Kentucky Sports

John Clay: Willie Cauley-Stein shuts down Providence's LaDontae Henton

Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein stole the ball from Providence forward LaDontae Henton.
Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein stole the ball from Providence forward LaDontae Henton. Herald-Leader

There wasn't a hotter player in all of college basketball than Providence's LaDontae Henton.

LaDefinition: Henton was a volume scorer. The 6-foot-6 swingman scored 24 points in a win over Florida State. He torched Notre Dame for 38. He threw down 29 on Yale. He walked into Rupp Arena on Sunday averaging 24.3 points per game.

The Lansing, Mich., native walked out having scored all of three points — 21 below his average — in Providence's 58-38 loss to the top-ranked Cats at Rupp Arena.

Henton took eight shots and made one. He bricked all five of his second-half tries. His per-game scoring clip went from fiery to frigid.

Take a bow, Willie Cauley-Stein.

"I just played defense," said Kentucky's junior center/forward/whatever who was matched up on the once-hot Henton. "Not much to it."

Come on, there had to be plenty to it.

"Willie did what Willie do," said teammate Andrew Harrison.

Willie did what few people in the entire country can do, or at least people who stand 7 feet tall. The long, athletic Kansas native went out on the floor and not only guarded the crafty Henton, he shut him down.

"It's hard when you're (being guarded by) a seven-footer with feet like that, to really get shots off," said UK coach John Calipari of Henton.

It was all part of yet another dominating defensive effort by Calipari's stingy squad. The previously unbeaten Friars hit seven of their first 10 shots, then wilted under UK's constant pressure and length.

By the final horn, Ed Cooley's team had committed 18 turnovers and shot just 28.2 percent — the fourth team in seven games that Kentucky has held to less than 30 percent, a truly ridiculous stat.

As for Cauley-Stein's turn to be a star, well, he preferred to have nothing of it.

"I mean the dude played the four position," said Cauley-Stein. "I don't know who else I would guard beside him."

But this wasn't just any dude. CBS Sports tabbed Henton its National Player of the Week after he filled up against Notre Dame. Over his previous four games, he had made 42 of 67 shots for 62.6 percent. His Twitter handle is @HentonBuckets23, for heaven's sake.

"Everybody's going to key on him, but LaDontae's averaged about 30 point his last three games," Cooley said. "I think they put (on him) probably one of the best defensive players I've seen in a long time in Cauley-Stein. He's got quick feet, he's long, he jumps over mountains. It was a tough matchup."

Some thought — or hoped for the sake of viewing a competitive game — that the Big East school would be an interesting match for Calipari's wrecking ball. Providence had beaten some quality foes. Cooley possessed some skilled players.

Point guard Kris Dunn, who had missed practice time and games with a sprained ankle, returned with a full coating of rust. He committed seven turnovers in the first half. And though Providence stuck to its plan for about 24 minutes, the Friars eventually, to use a Calipari phrase, let go of the rope.

Someone asked Cooley to analyze Cauley-Stein's disruptiveness. The coach replied, "That's something for a general manager."

That would be an NBA general manager, a fraternity that whenever a member wants to daydream about the future he need only flip on some Kentucky video.

"Look, this is a work in progress," Calipari cautioned, pointing to upcoming games with Texas (Friday), North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville, among others. "It's no different than last year."

Then Cal slipped into auto-correct. "The difference is we got some vets, so we're a little bit ahead of where we were."

One of those vets happens to be Cauley-Stein, a "big" who can not only guard a "wing" but shut him down, who Sunday "did what Willie do."

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