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More confident Cauley-Stein only adds to Kentucky rebounding prowess

Willie Cauley-Stein slammed home two in Kentucky's win over Eastern Michigan. (Clay Jackson photo)

Willie Cauley-Stein slammed home two in Kentucky’s win over Eastern Michigan. (Clay Jackson photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is worried about UK’s offensive rebounding prowess with Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, a Tennessee native that picked UK over Vanderbilt.

“Sometimes is seems like their best offense is a missed shot. They just go tip it in or dunk it,” Stallings said. “Sometimes they penetrate inside and then all heck breaks loose on the backboard.”

Stallings says Poythress is a “long, athletic presence” that Vanderbilt must contend with just like his teammates.

“We have to play good team defense and not get broken down on assignments to keep them off the boards,” the Vanderbilt coach said.

Cauley-Stein was the least heralded of UK’s four freshmen but not only has worked his way into the starting lineup along with the other three freshmen — Goodwin, Poythress and Noel — but he’s now being projected as a lottery pick in some NBA mock drafts.

“He’s just getting more confident. Again, he’s starting to perform on the basketball court and he knows now he can do it,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “See, all the talk and all the other stuff it’s not about that it’s about going on that court and performing and knowing I can do this if I choose to do it and being disciplined enough to come out — and he does sub himself. We’ve got some other guys who don’t want to sub themselves. They think staying on the court is what it’s about when it’s not. He’s done great.”

Calipari says playing Cauley-Stein and Noel together shifts Poythress from power forward to small forward and means UK should be a “great rebounding team” with that size on the court.

“You’ve got to make effort. The whole thing, it’s not talent it’s an effort level. If you have talent and they give you a great effort, more of an effort than the other team like we did last year, you win most of the games,” Calipari said. “If you have a talented team that doesn’t give you effort you’re going to get beat. That’s just how it is. The less talented team will outwork the more talented team and they’re going to win. That was the first thing we had to convince these guys of.

“The second part of it was the mental discipline you need to sustain 40 minutes. You can’t play three or four minutes then say, ‘OK, now I’m just going to do what want to do,’ which is what we had done throughout (the season). Then the last part of it is how bad they need each other. I mean, I think they’re starting to understand it but I’m not sure they’re quite there yet.”

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