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Huggins scoffs at notion UK motivated by WVU’s chatter

West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins scoffed at the notion that Kentucky players were motivated by his team’s pre-game talk.
“Honestly, I think that’s a bunch of BS,” he said. “I think once you throw the ball up, you play. It was a freshman who said it, and I’m kind of happy he had some confidence.”
Daxter Miles, Jr., said West Virginia would beat Kentucky.
“I’m kind of happy he wasn’t hiding under a chair somewhere, you know,” Huggins said. “There’s nothing wrong with having some confidence and wanting to go out and compete.
“They just were way better than we were.”

All goes right in UK’s big night

Andrew Harrison punctuated Kentucky’s 78-39 victory over West Virginia Thursday with a memorable play. He freed himself with a behind-the-back dribble, then threw a reverse layup high off the glass. It banked in.
“Shows you what kind of night we were having,” Tyler Ulis.
The Cats’ big night included a role reversal that would have might have caused seismic cheers. Trey Lyles threw a lob that Ulis could not dunk.
Ulis said he was surprised by Lyles’ lob. “They should have told me,” Ulis said.
When asked if he could dunk, Ulis smiled and said, “Yes, I can dunk.
“I’m going to post it on the Internet someday.”

Cats: WVU talk ‘dumb,’ ‘ridiculous,’ ‘nonsense’

Maybe, West Virginia’s pre-game boasting can inspire a nickname for this Kentucky team: the incredulous Cats.
After beating West Virginia in belittling fashion Thursday night, UK players scoffed at the Mountaineers’ chatter.
“Teams are better off not saying anything and catching us off guard,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “Instead of talking (trash) and now we’re ready to play. We were ready to play last night.”
Of West Virginia’s chatter, Tyler Ulis said, “We felt like that was nonsense. So we came out and killed them.”
Aaron Harrison was dumbfounded that West Virginia players would taunt Kentucky.
“We felt that was really dumb and ridiculous,” he said. “. . . I don’t know why they would do that, at all. I guess they woke us up.”
When asked if the West Virginia talk motivated the Cats, Harrison said, “We were super motivated.”

Aaron Harrison: A ‘different’ UK team will play Saturday

After Kentucky beat Hampton 79-56 on Thursday, Aaron Harrison said the Cats could — and would — play better Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed,” he said. “I expected a lot more out of us. And I expected a lot more out of myself — I should have played better as well. I think everyone will see a different team on Saturday, definitely.”
When asked what would be different when Kentucky plays Cincinnati, Harrison said, “I think we’ll just have a lot more intensity and be ready to play and show everybody what our season’s been all about.
“We’re excited that we got that first one out of the way. And now I think we’re going to go back to playing our brand of basketball. We have something to prove.”
For only the second time this season, Harrison did not make a shot. He missed all five attempts. He missed all four of his shots in the first Georgia game. He finished with three points, but he also contributed seven rebounds and tied the team high with three assists.

Cauley-Stein laments Kentucky’s ‘lackadaisical’ start

Willie Cauley-Stein lamented Kentucky’s slow start and slow finish in a 79-56 victory over Hampton on Thursday night to begin NCAA Tournament play.
“A lot was just focus and continuing to play hard through everything,” he said. “You know we were up a lot, and it was kind of like a practice. We were kind of playing lackadaisical, tossing it around. And, myself, missing five layups is unacceptable.”
Cauley-Stein suggested that Kentucky took a victory over Hampton for granted.
“You play better when the other team has got something against you,” he said. “I don’t want to say that team is bad. But I feel like some guys probably overlooked them. From here on out, dudes aren’t going to overlook people no more. Especially if you played bad. If you didn’t play how you wanted to play — now you’re really not going to overlook nobody.”
UK Coach John Calipari didn’t let the lackadaisical play go unnoticed.
“He is going to let you know that it is unacceptable in a big-time game,” Cauley-Stein said. “All of these are big-time games. We were just fortunate enough that we were so far ahead. But in the future, we can’t miss all of those shots. Guards are going to have to make more shots, and we have to play with more energy.”
Marcus Lee provided a spark off the bench.
“Just being as aggressive and as ready to help my team as much as possible,” he said. “I suppose just trying to help my team out no matter what. …
“As you saw, we kind of picked it up as we went through the first half. Sometimes you just have to feel your way through, and you start yourself up.”

Barnhart salutes Ira Combs as UK ‘fixture’

A statement from Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart on Ira Combs, who died Thursday near the Yum Center:

“All of us at UK Athletics are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ira Combs. Ira, a fixture at UK Athletics events for decades, loved this state and its people as much as anyone. Ira’s dedication and hard work in covering high school and collegiate sports in Kentucky were obvious, but his kindness towards the people he came into contact with and worked with will be what we will remember him for the most. Our prayers and thoughts are with Ira and the Combs family.”

Reggie Miller: It would take an ‘act of God’ to beat Kentucky

In pondering a scenario that would lead to Kentucky losing in the NCAA Tournament, Reggie Miller included divine intervention among the necessary ingredients.
“You’ve got to play out of your mind,” the former UCLA and NBA star said Monday, “and hope that on that particular day — on that magical Monday — they are not at their best.”
And even that combination might not be enough, said Miller, who spoke on a teleconference sponsored by the networks televising the NCAA Tournament, Turner Sports and CBS.
“And still then, it’s going to be take almost an act of God,” he said. “That’s how strongly I feel about Kentucky running the table here.
“But can it be done in a one-and-done situation? Absolutely. But you can have the field. I’m taking Kentucky.”
Kentucky takes a 34-0 record into its NCAA Tournament opener Thursday night against the winner of a First Four game between Manhattan and Hampton.
Questions about a theoretical Kentucky loss led analysts for Turner Sports and CBS to note some of the NCAA Tournament’s most famous upsets: Villanova over Georgetown in 1985 and North Carolina State over Houston in 1983.
Miller turned to professional golf to find a suitable analogy.
“Very much the same way when Tiger (Woods) was winning majors,” he said. “Tiger or the field. If you took Tiger, most of the time, you would be right.
“In this case, I’m taking Kentucky. You can have the field.”
Clark Kellogg agreed. He made Kentucky’s advancement to the Final Four seem like a fait accompli.
“This team doesn’t really have weaknesses,” he said. “I don’t see much headwind, quite honestly. . . I just don’t see any of these (teams in the region) really being able to give Kentucky much of a challenge. They’re that good.”
Dan Bonner agreed.
“Maryland has the best chance,” he said of a potential Sweet 16 game against Kentucky. “But they’d have to play a perfect game. They’d have to be Villanova against Georgetown. And I don’t see that happening.”
Villanova made 22 of 28 shots to beat Georgetown 66-64 in the 1985 championship game.

Stallings: NCAA wins won’t quiet critics of SEC basketball

A multi-year effort to raise the profile of Southeastern Conference basketball heads into the all-important NCAA Tournament this week.
But no matter the success teams might have, SEC basketball will still have a perception problem, Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said Monday.
Noting how three SEC teams reached the Sweet 16 with Kentucky and Florida in the Final Four, Stallings said, “We’re trying to have major post-season success.”
Then, he added, “I still don’t think it’s going to quiet the critics.”
As to why the SEC basketball profile isn’t higher, Stallings said, “I don’t know if it’s the monster we know as football.”
The premise being SEC football dwarfs everything else, or makes any other success somehow seem small.
“Our coaches are used to it,” Stallings said. “We don’t mind.”
As for SEC football being a hindrance, Kentucky Coach John Calipari quipped, “I think we should go to Division II in football.”
More seriously, Calipari said SEC basketball needed to use football to its benefit.
“If we’re so good at this (football),, we can be good at anything,” he said. “. . . We just need to feed off football.”

Pearl: UK will try to stifle KT Harrell

No player in the Southeastern Conference Tournament has been a more prolific scorer than Auburn guard KT Harrell. But Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl does not expect Harrell to automatically add a bunch of points against Kentucky Saturday.
“Everything we do to get KT the ball, they could care less about,” Pearl said. “Because they’re just going to switch everything out. And it doesn’t matter which monster is going to guard him. . . .
“They’re going to make somebody else beat them.”
Through three games in Nashville, Harrell has averaged 24.3 points. He’s made 16 of 32 shots (10 of 17 from three-point range). He’s also gotten to the foul line, making 31 of 39 free throws.
But Harrell has been susceptible to turnovers. In those three games, he’s gotten credit for four assists while committing 15 turnovers.

Ross-Miller recalls his brief time as a Kentucky recruit

Auburn guard KC Ross-Miller committed to Kentucky during Billy Gillispie’s two seasons as coach.
“Committed when I was in the eighth grade,” he said Friday.
He de-committed before ever getting to Kentucky.
“I was aware after a couple years that Coach Gillispie was going to be fired,” he said. Since John Calipari did not show any recruiting interest in bringing Ross-Miller to Memphis, the player decided he should look for another school.
Of committing to Kentucky as an eighth grader, he said, “I knew there were not too many schools better than Kentucky.”
Ross-Miller recalled playing in Rupp Arena on Feb. 21 as unusual.
“It was pretty weird,” he said. “But I was excited. We were all excited.”