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Video: Highlights from UK's 71-69 win at LSU

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Video: Towns, Andrew Harrison on UK's trip to LSU

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Video: Robic previews UK's trip to LSU

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Aaron Harrison had 23 points in UK's 68-61 win at Florida on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Aaron Harrison had 23 points in UK's 68-61 win at Florida on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Aaron Harrison has seen it all.

Two years into his Kentucky career, he's hit more big shots than most players make in a lifetime. He's played on the biggest stages and in some of the most hostile venues in the game.

But after he had faced down the latest raucous road crowd on Saturday night at Florida, even the ever-clutch shooting guard had to admit it never becomes routine.
    
"You can't ever get used to it," he said.

It only seems like it.

Harrison had just short-circuited the Gators' upset bit and helped send their fans to the exits while time was still on the clock. After a quiet, foul-trouble plagued first 20 minutes, Harrison scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half of a 68-61 win at a packed O'Connell Center. Whenever the top-ranked Wildcats - who moved to 23-0 (10-0 Southeastern Conference) - needed a big basket, Harrison delivered.

"If you don't love coming into atmospheres like this, that's the type of game you're playing," Harrison said. "Florida played really well tonight and came out with a great atmosphere."

It had been nearly two years since Kentucky had beaten Florida (12-11, 5-5 SEC), and the Gators did everything in their power to prolong the drought. They built a nine-point first-half lead, the Cats momentarily flustered by the environment, and came within one made field goal of becoming the first opponent to shoot 50 percent on UK's historically stingy defense.

"They played to win, they fought, they did whatever they had to do to keep it--they started putting their head down and driving into our centers and scoring layups," John Calipari said. "They shot 49 percent against us today. Forty-nine."

Upping the degree of difficulty a bit more, UK shot just 3-of-14 from 3-point range and four players combined for all but one of the Cats' points on Saturday night. Harrison, of course, was able to pick up much of the slack.

"Not many teams in the country have a player like Aaron Harrison on their team," said Karl-Anthony Towns, who dominated the interior with 19 points and eight rebounds. "Luckily, we have the only one. We have a person like him on the floor anytime the game gets really close you give him the ball, the ball's going in."

Towns has learned that in less than a full season, so of course Calipari is even more certain of just how much Harrison can be counted on.

"Now you understand that if Aaron Harrison is 1 for 9 and there's three minutes left in a close game, he's in," Calipari said. "Somebody else might be out, but he is in. Because he makes all those plays and he's not afraid and he sees himself making them."

Harrison shot 6 of 12 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range, but it was at the free-throw line where he and the Cats closed out the Gators. He hit all eight of his free throws and UK made 21 of 22 (95.5 percent) as a team. UK scored its final 11 points at the line, with Harrison accounting for six of them.

"Free-throw shooting is contagious both ways," Calipari said. "It's contagious when you're making them if the right guys are shooting it. It's contagious the other way. If you miss a couple, then all of a sudden your best free-throw shooter steps up and misses a couple."

Unquestionably, Harrison is one of those "right guys," but there was a less-than-usual suspect who joined him. Willie Cauley-Stein made all five of his free throws, though that was only his second-most impressive feat of the night, trailing the and-one dunk with 12:09 left that gave UK the lead for good.

"You've gotta go to the line with confidence and I think that's what we did," Harrison said. "The biggest thing is Willie. Willie definitely improved from the free-throw line, and we get on him about it, and I think that's part of him just working so hard at it."

Hard work is a common theme for this team, even as the Cats passed one of their most difficult  remaining tests, kept their perfect record intact and kept alive all the talk that goes with it. Along those lines, Harrison dismissed the notion that UK found another gear in the final minutes with its unbeaten run in jeopardy.

"We're not really trying to survive right now; we're just trying to get better," Harrison said. "It's midseason. We've still got a long way to go. We're not really trying to survive; we're trying to just get better as a team so we can play our best at the end of the year."

To that end, Coach Cal is looking for one thing above all else.

"Andrew (Harrison) played so well last game. Come on, man," Calipari said, referencing the point guard's one-point outing. "He didn't play bad, but why weren't you in attack mode? Why did they attack you? You didn't make one play, one shot. You know what I'm saying? Where was the guy that played last game?

"Aaron, who played awful last game, was the outstanding player in college basketball today. So, what is what? Dakari (Johnson), come on. Willie, you know, let's go. Let's be more consistent."
 

Cauley-Stein searching for return to fun form

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Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Willie Cauley-Stein is the veteran leader and arguably the top player on the nation's top-ranked team.

His defense has drawn praise from all corners, with Grantland.com saying he might be the best defender in America both inside and outside.

On a Kentucky squad with unprecedented talent and depth, he's the one player who's cracked the national player of the year conversation.

Cauley-Stein, however, has a critic: himself.

"I just haven't been playing like I should be playing," Cauley-Stein said.

Cauley-Stein set that high standard for himself with his own play early in the season. With outings like his 21-point, 12-rebound, five-steal, three-block performance against Texas, Cauley-Stein showed everyone what his ceiling is, but he hasn't reached those heights in recent weeks.

He's scored in double figures just twice in Southeastern Conference play, including back-to-back two-point games at South Carolina and Missouri. He's continued to flummox opponents with his versatility, but his gaudy defensive numbers have taken a dip. He has only two combined blocks and steals in his last three games entering a trip for UK (22-0, 9-0 SEC) to Florida (12-10, 5-4 SEC) at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.
 
"It's just like, just the same stuff I've always been doing, I just got away from it," Cauley-Stein said. "As the season goes on you just start to get like wear and tear and you stop doing what got you there, so now I'm just trying to do what got me so high up and then just keep on building off of it."

For Cauley-Stein, wear and tear is coming in the form of a nagging injury that John Calipari terms a "sore ankle" that has been "scanned and double-scanned and triple-scanned" for something more serious. It's nothing that will keep him from playing, but it doesn't make playing to his potential any easier.

"He's a little hurt," Calipari said. "You know, ankle's bothering him a little bit, but there's no reason for him not to have the numbers -- you know, double-digit scoring and rebounding, even with the minutes, because he is probably one of the guys that is getting a little more minutes."

The only way Cauley-Stein can think of to try to get back to that is work.

"I've been in the gym after every practice, before practice, trying to get back to the stuff that I was doing at the beginning of the year I got away from," Cauley-Stein said.

Beyond the production, he says there is one notable difference between the Cauley-Stein who dominates every phase of the game and the one who has been merely a good player on a great team.

"It just feels fun," Cauley-Stein said. "I feel like I'm having fun, I look like I'm having fun. If I'm not playing then I don't look like I'm having fun. That's the biggest part about it."

Unfortunately, there's no simple switch for Cauley-Stein to flip to have that fun because he doesn't realize what's going on until after the fact.

"I mean, at the time I don't realize that I look that way, but it's more or less like, 'Dang, I'm not scoring,' or 'I should've got that rebound,' so then you're just thinking about that," Cauley-Stein said. "Then vice versa, when you're doing all that stuff your energy is so high 'cause you're doing the right things, doing the right things. By the end of it you look back and you see you were flying and doing all this other stuff and then, the other way around, you're just kinda there, out there."

But if you ask his teammates, they'll tell you Cauley-Stein isn't being completely fair to himself, though they believe the result will be positive.

"Willie is going to play like Willie," Tyler Ulis said. "He's a great defensive player. Offensively, he's doing a lot better I feel like. If he feels like that then that's great. He's going to put more work in. He's not complacent. With him, he's just a great asset to our team, blocking shots defensively, being able to guard 1-5. Having him is great."

The Wildcats will certainly be counting on Cauley-Stein on Saturday considering he's twice played in Florida's O'Connell Center, a venue known as among the most hostile in the SEC.

"I mean they're like everybody else, but the way their gym is set up it's just different, like they're on top of you," Cauley-Stein said. "It's loud, yelling on top of you. They're really into it."

Cauley-Stein has not yet won in Gainesville, Fla., and he's averaging just six points and four rebounds in those two losses. He'll surely want to improve on those numbers come Saturday night, but his coach says Cauley-Stein shouldn't concern himself too much with all that.

"We try to talk to them, but they may feel the weight of the world on their shoulders," Calipari said. "They really shouldn't because they have each other. I kept telling everybody, 'You don't even have to play great every night. I just need five guys to play well. I don't need nine. We need five, so you're not forced.' 'Well, when I don't play well we lose.' That's not the case for not one player on this team. 'Now, you play to play great, but you're not a machine, you're not a computer. It doesn't happen all the time.' "
 

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