Kentucky Faces Columbia in Midweek Tilt
Columbia travels to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky on Wednesday, December 10. Tip is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
|Kentucky vs. Columbia
Wednesday, Dec. 10 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | CU
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Towns not afraid to try different, be different
By any reasonable measure, Karl-Anthony Towns' college career started well.
Starting on the No. 1 team in the land, Towns was among the nation's top shot-blockers and even won Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors after big games against UT Arlington and Providence. He followed that up with 10 more points in Kentucky's second top-10 win of the season against Texas.
But the Saturday after the victory, Towns had a reaction you might not expect.
"I woke up in the morning, brushed my teeth - good hygiene, that's the biggest thing - and I looked in the mirror and I wanted to be better," Towns said. "I wanted to do something a little different than what I'm used to."
For Towns, there's no bigger departure from the norm than abandoning the toothy grin that he's come to be known for around the Joe Craft Center.
"He's got a very nice smile," assistant coach Barry Rohrssen said. "He really does."
Fear not, Coach Rohrssen, the smile isn't going away all the time.
Towns, seeking to find an edge to take his game to the next level, decided stash his smile in favor of a scowl during UK's matchup with Eastern Kentucky on Sunday. Towns' theory is that he plays his best when he's mad, so why not take that mentality to tipoff? ... read the full preview
This Week's News
- Kentucky didn’t miss a beat after its victory over No. 6/7 Texas, easily defeating in-state foe Eastern Kentucky on Sunday, 82-49.
- Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns led the effort with a career-high 19 points and nine rebounds, just missing out on his second career double-double.
- It was Towns’ fourth consecutive game in double figures.
- Towns was 8 for 9 from the floor and scored 12 of his points in the first half.
- The Piscataway, N.J., native upped his team-leading block total to 25.
- Several other Wildcats had big individual games.
- Junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein followed his career night vs. Texas with 11 points and five rebounds.
- Sophomore forward Marcus Lee reached double figures for the first time this season with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. All 10 points came on dunks.
- Freshman forward Trey Lyles notched the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 boards.
- Missing freshman guard Tyler Ulis, Andrew Harrison and Dominique Hawkins stepped up at point guard, each dishing out six assists - a season high for Harrison, and a career-best for Hawkins.
- Continuing a season-long pattern of defensive dominance, UK held EKU to its season-low point total.
- Eight of UK’s nine opponents (all except Boston) have score their season low against the Wildcats.
- Eastern Kentucky was held to 26.1 percent from the floor, the fifth straight opponent that has shot less than 30 percent vs. the Cats.
- This year’s team is the first Wildcat team in the modern era of the 3-point field goal to hold its first nine opponents below 40 percent.
- Led by Towns’ four blocked shots, UK reached double- figure swats (11) for the fifth time in nine games.
- UK defeated its third ranked opponent and second top-10 foe of the season on Friday with a 63-51 double-digit win over of No. 6/7 Texas.
- The Wildcats won for their 26th time in 28 tries as the nation’s top-ranked team.
- Kentucky junior Willie Cauley-Stein netted a career-high in points (21) and earned his first double-double of the year with 12 rebounds. It was one shy of his career-best rebounds.
- His previous career-high scoring output came during his freshman campaign in a 20-point effort at home vs. Vanderbilt.
- Cauley-Stein’s stifiling defense guided the Cats, as the 7-footer earned five steals and three blocks to aid the cause.
- UK turned the ball over just eight times and has eight or fewer in back-to-back contests.
- Kentucky’s defense locked down the previously undefeated Longhorns.
- The nation’s top-ranked defense (per field-goal percent defense) gave up 51 points and has yielded 55 or fewer in all but one contest this season.
- Texas was flustered into 22 turnovers, the second time this season UK has forced 22 miscues.
- The Longhorns were limited to 29.8 percent shooting, and UK has now opened the season holding all eight opponents below 40 percent.
- All three ranked opponents have been limited to 30 percent or lower from the field.
- Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for a second straight week after averaging 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in wins over No. 6/7 Texas and Eastern Kentucky last week.
- Towns scored 10 points and made all six of his free throws in just 16 minutes of play against the No. 6/7 Longhorns.
- The Piscataway, N.J., native scored a career- high 19 points -- 12 of which came in the first half -- and grabbed nine rebounds vs. EKU, just missing out on his second career double-double.
Media Opportunity - December 9, 2014
Kentucky Assistant Coach Barry “Slice” Rohrssen
On Karl-Anthony Towns saying he will no longer smile during game …
“Is that what he said? He’s got a very nice smile. He really does. To see somebody with that much talent and is such a nice person is so rare. But if that’s his demeanor, if that’s what’s going to propel him to play like he did in the last game on Sunday, then so be it.”
On how much he knew about Towns as a high school recruit before he was coaching at UK …
“Karl has always been on the radar screen. Kentucky did a great job of recognizing him early on in the process. To Karl’s credit, he felt very comfortable here, wanted to play for Coach Cal, knew Coach (Orlando) Antigua, and again, Kentucky sells itself. He was on board very early in the recruiting process.”
On Towns’ favorite player growing up being Len Bias …
“Karl is a bit different in a good way – in a very good way. His priorities always seem in order. He isn’t just a good player, he’s a wonderful person. He’s so well liked in this building, amongst his teammates, on campus, in the community here. Throughout many of the events that we’ve done, Karl has always gone above and beyond even what you ask him to do. Even down in the Bahamas, he as much as anybody wanted to go over and do the Samaritan’s thing. He’s just a wonderful and caring person.”
On what he knows about Columbia …
“Columbia, a very good team. Presently 5-2 coming in here off a 23-point home win against Bucknell. Their point guard is the guy that makes them go, their leading scorer. It’s a ball-control team. They like to have control of the basketball. They’ll test your patience defensively with their style of play. It’s good to play a lot of different types of teams. Some teams are going to get up and pressure and you’ll see another team a week later, a month later, somewhere down the road where this is a good example and another test for us to see how we’re going to play. And again how we want to play, the style we have to play to be successful.”
On if he’s concerned with UK’s perimeter shooting …
“One of the things you find out in coaching is the three best shots in basketball are a layup, a free throw and an open 3. As coaches, that’s what you preach to your team. Those are the shots that you want to get. So the 3-point shot is important, but it needs to be within the framework of your offense. You don’t just want to take one to take one. You want it to come from within the framework of your offense. As long as you keep getting layups and dunks, as long as you get to the free-throw line – which is a sign of being aggressive – when you have an open 3, that’s what you look for.”
On Tyler Ulis’ health …
“He’s OK. You know, day-to-day. Tomorrow is another day, today is another day, we’ll see what happens. But day-to-day.”
On Devin Booker …
“He’s going through what a lot of players go through, and especially a lot of freshmen. When they come in they’re playing at a higher level against better competition. The games in time actually increase. You go from playing a 32-minute game in high school to a 40-minute game. So there is maybe some extra minutes that you log, but Devin will be fine.”
On if he ever recruited against Ivy League schools …
“They’re generally looking for certain things. We’re looking for different board scores. They’re looking for high SATs and as well as that I’m looking for higher rebounding. Different board scores. We try to recruit the ones that get 15-plus a game.”
On focusing before and after so-called big games …
“Some of our schedule right now has felt almost like an NBA schedule. We’ve had games back-to-back-to-back. It seems like these four games, the next four games, the past two we played, the next two coming up are just going to fly. Fortunately for us, not just do we have talent, but we have depth. Anybody here that wants to think about it or do the research, we’ve played nine games, which may be the most in the country, but when you think about it we’ve had eight different guys lead us in scoring in nine games. It’s like what other program or team in the country has had eight different people lead them in scoring in nine games. We’ve probably had six different guys lead us in assists in nine games. One of them who did a great job the other day was Dom (Hawkins). Dom worked himself into a platoon, and he comes out of the game tied for a high in assists. There are a lot of guys here that have to be ready to play, and they are ready to play. And they do as good a job in practice as they do out in the games.”
On players like Hawkins playing sporadically …
“We’re very fortunate. I know Coach Cal has said it. These kids allow you to do this. Dom is just a wonderful guy. He comes in, he works hard. He’s ready for his chance. A lot of people when you think of him you see how good a defense he plays, but the other day to see him get those six assists is good. He’s part of a very successful equation right now. Derek (Willis) will be the same thing when he gets on the court.”
Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns
On the guys giving him a hard time about his serious face already …
“I can see that already. They know I always go around with a smile on my face, happy-go-lucky. It’s just a change I like and I’m thinking about using it a little more.”
On if he can use it to intimidate people …
“If my 7-foot self, my 250-pound body can’t, then I guess that’s another way I can. Going out there, I hope they realize the work I put into the practice gym. That should intimidate them.”
On how he came to the idea of a fiercer look …
“I woke up in the morning, brushed my teeth – you know good hygiene, that’s the biggest thing. I looked in the mirror and I wanted to be better, wanted to do something a little different than what I’m used to. I like putting myself outside my comfort zone. Everyone knows my main mechanism for staying who I am is smiling. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to do something different with my approach to the game (and) continue to experiment with it.”
On if the serious face made him play better …
“I definitely think it made me focus. I seem – my dad knows me. He’s always seen me play – the madder I get the better I seem to play. I think if I can go in with the mentality that I’m already mad, I could definitely do some better things.”
On if how Willie Cauley-Stein played against Texas was motivation …
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little bit. You watch a lot of film and you see great players play. This whole process at being at Kentucky it’s a process. I’ve got to go step by step and learn a little more about myself every day. Even with all the experience overseas, playing against great teams, you’re learning about yourself every day. This is another process I’m going through, taking it step by step.”
On how he would describe his change …
“I think starting off I had a lot of confidence and then got hit with a curveball – some schemes I was not familiar with. It’s hard. You’re a freshman. This is my first time here at the University of Kentucky, so it takes some time to get used to the offensive and defensive schemes. I think I started, as a process, going along step by step, game by game, practice by practice, I got more comfortable, more comfortable, more comfortable, especially on the offensive end. Now it’s just another process, another step. Now that I know I can do what the team needs me to do, it makes me pick myself up too.”
On if he wasn’t happy with the way he was playing …
“I was, but I was always looking for that next step to give the team another element. I’m just trying to help my team at all causes, at all times. For me, I wanted to work this whole summer. Everyone looked at the post game. I was more focused defensively. I wanted to be, tried to be, the best shot-blocker I could be. On the defensive end, when the season started, I wanted to be a better pick-and-roll defender. I’m consistently working on pick-and-roll, but now I want to be – like Coach Robic said, a new challenge – I want to be more vocal. I’m always faced with a new challenge. That’s the greatest thing when you come here, to a program like this, with the best coaching staff in the country, where they’re able to give me a new challenge every day that I have to overcome.”
On if it’s harder than he thought it would be …
“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of playing overseas, and playing (with) professionals, so I knew coming in that it would be a lot for me. I was ready for it, and I have to thank the coaching staff for them continuing that, but I think when I came (here) I didn’t realize how much was always going to be on our shoulders. I think sometimes you feel, ‘Oh, well in high school I was the guy so I knew how it felt,’ but no, you just really don’t know until you’re actually here. But like I said, it’s been a process. I’ve been blessed having great brothers, having a great family behind me, with all the steps I’ve had to take so far, and all the steps I’m going to have to take to the end of the season.”
On how much of a benefit it is to him not having to pull most of the weight of the team as a freshman like in seasons past …
“For me it’s been great knowing that I have a security blanket, I guess. Not everything’s always going to be on my shoulders like it was in high school. The best thing about it is that I put pressure on myself. I want to be the best player I can possibly be. I want to be the best I can be for this team, so I’m putting a lot of pressure just on myself. I want to be the best player I can be for this team, like I said. The way I can do that is challenge myself every day, go through the process step by step, don’t rush it, and just continue following the plan.”
Sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins
On getting a good amount of playing time against Eastern Kentucky …
“It felt good. Just getting a lot of playing time let me know I can play with the team still. Whenever my name is called, I’m always going to be ready to go out and play.”
On when he found out he was going to get in …
“I knew around shoot around. We had practice and Tyler (Ulis) was practicing with us, but we really didn’t know what was going on. I had no idea until shoot around happened.”
On if that was a good surprise …
“It was a good surprise.”
On how he felt like he played …
“I feel like I played great. I had six assists, that’s the most assists I’ve had since I’ve been here. I was really playing like a true point guard I felt like. I look to actually pass the ball to players. I never have actually had that role before, just to attack and pass. It felt pretty good. I can get used to it.”
On if he’s comfortable being a pass-first point guard …
“Oh yeah, I’m definitely comfortable with that. It makes you feel better … it feels like you’re helping your team out by getting them shots to shoot and getting them to score easier.”
On what he’s doing in practice on a daily basis …
“I get to switch in and out with each team, the blue platoon and the white platoon, basically I have my own role for each group. If I’m subbing in for Aaron or Andrew (Harrison) I just have to know which role I’m playing and be able to contribute on the team.”
On what different roles he plays …
“When I come in as a two-guard I need to be more aggressive to score, but if I come in as a point guard I need to be able to distribute the ball. I feel like I’ve been playing as a point guard more than a two-guard, and I’m more comfortable with it right now.”
On if he’d rather have the game-winning pass or game-winning shot …
“I would say game-winning shot right now. I feel like game-winning shot, everybody’s going to look at you, but game-winning pass isn’t bad either. Either one is good for me.”
On being on the bench and remaining engaged …
“It’s really hard being on the bench watching your brothers compete against each of these teams. Being on the bench, you realize when coach is going to call your name. Coach will give you a glance and look at you and you’ll get ready. It’s so, so hard coming off the bench and getting up and play and have all the confidence in the world. Like, me and Marcus (Lee) last year, basically, were patient enough and we got our chance in the tournament and were able to do really well.”
On if it’s something where he always has to keep in mind that he may be coming in soon at a moment’s notice due to injury, illness, etc. …
“That’s definitely the reason why I’m always staying focused. Me and Coach Cal have talked about if a player got hurt I’d be the next guy in for the one- or two-guard, and Derek (Willis) has the three- and four-position. I’m always going to be ready no matter what. If that person does get hurt or sick I’m always ready to step in for him.”
On how it’s different for him being a Kentucky native than other guys on the team …
“I feel like it probably means a little bit more to me because growing up I watched so many Kentucky games. I know the actual passion for it. For the other guys, they probably don’t really know it, but they realize when the fans are cheering them on, and in the long run, in the NCAA Tournament I feel like everybody got what Kentucky basketball was.”
On if he still has any surreal moments that he’s playing for Kentucky …
“I definitely still do have those moments. When we beat Kansas, it was so surreal because I really recognized I was on a really great team and it was Kentucky. I forgot about how good of a team we were and didn’t even recognize how good we could be.”