UK basketball notes: Willie Cauley-Stein a bright spot in loss to Arkansas

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 27, 2014 

Those looking for a silver lining in Kentucky's 71-67 overtime loss to Arkansas Thursday night could point to Willie Cauley-Stein.

He scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, his third double-double of the season. Maybe more importantly, Cauley-Stein's nine offensive rebounds, three of which he converted into put-back dunks, reflected eye-catching resolve.

"He was single-handedly keeping Kentucky in the game," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. ". . . It was like a dunk-a-thon out there."

Cauley-Stein had six dunks, increasing his team-high total to 38 for the season.

Cauley-Stein recoiled from the notion that his production was wasted in a loss.

"Not wasted," he said. "There were plays I should've made that I didn't make. . . . We just had some mental lapses late in the game and we started off sluggish, so that didn't help."

UK Coach John Calipari saluted Cauley-Stein.

"Willie was good; Willie tried," Calipari said in what sounded like lavish praise this night. "Offensively rebounded. Went after balls. Blocked shots. Had a presence.

". . . This may have been an 15- or 18-point game if Willie wasn't in there."

Experience

This was Arkansas' fourth overtime game of the season. The Hogs credited that experience as a factor.

"We're mentally tough," senior Coty Clarke said. "We've been through a lot."

Arkansas, which played three straight overtime games last month (one being an 87-85 victory over Kentucky), improved to 2-2 in such games.

Kentucky played its third overtime game, and second straight. The Cats had not played two overtime games against the same opponent in a season since 2010 against Mississippi State (UK victories at Starkville and in the SEC Tournament).

Kentucky had not played back-to-back overtime games since Dec. 9 and 16, 1979: a victory over Kansas followed by a loss to Indiana.

Free throws

UK made only eight of 17 free throws in the second half and overtime.

"They got tired," Clarke said. "You could tell when they were going up and missing. We were able to capitalize."

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson noted his team's depth as a factor. The Hogs outscored UK in bench points 25-17.

UK sophomore Alex Poythress denied that fatigue was a factor.

"I don't feel tired," he said. "I just feel like I wish we could have had a couple minutes left."

Randle a finalist

Julius Randle is among 15 finalists for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's National Player of the Year award, and among six finalists for its National Freshman of the Year award.

The only other finalist for National Player of the Year from the SEC is Casey Prather of Florida. Louisville's Russ Smith is also among the finalists.

Other finalists are Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), C.J. Fair (Syracuse), Nick Johnson (Arizona), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Shabazz Napier (Connecticut), Jabari Parker (Duke) and Andrew Wiggins (Kansas).

Finalists for the National Freshman of the Year award are Joel Embiid (Kansas), Aaron Gordon (Arizona), Randle, Ennis, Parker and Wiggins.

Most wins

Kansas released a list of the winningest coaches of all-time through their first 700 Division I games.

Adolph Rupp of Kentucky leads the list with 593 victories.

Others in the top 10 are Jerry Tarkanian (Long Beach State, UNLV, Fresno State) 575, Roy Williams (Kansas, North Carolina) 566, John Kresse (College of Charleston) 558, John Wooden (Indiana State, UCLA) 545, Dean Smith (North Carolina) 539, John Calipari (UMass, Memphis, UK) 538, Bill Self (Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois, Kansas) 529, Ed Diddle (Western Kentucky) 526 and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) 522.

Etc.

The CBS Sports series, NCAA Men of March, continues Saturday featuring VCU Coach Shaka Smart from 1 to 1:30 p.m. EST followed by Florida Coach Billy Donovan from 1:30 to 2 p.m. . . . Former UK assistant coach Ralph Williard attended the game. He's a scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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

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