Kentucky Faces South Carolina Saturday
South Carolina travels to Lexington to face top-ranked Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Saturday, February 14. Tip is set for 2 p.m. and the game will be on ESPN.
|Kentucky vs. South Carolina
Saturday, Feb. 14 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | USC
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Calipari keeping the load light as unbeaten buzz intensifies
By this point, you might think John Calipari would be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
His team piling up wins and the nation's last remaining unbeaten, he had reason to be wound up tight knowing LSU would be ready to give the Wildcats its best shot on Tuesday.
Instead, he was sitting on the team plane bound for Baton Rouge, La., hatching a prank to play on rabid Kentucky fans.
It started with a text message sent to Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy that eventually became this tweet.
I thought Trey got on plane but we can't find him.
Peevy's initial reaction was to literally search the plane for Lyles, who had inspired continual speculation in recent weeks with an illness that had kept him out of action since Jan. 29.
"And when he did that, I knew 'Uh-oh. This is gonna be absolutely outrageous,' " Calipari said. "And we had people camped out at the hotel. We had people camped out as we got off the bus."
Once the confusion was overcome, the tweet went out. More than 2,000 retweets and a #WhereIsTrey hashtag later, Coach Cal had a national story on his hands. ... read the full preview
This Week's News
- UK survived a game-winning shot by LSU to hang on for a 71-69 win on the road at LSU on Tuesday to improve to 24-0 and 11-0 in league play.
- With 24 consecutive wins to open the year, UK passed the 1965-66 Wildcats for the second-best start in program history.
- UK is one win shy of equaling the best start in school annals.
- UK’s 24-game winning streak is the tied with the 1934 and 2012 Wildcats for the sixth-longest streak in Kentucky history.
- UK’s 24-game winning streak is tied for the third-longest streak in single-season history.
- UK has won 46 of its last 48 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
- John Calipari has a 90-9 all-time record when coaching the nation’s No. 1 team, including a 49-4 mark at Kentucky.
- LSU began the game on a 10-2 run and also led 14-6. LSU led by eight points twice, which were Tigers’ largest leads of the first half.
- Kentucky led by as many as 13 points with 12:46 to go in the second half.
- LSU went on a 21-2 run from between the 12:46 and the 7:29 mark in the second half.
- LSU took a lead 62-60 lead with 8:18 remaining in the game.
- Karl-Anthony Towns snapped LSU’s 16-0 run with a step-back jumper from just inside the 3-point line after LSU had taken a 66-60 lead.
- The Cats took the lead for good when Towns kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound and then scored with 1:30 left to take a 70-69 lead.
- Devin Booker scored the final point of the game on a free throw with 15 seconds left. LSU missed a 3 just before the buzzer to secure the UK win.
- Nine Wildcats scored in the game. Just five Wildcats scored in UK’s previous game, on Saturday against Florida.
- Kentucky attempted 68 field goals, which was its second-highest total this season (70 vs. Grand Canyon).
- Four Wildcats scored in double figures: Willie Cauley- Stein (15), Booker (14), Andrew Harrison (13) and Towns (12).
- Towns logged his second double-double in three games with 12 points and a career-best 13 boards.
- UK had its best blocking night with nine swats since recording nine at South Carolina on Jan. 24. Towns and Cauley-Stein combined for seven of the rejections.
- UK claimed a 68-61 win on the road at Florida on Saturday.
- Kentucky was 21 of 22 from the free-throw line, which was a season-best 95.5-percent clip.
- Florida shot 24 of 49 (.490) from the field, which was the second-highest shooting percentage by a UK opponent this year (Ole Miss - .492) and the best by a UK opponent playing on its home floor.
- The Wildcats took an early 2-0 lead on a Cauley- Stein jumper with 18:46 remaining in the first half and did not lead again until taking a 33-32 lead on a Towns bucket with 18:21 remaining in the second half.
- After taking a 45-44 lead on a Cauley-Stein dunk with 12:01 to go in the game, Kentucky never trailed again.
- Kentucky finished the game on a 9-2 run.
- Kentucky out-rebounded Florida 33-20, and Florida’s 20 rebounds were the fewest total by a UK opponent this year.
- Just five Wildcats scored in the game, with four of them (Towns, Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker) each scoring in double figures.
- Harrison scored 18 of his game-high 23 points after halftime.
- Towns matched a career-best in points.
- In addition to former Wildcats Anthony Davis and John Wall earning starting nods to the NBA All-Star game slated for Sunday, several other Cats are set to participate.
- Davis, a two-time selection, led the West frontcourt in voting with 1,369,911 fan votes to earn his first career starting nod. He will not participate in the game, however, due to an injured shoulder.
- Wall, a second-time selection, earned his first All-Star starting nod after receiving the most votes in the East among guards with 886,368.
- DeMarcus Cousins was added to the West’s roster following the injury to Kobe Bryant. It will mark Cousins’ first career appearance in the All- Star game.
- Nerlens Noel is slated to appear in the Rising Stars Challenge that features first and second year players from the United States vs. the World on Friday.
- Brandon Knight will compete in the Skills Challenge on Saturday.
Towns, Cauley-Stein Named National POY Finalists
- Willie Cauley-Stein was tabbed a top-20 finalist for the Wooden Award and a top-30 finalist for the Naismith Trophy.
- Karl-Anthony Towns was selected as one of 30 finalists for the Naismith Trophy.
- Both awards will be presented during the Final Four weekend to the nation’s top player as chosen by the committees of each award.
- Kentucky signee Isaiah Briscoe has been named a semifinalist for the 2015 Naismith Boy’s High School Player of the Year award.
- He is one of 10 semifinalists up for the award, which is given annually to the top high school player in the country. The finalists will be named on Feb. 24 and a winner will be announced on March 12.
- A 6-foot-3 guard from Newark, N.J., Briscoe is averaging 22.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 16 games for Roselle Catholic High School.
- Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns was named NBC Sports’ National Player of the Week after leading the Wildcats to victories over Georgia and Florida last week.
- Towns led the Wildcats in scoring (17.0), rebounds (10.5), field-goal percentage (.571), free throws (10 for 10) and blocks (four).
- The Piscataway, N.J. native began the week with his third career double-double effort with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in the win over visiting Georgia.
- Towns followed that performance up at Florida with a career-high-tying 19 points and game-high eight rebounds.
Media Opportunity - February 13, 2015
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
Opening statement …
“I just told my staff that I came up with stuff that I’ve never come up with before in my life. I did stuff today and was thinking of ways to try and get out of that workout today. I went outside to greet people. I did not want to work out today. I hope my team is not feeling the same way.”
On what his workout consists of …
“I have seafood diet. I see food and I eat it. I eat light. As soon as it turns light, I start eating.”
On why he didn’t want to work out …
“Just beat down.”
On the Trey Lyles going missing prank …
“The only reason I did it—I was on a plane, and I’m thinking our fans are going nutty and they have to loosen up a little bit. This isn’t life or death. It’s not March. I tweeted or texted Dewayne Peevy the tweet that you saw. He got up and started looking around the plane and I said, ‘It’s a tweet, you idiot. He’s right here in front of us.’ When he did that, I knew, ‘Uh oh, this is going to be absolutely outrageous.’ We had people camp out at the hotel and people camped out as we got off the bus – scouts with the hat. ‘What do you do?’ ‘Oh, I’m a retired dentist.’ ‘Really? Why is one sock blue and one sock gray?’ It was just stupid. It was also for the team. I wanted them to understand. I keep telling them, ‘What’s the worst (thing that could happen)? I’ll say it this time, if we lose this game, then we’re 22-1, 23 or whatever it is. What’s it matter? Just go play and try to get better.’ ”
On what losing Trey for that period of time did to cause changes …
“One guy can shift everybody into spots they need to be in. Guys have to be willing to sacrifice three minutes or two minutes. There are times where we have to go at him, which may take a shot away from other guys, but what does it matter? At the end of the day either you play or you can’t play. Reality. Either you’re an efficient player or not. We don’t need to see you for 40 minutes. That’s all ego stuff, but there’s a clutter that goes along with that we’ll fight it until the end of the year to keep everybody away from all of what I would call the clutter of trying to infiltrate guys minds and all that stuff.”
On the biggest challenge for the team to be at its best in March …
“We talked yesterday about winning time. When you get teams down 13 or 14 then you have to get it to 20. We have a way of getting it to six. I told them in the NCAA Tournament, when that becomes a six and they hit a three ball, then the weight of the world is on you now and not on them. They’re going to play out of their minds and you can end the season based on a three-minute stretch where you didn’t get it from 16 or 14 to 20. That’s the issue. When you have the fifth-youngest team in the country, they’re not mature enough at that point. They do a chin up or a look-away pass, take a shot they don’t need to take. They stop defending and say, ‘Come on, it’s only one play.’ We’re still working through that. We’ve been beat up and a little injured. We’ll see going forward.”
On if youth is the problem…
“Most of it is. Last year I told them, you look at Wichita State, they had us down 10, they messed around and we got back in the game. And all of a sudden the weight of the world was on them at the end of the season and their season ended. Shouldn’t have played us. It was a bad seed either trying to do us or them whoever it was, bad seed, but it did happen. We had to play the game and that was the outcome. That is what I told our team yesterday.”
On what has changed about Willie Cauley-Stein’s game…
“Well, I went on the plane after and I walked down the aisle of the plane and I looked at him and said, ‘Jeez, your ankle is hurting you today, huh?’ ”
On if Julius Randle is the best player he has ever coached (Asked by Julius Randle, who stopped by the presser)…
“No (laughter). I’m so happy the Lakers have to deal with him.”
On talks of changing the shot clock time to 30 seconds…
“They are not going to ask me about that, but we can all say it is about fouling. That is why the scoring is where it is right now. I would say 30 seconds would be fine, (but it) doesn’t change the game at all. Maybe adds four or five possessions. But if you keep fouling like we foul, scoring is going to stay the same. If you want more scoring, you are going to need to loosen up the game if you think that’s what makes the game great. If there is body-to-body contact that is not obviously created by the offense, then call a foul every single time. We coaches will adjust or we will foul out our team, go crazy and get thrown out of games. May take a year or two but call fouls. They are already in the rule book. Last year we didn’t have the stomach for it. We did it for four or five months and none of us had the stomach for it. The NCAA didn’t have the stomach, the officials didn’t, the coaches didn’t. To get this right, it took three years in the NBA – three to say this is the rule, officials will be fined, it is not changing. You adjust or you are out and that is where we have to go with this. Thirty seconds would be fine, but 30 seconds would be five more possessions to foul somebody.”
On the possibility of freshman ineligibility…
“I say this: Every decision we should make should be about these kids. Now, is that the best decision for these kids? Or are we worried about individual programs? So let me ask you this: Your son is 6-5, skinny, and over the summer he grows seven inches and gains weight and becomes Shaq. But he had to go to college because at the time he was 6-5- and 120 pound. He should stay in school three years because of a baseball rule? Now is that good for the program, the coaches, or the players? If you want the baseball rule, let them go any time that they want. They can go as 11th graders, 12th graders, their first, second, third year in college. Or, go to two years, and then do what you are supposed to, to take care of these kids while they are here. Two years in college will give them almost three years of an education (and) get them back here (to finish up). Now we have educated people. Our kids come back anyway whether they leave after one year. You know what is funny? When you are in the Ivory tower, and you are not down in this, you would make a statement that kids don’t even go the whole year. If you want to ask our president of what he thinks about our players, how they finish the term, how we have 13 out of 16 players with a B average. Now they go to class. It’s not Internet or correspondent. Some of you may be doing that, but we are not. There is not a cluster in one class. They go to class. They do what they are supposed to, but they (have) a genius. Again, I am not that smart, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I will tell you that when I look at this I look at what is right for the kids. Not me, not the school, not the program, not basketball this animal. What is right for these kids. If it’s right for them, it’s right for all of us.”
On what the guys on the bench said when you said I hope we lose …
“I heard a couple say, ‘I hope we don’t!’ ”
On if Cal had ever fist bumped an opposing player like he did at the LSU game …
“Yeah, I have. A kid from Syracuse when I was at Memphis was killing us. Johnny. And I said, ‘Kill ‘em, Johnny! You just kill him!’ He looks at me and says, ‘You crazy.’”
On Cauley-Stein and how his personality helps hold the team together …
“Willie is Willie and I want him to be who he is. I’m trying to get him to understand how good he can be. How you got to take risks, how you have to work, nothing is going to be given to you. How you have to relish physical play. How you have to get in this gym and spend more time and build your own self-esteem and self-confidence. That why wouldn’t you want to be the best player in the country. Tell me, does it scare you? Is that too hard? ‘Ah, just let me be the eight (man), I’m OK.’ Well, he can be as good as he wants to be and that’s the issue I have with him all the time – and it’s not an issue; it’s what we talk about. It was the same thing when I got him to start reading. You’re talking about a really bright kid saying, ‘Well, I don’t like school. Why? Tell me why? It’s academics, it’s learning, it’s expanding your mind. Why don’t you? That’s why we started reading together. But he’s a great guy, really intelligent, great heart, kind hearted. I just want him to be as good as we all see in spurts.”
On what books Coach Cal and Cauley-Stein have been reading …
“We read ‘The Energy Bus’together, we read ‘God Never Blinks.’ We’ve read about four books.”
On scoring and Makalya Epps and Devin Booker playing a game of ‘horse’ and who would win …
“Wow, she played good. Forty-two points. I told Matthew (Mitchell) it’s great coaching, let her go. She’s a good player. I’m happy for her.”
On the NBA All-Star Game maybe changing to a platoon system …
“I think the chemistry and offense won’t be good if they do that (laughter). That’s fine whatever they do. I’m just happy a bunch of our players are in it. Whether it’s Nerlens (Noel) being in the sophomore game, whether it’s Brandon Knight, who if one more guy drops out I think he is in, but he is in the skills. And then the other three. Not sure if Anthony (Davis) is playing, don’t know if he is or not. But DeMarcus (Cousins) and John (Wall), two of those guys are starting. So I’m proud of our guys and the other guys are doing well. I mean, they are playing well and doing well.”
Freshman forward Trey Lyles
On what he thought about the “where is Trey” Twitter prank …
“That blew up kind of big. My mentions on Twitter wouldn’t go away, so a lot of people were interested in it, getting into it. I thought it was funny. Coach was trying to have a nice little joke going there. I thought it was pretty funny. Coach had a good sense of humor with that and he played it out well. It worked for a little bit.”
On the number of people who actually thought he was missing …
“Yeah, that’s pretty funny. I don’t think anybody would let me disappear and miss a plane, so yeah.”
On if he’s over his sickness …
“Yeah, I’m feeling 100 percent, back to normal. Everything’s fine.”
On what he had …
“I just had strep throat, wasn’t feeling good for a few days. Coach and them just wanted to keep me away from the guys so they wouldn’t come down with anything.”
On if he felt 100 percent in the LSU game …
“I didn’t feel 100 percent but I wasn’t tired or anything like that. Just had to get back into the rhythm of things, had a couple days of practice before that, and then going into the game. But now I feel back to normal, hopefully be able to play well tomorrow.”
On if it reinforced what he needs to do for the team watching them while he was sick …
“Definitely. It was frustrating watching them, wanting to be out there with them, but I just learned from it, just saw where I need to go out there and do certain things to make an impact.”
On what he needs to do specifically …
“Coach talked a lot about me just going out there and rebounding. That’s one thing. And then scoring on those opportunities I get, you know, finding open guys and just playing defense. Stuff like that.”
On how much practice and the game affected him …
“It didn’t affect me really that much. I wasn’t that out of shape. I had been working out days prior to that, so I kind of got my wind back doing those things. A couple days of practice really helped for the game.”
On if he felt isolated while he was sick …
“Yeah, I was by myself a lot. It was pretty boring, but, you know, I still had to watch the games and still had to text the guys and wish them good luck and stuff like that.”
On if he felt disconnected from the brotherhood of the team at all …
“Definitely, but they kept me in the group, texted me to see how I was feeling and stuff like that. We went back and forth. They kept me as close as possible.”
On if he was nervous they might lose one of the games while he was out …
“No, definitely not. I believed in them and I knew they’d pull it out in both games, and that’s what they did: They went out there and performed.”
On where he watched games …
“I watched them in my room and my dad came down for a couple of days and we watched them together and just talked about it, so it was pretty good.”
On if he yelled at the TV or stayed calm …
“Nah, I was pretty calm, just sitting and watching the guys, seeing some mistakes, you know, but then just noticing that it happens and seeing what Coach talks about and stuff from his point of view.”
On if Cal let him in on the “Where is Trey” joke …
“Yeah, he told me on the plane and he made me walk into the hotel with my hood on and stuff like that. Just made sure nobody saw me for a couple of hours, so it was pretty funny, I think.”
On if he had to be careful on his social media …
“Yeah, I did until the next day when (fans) saw me at shoot around with his birthday picture, so then after that I was pretty much able to do whatever.”
On what it says about where Cal is at, willing to play a prank the day before a big game …
“Yeah, I think that he just wanted to have some fun and take some pressure or whatever away from the guys and just show that it’s still fun to be able to play games and stuff like that. We definitely had some fun with that one.”
On Cal saying it’s not the end of the world if they lose a game and the outside pressure to stay undefeated …
“I don’t think there’s any pressure on us unless we put pressure on ourselves. A loss now doesn’t mean anything. The six games in March and April, those are the ones that really count. Those are the ones we’re playing toward. If we end up taking a loss, I don’t think it’ll affect us that much.”
On if he’s ever been in a game where his coach was cheering for the other team …
“Uh, never been in a game before like that, but, you know, Coach Cal has his ways of motivating us and that’s one of them, so I wasn’t surprised by it.”
On the way Willie Cauley-Stein has played lately and how much his dunks get the team going …
“I think he’s just got more confidence in himself now. We talk a lot and we’re pretty close. He just seems to be (happier) with himself and he’s going out there and just doing what he can do, playing how he knows how to play, and that’s just with energy and being athletic and stuff like that. Those dunks, they got everybody pretty excited on the bench in games and just shows his athletic ability, and he can do that whenever he wants.”
On if he jumped up when Cauley-Stein dunked at Florida …
“Definitely. That was—it was superb. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was out of nowhere and got everybody hype and got the game going better for us.”
Freshman guard Devin Booker
On if there is a special relationship with Dominique Hawkins and the fans since he is a Kentucky native …
“I know obviously it’s like his hometown here, so they all love him. I mean, they all love everybody, but obviously it’s special for Dom because he’s from here. But I respect that. He’s at home so he probably knows a lot of people in the stands. It’s just Big Blue Nation.”
On what they missed without Trey Lyles …
“Rebounding. He brings that to the team every time. He attacks the offensive glass and defensive rebounds. He’s like a 6-10 3-man. That helps a lot.”
On if he pays attention to his shooting percentage …
“No, I’m not focused on that. Like I said, just keep doing the same thing. Focus on my own shot and I’ll be alright.”
On game preparation …
“We run through the team’s sets and watch film also. I guess like a regular team, watch film, run through their sets and focus on their key players. I think our team is pretty good so we can go out there and put it together and find a way to get wins.”
On Trey Lyles going into the team hotel with his hood up, undercover at LSU …
“Yeah, I guess he was just having a good time with it.”
On what it says about Coach Cal’s mindset that he can have Twitter pranks prior to a big game …
“He’s just having fun with it, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s cool for the coach to be able to do that and not be so uptight and just have fun with the whole process.”
On if that shows that he’s confident in the team that he’s able to do that …
“I guess so. I feel like he’s confident in us.”
On UK assistant coach John Robic …
“He does a lot, like I said, of the scouting things, all the film, all the personnel. He lets us know what plays they’re going to run. He does all of that. On the court he gets us going also.”
On if they’re worried about a letdown Saturday …
“I wouldn’t say so. Every time we go out there – I think we’re going to bring more fight this game. Like I said, we’ve been letting teams get off the hook when we’re up 10 or 13. I feel like we should be able to put away teams now.”
On what’s changed that’s pushed Willie Cauley-Stein’s recent dunks and having fun on the court …
“I don’t know what’s changed, but it definitely does look like he’s having fun now. He’s dunking on everybody and that’s bringing energy to the team. That’s what we needed, plays like that. He’s a special type of guy.”
On his reactions to some of his dunks …
“It’s just crazy. I don’t think anybody else can do it in the country right now. He’s 7-foot and he’s athletic like a guard. He’s coordinated. It’s just unbelievable.”
On the key to avoiding runs like the one LSU had Tuesday …
“It’s just becoming complacent when we’re up and feeling like they’re going to step away by themselves. We need to know that teams aren’t going to go away. They want to beat us really bad so we just need to keep going.”
On Cal’s celebration after an LSU 3-pointer …
“I think I was by him already, but I don’t know what he was saying. I heard about it after the game. Somebody asked me the same question – what did he say? – but I don’t know.”
On Coach Cal did that …
“I think he said he wants us to lose, but I don’t think he really meant that.”
On if Coach Cal just wanted them to think that as motivation …
“Yeah, I think he’s just trying to get the best out of us.”
On if they feel any pressure as the wins keep going and teams wanting to be the ones who end it …
“It’s a pressure, but it’s a good pressure. I feel like that pressure is there at the start of the season. All teams want to beat us. We’re going to get every teams’ best. That’s what we do. We go out there and we have to play against teams when they’re at their best and I feel like that’s good for us. It’s a good pressure.”
On if he buys the idea that there are some lessons you can only learn after a loss …
“Well, I guess I don’t know yet. I guess we’ll see then.”
On keeping in mind that there’s a bigger prize even if they did lose …
“Exactly. Like I said, every time we go on the court we try to win. We’re focused on winning. But I feel like a loss wouldn’t be too bad. A loss in March or April would be a bigger deal. Like I said, we just have to go out there and try to win every game we’re out on the floor.”
On how much he saw Karl-Anthony Towns in high school and how much he knew this was coming …
“I knew it was coming during the summer. Like you said, I didn’t get to see him much (in AAU). I saw him at McDonald’s (All-America Game) and Jordan (Brand Classic), but that was only for like a two-day period. But wow. He’s a special player. I saw that this summer in the open gyms and I knew his time was coming where he was just going to explode out like this.”