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UK will host Providence at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Rupp Arena. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) UK will host Providence at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Rupp Arena. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
Six games in, the Kentucky Wildcats have handled their business.

Save for a stray sluggish half here or there and that domination of Kansas, the Cats have comfortably dispatched opponents unable to cope with their size, talent and depth, saying the right things about taking it one game at a time along the way.

But now UK is in for a step up in competition. The Cats are excited for the challenge.

"We look at every game the same, but we know we have a lot of big games coming up that we have to get prepared for," Dakari Johnson said. "So we're going to have a great couple practices and just really go after it."

Five of UK's seven games over the next month will come against teams currently ranked the coaches' poll, starting with Providence (5-0) at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Friars, fresh off an impressive neutral-court win over Notre Dame in which LaDontae Henton poured in 38 points, entered the poll this week at No. 25 with a home game against Yale on Friday before this weekend's trip to Rupp Arena.

"Watching them on tape, really doing a heck of a job of iso'ing guys and putting guys in (the) best positions to score," John Calipari said. "Playing extremely hard defensively. Playing both man-to-man and zone."

Coach Cal, who praised Providence head coach Ed Cooley as a "great coach that no one knows about yet," expects the Friars to show both man and zone, as well as some press. Providence has caused problems for opponents with its pressure so far this season, forcing 15.6 turnovers per game and ranking 43rd nationally in turnover percentage (.237).

Though guards Kris Dunn (averaging 7.4 assists) and Jalen Lindsey (7 of 14 from 3-point range) are dealing with injuries, the Friars will have Hinton, who is averaging 23.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. Providence is also the tallest team UK has faced to date, with 7-footer Carson Desrosiers in the starting lineup and 7-2 freshman Paschal Chukwu coming off the bench.

All that means Kentucky, which has won games by an average margin of 36.8 points (second nationally) and none by fewer than 19 points, could be in for its first tense moments in the final minutes this season. Coach Cal says his team needs exactly that kind of test, particularly of its offensive execution in such a situation.

"Well what we need is just a hand-to-hand kind of game where a team's not afraid of us, that they make plays and continue to make them throughout," Calipari said. "And then we got to understand, like, right now we're probably getting 16, 17 seconds a possession. There's got to be games where it's gonna be in the 20s. And that's gonna be as teams get better and you don't get it in transition and you don't get it and you got to pull it out.

"We're trying to create a great shot every time down, whenever that happens. Now, if it's a late game, we probably are using 25 seconds to 30 seconds before we do anything, unless it's a layup or a dunk."

Once again, the Cats are eager for the chance.

"A close game would put a little pressure on us, see how we respond to it, you know, test us, especially the freshmen, because we haven't been in that situation yet," Tyler Ulis said. "The other guys were here last year, so, you know, they've had that before, but for us it would be a lot of help."

Johnson trying to repeat UTA performance at the line

Johnson entered UK's game on Tuesday shooting 45.5 percent (50 of 110) from the free-throw line for his career.

All he did against UT Arlington was step up and bury of 12 of 14 tries.

That tells his coach something.

"If he went 12 for 14, it means he's capable of that," Calipari said. "So what gets in the way of him making 12 out of 14? It's those six inches between his ears."

Along those lines, Johnson didn't attribute his big night at the line, in which he scored in double figures even though he didn't register his lone field-goal attempt until the final minutes, to revamping his shot or anything mechanical.

"Just coming down to relaxing," Johnson said. "Just taking your time. Sometimes I rush them and think too much. Just relax and just shoot, shoot free throws."

Staying out of his own head isn't always easy, especially when he hears opposing players say Johnson going to the line is exactly what they want. However, he's not about to start talking trash when he proves them wrong.

"I don't do that," Johnson said. "Yeah, I go 12 out of 14. That's all I'm going to say."

The sophomore center will let his play do the talking. And if he keeps knocking down his free throws, he'll be playing plenty, and when it counts too.

"You're not going to be in late if you don't make free throws so I just try to get that down pat because I want to be in games late so I have to practice," Johnson said.

Calipari confirms UK-UCLA scheduling talks

ESPN's Andy Katz reported earlier this week that UK and UCLA are in talks regarding a two-year home-and-home series that would begin next season. Coach Cal confirmed as much on Friday, saying UCLA would fill the spot normally occupied by North Carolina in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons should talks result in a final agreement.

For those two seasons, UK and UNC will take a break from their home-and-home series, the reason being the Cats and Tar Heels will face off in Las Vegas as part of the 2016-17 CBS Sports Classic and continuing the series would throw off the home-road balance for the teams' schedules for those two years.

"This is all based on what we need," Calipari said. "Don't care about anybody else. You don't want to play us, listen, don't play us. So they take off two years; we'll plug in UCLA for two years."

According to Calipari, talks to resume the UK-UNC schedule in 2017-18 are already underway

Video: Johnson, Ulis on UK's matchup with Providence

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Video: Coach Cal previews matchup with Providence

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Cats writing their story, first, with defense

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Karl-Anthony Towns had 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal in UK's 92-44 win over UT Arlington on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns had 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal in UK's 92-44 win over UT Arlington on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari can sense the narrative changing.

The season began with incessant talk of Kentucky's platoon system and whether it would work, but the way the Wildcats are playing shifted the talk to defense.

Calipari, however, wants to press rewind. He wants to go back to the platoon talk, though with, as he would surely put it, a tweak.

"The story, everybody wants to talk about defense, they all want to talk about the energy, the blocked shots and the length, and the story is you have 10 guys sharing minutes," Calipari said. "That's the whole story in a nutshell."

No offense, Coach Cal, but this team's story can't fit in a nutshell, not with the way the Cats have been smothering opponents.

The latest victim to succumb to UK's waves of depth and athleticism was UT Arlington. Top-ranked Kentucky moved to 6-0 with a dominant 92-44 victory, holding the visiting Mavericks (3-2) to 27-percent shooting and a mere 0.611 points per possession and leaving yet another opposing coach raving, this time about exactly the topic Calipari wants everyone talking about.

"They played the game the right way, that's what is really impressive, to be able to get all of those NCAA All-Americans to play together as a team with 10 different guys, that is impressive," Scott Cross said.

But that defense though.

UK allowed just 12 points in building a 43-point halftime advantage, the second-largest in school history behind only the 44-point lead the 1996 team had on LSU on the strength of an 86-point explosion. Astoundingly, UT Arlington made just four field goals in 32 attempts, compared with eight blocks for the Cats, as UK closed the half on a 42-5 run.

The performance would have been more remarkable if it wasn't so, well, commonplace for this team.

Six times in 12 halves now, UK has held its opponent under 20 points. The Cats have not yet allowed 40-percent shooting from the field in a game this season and opponents are shooting just 28.7 percent from 2-point range, good for second nationally. UK has 60 blocks to boot, and at least seven in every game this season.

"This team has a chance of being one of those teams you talk about defensively, like of all time, if they choose to be," Calipari said. "But they're going to have to choose to be that."

It seems they've already made that choice.

"Coach is a defensive guy," said Karl-Anthony Towns, who had his first double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "He wants our offense to just (feed) off of our defense. So that's the biggest thing for us."

Towns, who upped his team-leading total to 21 blocks with three against UT Arlington, can remember hearing the old "defense wins championships" cliche throughout his youth, but it took coming to Kentucky for it to sink in.

"You're told that all the time in high school and middle school," Towns said. "You go to camps and stuff. But you don't really see that happening until you're in college. That's really the biggest thing. We're realizing that probably our biggest strength is our defense."

Calipari may have been the one who got the ball rolling with the defensive emphasis, but the players have taken over pushing it down the hill.

"I wouldn't say it's Cal that's getting us into it," said Devin Booker, who has made 12 of his last 17 3-point tries after pouring in 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from deep on Tuesday. "It's us as a collective group, you know. We just want to lock teams down. We take pride in it."

Booker and the Cats have quite a bit to be proud of, having allowed 72 points in their last two games combined. Seventy-eight Division-I teams are allowing 72 points per game or more on average this season.

For a team with 10 players among ESPN's top 100 prospects for next June's draft to sustain the focus necessary to do that to two admittedly overmatched opponents, not to mention holding then-No. 5 Kansas to 40 points, is nothing short of incredible.

Uh oh, Coach Cal heard that.

"I'll come back to this: In this day and age, every one of these kids has pro aspirations and pro potential, and they're draftable players, and they're doing this for each other," Calipari said. "This is crazy. That's why I say, for anybody in our society, where everybody talks about the me and mine and narcissism and all that, why wouldn't you root for this to happen and be good? I don't understand why you wouldn't root for this?"

The Cats become even harder to root against once you hear Towns navigate his way around an extended metaphor expertly cooked up for Thanksgiving week.

"I would say that if your group is doing what it's supposed to do, then everyone should eat," Towns said. "That's the biggest thing. There's a lot of food out there to go get. All you gotta do is go grab a plate and just go get it. That's the biggest thing for all of us. We have the utensils."

How does UK's defense fit into mix?

"It seems like the buffet line starts there," Towns said.

Video: Highlights from UK's win over UT Arlington

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UK in the NBA - Davis, Cousins face off in week 4

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By Nick Jones, UK Athletics


Week four in the NBA was highlighted by a heavyweight matchup between two of the most dominant big men the league has to offer. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis squared off on Tuesday night as the Pelicans edged the Kings 106-100.

Even in a losing effort Cousins was still able to battle one of the toughest frontcourts in the NBA as he scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Davis had 28 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals in the Pelicans' win.

Both bigs followed up their blockbuster battle with even more dominance later in the week. Cousins was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in his career as he finished out the week with 31 points and 18 rebounds in a road win Sunday against the Timberwolves. Davis posted a career-high 43 points to go along with 14 rebounds in a 106-94 win against former Cat Enes Kanter and the Utah Jazz.

Kanter has solidified his role as a starter and major contributor for the Jazz while averaging 13 points and six rebounds through 11 games this season.

Other week four highlights

Eric Bledsoe has been a model of consistency in his first 14 games under a new contract for the Phoenix Suns. In week four Bledsoe was the focus in leading the Suns to a 4-0 record on the road dating back to last Monday. The former Kentucky guard posted 14 points, six assists, and six rebounds per game during the current win-streak for phoenix.

James Young shined in his D-League stint with the Maine Red Claws. The rookie shooting guard scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a winning effort for the Celtics' D-League affiliate. The goal for Young was to use his time in the D-League to work back into game shape after sustaining multiple injuries in the preseason. He is set to rejoin the Celtics this week for their home stand against the Bulls and the Spurs.

Week five TV schedule

Wednesday: Memphis (Tayshaun Prince) @ L.A. Lakers 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV
Friday: L.A. Clippers @ Houston (Terrence Jones) 8:00 p.m. on NBA TV
Saturday: New Orleans (Anthony Davis, Darius Miller) @ Washington (John Wall) 7:00 p.m. on NBA TV

Player (Team)

Games   Played

Games Started

MPG

PPG

RPG

APG

BPG

SPG

Eric Bledsoe (Suns)

14

14

30.4

13.4

5.3

5.5

0.5

1.1

DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)

13

13

31.5

23.2

12.3

1.9

1.5

1.1

Anthony Davis (Pelicans)

12

12

36.6

26.3

11.4

1.8

3.5

2.2

Archie Goodwin (Suns)

6

0

7.3

2.8

1.2

0.5

0.0

0.2

Chuck Hayes (Raptors)

7

0

10.9

1.0

2.1

1.3

0.1

0.9

Terrence Jones (Rockets)

4

4

29.3

14.0

7.5

1.5

1.8

1.0

Enes Kanter (Jazz)

14

14

23.5

12.9

6.3

0.5

0.2

0.2

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Hornets)

6

6

23.3

9.8

5.5

1.3

0.8

0.2

Brandon Knight (Bucks)

14

14

33.6

18.1

5.3

6.4

0.1

1.2

Darius Miller (Pelicans)

4

0

7.3

0.5

0.3

0.5

0.0

0.2

Nerlens Noel (76ers)

11

8

29.1

7.5

6.5

1.8

1.3

1.4

Nazr Mohammed (Bulls)

2

0

10.5

0.5

3.0

0.5

0.5

0.0

Patrick Patterson (Raptors)

13

3

24.6

7.2

4.8

1.6

0.5

0.8

Tayshaun Prince (Grizzlies)

8

6

22.9

7.1

2.9

0.8

0.0

0.4

Rajon Rondo (Celtics)

11

11

33.0

11.1

7.5

10.7

0.2

1.7

John Wall (Wizards)

12

12

35.7

19.4

4.3

9.1

0.6

2.7

James Young (Celtics)

3

0

4.0

3.0

0.3

0.0

0.3

0.0

 


'100-pound coat' not weighing down UK yet

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Karl-Anthony Towns had eight points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in UK's 86-28 win over Montana State on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns had eight points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in UK's 86-28 win over Montana State on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There was another "only at Kentucky" moment on Saturday.

John Calipari took to Twitter to wish a happy birthday to his daughter Megan. The sentiment was nice, but there was a problem.

He was a day early.

Megan quickly replied to tell him of the error. And since Coach Cal has 1.3 million followers, the story was quickly picked up by national outlets, all the way up to "Good Morning America."

"Why does that go all over the world, by the way?" Calipari said, who made light of the mishap by bringing a birthday balloon to his press conference after UK's dominant 86-28 win over Montana State.

Calipari's question was a rhetorical one, mostly because he already knows the answer.

The reason the story blew up the way it did is because of Coach Cal's position at the helm of the most high-profile college basketball program in the country. It's the same reason why fans throughout the country are already tiring of the word "platoon" because of how often it's already been used.

The spotlight, of course, has its perks for Coach Cal and players alike. UK is, as Calipari so often says, the "gold standard" for a reason, but there are drawbacks too.

After the victory over Montana State, in which UK set a shot clock-era record for the fewest points allowed in school history, he coined a new phrase to describe it, adding to his personal pantheon that runs the gamut from ice cream-pooping to Super Bowl-playing to brother-keeping.

"What these kids deal with to be here, to play here, to be a part of this program, they wear a hundred-pound coat," Calipari said.

The burden, Calipari admits, starts with him.

"I am rough on them, I am tough on them, I'm holding them to high standard," Calipari said. "I'm like a hawk. I see everything. I'm coaching them the entire time. They're getting better. It is not an option, you will get better. That's me."

Then you have Kentucky fans, who surely would have made concerned calls to radio shows on Monday had the final margin been much less than the 58-point one they enjoyed on Sunday evening, largest since a 62-point win over Vanderbilt in 2002-03.

"That's another 20 pounds of the coat," Calipari said.

To top it off, there's the media scrutiny that's led to a national debate about whether this UK team could beat the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, not to mention the people surrounding the players who create the "clutter" about which Calipari so often talks.

Contrast that with UK's opponents, whom Calipari says are burden-free next to the Cats.

"The people coming in to play us got windbreakers," Calipari said. "They're loose as a goose. They're just going to go play."

Karl-Anthony Towns, just five games into his UK career, has already noticed.

"Man, windbreakers?" said Towns, who tallied six of UK's 12 blocks to bring his season total to 18. "I don't even think they're wearing anything. They're going to the beach."

Dakari Johnson, who nearly had another double-double with 13 points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes, is in his second year wearing that heavy coat. He knows there's no taking it off either.

"We're always going to feel that type of pressure because of the expectations and stuff like that," Johnson said. "But I feel like we're a close unit so there's not much pressure to get to us because we're so close together."

That closeness means the Cats can share the burden rather than carry it individually.

"Anytime I need any advice, anytime I need to talk to somebody, it's as easy as calling Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Aaron Harrison, Andrew," Towns said. "I have so many numbers and so much support on my side that this whole being a UK Wildcat basketball player, the pressure really hasn't gotten to me. I've just been having a lot of fun."

With five wins by an average margin of 34.6 points -- the last coming in a game where the Cats held their opponents to 19.7-percent shooting, forced 21 turnovers and had one stretch of 12:37 in which they didn't allow a single point -- it's no surprise Towns has been enjoying himself so much.

Besides, he and his teammates did at least have an idea what they were getting into when they signed to play at UK. It's not like Coach Cal hides the 100-pound coats in the closet during the recruiting process.

"You know, Big Blue Nation is crazy," said Devin Booker, who had his second straight big game with 18 points. "But, you just play through it, it's something you learn. You know, it's a good problem to have. You want to be on this stage, so that's why you come here."

That's lucky, because that coat's not getting any lighter.

"If you're not willing to wear the hundred-pound coat, you don't come here, you can't come here, because it's not changing," Calipari said.

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