Cats Open SEC Play Against Ole Miss

John Calipari refuses to run his team ragged.

With the demands placed on his players – from basketball to school to social lives – he allows for balance by rarely reaching the 20 hours of practice time allotted by the NCAA.

Kentucky vs. Ole Miss
Sat., Jan. 2 - 7 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.
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UK 2015-16 Team Stats UM
10-2 Record 10-2
0-0 Conference Record 0-0
.470 FG% .434
.402 Opp FG% .408
.317 3FG% .311
.671 FT% .724
78.1 PPG 77.0
39.8 RPG 40.3
6.2 BPG 3.7
13.7 APG 13.0
6.5 SPG 7.8
“It's just something I'm not comfortable with when they got classroom stuff and all the things that are going on when you're in school,” Calipari said. “But they're not in school right now, and I'm telling 'em, 'You're sleeping, you're eating – after you play basketball, you're doing those things.' ”

For Calipari, it’s like an extended Christmas.

“It's been great,” Calipari said. “I mean, I like it. I might be the only guy in the gym that likes it, but… You have time.”

UK has been hard at work for the better part of a week following a Saturday win over archrival Louisville, taking full advantage of this rare time when basketball is the lone priority. You won’t catch them raving about how much fun they’re having like their coach, but the Wildcats see the benefits.

“It’s all right,” freshman Charles Matthews said. “Of course there are going to be times when your body will feel like it can’t go. But that’s when your mind has to step in and say, ‘We’re ready to go.’ It’s been difficult, but we’re basketball players, so we can get to work and there’s nothing too hard.”

After two practices on Friday, No. 10/11 UK (10-2) will return to Rupp Arena to host Ole Miss (10-2) in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. It will be right back to Camp Cal on Sunday and Monday, but not before the Rebels offer a test.

“They have great enthusiasm right now,” Calipari said. “They're fighting better, but this is a physical team that we're about to play. It'll be a dogfight in a lot of different places.”

It was certain a dogfight between Ole Miss and Kentucky a season ago, when the visiting Rebels took the Cats to overtime behind an incredible effort by 5-foot-10 guard Stefan Moody. UK would survive, 89-86, thanks in part to Moody’s late-game cramps, but the senior has shown few signs of fatigue in leading the SEC in scoring (23.8 points per game) and averaging 35 minutes per game.

“I don’t think we expected him to go off like he did,” Derek Willis said of Moody’s 25-point performance. “This year I would say we’d be more prepared. I know he’s going to come in the building and try to do what he did last year again.”

Ole Miss has rounded into form since Moody’s full-time move to point guard. The Rebels are winners of seven straight and excel attacking the offensive glass.

“They play different. You can't trap big to big, you can't play pick and rolls like you normally do. They do a lot of picking with the four and spacing. They've got an athletic three man (Martavious Newby) that just crashes the boards and is driving and is coming at the rim that you've got to be prepared to guard.

“They're playing a 2-3, they're playing a 1-3-1 trap, they're spreading out the court in a 2-2-1. They're man to man, they're getting after it. They play. It's a great first game for us to really see, 'OK, where truly are we?' ”

Calipari believes his team has taken important steps forward in its long-term development this week, but he’s more uncertain about the short term.

“Now, I don't know what'll happen in this game,” Calipari said. “Maybe I wore 'em out. We'll see. But it's been really productive. Individual players are getting better, and our team has a better idea of how we're trying to play.”

A season ago, UK had carved out its style before the regular season even started and an overtime win over Ole Miss was a rare close game. This year, the Cats’ style of play is very much a work in progress into January and close games are expected to be the norm.

“We are what we are: We’re an energy team, we are a team that has to fight and play with great enthusiasm and make easy plays,” Calipari said. “And then it’ll be an eight-point game, one way or another, and five minutes to go, you’re in a dogfight. That’s what I see throughout this league.”

Calipari Wins 200th Career Game at UK in Record Time

With a thrilling 75-73 victory over rival Louisville, John Calipari captured his 200th career win at Kentucky faster than any coach in UK history -- and nearly faster than anyone has ever done it at any other school.

Calipari reached the 200-win plateau in his 240th career game at Kentucky. Rick Pitino, previously the fastest to 200 wins at UK prior to Calipari, didn’t capture his 200th Wildcat win until his 249th game. The legendary Adolph Rupp reached 200 during his 250th game.

Not only did Calipari reach the 200-win mark in record pace at Kentucky, he also nearly set the all-time Division I mark. With the win over U of L, he became the second-fastest Division I men’s basketball coach to reach 200 victories at a single school, behind only LIU-Brooklyn’s Clair Bee, who achieved the feat in 231 games.

Calipari is one of just 11 head coaches in Division I men’s basketball history with at least 200 victories at two different schools and just the fifth coach at Kentucky to reach the 200-win plateau.

He’s currently the only coach in NCAA history with at least 189 victories at three different schools.

UK Continues Recent Dominance in Rivalry with 75-73 win over Louisville 

Now 8-1 vs. Louisville under John Calipari, the No. 12/11 Kentucky Wildcats continued their impressive dominance over the No. 16/15 Cardinals with a thrilling 75-73 victory in Rupp Arena on Dec. 26.

In yet another memorable game in the nation’s most heated rivalry, the Wildcats answered adversity in the first half, took a 16-point lead in the second half and then held on late to win their fourth straight in the series.

The Wildcats fell behind 34-30 after a technical foul on Calipari, but Kentucky responded with one of its best runs of the season, outscoring Louisville by a count of 22-2 from the end of the first half and into the second.

The Cardinals rallied and got as close as 65-64 with 5:34 remaining, but the Wildcats had an answer every time Louisville tried to take control with key shots down the stretch from Tyler Ulis, Dominique Hawkins and Jamal Murray. Louisville missed a 3-pointer as time expired to clinch another Kentucky victory.

UK received spirited performances from Ulis, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and, perhaps most notably, Hawkins. Filling in for starting guard Isaiah Briscoe, who turned his ankle in warmpus just 30 minutes prior to the game, Hawkins, a Kentucky native, entered the rivalry’s lore with a career-high 13 points on three 3-point field goals -- all of them coming at big turning points in the game.

Ulis, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player by the Bluegrass Sports Commission, tied a career-high with 21 points while dishing out eight assists and making a career-high-tying four 3-pointers. He became the first back-to-back winner of the MVP award since its inception in 2010.

Other notables:

• Calipari reached his 200th win at Kentucky, becoming the fastest coach in school history to 200 wins and the second fastest to do it at a single school in Division I history (Clair Bee won his 200th game at LIU-Brooklyn in his 231st game)
• Poythress scored six straight points early in the second half to give UK its biggest lead at 52-36. He finished with 14 points, six boards and a season-high three blocks
• With 12 points, Murray became the first Wildcat to score in double figures in 10 straight games since Julius Randle in 2013
• Hawkins was the first Kentucky native to score in double figures for the Wildcats vs. Louisville since Darius Miller did so in the 2012 Final Four
• UK hit a season-high 11 3-pointers