Kentucky Returns to Action with Providence
Kentucky returns from the Thanksgiving break with a game against Providence on Sunday, November 30. Tip is set for 2 p.m ET and the game will be carried on ESPN2.
|Kentucky vs. Providence
Sunday, Nov. 30 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | PC
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Providence matchup begins needed tough stretch for UK
Six games in, the Kentucky Wildcats have handled their business.
Save for a stray sluggish half here or there and that domination of Kansas, the Cats have comfortably dispatched opponents unable to cope with their size, talent and depth, saying the right things about taking it one game at a time along the way.
But now UK is in for a step up in competition. The Cats are excited for the challenge.
"We look at every game the same, but we know we have a lot of big games coming up that we have to get prepared for," Dakari Johnson said. "So we're going to have a great couple practices and just really go after it."
Five of UK's seven games over the next month will come against teams currently ranked the coaches' poll, starting with Providence (5-0) at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Friars, fresh off an impressive neutral-court win over Notre Dame in which LaDontae Hinton poured in 38 points, entered the poll this week at No. 25 with a home game against Columbia on Friday before this weekend's trip to Rupp Arena. ... read the full preview
This Week's News
- Kentucky claimed a 92-44 victory over UT Arlington on Tuesday.
- The Wildcats won for their 24th time in 26 tries as the nation's top-ranked team.
- UK posted a 48-point win and has back-to-back victories by 48 or more for the first time since Feb. 2 and Feb. 4, 1954.
- Freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker led the way for the Cats.
- Towns had his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
- Booker led all scorers with 19 points and sunk a career-high five 3-pointers. Over the last three games, Booker is averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game. He's shooting 75 percent from the floor and 70.6 from behind the arc. He's knocked down 12 of 17 from 3-point range.
- Kentucky's defense continues to be relentless, as the Wildcats held the Mavericks to just 12 points in the first half.
- It marked the sixth time in 12 halves this season that the opponent has been held to under 20 points.
- UK ended the half on a 28-0 run, the longest run of the season, for a 43-point halftime lead. It was one point shy of tying the program record for largest halftime lead.
- The Wildcats went 3-0 on the week capped by an 86-28 victory over Montana State.
- The Wildcats won for their 23rd time in 25 tries as the nation's top-ranked team.
- Devin Booker scored in double figures for the second straight game, netting 18 points while knocking down three 3-pointers.
- Aaron Harrison also reached double figures for the second straight game, scoring 14 points vs. Montana State.
- Two Wildcats just missed out on double-doubles. Dakari Johnson finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns posted eight points and 10 rebounds -- to go along with a career-high six blocks.
- UK's defense was relentelss for the fifth time in five games.
- In holding Montana State to 19.7 percent from the field, the Cats have held their first five oppo nents below 40 percent from the field, becoming just the second UK team in the modern era of the 3-point field goal to accomplish that feat.
- UK blocked 12 shots and has at least seven blocks in each game this year, the first five-game stretch with at least seven blocks since the 2012- 13 season.
- Montana State scored just 28 points for the game, the lowest in the shot-clock era and the low est in a UK game at Rupp Arena.
Trio Among Oscar Robertson Trophy Watch List Candidates
- Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns were selected to the preseason United States Basketball Writers Association as candidates for the annual Oscar Robertson award, given annually to the nation's top player.
- Towns was also selected to the Wayman Tisdale Award watch list for the nation's best freshman.
- The player and freshman of the year awards, along with the Henry Iba Award for national coach of the year, will be announced in March and presented to the winners at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards gala at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City on April 14, 2015.
Media Opportunity - November 28, 2014
Head Coach John Calipari
On knowledge of Providence ...
"Watching them on tape, really doing a heck of a job isolating guys and putting guys in the best position to score. They're play extremely hard defensively in both man and zone. I would imagine they're going to come out and pressure us in man-to-man and press a little bit based on the last game. That's what I would guess. They'll have a zone ready, which last year they played us all zone. I don't believe that will happen this year. Ed Cooley is one of those coaches, in my opinion a great coach that no one knows about yet. What he did at Fairfield, what he's doing at Providence - he can run for mayor up there. They love him. He's the kind of coach that I respect. He does it at tough places and stuff happens and he still does it. I don't need to see the white-shoe guys. I need to see a guy like him that's down in the trenches, does his thing, and does it right. I'll tell you what, I think he's as good as they get."
On what stretch of December games will tell him about his team ...
"Obviously you're talking about all ranked opponents or were ranked and will be ranked again. I mean, this is an early-season (test). What happens to teams is they have some crazy losses because that's what happens. None of us are executing the way we want right now and you play a veteran team that doesn't have the name, but they're a veteran team and they come out and beat you. They make shots, make 3s, play with confidence, been there. That stuff happens."
On Dakari Johnson the other team saying they want to put him at the free-throw line and how important it is for him to have a night like Tuesday where he made free throws ...
"Let me ask you, if he went for 12 for 14, that means he's capable of that. So what gets in the way of him making 12 out of 14? It's those six inches between his ears. They weren't bouncing around and in and swishing, but he's capable now and he has to have his own confidence and demonstrated performance, which he has had. I say that to other guys on my team. I've said it for years. Demonstrated performance builds your self-esteem and self-confidence - not me. It's demonstrated performance. Go in and perform. If you play timid, if you play tentative, then you can't do it. You're not going to build what you're trying to build to be a significant player."
On if Dakari Johnson shoots free throws in practice like he does in the game ...
"He does. At times he'll miss badly and that's just because he's thinking. `I may miss this one.' Not may, you will. This game is one where my job is not to make them feel good about bad play. My job is to make them understand how good they can be as an individual player. The only thing holding them back in most cases is themselves."
On what he wants from a close game ...
"What we need is just a hand to hand kind of game where a team is not afraid of us that they make plays and continue to make them throughout. We have to understand, like right now we're probably getting 16 seconds per possession. There's going to be games where it's going to be 20 seconds and that's going to be where teams get better and we don't get it in transition and you have to pull it out. We're trying to create a great shot every time down whenever that happens. Now if it's a late game, we're probably using 25 or 30 seconds before we do anything unless it's a layup or a dunk. That's all stuff that we need and stuff that I see that will happen over time."
On Dakari Johnson getting bodies thrown at him like Julius Randle did last season ...
"They all do. Willie's getting it and that's why I'm telling him that he has to have a wider base. Karl is getting it. He doesn't sit down and plays too erect, which means he's getting pushed out. Marcus Lee, the same thing. But what do you want the other team to do? Surrender? They're not going to surrender. They have to fight you. The question is, will you fight back? If fighting back means Willie getting lower than they are so you have the leverage not to get pushed around. They work, they work, they work, and they work and you stay down and catch it and score. Then they work, they work, they work, and you sit down and catch it and score, then they surrender. They're not going to surrender to start a basketball game. They're not going to surrender at a half. What you're trying to do is just keep breaking them down. They will not outwork me. They will not outfight me. Or I can make every, `Oh he grabbed my arm,' or `He pushed me out.' OK. Next guy. Next man up. If you can't do it here, someone else will. Dakari is getting better. He's not afraid of putting his body on people."
On the possible attraction of playing UCLA next season ...
"First of all, we're playing North Carolina (in 2016) in the (CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas). This year we're playing UCLA. (In 2016) we're playing North Carolina. (North Carolina) wanted to take two years off because of that. We couldn't take one year off because it screws up our schedule. And you won't believe this, (but) this is all based on what we need. Don't care about anybody else. You don't want to play us? Then don't play us. So they take off two years, we'll plug in UCLA for two years. North Carolina has already sent us a contract for after those two years off, so this is plugging that hole right now. It's funny because people are saying our schedule as a top-five team - what? I mean, I don't know if it's the guy's hope or he really believes. When you're playing Texas and you're playing all these teams we're playing, we have as good a schedule as anybody in the country, and we always have a brand-new team, and it's fine. That's how we do it here."
On what he would like to see from his team's 3-point shooting game ...
"Aaron's gotta make more shots. Nothing else. Everything else is great. I expect him - if it's a late game and it's tight, who do you think I'm going to go to? I don't care if he's shooting 12 percent; I'm going to him. And the reason is demonstrated performance. I've seen it. I know it. I'm not testing the waters with other guys. Ain't happening."
On if that's also a six-inches-between-the-head thing ...
"For him it is. For him it is. Because he believes he's making it. Everybody in the building believes he's making it. The other team believes he's making it. We just gotta create it so he can get it off."
On how he gets Aaron Harrison back in that same frame of mind ...
"He's in it himself. And again, he'll be fine. What's happening for all these guys: The level and the intensity and the energy is so high right now is it forces you to play a away you've never played. Now you understand what it did to Devin Booker earlier in the season. He couldn't make a shot. He stepped in holes on drives because he had never played with this amount of energy and intensity for a sustained period. Well, this is new to Aaron and Andrew. It's the same deal. It's new to Alex. This is new. It's new to Trey Lyles. It's new to Karl Towns. They have not played this way, and it starts changing what happens to you offensively."
On if he might test the waters on a big shot if he's got a healthy margin just to see if he's got another guy who can make a big shot at the end of the game ...
"It doesn't matter if you have a healthy margin. It's not the same. It is, game is on the line, I ain't taking any chances, you're shooting it. And they'll know. And if they take that away, then someone else will have to score. But the good news is it'll be a reaction, not a `They're coming to me. Oh my God.' I went in the huddle one time - I was at UMass - and I drew up this play and I said, `OK, we're going to go this to this and then we're coming to you. You're getting the game winner.' And I looked, and when his knees started shaking and his eyes kind of rolled in his head, I said, `Hold it.' And then I put in a play where no one knew who was going to shoot it. `Either you shoot it, you shoot, you shoot it, or last guy, if it comes to you, you gotta shoot it.' We don't even have that play in yet because I have Aaron."
On if he has put his finishing team on the floor yet because of the margin of victories ...
"The one team I liked that we played was Andrew, Aaron, Devin and the two bigs. I liked how that team looked. We still haven't figured out how Andrew and Tyler will look together, if we need them in there together. But I haven't worked on it. But we did play Devin and Aaron and Andrew, and I liked that team. As a matter of fact, in a short burst of time - because they only played five minutes, four minutes - but we did the stats to our guys yesterday where they saw the blue unit and the white unit. Real close in points, real close in - there's a little change here and there, but it was still the blue unit and the white until - everything close to margin close. The field-goal percentage by each team was about 25, 24 percent. I mean, everything is right (there). And again, the next level of this is - and I told them, `I'm not sure we're ready for this.' I stood two guys up together, Karl and Dakari: `You're sharing minutes. Willie, you and Marcus Lee are sharing minutes. You both respect that and you both care enough about each other (that) you're good with it. But what if the other guy's not bringing it? What if he's not playing with energy? What if he's not concentrating? What if he's not into the game? Are you OK with sharing minutes with that guy?' No? Then go take him out. Walk up, take him out and tell him, `I took you out.' And I'll say, `Why did he take you out? Man, it's something.' "
On if guys can just tell another player that they are out ...
"Yeah, he just says, `Hey, man, not your day. Go ahead. You're not into it.' The benefit is they're holding each other responsible. And I'll tell you again what I don't get. If this were other schools, they would say this is all what college athletics is about: sharing, team before everything else. Can you imagine? `This is about college athletics. This is what it should be.' I would be called before the congressional hearing down in D.C. `Coach, what are you doing to make this about college athletics?' But instead the dialogue becomes, `He can't keep these guys happy. There's no way he can keep these guys happy.' If it were at other schools, `Whew, is this great for college athletics. Is this refreshing to see? And this me society and narcissism and all that, this is the greatest thing. We've all got to follow this team and cheer (that) this works' Well, whew, it's not happening that way."
Sophomore center Dakari Johnson
On what they did for Thanksgiving ...
"Got up, went to the Salvation Army, served food for about an hour and a half, and after that went to Coach's house and just had a good meal."
On it's exciting to have an upcoming stretch of difficult games ...
"Yeah, it is. We look at every game the same, but we know we have a lot of big games coming up that we have to get prepared for. So we're going to have a great couple practices and just really go after it."
On whether Coach Cal has talked to the team about the stretch ...
"No, he hasn't really talked to us that much about it. I'm sure he will today, but we know what we have coming up so it's just a matter of having some great practices and getting prepared for them."
On whether he changed his approach before shooting will at the line on Tuesday ...
"I was more relaxed and just after practice every day getting some extra work in with the assistants and stuff like that. Just being more relaxed while I'm at the line."
On whether Cal saying he won't play him late if he doesn't hit at the line creates urgency to improve ...
"Yeah. You're not going to be in late if you don't make free throws so I just try to get that down pat because I want to be in games late so I have to practice."
On whether the assistants have given him any technique tips or did it come down to relaxing ...
"Yeah, just coming down to relaxing. Just taking your time. Sometimes I rush them and think too much. Just relax and just shoot, shoot free throws."
On what the team has learned through six games ...
"It's coming together well. We know (to) buy into the platoon system, just keep on playing hard and going out there and just going hard in that four- or five-minute stretch that you're in there. It's really helping us all."
On how much different this feels than last year ...
"It feels way different. We had a lot struggles last year in the beginning, but it just feels like this year we're just clicking really well together and we're just taking things one game at a time and not rushing things."
On what it does for him as a post player when guards are hitting shots ...
"It makes it way easier because when they're hitting shots the defense goes out and plays them. The defense has been kind of sagging back in the paint and stuff, but when they're hitting shots the defense has to go out there and play."
On whether it feels like opponents are sending three guys at him every touch ...
"Yeah. It feels like that's how teams are going to play us. They know our inside guys can do a lot of damage so they kind of back off and sag in the paint. But if our perimeter guys are hitting shots I don't think they'll be able to do it anymore."
On whether he feels like Julius Randle ...
"Ah, no (laughter). I don't know, a little bit."
On whether he's beaten up after games ...
"A little bit, but I'm used to physical contact so it's not (anything) new to me."
On whether knowing he's going to get fouled makes free throws even more important ...
"Yeah, it is. If I'm not going to get a basket I'm going to get fouled. So I have to convert from the line."
On whether he's heard opponents talk about putting him on the line ...
"Oh, yeah. When I get fouled, they'll be at the line like, `Oh yeah, we wanted this,' and stuff like that."
On whether he feels vindicated when he hits the free throws ...
"Yeah. It feels good when I go out there and do that, but--yeah, it feels good."
On whether he trash talks after he makes them ...
"Ah, no, no. I don't do that. Yeah, I go 12 out of 14. That's all I'm going to say."
On whether he realized he had 12 points with no shot attempts until late on Tuesday ...
"No, I didn't realize that. I realized I was getting fouled basically every time down the court, but I didn't realize I didn't take a shot."
Freshman guard Tyler Ulis
On how it's been going for him ...
"It's been great. Having a lot of fun with the guys, you know, going out there playing hard and winning games."
On what's been the easiest part and the toughest part for him ...
"The easiest part is just playing with them because they've been here longer than us. They've shown us the ropes and just, following after Andrew is helping me out a lot. The toughest part is just the adjustment of the college game from high school, playing with better players, and it's just been a great experience."
On what are some of the things he's adjusting to ...
"I'm not used to giving up the ball early, you know swinging the ball to my teammates. You know, in high school, I had the ball in my hand 100 percent of the time, so now I have better players and I have to put more trust into them and let them create plays."
On how he thinks Andrew Harrison is playing ...
"He's playing great. He's a great player, and he's helping me a lot in practice by forcing me to guard a bigger guard, and just, you know, being physical with me and showing me how to play because he has a year of experience over me."
On if it's weird not looking for his shot as much as he used to ...
"No, I never really looked for my shot like that. But now I'm not looking for it as much because I have, what, four or five scorers on the floor at a time, and, you know, getting Booker going, getting Trey going, and getting the ball to Dakari, you know, that's a lot of shots for us, and just trying to run the team and keep everybody happy."
On the change in Devin Booker's shots falling ...
"He has a shooter mentality. He knew he couldn't hit a shot. We talked about it a lot, joked about it a lot, but, he's going to keep shooting it because shooters always shoot. Now he's hot, so he's having fun."
On Booker's form ...
"Yeah, he's probably got the best form I've ever seen. You know, he has a beautiful shot - perfect shot. His dad's shot is just like that. You know, he's a great shooter and I love passing him the ball."
On if he's seen Booker's dad shoot ...
"Yes, I have."
On who's better - the father or son ...
"Um, I'm not going to put that out there, you know. Book told me a couple stories of some of the shootouts they've had. Dad won a couple of them, but Book's younger and he's still working on it, so hopefully he gets there."
On how Booker's shot falling changes up the offense ...
"When his shot's falling they have to guard him, no doubt, no matter where he is on the floor, NBA rank, even further out. So when he's falling they have to guard him and it just opens things up for Trey and Dakari and everybody else."
On if the team wants a competitive game that pushes them ...
"Of course we want to be pushed, you know, be able to compete at a high level so we can see what we're really about as a team, see what we can do under pressure, stuff like that."
On how much easier the games are than practice ...
"Practice is a struggle, you know, going against these guys every day. You've got four 7-footers on the court. It's not the same as shooting over a 6-8 player in the post or going to the lane (and) shooting over a 6-7 player. When you've got Willie and Marcus Lee trying to block your shot, it's a lot different."
On if it's boring being up 40 points in a game ..
"Oh no, it's not boring because you know everyone wants to get out there and play. With the platoon system you're coming in fresh every time, so you want to get out there and play as hard as you can and show what we're about as a team."
On what they can prove as a team when they're up 40 ...
"Well, as a team we're really not looking to prove anything. We just want to come out and win and get better every night and just continue on to that and win a national championship."
On wanting a close game to see how they'd respond to it ...
"Yeah, a close game would, you know, put a little pressure on us, see how we respond to it, test us, especially the freshmen, because we haven't been in that situation yet. The other guys were here last year so they've had that before, but for us it would be a lot of help."
On how he feels about the team's 3-point shooting and his own 3-point shooting ...
"I feel like we haven't shot that great as a team. We've picked it up recently, but we have a lot of shooters out on the floor, and I feel like with our bigs, the presence inside, once we get that going, then start making shots, eventually I feel like team's will have to start playing us then."
On creating those opportunities ...
"Yeah, just trying to start inside to out, you know, not trying to force too many 3s, but trying to get baskets and make people guard everybody on the floor."
On what Booker is doing that's really helping him ...
"He didn't change anything. He just keeps shooting the ball. He knows he missed a lot of shots early in the season but he didn't care about that. He's a shooter. He's one of the top shooters in the country, so he just keeps shooting."
On what he feels like he's done well up to this point and what he needs to work on ...
"I feel like defensively I've done a great job, you know, running my team, getting people the ball. And I feel like I need to work on just creating my shot, getting more shots up, and that's about it."
On how important it is to hit outside shots with the way other teams are playing them in the paint ...
"It's very important, `cause we have 7-footers in the lane that most people can't guard because of our size advantage. And, us opening it up, hitting some deep shots, will have to make the defense extend out, and give us easier opportunities to score."