Karl-Anthony Towns kept a poker face and said nothing when a reporter asked how often he hears Kentucky Coach John Calipari say something like, "Good job. You've arrived. Put it on cruise control, big fella."
But a smile crossed his face when asked if Calipari demands more of anything and everything.
"I hear that a lot," Towns said with a laugh. "I know he pushes me. He just pushes me to be the best player I can be. He has high expectations for me. I'm trying to not only meet them, but exceed them."
Calipari pushed again after Kentucky's 65-57 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
Never miss a local story.
"By the end of the season, I want Karl to be the best big man in the country," he said.
Towns, a fixture at or near the top of the various mock NBA Drafts for this year, did not embrace the notion of becoming the nation's top big man. That would be bad form on a Kentucky team flush with standout players and self-conscious about individual ambition clashing with a collective purpose.
"I'm just worrying about what I can give this team," he said. "I want them to say this team was the best. That's what I worry about. If at the end of the season, they say I'm the best, then that's perfect. I'm working hard every day to be that. But I'm also working even harder to be the best player I can be for this team."
Towns smiled when asked what he could have to add or subtract from his game to be considered the best big man by season's end. He said he and Calipari would have "a nice discussion about that" at some point.
Calipari offered two thoughts on how Towns can improve:
■ Defend pick-and-roll action better. As an incentive, Calipari noted how the NBA prizes a big man who can blunt the pick-and-roll.
"If you can't play pick-and-roll, you understand that (at) the next level you got an issue," he said.
■ Use his lower body more to become a better presence.
"Physically, he's not mature enough in those legs," Calipari said. "It's hard for him to stay down and fight. He wants to do it (with the) upper body. Well, he's 18, 19 years old. That's why."
Towns explained that Calipari wants him to stand straight up less often.
"You've got to bend down all the minutes you're in there, every second," he said. "It's a process."
Towns saw the Vanderbilt game as a sign of improvement. He blocked a career-high seven shots. But the more-more-more sooner rather than later does not cease.
"This is a very quick transition," he said. "You have to learn really quick. I'm glad I'm starting to grasp a lot more things."
Fill 'er up
Marcus Lee became the latest in a long line of UK players to contribute in a timely fashion this season.
After Vandy closed within 35-30, Lee steadied UK with a pair of putbacks and a dunk off a lob pass by Aaron Harrison. Lee had scored a total of six points in UK's previous five games and was averaging 2.7 points.
"We were running out of gas, really," Harrison said. "And Marcus was the spark plug."
For the umpteenth time in his UK career, Harrison was Kentucky's Mr. Clutch. He scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including a three-pointer from his signature spot on the floor (the left wing) with 2:08 to go.
"Aaron basically threw dagger after dagger," Calipari said.
Harrison took only one shot in the first half: a miss with barely four minutes left.
When asked if he said something to inspire Harrison at halftime, Calipari facetiously replied, "I told him I love him."
To which, Harrison quipped, "I guess it's really, really, really tough love, I guess."
That Harrison made the clutch shots did not surprise Towns. When asked what he thought when Harrison shot, Towns said, "Oh, it's in. I'm not even worrying about it. I'm thinking of running back already. I'm thinking of getting popcorn. ...
"You see the ball go up, it seems like slow motion. You feel that every time he shoots, not in the fourth quarter. The first quarter, the second, the third, the fourth, overtimes, it doesn't matter. It feels like every shot he throws up, it's going in."
Lee balked at the notion of Harrison as UK's only Mr. Clutch. "We have a whole team that can do that," he said. "They're all complete finishers, and they have done it their whole lives. It just comes out natural."