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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 www.ukathletics.com/tickets.  

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 www.ukathletics.com/tickets.  

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 kenpom.com'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 www.ukathletics.com/tickets.  

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.

Get to know UK softball's Brooklin Hinz

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Brooklin Hinz.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.

On the heels of a strong showing this fall, true freshman outfielder Brooklin Hinz should provide some pop to the Wildcats lineup and depth to the UK outfield. The native of Olathe, Kansas, hit .357 during the fall with a double, home run and five RBI. Hinz added a .400 on-base percentage and .646 slugging percentage in seven fall games played.

The results this fall came as no surprise to head coach Rachel Lawson and Co., after Hinz dominated in high school for St. Thomas Aquinas. The outfielder ended her career by holding eight offensive school records, including a .561 career batting average with 174 hits, 21 home runs and 108 RBI. A state champion in high school, Hinz best season came her senior year when she hit .701 with eight homers.

Hinz is as good off the field as she in on the field, volunteering more than 100 hours of community service during high school. She was also a four-year member of her high school's academic honor roll.

Come see Brooklin 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 www.ukathletics.com/tickets

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

Do you have any pets? I have a yellow lab named Maggie.

Why did you choose to play softball at Kentucky? I chose Kentucky because I love the coaching staff and the team. It's one of the top programs in the country and I knew it would be a challenge.

If you had a Derby horse, what would you name it? I would name my horse Flash. I really have no reason for that name other than the fact that it sounds cool and that you would assume it would be fast.

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

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? I would love to learn how to sing or cook.

After softball, what would be your dream job?
A job in the medical field that would get to work with a sports team ...

Name three things you like?
Food, softball and movies ...

Name three things you dislike?
Spiders, cold weather and Chinese food ...

What trip would you like to take in your lifetime? I want to go either Fiji or Bora Bora.

Where is your favorite place on Earth?
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is my favorite place. I love the beaches and the city.

What do you typically have for breakfast?
I usually have a big glass of milk and cereal.

What is your favorite dessert?
A big piece of chocolate cake ...

Describe your perfect sandwich ... A turkey sandwich on white bread ...

What is your most memorable moment as a softball player so far? Either playing in the state championship my sophomore year or hitting a home run that Coach Lawson saw that eventually led me here to UK.

Favorite all-time movie? Remember the Titans.

What is one TV show you cannot miss? Pretty Little Liars

What is your worst fear?
Being buried alive ...

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 ...

What three things do you think of most each day? When I'm going to eat, what I want to eat and softball ...

How did you get your name?
A guy at my dad's work mentioned the name and my parents liked it. Of course, it had to be different so they changed the 'y' to an 'i'.

Aaron Harrison scored all 14 of his points in the second half of UK's win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Aaron Harrison scored all 14 of his points in the second half of UK's win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
John Calipari was talking about just one game, but he summed up Aaron Harrison's two seasons at Kentucky along the way.

"Aaron basically threw dagger after dagger," Coach Cal said.

Marcus Lee, speaking after Harrison's latest clutch display, did the same.

"If he's throwing it up, I'm gonna go shake hands with everybody else," Lee said.

Yet again, it was the sophomore shooting guard who sent UK (18-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) to the postgame handshake line victorious. He scored seven of the Wildcats' final nine points to seal a 65-57 win over Vanderbilt (11-7, 1-4 SEC).

"I think it's fun to be in that situation and it's fun to be the guy that people look to to take the big shot and make the big shot," Harrison said.

The big shot, on this Tuesday night, was a 3-pointer with 2:09 remaining.

The Commodores, who never wilted before a top-ranked UK team and a Rupp Arena crowd of 24,249, had just cut Kentucky's lead to four on a 3 by Matthew Fisher-Davis.

On the crucial possession, Devin Booker tried his hand at the big shot and missed from outside for just the ninth time in his last 29 tries. Harrison, however, kept the play alive with an offensive rebound, passed and drifted to the left corner, just a few feet from the wing where so many of his memorable makes have come from. The ball came to Booker, who with a small opening at another try from deep elected instead to pass on to Harrison.

Good choice.

"Devin made a great extra pass and I knew I had to make the shot and (be) ready and focused for it and knocked it down," Harrison said.

Harrison would hit two free throws in the final minute to bring his team-high scoring total to 14, a number he seemed unlikely to hit when he left the floor at halftime. At that point, he was scoreless, having taken just one shot in seven minutes as UK led 33-26.

The performance surely drew the kind of paint-peeling message you'd expect, but Coach Cal merely smiled and said he told Harrison he loved him. Harrison knew that was the sentiment behind what he heard from his coach, though those might not have been Calipari's exact words.

"I guess it's really, really, really tough love," Harrison said, drawing hearty laughs from the horde of reporters gathered around.

Whatever Calipari said, it worked. The Aaron Harrison who played the second half hardly resembled the one who was on the floor for the first 20 minutes.

"I think he played so well in the second half," Calipari said. "That's who he is."

For some, a first half like that makes a similarly poor second half a given, but not Harrison.

"I think it's just his confidence knowing that no matter what happens in the first half, the second half, he can come back and do what he needs to do," said Marcus Lee, who had six of his seven points in a flurry that sparked UK after a sluggish second-half start. "There are some players who when a couple bad things happen they just go in a hole. He knows he's good enough where he can just keep going."

Harrison kept going and carried UK down the stretch, but he was hardly alone.

His twin brother, Andrew, and Willie Cauley-Stein combined with him to score UK's final 15 points and it was the 7-footer who delivered when Vandy cut the lead to three with 5:06 left.

First, Cauley-Stein snagged one of his three steals, a familiar sight for arguably the nation's top defender. But on the other end of the floor, he showed something new. Receiving a pass a few feet inside the 3-point arc on the left wing, Cauley-Stein didn't hesitate in taking and making a jumper that prompted a double-take from even his coach.

"Willie did what Willie does," Calipari said. "Then he took that jumper and I know we all looked at each other like what in the world. But he's been practicing that. That's something that he's been working on."

Aaron Harrison, meanwhile, was happy to share the big-shot spotlight.

"I was really proud of Willie for even taking that shot because I know last year he wouldn't have even taken than shot," Aaron Harrison said. "So just to see him have the confidence to take that shot and make that shot, I'm excited for him and happy for him."

Cauley-Stein might not have been the likeliest suspect to make a clutch jumper, but you can now add him to the list of players capable of delivering a basket when it matters most.

That list, it's a long one.

"I don't think we have just one guy for that," Lee said. "I think we have a whole team that can do that. They're all complete finishers and have done that their whole lives. It just comes out natural."

After the Green Bay Packers' loss to the Seattle Seahawks in last Sunday's NFC Championship, Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews will be the only former Kentucky Wildcat competing in next month's Super Bowl XLIX. Despite limited playing time since being promoted from the Seattle practice squad, Matthews was able to make the biggest play of his young career in last Sunday's contest, keeping the Seahawks' season alive.

Playoff Spotlight

Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Cobb made seven catches for 62 yards in Green Bay's 28-22 overtime loss to the defending Super Bowl champions. Cobb recorded his first career playoff touchdown reception by way of a 13-yard Aaron Rodgers pass to end the first quarter, but it was not enough to break the historic Seahawks defense. Cobb will miss out on playing in the Super Bowl, but he was named to his first Pro Bowl as a consolation.

Chris Matthews | #13 WR | Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
With the Packers leading 19-7 with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled for a one-yard touchdown to bring the Seahawks within five. As a last-ditch effort for a chance to become the NFL's first back-to-back world champions since the '03-'04 New England Patriots, Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka successfully completed an onside kick that was recovered by the 6-foot-5 Matthews. Matthews' special teams heroism led the way for a come-from-behind overtime victory by Seattle, solidifying a second consecutive NFC Championship. The Seahawks will face the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, February 1 in Glendale, Arizona.


Get to know UK softball's Erin Rethlake

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Erin Rethlake3.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.

A true freshman from Huntington, Indiana, Erin Rethlake had a dazzling high school career at Huntington North High School. The left-handed pitcher won numerous awards in high school, including 2014 News-Sentinel Softball Player of the Year, 2014 Indiana Miss Softball and Gatorade Indiana Softball Player of the Year following her junior season.

Rethlake's best season came her junior season as she posted a 23-1 record with a 0.18 earned-run average and 317 strikeouts in 154 innings pitched. Although her senior season was cut short due to injury, Rethlake had a 13-2 record with a 0.80 ERA. Off the field, she was very active as a member of the National Honor Society, Student-Athlete Board, Huntington Class Council and Future Educators of America.

Rethlake projects to have an immediate impact on the UK pitching staff and could possible see time in the UK outfield when not in the circle. During the fall, Rethlake threw just over 10 innings with a 1.74 ERA, striking out 12 batters. At the plate, the true freshman hit .250 with four walks drawn.

Come see Erin 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 www.ukathletics.com/tickets.

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

What is your shoe size? 10.5

What is your favorite word? Giggle, it has too many Gs in it and it is amusing to me.

What is one thing you could tell us about yourself that others would be shocked to know? I played the clarinet and alto saxophone in middle school and freshman year of high school.

Why did you choose to play softball at Kentucky? The family environment, the distance from home, the beautiful campus and also the competitive softball team ...

If you could trade places with Coach Lawson for one day, what would you do? I would cancel all of the running days for the entire team, forever.

Person that has most influenced your life and why? My little sister, Emily. She has overcome every obstacle she has ever been thrown and come out defeating every challenge. She sees the good in everyone and is a constant reminder to be thankful for everything I have been blessed with.

If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create? A giraffe and a koala, imagining what that would look like just makes me laugh ... every time!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Whistle ... I'm sick of not being able to join in when everybody else does it.

After softball, what would be your dream job? To be a speech therapist for special needs kids.

Name three things you like ... Food, sleeping and chocolate

Name three things your dislike ... Heights, sharks and scary movies

What trip would you like to take in your lifetime ... I really want to go to the island St. Lucia because I saw it on The Bachelor and decided that I would go there before I died.

Favorite actor/actress ... Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio

What is one TV show you cannot miss? Nashville because I secretly wish I was a famous country singer.

What is your worst fear?
Sharks, even though I live in a completely landlocked state near zero sharks ...

What artist gets the most play on your iPod right now?
Usher. I don't even need to explain that one

Favorite saying or quote you like to live by ... The Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated

How do you like your eggs?
Sunny side up of course ...

Are you allergic to anything? Copper, so pennies and I aren't exactly friends.

What is your favorite class you have taken so far at UK? Not Greek Mythology ...

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