Willie Cauley-Stein could be the “veteran” player we need to right the ship when it gets bandied about by the wind and waves; by the turbulence, if you will. And through the first 6 games this season I would have said that’s not true but against Eastern Michigan, he was.
There were impressive numbers to marvel at on the box score Wednesday night.
Willie Cauley-Stein flirted with a triple-double (15 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks). Julius Randle notched his school-record-tying seventh straight double-double (14 points, 10 boards) to start the season. Aaron Harrison dropped a team-high 22 points.
Kentucky even captured a historic milestone with its 500th career victory in Rupp Arena.
But one number told the story of Wednesday’s game and muddied up the flow in the Kentucky-Eastern Michigan matchup: 48. Fouls, that is.
No. 3/4 Kentucky (6-1) used the tightly called game on Wednesday to its advantage, sinking 28 of 40 from the charity stripe to outlast a feisty, previously undefeated Eastern Michigan team (6-1) in the Keightley Classic finale for both teams. The 17-point difference at the foul line was basically the difference in the final score, 81-63.
“That’s not the reason Kentucky won,” said Eastern Michigan head coach Rob Murphy, who wondered out loud how a 2-3 zone could cause so many fouls. “Make no mistake about it, they’re a good team. They played a good game.”
Free throws aside, Cauley-Stein was the main reason UK pulled this one out.
Despite the heroics of any “veteran” or super frosh, Coach John Calipari isn’t guaranteeing we win ANY of our next three games. In fact, he thinks we could lose ALL of our next three games! While that could be a bit over-dramatic it also could be complete realism because we did beat Cleveland State by a mere 7 points. Yes, I know if they make the NCAA Tourney they will prob win a game but it should never be that close against this stud Kentucky team, I would think. But Calipari knows best and knows these next three games are going to be tough.
So the Kentucky Wildcats, champions of the Bill Keightley Classic, take this work in progress on the road up to the Big Apple and New York, New York on Sunday night.
Here’s your Thanksgiving Day question to ponder over your turkey: Are they ready?
Providence isn’t a bad opponent. Kentucky’s foe Sunday night is 6-1 heading into a game with Fairfield on Friday. The Friars have some talent.
“These next games were playing, we can lose every one,” John Calipari said Wednesday night. “These guys don’t understand that, but I think they will.”
The Kentucky coach said that right after his team had knocked off previously undefeated Eastern Michigan 81-63 at Rupp Arena in what was a fouled-filled, grind-it-out sort of basketball game that had the critics of the new refereeing guidelines howling.
In fact, you could make a case that the most entertaining moment of the whole affair was when, while serving as the co-Y in the traditional K-e-n-t-u-c-k-y Ashley Judd had the Rupp crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to Joe B. Hall, who turns 85 years young on Saturday.
But getting back to our Turkey Day subject, while Wednesday night’s contest may have lacked in artistry, it did provide some encouraging signs.
“We got better,” said Calipari.
So yes, John Calipari believes they got better but you couldn’t tell it based on the Wildcats shooting. They shot very poorly from long range and he’s OK with that since we have more than enough offensive fire power to keep things going without the 3 bomb. But when we aren’t hitting shots, we are collecting offensive rebounds.
Another poor shooting performance from three-point range raised questions — but apparently not concerns — for Kentucky.
“You know we don’t rely on threes,” Coach John Calipari said after UK made three of 16 shots from beyond the arc against Eastern Michigan Wednesday night. “I never coached that way. If we make ‘em, we beat you by 30. If we don’t, we’re just trying to win the game.”
In the last two games, Kentucky has made six of 30 three-point shots.
Going into the 81-63 victory over Eastern Michigan, UK ranked outside the top 200 nationally in three-point accuracy.
For the first time, James Young did not make a three-pointer. He has made one of 10 in the last two games.
Calipari spun the misfires as a good thing.
“I think part of the reason my guys go to the next level and play well (is) we’re teaching them how to play basketball,” he said. “Not a shooting contest.”
Eastern Michigan became the latest opponent to gear its defensive game plan to trying contain the Cats around the basket. In that effort, the opponent lives with UK shooting threes.
“We came in realizing they weren’t a great three-point shooting team,” Cleveland State Coach Gary Waters said after Monday’s game. “We knew (James) Young could shoot the ball, and we tried to stay with him as much as possible. …
“You can only go to that well so many times. Eventually, somebody is going to hit a shot.”
Eastern Michigan Coach Rob Murphy was more succinct. “Make them shoot from outside,” he said.
UK foiled that strategy, in part, by grabbing 19 offensive rebounds.
Looking ahead to the 2014 class, John Calipari is still in hot pursuit of ESPN’s #2 in the nation, Myles Turner. He’s a 7-footer who has exploded onto the recruiting scene, ala Anthony Davis and we were witnesses to how that turned out. No, I’m not saying Myles Turner is the next Anthony Davis but he seems to have come out of nowhere so there’s that.
Kentucky basketball’s 2014 recruiting class is almost complete, but John Calipari hasn’t given up on landing superstar center Myles Turner. The late-blooming 7-footer shot up recruiting boards over the last year, going from relative anonymity to a current ranking of No. 2 in the nation according to ESPN.
Turner is picking from among eight of the nation’s top programs, and he’s said he won’t be making his decision until early 2014.
Between now and then, it’s not hard to imagine what Calipari will be telling the high-scoring high schooler about the benefits of spending his one-and-done season in Lexington.
In the first place, of course, Kentucky is a national title contender (at least on paper) every season. That hardly differentiates the ‘Cats from many other programs on Turner’s list, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as a major factor in favor of playing in Lexington.
One edge that not every team in the Turner sweepstakes can boast is that Kentucky is an unbeatable stepping-stone to the NBA. Since Coach Cal arrived in 2009, he’s sent an average of four players to the draft every year, including five who went in the top 10 picks.
Even more important, a significant percentage of those future pros have been post players.
One of the biggest rivals UK has for Turner’s services is Louisville, and for all the success Rick Pitino has enjoyed in his career, turning out NBA big men is not his strength.Anthony Davis’ career showcases the advantages of Kentucky’s program for a player with Turner’s skill set.
One of the lanky Turner’s best assets right now is his shot blocking, a trait very familiar to Kentucky fans. Following in the footsteps of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel has to appeal to any defensive-minded center.
A related advantage is that Calipari has more experience than any coach in the country at building lineups with multiple big men who can score. His 2012 national champs had Davis at center, but that didn’t mean that Terrence Jones was cut out of the offense—or vice versa.
That experience could be a big draw for Turner, as the Wildcats, like several other big-name programs, already have a star post player for their 2014 class.
Rounding out the 5, Jermaine Kimbrough, the Cleveland State assistant coach who let his mouth, and Twitter get the best of him, was suspended for 1 game after commenting on the loss to Kentucky two games ago.
The Horizon League suspended Cleveland State assistant Jermaine Kimbrough one game for his comments critical of the officials after Monday’s game at Kentucky.
Kimbrough will miss Cleveland State’s game against Ball State on Saturday. Horizon League rules prohibit coaches from “publicly criticizing officials.”
After Cleveland State lost at Kentucky, Kimbrough tweeted that the Vikings had been “cheated.”
UK shot 35 free throws and Cleveland State 15 in the game. UK won 68-61.
“CSU assistant coach Jermaine Kimbrough’s comments about the officiating after the CSU-Kentucky men’s basketball game on Monday, November 25th were unacceptable,” CSU Director of Athletics John Parry said in a statement. “As a result, coach Kimbrough has been suspended for the CSU-Ball State game scheduled on Saturday, November 30th.”