Kentucky Faces Texas in Top-10 Battle
Top-ranked Kentucky welcomes the No. 6/7 Texas Longhorns to Rupp Arena on Friday, December 5 as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The game will be televised on ESPN and tip is set for 7 p.m. ET.
SEC/Big 12 Challenge
Kentucky vs. Texas
Friday, Dec. 5 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UT
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
CoachCal.com: Texas’ size poses challenge for Cats
Kentucky is big.
Maybe you’ve heard that once or twice during Kentucky’s first seven games. Maybe you’ve also heard Kentucky’s opponent Friday night, No. 6/7 Texas, is also big.
Perhaps no other team in the country is as big as the Cats, but if there’s one team that can really challenge Kentucky’s size, it is the Longhorns. While Kentucky’s backcourt will hold a noticeable height advantage against Texas – and just about everyone else – the frontcourt battle will be loaded.
But Texas’ size isn’t the only thing John Calipari sees that will present problems for his team.
“They fly up and down the court,” Calipari said. “They’ve got good scorers. They have great length. They run good stuff. It’s going to be a hard game for us.” ... read the full preview
This Week's News
- UK defeated its second ranked opponent of the season on Sunday with a 58-38 rout of No. 25 Providence.
- The Wildcats won for their 25th time in 27 tries as the nation’s top-ranked team.
- Kentucky post players Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein led the way for the Cats.
- Towns followed up his first career double-double in the previous game with 11 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
- Cauley-Stein also has 11 points and six rebounds, in addition to two steals.
- UK turned the ball over just seven times, the second fewest this season.
- The Cats committed just six turnovers against then-No. 5/5 Kansas
- Kentucky’s defense locked down the previously undefeated Friars.
- The nation’s top-ranked defense (per field-goal percent defense) gave up just 38 points, marking the third time in seven games this year where the opponent has failed to score more than 40.
- In the second half, the Cats held Providence to just 16 points, the seventh time in 14 halves this season that the opponent has been held to less than 20 points.
- The Friars were limited to just 28.2 from the field, stretching UK’s season-opening streak to seven games of holding opponents to less than 40-percent shooting. Only the 2011-12 national title team has matched that streak during the modern era of the 3-point field goal.
- Karl-Anthony Towns was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday after guiding UK to a pair of home victories last week.
- Towns, a 6-foot-11 forward, averaged 12.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals in wins over UT Arlington and Providence.
- The Piscataway, N.J., native began the week with his first career double-double when he posted 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
- Towns is the second Wildcat this season to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
- Trey Lyles claimed the same honor follow the opening week of competition.
- Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns are on the Naismith Tropy Watch List, given annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the nation’s top player.
- Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, the award will be presented to the winner during Final Four weekend on April 5.
Media Opportunity - December 4, 2014
Head Coach John Calipari
On his relationship with Rick Barnes …
“In this profession we’re in, you have acquaintances and then you have friends and then you have true friends. He’s a true friend that I’ve known for so long. The first time I met him he was working at the Pitt basketball camp. He was from Lenoir-Rhyne (University). He had long hair and he had a toss-back in the backseat of his VW. He would go camp to camp, and that was his station. He’d teach wherever he was at. He did it. You are talking about a guy who worked through the ranks from being an assistant with some great coaches to being at George Mason. They forget he was there for a while. Going to Providence, going to Clemson and then getting the opportunity at Texas, but he’s never changed who he is. He’s always been somebody that I can call when I need to bounce ideas. One of the best things I did when I was coaching UMass. I called him one day, I call him Rickie B. I said, ‘Rickie B, our defense is so bad.’ And that was my first year. We gave up 100 points like seven times. Led the nation in giving up 100. I said, ‘Tell me what you think I should do.’ He goes, ‘Well tell me what you’re emphasizing.’ And so I just acted like I was really smart – I was like 29 years old – and I gave him like 20 things. I just kept talking (and) he let me talk. He said, ‘Well, if that’s what you’re emphasizing, that many things, that’s why you stink defensively.’ He said, ‘You need to emphasize four things.’ And from that point on, I’ve only emphasized four things on defense. And we’ve become a pretty good defensive team. He’s somebody that, like I said, he’s just one of those good guys. We’d be friends if we weren’t in coaching if I knew him and all those things. Terrific basketball coach. Battler. You watch how hard his teams play, (they) always do. He doesn’t get caught up in the minutia of all this stuff. The back and forth, the he say she say. He doesn’t deal with it, he just coaches basketball. He’s a Basketball Bennie. Loves the game. If I feel like talking basketball I call him, and I know I can spend a half-hour talking ball.”
On Coach Barnes saying he was going to ask for a favor …
“He’s one of those guys that, how many times like a lot of us in this profession, we’re afraid to talk nice about another coach because it may help his recruiting. Some guys think there’s only so much oxygen, I got to get mine. He gets it. And I appreciate what he did. He didn’t need to (say all those things). And let me say it to everybody: It’s not as good as it seems, but I’m not as bad as they tell you either. I’m probably in the middle somewhere (is) what I am.”
On Barnes saying Calipari couldn’t guard him as a player …
“Probably, but he couldn’t play either. There were two of us. I couldn’t guard him, and he still couldn’t make a basket.”
On the possibility of a home-and-home (series) with Texas …
“I think we did a home-and-home. I would do a home-and-home with Texas. We don’t have room right now, but I would do it because of him. We did play it. We did go home-and-home with him when I was at Memphis, and they beat us both games.”
On the challenge of facing a Texas team with similar size to Kentucky …
“And they run. They fly up and down the court. They’ve got good scorers. They have great length. They run good stuff. It’s going to be a hard game for us.”
On how the platoons are doing …
“They’re doing good. What you’re finding out is this doesn’t hurt any players; it’s helping players. Now that may not be the case any other time, but what you have is two really good point guards. You have size on both teams. And they’re starting to figure each other out. Offensively we’re at about 50 to 60 percent capacity right now. We’re just not there. Defensively I would guess we’re 70 to 80 percent there, but we’re still not where we could be in either area. Offensively we’re behind where we are defensively.”
On switching up the platoons …
“I messed around a little this week. I tried. We’re going to stick with where we are, but I did mess around mainly to see if it helps individuals in a certain group. I’m good where we are.”
On if “messing around” with the platoons was for motivation …
“No. No. They’re motivated. My one thing is how do I keep these guys engaged? What can I do to keep them engaged where we try to move forward and keep thinking of ways to get them to think? This is a really smart basketball team. This is a really driven basketball team. This is a really competitive basketball team. Why not use all those things to keep us stepping forward? Again, nothing would be better for us than having a team like Texas come in and hit us right in the mouth. We need to know when a team comes in and scores their first eight or 10 times down the floor, making tough shots and we’re missing open shots. How do we respond? Are we still tough? Are we still having fun? Are we still playing together? Those things are out in front of us.”
On Andrew Harrison’s comments of the big guys either getting foul calls or not against smaller teams …
“I think we’d rather play against smaller guys, but that may be the case. I’m just looking for our guys. There’s not a player on this team that I’m asking to do something they can’t do. Now, it may be hard and they may want to do something else, but what we’re asking each of these guys to do, they can do.”
On 40-percent shooting performances …
“Harder cuts, better screens, better execution and flying down the court so we can get some easy baskets. If we’re stopping people 30 percent of the time, then that means 70 percent of the time we’re on a rebound, a break, steal or block going the other way. We should be scoring at least 25 percent of those and we’re not. That’s one thing. The other area is simply how are we playing? Are we playing the right way? I’m taking every clip of different offenses that we’re running to see if it’s effective for this team. I told you, we’re learning. I’m learning. One group may run better playing this way and another group might be better playing this way. We’ll do whatever the teams need us to do.”
On challenges that Myles Turner presents …
“He’s a good player. Long, skilled, good around the basket, good open shooter, make free throws, and can really pass. He’s a good player – a really good player.”
On getting the team to match an opponent’s intensity …
“That’s the players’ responsibility. Hopefully they get it. Every game we play people are jacked up to be playing and playing here.”
On if there’s a certain player that has to have a break out game eventually …
“What’ll happen is, they’re feeding off one another. The numbers are so close from minutes to shots to field-goal percentage to defense to rebound margin – and that one game the white team was not that good and then one game the blue team wasn’t that good. We haven’t had that breakout offensive game yet. I’m trying to explain to them that if you play better offense, then it makes your defense even better because it puts pressure on the other team to make baskets against a really good defense. If you can go down and really execute 10 straight times down the floor and they’re trying to hold the ball to get a shot in the late shot clock, then you just put a lot of pressure on that team. You have to play good offense. If you want to be a world-class team, then you’re not going to just do it on one end. Both your offense and your defense has to be good.”
On defensive focus with this team …
“I am harping on defense, to be honest with you. We give problems because of the mismatches and that’s the issue we’ve had right now.”
On what he’s told Andrew Harrison …
“Andrew’s got a tough job because he’s on a unit (where) there are times he’s gotta score. But if that’s how he plays, then he’s hurting himself and he’s hurting our team. But he has to score too. And there are times in the game that he’s just gotta go get a bucket because we’re dying. A guy’s got his head down, another guy is thinking wrong and all of a sudden a guy is fading in the post. Well, go get a couple buckets – because Andrew can score. Andrew can get 20 a game. I mean, scoring, shooting, free throws, layups – he can get 20 a game. But if he’s our leading scorer we’re not winning, but there are games he must be our leading scorer – and he’s got to feel it. It can’t be me telling him. I even told Willie, ‘Tell him, Willie. If there comes a point where you know, Willie, we’re out here dying, ‘Andrew, go get some shots. Go get us a couple baskets.’ ’ So he’s got a tough job. He is so much better than a year ago and so is his brother. His brother’s not shooting it great, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not worried about it. He probably needs to spend a little more time in the gym. My issue is, for each individual, what can I give them to make them a little bit better? What are we doing that, offensively, that we can do better or different to make us more effective.”
On what Andrew Harrison is doing to be a better playmaker, specifically defensively …
“It’s, again, coaching. Coaching, I’m telling him how to do it. (Sarcasm.) Please. What I’m basically saying is you can’t blame him if I haven’t coached him. If I don’t teach somebody how to do something and they’re not doing it, you can’t blame them. But I will say this: In my defense, until he played with great energy and fight, he couldn’t worry about the next level. Now he’s playing with unbelievable energy, he’s playing pick-and-roll defense well. Now the next level for him is, is he a playmaker? Does he have steals, deflections, blocks? Well, last year he didn’t have many. Now all of a sudden we’re talking about it, we’re emphasizing it, we’re showing him in practice where he has opportunities, and he’s a really bright kid. He’s doing it. So I don’t blame him last year. We literally never got to the point to show him and teach him about a defensive playmaker. We didn’t.”
On what he’s seen from Marcus Lee recently and what he needs to improve on …
“The good news is as I looked out my window, he was in the gym an hour early today. I mean, that’s part of what he’s gotta do. And he’s gotta add that 13- to 14-foot game to where we can throw it to him. You can’t have a bunch of guys out there they’re not guarding. You can’t really play offense if that’s the case. And then he’s got to be an energy guy. When he walks in, there’s gotta be a buzz in the building about his energy and his athleticism and his length. ‘Look at this guy.’ He can’t ever be, like, down. His skill will be that as much as anything else. Like I said, I’m happy with all these guys. Yesterday the practice was OK. It was good. It wasn’t one of our best, but it was good. But we haven’t had a bad practice. The practice are from good to oh my gosh. That’s where they’re falling right now. And there have been some, ‘Oh my goodness, let’s just stop. Let’s get out.’ I don’t expect them to be playing like it’s January right now, especially offensively we haven’t figured it out, but I just want to see great energy.”
Sophomore guard Andrew Harrison
On his play so far this season …
“It’s been alright, up and down a little bit. Coach said I need to score a little more, and I’m gonna try to do that. I’m going to be a playmaker on both sides of the ball.”
On if it’s nice hearing Coach Cal wanting him to score more …
“Yeah, but what I’ve been doing is working, so you just gotta be able to feel the game out, see how they’re playing you.”
On Texas’ size …
“They’ve got a lot of size.”
On if it’ll be like playing against themselves …
“I don’t know about that. But they’re big, they’re talented, and it’s going to be a tough game.”
On making less playing minutes work …
“It’s fine. You don’t get the numbers you want or anything like that, but it makes the team better, keeps you fresh and wears the other team out. As long as we’re winning it’s worth it.”
On how the freshmen have changed …
“Everyone’s getting better, understanding the game better, understanding how hard you have to play. That’s something I have to learn as well. I mean, of course they’re getting better every day.”
On if it’s been easy for them to adjust to Cal when he starts yelling …
“No, not at all. I think they took everything he said personal and stuff like that, but you have to learn it’s just part of the game and how he coaches. He’s intense.”
On what the team is taking away from the Providence game …
“I think we need to start the game off better – play with a little more energy. And that’s all on me, just putting pressure on the ball, and that’s where it starts.”
On if he blames himself for the slow starts …
“I mean, I guess you could say that. Sure.”
On how he brings more energy to the start of the game …
“As one of the leaders and point guards, you just have to make sure your team is prepared, and you have to let them know the other team is coming out there trying to kill you and you have to be ready for war.”
Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison
On him being more engaged and fiery in games …
“During the preseason it was just hard to stay focused every day. I think once we start playing against other people – that’s what I like to do.”
On if he gets fired up when Coach Cal uses Andrew as an example for him …
“No, not really. Andrew’s really stepped up his defense a lot, and I think I do need to be more like him off the ball. If that’s what it is, that’s what it is.”
On how his brother has improved and in what areas …
“He just brings more energy and puts more pressure on the ball. He has a lot more steals.”
On Andrew saying he takes the blame for the slow starts …
“I don’t know if he should take the blame because we’re all starting to feel each other out. And every team’s pumped up to play us and they’re jacked up to play, so I think starting the game, it’s not a fair comparison.”
On if he and Devin Booker go hard at each other in practice every day …
“Oh yeah, pretty much. We just try to make each other better.”
On who shoots better …
“He does right now, obviously.”
On if he’s surprised at Booker’s shot not missing much …
“Of course not. I know he can shoot the ball and he’s just in a good rhythm right now, so I hope he keeps shooting well.”
On if he’s watched Texas …
“I’ve watched a couple of games.”
On if it’s like playing against themselves with Texas having size …
“They’re a really big team, so I think it’ll be a challenge for us, but also I think we’re kind of used to it because we can play each other in practice.”
On if he thinks it’ll be tougher for Texas to adjust …
“I don’t know really. It’ll just be exciting to see and an exciting game.”
On if he shot will come with time or if he’s been fiddling with his technique …
“I think they’ll start falling because they’re feeling good. Being a shooter, if they’re feeling good you’ve just got to keep shooting them and they’ll fall eventually. I’ve been working on it a lot and I think it’ll change.”
On what goes into starting fast …
“I think the other team’s just been more jacked up at the beginning of the game, and we start to wear them down after a while. I think that’s a big factor. Every team’s excited to play us and they’re just playing out of their mind at the beginning.”
On if there’s anything they can do to bring more energy at the tip …
“Yeah I think we could – a little bit more. Of course the team is going to be hyped up. I guess we just have to stay focused and take the first few blows and keep playing and wear them down.”
On if the team notices the NBA scouts that come to the games, like the 24 supposed to come to the game against Texas …
“I didn’t really know that until you told me. It’s not really a big deal. We had the combine this year, and we’re focused on the game. We’re not really focused on anything else.”
On what he took away from the open practice …
“Just gotta work hard and people are always watching you. Just be on you’re A-game, and when you’re not on you’re A-game just play hard and do what you can.”
On if he’s excited playing against guys on Texas’ team that he used to play against in high school …
“I mean it’s not really – I just want it to be a good game and it’s going to be a good game ‘cause they’re a great team. I’m just excited to play in the game.”