Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison lead Kentucky Wildcats win over Providence Friars

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Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky passed the first test of a very challenging December schedule last night with a 79-65 win over the Providence Friars. The good thing about this team is that different players will step up on any given night and on a night when Julius Randle had his double-double streak snapped, Willie Cauley-Stein stepped up to fill the stat sheet. UK also used the hot shooting of Aaron Harrison and James Young to hold off a three-point barrage by the Friars. In the end, it seems like Ed Cooley really did care about Kentucky and had some good things to say.

 

Harrison hit 7 of 9 shots, scored 15 points and slowed Friars star Bryce Cotton on defense in the second half. Calipari said afterward Harrison is “the one who changed the game,” although Young sank 3 of 4 threes and scored 18 points, while Cauley-Stein, starting for the first time in five games, earned the nod by flirting with the second triple-double in school history.

He had 15 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds, meaning it didn’t even matter that star freshman Julius Randle had an off night — by his own lofty standards — falling just short of an eighth consecutive double-double to start his career. Randle had only 12 points and eight rebounds.

Providence coach Ed Cooley, who said last week he didn’t “give a damn about Kentucky” and all its hype, was singing a slightly different tune after experiencing the Wildcats in person.

“When those kids mature, they can be scary,” Cooley said. “They can be really, really, really scary.”

 

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s game was a late night affair with an 8:40PM tipoff. Here are the post game videos, courtesy of John Clay.

 

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

With John Calipari in Brooklyn and the New York Knicks still struggling, it’s only natural that the talk would be John Calipari and the Knicks head job should it become open. Bill Raftery sat down and talked with Cal and does not foresee Calipari making that NBA jump in the near future.

 

“I don’t listen to any of it and I don’t think my team does,” Calipari said after Sunday’s game, referring to the speculation that he may move on. “Every year I’ve ever coached, I’ve been — if there was a college job open I was going there, a pro job, a high school job, I was taking every job and I just don’t buy into it. The greatest thing for me, it took me 20 years to get a job like Kentucky.”

At the college level, Calipari has proved to have a deft touch at nurturing N.B.A. talent, recruiting and coaching future professional stars like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.

Calipari is also a client of Creative Artists Agency, the talent management firm that represents several key figures on the Knicks, including Carmelo Anthony, J. R. Smith, the assistant general manager Allan Houston and Woodson. Calipari has had a close relationship with William Wesley, known as Worldwide Wes, a well-known basketball power broker and consultant for C.A.A. who is believed to have ties to the Knicks’ front office.

“My focus is here, and I don’t get into all that, rumors and innuendo,” Calipari told reporters in Lexington, Ky., last month. “And it won’t be the last one that’s out there. I just don’t deal with it.”

Bill Raftery, the longtime college basketball analyst who was set to call Sunday’s game for Fox Sports, said in a telephone interview last week that he thought Calipari would at some point be interested in jumping back to the pros. But he did not see it coming now.

“Why would he leave?” Raftery said. “He’s so comfortable in how to get players, and he knows kids are going to rally to go there and want to go there. I just think not that he’s on cruise control, but he’s getting the pick of the litter.”

With those blue-chip prospects coming in, Raftery added, Calipari’s Wildcats would always seem to have a shot at winning a national title, but there may be a point when that will not thrill him as much as it used to.

“I don’t know if that’s now, though,” Raftery said.

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