Wildcats Hit Road to Baton Rouge
Feb. 5, 2010
Wildcats Hit Road to Baton Rouge
Riding a modest two-game winning streak, the fourth-ranked Wildcats travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers.
Kentucky enters the game off an 85-75 win over No. 25 Ole Miss on Tuesday in a game that saw DeMarcus Cousins record his fifth straight double-double, the longest such streak since Jim Andrews’ six game streak in the 1973 season. Cousins tallied 18 points and 13 rebounds to go along with four blocks for his 13th double-double of the season.
Preview from the Associated Press
John Wall is "having fun" again, and he might have even more at the expense of LSU.
The top team in the SEC faces the conference's worst as Wall leads fourth-ranked Kentucky against the Tigers on Saturday.
Wall, though, turned in a season-worst 4-of-12 shooting performance and tied a season high with seven turnovers. In the aftermath, he said he "wasn't having any fun" and that he was "frustrated" while also claiming he tries to ignore criticism from coach John Calipari.
The freshman guard backpedaled from his comments following a meeting with Calipari, who used the episode as "a teaching point." Calipari explained to Wall that he's not the first phenom to struggle, citing Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans - each of whom played one season for him at Memphis before leaving for the NBA.
Maybe the pep talk helped because Wall played better Tuesday as he made 6 of 10 shots, including all three from beyond the arc, and scored 17 points while handing out seven assists in an 85-75 win over 25th-ranked Mississippi.
"It felt great to have the fun back," said Wall, who left the court to a standing ovation from the home crowd. "I like to make plays, get the crowd into it. I still have a lot of work to do. I just want to be the floor general. This is the best I've done running the team this year. It feels good and hopefully all the other stuff will go away. But I am back to having fun and winning games."
Wall leads the Wildcats with an average of 16.9 points and his 6.8 assists per game lead the conference.
His team shares the SEC's best record with Vanderbilt but already has defeated the Commodores and has a better overall record. LSU (9-13, 0-8) has the league's worst overall record and is the only SEC team without a conference win.
The Tigers are trying to avoid their first nine-game losing streak since Jan. 27-Feb. 24, 2001.
They won both meetings last season, but Kentucky didn't have Wall or fellow freshman DeMarcus Cousins, who posted a fifth consecutive double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday.
The 6-foot-11 forward is averaging 19.6 points and 12.0 boards over the last five games, and he's second in the conference with 9.8 rebounds per game.
Cousins was a big reason the Wildcats had a 44-30 scoring advantage in the paint against Mississippi. He's taller than any LSU player and will likely find himself matched up with 6-7 Tasmin Mitchell, the team leader with 17.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Mitchell had 17 rebounds Thursday, but was held to 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting and missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in a 59-54 loss to Tennessee.
"We just kept fighting and fighting," coach Trent Johnson said. "We just couldn't get over the hump and give ourselves a margin of error so to speak. I'm pleased with the effort, but 0-8 is 0-8 and 9-13 is 9-13."
Bo Spencer scored 25 points in the latest loss, increasing his average to 15.0 per game. The junior scored 16 in a 67-58 win over Kentucky in the second round of last year's SEC tournament.
Mitchell is averaging 16.0 points and 6.3 boards in four meetings with the Wildcats.
Kentucky Pregame Quotes
Head Coach John Calipari
"You saw last night with Tennessee, it was a two-point game with a minute to go. It was like our South Carolina game. When you give a team like that a chance to win on their home court, they'll be nuts. Now, they didn't have the crowd against Tennessee that they'll have against us. They aren't going to have 5,000 in that building, so it will be a different environment and team that we'll play. Again, I understand they haven't won a game, but watch their tapes; they had chances to win three or four games, including last night.
"We are going to show a little bit of the tape from last night, just so they get a chance to see, because sometimes (the players) don't believe you. You want to show them what the score was and what happened down the stretch, where they could have easily won. You take one bad shot with a minute to go and you get beat, which is what happened."
On Tasmin Mitchell...
"He's tough for everybody. He is one of the best players in the league and he commands double teams, which leaves people open. He's got size if you are trying to put a 6-foot-5 guy on him, and he's got skills if you're trying to put a 6-foot-9 guy on him. It's a tough match for everybody, which is why he is scoring and rebounding like he is."
On the play of Patrick Patterson...
"The best players that I have coached don't blame anybody. They go in and try to work harder, do more, spend more time in the gym, play harder, and be simpler. (They say) `I'm not going to go nuts. I'm going to make simpler plays because I'm struggling.' That's what Patrick is doing. Another General Manager from the NBA grabbed me. He said, `We love him. We know his numbers aren't the same, but we didn't know he could do all the things he can do. He is still that lunch-pail guy, but all of the sudden he can go out, make a three, and he can guard a two, three, and four.' His stock is rising through the roof and we all know he isn't playing as well as he can play. If he chooses to come back and go another year, it means we are going to win a whole lot more games. The same with John (Wall) and DeMarcus (Cousins)."
On losing big leads...
"We don't value that ball the way we should, and that is because they are young and fighting it. They are still learning. Normally my teams about this week or next week start getting it. But, I have never in my life coached a team this young. We are now starting four first-year players. The first guy off the bench is a first-year player. Five out of our top six are first-year players. It may be until March and it may be until next December.
"Right now, there are times we aren't playing as hard as we can. Maybe you should be subbed. Maybe you aren't in the right frame of mind. There are plays we are making that are absolutely the hardest play we can make. The guy is right ahead, all we have to do is throw. Why are we doing that? Is it show time? Do you get it? We have to value the ball more. You know what we're asking you to do, why are you choosing not to do it? Obviously, if I'm mad at a guy and I get on him on the bench, I probably asked him 20 times to do something and he chooses not to do it. Then I go nuts."
On Darius Miller...
"I thought he played fine. It was nice, he hit that three which was a big shot. Again, that aggressiveness of getting to every ball, not watching. Go after the ball, mix it up, be in the mix of things, not standing there and looking. You show them, they see it and now they have to fight for positions, time and minutes. That is what they have to do."
#1, Darius Miller, So., G
On the game and if they expect anything other than LSU's best effort ...
"We are expecting their best game. That is how we look at it, like they are going to play their best against us. We feel that we are going to have a tough game every time that we step out onto the floor. We are going to have to be focused and ready to play with a lot of intensity."
On what beating Kentucky will mean to LSU ...
"It would probably turn around their season. I am pretty sure that they are trying to win the game just as much as anybody else. We are going to have to be prepared."
On Tasmin Mitchell ...
"He is really good. I think we had a lot of problems with him last year. He played really good against us. We are expecting him to come out and have a really good game. We have to come out and know what he is capable of doing and be ready to step up and play good defense."
#5, Ramon Harris, Sr., G/F
On the game against LSU ...
"It's going to be a good game. They had a tough loss to Tennessee and I anticipate the atmosphere being intense. I am sure a crowd is going to show up. That's one thing about Kentucky, there is always a crowd of blue wherever we go. I am surprised on how much they are struggling lately, but they do have a good team. There are guys on the team that can play ball. They have a high intensity at this level. They have had some tough losses."
On needing to play a full 40-minute game...
"I think we are doing a lot of things right. We are not making turnovers. We are forcing teams to turn it over and scoring off that. But when we start to get a lead we start making more turnovers and they start making their shots. It's a combination of us and them."
On your reaction to South Carolina's student body challenging UK ...
"They beat the number one team in the country so it doesn't surprise me. They still have to come here. I think we can use it to get pumped up for them. It will be a good game when we play them again. We can worry about that when that game comes."
#21, Perry Stevenson, Sr., F
On going back to Louisiana ...
"It feels good. I live so close to Baton Rouge and I will have a lot of people there. It feels good to go home with such a good team. I have a pretty good feeling going in there."
On how many family members he will have at the game and what they ask him about Kentucky ...
"I will have 15 family members there: my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers and my mom. They just ask if I like it and that is all they care about. They just want to make sure that I am having fun."
On LSU and if they can beat UK ...
"They can beat us. They have good players and I am not for sure what is going on, (with them losing) but unfortunately they will be clicking on all cylinders when we go down there on Saturday. That is just how it goes."
LSU Pregame Quotes
Head Coach Trent Johnson
Opening statement ...
"Kentucky is very impressive. For me, when you look at the nucleus of guys with the exception of Jodie Meeks that we beat last year in Lexington, those guys are all role players. DeMarcus Cousins is really impressive, and if you saw him in the summer compared to where he is now, you'd say, `Oh my goodness.' From a standpoint of length, athleticism, skill and being both mentally and physically tough, they are a tough group. Last night was hard for all of us. Obviously,(Tennessee) was a game that we were in a good position. As much as we were behind and kept fighting to get back into the position to where we could win, I thought we had some opportunity. It's hard when you don't knock down open shots. I think that was our Achilles heel last night. We have a quick turnaround, and I haven't even seen any of the guys today, but I suspect they are down because they competed hard against a very good team. I have to do a good job of getting them back on board. We are going to have a light workout today, and probably walk through a lot of stuff. There's nothing else you can do to get ready for this team because you can't simulate their length and quickness. It's a mental thing in terms of understanding they are going to put a lot of pressure on you. I don't think they are a team that will double team Tasmin. I think they'll probably run a guy at him instead. We have to handle the pressure and go from there."
#1, Tasmin Mitchell, Sr., F
On a quick turn around after the Tennessee loss ...
"It's not exhausting, but what's been exhausting all year is losing. Less than a 48-hour swing is not going to affect us. I think we are going to play with our heart and mind no matter how short the time is. We did that not too long ago when we played four games in less than seven days. It really doesn't matter."
On playing Kentucky ...
"They are a great team. We respect them, and they are well coached. They are a good team, but they are beatable. South Carolina showed that against them. They are a great team, and they've got everything they need. They have all the pieces to the puzzle."