UK-Tennessee notes: Hood knows Noel's pain but avoids reminding him

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 15, 2013 

With his been there-done that perspective, Jon Hood decided to keep his distance from Kentucky teammate Nerlens Noel this week.

"You don't want that pity from someone," he said when asked why he chose not to visit Noel. "The biggest thing is, 'Yeah, it happened. Now let's not remember it. Don't make me remember it again because it hurt.'"

Of course, Hood was talking about being members of a club no one wants to join: those who tear an anterior cruciate ligament.

Noel tore his left ACL during Kentucky's game at Florida on Tuesday. Hood tore an ACL during summer workouts prior to last season. That experience led Hood to quickly realize the season-ending dimension of Noel's injury.

"I knew because that's what happened to me," he said Friday. His knee "torqued up" in a similar fashion, he said.

Another player who overcame a torn ACL, ex-Cat Derek Anderson, met with Noel this week to offer support and encouragement, Hood said.

Hood offered an encouraging observation: the pain prior to surgery is more intense than afterward.

"Because they give you these wonderful little pills," Hood said. "And they tell you exactly when to take them. And if you take them right on schedule, you're never in pain."

Aggressive

Calipari called for UK to play aggressively to a fault.

"If we're going to make turnovers with aggressive guys, we're making them with non-aggressive guys," he said. "So we might as well have attacking guys out there."

The UK coach called for players to "create contact" by moving assertively to the basket.

"Not running guys over," he said, perhaps in reference to four charges at Florida. But, he added, "Don't run and flip (up a shot)."

Come together, or not

Noel's injury could have one of two effects, Calipari said.

"The injury can bring you together," he said, "or separate you."

Foul trouble

With Noel sidelined, Willie Cauley-Stein represents the only traditional big man on the team. The other options with size are 6-foot-10 point forward Kyle Wiltjer and 6-7 Alex Poythress.

"We don't have the depth or the height," Cauley-Stein said when asked about avoiding foul trouble. "So I've got to play more — not 'unaggressive' — but know how the game is being called."

Mourning has broken

Cauley-Stein suggested UK will not be a team in mourning, thus broken in spirit at Tennessee.

"Nah," he said. "It's time to go back to work.

"It's tragic," he added of Noel's injury. "It happened. But at the end of the day, we still have a season. We've got to take care of business."

Purpose-driven life

While it remains to be seen how Kentucky will re-invent its team without Noel, Cauley-Stein has noticed a difference already.

"It feels like there's more of a purpose in what we're doing," he said. "Everybody is more focused. And they've got to be. We don't have the depth."

UK vs. BBN?

UK will adopt an us-against-the-world attitude, Cauley-Stein said.

"That's exactly what it is," he said.

Cauley-Stein noted that cracks in the solidarity of Big Blue Nation appeared within hours of Noel's injury.

"For everybody to say our chances are done, it makes it really frustrating," he said.

Dealing with 'the devil'

Calipari saluted his players' ability to deal with adversity this season.

"In this environment," he added with emphasis. "Kentucky's environment, which is a pro environment.

"There's no college team that has this pre-game (news conference). They have one guy that maybe shows up, and he's a beat writer who fishes with the coach. They don't have a guy, his whole challenge is to be the devil."

Etc.

■ UT's Jarnell Stokes has had a double-double in six straight games and seven of the last eight. In the last six games, he's averaged 17.5 points and 11.7 rebounds.

■ Tennessee has won seven of its last 10 games against the defending national champion. That includes two victories against UK in 1999.

■ UT is 9-3 at home. The Vols lost their last home game: 68-62 to Georgia on Feb. 6.

■ Ian Eagle and Clark Kellogg will call the game for CBS.

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

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