LOUISVILLE — Showing a poise and grace well beyond his years, Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein thoughtfully answered question after question about missing free throw after free throw.
Cauley-Stein, who started his first college game, missed six free throws inside the final 4:22. Twice he missed two free throws, then got a third attempt because of a lane violation. Both times he missed the extra free throw as well.
"Man, I'm about to work on them when I get back," he said after UK lost 80-77 at Louisville on Saturday. "Unfortunately, if we'd made our free throws, we're winning the game."
Misses earlier in the season contributed to why Cauley-Stein missed free throws at U of L. He came into the game having made only 10 of 24 free throw attempts.
"Funny, I was actually thinking I was going to make these," he said. "You know, we changed my free-throw shot, and I think that gave me the most problem. I don't have complete trust in the change yet."
Cauley-Stein noted that UK-U of L marked the first time he'd tried the new shooting motion in a game.
"I think I got crossed between my old shot and the new shot," he said.
The old style began with holding the ball well below his waist, Cauley-Stein explained. The UK coaches believed that led to an overly long shooting motion. "A whole bunch of time to mess something up," he said.
So Cauley-Stein tried to begin the shot from higher off the floor.
"But then I pause it again before I shoot," he said, "so it's not one fluid motion."
The pause as the ball neared eye level twice caused U of L players to enter the lane before Cauley-Stein shot. But he missed the extra free throws, too.
UK Coach John Calipari did not dwell on the free throw misses. He noted Cauley-Stein's contributions: eight rebounds (tying Nerlens Noel for game high) and a game-high three blocks.
Noting that this was Cauley-Stein's first experience in the big-game spotlight, Calipari quipped, "We'll tell him, 'Try not to get fouled. If you do all the other things, we'll be good.'"
Cauley-Stein was philosophical about the misses.
"You make them and you miss them," he said. "Tonight, I just missed all of them."
As the teams walked off the court, Calipari complimented Ryan Harrow's performance.
"This is where I wanted you at the beginning of the year," Calipari said he told the point guard. "Now, where do we go from here?"
Harrow scored 17 points and got credit for three assists. He did not commit a turnover in a 39-minute stint.
"I'm glad he sees that I'm working hard to be that point guard he wants me to be," Harrow said. "I still have areas I want to improve."
That Harrow stepped up and contributed in a high-stakes rivalry game suggested a big step forward. As a freshman for North Carolina State, he missed the team's first game against archrival North Carolina. That raised eyebrows.
Then early this season, Harrow missed four games, beginning with a nationally televised matchup against Duke, sparking renewed speculation that he needed help in handling high-pressure situations.
"I was kind of nervous before the game (at U of L)," Harrow said. "But when the ball goes up, it's just basketball.
"Obviously, I'm growing as a player and a point guard because I'm doing things I've never done before.
Harrow continued to be all but turnover free. He has committed five in 186 minutes this season.
"As I keep saying, I'm not at that point I want to be at for the team," he said. "I think I play a big role for the team. I think I'm playing well. But if I can play even better, it'll be better for all of us."
Julius Mays made only one of eight shots (one of six from three-point range).
"Julius hasn't made a shot in about a month," Calipari said in only a slight exaggeration.
In the last three games, Mays has made three of 23 shots. He's 1-for-15 from beyond the arc in that span, and 6-for-31 in the last six games.
Perimeter shooting by Mays and Kyle Wiltjer can enhance UK's offensive efficiency, Calipari said.
"Those are the guys who can make 40 percent from three," he said. "And they've got to be guarded out there. It stretches out the defense. We're not there yet."
■ Calipari again said he wanted more effort from Alex Poythress (season-low 15 minutes). "He didn't do anything," the UK coach said of lifting Poythress later in the game.
■ Harrow wore a floppy hat with a camouflage design during post-game interviews. Calipari gave the players the hats. "Coach said we were going to war," Harrow said. "So I put the hat on."
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com