Wildcats, Tigers Tangle on Tuesday
Kentucky welcomes the Missouri Tigers to Rupp Arena on Tuesday, January 13. The game will be carried on ESPN and tip is set for 9 p.m. ET.
|Kentucky vs. Missouri
Tuesday, Jan. 13 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | MU
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Booker firing on all cylinders entering Mizzou matchup
The numbers don't even seem real.
Over his last five games, Devin Booker has missed just five times in 21 3-point attempts. Twice during the month-long hot streak, he's won Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors, including this week.
Kenny Payne has been on the sideline for every one of those 16 makes, but he's not willing to say Booker has reached his shooting ceiling.
"I think he's hot, but I think he has more in the tank," UK's associate head coach said with a smile. "I'd like to see him be a little bit hotter."
Told Booker is shooting better than 76 percent, as if to suggest he can't do any better, Payne didn't bat an eye.
"Let's get to 85," said Payne, his smile even bigger this time. ... read the full preview
This Week's News
- For the second consecutive game, Kentucky needed additional time to keep its perfect record alive, outlasting Texas A&M 70-64 in double overtime in UK's first SEC road game of the season.
- With 15 consecutive victories to begin the season, UK is off to the fifth-best start in program history, tying the 1969-70 team for that honor.
- Kentucky is 5-1 in its SEC road openers under John Calipari.
- With a second consecutive overtime victory, the Cats improved to 8-3 in overtime games under Calipari.
- UK fell behind 9-0 to start the game, missing its first seven shots. Devin Booker got the Cats in the scoring column with a trey more than five minutes into the game.
- Alex Robinson's bank shot put UK behind 28-17, tying the largest deficit of the season.
- Columbia went up 11-0 on Kentucky on Dec. 10.
- The Wildcats didn't get their first lead of the game until Aaron Harrison made a pair of free throws at the 19:02 mark in the second half to put UK up 29-28.
- Appearing to pull away, the Cats went on an 8-2 run midway through the second half to take a 47-41 lead, but Texas A&M tied it in the closing seconds of regulation on a pair of Danuel House free throws.
- UK was on the brink of its first loss of the season in the first overtime period, but freshman Trey Lyles hit a pair of clutch free throws with six seconds left to send it to double overtime.
Tyler Ulis made his first and only field goal to put Kentucky up for good when he nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:26 left in double overtime. Booker and Dakari Johnson hit four free throws down the stretch to seal the outcome.
- The game featured 10 ties and four lead changes.
- Kentucky relied on its perimeter shot to dispatch the Aggies, hitting nine 3-pointers. The Cats are averaging nine 3-point field goals over their last five games.
- After making a combined 8 of 49 (16.3 percent) 3-pointers in the previous four games, the Wildcats have found their stroke from long range, hitting 45 of 103 (43.7 percent) over their last five games.
- Fifteen of UK's first 17 points were from behind the arc.
- Kentucky won while shooting less than 30 percent for the second time in the Calipari era.
- UK held Texas A&M to 33.3 percent from the floor, the 13th opponent this season the Cats have limited to less than 40 percent.
- Texas A&M hit 13 of its first 24 shots, but the Cats held the Aggies to 10 of 45 (22.2 percent) the rest of the game.
- The Cats swatted 10 shots, the seventh time in 15 games UK has blocked 10 or more shots in a game.
- Booker continued to torch the nets from long range, hitting four 3-pointers Saturday afternoon.
- The freshman guard has made 16 of his last 21 3-pointers over the last five games.
- With 18 points, Booker has led UK in scoring five times the season, most on the team, including three of the last six games.
- Aaron Harrison came up with a game-high three steals and finished with 12 points.
- Johnson tied Towns for the team high with nine rebounds and scored six of his eight points in the game-deciding second overtime.
- Towns just missed out on his second career double-double with nine points and nine boards.
- Riding a torrid shooting streak from behind the arc, guard Devin Booker was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week for the second time this season.
- Booker averaged 15.5 points on 50.0-percent shooting while leading top-ranked Kentucky to overtime wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M to open the SEC season.
- The Grand Rapids, Mich., native made 9 of 18 shots overall, including 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point line. The SEC leader in 3-point field-goal percentage has made at least one 3-pointer in a career-long five consecutive games and has hit 16 of 21 (76.2 percent) during that stretch.
Cauley-Stein Tops 500 Career Rebounds
- With a game-high 12 rebounds against Ole Miss, junior Willie Cauley-Stein became the 51st player in program history to register 500 or more career rebounds.
- He is the 35th player in school history to need three seasons or less to grab 500 or more boards.
- He currently has 508 career rebounds and sits 49th all-time on the career rebounding list at UK. He needs just nine more carooms to move into sole possession of 48th place, passing Souleymane Camara (516).
Media Opportunity - January 12, 2015
Kentucky Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne
On Kentucky's defensive play dropping off last week ...
"I think what has happened is we've lost some energy defensively. We lost some focus defensively, we've got to get that back. If you look around every media outlet, every newspaper article is Kentucky basketball. People are coming to play against us. They're playing hard against us. That should intensify us, not make us go backwards."
On if focusing on individual goals is what knocked Kentucky off of focusing on defense ...
"I don't know if that's true or not. I can't speak on that. I just know that we're in a place where we are it. We are the program. Every night that we step on the floor we have to come out and play with unbelievable energy, know that that team is going to play out of their minds. They're going to play well, they're going to play the best game of the year against us and we have to match and be superior energy-wise and defensively. That's the key to this team, we are a defensive team. It's what we are."
On Kentucky losing some offensive efficiency ...
"I just think it comes down to quality of shot. I think we are getting good shots, I think we have to play inside-out. I also think we have to penetrate the ball better and more. When we do that we get wide-open shots every time. Whether that's throwing the ball into the post or whether that's multiple penetrations."
On close games being good for Kentucky ...
"I think the one thing that you can say about us is we have found a way to win games. Last game if you look at what Trey Lyles did at the end of the game he was really good. If you look at the shot that Tyler (Ulis) made - the 3 - really good. Trey made that play. Trey also made a play to Dakari (Johnson) against the zone where he dumped it down, so I think we have players that have stepped up in big situations, but we've got to not put ourselves in that position. I think that's what Coach is saying."
On Devin Booker being named SEC Freshman of the Week and his shooting streak ...
"I'm so proud of the kid. He's worked so hard from the day that he walked into this program to present. He's gotten so much better and is playing with unbelievable confidence. If you give him an inch, he can shoot (the) ball. We'd like to see him put it on the floor a little bit more because he is capable. What can you say about a kid with a stroke like that? He's a threat no matter where he is on the floor."
On what Tuesday's game will mean to Booker since his father played at Missouri ...
"His father was one of the best players to ever play at Missouri. Devin has spent a lot of time up there. This will be a rivalry game for him. To talk about Missouri a little bit, they've played a very tough schedule. They're not going to be intimidated going up against us and we expect them to come out and play one of their best games of the year. They beat a talented LSU team and they've played a tough schedule so we have to go out and play well against them."
On if UK keeps winning, does the undefeated mark gradually become an even bigger target ...
"I don't think so. I think we've done a good job as a unit, as players and as a staff, of staying in the moment of not looking ahead or worrying about the undefeated stuff and all of that. I don't think we dwell in that. I think our deal is to just stay in the moment - one game at a time, one practice at a time, one film session at a time. We've done a good job of that."
On Dakari Johnson's aggressiveness and the way finished Saturday's game against Texas A&M ...
"Dakari was really good at the end of the game. I thought he was aggressive, attacking the basket, getting big rebounds and making free throws. We need that of him all the time. We need him to play a game like that and not just at the end of a game. I think it should lead to more of that kind of play throughout the game. When we were really good, he was doing those things throughout the game. We need more of that from him. He's a very big piece to this puzzle."
On Billy Kennedy's comments of Devin Booker being an X-factor ...
"I think it means that he's the type of player a team that's filled with a bunch of really good players, that if you forget about him, then he's going to hurt you. If you give him an inch then he's going to hurt you. He's tough, plays hard defensively, knock down an open shot and knock down a shot when you're on him. He's a threat."
On what Marcus Lee needs to do to play more ...
"I just think Marcus has to go out and play with extreme confidence. Marcus Lee is a winner. We need his energy, confidence, and defensive effort every single moment that he is out there. He, for us, should be and what Cal is trying to get him to be is Willie Cauley-Stein type of defender and being able to play multiple positions."
On Texas A&M outscoring UK in points in the paint ...
"It just started with penetration and driving the ball to the basket. It wasn't like they threw the ball in the post a bunch. They just drove us to the basket with straight-line drives. Our bigs didn't come over and block shots. When you look at the games where we were great defensively - when we were really good defensively - we had two and three guys blocking shots. That game they just went to the basket and laid it up."
On the problems Missouri presents ...
"Again, I think they're not going to be in awe of us. They're going to come at us. My guess will be they'll do what the other teams are trying to do: drive it, spread the floor and get in the lane, and hope that they can get a basket. If we suck in, they're going to try to throw out for 3s, and they're going to play with a bunch of energy."
On how hot Booker is right now ...
"I think he's hot, but I think he has more in the tank. I would like to see him get a little hotter. I would like to see him get to the line more. I would like to see him drive the ball more. I think a big part of what he is, when you can shoot the ball like that, shot fakes, get to the line, draw fouls. So I think there's more in the tank."
On Booker shooting nearly 73 percent from behind the arc the last five games ...
"Let's get to 85."
On why teams are driving on UK considering how many sho- blockers UK has ...
"Can't really put my finger on it. I think that what we've done is, we've shown teams in spurts that you can drive (on) us, that we can't keep in front of you as a defender. And that's a part of it. No straight-line drives. If you drive, you're taking multiple dribbles, and if you take multiple dribbles, a shot-blocker should be coming to block the shot. And for whatever reason, we're playing on the side of guys and they're getting a straight line to the basket, which is unacceptable."
Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns
On feeling like the team lost some of their mojo and how they get it back ...
"I think just, first of all, we've got to start off defensively. We are a defensive team. We've always been a defensive-stopping team, so we've just got to really go back to that. What that starts off with is practice, especially today. We've got to work today on the little kinks in our game and we've got to make sure we're ready to play Tuesday against Missouri."
On if the defense needs to be better so the offense feeds off it ...
"Defense plays off our offense. We're one of the deadliest transition teams I can think of, and it all starts with defense. We've got to make defensive stops and we've got to be able to make that happen. A lot of teams are having success against us offensively recently and we've got to make sure that we come back and we play better defense."
On if the team realizes they are the most talented team and it's about getting things in order ...
"For us we feel that we are the best defensive team, and that's our biggest strength right now and we need to keep using it. Recently we've been giving, like I said, opponents a chance to score a lot against us and we just need to get back to the fundamentals of what UK basketball is. We're a very high defensive team, keep people in low points, and we use defense to energize our offense and at the same time we just use that in all areas to make the game a lot easier for us."
On what happens when defense goes so well ...
"When things are going very well for us defensively you can see it. You'll see a lot of transition points, you'll see a lot of 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, and next we start looking like we're really pushing the pace, but we're just playing Kentucky basketball. For us we just need to go back to the defensive standards that we hold ourselves to, and if we do that then games will be a lot easier."
On if this game has any added significance for Devin Booker since his dad was a star at Missouri ...
"If I was Devin, I would say yes. I definitely, if my dad was a great player I definitely would want to be able to beat my dad's whatever records he holds, or whatever points per game he has. Devin's a competitor. He's always been a competitor, so I just see him being very energized for this game."
On Booker's new confidence ...
"I think the biggest thing is he's just hitting shots. I think in the beginning, if I'm right, he wasn't hitting as much as he's definitely hitting now, but you can see the swagger he has. He has a pep in his step. He's willing to take any shot we need him to take. We all feel like (his shot) is going in any time he puts the ball in the air. One of those things about Devin Booker is he's just a flat-out shooter. He's a flat-out shooter and a flat-out scorer. Anytime you give him the ball it feels like two or three points are going to be put on the board at any given time."
On if he makes a conscious effort to get Booker the ball ...
"Me, I just want to look for all of my teammates, but definitely if Devin has a little crack in the defense and he has some space on the 3-point line, you definitely want to give the 3-point shooter the shot. It's just the thing--we all look out for each other and it doesn't matter who it is, but definitely if it's Devin for a 3-pointer. you definitely want to give him that shot."
On if the team is missing their swagger ...
"You know for us it's really not that. I think it's just the focus. We've been lacking focus, especially, like I said, when our standard is on defense. That's our biggest strength, and I think when we get back to that it'll be back to, I guess, what people have seen before - and that's low points scored by the opponent, and that's playing a lot more transition in half-court offense."
On if he feels like they've lost the swagger or it's just Cal saying that ...
"You can say we're losing it, but I think for us it's just like I said, we've just got to hold ourselves to a standard. We just have to build up that standard and that starts today in practice. We've got two hours, we've got to go in there and make sure that we get that swagger back."
On if there's a benefit having a little doubt creep in after all the positive talk after the win over Louisville ...
"We definitely needed games like this. Games like this are going to make our team go farther this year and it's going to drive us in games when we definitely are in overtime. We just need to stop putting ourselves in overtime - not playing defense correctly, not giving the other team an opportunity to put us in overtime. We've got to just keep playing the way we know how to play and that's being a defensive gold standard team and play transition basketball and everything else will take care of itself."
On why they wouldn't want more close games if they're so good for the team ...
"You definitely don't want to have overtime games. We're trying to win every game possible. For us, we needed games like this. We needed games to feel the pressure - not always a 20- 30-point win - but for us to see, do we have that will to win, do we have that talent; not only talent but just the effort to win those last games, hit those free throws, hit those 3s, hit those 2s, hit those shots we need and play defense when we need to, run those plays that we have for those situations. Do they work? There are a lot of things why these overtime games have been so helpful. But for us, if we're going to go to overtime, double overtime, let it be because the (other) team is playing out of their minds and then we're playing well also, not because the other team is playing really well and we're playing not as good as we should be."
On if the team feels like enough is enough with the close games ...
"We definitely feel like we should be playing at a higher level, so it's just up to us again that we have to go back to our gold standard in defense, and if we can do that we can easily come out with playing a lot better offense and having a higher percentage and making the shots a lot easier than just coming down and having our half-court offense take shots, we can take layups."
Sophomore forward Marcus Lee
On what he learned about his team in the first two games of SEC play ...
"We learned that every game is a battle. That's what we're adjusting to. We have a couple people that forgot or haven't really expected what our season was going to be like. That kind of just showed them what every game was going to be like."
On Coach Cal saying he can't play him if he's not bouncing around, playing with energy ...
"Yeah, that's the whole point of why I'm in the game is to be energetic and make sure I get things done that I have to. So, if I'm not doing it, I shouldn't be out there. That goes for everybody on the team. We all have a job, so if we're not doing our job someone else can try to do it."
On Devin Booker being named SEC Freshman of the Week ...
"I think it's really great for him. Just seeing freshmen do so well so early, it gives them a real big boost and shows them what they can do."
On if he's played with a shooter like that before ...
"I've played with a couple different shooters, so it's just great to see."
On how much strong outside shooting helps the big guys ...
"It helps all around knowing you have a full tilt of everybody doing their job. So, if in in the post we're not doing as well, we're not scoring as well, we know we can go inside-out and do just as well."
On what the team had before that it doesn't seem to have now ...
"I think we just have to remember when we came on what we started with and what we got our name off of. Once we found out what we were good at, we need to stick to it and that's what we're trying to go back to."
On taking a day off and reflecting ...
"Definitely. That's something all good players have to do is take every game and see what they can do better, or what they did well and take the time to actually think about it instead of just rushing into something new."
On what the team made its name on early in the season ...
"One thing we kind of knew is that we were going to be a good defensive team. We kind of forgot about that."
On if he feels they lost their swagger ...
"I'm not saying it was lost, it was just redirected. We were learning different things during the break. We were focusing on doing something different, knowing that's something we could always go back on. It's something where we took that time to get better, and now we have to go back to what we're good at."
On if he feels the target on their back is getting bigger as the winning streak goes on ...
"I mean, I've been here for two years. I've had a target on my back since I've been here. That's just the way it is here. You have to get used to it and battle through it each and every play."
On if their focus on adding to their individual games during the break was a distraction ...
"No, it wasn't a distraction. As a team you have to focus on something you need to change, so as we were focusing on it we kind of forgot. You can't call it a distraction because when you hear the word `distraction' you hear something bad. This was all good, all good things happening, making us better. It was building us up. We just have to remember how to add it to what we've done so we can be better."
On what he expects from Missouri ...
"Just like every other game in the SEC, it's going to be a big dogfight. So you got to just be ready to battle because that's what they're wanting to do. They're not just going to sit there and back up, like they're not going to play. They're going to come here and fight."
On what Coach Cal means saying "enough is enough" about close games ...
"I mean, I don't what Cal means by most of the things he says. That's why you guys are asking me because you know just as well as I do. But he's just knowing that it's hard going through those tough games and that's what makes great players great, going through those tough games and staying a team. It was great figuring out what we can do during that time and actually putting into place what we have set up during those times. So it helped."
On why more close games aren't a good thing then ...
"You can only take so much of those. You can still get a heart attack from that. No one else can really take that much, like four games in a row of really close games."
On whether there was a different level of excitement for marquee nonconference games ...
"I don't think it was the excitement. It was just a different focus. Now that we know what we're getting into and we're settled into kind of how to go into each game because we're always told every game's a battle, but you got to actually be there and understand that every game's a battle."
On how to manufacture that energy ...
"It's different for each player. You got to figure out what it takes you every day to get ready for that game. It's just, you got to do everything the exact same."
On whether Coach Cal has talked to the post players about playing bigger ...
"That's just something that we as a big man group got to figure out. No one can really change that but us and how hard we go. So we've realized it as a group and as a team and we're just working on fixing it."
On whether he agrees with Cal about UK being the best team in the country ...
"I do think we know we're pretty good, but sometimes you got to have a toughness to go with it and focus. Then again, we're still in college. We still have focus lapses. You got to just focus in sometimes and that's what happened."
On Devin Booker's confidence in his shot ...
"As a shooter, you got to be overly confident, especially when it comes to being a guard and being a shooter. If you're not an overconfident shooter with your shot, who else is going to confident in what you do? So I think that's just something that comes with being a shooter."