During the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Monday, John Calipari took a generic question about how Archie Goodwin had been playing as a chance to tout the freshman guard's improvement this season.
"He's learning his way," the Kentucky coach said. "We're trying to figure him out and he's trying to figure himself out."
Calipari noted how Goodwin can be his own worst critic.
"A la Derrick Rose," Calipari said in reference to his star freshman guard at Memphis in 2007-08. "If he misses one shot, it leads to three more misses. He turns it over, he can't defend on the other end.
"But he's a freshman. He's doing well. He's gotten better as the year has gone on. Opening up his mind. Playing through mistakes. Playing through turnovers. Being in better balance and control. Slowing down your mind. It takes years to learn that."
Willie Cauley-Stein continued Kentucky's near monopoly on the SEC Freshman of the Week award Monday. His selection marked the eighth time in 16 chances a UK player won the award this season.
Goodwin arguably provided Cauley-Stein's stiffest competition. Last week he made 14 of 26 shots and averaged 17 points.
While noting that Goodwin must improve as a rebounder, Calipari lauded the freshman's work ethic. First in the gym. Last to leave. Regularly returning to the gym at night.
"Unbelieveable worker," the UK coach said. " ... He's got the work habits and drive to be special."
Like almost all freshmen, Goodwin must gain the maturity to shrug off mistakes or missed shots, Calipari said.
"It just doesn't happen in two months," the UK coach said. "It's a lot of trial and error. His, right now, is a little bit of trial and a lot of error. But that's part of being a freshman."
Calipari, who has been noticably upbeat and can-do (with the exception of his post-game news conference at Tennessee), dismissed any concern about Goodwin's perimeter shooting. He'd made only one of 23 three-point shots in the 14 most recent games until hitting two of three against Missouri on Saturday night. Similarly, backcourt mate Ryan Harrow has made only four of his last 23 attempts from beyond the arc.
"Obviously, they're not two we're relying on, so I'm good with it," Calipari said. "That's not what's going to define their games."
Harrow needed to run the team, compete and perhaps chip in 10 or 12 points, Calipari said.
"He could go 0-for-5 on threes and still play a great game," he said. "Same with Archie."
The Missouri game validated Goodwin's belief that Calipari's newfound tolerance of a few questionable shots could be beneficial.
"I'm a scorer," Goodwin said on Friday. "So sometimes scorers take bad shots. ... If they go in, he can't say (anything)."
Said Calipari: "I said we have to have two 'oh my gosh' plays by Archie. As long as it's only two. If it's four or five, we got problems. He had a couple of those."
Mississippi State brings a school record 12-game losing streak to Rupp Arena Wednesday. The Bulldogs haven't won since Jan. 12, and lost the games since then by an average margin of 21.8 points.
A 72-31 home loss to Vanderbilt Saturday was particularly ugly (State made only seven of 40 shots and got outrebounded 51-17). It was State's second-most lopsided home loss in the history of Humphrey Coliseum, which opened in 1975. (The worst was a 78-36 loss to Missouri 10 days earlier.)
With State playing much of this season with six scholarship players and two walk-ons, are any of its games a fair fight?
"The thing we have to realize and our team knows it, there is nobody in the country that's went through what we went through," first-year coach Rick Ray said. "I don't care what level: NAIA, Division II, Junior college. ...
"And I wonder if anybody in the history of college basketball has went through what we went through as far as off-court issues, injuries. It's been a trying season."
State lost its only experienced big man, Wendell Lewis, plus Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite to injury. Its best player, Rodney Hood, transferred to Duke when former Coach Rick Stansbury retired.
Ray suspended the most experienced perimeter player, Jalen Steele, for 11 games. Two other players were permanently dismissed. Roquez Johnson is currently suspended.
The Bulldogs do not have a player averaging double-digit points.
"When someone says, 'I understand what you're going through,' no, you don't," Ray said. "You really don't."
Mississippi St. at Kentucky
When: 8 p.m.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com