Could Willie Cauley – Stein’s headband be akin to Samson’s hair? With it, he is strong and powerful and without it … well, not so much. Regardless, I would expect to see the headband the rest of the year. Apparently Kentucky fans clamored for the headband to come back and for a big game from WCS and he delivered on both.
“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.”
Cauley-Stein certainly did that against the Bulldogs, stuffing the stat sheet with eight points, six blocks, six steals and three rebounds. He had three points and two blocks combined in the previous three games. Cauley-Stein also averaged just 15.3 minutes during the slump and played 26 against Georgia.
“He was in a totally different frame of mind, and he performed,” UK coach John Calipari said. “That’s who he is.”
Cauley-Stein started fast for the Cats (15-4, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) with two steals, a swat and an offensive rebound in the first three minutes Saturday. The sophomore 7-footer, who called it a relief, was asked afterward to evaluate his performance.
“Active,” he said. “I just got back to the roots of the game and just flying around and contesting shots and running the floor. I wasn’t really thinking it was a slump until like three games in and everybody was like, ‘Oh, he’s in a slump.’ So then I started thinking, ‘Well maybe I am in a slump.’
Yes, Kentucky did rout Georgia by 25 on Sunday. But while John Calipari was happy with the W, he knows this team still has a ways to go. This week is going to be big in seeing what this team is made of.
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.
“We’re still not there,” Calipari said. ”We got better, more energy off the ball, didn’t stop the ball as much, but we’re still a ways away. …
“I like this team. (But) will we become the team and have the discipline it takes to really make a run to do something unique and special? We’ll see.”
Though Calipari was reluctant to read too much into Saturday’s showing, there was a lot for him to like. He was able to use 12 players and 11 of them were able to score. Forward Willie Cauley-Stein performed a persuasive impression of an octopus, blocking six shots and seizing a career-high six steals. Guard Aaron Harrison scored 15 points, made three assists and was not charged with a turnover.
Carlton Bragg is one of the top players in the 2015 class and recently got that elusive Kentucky offer. Bragg celebrated by going for 28 points and 5 rebounds in a recent game. Check out Bragg’s recent highlights.