Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein's career-high 20 points came four nights after what he vividly described as the ultimate bad-taste experience.
"You know when you throw up and you have that after-taste?" he asked reporters after a 74-70 victory over Vanderbilt Wednesday night. "That's what it tastes like."
Cauley-Stein was referring to UK's 88-58 loss at Tennessee on Saturday. The victory over Vanderbilt was like a 40-minute antacid.
Kentucky entered the Vanderbilt game with "more a sense of urgency," Cauley-Stein said.
Then he added, "and more a sense of pride.
"We felt we're not going to get beat like that again without a fight."
Cauley-Stein also credited UK Coach John Calipari with injecting fun into a Cat-mosphere turned gloomy by Nerlens Noel's season-ending injury at Florida last week. The 7-footer acknowledged dragging himself through a walk-through practice Tuesday night.
"Dang, can we get this over with?" he recalled thinking. "I want to spend time with my brother, who is in town."
Then, Calipari threw a well-timed screwball: the Cats would play dodgeball.
"Kind of like childhood again," Cauley-Stein said of the restorative effect of a good game of dodgeball.
Apparently, Cauley-Stein is a good dodgeball player. "I've got a heater," he said before noting that he's hit "80-something" on the radar gun while pitching at the Lexington Legends' pitching attraction for fans.
"Fun," Cauley-Stein said of the dodgeball game. "Something else to get your mind off it."
The Cats needed a respite from a week filled with bad news: Losses by 17 and 30 points, plus Noel's torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Cauley-Stein said he did not leave his dorm room for two days after the loss at Tennessee. He put a sheet over the window to blot out the garish sunlight.
"I just felt depressed," he said.
Calipari interrupted the post-game news conference to alert fans to a dodgeball feature on his website (coachcal.com). He promised a Wiffle ball game on Friday, the day before UK plays Missouri.
Cauley-Stein lamented the anger given voice by the Internet.
"A lot of hate," he said. "Social media can get kind of crazy."
But, he added, "It was entertaining."
When asked to elaborate, he noted a "lot of vulgar things" that circulates via email, texts and other forms of electronic communication.
He noted how people identified as Indiana fans heaped scorn on him.
"Why am I all of a sudden getting hated on," he said.
Calipari noted that Ryan Harrow requested to start against Vanderbilt. He came off the bench at Tennessee for the first time since the Portland game on Dec. 8.
"I just sat down with a couple of people and they said I needed to go talk to Cal and set up a meeting with him instead of him setting up a meeting with me," Harrow said. "I went and talked to him, and I was a little nervous. I said what I needed to say and he had all the answers after that. We had an understanding after that and everything was good."
In explaining his intention, Harrow said, "I was just letting him know that I'm all in and I'm going to listen to him. And that I'm here for my team and I'm going to do what's best for the team."
Before talking to Calipari, Harrow said he spoke to the whole team, some of the coaches and family members. The Cal-Harrow meeting lasted about 15 minutes, the player said.
"I know how much this team needs me, and when I'm not playing well you see the end result," Harrow said. "And I didn't want him to feel as if I was giving up on the team. I just wanted to let him know that, whatever he needed me to do . . . I was going to do it and I was going to play hard."
Cauley-Stein welcomed Harrow's gumption to approach Calipari.
"It's a big step for Ryan," he said. "We need him to be more vocal. It's about growing up and being a man."
As part of the pre-game introduction of lineups, Kentucky unveiled a new video. The players talk about competing.
"They just told us to come in one day and do the video," Harrow said.
The video was taped Tuesday. The players did the taping one by one.
"Every game is the biggest game on the schedule, I think," Harrow said of the video's theme. "Because we need to finish the season off and make a statement."
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com