UK-Vanderbilt notes: Pressure to win part of equation for Cats now

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 19, 2013 

Kentucky guard Jarrod Polson drove past Tigers forward Allen Payne for a basket Saturday. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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  • Vanderbilt at Kentucky

    When: 8 p.m. Wednesday | TV: WKYT-27

    Records: UK 17-8 (8-4 SEC), Vanderbilt 10-14 (4-8)

    Series: Kentucky leads 137-45

    Last meeting: UK won 60-58 on Jan. 10 at Nashville

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

To receive an NCAA Tournament bid, Kentucky must beat Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, and then keep on winning the rest of the games this regular season.

So said guard Jarrod Polson.

"Yeah, I think in the back of my mind, if we want to make the tournament, we're going to have to win all the games," he said in response to a question Tuesday. "Maybe lose one more.

"This time of year is when we need to get hot, anyway. So we can look at these games as tournament games."

Teammate Julius Mays did not disagree. But he declined to put must-win importance on the remaining games.

"I don't like to have the mind-set of our backs against the wall," he said. "If you play with that much pressure, you're liable to play bad. I want guys to play with a free mind (while) knowing we have work to do."

The Cats still believe despite the 88-58 loss at Tennessee on Saturday in the first game without Nerlens Noel, Polson said.

"I don't really think it affects our belief," he said. "I think we think we're a good team. Maybe we were a little shocked. We didn't realize how much (Noel's absence) affected the defensive end."

UK mildcats?

After the 30-point loss at Tennessee, UK Coach John Calipari singled out Polson and Mays for putting up a fight.

"I just have a lot of heart," Mays said of his competitive spirit. "I take a lot of things personal. Playing on the court, I don't like anybody to feel they can do me any type of way. It's just my pride and the fact I want to win."

When asked if opponents had been trying to push the Cats around, Mays said, "A lot.

"It's been the M.O. (modus operandi) since the beginning of the year, from Maryland when they out-rebounded us like crazy. I think that was the start of it. Ever since then, every team has tried to come in and bully us." Life lesson

Mays waxed philosophical about Kentucky's precarious position.

"There's only so much guiding you can do," he said when asked about his status as team graybeard. "I've been through it, but it takes the actual experience to go through it to learn."

Mays embraced UK's adversity as a potentially enriching experience.

"This is a good life lesson for all these young guys," he said. "Not everything is all peachy. You're going to have adversity in your life." Happy ending?

Accentuating the positive, Calipari noted that UK has the opportunity to create a happy ending to the season.

"We can be the story of the year, of recovery," he said.

Then Calipari borrowed from Rick Pitino's canon: Success is a Choice.

"We can do that if we choose to do that," Calipari said. "And we don't have to win every game. You just have to know." Cal backtracks

Calipari continued to backtrack on his post-game comment about a couple of UK players not accepting coaching. He suggested that there had been an overreaction to his comment.

"I'm like Bernanke," he said in reference to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. "I make a statement, it's like, 'Oh my gosh, the stock market starts to move.'" Tender psyche?

The loss at Tennessee, which followed a 17-point beating at Florida, will test the Cats' resolve going forward, Calipari said.

"Are you tough enough to walk through that?" he said. "Are you tough enough to put that all behind you?"

'OK'

When asked how Monday's practice went, Calipari used the term "OK" repeatedly.

"It was OK," he said with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm.

When asked if the practice yielded good results, he said, "Uh, it's OK. It was OK."

Practice is where the Cats must first demonstrate the needed resolve.

"You've got to prepare yourself to play great," Calipari said. "That means go knock-out in practice, go unbelievably hard. Talk to one another. Have great energy. In all my years, that's how you do it. Hopefully, (Tuesday) we step on the gas."

Behind the mic

Clay Matvick and Joe Dean Jr. will call Wednesday night's game for the SEC Network.

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

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