By Keith Taylor
The Winchester Sun
LEXINGTON — Aaron Harrison is ready for the Wildcats to take the next step and knows what it will take for Kentucky to become more disciplined going into road contests at LSU and Missouri this week.
Following a successful three-game homestand, four of the team’s next five games are on the road, giving the Wildcats a chance to gauge their improvement six games into the Southeastern Conference schedule. Their only league loss was on the road at Arkansas earlier this month.
“It’s all about staying focused,” Harrison said. “We just need to keep talking to each other, pushing the ball and playing defense. Now we’re coming together as a team and starting to play harder. We can always get better and to take the next step, that’s what we need to do.”
The Kentucky guard doesn’t mind playing away from home and is “excited” about competing in a road environment.
“We like road games, kinda,” he said. “We come out with a chip on our shoulder and excited to play.”
Harrison attributes the team’s recent success to maturity and growth and the ability to rebound from a 87-85 overtime loss at Arkansas on Jan. 14. Harrison said the Wildcats have proven a point to conference foes during the current three-game winning streak.
“We’re learning about each other more offensively and defensively,” he said. “That helps a lot more. We came out and made a statement as a team.”
Harrison led the Wildcats in scoring in a 79-54 win over Georgia Saturday at Rupp Arena. He added three assists and didn’t have a turnover in 30 minutes. Since league play began, Harrison has scored double figures in four of six conference games and has scored double figures in 15 contests this season.
“We definitely moved the ball a lot better (against Georgia) than we have,” Harrison said. “We were all just ready to play and make plays when we did catch the ball.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was pleased with Harrison’s numbers against the Bulldogs and liked his team approach. He added that Harrison attempted just two 3-pointers and relied more on his jump shot instead of settling for perimeter baskets.
“We’ve been on Aaron,” Calipari said. “Aaron played his butt off today but he shot all (two-point shots). I don’t want him to shoot threes. If you shoot a couple, that’s fine, but you’re not shooting six or seven threes. That’s not who we are as a team.”
“I took some more pull-up jumpers,” Harrison added. “I just need to stay aggressive, focused throughout the whole game.”
Along with his own contributions, Harrison was glad to see teammate Willie Cauley-Stein snap out of a slump with eight points, six blocks and six steals against the Bulldogs. Harrison said Cauley-Stein has “really been focused” in practice because he didn’t play as well as he could have the last couple of games.”
“He came out and really showed it,” Harrison said. “He definitely stepped it up. Everybody goes through a little slump and all. He’s tough-minded, so he came back and played well.”
In addition to Cauley-Stein’s contributions against the Bulldogs, Harrison liked the way the reserves performed. Derek Willis scored his first basket since Nov. 17 and Hood made a basket, his first field goal since Nov. 19.
“We are going to cheer for them just like they are going to cheer for us. We are really excited for them. It’s a good feeling to see the guys who really don’t get a chance to play as much as the other guys. We all played well.”