Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

Recently in men's basketball Category

For the second time in as many Southeastern Conference games, Kentucky survived overtime. This time, the Wildcats went to double OT at Texas A&M and came away with a 70-64 win.

UK got a big and-one from Devin Booker, a clutch 3 by Tyler Ulis and big plays (including two sets of two made free throws) from Dakari Johnson and Trey Lyles in the second extra period after both Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out.

Afterward, John Calipari talked about the win, saying "we're just not a very good team right now" even though the Wildcats are 15-0. Minutes later, he followed his comments up with a tweet fitting for an NFL Playoff weekend. Check it all out below.


On Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson coming through when they needed to ...
"We're just--I was happy with them, but the shot that Tyler made, the and-one that Devin made and then Dakari rebounding. I couldn't get Karl to rebound. He got traffic and grabbing and pushing and he's looking for fouls and balls are hitting him in the chest. So I thought Marcus Lee defended well down the stretch when we put him out there. But we're just not a very good team right now. And Texas A&M, Billy (Kennedy), he did everything he was supposed to to give them a chance to win and we kind of got lucky and walked out with a W. The thing about this: Texas A&M without their best player. Without their best player. So I'm a big Billy Kennedy. He knows. We're friends. That thing was a war. They did not quit. They did not stop."

On why they are not a good team right now ...
"I don't know. In the last two games, we've kind of--what's happening, again, we're walking out of timeouts, guys aren't paying attention, which means they're into themselves. You make a bad play, it leads to another bad play and another bad play. You miss a shot and now you don't want to be aggressive. You're tentative. So we have a lot that going on and I just told them, 'We need to take a day off tomorrow, get away from each other and self-reflect, including me, and let's just figure out where we go with this.' Because right now, we're not very good."

On players other than Aaron Harrison stepping up in big moments ...
"Well, the one thing I want to tell you is we're learning about our team. We continue to learn. We couldn't get Aaron to drive the ball today. He did not drive the ball. He should have been at the foul line like (Danuel) House, which is just drive in there and jump right at (them). Don't try to jump sideways and shoot fades. But we couldn't get him to do it and so House shoots 11 free throws, he shoots two. And then on top of it goes 4 for 20 and a bunch of them were, just drive the ball, man. Go at somebody. But what happened is, you're not playing great and you get tentative and the bail-out shot is just a jumper. If it goes it goes and if it doesn't I didn't make it. But he wasn't the only one. Willie didn't play particularly well. I mean, we had a lot of--we're kind of hitting that proverbial wall maybe a little bit early right now."

On fouling before the in-bounds at the end of the first overtime ...
"They did and the kid made one. I was hoping he'd miss both but he made one. But it put us in a different position rather than down three and being desperate. We were just trying to escape, just to be honest. I mean, think about Dakari makes the free throws and Trey, who every other time Trey has been in that situation has missed the free throws. You're counting on your freshmen. Devin Booker making a play in transition and Tyler making a 3. Guys fouled out. They were grabbing guys. We were running at non-shooters. Think about what I'm saying. He is not going to shoot it, he's driving and we ran right at him and the guy drives around us. Or how about this one? We fouled the guy. At that point, when you're coaching, let's just try to get out of here. Let's just try to escape."

On needing to work on energy ...

"It's not like we're not playing. What's happened is the other teams are playing out of their minds. But guess what. Is it going to change? Every game's this way for us. We're just not--you can't count on freshmen. That's gotta be the veterans. Your veterans gotta be the core group that drags the young kids, not the other way around."

On what it says that they have escaped with two wins ...
"We have a will to win. Look, like I said, at each point and each time they came in, we play to win here. We're not playing not to lose. Play to win. If they beat us, they beat us. I said it in five straight timeouts. I never thought about us losing. My whole thought was, how do we get this thing and get a gap? Then when we got a gap, we shot a layup. Like, what just happened? There were things that happened in that game that I'm like, oh my god. And then you have to erase and move on and say, 'Come on, let's go.' "

On Tyler Ulis coming up big late ...
"Yeah. I thought he did some good stuff. And I was going with whoever was playing well. I was scrambling and I thought Marcus Lee would defend better than Trey and I thought Trey would be better on offense that Marcus Lee. We were subbing like that. Took Dakari out and times and put Marcus (in). I was doing anything. Andrew is hurt. Andrew got hurt again yesterday. He's trying to play through it, but that's why when he starting limping I said, 'Kid, just stay out.' And he kept saying, 'Coach, let me try.' And so he's beat up a little bit but I'm happy the guys--because he didn't play particularly well, but other guys didn't either. You think about it, what did we shoot? (28 percent) I love that. Do you know how much I love a team shooting 28 percent and winning? What just happened? You shot 28 percent and you won the game. And it isn't like they didn't shoot fouls. They shot fouls too."

On the play where Andrew Harrison shot instead of pulling it out ...
"I just think he had a mental lapse. And again, he ran by me. I don't know why I didn't just yell, 'Pull it out! Pull it out!' And I didn't because I just didn't think I had to. But I should've. So it's a combination of me and him both. It's kind of like when Karl was falling out of bounds at Louisville and I'm standing next to an official and I say, 'Why didn't he call a timeout?' How about this thing? Why didn't I call a timeout? I could have called it too and I didn't. So there are things--these kids, they're not machines. They make mistakes. They do dumb things. But I've got a good group, a group that has a will to win and now I got my work cut out for me. We got work to do. We're not very good right now. We're just not."

On whether that's hard to believe ...
"If you watch the last two games, we just shot 28 percent. We shot 28 percent and we outrebound a team that we're way bigger than by one rebound. I mean, and the guys that won the game, Trey Lyles hasn't made a free throw in pressure yet until then and Dakari would be the first--if one of my guys got cramps and they had to pick a foul shooter on my team, they would pick Dakari. Let him shoot it. And the kid went up and made two. And he made a--big rebounds. He fought in there. I was proud of him. Maybe this gets him to go because he's been really struggling."

On Andrew Harrison's injury ...
"He's got like a hip. He got hit in the hip and it's been bothering him. And then he got hit yesterday. We were doing--it was a nothing drill and he just got hit by Dakari. Just being around Dakari you get hurt. He ran by him and boom, he went down on the floor. So that happened at the end of yesterday's practice."

On UK not having many first-half offensive rebounds ...
"What they did was they just said, 'This guy's not getting it,' and they pushed you into the cheerleaders and they hoped somebody else got the ball. This one and that one aren't getting it and it was a full-force in that way. And we didn't fight it. We just accepted it. And there was one where Karl had his hands up and it was a double foul. I can't wait to see that on TV, when I see the version. But this is a lot of stuff. I come back to, our veterans gotta get this right for our team, not our young guys."

On whether the game was called differently after the double foul ...
"I don't know. I have to watch the tape."

On hitting free throws late after struggling early ...
"We had some guys miss two again. Willie made two. How about the two Willie made? Willie went 1 for 3 last game. He comes in makes two and those were big too. We were just trying to--even in the first half, if we don't make 3s we're down 15 instead of three. The only shot we made was a 3. Dakari couldn't hit the rim again. He had five attempts at shots and didn't get it to the backboard. So you gotta give them credit. They fought and played. I'll say it again: They didn't have their best player and they did it. So my hat's off to Billy (Kennedy). I know how good a coach he is and he's a good man, but I told him 'you guys deserved this one' after."

On being dominated in paint points ...
"Yeah. Just they were more active, more physical. They fought. We kind of accepted it. We were looking at officials, 'Call fouls,' and they didn't. There were three rebounds at the end of the game where my guy's worried about, 'He's fouling me! He's fouling me!' And the ball hit him in the chest. My guy. And their guy got it. You can't--I had to take him out. I said, 'What are you doing?' 'He grabbed my arm.' 'OK, sit over here. Dakari, go in there and battle.' And you got young guys. It's amazing when you have young players, the stuff they say and do. It's like having 8-year-olds. Like, 'You said that, really?' "

On whether he's afraid this won't get his team's attention ...

"We just gotta get better. I'm not worried about all that. I've had teams like this. I am so old that I've had enough teams that I've started like this and they get stale and they gotta get something back. You get your mojo back and then all of a sudden you come out of the gate and you start playing, you're on a roll. I don't us to be great right now anyway. We need to be great at the end of February and March. Right now, let's see where we are, learn about each other. We learned a lot about our team. We really did. That's the whole thing. You're playing this early and it's January, learn. You win and you learn. I don't think there are any losses right now. It's winning and learning and that's all we're trying to do."

Video: Highlights of UK's double-OT win at A&M

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment

Video: 'This is league now'

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
John Calipari leads Kentucky into a road matchup with Texas A&M on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari leads Kentucky into a road matchup with Texas A&M on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari took a new approach to the holiday break this year.

For this edition of the practices, workouts and film sessions known affectionately (or un-affectionately, depending on who's talking) as Camp Cal, Calipari shifted the focus from team to individual. He asked his players to name an area of their game they wanted to add or improve before the end of the season and committed to helping them do it.

Willie Cauley-Stein said he wanted to handle the ball more effectively. Andrew Harrison picked out his mid-range shot as an area for growth. So too did Dakari Johnson, who even attempted one such shot in Kentucky's first game after the break.

"I kind of scrunched, like, 'Phew, not now,' " Calipari said. "But we've been working on that. That's one of the things he's added to his game. So I can't now work on it with him and then tell him not to do it."

Johnson's shot, which missed, came in the second half of an overtime win over Ole Miss with UK up just two, so it's only natural Calipari cringed a bit when his bruising 7 footer decided to show off his newfound range. So then, does that reveal he may have erred in changing things up for a team that had steamrolled through its first 13 games?

Ahead of a Saturday trip to Texas A&M (9-4, 0-1 Southeastern Conference), Coach Cal thinks not.

"I'm not backing up," Calipari said. "Each individual by the end of this year, I want you to look at and say, 'He is a better player.' Every one of these guys you look at: 'He is a better player.' And if that happens, then our team has grown, we're doing all the kind of stuff we need to do."

Karl-Anthony Towns, meanwhile, acknowledges there's a balancing act for UK (14-0, 1-0 SEC) in adding new individual elements, but he's on board with Calipari's point of view. He used one familiar phrase and a new metaphor in the span of a sentence to make his point.

"Of course, but at the same time, if it's not broke, don't fix it, but if the pencil is good enough to use, why not make it sharper?" Towns said. "We can still do a lot of things to improve your game and make it even a more valuable part and asset to your game. That's my thing. I just want to make sure I continue growing and doing new things, but also, like I said, make the pencil sharper."

It's not as if the pencil was dull to begin with, which is why the fact that UK played its first close game after Camp Cal might concern some. Once again, Calipari isn't buying in. He just wants to make sure the new focus doesn't detract from what has made UK so dominant.

"My thing was not 'it's not broke, don't fix it,' " Calipari said. "It was did they focus more on what we were trying to teach them individually and got away from the energy that they need to play with? I'm going to talk about it today. But I'm still -- I'm telling them, 'I'm counting on you to bring energy.' "

If nothing else, Ole Miss proved the Wildcats don't have any choice but to bring energy if they want to keep that unblemished record much longer.

"It was definitely a wake-up call for all of us, I think," Trey Lyles said. "They're going to come out and play that much harder against us. It's SEC play now, very physical. I'd say it was the most physical game we played so far this year and we're going to get every team's best shot so we just have to be prepared for it."

That "everybody's Super Bowl" thing goes to another level on the road, too, and that's exactly where UK will go this weekend against the Aggies. Fortunately for the Cats, they have some experience to call on from their win at Louisville on Dec. 27.

"I learned we really just have to come out with energy," Towns said. "No matter where we are, we have to take control of the game from the get. If we can do that we can have a lot easier time during the game. If we allow the opponent to be the aggressor, it can be a rough night for us."

A&M dropped its SEC opener against Alabama, 65-44, but did so without leading scorer and rebounder Jalen Jones, who missed the game due to a sprained ankle suffered Jan. 3. Second-leading scorer Danuel House was also limited to 21 minutes after picking up two early fouls.

"They're great at pick-and-rolls," Calipari said. "They've got players at every position that can score. They're playing a pack-line defense, man-to-man. They'll also play a tandem zone like all these teams are now playing us. So, they're going to come in with one thought: Let's slow these guys down. They'll run offense. They'll shoot it quick when they get into transition, but they're going to make us play in the half court. They're a good team."

UK will have to respond, and there's only one way to do it.

"It's all effort and energy, but these guys are young," Calipari said. "What we're asking them to do is really hard. They'd rather not do it. They'd rather do it their way: Let me jog and stand straight up and shoot a fade away. You just can't win playing that way."

Video: Coach Cal on UK's trip to Texas A&M

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
Andrew Harrison had 12 points and five assists in UK's overtime win over Ole Miss on Tuesday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Andrew Harrison had 12 points and five assists in UK's overtime win over Ole Miss on Tuesday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
It had been almost nine months to the day since the Harrison twins last played in a close game.

They didn't forget what to do.

"We just knew that we had to step up to win the game and that's what we did," Aaron Harrison said. "We'd do anything to win. We've been in big games before, obviously, so we just knew how hard we had to fight."

Though Aaron Harrison didn't hit one of his patented game-winning 3s from the left wing, the twins made all kinds of clutch plays on Tuesday night in an 89-86 win. Top-ranked Kentucky (14-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), with the two big guards leading the way, survived an overtime thriller in Rupp Arena against Ole Miss (9-5, 0-1 SEC).

"Just gotta make big plays at important times," Aaron Harrison said. "That's what we did."

After the visiting Rebels took a 63-61 lead with 7:17 left, the twins combined to score 15 of UK's final 28 points, including Andrew Harrison's 3-pointer with 2:08 left in overtime to put the Cats up one. He also hit the free throw that sent the game to overtime after Trey Lyles came away with a steal.

"I think Coach looks to me to make the big plays, so I just try to do it," Andrew Harrison said. "If they give me a shot I'm going to try and take it and make it for my team."

On the evening, Andrew Harrison had 12 points, five assists and only one turnover, steadying the ship as Ole Miss hit 49.2 percent from the field and 9-of-17 from 3-point range against UK's historically stingy defense. It was a far cry from his last outing, when he had just three points and an uncharacteristic six turnovers in a win at Louisville.

The performance drew unfair criticism, but Aaron Harrison never doubted whether his brother would bounce back.

"I knew he was going to respond well," Aaron Harrison said. "He always gets criticized and stuff like that. We just gotta not listen to it. It's nonsense anyway."

That "nonsense" is likely in reference to the talk that UK would be better off by relying primarily on freshman Tyler Ulis at point guard instead of the timeshare that's propelled the Wildcats to an unbeaten start. Andrew Harrison admits the talk got in his head, but only briefly.

"After that game I took it personal, just stuff - kind of stupid," Andrew Harrison said. "But you just try to move on to the next game and play as hard as you can and win for your team and not pay attention to people who really don't know anything about our team."

For UK to reach its ceiling, Andrew Harrison, Ulis, John Calipari and everyone in the team huddle always knew it would take both point guards. Tuesday was proof of that.

Ole Miss saw an opportunity to take advantage of the 5-foot-9 Ulis and did just that.

"You saw we had an issue, they went after Tyler, his size," Calipari said. "They took him right to the middle of the lane and just jumped up over him. So that's why I went with a bigger lineup."

The bigger of UK's two platoons - the Harrison twins' blue group - staked UK to 15-2 lead. Aaron Harrison hit a pair of 3s in the scorching start and five for the game, but the Rebels responded behind Stefan Moody, who scored 16 of his 25 points in the first half to put the Cats in a 38-36 hole at the break.

"I mean, we knew they were going to fight," said Aaron Harrison, who poured in 26 points. "All SEC's tough. It's a tougher conference than people think and we knew they weren't just going to lay down. So they just came out and fought really hard. They played really well."

Prior to Tuesday, the closest game UK had played was decided by eight points. A game like this one was always going to come, so the Cats needed it.

"You just kind of learn who's going to fight," Aaron Harrison said. "And I think we do have a deep team and most everybody fought today. We all had points in the game where we had to make big plays and we made them. I think we learned a lot about our team today."

In talking about that very thing, Coach Cal trotted out one of his favorite phrases.

"I got a team with a will to win," Calipari said. "They fought. They had every chance to let go of the rope and pout and feel bad for themselves and they didn't. They all made plays. That's a good sign."

A good sign, yes, but the fact that it had to show up at all was surprising.

On top of entering as heavy favorites, the Cats shot 11 of 20 from 3-point range, the kind of shooting night Calipari has said previously would almost guarantee UK of a blowout win. Instead, Kentucky had to scratch and claw for every inch against a game Ole Miss team that may very well have won had Moody not cramped late and Jarvis Summers (23 points) hit a 3 in the waning moments of regulation.

For this much talked-about unbeaten run to continue, the Cats will have to improve and soon with a trip on Saturday to College Station, Texas, looming, where Texas A&M is "having parties" in anticipation of a shot at UK.

"I see it as his team played out of their mind and we, we kind of didn't have the fight we need," Calipari said. "A lot of young guys not knowing, even some vets not understanding that there's no one going to surrender.  They're playing their hearts out and that's what you saw from Mississippi today."

Recent Comments

  • Sandy: Just wanted these young ladies to know that I watched the whole game. I am exceedingly proud of you. Even read more
  • Rao: When Harrison twins drive the ball to the post opponents usually snap the ball from their left hand even before read more
  • Kristi Hazlewood: We love you MiMi! read more
  • CHRIS OSEDO: I love the job Coach Call is doing in UK. I hope my son comes there soon. read more
  • B J Vance: Kudos to the Big Blue Nation who turn out everywhere to cheer the Cats. The very entertaining and knowledgeable Dick read more
  • gerald adams: you done a hell of good job today boys. I,m so prod ove you all for the heart some of read more
  • Silviu Udrea: Huge fan !!! Keep going on :) read more
  • JR: Erin is one dedicated player of the game of softball.......and it would be hard to find anyone who has worked read more
  • Commenter: Both Derick and Dominique should watch Willie's game 3 years back. Compared to what Caulistain then these two players are read more
  • Patrick Quinn: I've always liked Willis...we will need him getting significant minutes during our run..I have faith in his athletic ability...I remember read more