself and with Mitch, and I think we're both the type of people (that) what we say is what we mean," Stoops said. "I just felt very comfortable, and that's part of having any kind of success is just having good instincts on people and what you believe."

Relying on that shared relationship, Stoops and Barnhart have gone to work.

Beyond the results on the field and on the recruiting trail, UK's football facilities are being addressed in a big way. Stoops has helped pave the way for a $120 million stadium renovation that will be completed before next season and a new $45 million practice facility project that will break ground in January.

"Mark has energized our fan base, exhibited by the crowds we've been having at Commonwealth Stadium and the response we're getting in the seat reallocation process as we build into our new stadium for next year," Barnhart said. "That's exciting for us. He's been extremely helpful to our program in the fundraising area as we build our new football training center. We break ground on that in January. He's done a tremendous job in the fund-raising area as well and I'm appreciative of that."

As exciting as the future of Kentucky football is with the facility upgrades and his new contract, Stoops was a bit ill-at-ease standing at the podium on Friday. With a bus waiting outside to take him and the team to the airport for a flight to Columbia, Mo., as soon as his time with gathered media was done, it's understandable that his mind may have been elsewhere.

"Looking forward to getting on this plane and going to Missouri and trying to get this win," Stoops said.

Arin Gilliland and her fellow seniors won their home regular-season finale against Alabama on Thursday, 2-1. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Arin Gilliland and her fellow seniors won their home regular-season finale against Alabama on Thursday, 2-1. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Arin Gilliland has battled through indescribable adversity in her four years as a Wildcat to cement herself as the best player in the history of the Kentucky women's soccer program.

With all that in mind, Gilliland deserved a winning sendoff.

But 13 minutes into a Senior Night match against Alabama, UK yielded a tying goal.

"We gave up the goal on my mistake," Gilliland said.

As disappointed as she was in herself, allowing the goal only served to turn her final regular-season home match into more of a fairytale finish. In the 86th minute, Cara Ledman's corner kick found Kaitlin Miller, who headed the ball for a goal and a 2-1 victory for No. 24/18 UK (13-5, 8-3 Southeastern Conference).

"My team backed me up and they picked the team up and they got another one," said Gilliland, whose run toward goal forced the corner kick. "They found a way. Those are the kind of games that I live for, when my team finds a way to win in a tough situation. That's why this win is so special to me."

Making it even more special is the fact that UK almost certainly would have lost this game had it been played six weeks ago.

"It wasn't an aesthetically pleasing game, but sometimes you gotta find a way to grind it out," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "These are the exact wins earlier in the year that were losses. We just didn't grind out the difficult ones and I think that's part of our big change."

Before the "big change," UK had lost four times in six matches. The Cats entered the season with high hopes, but were all of a sudden perilously perched on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Since then, UK has won six matches in a row to secure the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament and make a strong case for a national seed in the big dance.

For that reason, Senior Night was hardly a farewell for this class of Gilliland, Stuart Pope, Emma Brown and Maddie Lockridge.

"It feels great, but I'm not sending them off," Lipsitz said. "We've got a lot more to do."

That starts in next week's conference tournament at 3:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday against an opponent to be determined.

As decorated the winningest class in school history is, these seniors have never won a game in the SEC Tournament. Gilliland is going to do everything in her power to change that.

"I never give for-sures, but I'm going to give everything I have and I know my team is going to do the same because they have a completely different attitude this year," Gilliland said. "They have this aggression about them. They have this really tough mentality and they want to win."

Lipsitz credits Gilliland and her fellow seniors for creating that toughness.

"What I right now love about this group is when things were hard we buckled down and we found a way," Lipsitz said. "That's what our program's about and that's the legacy these four are leaving us."

Recent Comments

  • joel alberto luna colon: I agree with you, UK has not only the talent, but some experience. They could go undefeated if they want read more
  • Berdj Rassam: This was expected to be an easy win for UK. read more
  • dannyone: if the cat,s play like that in every game as they should they could go all the way.so what I,m read more
  • Dale Sine: Coach Cal at it again. He is the best coach in America and the only coach that could handle coaching read more
  • Mike J.: Cal is the best coach out there. He returned Memphis to national prominence and stayed 9 years, a helluva lot read more
  • Berdj Rassam: Booker will be a key part of whether or not this team will be successful this season. read more
  • Tom Moore: Since Tubby 98 and 2003-2004 team which should've won it all, Kentucky fans ( I am true blue ) have read more
  • John Mylant: Kentucky verses Kansas I am a UK fan but bringing this into perspective, this was just one of those games. read more
  • Catherine: We have the Blue Platoon and the White Platoon, I say we should name the rest team "The Closers"! read more
  • Sandy: Great game. I couldn't take my eyes off in the second half. Proud of all of you. I thought Epps read more