LOUISVILLE — If you want to annoy Willie Cauley-Stein, question his love of basketball.
"I really get upset," he said Friday. "How is that a question? Just because I'm interested in other things.
"You've got to be interested in other things. If you focus on one thing, you're eventually going to be bored with it or you're going to get burnt out."
In the past, Cauley-Stein has talked about his interest in design. He dyed his hair a bright yellow last season.
"That's been the question since I got here: If I love the game," he said. "If I didn't love the game, why would I play at the University of Kentucky? Why would I ever come here? It's a serious-like program."
When asked about the intensity of interest in Kentucky basketball, Cauley-Stein said, "I personally love it. You get a rock-star status when you sign with Kentucky. It carries weight. (UK fans) just got your back on a lot of different stuff. Whatever you do, they're going to rock with it."
Fun, fun, fun
When asked to describe the personality of this Kentucky team, Cauley-Stein said, "Guys are all about a good laugh. Our locker room is fun. It's funny. It's not all serious. A lot of jokes happen."
Cauley-Stein described Andrew Harrison as among the most light-hearted of Cats. " 'Drew will go after somebody and just stay on them 10 or 15 minutes," Cauley-Stein said. "Like Tod (Lanter)."
Harrison does not share this light-hearted side with the media, which Cauley-Stein attributed to point guard responsibilities.
"He might think he has to be the general," Cauley-Stein said. "... I feel like if he shows it, it seems like he doesn't care."
Cincinnati players insisted they were not intimidated by Kentucky. "Not at all," Gary Clark said. "Not one bit."
Octavius Ellis, who received a flagrant 2 foul in Thursday's victory over Purdue, recoiled from the idea of saluting Kentucky.
"Nothing impressed me," he said of the Cats. "It's just basketball. It's dunks and everything like any other team. They're the No. 1 team in the nation. At the end of the day, it's still basketball. We're just going to go out and play basketball and have fun with it. They have fun with it and we're going to have fun with it, too."
Several Cincinnati players spoke of feeling under-appreciated and expecting to play with a metaphorical chip on their shoulders against Kentucky.
"It definitely puts a fire behind you," Clark said. "Because you want to show that the team you didn't appreciate is really a team you should put coins behind."
Cincinnati guard Kevin Johnson noted how Coach Mick Cronin contributes despite not being on the sideline during games.
"He's always around, man," Johnson said. "He's like our Pat Riley of the program, basically. He's always making sure we do the right thing, and staying on top of us. You know, that good GM all teams need."
Dunk you very much
Cronin suggested that limiting Kentucky's dunks would be important.
"They're not gonna miss those," he said. " ... They're not gonna let us just dunk the ball. And I'm being serious. You can't just let them dunk the ball. You've got to make them make shots. So however you've got to stop them from making layups and dunks. I just say 'dunks' with them. With other teams I say 'layups.' With them, it's 'dunks.' They just dunk it. So you can't let them dunk the ball. You've got to make them play basketball, and play against your defense.
"If you give any team dunks, you've got no chance. Well, because of their talent, they're going to make some big-time NBA-type plays, so if they win doing that, then we go in the handshake line. You know, you made them beat you. If they win on two-hand dunks, might as well just go home. Just getting out of the way. You've got to find a way to make them score, and shoot the ball in the basket, not dunk the ball in the basket."
Devin Booker made two of 10 shots in UK's last two games (one of five from three-point range). That made him six of 22 from beyond the arc in the last seven games.
"There's nothing that's going to shake his confidence," Cauley-Stein said. "The dude's confidence is so high. As a shooter, you have to have a short memory. He definitely does."