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Video: Coach Cal's post-Buffalo press conference

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Live chat: Men's basketball vs. Buffalo

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Live Blog Men's basketball vs. Buffalo
 
Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks in UK's season-opening win over Grand Canyon on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks in UK's season-opening win over Grand Canyon on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari isn't known for his brevity, but it took him only nine words to sum up Kentucky's season opener.

"First half was good," Calipari said. "Second half was not good."

The first half saw UK suffocate Grand Canyon defensively and build a commanding 43-16 lead. The Wildcats (1-0) held the Antelopes (0-1) to 25 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers. In the second half, Grand Canyon refused to back down, actually outscoring UK by two points through the first 13-plus minutes before the Cats finished strong for an 85-45 victory.

"I think the first half we played at a pretty good level," said Willie Cauley-Stein, who was all over the floor with 12 points, five rebounds, four blocks and two steals, 'and then the second half we kind of let go of the rope a little bit and didn't play as physical and as determined."

The physicality is what most caught Coach Cal's attention.

"The other thing that happened is it got physical and it became a little bit of a fight," Calipari said. "We had guys not be able to make plays. They walked, missed one footers when things got physical. That's going to be an issue for us."

On offense, the failure to respond to physicality manifested itself in post-ups that came too far away from the basket, which led to those misses from around the basket. With their depth, size and athleticism, the Cats were often able to grab their own misses, to the tune of 24 offensive rebounds and a 51-21 overall rebounding edge, but the issue remains.

On defense, UK struggled guarding dribble penetration after the break, which was clear within minutes. The second platoon of Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson, which held GCU scoreless in the first half, allowed six points on the first four possessions of the second half. Immediately, Coach Cal called for the first platoon to check back in.

"They came in, they scored too many buckets on us," Ulis said. "Like you said, we kept them to scoreless in the first half, but the second half we came out a little lazy. We got stuck on defense and they hit a couple (shots) on us. So he wanted to make an example and told us we would sit if we don't get stops."

It was the first of many lessons for the three freshmen on the second platoon. Minutes later, UK's fourth freshman, Karl-Anthony Towns, got a similar lesson when Coach Cal pulled him Johnson after a lapse of focus that led to a turnover.

Playing with a big lead, it turns out, isn't always easy.

"That's what we need to work on," Ulis said. "We have to come out still ready to fight. Just look at it as the score is zero to zero, just try to go out there and play and keep the pressure on."

Cauley-Stein is in his third year playing for Coach Cal and he's still working to put that message into action.

"It's tough," Cauley-Stein said. "And if you're young it makes it worse because you're not used to that. You're not used to playing at a level that Coach wants you to play at all the time. It just comes with the experience of playing the college-level game. As you get older, you realize what Coach is saying. It will just come."

The Cats experienced a measure of the adversity Coach Cal said they needed in that second half, which only figures to help as UK takes the floor again on Sunday at noon against Buffalo and then on Tuesday against No. 5 Kansas in the Champions Classic.

"They came out, they punched us in the mouth the second half, but we just have to keep going, learn from our mistakes and improve," Ulis said.

Cauley-Stein, however, says the real learning won't happen until later. He remembers last year's game against Michigan State well, when the Cats fell behind by double digits before the even scored a point.

"Once it gets harder, then dudes are going to find out that it's real, it's the whole game," Cauley-Stein said. "Especially if you come out flat and you get hit in the mouth first, it's rough. It's going to be a rough game after that. So you've got to come out and throw the first couple of blows and let them know you're here and you're going to find the rest of the game."

Even so, seeing what can happen when an opponent outmuscles them was a good learning experience for the Cats.

"It's good that it happened because we were able to talk about it and we'll show it on tape tomorrow," Calipari said.

And when you have a roster like Coach Cal does, you get to teach from the tape of a 40-point win.

Live blog: Men's basketball vs. Grand Canyon

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Live Blog Men's basketball vs. Grand Canyon
 

UK in need of adversity regular season will bring

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Marcus Lee averaged seven points and seven rebounds in UK's two exhibition wins. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics) Marcus Lee averaged seven points and seven rebounds in UK's two exhibition wins. (Elliott Hess, UK Athletics)
John Calipari the competitor wants to jump out to a big early and win every game by double digits. John Calipari the realist knows that's not happening.

That's why he's saying things like this.

"We need adversity so bad," Calipari said. "We need to get hit in the mouth as soon as we can."

If you didn't know any better, you might think John Calipari is rooting against his own team.

"We need to be down 10, and let's figure out what we are," Calipari said.

On the eve of Kentucky's season opener, it's just a matter of time before he gets his wish.

UK opens its much-anticipated 2014-15 campaign at 8 p.m. on Friday night against Grand Canyon, a second-year Division-I program led by three-time NBA All Star Dan Majerle. The Wildcats are in the final hours of a unique offseason that's featured some surprise decisions to bypass the NBA Draft, a six-game Big Blue Bahamas tour and intrigue surrounding UK's platoon system.

That's all led to a No. 1 preseason ranking and unmatched hype (at least since last season), neither of which changes the task UK is facing.

"This thing is going to take time and it's going to be a process just like last year's team," Calipari said. "It can be all the hype we want. Won't matter. Gotta do it on the court."

Though there's no doubt doing it on the court in a game that counts is different, it's not as if this UK team is completely untested. There were the aforementioned Bahamas games and, perhaps even more notably, Kentucky's practices.

Talk of UK's roster featuring two teams that might each be ranked in the top 25 has been common all offseason, culminating in Calipari mentor and SMU head coach Larry Brown saying Thursday he believed the Cats' platoons would be No. 1 and No. 2 in the polls. That, like much of what's been said about Kentucky, is likely hyperbole, but the sentiment behind it is significant nonetheless.

With 12 talented players, every time UK gathers at the Joe Craft Center, it's a battle.

"Oh real competitive, you know always going against somebody at your position at all times," Poythress said. "Even in drills it's competitive."

One drill especially.

"We have a drill called the 'Perfect Stop,' " Lee said. "Once Coach Cal calls 'Perfect Stop,' it's probably the best part of practice because we're trying to kill each other. It's probably the most fun, but it's the most work we do during practice."

It's a five-on-five drill in the half-court that Alex Poythress called a "pride thing." The defense's task is simple, though far from easy: prevent the offense from scoring or getting into the lane for the entirety of the 35-second shot clock.

"It's probably the noisiest point of our practice because we're yelling, we're screaming, we're talking because you only have so much time to try to talk with your team to get things done," Lee said.

The drill has been prominently featured in the last few days of practice leading up to the opener, which Coach Cal called "ultra-competitive" after he ratcheted up the heat another couple notches.

"Our wins and losses matter here," Lee said. "We gotta run every time we lose, so it means a lot to win or lose no matter who you're playing right now."

Running is one thing, but it's a little different when permanent tallies go in the win-loss column. The Cats, however, are eager.

For most, season openers come with plenty of butterflies. At Kentucky, the chance to play meaningful games again actually may represent a reprieve.

At long last, talking season is over.

"It's definitely very relaxing knowing that we are finally here at the start of the season," Marcus Lee said. "It's something that we've all been looking forward to since the end of last season. So for it to finally be here is kind of a good feeling."

Video: Poythress, Lee on UK's season opener

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UK in the NBA -- Knight, Davis clutch in week 2

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By Nick Jones, UK Athletics

All stats through games on Nov. 9


Former Wildcat Brandon Knight is now his fourth NBA season and second with the Milwaukee Bucks. To this point in his career he has made a name for himself for his ability to score the ball from the point-guard position.

Oh, and unfortunately being caught on the wrong end of some highlights that have gone viral.

All jokes aside, Knight is off to a great start as the lead guard for a young Bucks team. He has scored in double digits in all seven games this season, but that comes as no surprise.

Knight is also leading all point guards with 45 total rebounds on the season, as well as averaging 7.3 assists per game.

In their last outing on Saturday the Bucks delivered the previously unbeaten Grizzlies their first loss of the season as Knight hit a game-winning and-one layup and converted on the free throw to give his team a 93-92 edge with just 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock.


Tayshaun Prince logged 27 minutes in the game for Memphis. The veteran registered eight points, two rebounds and two steals in the losing effort.

Anthony Davis, who is being pegged by experts as the future of the league, hit a game winner of his own in week two. Pelicans head coach Monty Williams drew up an isolation play for the All-Star forward in the closing seconds against the 2014 world champion San Antonio Spurs.

Davis caught the ball on the free-throw line, faced up, took two dribbles and used his length and quickness to get all the way to the rim with two dribbles. The basket gave him 27 points for the game and sealed a 100-99 win over the Spurs.


The former No. 1 pick is ranked fifth in the league in scoring (24.4), first in rebounding (12.8) and first in blocks (4.4), sparking early-season MVP conversations.

Another former Kentucky big man who entered in talks for postseason awards is Nerlens Noel, who was atop the Rookie Ladder after week one. Noel missed both games over the weekend as he went down with a sprained ankle Wednesday against Orlando.

The 76ers went 0-2 in his absence and currently hold a league worst 0-7 record on the season. But with Noel set to return to action on Thursday, and with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams joining the team for the first time this season, it will be interesting to see if Philly can make any noise on their upcoming three-game road trip.

As for other Cats who are dealing with injuries, Jodie Meeks has been sidelined for the first seven games of the season for his struggling Pistons squad.

Detroit fully expects Meeks to be inserted into the starting lineup at the shooting guard position upon his return, but he's still about five weeks away from being cleared to play as he recovers from what the team diagnosed as a stress reaction in his back.

Also, Celtics rookie James Young has only seen action in one game in the opening weeks of the season. Young has been battling a hamstring injury dating back to the preseason, and he will miss the upcoming two-game road trip for Boston due to an undisclosed illness in his family.

Week two TV schedule

Tuesday: Orlando @ Toronto (Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson) 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
Wednesday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Minnesota 10:00 p.m. on ESPN
Thursday: Chicago (Nazr Mohammad) @ Toronto 8:00 p.m. on TNT
Sunday: Houston (Terrence Jones) @ Oklahoma City 7:00 p.m. on NBA TV

Stats

Player (Team)

Games   Played

Games Started

PPG

RPG

APG

BPG

SPG

MPG

Eric Bledsoe (Suns)

7

7

14.1

4.1

5.1

0.7

0.7

31.0

DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)

7

7

23.0

11.1

1.4

1.4

1.4

30.4

Anthony Davis (Pelicans)

5

5

24.4

12.8

1.8

4.4

2.2

37.0

Archie Goodwin (Suns)

3

0

1.7

0.3

0.4

0.2

0.4

7.0

Chuck Hayes (Raptors)

4

0

2.2

1.8

0.8

0.0

0.2

9.3

Terrence Jones (Rockets)

4

4

14.0

7.5

1.5

1.8

1.0

29.3

Enes Kanter (Jazz)

7

7

11.6

6.6

0.3

0.0

0.1

24.1

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Hornets)

5

5

9.4

5.6

1.4

1.0

0.2

24.0

Brandon Knight (Bucks)

7

7

17.6

6.4

7.3

0.1

1.4

31.9

Darius Miller (Pelicans)

1

0

0.0

0.0

2.0

0.0

0.0

4.0

Nerlens Noel (76ers)

5

5

7.2

5.6

2.6

1.8

1.6

28.4

Patrick Patterson (Raptors)

7

3

7.0

4.6

1.9

0.6

1.0

24.9

Tayshaun Prince (Grizzlies)

 

4

2

7.5

3.1

0.8

0.0

0.5

24.0

Rajon Rondo (Celtics)

5

5

9.0

8.0

11.2

0.1

1.9

33.2

John Wall (Wizards)

7

7

17.7

4.3

8.3

0.6

1.6

36.0

James Young (Celtics)

1

0

6

1.0

0.0

1.0

0.0

6.0







Recent Comments

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  • Tom Moore: Since Tubby 98 and 2003-2004 team which should've won it all, Kentucky fans ( I am true blue ) have read more
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  • 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
  • Jeff Schrembs: I just wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to the parents, guardians, relatives, etc. of each of the players. read more
  • D.K. West: I am sooooooo ready for the Big Blue. I loved the effort of last years squad, especially in the tournament read more
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