Kentucky Hosts Vanderbilt for Super Tuesday

Jan. 19, 2015

Vanderbilt comes to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky on Tuesday, January 20 as part of Super Tuesday. Tip is set for 9 p.m. ET and the game will air on the SEC Network.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt
Tuesday, Jan. 20 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | VU Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via SEC Network+
Live Audio
Live Stats
Text Updates
UK Team Stats VU
76.1 Points 71.5
50.4 Opp. Points 62.4
45.8 FG% 48.8
31.7 Opp. FG% 39.2
35.2 3-FG% 37.6
26.3 Opp. 3-FG% 31.7
69.0 FT% 71.7
41.6 Rebs 35.7
31.9 Opp. Rebs. 31.2
16.2 Assists 15.4
11.4 Turnovers 15.4
7.9 Blocks 4.6
7.6 Steals 4.5

Cat Scratches: 'Self-critical' Willis biding time, awaiting next opportunity

John Calipari often says there's no room for delusional players at Kentucky.

Derek Willis, then, picked the right school.

Asked on Monday what he needs to do to earn more playing time, Willis gave a refreshingly candid answer.

"I'm trying to be self-critical about everything right now, and I think just be more focused, just show that I really want to be here and I don't think, being honest, I've done that," Willis said.

The Mt. Washington, Ky., native, halfway through his sophomore season, has had a limited role on a top-ranked and historically deep UK team. Willis has seen action in nine games for the 17-0 (4-0 Southeastern Conference) Wildcats, most often in the final minutes of their frequent blowout wins.

Willis arrived in Lexington a highly regarded prospect, though without the McDonald's All-American credentials of most of his teammates. A star for Bullitt East High School, the 6-foot-9 forward had had to adjust to getting only spot duty. ... read the full preview

This Week's News

Cats Get First Win at Alabama in Coach Cal Era

  • Seeking their first win at Alabama under the leadership of John Calipari, the Wildcats stormed out to an early 21-14 lead and never looked back in a 70-48 rout of the Crimson Tide.
  • UK's 22-point victory was its most lopsided over Alabama since beating the Crimson Tide by 26 in the 1992 SEC Tournament.
  • It was also the most lopsided victory for Kentucky in Tuscaloosa, Ala., since rolling Alabama 90-67 on Feb. 14, 1966.
  • The loss for Alabama was its worst since losing by 23 to Oregon on Nov. 24, 2008.
  • UK went on three different runs of 8-0 or more (10-0, 10-0 and 8-0) to take a commanding 35-17 halftime lead.
    • It was the 13th time this season UK has held an opponent to less than 20 points in a half.
  • Alabama scored the first seven points of the second half and got as close as 39-30, but UK put the game away with a 16-2 run to make it 55-32.
    • Kentucky's largest lead was 28 points.
  • UK improved to 51-0 in the Coach Cal era when holding the opponent to 55 points or less, including a UK shot-clock record 13 times this season.
  • The Wildcats made 50 percent from the field (23 of 46), the sixth time this season they have made at least half of their shots.
  • UK continued its hot shooting from the 3-point line, making 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) from long distance.
    • Over the last seven games, Kentucky has shot 44.2 percent on 3-pointers.
  • For the second consecutive game, Kentucky shot a season best at the free-throw line. After making 80 percent of their foul shots vs. Missouri, the Cats canned 88.9 percent vs. Alabama.
  • UK got a balanced effort from its two-platoon attack. Five players scored eight or more points, led by Devin Booker with 13.
    • Booker made 4 of 7 shots overall and 3 of 6 from behind the arc. He's made 20 of 28 (71.4 percent) from 3-point range over his last seven games.
  • Tyler Ulis was 3 of 4 from long distance and scored 11 points.
  • Dakari Johnson continued his recent strong play with 11 points. He's averaging 8.8 points over his last four games.

Return of the Platoons Leads to Win Over Mizzou

  • Dominique Hawkins earned his third career start on the "Blue" platoon and Trey Lyles rejoined the "White" platoon in helping lead UK to a 86-37 defensive charge against visiting Missouri on Tuesday.
  • Leading 12-10, Kentucky took control by closing the opening half with a 32-8 run, going to intermission ahead 44-18. UK never trailed in the game.
  • The 49-point win marked Kentucky's largest margin of victory against an SEC foe since a 62-point margin against Vanderbilt, 106-44, on March 5, 2003.
  • The 37 points scored by Missouri are the fewest by an SEC opponent against UK since a 50-36 win over Mississippi State on Jan. 31, 1987.
    • It also marked the lowest scoring output by the Tigers since 1950.
    • The 37 points were the second fewest by an opponent in the John Calipari era and during the 2014-15 season.
  • UK held Missouri to less than 20 points in both halves, marking the second time this season UK has achieved the feat (also vs. Montana State).
  • Missouri was limited to 27.1 percent from the field, the ninth opponent this season held to less than 30-percent shooting.
  • Missouri was held to 5.6 percent on 3-point shots (1 of 18), the lowest percentage this season by a Kentucky opponent.
  • UK made 8 of 18 shots (44.4 percent) from 3-point territory.

Booker Repeats as SEC Freshman of the Week

  • Devin Booker hauled in his third SEC Freshman of the Week accolade, and second-straight after averaging 10.0 points on 67-percent shooting in wins over Missouri and Alabama last week.
  • In league competition, Booker is shooting 64.7 percent from 3-point range, 90.9 percent at the free-throw line and 55.6 percent from the floor while averaging 12.8 points per game. He leads all SEC players in 3-point field-goal percentage for the season.

Media Opportunity - January 19, 2015

Kentucky Assistant Coach John Robic

On how encouraging it is to hear Derek Willis saying he needs to change his mindset ...
"I think it's really important. It was good to see him get in the other day. He did some good things. I know he had a couple turnovers and didn't make a shot, but he really fed the post well. It's hard being that 11th or 12th guy. Coach tells them to be ready. You never know when it's going to be your turn, both he and Dominique (Hawkins). Dominique stepped up the last game and he played and played well. We're just reiterating to Derek to keep putting the extra work in, bide your time, and know that when we look down the bench and we need you that you have to be ready to go."

On Dominique Hawkins being ready to go ...
"I haven't seen him yet today. Players were off yesterday. I did see him at breakfast, but didn't really talk to him. I just made sure he was there. We practice later on this evening."

On Derek Willis getting his edge back ...
"You have to get that edge back. We're working with all of our guys to make sure they're getting better individually. We've taken a lot of time really over the past two months really working on their skill work. I think you're really starting to see it pay off for a lot of guys, whether it be shooting the ball, shooting free throws better, handling the ball better and more offensive things we're working with. I think it's starting to come to light."

On Derek Willis and his confidence in the Bahamas ...
"That was the best thing that happened for him. With Willie (Cauley-Stein) not playing down there, it sort of put him in that role and was good to see. It was a little bit more of freewheeling type of basketball, which he's really good at because of his athleticism and the way he can pass the ball. It's hard, but we're working with everybody and we'll continue to work with him. It'll come to him. That's for sure."

On Devin Booker's defensive improvements ...
"Did you see him in the Bahamas? He surprised us defensively. We all knew that he could come in and shoot the ball. He's bigger than people think, can put the ball on the floor better than people think, and now he's defending at a level that's making our team better. That comes from in that gym every day of practice when you have 12 guys that can be put on the floor and you have to compete or you're going to get embarrassed. It's making him better and it's making the guys that he defends better. They have their work cut out for when they have to guard him as well. It has made our team better. We know that when Tyler (Ulis) and Devin go in the game, they pick it up defensively and when they don't, then they don't play. We're going to hang our hat defensively and these kids know that because they sure want to be on the court and they have to do it on that end of the floor for us."

On how much better the perimeter defense is with three perimeter players ...
"I don't think there is a big difference. Trey Lyles can guard the perimeter. It's harder for him to do so because he is 6-10. I think we are much more effective defensively when we can switch a lot, and we demand ball pressure a lot from our guys, and they know that. When you think back to our better defensive effort over the past, (it) is when we can switch and when our bigs can guard the guard. Dakari (Johnson) proved that last game and played well with ball-screen defense because he bent down and played low to the ground. He took it as a challenge and you could see that in the game, and it made us happy from the bench with the way he guarded the ball."

On when the last time he could remember someone shooting 76 percent from 3 the last seven games like Devin Booker ...
"One, he isn't forcing shots. He is a terrific shooter and he is playing within himself. The players that are on the court with him know that when he gets it going, to try and feed him. I can't think of the last bad shot that he has taken, and that is credit to the other guys on the floor of creating a shot for him. If he is in that zone, he is as good as anyone in the country."

On how unusual it is for a guy that is shooting that well to not have a heat check ...
"It's a confidence thing. He has that going, and again, he has been in that gym every day and he is getting rewarded by it and our team is. When you put in that work, you see results, and that's what he is doing."

On what they have done with emphasizing defense that has changed since the first two SEC games ...
"Better ball pressure, for one. We have done a much better job communicating when we do switch. So there wasn't any break downs with that. Our transition defense was better. We picked up the ball earlier and sprinted back much better. When you have the combination of that, we have rebounded the ball better, so it's less possession for the other team. With our size, it makes us better and it's the mindset of our guys, too. I've heard them say we have to get back to it. Every day in practice it is competitive and it's something we work on a lot. That's one thing with Coach: All of his teams are solid defensive team. He's probably thought of as an offensive coach, but the numbers don't lie when you get to it defensively, and this is a group that has a great mindset that is locked in defensively."

On how proud of you after they learned there lesion after their first two SEC games ...
"I don't think they learned their lesson. I mean, I'd rather learn a lesson with a win than the alternative. I think instead of a lesson, I think that they found out that the SEC play is much tougher. All opponents can see you 13-14 times, and they are going to get better. There are good coaches and players within this league. They found it within themselves with what they have to do, especially against big games on the road. These kids have been in big games all year against really good teams. The sellout crowd in Alabama was great and our guys didn't back down.  I am proud of them for the road win."

On if tomorrow night could be a game UK could learn their lesson against if they take Vanderbilt lightly ...
"They're not going to take anyone lightly. We would never let that happen. As coaches, we don't take anyone lightly. Again, like I just mentioned, Vanderbilt has really good players, a young team and a really good coach that is proven. And anytime you have a chance to not only play against Kentucky but to play in Rupp Arena (you are going to be ready for the game). And now you are playing against one of the better teams in the nation, you are going to get every team's best shot no matter who you are."

On creating more space on the perimeter with two forwards down low ...
"Well, it does. We got back to being able to post the ball. Whether that they were in man or zone, we just thought they would play a majority of their tandem zone and we got back to playing inside-out. And a lot of good things happen with our size inside. If our bigs demand the ball, catch the ball, and if the lanes clogged, then they are taught to kick it out and the perimeter guys be ready. And we made the extra pass a lot. We made the game easier for one another on Saturday, and that's the way Coach wants these guys to play."

On talk of being undefeated and avoiding complacency ...
"That will never happen, I mean it just won't. I have been with coach for a long, long time. We approach every game the same exact way, it doesn't matter if it's an exhibition game or if is the last game of the year. And there is no superstition about it, we prepare everything's the same, now things will change depending on the opponent, what we have to work on specifically. We hit the key areas but then Cal has always been worried about his team. We don't inundate them with film or walkthroughs. We hit specific things and then when it is time to get ready for the opponent, it already clicked in that we already worked on that. So complacency is not an issue with the staff or the team."

On trying to become first ever undefeated team ...
"You know what, you hear about it, you see it, you read it. I haven't heard any talk about it within the locker room or the coaching staff at all. We just want to get better, and I think we are doing that. Regardless of the overtime games, you know, you had two really well-played games. Ole Miss has really been proving that they are a really good team and Texas A&M (did) the same thing going on the road and winning at LSU. We are just taking everything week by week. It is a two-game week from here on out."

On how Derek Willis can earn more playing time ...
"Put in more time. I mean, if you feel like you are behind, you know, you just have to get in there. He knows what it takes for him to get better. We are proud of the fact that our guys are putting in that extra time because you are seeing the results, as I mentioned earlier. We still have a long ways to go in this season and we hope to be playing for a long time. Dominique was ready. I'm sure Derek saw that and was glad to see him get into a game early and did some good things. We are not going to give up on any player, and he hasn't given up, that is for sure."

#41, Trey Lyles, Fr., F

On how different the three and four positions are ...
"Not very. They vary because of having to guard different positions, but offensively I still get to step out and face the basket a lot and Coach (Calipari) is starting to post me up a little bit more. So they vary but I'm comfortable in both positions."

On comparing guarding the three and four positions ...
"Guarding a smaller guy at the three, it's a lot more running around that you have to do. And then guarding the four, they're more of a standstill in one position, sets screens and stuff. So guarding a three you have to do more running than guarding a four."

On how accustomed he is to that ...
"In high school I guarded a lot of bigger guys and so it's pretty easy for me to guard them now since they pretty much stay in a couple areas. So it's not that hard."

On whether it's an adjustment to swing between the first and second platoon ...
"I still have to approach the game the same way. Just try to come out with energy whether I'm coming off the bench or I'm starting. Really just doing whatever the team needs from me in that particular game. It really doesn't matter if you start or you come off the bench, as long as you come out with energy."

On how much he guarded Danuel House against Texas A&M ...
"I guarded him a couple times in the first half, but then most of the time in the second half I was playing the four position so I guarded the four."

On whether he likes the platoon system ...
"Definitely, because everybody gets their equal opportunities out there and you get to be up and happy for your teammates. I just feel like there's a lot more energy when we play with the platoons than regular subbing and everybody benefits from it."

On how helpful it is for players to know when they're coming in ...
"You know, we get to get our mindsets right. That four or five minutes that goes by, you know you're about to get in the game so you start focusing, paying attention to what the other team's doing offensively and defensively. So you really just get to focus more on what you need to go out there and do."

On what the two overtime games did to restore their edge ...
"It just shows that we need to come out with energy at all times and that without our defense we're just an OK team. Offensively we're getting better, but defense is where we really set ourselves apart early in the season and we have to get back to that."

On what the true potential of this team is ...
"Nobody really knows yet. Once we start clicking on all cylinders offensively and defensively, then we'll be able to say. But until then we don't know."

On whether there were games that they didn't come out energized ...
"Yeah. The first two SEC games I would say that we didn't come out with that much energy, but Coach sat down with all of us and talked to us about it and we talked as a team. We just have to go out there with energy and not look down on any team because of their record or anything like that. We just gotta go out there and realize that every team's playing to beat us and to be the team to beat us and if we just go out there and play together and play with a lot of energy we have a pretty good chance of not letting that happen."

On whether they looked down on their first two SEC opponents ...
"I just think that we came out with a lack of energy offensively and defensively and it showed, how we were playing and how the other team was playing against us. The last couple games, we picked it up, definitely."

On what caused that lack of energy ...
"I don't know particularly. Guys just not having the right mindset going into the game or just not being amped up for it. But the last couple that we've played, a lot of guys have had their energy back."

On whether they were distracted ...
"I can't say for other guys. For myself, I really just look forward to playing every game and try to go out there with the best energy that I can."

On how Derek Willis played against Alabama ...
"Derek's been playing very well with the minutes that he's getting. He practices with us every day, so he just had to get his opportunity to go out there and play and that's what he did the other day. He did well."

On the importance of having guys on the team like Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins ...
"It's very important because they go through practice just like everybody else does and they're practicing against us, playing with us, so for them to go out there and be able to play makes everybody is happy that they're getting their opportunity."

On if playing at 9 p.m. changes their routine at all ...
"I think it did the first 9 o'clock game we had. Guys were a little bit more tired because we had a lot more of the day to just sit around. We're practicing later on now so we're kind of getting used to it. Hopefully tomorrow night we'll be able to come out with the same energy we come out if it were a 4 o'clock game."

On defending guards on the perimeter ...
"At the beginning of the season it was really challenging. Going through practice and some of the games I've gotten better at it. I just have to continue working on it in practice and Coach is going to continue to challenge me with guarding smaller guys."

On how a player beats Kentucky ...
"I don't know. There's 12 of us so I don't know how just one guy can beat 12 of us. I don't see it happening."

On the confidence level of the team ...
"I think we've always had confidence as a group, it's just our energy level has stepped up from those first two games and guys are realizing now that we have to go out there and play 100 percent all the time, and don't slack off any time in the game."

On if it's easy to slack off with all of these wins ...
"I think sometimes guys can get big-headed or boastful about it, but we definitely came back to Earth after those first two games. It's shown the last couple games, so hopefully we can keep that going."

On if the key for them is to stay down to Earth ...
"Yeah, staying level-headed and just keeping the main goal in front of us and staying focused."

On how the team is doing offensively ...
"We're getting better offensively. We're still a little shaky here and there, but that comes with time and practice and everything. I think we're going to continue to get better."

On what part of his game has taken the largest leap forward ...
"Just being able to guard the perimeter. Being able to guard smaller guys and staying low and keeping them in front of me."

On Derek Willis saying he's `fallen out of the game' ...
"Just stay focused, like he said. He has to get focused back, just try to stay focused. We're his teammates, we're here for him. We try to keep him up in practice - him and Dom both. We're always cheering for him. We always want them to do the best. When they get the chance to play we love seeing it. We're always cheering for them and we want the best for them."

On if they could tell Derek Willis had a million things going through his head, as he said ...
"For me, I couldn't sense it. I just felt like he was out there playing, doing what he usually does. He didn't make any mistakes that I could see, and he played well with the time he was given."

On if he is an Indianapolis Colts fan ...
"Somewhat. Here and there. Yesterday was a bad game for them. They're a young team and getting better. Hopefully they'll be better next year."

On the defensive mindset of this team wanting to shut teams out ...
"Definitely. First two SEC games we lacked (very much) on defense. We were giving open shots. Guys were getting shots they usually wouldn't get earlier in the season. A couple practices and talks with Coach we definitely cracked down more defensively, worked on it in practice and guys are getting their swagger back on defense and we're trying to blow teams out."

On if he likes defense being the calling card of this year's team ...
"Definitely, because if you're a defensive team it leads to a lot of offense, especially for us. We're long, we're fast, we're tall, we get steals, we get in the passing lanes and we get easy layups and dunks on the offensive end."

On the freshmen performing well on the road this season ...
"Just staying confident and not letting the atmosphere or anything bother us. Just staying level-headed and knowing we can play with anybody."

#35, Derek Willis, So., F

On getting playing time ...
"Yeah, it was good. Just the opportunity Cal gave me. I just tried to do what I could."

On being nervous ...
"I was a little tense out there. I haven't really gotten a lot of experience in the games this year, other than like the beginning of the season, and I went out there and just tried to do like a million different things. My mind was all worried about everything else really but the game."

On what Cal has asked him to do in the games ...
"Just feed the post, just play really. I was just really having a problem like calming down and just trying to relax and I've never really had that. But I was just trying to feed the post and play off them--and help the guys in the middle."

On how difficult it is to stay ready ...
"It's extremely difficult. I mean, like I mean those two minutes, or however long I played, I feel like that's just getting me warm. I've got to make the most of it while I'm in there I guess."

On having the fear that if he makes a mistake in the game he won't get another chance to play ...
"Well, in me and Dominique (Hawkins') position--I don't really want to speak for him--well, I guess in my position, you know you make a mistake and it kind of sits in the back of your head and you worry about that. It's kind of selfish a little bit, but you've got to worry about your teammates as well. It's just going to bother you."

On it being easier next time he gets to play ...
"Yeah, I think so. I think I'm more ready for that situation I guess."

On if it's hard to put in the extra work not knowing if he'll get rewarded ...
"Yeah, I mean, I said this before in another interview about having like the NBA mentality of the players who don't play in the NBA. They put up an hour in before practice and games, and an hour after too. It is hard and it's just part of being here."

On if he sees more opportunities for Hawkins and himself moving forward ...
"Yeah, with (Alex Poythress) being out we can fill that spot I think in that rotation with the platoons. I know Dom's kind of hurt right now, but we're just going to play, do what we can."

On if Cal subbing five in and five out helps the team play better ...
"For our efficiencies as well. The efficiencies (are) great and I just think everyone can just play as hard they can and just know you're coming out, you've got backup."  

On what Cal needs from him in practice that he hasn't shown so far ...
"I guess be more focused. I mean I'm trying to be self-critical about everything right now, and I think just be more focused, just show that I really want to be here and I don't think, being honest, I did that."

On why he hasn't done that ...
"I'm not sure, just kind of fallen out with the game. I don't know. Just got to get back into it--get more motivated I guess."

On it being tough to get more motivated ...
"I mean, I don't know. I guess."

On if he ever questioned if he did want to be at UK ...
"No. God no. I'm going to stay here four years, regardless. I love this place."

On what he meant by falling out of the game ...
"I mean, well, it's just kind of weird. I mean, you go your whole life playing and then you're just not playing as much, so I don't know. Just kind of fallen out of the game, just don't know what to do really, just looking for answers."

On it being hard to be self-critical but remain confident for when his time does come ...
"I guess. I'm just trying to really find an answer of what to do. I mean I've asked like a lot of people, talked to them about it, and really getting the same thing: just get in the gym more and be around the game more I guess."

On who he talked to ...
"I talked to my father, friends, girlfriend, all that."

On if he talked to Cal ...
"Talked to Cal. We have meetings every once in a while and that's what came up, so being focused and just being in the gym more. Like usually, I'm one of the first people out, just trying to do something else, but yeah."

On being told to be in the gym more ...
"I mean, I guess--I don't know. I'm putting it on myself really. I just need to put effort into the game if I want to play."

On recognizing the priority defensive play takes in the games and if he focused on that once he got to play ...
"Yeah, I was definitely worried about making sure my man didn't score and all that, fighting through screens. I was playing out on the floor--I think it was Cooper I was guarding for a little bit. He was pretty quick. He was a little stronger than me, so I was doing what I could with him, just trying to help."

On how he'd describe the team's edge especially after the last two games ...
"I mean, I think our whole attitude has changed for real. With those two games we had--it was Texas (A&M) and Ole Miss--I think we had become comfortable and we had figured that we were killing these teams. We've beat top 10 teams by like 30, 40 points, and we come in and just think we're going to get a win. Now our whole attitude's gone back to `we just want to kill people.'"

On if it's hard for him to remember the way it felt playing in the Bahamas ...
"Yeah, yeah, the Bahamas was good. It was just like, it was in the beginning of the season. I mean we had two people out. Now we have two really good players who are playing now, and it just--a lot changed."

On if the thought crosses his mind if he'll ever get a chance to play ...
"Yeah I'll get a chance. I've just got to like turn it on. I know I can play. Everyone else knows I can play, and so I've just got to turn it on, kick it into gear. I haven't (done) that yet."