Baylor-UK notes: Calipari issues challenge to young Cats

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 1, 2012 

A track record means a lot in horse country. But in judging Kentucky's 2012-13 basketball team, Coach John Calipari advised against assuming there will be a repeat of his past success in fashioning highly successful freshmen-dependent units.

"We've just got a ways to go with this team," he said after Baylor won at UK 64-55 Saturday. "And I think everybody now understands, you know, that you don't just put a collection of players together."

By "everybody," Calipari meant to include UK players, who had just suffered the program's most-lopsided home loss since Feb. 3, 2009 (66-57 to Mississippi State).

"It's more than just our fans and everybody understanding," he said. "It's our team understanding. Are you willing to do what it takes?"

Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein suggested the UK players needed a comeuppance.

"I feel we came in here thinking we were that team," he said. "We're not that team."

Cauley-Stein acknowledged that the thought of simply picking up where past UK teams left off can enter the mind.

"That's what you think about coming in," he said. "But I don't think we've come together as a team yet. It's still early. We have to become more of a team."

No. 8 Kentucky figures to fall out of the top 10 of The Associated Press poll. The Cats have been in the top 10 for 23 straight polls.

Calipari sounded like a blind man groping for a path in the dark. He spoke of possibly taking a long look at a small lineup. Or playing "some zone" with a tall lineup. Or pressing.

"It's a work in progress," he said.

And if this UK team does not take off, Calipari used his post-game radio show to suggest he won't hesitate to look ahead to next season.

"If they're not winning players, then they move to the background," he said of the current Cats. "And other players move in."

Harrow update

Presumptive point guard Ryan Harrow played boldly.

"He was 1-for-9," Calipari said in tempering the media's enthusiasm. "We are happy he's on the court. He was 1-for-9."

Added Willie Cauley-Stein: "It's good to see Ryan come back with confidence. ... Really, everybody needs to play with more confidence."

Like Lazarus

Less than 10 years ago, Baylor basketball suffered one of the most embarrassing scandals in NCAA history. One player (Carlton Dotson) murdered another (Patrick Dennehy). Then-coach Dave Bliss tried to deflect charges of rule-breaking by spreading a false story of Dennehy's drug use.

Subsequent NCAA penalties included a ban on non-conference play in the 2005-06 season.

Fast forward to this season. Baylor is one of only six programs to advance to a region finals in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments. Then the Bears snapped Kentucky's 55-game home winning streak.

"We've broken about every 'first' we could in the last five years at Baylor," Coach Scott Drew said. "This is just another step in solidifying (Baylor basketball)."

Baylor had been 0-18 away from home against top 25 teams. The Bears hadn't played at a ranked team since 1986.

More humble pie: Baylor had played only one previous regular-season game that had been televised nationally by CBS.

Earlier in the week, Baylor radio play-by-play man John Morris called Baylor's revival "the greatest comeback since Lazarus."

Senior guard Pierre Jackson spoke of the victory bringing unranked Baylor respect.

"People still put us where they will: at the bottom of the elite," he said. "We are an elite team."

54-1

Calipari accepted his first loss after 54 straight home victories as UK coach.

"I'm good," he said. "I've lost many games. I told Coach (Joe B.) Hall, I'm good. I've already beat his record, so I'm fine."

As reporters sat silently, Calipari noted that he was joking about besting Hall in consecutive home victories.

Etc.

■ Baylor knew that UK would be on edge after a loss at Notre Dame two nights earlier. "I knew they'd come ready," forward Cory Jefferson said. "We definitely came ready."

■ Drew on Baylor's zone: "(In the 2012 NCAA Tournament) we predominantly played the whole game man, and that didn't work out too well. So we tried something different." UK made 53.3 percent of its shots in beating Baylor 82-70 last March.

■ The poorest shooting by a Calipari-coached UK team had been 29.8 percent against Louisville on Dec. 31, 2011. The Cats won that game 69-62.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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