Kentucky Travels to Athens to Face Georgia
Kentucky embarks on its final road game of the season, traveling to Athens to meet Georgia on Tuesday, March 3. Coverage will be provided by ESPN with a 9 p.m. ET tip.
|Kentucky at Georgia
Tuesday, March 3 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UGA
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Calipari, Cats still attacking clutter head on
The clutter isn't going away.
That's why John Calipari won't stop talking about it.
"I talked to them about it yesterday a little bit and just said, 'You've got to stay the course, and that's the one thing that can break us down,' " Coach Cal said.
As Kentucky has piled up wins, the noise surrounding them has intensified from an early-season buzz to a dull roar now that the calendar has flipped to March. Of course the national media has latched on to the top-ranked Wildcats' pursuit of perfection, but Calipari is more worried about immediate threats.
"Like I said to them, you're going to have people around that are trying to make you like them and they're going to say whatever they've got to say, which is, 'Ah, you should shoot more, you should play more,' " Calipari said. " 'Why is he going to him and not you? What about this? You really don't like that guy, right? You're the man.' I mean, again, it's all to enable, it's all to make them feel good and, 'Come with me, listen to me, talk to me.' That's the stuff they've got to be mature enough to deal with."
To help them, Calipari said he brings up the topic at least every 10 days or so. And a couple weeks ago, he queued up video of ESPN analyst Jay Bilas' message to the team during the preseason Big Blue Bahamas tour.
"I could put my head in the sand and say, 'Ah, that's not happening here,' " Calipari said. " 'This is Kentucky.' It's worse here. So these kids are strong, they're mature for their age, they've dealt with it, they've done it."
It's a good thing, too, because the tests on the court aren't getting any easier. … Read the full story
This Week's News:
- The Wildcats claimed the outright regular-season SEC title on Saturday with an 84-67 victory over Arkansas.
- The win clinched the top seed for UK in the SEC Tournament.
- Kentucky is 29-0 to start the season for the first time in the history of the program, bettering the the 1953- 54 group's 25-0 start.
- UK is the only team in SEC history to begin a season 29-0.
- It's also the Wildcats' best start to a conference season since the 2011-12 team went 16-0 in league play.
- Kentucky's 29-game winning streak is the second longest overall in school history.
- The streak is the longest over the course of a single season, besting the 1995-96 Wildcats.
- The 29-0 start is the best of any John Calipari team he has ever coached.
- The 29 straight wins is the longest winning streak of Calipari's career, bettering his 2008-09 Memphis team's 27 consecutive wins.
- UK has won 51 of its last 53 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
- John Calipari has a 95-9 all-time record when coaching the nation's No. 1 team, including a 54-4 mark at Kentucky.
- UK led the entire game and has trailed for only 149:01 of a possible 1,175 minutes this season.
- It was the third consecutive game that the Wildcats did not trail.
- Kentucky shot 29 of 60 from the field (48.3 percent). The Wildcats just missed out on shooting 50 percent or better from the field for the 10th time this season.
- UK outscored MSU 40-24 in the paint.
- Kentucky improved to 6-0 vs. ranked competition, winning those games by an average of 17.2 points per game.
- UK has only trailed for 22:11 of the possible 240 minutes this season vs. ranked opponents.
- Kentucky shot 75 percent from the line (21 of 28). The Cats have made at least 70 percent of their foul shots in 13 of the last 17 games.
- At one point in the second half UK led by as many as 31 points vs. the SEC's No. 2 team.
- In back-to-back games, Trey Lyles has his two highest- scoring games of the season. He had 18 points Wednesday at Mississippi State and 18 vs. Arkansas.
- Aaron Harrison had nine points and a career-high five steals.
- Andrew Harrison tied Lyles for game-high honors with 18 points. It is his second-highest game of the season.
- Devin Booker scored 10 points, his fourth double- figure game in a row and 17th double-figure game of the season.
- Tyler Ulis notched 14 points, tying his season high set in December at Louisville.
- Willie Cauley-Stein had seven points and a solid floor game with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocked shots.
Trey Lyles scored a career-high 18 points and classmate Karl-Anthony Towns had his sixth double-double of the season to lead UK to a 74-56 on the road at Mississippi State.
- It was the most points Lyles has scored since pouring in 12 against Buffalo in the second game of the season.
- Towns scored 12 points and had a gamehigh 10 rebounds for a double-double, his second straight and fourth in last seven games.
- UK outscored MSU 38-26 in the paint.
- Kentucky had 15 assists, compared with six by Mississippi State.
- Kentucky was 12 of 13 from the free-throw line (92 percent), the second time this season the team shot 92 percent or better from the charity stripe (95.5 at Florida).
- Kentucky had balanced scoring with four players in double figures.
- Freshman Trey Lyles earned his second SEC Freshman of the Week honor after leading UK with 18 points and 5.0 rebounds in two wins last week.
- Lyles scored 18 points vs. Mississippi State - a career-high mark. He followed that with 18 more against No. 18/16 Arkansas.
- For the week, he shot 68.2 percent from the floor and was a perfect 6 of 6 at the foul line.
- Freshmen Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns have been selected as finalists for the United States Basketball Writers Association's Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the top performing freshman in the nation.
- Booker leads the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game, including a team-high 12.0 points per game in SEC contests.
- Towns is logging 9.3 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game. He leads the team with six double-doubles on the year, including charting four over the last seven games for UK.
- A winner will be announced at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Media Opportunity - March 2, 2015
Head Coach John Calipari
On Georgia being different with Marcus Thornton in the lineup ...
"They're a better team. And they're playing better. Hopefully we're playing better. We have Trey (Lyles) now. They played us a lot of zone last game. I just don't know what they'll do. Mark (Fox) will come up with something. They run their stuff. They're making shots. They're going to try to beat us down the floor. They're an NCAA Tournament team we're playing on the road. It's going to be a hard game for us."
On Georgia's ability to get to the free-throw line ...
"They do a great job of shuffling inside and putting you at bad angles and getting balls to the rim. They also fly up and down the court and just get it to the rim. Their guards have a way of getting their shoulders by you and creating fouls. Like I said, they went through a stretch where their little kid had a concussion, the other kid had a concussion. They're trying to survive. They lost a couple of games that you would say, `What in the world happened?' They were hurt. Now all of a sudden they go to Mississippi and they were up 10-15. They were up. Win that game and go and now play Missouri, probably play their best game of the year against Missouri both defensively and offensively. Now they're coming with us on Senior Night. Gonna be a hard game."
On Georgia playing as a unit ...
"They run their stuff. They do their stuff. They know how they're supposed to play and they play that way. They create the kind of shots they're trying to create. They put you in situations they know where they're going to find their shots. They do a good job."
On getting individual UK players to reach their peaks ...
"They're coming close. We're still working on it. Dakari (Johnson). I thought Tyler (Ulis) made strides last game. I told him you've got to score the ball some. You can't just go out there and be a passer because then you can't make any passes. You've got to score. Marcus Lee has to catch us a little bit. Aaron (Harrison) and Devin (Booker), I want them to be players who can make 3s. Not 3-point shooters. I want them driving. I want them making plays. So we're getting closer. We're no there right now."
On how this team rises to the occasion ...
"We've had a lot of teams here that have done that. This isn't the only team. I think, again, the differences that you have are there are a lot of guys and a lot of room for error. What I mean is I only need five guys to play well. You have nine guys that you are playing and you have another guy or two if you need them. I only need five of you to play well. If five are playing well then that's OK too. If you want to play get in there and ball."
If the undefeated record is brought up in any context ...
"Other than I'm not worried about it and if we get dinged, then I'm fine. Other than that no. It doesn't have any bearing on what we're doing. If guys get better, if we focus on individual player improvement, if we keep focused on them and they keep focusing on each other, then all of the other stuff happens. It's all day-to-day here."
On discussing clutter with the team ...
"I've been talking to them once every week or 10 days, so I bring it up all the time. We brought up the Jay Bilas video and showed them that. That was probably two-and-a-half weeks ago. I know I can put my head in the sand and act like they're not talking to anybody, looking on the Internet or social media, talking to their girlfriends or AAU and high school coaches. You won't believe this, but those coaches could care less about anybody on this team except that young person. That's just how it is. I could put my head in the sand and say, `Ah, that's not happening here. This is Kentucky.' It's worse here. These kids are strong and mature for their age. They've dealt with it and done it. I told them before the last game, `If a team plays with anger and they're mad and angry, then that physiology can turn to fear. I want you to play with joy. Have fun.' Joy always beats anger and negativity. What's the worst the thing that I could say, versus, how can I build something up? I told them about it last game. Just play."
On playing well on the road in tough environment ...
"Well, they know going in it's going to be a hard game, so they may focus a little more. Every game we play, it's an event. I mean the only thing that happened was it snowed like crazy at Mississippi State. Thankful it did because we played about seven or eight minutes that game. Somehow our fans got in, I don't know how our fans got in and theirs didn't, but that's about what happened."
On recruiting unselfish players ...
"Well, there's a couple things when you talk to them and you are recruiting them. It doesn't matter what you see; it's telling them that you are not going to shoot 30 balls a game here, that you're not going to be the face of the organization and that you're not going to be the only guy. Now in clutch time you may be the guy scoring, (like) Aaron. But the reality is that we don't have guys scoring 30 a game. They know that coming in. I had from Brandon Knight to Tyreke Evans, guys that scored 40 a game in high school. Guys that ended up being really good players for us and played team basketball. Even though when the game needed to be taken over, they did it. Our kids know coming in that they are going to be with other good players."
On Kentucky being used to playing in hostile road environments ...
"They have been pretty good, but part of it is they're feeding off of each other. I mean, people say, `They're freshmen.' Yeah, but they know that it's not on them, it's on those veterans. The veterans know if I'm not at my best I know that young kid's going nuts and I will be fine, get my legs underneath me, and I will go back and be fine. They're feeding off of one another and that's what has made this go. I keep coming back to, they've allowed this to happen, this isn't about me, this isn't about some genius move I made. This is about these players are allowing this to happen. They are keeping the clutter away. It is there, it is beating on them. It's eating at them. It's there. They are pushing it aside and they are looking after each other. Which I am really proud of I mean it's hard. Here, it's like a coat you wear 24 hours a day."
On Kyle Wiltjer's success at Gonzaga ...
"I am so happy I watched. Again, because they were getting beat the last game, I turned it off. I watched it a little bit but then I turned it off. My wife and I watch every time he's on. We try to catch it. He and I go back and forth, and I sent something out that said, `Really happy for him. It's obvious I held him back.' I said, `Kyle, get in the line. It's a very long one.' He's a great kid. I mean, he really is. He's up for player of the year, and he deserves it the way he's playing. You know, if we're truly about kids, at the end of the day, I don't want a kid leaving here, and then I try to damage a kid or bury a kid, or I'm mad he's playing well. He's not doing it for me. I just want him to do well. Ryan Harrow's doing great at Georgia State. That's good for those kids. They felt it wouldn't work here. OK, then let's figure this out, and let's see where it will work for you because that's what it should be about."
#21, Tod Lanter, Sr., G
On what it's like that he and his dad both played here ...
"It's been great for me. He's been there every step of the way since I was young telling me, `Push for your dreams.' I've been blessed that it's been able to work out how it has. He's been my biggest support since day one, so it's been a great experience."
On whether he's had fun ...
"Oh yeah. We've been up and down. First year, we didn't have as spectacular of a finish as we expected. The second year we were able to bounce back and use that drive to propel us all the way to the national championship game and fell short. Like I said, ups and downs. So this year we've taken that same fire and tried to put a spectacular season together and hopefully we can make it back to Indy this year for a Final Four and make something happen."
On how many Senior Days he's attended ...
"I'd say five or six, probably."
On what he remembers about them ...
"I remember Darius' (Miller) pretty well. That was when I transferred back so I was able to be there for that one. Pretty incredible for him having been a Kentucky kid getting to live out his dream here too. And he obviously had a spectacular career. I remember some guys from when I was younger. I remember being here for Tayshaun (Prince) and that crew. I think Ravi (Moss) was somewhere around that time. I remember theirs. It's been pretty cool to able to--now I'm going to have to be a part of it and I'm sure it'll be tough, but at the same time it's part of the process and I'm thankful to be there."
On whether he pictured being a part of Senior Day as a kid ...
"I did, because I've seen, like Mr. Cutler (Alan Cuter) just mentioned, I've seen my dad's video from that. It's wild. It's wild thinking about the fact that I'm a couple days away from it. It hasn't felt like it's been that long since I've been here."
On whether he gets emotional ...
"Not typically. I think there's good and bad with this. Obviously giving up--like this is the end of it for me. This is the end of the line so it's kind of like the last hurrah. But at the same time, I'm ready to move on. I've been in school long enough. I know what I need to know to get on with my life and hopefully work out a successful career. I'm looking forward to the next step, but it'll be tough to say goodbye to it. But I'm still going to be here. So I'll be around to watch future players come through the program and things."
On what he will do after college ...
"I don't know. I'll have a couple business degrees. I know I want to get my real-estate license immediately after graduation and see where that takes me. Hopefully use some connections to look around, see what I think I could be successful in. But I think I want to do some sales for a while. I think that's important with business degrees, to have some sales experience. I'll try that for a little bit and see what happens."
On what it's been like to be a part of UK basketball ...
"I've grown up around this program. I've seen its ups and downs. I've seen the ins and outs of it through--I've had a little bit of insight with my dad being here, stories and things, and I've had personal relationships with past players. So I've gotten a little bit more of an insight than most typical fans have. And then now I got to step into this role and experience something that most kids growing up here don't get to do and it's just been--every step of the way I've tried to take it all in one step at a time, one day at a time. You get caught up in the ups and downs of a season and the ins and outs of practice and things and you sometimes lose track of where you actually are and what you're getting to go through and how many people would kill to be able to be in this position. I try to take the time to take it all in."
On this team's chemistry ...
"Well we're all really close on and off the court. We had that in the past, in the past couple teams, but this year's team is majority the same as the team that made the Final Four run last year and we were a close team last year. I think that loss brought us closer together and it showed--it taught us to hold each other accountable for even every day in practice. If you're taking a drill off, your teammates hold each other accountable now and I think that's been a big step this year and why everybody's held themselves to a different standard. I think that has a lot to do with our personal relationships. It's been beneficial for us."
On the reason for better chemistry ...
"Well, a year together prior to this definitely helped. Like I said, the loss definitely fueled the fire. People realized this isn't as easy as we thought it was going to be. A lot of times you put on a blue and white Kentucky jersey and you're like, `Oh, we're Kentucky. They're not good enough to beat us.' A lot of young guys who haven't played in the college game don't realize how hard it actually is and that one possession off can make a difference in a ballgame and in our case the national title. I think that's, like I said, fueled the fire and it's given us an incredible drive to succeed every possession. Ultimately, that's what's led to the season we've had so far."
On whether it's weird that there is a Twitter account for his biceps ...
"I actually found that out my first year when Matt Jones was doing an interview with me and mentioned. I had no idea at the time that existed, but he brought that up on camera. So that was kind shocking for me. But all fun and games."
On whether he follows the account ...
"I don't, actually. I figured that would be a little weird so I didn't follow it."
On whether the existence of it is weird ...
"It's funny. It's funny. I've had some random people mention it to me. I actually had a walk-on from Auburn during the Auburn game come up and ask me about it before the game, which is a little shocking. But yeah, like I said, it's fun and games. I'll roll with it, I guess."
On whether that account says something about UK ...
"Oh yeah, it's incredible. How many people are interested in even our lives and what we've got going on. I think that's part of what makes this place so incredible to be at."
#32, Brian Long, Sr., G
On what it is going to be like Saturday ...
"I'm not sure. I'm just looking forward to it. Playing my last game in Rupp and being a part of the environment one last time."
On what his time at Kentucky has been like ...
"So far it's been great. We've had two real good years and this year the story's not over yet. It's been a great ride all four years. Just appreciate everything and it's been real fun."
On what's been the best part for him ...
"Just being a part of it every day. Coming in and seeing the results and seeing all these people succeed after they leave here. Just being part of it and seeing everyone succeed has been the best part for me."
On a moment that has stood out ...
"Winning the national title my freshman year was the high point. If I had to pick one moment I'd say that, but overall it's been a great four years."
On not receiving any playing time ...
"No, like you said, I knew it coming in. I'm just glad to be in here day in and day out. Like you said, I knew it coming in, I knew what my role was and I'm just here to help anyway I (can), and it's been a fun ride."
On what this team does that the national title team did ...
"Coach always kind of preaches to be your brother's keeper and stuff like that, and same with this team I feel like. Very unselfish. This year's different because we're deeper than normal so we have a lot of guys and the unselfishness shows. Everyone caring for each other and being with each other shows a lot."
On if he is surprised at how successful this team has been ...
"I mean, the hype is always there, year in and year out when you're here at Kentucky. But the hype around this team was pretty big and whatnot. To go out there and do it every day is a different story. I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but it's great that we're having this much success so far and we're starting to pick it up even more."
On how the team is off the floor ...
"I think they're kind of in between (serious and fun loving). Everyone has fun, but they're serious in the same aspect. You look at the Arkansas game, you can tell we were serious and it was a big game and they beat us twice last year and stuff, so it was good to see us come out and have a lot of energy and show that we were ready to go."
On who wins in a matchup between the 2011-12 team and the 2014-15 team ...
"I don't know, honestly. 2012 was obviously great in their own aspect, they won the national title. And this year the story's not over yet. Ask me in a couple months."
On what impact the loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament championship game did to the 2012 team ...
"I think it kind of showed we weren't invincible. I don't know how many wins we had - 30 wins in a row or whatever it was, 25? - it just kind of showed we weren't invincible and kind of brought us together. (We) figured out how we had to play and stuff like that. We didn't close that game out."
On if they still would have won the national championship if they hadn't lost that game ...
"I mean, I would say yeah, but some people may think differently. I know some people think you need a loss and whatnot, but we're not focusing on that. I think our focus is just day in and day out. Everyone is 0-0 when tournament time comes. We just have to figure it out."
#13, Sam Malone, Sr., G
On his last game in Rupp this Saturday vs. Florida ...
"I'm excited for it. I think it's been a great year so far and just to cap it off with one more game at home would be awesome. Really looking forward to it."
On who's better between the current and 2012 UK teams ...
"Uh, it's yet to be seen. In 2012 we took care of business in the tournament and that's really what mattered the most, so we'll see. I think they're kind of two different styles of play and 2012, people forget we had our ups and down throughout the year. This year it's kinda been rolling the whole time, but we'll see. March is what matters and early April, so we'll see about that."
On if the loss in the 2012 Southeastern Conference tournament helped moving into the NCAA tournament ...
"Yeah, I think it helped us out. I think that if we didn't lose to Indiana I think we would've won the SEC tournament, but we were a little exhausted, tired and we were just looking forward to the NCAA tournament."
On if that's the biggest difference between the two teams ...
"Well, the depth with this team. You guys know, if a certain amount of people don't come to play, there's always people behind them ready to go. It's just--the chemistry with both teams is a little different. Both great teams."
On how much they talk about the undefeated record ...
"We're just looking forward to every game. I mean, it doesn't matter. Everyone's got no losses in March, so that's the way we're looking at it. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves or anything. One game at a time and that's how we've been successful so far so we'll keep doing that."
On how he describes the team's chemistry ...
"Everyone sharing with each other, being unselfish, you know, being on the same page on and off the court, knowing what the other person's thinking, know where they're going to be at and really trusting each other."
On where that comes from ...
"I think it started in the Bahamas, but we're at the point where I think we know what we're doing is working really well, so why would we change anything. You know what I mean? Just keep trusting each other. There's no reason to do anything we haven't been doing and I think that's really been working out great for us."
On if the seniors will petition to start Saturday ...
"Unless 12 other people get a crippling flu, I don't think we're going to start. But we'll see what happens."
On why Cal can bring a team like this together and make it work ...
"I think that he just gets people focused on buying into the team, like he says, and everyone's worried about winning. If we win it's been shown that good things will happen for everyone, so trusting in that is really how it works."
On what he means by that ...
"You know, people have been successful winning. When you win everyone--guys are getting drafted. You know, that's not their focus right now, but they know in the back of their mind, if we keep winning everyone benefits from it. So just kind of staying within the system of what we're doing is really going to help people out."
On the spectrum of his career at UK ...
"It's crazy. I mean, I've seen the ups and the downs and people forget last year. I mean, our heads were almost under water last year and were able to make a big run. But, yeah, freshman year I thought it was going to be like that every year, then the next with that NIT--it was totally different from the first year. But we just stuck with our game plan of what we were doing as far as the program goes, and we're back to where we want to be."