Kentucky Visits Auburn on Saturday

Puzzled, John Calipari did his normal postgame film review.

He watched as Kentucky built a big lead against Mississippi State, playing solid defense through three-quarters of the game.

Kentucky vs. Auburn
Sat., Jan. 16 - 4 p.m. ET
Auburn Arena
Auburn, Ala.
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UK 2015-16 Team Stats AU
13-3 Record 7-8
3-1 Conference Record 1-3
.476 FG% .435
.411 Opp FG% .445
.319 3FG% .370
.655 FT% .627
77.8 PPG 76.1
39.1 RPG 36.1
5.4 BPG 4.1
13.6 APG 12.9
6.4 SPG 6.1
In the final 11:34, something changed. The Bulldogs went on a tear, doubling their point total from 37 to 74 in nearly making an improbable comeback.

“Are you kidding me?” Calipari said. “You understand that’s 120 (points) if we played the basketball game that way? I mean, it’s nutty.”

So goes the season for the No. 14/13 Wildcats (13-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) as they prepare for a trip to Auburn (7-8, 1-3 SEC) at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Brilliance in one moment, head scratching the next. A nearly complete game one night, anything but just days later.

“I just think we’re not consistent right now,” Derek Willis said. “AP (Alex Poythress) had a good game against Alabama. I wouldn’t say he played bad in our last game, but I don’t know. It just wasn’t the game he had at Alabama. I just think it’s a thing of focus and concentration, and once we figure that out, we’ll be cool.”

Poythress – he of the 25 points against Alabama and six against Mississippi State – and Marcus Lee have become the face of that inconsistency. The two veteran big men are being counted on in featured roles for the first time in their careers and can’t put a finger on why things aren’t clicking on an every-game basis.

“I’m not sure, but we’re just coming prepared every day ready to work,” Poythress said. “Just trying to play as well as we can.”

Lee and Poythress, however, are far from the only players facing inconsistency issues. The solution is the same for all of them.

“The whole thing is wanting, relishing in the responsibility,” Calipari said. “I relish that responsibility of having to come every day and do what I do. But it’s hard. It’s not easy. And especially if you’ve never had to do it in your career.”

The good news for Poythress was he delivered in the clutch against Mississippi State, hitting four free throws and grabbing the game’s final four rebounds to seal the victory. Perhaps it’s a sign of him growing into the mantle he always knew he’d eventually have to carry.

“That’s the thing when you come to Kentucky,” Poythress said. “You have to expect that. It’s no different adjustment. You expect to be that guy sooner or later when you come here.”

Come Saturday, he’ll look to take another step in that direction against an Auburn team led by Bruce Pearl that will be eager to score an upset.

“Their guard (Kareem Canty), this kid, he’s just letting it go, and if he has a big night, we’ll probably say, ‘Who’s next on the schedule?’ ” Calipari said. “But they’re going to shoot balls and they play loose. When you’re at home – and you know they’re ready for us. It’s just how it is.”

Guard Play Shines in Win Over Mississippi State

Kentucky’s starting guard rotation of Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis combined for 57 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and four steals in leading UK to an 80-74 victory over visiting Mississippi State on Tuesday. The win was the 30th consecutive win for the Wildcats (13-3, 3-1) in Rupp Arena and it also marked the ninth straight win over the Bulldogs in the series.

Mississippi State (7-8, 0-3) rallied from a 20-point deficit in the second half and trailed 74-71 with 1:14 remaining, but the Wildcats made six free throws over the final 47 seconds to seal the win.

Murray made two of his first three shots -- both 3-pointers -- and scored 11 of Kentucky’s first 17 points. Murray connected on three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the first half en route to 22 for the game.

He has now scored 20 or more points in three consecutive outings. Ulis was the other Wildcat to reach 20 points with 21. He’s scored 20 or more in four of his last five games.

Other notables:

• Mississippi State led 5-0 early. With the game tied at 10, Kentucky went ahead for good with a 13-0 run, and the Wildcats never trailed again
• Kentucky shot 50.9 percent from the field, the eighth time this season the Wildcats have made at least half their shots in a game
• Mississippi State shot 52.9 percent from the field. UK had held the previous 55 home opponents to less than 50 percent from the field
• UK has had a player score at least 20 points in all four Southeastern Conference games this season. The last time UK had a player score at least 20 in four straight SEC games was 2009
• Ulis had five assists. He has had at least four assists in nine straight games, the first Wildcat since Marquis Teague in 2012 to turn the trick
• Briscoe poured in 14 points on 7-of-9 (.778) shooting. He has made 13-of-19 shots (.684) in his last two games
• Marcus Lee had two points and a game-high nine rebounds
• Alex Poythress had six points, eight rebounds and hit four clutch free throws over the final minute of play
• In just 11 minutes of action, junior Derek Willis had eight points, an assist, a steal and a block

Calipari Reaches 200 UK Wins 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.