Kentucky Travels to Columbia to Face South Carolina

Jan. 23, 2015

Kentucky squares off with South Carolina on Saturday, January 24 in Columbia, S.C. Tip is set for 12 p.m. and the game will be carried by ESPN.

Gameday
Gameday Information
Kentucky at South Carolina
Saturday, Jan. 24 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Columbia, S.C.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | USC Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPN
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Live Audio
Live Stats
Text Updates
UK Team Stats USC
75.5 Points 70.5
50.8 Opp. Points 61.0
.457 FG .442
.322 Opp. FG .366
.358 3-FG .300
.270 Opp. 3-FG .309
.688 FT .730
41.2 Rebs 38.5
31.8 Opp. Rebs. 32.1
16.0 Assists 14.6
11.4 Turnovers 14.1
8.1 Blocks 4.9
7.7 Steals 7.1

Cat Scratches: Circumstances different, challenge the same in UK's South Carolina return

How things have changed.

In early March of last year, Kentucky had suffered back-to-back losses and sat at 21-8. The second of the two was the most disappointing of the season, as the Wildcats fell behind by as many as 16 points en route to a 72-67 loss at South Carolina.

"I remember we lost," Andrew Harrison said. "It was tough. They were a very good team last year, but we didn't play as well as we should have."

The other Harrison twin, Aaron, would of course say after the loss that the remainder of the season would be "a great story," a promise that drew skepticism at the time only to prove prophetic.

Eleven months later, UK has lost just three games in 29 tries, two to top-ranked Florida and one in the national championship. The Cats, after falling just shy of the title, were back as the preseason No. 1 for 2014-15 and haven't lost since, running their record to 18-0 and reigniting the unbeaten talk that started the previous season.

Now they return to Columbia, S.C. But as much as things have changed, one thing remains the same.

"If we go down there and play like we did last year we'll lose again," Andrew Harrison said. ... Read the full story

This Week's News:

Mr. `Clutch' Rises Again in Win Over Vandy

  • In Coach Cal's 100th career game in Rupp Arena, the Wildcats jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never trailed against a pesky Vanderbilt team en route to a 65-57 victory.
    • Calipari now owns a 96-4 all-time record in Rupp Arena, the best start to a career at home in UK history for any head coach.
  • The eight-point victory was the 18th win of the season for UK, which is off to the fourth-best start in program history and second best under Calipari.
  • UK made 4 of 6 (66.7 percent) on 3-point shots, the team's best percentage of the season. Over the last eight games, Kentucky has shot 45.1 percent on 3-pointers (65 of 144).
    • Aaron Harrison connected on a pair from long range and has now hit at least one trey in a career-long stretch of 10 games.
    • Harrison led UK with 14 points - all coming after halftime.
    • He scored seven of UK's final nine points.
  • Kentucky, which leads the nation in blocked shots, logged 11 rejections. It is the eighth game this season UK has recorded double-figure blocks.
  • UK is 102-5 in the Calipari era when holding opponents to 63 or fewer points, including 14-0 this season.
  • In addition to Harrison, Dakari Johnson reached double-figure scoring with 10 points.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein posted six points, a game-high 10 rebounds, three steals and a block.
  • Lee chipped in with seven points and six boards in 12 minutes of game action.

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.

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 22, 2015

Head Coach John Calipari

On what he remembers about last year's game at South Carolina ...
"Well, I was watching the game, and we didn't bow our necks until I got tossed, and then we bowed our necks and played. But they're going to be physical. They come right at you. If you drive, you've got three guys running. As you run at them, they run at you. Frank (Martin), the one thing I've got to tell you as I watch his team - it's a great concept - they'll pressure you all over the place and deny wings. And if you drive, they all race to the lane. Like everybody. Just run to the lane on drives. So they have a combination of pack line, which is we're just going to have our heels on the 3-point line, let you do what you want and give you one tough shot. And then when you drive you got three on you because everybody's in there. Well, he's done it where they'll top you, they'll face guard, they'll deny, and if you drive from that way, we're all running in the lane. I got to give credit, I think it's a great concept. But I'll say this: really hard to play that way. Like, you have to play. If you don't play, you're getting beat. And they play. They take on Frank's personality. They're balling."

On how they can counter that ...
"Got to be strong with the ball. Got to play through bumps. You got to know that they're coming and find open men. I don't think they'll leave the baseline like they've been because we'll throw lobs, so I think they'll leave from everywhere else and leave one guy back, which means maybe you can get to the rim. Maybe you can't. We'll work on stuff today. But they also play the 2-3 zone against us. They also play a 3-2 zone. I mean, they really explore the lane on offense every time down. They always have someone in that lane area. If you switch, they try to post that guy. Things that we normally do, they're playing against that. And it's always a hard game. I can remember 2010 going down there, having our team - you know what, we got outmuscled that game. They roughed us up and we weren't able to finish and make plays. Had a chance to try to beat them then. Had a chance last year. That's the first time (this week) I've watched the end of the game. Now, the good news with it is if I get thrown I'm not doing a press conference after. Might do it (get tossed) again."

On if he's asked the president of the United State not to call his team before this trip to South Carolina since they lost in 2010 when he did ...
"President? Oh, he did? No, he can call. That'd be fine. For some reason, I don't think he was a part of that (loss)."

On Aaron Harrison saying last year after the South Carolina loss that the season would be a great story ...
"Well, he didn't say there'd be a great story. What he said is, 'We can do what we want. We can write our own story. And I think we will.' That's kind of what he said. You know, that game was in March. I look back on last year and I'm amazed that we were able to pull it together. I mean, it's not a real big deal, 'cause it's here and me, but the reality of it -- when I think about what went on -- how in the world did we swing it that fast? Because there was another game I watched that we played bad and it was March. Maybe it was Alabama at home? I mean, we stunk. Like, stunk. And then by two weeks later we're playing out of our minds? That means you have a good group that was just not sure of themselves. And these kids are so different. I don't care what anybody says, these kids that are 18, 19, 20 years old, their confidence half the time is shot to shot, week to week, play to play. All of the sudden they're playing good, they got great confidence. 'I can shoot it in the ocean.' Yeah? Next game you're shooting air balls. How about that? I mean, that's how the stuff is for these kids. It kind of flips on you real quick. You got to keep track of that and make sure you got a kind of handle on that, too."

On if he's surprised Aaron Harrison would say that and then back it up ...
"No, I wasn't in that (press conference). I had left the arena already, so I didn't hear what was said. But again, the story should be look at where we were and look where we went to and how we finished. But that's a unique group. Now we have them back. And last game, our freshmen went 0 for 4 when we were up 12 . It's, 'OK, let's end this thing.' They go 0 for 4, our freshmen, from the foul line. They break down defensively twice and give them threes. And it takes Aaron and Andrew and Willie to save the day. I'm glad we've got young guys that aren't afraid, but they're not gonna be great every night out. They've never been through this stuff. The other guys have. The greatest play that was made was, my man (Booker) shoots an air ball by about, mmm, a foot and a half, and we save it. The ball goes back to (Booker). He's smart enough to throw it quickly to Aaron, who knows he's making it. His mindset is, 'I'm making it.' And he did."

On the amount of scrutiny on Andrew Harrison helping Tyler Ulis to play freely ...
"It's every team we play. They're not coming out like, `We're supposed to beat this team. We're not supposed to win; we're not even supposed to be in this. Just go play.' Now all of the sudden guys that don't shoot well shoot well. Guys that play tight don't play tight, and so you're playing against their best. I think with Tyler right now it's nice to know. Really for both of them they should feel that way, that if I'm not great I've got him and if he's not great he has got me. The difference is what you said. When it rains in Lexington, whose fault is it? Andrew's fault. There was a car accident on 75, whose fault is it? Andrew's fault. So that's just how it is right now and he has accepted it. But at the end of the day he's the same guy that led us to a championship game and gave us a chance to do something unique and special. Tyler is playing well too. Now he doesn't play great every night out. Neither does Andrew. It's nice to be able to have two of them, and it's nice to be able to put them in together."

On the team has benefited from lessons learned last year in games like at South Carolina ...
"The thing that they've benefitted most of is that you don't have to play well because we have enough guys. Now you can just worry about really playing hard and doing your best. There's no, like, `If I don't play well we're going to lose this game.' No, unless nine of you don't play well then we have no chance. If five or six of you play well we will figure out who they are and we will run with them. If nine of you play well, we play you all. That's what these guys should be feeling, but we have a great group of kids. Great group."

On if he changed after last season's South Carolina game the way James Young described ...
"I got him (James Young) to unchill is what I got him to do. So as soon as he unchilled, we got really good."

On why he seemed to change his outlook late in the 2013-14 season ...
"I had less of an edge for this reason: I hadn't been able to figure out what was the issue. When I figured out what the issue was, and the two or three things I had to do as a coach, then I was comfortable. I'm still not sure, offensively, how we need to play at times with this group. We're going to try some new stuff today."

On if the SEC is better than its reputation ...
"Oh yeah. It's No. 2 (strength of schedule) RPI in the country, the fourth strongest league in the country. Every road game is hard. I mean, Mississippi State went down and beat Auburn. Auburn at home hadn't lost a game, and literally they were up 12, 13, 14 down there and the place was packed. You saw Vanderbilt. You're telling me they're not going to win games in this league? I mean, if that game against us didn't help them understand that, `we're legit, we're big, we can shoot, we can handle with great pressure, we run our stuff, we're disciplined,' I mean, shoot, they guarded us. They're good. You look at Texas A&M, they're good. You look at LSU, well, they lost to--you can lose games and still be good. Unless you're in this league. Then if you lose you're awful, which is crazy. We have to get by that. I don't know. I mean, you have three teams in the Sweet 16, you have a team in the final game, two in the Final Four and it's, `Yeah, but I don't care.' I don't know what else you do. Unless you have two of us in the final game and one of us win - in overtime. Maybe then you'll say, `Maybe the league is OK.'"

On if other teams in the conference should have played better non-conference games ...
"We did. They did. We all did. We're No. 2 RPI (strength of schedule). RPI is used when it's convenient. Since we're high in the RPI this year we probably won't evaluate by RPI. There will be other reasons. Maybe `what are your bad losses.'  It's like that moving target. They look, `OK where is the SEC strong? Don't consider those areas. There are seven others that we consider.' I'm not sure they do that, but (it seems that way)."

On where he wants to see offensive improvement ...
"There are things that we have to be able to do to put people away, which is score three or four straight baskets bam, bam, bam and not be concerned shooting 3s unless it's inside and out. You can't rely on 3s to stay in games, and we have this year. I mean, we made 11 one game to stay in a game. Can't do that. And so even if they're packing it, how do we have to play? What do we have to do? How do we do different things? I'm just going to mess around with some stuff and tell them what we're doing and why. Very intelligent basketball team. Like, when I tell them why we're doing it and what we're doing, they'll go out and do it. That's the one thing we can do, and we have today and tomorrow to mess around with some stuff. The biggest thing for us is it's just energy. Will we battle? Will we go in and fight? When this game gets physically rough, when they're up under you on shots, when there's a rebound and everything is just a body-to-body slam, can you hold your ground? When you get it close to the basket, they're not going to surrender. They're just not going to give you a basket. They're going to fight you just like every team we play. Can you make that two-footer? Can you make it against another college player? He's another college player. It's not Wilt the Stilt. Can you make it against another college player? If we can't, we've got to figure out some other things."

On Karl-Anthony Towns' offensive development ...
"He's getting better. He's physically not as mature as some of these guys so he can't hold his position like these other guys, like Dakari (Johnson) can. Even like Trey should be able to. He's not quite doing it because we haven't posted him a whole lot, but he's getting better. All I want him (Towns) to be is conscience of look, this is where we see you, Right now here is where you are and be real about it. We're truthful with the guys."

Freshman guard Tyler Ulis

On icing his legs ...
"Yeah I iced every day after practice (in high school)."

On if the older guys on the team have said anything about the environment at South Carolina ...
"No, I haven't heard anything really about them."

On if it's been easy adjusting to playing in places where people don't like UK ...
"It's been pretty easy for us. We just try to go there and play, not really pay attention to the crowd much, and just do what we have to do on the court to win."

On why they're so good at not letting the crowds get to them ...
"I feel like it's been that way like in high school when we went places, the crowds were like that for us, but there's a lot more people here. But, it's just easy to adjust."

On if he likes getting booed ...
"Oh yeah, it's pretty funny. I like it, but I don't really pay much attention to it."

On what they learned from the Vanderbilt game ...
"We just learned that we have to fight all the time. Every game's not going to be a blowout. They came ready to play. They shot some 3s. We just have to be able to stick with the game plan."

On Marcus Lee's energy ...
"Yeah, Marcus Lee played really well that game. With our platooning, he played very well defensively and rebounding the ball and he did that last game and it helped us out a lot."

On how much easier it is playing college basketball overall for him today than it was a couple months ago ...
"I wouldn't say it's easier. The competition is getting better. They're coming after us even more with the SEC play. It's just a different style of ball."

On if he's always put his body into the guy he was guarding ...
"I've always done it because being a smaller guard I have to pick them up full court to make them uncomfortable."

On if he has to work harder to make up for his size ...
"Definitely."  

On what the trick is to guarding the way he does without picking up fouls ...
"Just move your feet and you try to guess where they're going and stuff like that. You just try to play without your hands, just be quicker than them."

On how the coaching staff is working with him to improve his style ...
"You know I'm just trying to work on my body and get in shape and stuff like that, and lifting weights, getting stronger. "

On how he feels about his shot even though Devin Booker's had the hot hand lately ...
"I'm a better shooter than Devin (Booker). He's the second best shooter on the team. But he's been really hot. What, he's like 70-something percent in the last six, seven games. I'm happy for him. He's hitting shots. He struggled early and I'm just happy that he's (shooting well)."

On his reaction to Aaron Harrison's shot in the clutch ...
"Well, that's what he does. Last year he hit three big shots and we expect him to do that. He hit a big shot last game and it's not really anything new to us. We expect it from him."

On his reaction to Willie Cauley-Stein's jumper ...
"Willie's shot (laughter). I'm happy Willie made those shots because it shows that he's working on his game, shows that he's taking it to another level. He's not just a great defensive player, he's working on his offensive game and he's getting better. If he develops that shot, which he has, then it's going to be hard to stop."

On if he was one of the people who didn't want Cauley-Stein to take the shot at first, but was happy when it went in ...
"(Laughter) I don't know what to think when he shoots 15-footers. But if I see it come off where I feel like it's going in, every time he hits that shot we get really excited because he doesn't really do that. He's used to dunking on people and stuff like that, and it's just great to see a guy developing more skills as he gets older."

On if the veterans have talked about really wanting to get a W at South Carolina after the game there last season ...
"No, we haven't really talked about it."

Sophomore guard Andrew Harrison

On what he remembers of last year's South Carolina game ...
"I remember we lost. It was tough. They were a very good team last year, but we didn't play as well as we should have. If we go down there and play like we did last year we'll lose again."

On if he thought his brother, Aaron, was crazy for saying he still thought it would be a "great story" after the game last year ...
"No, because I know he has ultimate belief in himself. That's how you have to be. You can't listen to what people say about you or it will really mess you up, so you just have to keep playing and have confidence in yourself."

On if Aaron told Andrew about that ...
"I think we all thought it. I think we all knew we had enough talent and stuff like that. You just have to play."

On if last year's game at South Carolina is still in people's minds ...
"We have a lot of new guys on the team, but in my mind I know that they're a rough team, tough team and we have to come and play 100 percent or it's going to be a long game."

On if that was a "we have to put our foot down" moment for them last year ...
"I really couldn't tell you because I really don't remember to be honest, but I knew it was a horrible feeling and I just remember just having that bad feeling when they rushed the court and stuff like that."

On if they looked past South Carolina last year ...
"They're a good team. Like I said, we just didn't play as well as we should have and if we do that again this year we're going to lose again."

On if he's expecting a tough, physical matchup against South Carolina ...
"Definitely. Every game we play in the SEC is going to be a tough game, and other teams are going to come at us so we have to be ready every time we step on the court."

On the SEC ...
"Definitely. There are a lot of good athletes. It's very, very tough. Very tough and rough. You have to be ready to play physically and mentally every game."

On James Young saying Coach Cal chilled after the South Carolina loss last year ...
"I can't really tell you. I don't necessarily remember the exact moment, but I can understand what James is saying."

On Coach Cal not being "chill" during the South Carolina game last year ...
"I know he got kicked out. I'm not really sure of what he did or anything like that. It was a heated situation."

On UK going on a run after Coach Cal was ejected ...
"No, we just decided we have to play harder. It didn't have to do with the coaching change or anything like that."

On if it was embarrassing the way they lost at South Carolina last year ...
"It wasn't embarrassing. It was just another game that we didn't want to lose, so that's what we did. We just lost the game."

On how shocking was it that Coach Cal got tossed from that game ...
"I mean, I would have tossed him too. He was frustrated just like the rest of us."

On the feeling of fans rushing the court whenever they beat Kentucky ...
"You can't even think about it. We just have to go out there and play as hard as we can. If we lose a game or something like that we want it to be because of them, because they played great and better than us. Not because of us."

On if the idea of not letting another fan base rush the court against them motivates them ...
"As a basketball player you have to try to motivate yourself to play every game, no matter if you're at home or away."

On the play of UK's freshmen in road games ...
"They're good basketball players."

On if they will talk to the freshmen about last year's game at South Carolina ...
"You just have to play your game. You can't really worry about last year. Last year was last year. Now we have to go in there for another tough game against South Carolina."

On how much having the two backcourts (Harrison twins, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker) have helped each other in practice ...
"It's fun. Lot of people try to put us against each other, but it's not like that. We realize we're all on the same team."

On if it's been good for the freshmen to have experienced guys around ...
"Yeah, because there's no pressure on them at all."

On how the competition amongst the guards in practice has impacted team defense ...
"It's not really a competition between guards in practice. It's a competition between two teams. That's how we look at it."

On if he thinks them having to guard each other every day has helped them ...
"Yeah, in the beginning, yeah."

On how difficult it is to guard Tyler Ulis, with his smaller size and quickness ...
"I mean, you have to really just worry about pick-and-rolls and stuff, and getting over the picks."

On if he deflects some pressure from UK's freshman guards ...
"Yeah, I can take whatever anything throws at me now. I know whatever is said doesn't really matter. I've heard it all. I'm just starting to get my confidence back, and just knowing I'm the starting point guard or whatever and I can play just as well as anybody."

On if he lost his confidence for a while ...
"Kind of. Not really. You just have to realize that this is basketball and you have to play like you have been playing your whole life."

On if he likes the pressure of if it wears on him ...
"I mean, now I'm so used to it or so immune to it. So, pretty much nothing people can say that bothers me anymore, I'm just trying to play basketball and have fun."

On if got to the point where he laughs at what opposing fans say to him ...
"Kind of. I'm used to it, like I said."