UK basketball notes: Calipari stokes Us.-vs.-Them theme

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 4, 2014 

Although an 80-64 victory over Ole Miss Tuesday night improved Kentucky's home record to 81-2 in his time as coach, John Calipari made it sound like his team was surrounded by enemies and would have to fight for survival. In other words, he played a whole deck of us-versus-them cards.

Calipari blamed the usual suspects — the media — for Kentucky's plight.

"This is the most over-analyzed team I've seen in the history of the game," he said in his post-game news conference. "At any level. In any sport."

Calipari bemoaned Kentucky's drop in The Associated Press poll this week as a reflection of a biased view against the Cats.

"My guy has a bad game, (the reaction is) 'You can't play anymore,'" he said. "Another guy has a bad game, (it's viewed as) 'Bad game. He's a terrific player.'"

When asked if this supposed double standard affected UK players, Calipari said, "Sure it does."

But he also cited such scrutiny as a factor in former Kentucky players succeeding in the NBA.

"They can deal with all the crap," he said. "They've dealt with it here."

Willie Cauley-Stein, a hero again after scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against Ole Miss, also cited an ill-informed or over-reacting media. Players don't share the highs and lows of media types, he said.

When asked if Calipari hit the us-versus-theme often, Cauley-Stein said, "Every day. . . . He preaches about it and says you've got to throw it away.

"But he keeps it in your head."

Cauley-Stein made it sound like the tried-and-true coaching tactic: prove-'em-wrong.

"'Look, this is what these people are saying,'" Cauley-Stein said Calipari says to UK players. ". . . 'Prove them wrong.' That's what he keeps on saying. 'You've got to work even harder, so you prove them wrong and they can't do anything about it.'"

Kentucky's tradition of winning and producing NBA players make "them" root against UK, Cauley-Stein said.

"So it's like nobody wants to see us rise up and be what we're capable of doing," he said.

Mickey honored

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association named LSU's Jordan Mickey its National Freshman of the Week for last week. He averaged 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks while making 14 of 25 shots and eight of 10 free throws.

Mickey began the week by outplaying Kentucky's big man duo of Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein. He scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked five shots in LSU's victory over the Cats.

Against Arkansas last weekend, Mickey scored 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots.

The writers named Northwestern forward Drew Crawford the National Player of the Week.

UK game drops

ESPN announced that Syracuse-Duke last weekend supplanted the UK-Michigan State game as the most watched this season on its various networks.

An audience of 4,745,000 watched Syracuse beat Duke, ESPN said. The audience for UK-Michigan State in November was 4,002,000, the all-sports network said.

Another war

Calipari said he anticipated a tough game when Kentucky plays at Ole Miss on Feb. 18.

"I told them, 'See you down there,'" he said. "It'll be a war down there."

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

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