Kentucky Closes 2014 with No. 4 Louisville
Kentucky travels to face No. 4 Louisville for their final game of 2014 on Saturday, December 27. Tip is set for 2 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
|Kentucky at Louisville
Saturday, Dec. 27 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UL
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via WatchESPN
Cat Scratches: Cats eager to play, but U of L showdown won't define season
Basketball, even more than usual, has consumed the Bluegrass State this week.
As families and friends gathered for Christmas, the rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville dominated conversation. Talk of the matchup between the Wildcats and Cardinals - both unbeaten and ranked in the top five - has been everywhere all week.
Well, except maybe the Joe Craft Center.
"I'm not making this bigger than it is, because it's not our season," John Calipari said on the eve of the annual UK-U of L showdown.
That's not just idle talk either.
Rather than spending every waking moment preparing for the matchup between No. 1 Kentucky (12-0) and No. 4 Louisville (11-0), Coach Cal actually dismissed his team for a few days following the Cats' dismantling of UCLA last weekend in Chicago.
"We took a Christmas break, we got our minds off basketball, we came back, we started working," Calipari said. "We didn't have two weeks to work on what we're doing."
Instead, UK reconvened on Christmas Eve ahead of Saturday's 2 p.m. ET game at Louisville's KFC Yum! Center. The group that returned, if you ask the Cats, was a refreshed one. ... Read the full story
This Week's News:
- For the second time this season, UK played a game away from Rupp Arena and dominated the opponent from start to finish en route to an 83-44 victory over UCLA in the inaugural CBS Sports Classic in Chicago.
- Aaron Harrison drained a 3-pointer 14 seconds into the game to begin a 24-0 start for the Wildcats.
- With the 39-point victory, these Wildcats are now the first UK team in school history to begin the season with 12 straight wins by double digits.
- The 39-point win tops UK's all-time biggest win over the Bruins in the series' history, besting the 31-point win on Dec. 26, 1951 (84-53).
- Kentucky surrendered just seven points in the first half, the fewest points the Wildcats have given up in a half since Dec. 20, 1983, when the Cats gave up just four points in the second half and seven in the first half in a 24-11 victory over Cincinnati.
- It was the fewest points ever scored by UCLA in a half.
- The seven points also marked the ninth time in 24 halves this season that UK has held the opponent to less than 20 points.
- The Cats held UCLA to 3 for 37 from the floor (8.1 percent) and just .200 points per possession.
- It marked the lowest percentage output of the season for any opponent in a half.
- Freshman Devin Booker led all scorers with 19 points which included five 3-pointers.
- UK knocked down a season-high 12 3-pointers, marking the most field goals from long range since hitting 15 in a win over Georgia on March 1, 2012.
Aaron Harrison added 15 points, while Andrew Harrison dished out eight assists.
- The Wildcats assisted on 25 of 32 made field goals in the game. It's the fifth most assists in a single game under John Calipari and a season-high.
- UK blocked a season-high 13 shots and combined for 21 steals and blocks, more than UCLA's total made field goals (18).
- The Cats have held 10 of 12 opponents to 55 points or fewer and all but two have totaled season-low scoring outputs.
- UCLA connected on just 26.8 percent from the field, marking the seventh opponent in 12 games that was held to below 30 percent from the floor.
- Devin Booker was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday after scoring a game-high 19 points in Kentucky's 83-44 win over UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago.
- Booker made 7 of 10 shots overall, including 5 for 6 from behind the 3-point line.
- The five 3-pointers were the most by a Wildcat this season and matched Booker's career high.
- The Grand Rapids, Mich., native is averaging 10.0 points on the season, most of any UK freshman. He's also hit a team-best 22 3-pointers and is knocking down his outside shots at a 45.8-percent clip.
- Booker is the third different Wildcat this season to win SEC Freshman of the Week honors, and the fourth such honor for the Cats.
Media Opportunity - December 26, 2014
Head Coach John Calipari
On what the team worked on since returning from a break after the UCLA game ...
"The physicality of the play, you have to be prepared for. To play through bumps and all those kinds of things. To rebound in traffic with bodies on you, nudging you, to be strong with the ball, get open even if there are bodies on you, you've got to get open anyway. All those things. It's like any team we play. Teams are going to come after us. They're going to be physical. Teams don't surrender. They're going to do what they have to do. It's no different. This is an outstanding team. For me it's one of those games you know you'd better be prepared walking in. Rick (Pitino) is going to have his team ready no question and you've got to have your team ready."
On preparing players for their first trip to the KFC Yum! Center ...
"I'm more worried about my team. And I keep saying this is a great game for us. It's the next game for us, but it's a great game because of how they play, how they're coached, that they've got terrific talent. Don't ever take that away from those kids. They are talented. And so we're walking into that kind of environment, we need it. We need somebody to punch us in the face. Now let's see if we can still have fun. We enjoy this. If we're a world-class team you enjoy this even when they're coming after you, you enjoy it. And so it's going to be a tough game for us. We know that. Like I said for me, I hope I just made this the next game for my team. They'll probably tell you otherwise, but I just try to focus on the next game and do the same kind of preparation even though I know you've got to be on your toes as a coach as well as a team."
On Louisville being similar to Texas in physicality ...
"It's very similar only Texas doesn't do it in the full-court. They're not going to pick you up. You're not going to have body to body in the back court. You will in this game."
On E.J. Floreal and Dominique Hawkins helping to simulate opponents' physicality in practice ...
"They do - two good strong athletes who get up on you and body you. But it's not just that. Look, they will offensive rebound with any team in the country. They'll shoot balls that just go. Defensively it's obvious, they're as good as anybody in the country. They're as good as we are defensively. And we're walking into their court. We haven't played a road game. We're up against it. Chips are going on the other side. How you do? Let's see what we are. Let's see what we're about. I keep telling them I'm anxious just to see how you respond."
On having experience in the starting lineup compared with last season ...
"Not really, we're still growing as a team. The good news is if one group is not (playing well), then you try another group. It's a little different than just hanging on like, `Oh my gosh what are we going to do?' It's like okay if you don't have it you guys go."
On if there was a specific moment in any of his games against Louisville that sticks out ...
"Not really. Look, it's the next game for us. We're not even in the same league. Now, if we win, then it will be a huge game. We try to make this the next game on the schedule. I'm not making this bigger than it is because it's not our season. We took a Christmas break, got our minds off basketball, came back, and started working. We didn't have two weeks to work on what we're doing and this, `Let's go. Let's play the game. Let's see where we are.' It's winning or learning at this stage. There's no winning and losing. Winning and learning. I know our fans will be happy to hear me say that, but that's how I think. They should probably start, at this point in going on in my sixth year, to know that I think different."
On facing the possible comments of going undefeated if they beat Louisville ...
"When you have two groups, it's just different. When you're trying to play against yourselves, you don't worry about anybody else. We know how good teams are. We're not the only good basketball team out there and sometimes you forget. We're not the only team with good players. There are a bunch of other teams, including Louisville, who have terrific players. Let's focus on us. That's how I've always coached. I don't know if you (the media) asked (our players) how much time we have watched video of Louisville to this point. I showed a little bit of (it to) Dakari (Johnson) today - this morning. I'm worried about us. We know how good they are and we know they're going to come after us. It should be a terrific ball game."
On being 6-1 against Rick Pitino while at UK ...
"I don't think he's worried about it. All he wants to do is win this one. I think we're all the same. I don't go against a coach and say, `How many times has he beaten me?' I've been beaten plenty of times and have had some shellackings in there where you have to walk off the court and really not watch the tape. I've done that many times in my career. I don't think he's worried about it and I'm certainly not worried about it."
On if he's had any rival coaches who have a great record against him that have frustrated him ...
"No. I've been doing this 20-some years. Doing it what - 750 times, not including the NBA? I've coached 800 games. No. I can't remember. I can't remember my player's names. I call them by number, let alone a game ten years ago."
On appreciating rivalries and tradition ...
"Maybe look back at UMass and Temple. That thing was crazy. The teams I've coached, every game is someone's Super Bowl. When we were at UMass, I told the story. I remember watching Maryland and somebody and their students said, `We want UMass.' I turned the TV up. What? Maryland wants UMass? I called my staff and said, `Are you watching this?' The same thing happened at Memphis. They're chanting at the end of games, `We want Memphis.' They're waiting for us and the same goes for here. They're all rivalry games to me. It's another game. We try not to take any team lightly. Columbia. You're down 11-0 like that. It could've been 15-0. You have to take each game as they come."
On if there are any other areas he's looking for improvement ...
"Well, part of our execution offensively - hard cuts, getting him (the point guards) the ball early, sprinting the floor so we can get some easy baskets. Last game we did, but we had worked on it a week. Defensive rebounding is our biggest issue. Guard rebounding. I mean, those are major concerns because now a team can shoot 30 percent and still beat you. Just shoot it and go rebound. That's a concern of mine. If our guards start rebounding--we should; we're big. We just don't. We don't get in there and mix it up. And we've done stuff here the last 10 days to try to cure it, but it's just going to be one of those things. We're not a team that comes out and tries to rip your arms off. That's just not how we play. So hopefully when the other team comes at us we'll be ready to battle back because we've done things in practice to play that way."
On who worries him the most on this Louisville team ...
"All of them. (Wayne) Blackshear, (Terry) Rozier. All of them. Listen, all of them are able to get 30 points. (Montrezl) Harrell, come on. Their big guys, they'll block shots, they've got great size. There's not a guy out there that I don't think like, `Well, he can't play.' They all can play. And they all can get 30. And they probably are all going to try to get 30. (It's) Just how it is in this game. Somebody can say, `Well, Columbia shoots 21 percent from the 3-point line.' Really? They made their first four 3s against us. How about that? Now they're 100 percent. And that's what happens to us. I don't care how they played before, who they played. I mean, like I said, Buffalo had us down. Boston U. could have beaten us. I don't know if they have won a game, but they had us beat with six minutes. They had a chance to win. So this stuff is--this game is a different kind of game. On their court. Hard game for us. But we're excited to find out where we are right after Christmas. Where does our team stand at this point?"
On letting the team go away for Christmas ...
"We always do. I always do it. I'm trying to think back, did I start it because of me or because I was really concerned about the players? Probably myself and my family, and then we just got into the habit of always doing it. We went to the Rainbow Classic late so our guys could spend three days before we left with their families, and the tournament out there was going nuts. We showed up the day before the game and played the next day. `You can't.' We did. We won the thing too, by the way."
On what strategic value there is in not showing his players much film ...
"We don't do it with anybody. I want them concerned (about us) right now. I'll give them what they need. When we show them the tape, we'll say, `You know those drills we were doing? You know how we were doing this, this and this? That's what you're guarding now.' Now they see it. I need them focused on us. If we're at our best and we can't win, then we move on. It's fine. I mean, this thing is not--in March it's a little different. It's not fine. You better think of something else or try something else, but right now it's like, OK, let's be at our best and see what that does."
#15, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jr., F
On what they did for Christmas ...
"Practiced and we had a Christmas for some families at the Lodge, which was really cool. We all put on Santa hats and I got to dress up as Santa. It was cool to help out in the community. It was a good deal."
On if he got to go home and enjoy Christmas with his family before that ...
"Sort of. We got to go home for three days. My family wasn't there, but most of the guys got to see their families. It was good to get away, step away from the game a little bit, go home and see people you haven't seen in a while, and do stuff in your own community. Then come back here and go back to work on the grind and still have a chance to do some stuff in the community. It's off and on, kind of like taking stuff off of us. Doing stuff in the community is really good for us because we can do so much stuff. Just having the name on our jersey is real powerful."
On what he remembers about playing at Louisville ...
"It's loud. It's a really fun environment because they hate us. It's fun to play in those conditions."
On if he feeds on that ...
"It just makes the game that much more passionate. It's not dull. It's not quiet. It's going to be loud the whole time. The energy level is going to be up, your adrenaline is going to be pumping from the gate. Those games are the best to play in."
On how he has played against other players this year who are projected to play in the NBA someday ...
"I don't really look at it like that. I'm kind of battling against myself. That's the way I've gone into every game. It doesn't matter who it is. I just go into it with a clear mind and don't look at the big picture like that. I look at the small things and do the little, small things that I do while I play. Everything else kind of takes care of itself."
On what things he does to play against himself ...
"Moving around. Being a rover. Sprinting the floor every time. Making sure I check out every time. Little stuff like that that could lose you a game or win you the game."
On if he was able to see Aaron Harrison hit the shot vs. Louisville in the tournament while in the locker room ...
"I don't really remember. I was in the locker room watching for the most part."
On Louisville fans hating Kentucky ...
"They hate us."
On if he's surprised how much the fans hate Kentucky ...
"I guess that's just how rivalries are. It goes both ways. Our fans hate them. It's just part of the game."
On the freshmen playing in a difficult environment like the KFC Yum! Center ...
"Oh yeah, I mean it's our first true road game, and it's going to be in full effect. This is going to be the craziest first road game for even us. I can only imagine what it'll be like for the freshmen. Right when you walk in the gym, dudes are going to be yelling at you, cussing at you. You just have to smile like, `This is it. This is game time. This will be fun.' "
On if he can remember things directed at him or at his coaches or teammates ...
"I don't know. There's so much stuff said. It's all really funny. One time at Arkansas they got ahold of my number somehow. They were texting me and stuff. Then at the game they were like, `I'm the person you were texting.' I'm like, `Oh, makes sense now. Oh my gosh. He's for real. That's him.' "
On how crucial it is to the team that a number of players have experienced a road game so far ...
"Half of our team hasn't experienced it, and those guys get a lot of minutes so it'll be different."
On how this game is different from the usual road games ...
"Well, we're playing a top five team in the country. They're really good and they're going to come out real physical. The way they play is unorthodox to what everybody else plays. It's just going to be a different scene, for one, and a different style of play."
#5, Andrew Harrison, Soph., G
On what they take from the two games last season against Louisville ...
"That we know it's going to be a tough game again. Coach (Calipari) is really putting the emphasis on just fighting. Not literally fighting, but just being tough, boxing out, stuff like that."
On whether he expects this game to be different ...
"I'm sure it'll be a little different. There will be a little red in there, I think, and it'll be a tough environment. There will be a lot of noise, not too many of our fans in there so we gotta come to play."
On whether they look forward to the challenge ...
"Oh yeah, we look forward to it. It's going to be fun. We played them at our house last year and this year we gotta go down there. It'll be a great experience for some of my teammates."
On whether the break helped ...
"Oh yeah, it helped us a lot. Just to be able to focus on our families and stuff like that, not worry about basketball or about stuff that goes on here. It's being able to get together with your family and have a nice time."
On what difference Willie Cauley-Stein will make after missing most of the Sweet 16 game ...
"Willie's playing great this season, the best big man in the country. So you see what he can do on both sides of the ball, defensively and offensively. So it'll be great to have him and he'll definitely have his effect on the game."
On what this game means ...
"People make it a lot bigger than it is knowing that it's just a game in the middle of the season. But at the same time, they're a great team and we want to win every game we play. We're going to have to fight."
On enjoying big-game atmospheres ...
"The whole building's probably going to be against us besides our families and stuff like that so it'll be a great test for us. We know we're not going to run away with it or blow them out or anything like that so it'll be a hard-fought game."
On what Cal is like this week ...
"We're just doing it as the same, usual practice schedule. Make it a little rougher, but that's pretty much it."
On preparing for UL's physicality ...
"We just have to be ready, prepare your body and it's really a lot of mental things. Don't look for the referee to bail you out. You have to be strong with the ball and box out and stuff like that."
On how to figure out how to adjust to officiating in a physical game ...
"Really you just have to play. Don't lose your head, don't make any obvious fouls, nothing like that. Just use your body, protect the ball and play as hard as you can. That's all you can do."
On whether he expects this to be a more physical game ...
"Definitely. We know they're not going to go away early. We know we're going to have to fight as hard as we can for the full 40 minutes to stay close in their building."
On what the atmosphere is like ...
"That makes it fun. That makes it worth your while. A lot of the young kids haven't really been in an environment like this or been in a very close game like we're going to be in on Saturday. It's a great test for us and we want to see where we're at."
On why he thinks the game will be close ...
"Because they're a great team. They're the most physical team we've played so far and it's going to be tough. It's going to be tough."
On how much he hears from Louisville fans on social media ...
"I really don't pay attention to that. Usually on game weeks and stuff like that I just take it off my phone. I don't really pay attention to it. It doesn't really matter."
On how long it takes to appreciate the rivalry for players from outside the state ...
"I still don't understand why it's so hated because I'm from Texas and A&M and the University of Texas, they're rivals, but it's not like this. People genuinely hate each other, so it's crazy. But it makes the game even more fun."
On what he remembers about their style of play from last season ...
"They play fast. They play physical. The first time we played them at our house, we made some shots and stuff like that. The second time, we just kept fighting back. We trailed for a long part of the game and just kept fighting back."
On whether their depth will be a factor because of UL's style ...
"Yeah, probably. Because at guard, all our guards can handle the ball and stuff real well, so we have to just stay strong with the pressure and have confidence going against it."
#00, Marcus Lee, Soph., F
On the atmosphere of UK-UL ...
"I mean, just because it's a big rivalry between Kentucky it's always a real big game between both teams and both cities. So you always have to be ready for it."
On whether he has seen UL play ...
"I haven't seen much of them playing because we're just out here on our own thing and being together."
On whether the rivalry matters as much in Lexington as in Louisville ...
"I hope so. Just both teams, they're two really competitive teams so I kind of feel that everybody's kind of feeling the same way."
On how physical he expects the game to be ...
"I think it's going to be a real physical game. That's just the way we've been turning out to be. As you've seen, we've become more physical and I think that's just the way the game's going to turn."
On rebounding ...
"I know that's something we've been working on individually as bigs and as guards just to rebound. So we'll see how that turns out."
On how much the break has helped ...
"I think it helped a lot, especially because we were able to go home and have fun with it, relax with our families and show how much we love and respect them and what they've done for us."