UK has not forgotten last season’s losses to Arkansas

Kentucky has not forgotten its two losses to Arkansas last season.
When asked if those losses might fuel Kentucky on Saturday, Associate Coach Kenny Payne said, “I think our guys will have fire, to answer your question.”
Guard Devin Booker said much the same thing.
“I think they remember it, most definitely,” Booker said of UK veterans.
Of course, Arkansas will remember it, too. The Hogs 71-67 overtime victory in Rupp Arena on Feb. 27 of last season was the last time Kentucky lost a home game (and one of only four home losses in John Calipari’s six seasons as coach).
“They will not be in awe,” Payne said of the Hogs. “They will not be intimidated.”

UK welcomes Arkansas’ pressing-trapping style

Kentucky expects Arkansas to play its usual pressing/trapping style in Saturday’s big game.
“Their style is making you play basketball,” Associate Coach Kenny Payne said Friday. That’s as opposed to running set plays and whatever opponents try to perfect in practice.
To which UK guard Devin Booker said, OK.
“I feel we have good enough players to play basketball,” he said.
Reporters laughed, perhaps thinking that Kentucky has eight healthy McDonald’s All-Americans, plus National Player of the Year candidate Willie Cauley-Stein at its disposal.
Booker suggested that Kentucky is equipped to play slow, fast or any style an opponent tries to dictate. Most UK opponents have tried to slow the pace, milk the clock and keep it a half-court game.
“I feel we can adapt to each and every one” of the styles, Booker said.
Ideally, opponents want to attack the basket when they beat the initial Arkansas pressure.
“They will force you to attack,” Payne said.
No. 18 Arkansas is UK’s first ranked opponent in two months. Or since then No. 4 Louisville on Dec. 27.
Booker shrugged, noting that Kentucky concentrates on competing against its own internal standard of quality play.

Arkansas: Plenty of respect, but no fear, no surrender

No fear. No unconditional surrender.
That’s how Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson answered a question about the widespread presumption that No. 1 Kentucky will coninue its undefeated season Saturday against the Razorbacks.
“If you ask many people their opinion, the game is already over with,” Anderson said at a Thursday news conference.
“But I know our guys and I know our staff. I know the makeup of our basketball team. The game is played on the floor five guys at a time. If you line it up, as I said, man for man, there’s no way possible you would say we would win this game from a talent standpoint. But the beauty about basketball is you play five guys at the same time. And the best team wins. Normally the best team wins. So there are a lot of things we have got to do well to get a win.”
Anderson listed a number of keys for Arkansas, which is second to Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference race.
“No. 1 we have got to defend,” he said “We have got to shoot the ball. . . . We can’t afford to turn the ball over. We have got to rebound the basketball. We have got to be in position not to let them annihilate us on the glass.”
Texas A&M out-rebounded Arkansas 44-23 on Tuesday.
“We’re going to continue to trust our depth,” Anderson said. “They have just as much depth as we do. So it’s why I feel it should be a great game.”
With a victory, Kentucky (28-0) can close to within one of the SEC record for consecutive victories in a single season (Florida won 30 straight last season). The league record for consecutive victories over more than one season is 32: by Kentucky in 1953-54 and 1954-55.
“We respect our opponent, but we don’t fear anyone,” Anderson said. “So our guys are going in with a lot of confidence. We’re playing well.”

Cal: No one better when Andrew attacks with a capital A

John Calipari said Monday that no player in college basketball is better than Andrew Harrison. But the Kentucky coach added a qualifier.
“When Andrew plays where he’s attacking the lane — get in the lane! — he is a totally different player,” Calipari said on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference.
Calipari defined attack mode as being alert, being mindful of the next move before the ball arrives, playing with speed and pace all the time, throwing the ball ahead in transition and being ready for a return pass.
“When he does, and that’s who he is, he’s as good as any guard in the country,” Calipari said.
Harrison, the frequent topic of conversation among UK followers, agreed.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I feel I’m the best player on the court when I’m doing that. So it’s fun.”
Harrison has been on a roll lately. Arguably his best stretch of his two-year UK career included a nine-assist game against Auburn on Saturday.
“That’s how I’m supposed to be playing,” Harrison said. “That’s how I should have been playing all year. I just struggled a ltitle bit right there in the middle.”
Harrison spoke of the inevitability of what he called a “slump” and said the important thing was how a player responds to a dip in production.
“It show what kind of person, what kind of man you are to persevere and get through it,” he said.

Keeping it a hundred after UK’s victory over Auburn

Here’s some perspective on Kentucky hitting the century mark in a 110-75 victory over Auburn Saturday night.
It was:
— UK’s first game this season scoring 100 points. The previous high was 92 points against UT Arlington.
— UK’s first game scoring 100 points since a 105-76 victory against – yes – UT Arlington on Nov. 19, 2013.
— UK’s first game scoring 100 points against a Southeastern Conference team since a 101-70 victory over Arkansas on Jan. 23, 2010.
— The most points scored by UK since a 115-87 victory over Tennessee State on Dec. 30, 2002.
— The most points scored by UK against an SEC team since a 120-81 victory at Vanderbilt on Feb. 7, 1996.

Pearl cites a danger for UK in NCAA: the referees

Auburn saluted Kentucky’s physical play Saturday night.
“We got pushed around from every position,” Antoine Mason said. “And it just took a toll.”
Mason scored a season-high 29 points.
Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl mentioned the physical play as a key in Kentucky’s chances for an undefeated record and national championship. A tightly called NCAA Tournament game would be a problem for UK, he said.
“I would just hate if they (the referees) started calling it really different in the tournament,” Pearl said. “(The Cats) are very physical when they post up … and none of those were fouls tonight.”
When asked whether Kentucky could post a 40-0 won-loss record, Pearl said, “If that stays the way it will be, I think they certainly can.”

Karl and ‘Karlito’ meet the media

After Kentucky beat Auburn 110-75 on Saturday, Karl-Anthony Towns said he was being asked about “Karlito,” the imaginary man who sits on his shoulder and serves as a sounding board.
UK and Towns divulged the presence of “Karlito” on Friday.
“I’m getting a lot of Karlito questions,” he said. “If you want to talk to him, talk to him.”
Towns described Karlito as a fun thing for the players and coaches.
“Now, I guess the secret is out,” he said. “I can’t hide him anymore.”
Towns likened Karlito to “Little Penny,” the alter ego of former NBA player Penny Hardaway in television commercials in the mid-1990s.
When asked whether Karlito was generally critical or supportive, Towns said, “Biggest critic I got. Absolute biggest critic I got. He yells at me for everything.”
When asked who offered more, uh, constructive criticism, Karlito or Cal-lito (UK Coach John Calipari), Towns said, “Karlito, probably.”

After UK depth buries Auburn, Pearl talks of practice envy

Kentucky dominated Auburn every which way Saturday night. But one avalanche of a statistical advantage caught the eye: UK’s bench outscored Auburn’s 43-10.
“I can’t imagine what their practices are like,” Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl said. “I just can’t.”
All of UK’s big men contributed to a season-high 62 points in the paint.
“It’s hard for me in practice to get our guys to get better sometimes,” Pearl said. “Our roster is pretty thin, and we can’t live without two or three guys, for sure.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky has not one, not two, not three, not four, but five players 6-foot-9 or taller to throw at an opponent, or, better still, compete against each other in practice.
Marcus Lee (six points, eight rebounds) cited the competitive in practice as a reason for improved play.
“You just have to come watch practices,” he said. “It’s either us going against each other (and) ending up fighting each other or (pause) there’s really no ‘or.’ We always end up fighting each other.
“I think that’s honestly how we get better. … Cal (UK Coach John Calipari) has to stop (practice) because he thinks we’re getting too rough.”
When a reporter questioned whether Lee meant to say the players literally fought in practice, he said, “I mean (that) pretty literally. It gets pretty close (to fighting). We’ve had a couple fights. That’s how our team is.
“Once we step off the court, we’re still best friends. That’s how it works.”

Players cite rest for spirited performance, but didn’t Cal say . . .

Marcus Lee credited the added rest for Kentucky’s spirited performance in a 110-75 victory over Auburn on Saturday night.
“I think the deal was we’ve been on snow day for the past week,” Lee said. “And we’ve been bored, and couldn’t leave our room. So there’s some built-up energy. Like we had to get all our energy out. And we showed that.”
Kentucky outrebounded Auburn 44-22 (third-biggest margin of the season) and equaled a season high of 25 assists.
Defensively, UK limited Auburn to one basket — on a goaltending call — in the game’s first 11 minutes.
Because of nearly a foot of snow Monday, UK called off classes four of five days last week. Thus the built-up energy.
But didn’t UK Coach John Calipari fret earlier last week about the Cats sitting around a hotel in icy Knoxville? Such a scenario would cause the Cats to “sleep-walk” in the Tuesday game at Tennessee, he said.
“He always says that,” Lee said. “I don’t know what it is about him not liking rest. Me personally and us as a team, we actually love sleep.
“But he loves stopping the sleep process. I don’t know why. But that’s how it works.”
When asked who was right about extra rest, the players or Calipari, Dakari Johnson said, “Well, I think the players are right.”
After a diplomatic nod that Calipari knows best, Johnson added, “We could sleep a little bit. It’s really refreshing.”
Normally, UK players wake up about 7:30 a.m., Johnson said. The canceled classes because of snow meant the players didn’t have to wake up until 10 a.m.

Cal cites the way to beat UK: Out-hustle UK

After Kentucky beat Tennessee Tuesday night, John Calipari (facetiously?) said he’d been watching all the analysts on various TV shows talk about how to beat Kentucky.
The UK coach jokingly said he was looking for the ways to beat the Cats so he could thwart those plans.
“Most of the stuff is not working,” Calipari said.
Then Calipari mentioned what could work: out-hustling the Cats.
“That’s why I keep saying we’ve got to come out and play,” he said. “If you’re not attacking, I’m taking you out. You can say I’m messing with you. I don’t care what you say. But you’re not going to play.
“Because that’s the way they’re going to get us.”
Calipari was responding to a reporter’s question about Tennessee’s two-for-17 three-point shooting, and how perimeter shooting is the way to beat Kentucky.
“I don’t care about these threes,” Calipari said. “They’ve just got to say, ‘We’ve got to be the aggressor. We’re going to attack them. … I don’t ‘think it’s post, pick-and-roll defense, transition, shoot threes.”