Amid the chatter about what's wrong with Kentucky and how can it be fixed, a comment by Marshall Coach Tom Herrion only 24 days earlier echoes.
Herrion offered a novel thought: Think about crediting the opposing team when Kentucky loses. That seems pertinent after Elston Turner scored 40 points to lead Texas A&M to a victory at UK Saturday.
Yet on Monday, UK Coach John Calipari and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein remained fixed on Wildcat analysis until asked about Turner's impact on the outcome.
"He played a good game," Cauley-Stein said. "That kid missed three shots."
Actually, Turner missed five of 19 shots.
"Coach Cal says all the time, a kid goes off (and UK could lose). He never says 40, but obviously a lot (of points). He was on fire. We still could have won ... , but he did a helluva job."
Calipari noted that Turner came into the game averaging 15.5 points. "What he did was off the charts," the UK coach said. " ... He played an unbelievable game."
Turner's game could be used as an example of how opponents can rise to great heights when playing a dynasty program. UK players must be mindful of matching such intensity, Calipari said.
"There's got to be some fight and emotion when you play these games," he said. "You can't just go out and say, 'I don't have that in me.' Then you're not going to compete at the level you need to compete. ...
"It doesn't have to be 'Yeowww!' ... It doesn't have to be verbal. But you've got to show it."
Calipari called for more assertive drives to the basket. UK players should not avoid contact, shoot fadeaways or complain about defenders fouling.
"They ain't calling it," he said of the referees. " ... They're not just going to give us calls. So you have to create that contact and get a foul and get to the line."
Stoke-ing UK fire
Apparently trying to stoke UK's competitive fire, Calipari made a year-old comment by Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes sound fresh and brash.
"Stokes says, 'We're winning in Rupp Arena, We're not losing in Rupp Arena,'" the UK coach told reporters. "All right. How do we take on that challenge?"
Stokes made a similar comment after Kentucky beat Tennessee 69-44 in Rupp Arena on Jan. 31 of last season. In that game, he made only two of nine shots and scored nine points.
"It definitely made me more hungry," he said afterward. "I definitely wanted to win. If anything, I want to win at Rupp Arena. I plan on winning, before I leave, at Rupp Arena. I'm saying that on the record right now. It made me more hungry and made me dislike Kentucky more."
During the SEC coaches' teleconference Monday, someone asked Calipari if there will ever be another college team that goes undefeated in a season.
"Yeah," the UK coach said. "I hope so, and I hope it's us."
Calipari noted the importance of talent, veteran presence, a mentally-tough approach and luck.
Then the questioner asked if the freshman class coming next fall gives Kentucky a chance to go undefeated in 2013-14.
"I'm worried about today's practice," Calipari said. "You're talking about next year."
Tennessee's men's basketball team had a grade-point average of 2.39 in the fall semester of 2012. Eleven of UT's 16 teams had a 3.0 or better GPA.
Overall, Tennessee athletes had a GPA of 2.97.
In that same period, the UK team had a GPA of 3.06.
Tennessee has lost its last three games and not won on an opponent's court (0-3). The Vols have struggled to score, shooting 42.4 percent (29.1 percent from three). UT and its opponents have more turnovers (328) than assists (287). ... Coach Cuonzo Martin lamented UT giving up 85 and 92 points in losses to Memphis and Mississippi earlier this month. Of a 68-65 loss at Alabama last weekend, he said, "That was the Tennessee team I'm used to seeing." ... Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and sideline reporter Shannon Spake will call the game for ESPN.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com