Big Blue Links for Sunday:
– Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph on UK’s 79-54 win over Georgia:
It wasn’t until Saturday morning, a few hours before the game, that Georgia head coach Mark Fox found out he wouldn’t have Kenny Gaines, his second-leading scorer. A thigh injury was bothering him too much. So turn to backup shooting guard Juwan Parker, right? Well no, Parker was also ruled out that morning with a hamstring. So Fox tried some gamesmanship, keeping the news from No. 14 Kentucky until just before game time. But subterfuge can only go so far.
– Chip Towers of the AJC on the Georgia loss:
There was more attrition after tipoff. Donte Williams had to leave the game late in the second half after hitting his head on the floor trying to take a charge. And Brandon Morris, who led the Bulldogs in scoring with 15 points, limped off once after being kneed in the thigh but returned to finish the game. Morris led the Bulldogs with 15 points and doubled his season total with two 3-pointers. Marcus Thornton added 10 points and nine rebounds for Georgia, which falls to 10-8 on the season and 4-2 in the SEC. The Bulldogs play host to Vanderbilt Wednesday at 7 p.m.
– Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader says UK’s Willie Cauley-Stein flexed his muscle:
Confused and unsure, Cauley-Stein said he re-doubled his effort in recent practices. It was suggested that his production against Georgia — eight points, six blocks and a career-high six steals — reflected this re-commitment. “He was in a totally different frame of mind,” UK Coach John Calipari said. “And he performed. … I thought he played well. Blocks. Steals. Moved his feet. Make some baskets. Two free throws. That’s who he is for us.”
– My column on whether UK is improving or the SEC is just bad:
Or does it show you what sort of job the SEC is doing in basketball? After all, heading into Saturday, computer whiz Jeff Sagarin had Georgia ranked as the 135th-best team in the country. Tempo-free stats whiz Ken Pomeroy had Georgia ranked 118th on his dream database. And yet the Bulldogs were 4-1 in the SEC. Let’s be honest. So far, the conference looks like Florida, Kentucky and not much else. (Ole Miss might be the exception.) And the Cats and Gators don’t meet until Feb. 15 before the ESPN College GameDay cameras in Rupp.
– Kyle Tucker of the C-J says Cauley-Stein dominated defensively:
It must be the headband. University of Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein ditched the accessory and slipped into a slump. He brought it back Saturday and delivered a dominant defensive performance, helping lead the 14th-ranked Wildcats to a 79-54 win over Georgia at Rupp Arena. “Looks like I’ll start wearing it all again,” said Cauley-Stein, who actually sees no correlation but had been urged by concerned fans to bring back his cranial fashion statement. “Whatever the people want. Gotta give the people what they want.”
– Keith Taylor of the Winchester Sun says Cauley-Stein was flying around:
Cauley-Stein admitted he became “frustrated” during the process. “I felt like I was trying but when I went back and looked at it, I was like, I don’t play like that,” he said. “Some of the stuff was mistake after mistake and I’m not one to make a lot of mistakes. When I did, it was over and over. I’ve never been in that position to where I just kept on thinking about the mistakes instead of just playing.”
– David Schu of the Kernel says the Cats showed what defense can do:
The Cats have struggled mightily throughout the season with help-side defense. With the exception of sophomore forward Willie Cauley-Stein, when a teammate got beat off the dribble, rarely did adequate help come from others. They simply weren’t a cohesive defensive unit. “Most of it is mental discipline now. That’s the next level of the process,” Calipari said. “Now we have to be more like a team … that means play with energy off the ball. On the ball — that’s fine — but what about off the ball?”
– James Pennington of KyForward says Cauley-Stein changed his approach:
The slump he’s endured over the past few weeks, a three-gamer snapped in Saturday’s 79-54 win over Georgia, was equally as unexpected. Maybe even more so, considering how well he played against Vanderbilt on Jan. 11. He had 15 points (he shot 7 of 9), two rebounds and a block in that game, but he was everywhere on the court. Energy is an abstract basketball concept often mentioned, but it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is, the concrete things a player does that say he’s playing with energy. His game against Vanderbilt showed a lot of them. Stats weren’t piling up as much as enthusiasm was across the court. If he didn’t have his best game, he seemed to will, say, Andrew Harrison to having one of his best games that day.
– Brett Dawson of Cats Illustrated writes on the funk-buster:
He got suggestions for how to shake out of his funk, from changing his looks — at least one person, Cauley-Stein said, suggested he go back to the dyed-blonde hair he sported earlier this season — to changing, well, his look. Calipari told him that “smirkin’ ain’t workin’,” and asked for more focused facial expressions. Cauley-Stein even went back to the headband he’d recently abandoned, and though he laughed and shrugged off the suggestion that it helped him play better, it’s likely back for good.
– Eric Crawford of WDRB called it a mini-slump:
It’s a problem at UK more than elsewhere. Something small can become something big in a heartbeat. Prophecies self-fulfill. When UK coach John Calipari talks about chatter, that’s part of the problem. People have bad games. But the relentless nature of the UK experience picks at those scabs (excuse the imagery) until they can become something more, unless a player is tough. Georgia coach Mark Fox didn’t think much of the notion that Cauley-Stein had been slumping. “He grew up 48 miles or 50 miles from me, where I did,” Fox said. “I don’t think he’s slumping.”
– Tim Sullivan of the C-J says weakened opponent could skew grade:
So while the final score was impressive, and represented the Wildcats’ most lopsided win in more than two months, UK will find more reliable barometric readings on the road this week at LSU and Missouri. Beating Georgia as it was constituted Saturday is more of a blip than a breakthrough, more of an indication of incremental progress than a critical corner turned. There are still some long strides to be made before John Calipari’s 15-4 team can be seen as worthy of its preseason hype.
– Nick Gray of the Kernel says Kentucky moved forward:
UK’s three-game home stand is complete without a blemish on the record, and sets up the Cats for four out of the next five games away from the confines of Rupp Arena. That stretch starts Tuesday at Louisiana State University (12-5, 3-2 SEC) at Pete Maravich Center, a place where LSU has been 8-2 this season. “(Road games give us) more of a chip on our shoulder,” said freshman guard Aaron Harrison, who scored a team-high 15 points on Saturday. “Everyone is against you. It’s a feeling of us against 25,000 people.”
– Photo of Aaron Harrison by Pablo Alcala/Herald-Leader
– Tweet of the day
Sitting here thinking about yelling from the upper deck of Rupp as a little boy (when I was lucky enough to get to go) #BBN
— Jacob Tamme (@JacobTamme) January 25, 2014
– No. 2 Tweet of the day
— tgh3316 (@tgh3316) January 25, 2014
UK’s next five games
- 01/28/14 at LSU 9:00 p.m. ESPN
- 02/01/14 at Missouri 1:00 p.m. CBS
- 02/04/14 vs. Ole Miss 7:00 p.m. ESPNU
- 02/08/14 at Mississippi State 1:30 p.m. SEC
- 02/12/14 at Auburn 8:00 p.m. SEC
Links of interest
- Video: Willie Cauley-Stein on stopping the slump
- Video: John Calipari after win over Georgia
- Video: Mark Fox after loss to Kentucky
Herald-Leader photo gallery of UK cheerleaders being honored
More from Kentucky.com
- Olympic security issues hit close to home for Tom Hammond
- Matthew Mitchell losing sleep over UK’s lack of hustle
- UK wins five events on final day of McCravy meet