Blue Bloods Kentucky, North Carolina Clash on Saturday
Kentucky faces North Carolina on Saturday, December 13 at Rupp Arena. The game will be televised on CBS and tip is set for noon ET.
|Kentucky vs. North Carolina
Saturday, Dec. 13 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UNC
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via CBS
Cat Scratches: UK hurting after injury, but Poythress, Cats must go on
Willie Cauley-Stein was clearly in pain.
Speaking in measured tones, the normally colorful 7-foot junior struggled to come to grips with the torn ACL his suite mate, former roommate and best friend on the team, Alex Poythress, had suffered less than 24 hours prior.
It just didn't seem fair.
"I mean, he's just that older brother," Cauley-Stein said. "He's the good brother that's always doing the right stuff, got his grades right, and like it's just crazy. Like why's this got to happen to a dude who just does everything right and definitely doesn't deserve to go down with an injury like this?"
Even right after it happened, it didn't quite seem real.
Scrimmaging during a normal Thursday practice, Poythress raced ahead for an open layup, but landed awkwardly on his left leg. He screamed in pain, but walked reasonably well and experienced less swelling than normal for a serious knee injury. An MRI, however, revealed the damage and John Calipari summoned the Wildcats for a late-night team meeting.
"Guys cried," Calipari said.
"It was honestly like somebody in your family died," Cauley-Stein said.
Poythress, though his season is over, is very much alive. Maintaining perspective is difficult so soon after news so devastating, but it's necessary. ... read the full preview
This Week's News
Alex Poythress Out for the Season
- Junior forward will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in practice on Thursday, Dec. 11.
- A date for surgery has not been set.
- A junior from Clarksville, Tenn., he was averaging 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in his third season for Kentucky. He has played in a team-high 81 career games with 39 starts.
- Kentucky trailed for the first 23:43 of the game before taking its first lead at 36-34 with 13:18 remaining in the game en route to a 56-46 win on Wednesday.
- Entering the game, UK had only trailed for 36 minutes combined throuhout its first nine games.
- Ahead 38-37, Kentucky got three consecutive dunks or layups, a 6-0 spurt that gave the Cats a 44-37 cushion. UK’s lead grew to as many as 15 points at 56-41.
- Continuing a season-long pattern of defensive dominance, UK held Columbia to its season-low point total.
- Nine of UK’s 10 opponents (all except Boston) have score their season low against the Wildcats.
- Despite being held to its lowest point total of the season, the Wildcats defensive effort remained stingy, holding the Lions to 37.5 percent from the floor.
- All 10 opponents this season have been limited to 40 percent or lower.
- Willie Cauley-Stein earned his 11th career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- Aaron Harrison led the scoring with 14 points, while Trey Lyles provided a spark off the bench to log a career-high 30 minutes and providing seven points and 10 rebounds.
- Kentucky committed a mere four turnovers in the game, the fewest for the season. It is the least in Rupp Arena since UK turned it over four times in a win over Portland on Nov. 26, 2011.
- 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.
- 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 12, 2014
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
On being in shock about Alex Poythress’ injury …
“Well first of all I didn’t think he had a tear. He went down and yelled, but the doc after, and even the way he was walking, it didn’t swell that much. Just--it’s something I don’t know about. I’ve only had – other than Nerlens (Noel), which was the backboard – I’ve only had one other guy do it. Then you’re kind of shocked when you’re first told. My concern wasn’t to do with anything else other than him. And I can remember having to sit down with Nerlens in the same way to tell him, ‘You’re fine. You’re insured if something goes crazy. You have plenty of time if you choose to train and be ready to put your name in the draft, or you come back for another year and you will have your masters. You’re going to graduate in May.’ So I said ‘this hurts our team, but you’re fine.’ “
On how the injury affects the team …
“I told the guys, I’ve done this a long time, and when you have someone who can do things that other players cannot do – Anthony Davis, a Derrick Rose that’s just so fast and could do things – well, Alex was a beast. He made blocks that normal players, like, ‘Where did that come from?’ Or a rebound or a dunk. I don’t know if it was Wisconsin (2014 Elite Eight), somebody threw him a bad pass and he still dunked it. Things that people can’t do, he could do. And they all came at great times. I can remember last year (against) Louisville, in a three-minute span it was ridiculous. So now we’re different. You don’t have that guy you can play poorly and he will go do something to get you back in the game.”
On if Poythress still has a role with the team …
“I just want him to be in a great frame of mind so that he heals. My son talked to him last night. I’ve had all kind(s) of calls from different people. There will be people that will get in touch that have had the same surgery that have done well so he understands because most of it is your mindset that this is going to be a blessing. I can remember Derrick Rose texted me when it happened to him and just said, ‘Coach I’m looking at this. I was supposed to slow down, supposed to really look at myself and I’m gonna do that and I’m gonna come back stronger than ever.’ That’s what he texted me. I was looking for the text today because I wanted to send it to Alex, but I think it’s in my other phone. But it’s just a tough deal. It’s like your own son. When Brad had it done and I was at the hospital with him, (I) didn’t want to tell him. It’s just a hard deal.”
On Devin Booker’s injury …
“They practiced yesterday surprisingly.”
On why that’s surprising …
“No, I’m just teasing.”
On Poythress’ injury and how it will affect the team and season …
“We don’t know yet. We have to play games, we’ll see.”
On Willie Cauley-Stein’s relationship with Alex Poythress ...
“Well, it’s just, things like this can bring people together or it can break people apart. But you have to be more responsible and you have to add a little more to your game. When Nerlens went down we didn’t have that mentality, that makeup, we weren’t able to do it. We are going to find out if this team has the ability to do it.”
On if he is still going to stick with the platoons …
“I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t spend any time thinking team last night. And this morning I met with some of the guys to talk things through. So we will figure out what (we have to do). We haven’t practiced yet so I don’t really know.”
On how challenging it is for the team to get ready for a game two days after the injury …
“Hard. It’s a hard deal. I mean, it’s hard for all of us. Our practice yesterday just went “phew” and I was in and out the whole time trying to check on him. I mean, this is all part of it things happen that you have to deal with and you have to respond to. Next man up and all of that – and it’s all great coach speak – but the reality of it is the fear and the anxiety and all of the other stuff that Alex has and we have for him. You know, it just zaps you. It zapped me. I mean it zapped my wife last night. It brought back memories of what she had to deal with Brad.”
On how a player’s life can change suddenly with an injury …
“All of us. It’s everybody. Kenney Payne said, ‘Don’t waste a moment.’ That was his message to the guys. We just have such a great group of kids and I want every one of them to do well. I want the next man to step up. I want him to be ready for the opportunity. We don’t know if he will be. We’ll do some things in practice and see what things look like. It’s a tough deal. You have a game like this. Let me say one thing to our fans: We have the classiest fans in the world. They would never charge the court. I don’t care if it’s number one versus number two. They would never charge the court. Two, cheer for us. No signs. This program is a storied program and deserves our respect so be respectful. It’s a great series. When we go to North Carolina they’re respectful. That’s what makes this a unique thing. I would say again, cheer for us, be the classy fans you always are, be respectful – no signs, none of that stuff. We don’t need it here. This is going to be a terrific basketball game. They should be 8-0. In the game they lost to Butler, they had every chance to win. In the game they lost to Iowa, they had the game and Iowa made a couple plays down the stretch and beat them. They could easily be 8-0. This could be another top-10 team we’re playing with a different bounce of the ball.”
On both teams’ struggles from behind the 3-point line and how it will affect the game …
“I would tell you probably like Columbia. They were the worst 3-point shooting team and they made their first four. I would expect that to happen. It’s all out the window. We’re a good shooting team. They have good shooters. Both of us will hopefully shoot better. I hope we shoot better this game and they shoot better the game after that.”
On the team’s reaction to the news about Poythress …
“Guys cried. I talked to them. You had guys that cried. It was devastating. They know even in their own mind, ‘What if that was me? What if I had to deal with that?’ These kids get so close. This is a unique situation here because only former players know what these guys are going through. Even the former players, when there was no social media, no Internet, no cell phones, it was a different deal. Right now these guys are in vacuum and they’re together. They have to be together. They have to be for each other because the clutter around them is crazy. We talked about that before practice yesterday. Some of them are dealing with clutter. Lose yourself in the team, do what you’re supposed to do, do what you’re capable of doing, and do what we’re asking you to do. Nobody’s asking you to do anything you’re not capable of. Those are the kinds of things these guys have to address every day, yet the only person(s) that would know what they’re going through is each other.”
On if Alex will be at the UNC game …
“I don’t know. I just texted him back and forth, but I don’t know.”
On what factors he weighs in terms of keeping the platoons together as a unit and possibly moving people in …
“We’ll figure some stuff out in practice, see what we look at.”
On what types of things they will do in practice to figure that out …
“Just practicing. I’ll watch and get a feel for it. I also don’t want to throw guys to the wolves. I don’t want to do that to them. That’s not fair. But we’ll figure it out. The only thing I can tell you is it’ll be with these players in mind. In other words, how do you give all the kids their opportunity, yet how do you make this fair so that the kids that are on the floor have a true chance of playing well because the guys on the court with them can do this? Some of this is going to be just throwing them (out there). At some point, ‘Alright, let’s try this lineup and see how they work.’ And I’ve got to be willing to do it. I told you there’s going to be some ups and downs; we’ll probably get dinged some. I hope not Saturday, but it could be Saturday.”
On if he grabbed any player after they got the Poythress news to tell them they might need them …
“They all—I didn’t do it that way. I grabbed all together and talked to them about it. We addressed it together and then they went over and met him when he got back, watched a ballgame with him last night and ate. This is our team deal with this. It’s not fair to try to put it on one player.”
On if this is one of the worst things as a coach you can talk to your players about …
“Yeah, it is. Thank goodness I haven’t had to do it many times. I mean, I’ve had to do it a couple times. Programs go on. This program is going to be the same 50 years from now, but it’s what the program does for these kids. And then in this case, what would this injury do, how do we make sure he’s in a great frame of mind to understand you can come back stronger, you can come back quicker, you can come back faster. You have options to do what you want. We’re hurt by this. You’re fine. Now, you owe it to yourself and everyone else to do what you’re supposed to do – the surgery, the rehab and all the other things – and Alex will. I mean, Alex wanted to go to class last night. This kid’s crazy. I said, ‘Stop with the class! Relax for a minute.’ He’s going to graduate in three years, come back and get your master’s, your doctorate. If he wanted to quote redshirt him we could. He’s only played eight games. He could be the president of the university before he leaves.”
Junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein
On Alex Poythress’ injury …
“It’s tough to see your brother – we’ve been through a lot together – go down with a freak injury like that.”
On what happened …
“We were scrimmaging, normal stuff, and he was going for a fast-break layup and just fell. Everything else just, we thought he was fine. He could bend his leg and he wasn’t feeling typical ACL injury pain, and they told us after he got the MRI that it was torn.”
On the best thing he can do to help Poythress as a friend …
“Just be in his presence a lot. I know for me, I understand how he’s feeling. Like you get hurt like that, it feels like everything’s just coming down on you, especially in basketball (where) you’ve got stuff you’re trying to accomplish here, not only me and him together, but us as a whole team. Just to have that kind of just end and not knowing what’s going to come next is the worst part.”
On how Poythress helped him last year when he got hurt …
“We were actually roommates then. Now we’re suite-mates. You know, you’ve got to go into the other room, but we were in the same room last year, so he was there a lot. He would be there and we would watch movies or TV shows or play (video games). He was just there a lot. It meant a lot to me that he was just there to be there. He didn’t have to be. That’s what everybody has to do now, especially with this kind of injury, just be there and let him know we’re thinking about him.”
On if he goes out of his way to make sure Poythress feels like a part of the team …
“I will, but right now you don’t want to smother him at this point because it’s only going to make it worse. (He) kind of wants to be around his family right now. I’m just being here for him, stepping in, (seeing) if he’s good, do you need anything, and then kind of just letting him chill. A lot of it, you do want to be alone at first, and then once you start feeling really good where you can start moving again, that’s when you want people around you. So other than that, (I’m) always texting him, seeing if he needs something or wants to watch TV or anything like that.”
On how this affects the team …
“It kind of ruins our platoons a little bit – or a lot. Nobody can make the plays that he makes. He’s a freak athlete. (He) does special things you can’t replace. So now we’ve just got to figure out how to play differently. That’s going to be the biggest thing is how we’re going play now, what lineups are we going to use if we still use the platoon system, and if we do, just make it work.”
On if he’s said anything to Poythress yet …
“Not about it, just kind of being in his room and stuff like that. I know how it is; you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t really want to think about it.”
On comparing losing Nerlens Noel and losing Poythress …
“It’s the beginning of the season. With Nerlens it was right in the middle and we didn’t have any type of depth, so that’s the big difference to what we have now. We’ve got multiple guys that could play. Then, we didn’t anybody that could fill (Noel’s) spot.”
On what the team’s reaction to this injury says about Poythress’ impact on the team …
“I mean he’s just that older brother. He’s the good brother that’s always doing the right stuff, got his grades right, and like, it’s just crazy. Like why’s this got to happen to a dude who just does everything right and definitely doesn’t deserve to go down with an injury like this?”
On if it makes him think about how quickly things can change …
“For sure. That’s how you have to play the game anyways. Just to see it firsthand like that, to happen to somebody close to you, is always devastating.”
Sophomore center Dakari Johnson
On what the mood is like …
“Everybody is a little down right now. We had a late night yesterday just hanging around Alex, seeing how he was feeling, stuff like that; trying to pick his spirits up. We now have to look forward to practice and get ready for our game tomorrow.”
On what losing him does to the team on the court …
“It’s big. He is a very good defender, he’s athletic and a great leader. He’s one of the upperclassmen so he really leads us. It’s a big loss.”
On yesterday and what happened during practice …
“It was a regular practice. We were competing against each other, scrimmaging, and it was kind of just a freak accident. It just happened. At first we didn’t think it was too bad, but then Coach texted us later and had a meeting with us where he told us the news. He came back to the lodge and all of us were there for him.”
On what Alex was saying to them …
“He wasn’t really saying anything. He was very emotional – everybody was emotional at that time. We didn’t know what to say. We just tried to pick his spirits up. He’s going to be good no matter what. That’s what we tried to really tell him.”
On if Derek Willis will fill Alex’s shoes …
“We really haven’t talked about anything. We just have been trying to help Alex out right now. We really haven’t even talked about our game plan or anything. That’s probably what we’re going to do at this practice.”
On if this will be something that’s difficult for them to put behind them …
“It’s motivation at its best. We have to play hard for him. It’s adversity. Adversity is going to hit. He went down, but we have to pick it up, play for him and play our hardest out there.”
On if there’s a payback mentality vs. North Carolina after last year’s game …
“Last year was last year. This is a new year. We’re just going to have to go into it and compete, everybody play their hardest, and go out there and get a win.”
On them having some recent experience dealing with big injuries …
“I don’t think we would call ourselves experienced. Everything happens for a reason. It’s a good thing we have a lot of depth and guys who can fill in. Nobody is going to do the things Alex can do. We’re just going to all have to step up.”
On some of the things they will miss with Alex not on the floor …
“Athleticism. He’s the most athletic player in the country. He makes plays that regular people can’t make. We’re just going to have to step up – everybody’s going to have to step up.”