NEW ORLEANS — After waiting three years to play in an NCAA Tournament, Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson took no chances.
Patterson stayed in Wildcat Lodge as much as possible. He refused to drive a car.
"The only time I left the Lodge was to walk to get something to eat or walk down the street to a friend's house," he said Wednesday. "I made sure I was extra careful when I was walking around Lexington."
Why was Patterson so cautious? It had something to do with missing the NCAA Tournament as a freshman because of an ankle injury and then being banished as a sophomore to the NIT.
Never miss a local story.
"I want to make sure nothing happens," he said. "I wanted to make sure I didn't get hurt, didn't get injured, didn't get a sprained ankle, didn't get in a car accident. Make sure nothing happened."
Patterson acknowledged he's eager to play well against East Tennessee State in UK's first-round game Thursday.
"Oh, I definitely want to have a great performance," he said. "I want to go out there and show everybody what I can do."
When asked if such eagerness might hamper his ability to get a good night's sleep, Patterson said his heightened state of caution had covered that possibility.
"I've got a couple sleeping pills, and I've got Nyquil," he said before adding, "I'm just anxious."
Scott Drew: On John Wall
Baylor was among the finalists for John Wall during the recruiting process last spring.
With Baylor at the same first- and second-round site as Kentucky, this led a reporter to ask Baylor Coach Scott Drew if he was surprised by Wall's success.
"He's definitely had a tremendous year," Drew said. "Any time you're being considered as (among the) top two players for Player of the Year, it says you're doing something all right.
"But there is no doubt in our mind when we were recruiting him he was going to be a successful player from the standpoint a lot of people have talent, but he had the mental makeup necessary to be successful, as well. Extremely driven. Very competitive. Very serious about the game. He plays so hard."
UK reserve Perry Stevenson, who grew up in Lafayette, La., said he only needed three tickets for the games here. One for his mother, his high school coach and the coach's wife.
"I'm keeping it a business trip, I guess," he said.
Stevenson also said he welcomed the role of a reserve on a good team rather than playing as a starter on last season's so-so team.
"I'd much rather be in this position than be in the team's position last year," he said. "I mean, that's why people play sports. For their team to excel. If you want to be an individual, I'm sure you could pick up another sport."
Cousins on Obama
Cousins kept a poker face when asked about President Obama picking Kansas to beat Kentucky in the national championship game.
"That's his opinion," Cousins said. "That's all I got to say. That's his opinion."
'Pain in butt'
With Wednesday being the day teams playing at Thursday-Saturday sites give interviews, Calipari signed off his Lexycast entry that morning by saying of the media chore, "It's a pain in the butt. All today is a pain."
St. Patrick's Day wish
Old Dominion Coach Blaine Taylor flashed his sense of humor when making introductory remarks about his team's first-round game against Notre Dame on Thursday.
"I just got done dropping Luke (Harangody) and those guys off at Bourbon Street for St. Patty's Day," he said. "Told them don't miss the game tomorrow. It starts at 2:30."
Sam Houston State point guard Ashton Mitchell grew up in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina forced him to move to Austin, Texas, in his senior season of high school. The move led to Sam Houston State successfully recruiting him.
Being placed in New Orleans thrilled Mitchell and served as a homecoming.
"If I tried to take care of everybody, I would probably need about 70 or so tickets," he said. "I know that's kind of pushing it, and I know that cannot happen. So I'm not even going to try to do it."
The Sam Houston State team met at the city's Nicholson Playground, where Mitchell learned to play basketball, on Tuesday night for a picnic. Mitchell's family provided the food.
Sam Houston State player Corey Allmond recalled fondly the Rupp Arena record 11 three-pointers he made against UK in a 37-point performance in November. He noted several UK fans subsequently asked to be included among his Facebook friends.
"I accepted them," he said. "And I was happy."
Mitchell played the no-respect card when talking about Sam Houston State's first-round game against Baylor.
"We're just excited about this opportunity, and we're just ready to go out tomorrow and possibly shock a lot of people and show them that we're a very good basketball team," he said. "Because we have been looked over with the media and everything."
Tournament organizers said about 3,000 tickets remained available for the games here. All seats are the upper arena and sell for $66 per session.
Tickets can be ordered through Ticketmaster.com (to be picked up at the New Orleans Arena will-call window) or at the arena box office.
Tournament manager Vince Granito said UK and other schools playing here received an allotment of 550 tickets each. Of the schools here, only Baylor asked for additional tickets, he said.