Most Recent Posts
- Kentucky “really needed this win” over Boise State
- Kentucky-Boise State postgame notes and numbers
- Live: UK TV delivers livestream of post-Boise State press conferences
- NBA scouts offer takes on what’s wrong with Calipari’s Cats
- Kentucky RB JoJo Kemp plans to keep “grinding” and keep “this ship moving”
- UK signee Devin Booker on Cats: “I feel like toward the end of the year, they’re going to be special”
- James Young: “We can play defense, it’s just we tend to stop sometimes”
- Calipari on defense: “It starts with your point guard. If he can’ t pressure the ball, then someone else has to be playing;
By LARRY VAUGHT
Give coach John Calipari credit for not blaming a relatively small crowd at Friday’s game in Arlington for the reason his team lost to Baylor.
“It was a great crowd for us. I don’t know how these people made it here. They must have been on dogsleds or something. I don’t know how they got here, but they figure out a way to get here. And I look around, the whole building is blue. It’s incredible,” Calipari said. “And I’m just — our fans just want to see a team fight and battle and compete, and this team didn’t.
“Soon as this thing got rough and the first two raindrops hit, it’s like a front-running team. The raindrops hit, we stop fighting. We start looking for excuses and heads down. That’s what we are right now, but we know that, and that’s why we have to play these kind of teams.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Because he’s in better physical shape, sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein has “come a long way” since last season when he was the least heralded member of Kentucky’s recruiting class and a backup for Nerlens Noel.
“He’s in good enough shape he can continue to play. There have been times before, he’d just stand there and just let the guy drive in and like hold onto his guy and say, ‘Well, I was … I was holding my guy.’ Now he knows he can go get it,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after Cauley-Stein had 15 points, nine blocks and eight rebounds against Providence Sunday.
“And then the second thing is, we’re doing a better job if he does leave to block out, cracking down and taking his man. But to have nine blocks in a game like this? Big-time. Big-time. And then to play the way he did and to run like a gazelle. Did you see him run the court? Oh, my gosh.”
Cauley-Stein has 31 blocks through eight games, or just five fewer than Anthony Davis did during his record-setting season two years ago. He’s almost averaging a double-double (9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds per game) and is shooting 60 percent from the field.
“I think just more aware. Like before in the past it was like I was hesitant on going (to block a shot),” Cauley-Stein, who has 17 blocks in the last two games going into Friday’s game against No. 20 Baylor. “Now I’m just going. Like coach said, ‘Don’t even worry about it. Try to go block every ball.’ So that’s what my game plan is coming into the game: just go try to block everything.”
Cauley-Stein says his improved offense is due in large part to his better play on defense this season.
“It definitely feeds off the defense, just flying around everywhere. It makes it where you’re not thinking about the offense. In the past that’s what I was doing: thinking about, like pre-thinking what move I need to do. Now, it’s just I’m reacting and just trying to go up,” Cauley-Stein said.
Teammates know how valuable Cauley-Stein has been.
“When Willie picks it up on defense, it just gives us the extra energy boost that we need. We clap, clap it up on defense, which really picks us up on defense,” freshman guard James Young said.
Freshman Dominique Hawkins says Cauley-Stein’s defense “sparks” the team.
“It makes us want to play defense better. To give the energy that he’s giving, we all want to give that same energy and we know that he probably has our backs as guards if somebody drives around us that he’s going to be on the help side to block their shot or change their shot or anything like that,” Hawkins said. “Running up and down the court has really been effective for him. I think he probably got at least two alley-oops a game just because he’s running up and down the court. And definitely he’s improving on his offensive game every day. If you ever watch practice, Willie, he’s always going as hard as he can and working on his post moves.”
Hawkins says Cauley-Stein is simply doing what Calipari is encouraging him to do on defense.
“He tells all the bigs to go after the shot block because that’s how team defense becomes better and he wants us to get the loose balls once the shot is blocked. So basically he’s telling Willie to be an effective shot-blocker,” Hawkins said.
Freshman Julius Randle, UK’s leading scorer and rebounder, says Cauley-Stein is embracing his role as a team leader.
“He’s maybe not going to say as much. He’s starting to become really vocal, but before anything he’s going to lead with his actions or how hard he plays,” Randle said. “You can tell that’s what he does by having nine blocks last game and then scoring the ball there at the end. He’s changing the game and making our team a lot better.”
Calipari said he asked players why Cauley-Stein has been playing so well and one answered that he was “not thinking” and was just playing. That was the wrong answer.
“The statement you don’t think, that’s not true. You got to think. He’s reacting better, and I’ll tell you why: because he’s practicing like crazy. He is attacking practices, which make the games easier,” Calipari said. “We have other guys that the practice is attacking them every day. One guy shut it down: ‘I can’t breathe!’ And they looked at his heart rate and it was at 82 percent. Well then you have a lung disease, OK?
“So it’s not — you just can’t push through the comfort level. There are times, I have a couple guys, their heart rate gets in the 90s and I tell them — they’ll tell me, ’94!’ Who? ‘Willie.’ Step off, Willie. Step off, Dominique.”
Calipari said Cauley-Stein is “going like there’s no tomorrow” at the last part of every drill compared to teammates who just want the drill to end.
“There’s a difference. You finish the drill; the hardest part is those last seven, eight seconds. ‘Ah!’ And those other guys are looking at the clock: ‘Can I get through it? The clock.’ Well, you’re not going to get better. What got you here, won’t get you there. You’ve gotta change,” Calipari said. “So some guys are changing. Willie’s changing. Other guys are not.
“Until they accept they’ve got to change, they won’t. But all in all, I’ve been really pleased. I’m dragging this team faster than they need to go, yet taking some things back to the very elementary that they needed to be doing when they got here.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari wanted to see better body language from his players, especially guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison, against Robert Morris Sunday. For the most part, he did.
“If I saw it, I took them out,” Calipari said. “hen I saw the head go down, you’re out. Next guy. You want to stay in the game, play.
‘Your game can’t be dictated by how many shots you make or how you’re playing because then you’re not worried about your teammates. So you miss two or three shots, now you can’t play? Head goes down, you’re out. You’re done. Can’t play you. Figure it out. It’s not about you, it’s about our team.
‘I’ve been very clear that this … we’ve got to become a great team, and we’re not right now. We have terrific players, but we’re not a great team.”
Calipari doesn’t want shooting or anything else to dictate a player’s on-court demeanor.
“You go through spells. Now the question becomes, okay, if you’re not making shots how are you helping us win. Well, I pout and I put my head down and I lose my man on defense. I don’t run back so they get a lay up. Well, that helps us lose, that doesn’t help us win,” Calipari said.
“But these guys, that’s what they’ve been right now. So today, like I said to Aaron after, you can’t be energized because you made shots, you’ve got to be energized because you’re playing basketball, and if you hadn’t have missed shots, okay. James Young was exactly the same way; he misses shots, he goes in the tank. You can’t be that way. You’re not going to be on your “A” game every night out, but what do you do to help us win.”
On his thoughts regarding the Harrison twin’s play …
“I thought they would play similar to the way they played tonight. Obviously, Aaron (Harrison) hadn’t shot great until tonight. Like I said, we had to make a choice. I think they are great in transition. They do a good job of pushing the ball and putting pressure on your defense. I don’t think we did a good job in transition defense. Both (Aaron and Andrew) Harrison played with such great poise. It’s hard to speed them up and hard to rattle them. It’s a handful.”
On Kentucky or any school starting five freshmen …
“If I had five freshmen that good, I’d start five freshmen. I think that’s what I’d make of it. I think every coach in the country is at a point where if guys are able to compete and contribute, whether they’re freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors, they’re going to be on the floor. Their five freshmen (are) obviously doing what Coach Calipari wants them to be doing on a daily basis and those are the ones that get the starts. We’re figuring out who can produce and who can follow our game plan and those are the guys who will play, regardless of year.”
LEXINGTON — There was so much to like about the way Kentucky bounced back from its Michigan State loss by trouncing Robert Morris — yes the same Robert Morris that beat UK in the NIT last season — 87-49 here Sunday night.
The Wildcats hit free throws — at least in the first half — and Aaron Harrison broke out of his shooting slump with a career-high 19 points in the first half before finishing with 28 points (10-for-10 free throws, 7-for-12 field goals). The Cats dominated the rebounding 56-33 (Julius Randle 15, Willie Cauley-Stein 13) and points in the paint 36-16.
“Now that is over and order has been restored, maybe we can both move on with our seasons,” Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole joked.
Kentucky does hope to “restore order” to its spot as a national title contender after last year’s dip and obviously showcased the talent to that in this game. But it was the intangibles that stood out the most. Randle, who had his fourth straight double-double (only the fifth Wildcat to do that to start a season), had just one shot the first eight minutes. Point guard Andrew Harrison didn’t take a shot the first half. Cauley-Stein had nine offensive boards, but just four shots. He also had four blocked shots, two assists and one steal.
Aaron Harrison showed he could do more than shoot with three assists — one a left-handed pass from near midcourt and another after a steal that led to him starting a fast break.
“There is just so much upside for this team,” freshman Marcus Lee, who made his first start, said. “Every day I see what we are doing and what we can do. It’s amazing.”
Calipari knew this was a “revenge” game for UK fans — “Our fans wanted us to smash these guys,” Calipari said — but he was more interested in improvement. He put in new wrinkles, including a full-court press that Lee “loved” being on the point to pressure the ball.
“Coach had also really stressed running more, and we did that tonight,” Lee said. “We were sprinting, and that did make the game more fun.”
It also kept a player in the game. Calipari went to a nine-deep playing rotation with all nine players getting 10 or more minutes. Walk or job, a player came out. Hang a head or show signs of frustration, a player came out.
Calipari loved that Andrew Harrison, the point guard, had eight rebounds.
“That means transition baskets,” the coach said. “We had none (against Michigan State). We had 26 defensive rebounds, had two points (against Michigan State). That means everyone is jogging or walking. No one ran. And the last couple of days, that’s all we’ve worked on and if a guy jogged, I took him out.”
He also worked with Randle to handle double- or triple-teams better than he did against Michigan State when he had eight turnovers. He had three, all in the first half, but passed out several times to open shooters.
“I love the fact that he got 15 rebounds. He went after five balls with one hand. He could have had 20 because when he gets two hands on the ball you’re not getting it from him,” Calipari said.
Calipari didn’t think UK got the ball to Randle enough early.
“I thought in the second half he just got it and scored it or made a pass,” Calipari said. “He’s a great passer and here’s what I keep telling our team. If you go through him, they’ve got to stop him. They’re going to double-team him, which makes it easy for the rest of your guys.”
Cauley-Stein also played “with good energy” in his 25 minutes to get the 13 boards, four blocked shots, two assists and one steal along with seven points (he was 2-for-4 from the field).
“He gives us that added guys who can switch out and play if he had to and guard a guard for a pinch if he has to,” Calipari said.
Toole said it wasn’t hard to tell this year’s UK team was better than the one Robert Morris beat in the NIT.
“Last year they did not have a low-post presence that they could hurt us with. We had to make a choice going into the game today whether we were going to try and take away perimeter guys or try and flood the paint. We opted to try and flood the paint because we thought we could slow Randle down. You know, 10 points and 15 rebounds isn’t bad, right?” Toole said.
“Unfortunately, they were able to hurt us from the perimeter and they haven’t been able to have both things going this year. Last year they didn’t have that low-post threat that we really had to focus on. We were able to take away Julius Mays on the perimeter and make (Alex) Poythress put it on the floor and things like that, which we weren’t able to do this year due to some of their backcourt play. I think from a defensive standpoint, (Willie) Cauley-Stein was a great shot blocker last year and a great rim protector for them, but I think they have so much more size and length on the perimeter that it makes it difficult for you to run your offense.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison didn’t need Kentucky coach John Calipari to tell them they didn’t play well in Tuesday’s loss to Michigan State.
“Well, you had a lot of people crying in that locker room (after the loss). And they both knew … the guys that didn’t play well knew they didn’t play well,” said Calipari Friday. “So we did some things yesterday that comes back to the same thing; it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. You didn’t know this?’ Like, we started working on some things yesterday that I saw on the tape. If you think they know, you’re going to make mistakes.
“They’re no different than any other young team, young freshmen. But Aaron’s going to be fine, and so is Andrew. You’ve got to change, though, and I said this yesterday. Just saying you’re going to learn from that, I need to see that there’s change. There’s change in an attitude, there’s a change in an approach, there’s a change in an effort level, there’s a change in the focus. As long as that’s happening, then it was a good experience for us.”
That includes having the twins learn that their body language can impact the team.
“Well, they’ve got to learn. They get upset with themselves, but you can’t — you can’t do it. You’ve got to learn. This stuff doesn’t — when you’ve had a habit you’ve had for 17 years to say, ‘OK, within two months you’re going to change.’ You look at Alex (Poythress), it took him a year. Took him a full year to realize, ‘If I don’t change this, I’m not making it.’ He’s changed,” Calipari said.
Going into Sunday night’s game with Robert Morris, Poythress has dramatically changed. He’s not starting like he did last year, but he’s significantly increased his rebounding despite playing fewer minutes. He has 32 rebounds in three games, including 12 against Michigan State, and is averaging 8.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Andrew Harrison, UK’s point guard, had 11 points, three assists and four turnovers against Michigan State and was 3-for-6 from the field. Aaron Harrison, the two guard, was 1-for-7 from the field and had three points, two assists and two turnovers. For the season, Aaron Harrison is just 10-for-25 from the field, including 2-for-13 on 3-pointers.
Calipari said Friday he might play freshman Dominique Hawkins more at point guard based on his limited play against Michigan State.
“He played really good. I think I’m going to slide him into the rotation to get Andrew off the floor some. And probably slide Marcus (Lee) in the rotation and have he and Willie (Cauley-Stein) play together some,” Calipari said. “Julius (Randle) played too many minutes. He’s cramping up. Andrew played too many minutes, which meant he’s trying to pace himself. You can’t. You just go and then sub and then go again and then sub yourself.”
Poythress had to learn some of those same lessons last year when he often was criticized for not consistently playing hard enough.
“It was more a mentality. He just wasn’t emotionally ready to do stuff. Alex is playing out of his mind. Alex went from the starter to the sixth man, from way too many minutes to probably a few minutes less than he needs, less shots, and all of a sudden he’s not even — his stuff, he’s skyrocketing,” Calipari said. “That stuff doesn’t matter; the shots and points, that’s all ego. It’s how are you playing? He and Julius carried us.
“Right now, I’m just telling these kids, let’s worry about being good college players, because we’re not right now. Just worry about being college players. Worry about being a good college team. When the season’s over, we’ll worry about all that other stuff. Let’s worry — unpack the bags, boys. Unpack the bags. Let’s start playing some basketball. Let’s get better.”
Calipari admitted he made a mistake when he noted earlier that he started calling future recruits after he watched his team practice because he knew they would all go pro after this season.
“Probably just shouldn’t have said anything, but I did right. It’s a hard thing here to keep them in the moment, and if we were in their shoes and they knew four months from now this could be happening to me, if it were us, we probably couldn’t talk to us. We couldn’t talk to us. These kids want to be coached, they want to be taught, they want to please me,” Calipari said.
“The big difference between what we’re doing is, this team is really skilled. They’re basketball players. They have a physical presence to them. We just got to get it right. I’ve got to make some things simpler for them. I’ve got to get Andrew really being the quarterback of this team, and he wants to be. He’s got to talk more. Our team didn’t talk. I had more comments about, ‘Your team’s a quiet team.’ Well they’re not, but I think they were like deer in headlights. What happened to them?
“But to say that you have 17 turnovers and only create seven because you’re playing defense like that, to say that you missed 20 (free throws), you go 20-for-36 from the line, you miss 16 free throws, to say that they got 22 points in transition and you got two and you had a chance to win, what just happened? How in the world did we have a chance to win? Again, there was a nice will there. I liked it. The guys kept fighting, they kept trying. So we have something to build on. They had a chance of letting go of the rope. We should have been down 20 at half.
“Now as we go into this game (with Robert Morris), this team is really aggressive. They get up in you. They play really physical. The rules should affect their play a little bit because you can’t do some of the stuff that you could do a year ago, they’re just not letting you do it. But, they got a team that’s coming in here and saying ‘We beat these guys, let’s go.’ They’re not afraid. I watched their team. They’re not afraid.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Could Huntington (W.Va.) Prep wing Montaque Gill Caesar be a piece of Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class and help offset the expected decision by Stanley Johnson to pick Arizona over UK in a few hours?
The 6-6 Gill Caesar, one of the nation’s top 20 juniors, recently had UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua watch Huntington Prep’s intrasquad scrimmage and then he made an unofficial trip to watch UK play Northern Kentucky.
“Lots of schools are showing heavy interest in him,” said a person who knows Gill Caesar.
He could reclassify to the 2014 class — last year Huntington Prep’s Andrew Wiggins did the same thing and picked Kansas over UK — and join UK’s recent signees in John Calipari’s next class.
“He has the option to do that similar to Andrew. He would be an age appropriate 2014 in the (United) states. He’s talking with his coaches about it now,” the source said. “He’s a big strong kid, very talented and a very hard worker.”
That’s why with the 2014 options he would have — he’s also being recruited by Louisville — it would seem logical that he could reclassify just as Wiggins did last or Karl Towns, who signed with UK Wednesday, did in this recruiting class.
Gill Caesar and a bevvy of future Division I college basketball players will be in Frankfort Sunday playing Ezell Harding Christian Academy of Tennessee at Frankfort High’s F.D. Wilkinson Sports Arena at 2 p.m. Admission is $5.
Huntington Prep features three 5-star players and four 4-star players. Ezell Harding has been a fixture recently at the Tennessee state tourney the team’s assistant coach is former Vanderbilt star Shan Foster.
Huntington Prep features Gonzaga commit Josh Perkins, a 6-3 guard who is a top 50 player; Seton Hall commit Angel Delgado, a 6-9 forward and another top 50 player; and Providence commit Jalen Lindsey, a 6-8 top 100 player. The team also has JaQuan Lyle, a 6-5 top-50 player who was committed to Louisville but it now considering other schools.
Levi Cook, a 6-10 junior and another top 100 player, has already committed to West Virginia.
Thomas Bryant, a 6-10 junior and another top 20 player, also has numerous schools, including UK, recruiting him. Kentucky is also interested in 6-8 sophomore Miles Bridges, a top 20 recruit, with interest from Indiana, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky.
Huntington Prep will also play in the Marshall County Hoop Fest Dec. 6-7 that features UK signees Trey Lyles and Devin Booker along with the McCracken County Festival of Hoops Jan. 11 that features UK signees Tyler Ulis and Lyles.
By LARRY VAUGHT
While Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did his best to emphasize that he knew his team could play better, he also didn’t try to deny that Kentucky would likely make dramatic improvement before this season ends.
“Look, they’re going to get a lot better, but don’t think we’re not going to get a lot better. I think it was some of them, but we didn’t play great. I mean, it wasn’t like we just made every jump shot,” said Izzo Tuesday after his team beat Kentucky 78-74 in the Champions Classic in Chicago. “I think they’ll definitely get better, because they are freshmen. I give them all the credit in the world. They’re going to get a lot better, but I honestly believe so are we.”
However, Kentucky started four freshmen and one sophomore and played two more freshmen. Michigan State’s more experienced players jumped in front 10-0 and survived a late Kentucky push to beat the No. 1 Cats and likely move the No. 2 Spartans to No. 1 in next week’s poll.
Michigan State beat Kentucky consistently in transition thanks in part to forcing 17 turnovers and getting 13 steals while UK had just one steal
“No, that surprised me a little bit (about the steals), but for a young team that’s probably the way it’s going to be. They’re not going to be as good defensively when you’re young as you are offensively. I just thought we did a decent job with their guards. I thought they’d have more steals, but they maybe weren’t as aggressive. Early on, we were aggressive,” Izzo said.
Izzo said it’s hard to continually rebuild like UK coach John Calipari has done with one-and-done players in his four years at UK.
“Guys, Kentucky is an anomaly. Not everybody’s like that. Duke’s got a lot of veteran players. Kentucky, he’s found a niche. He does an incredible job with it. But I don’t think that’s the norm right now. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I hope I get more and more one-and-done or two-and-done, but I also appreciate having guys around,” Izzo said. “I don’t think we give kids a chance to grow up off the court. It’s a shame that we’ve sped the process up so much. God bless the kids that are good enough to go, but I wouldn’t count that. It gets so much attention because Johnny does such a good job of it, but that’s not really the norm.
“It’s just Johnny’s done such an incredible job. And I told him, I said, ‘I don’t know, how many NBA teams have seven first-round picks?’ You know, really? That’s not a knock. That’s just a fact. A couple I’m sure, but not many. So this team he’s got will get better, but they’ve got some growing to do, too. And they’re going to have to get better in some areas. Now, (Julius) Randle, he doesn’t have to any better. He can stay like he is. But those other guys, they’ve got to get better and they will get better.”
Randle, after a slow start, scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half. He also had 13 rebounds for his third straight double-double. He has 72 and 43 rebounds in three games — both highs for any freshman under Calipari at Kentucky. That includes Terrence Jones (66 points, 30 rebounds), John Wall (61 points), Anthony Davis (40 points, 22 rebounds), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (36 points, 22 rebounds), DeMarcus Cousins (44 points, 32 rebounds) and Nerlens Noel (35 points, 24 rebounds). All those players were NBA first-round draft picks and Davis and Wall were No. 1 picks.
Randle helped UK outrebound Michigan State by 12, something that seldom happens to Izzo’s teams.
“They beat us at what we do well. I think we beat them at what they do well,” Izzo said. “We stopped the dribble-drive I thought for the most part. They went to a total post-up game. We gave (James) Young a few shots. Got a little lazy there in stretches when we were tired because of the strange lineups we had in there. But his guys did a heckuva job rebounding. They’re bigger, but we didn’t do a good job rebounding. I didn’t like the way we went after the ball, and I liked the way they did. They kicked our butts on the boards.”
Calipari moved Randle from the perimeter to the interior in the second half. The only downside was that Randle continued to turn the ball over — he finished with a game-high miscues, mainly when he lost the ball while being double-teamed inside.
“We have ways of letting him in the post, which we did and then he just holds the ball. If he holds the ball, the whole defense is going to sink on him and they we’re going to end up shooting a 3 or … I want him to get in the lane quickly. But it’s all new. This is the first game I coached where I got to change in midstream and that’s why I did,” Calipari said after the game.
By RENE CORNETTE
By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — If the Champions Classic is any indication of what’s in store for the rest of the season in college hoops, it’s going to be a fun year. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle were as good as advertised, if not better, and Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke and Kansas all showed the makings of Final Four teams.The only bummer? The incessant whistles that often made the highly entertaining games look as if they were being played in slow-motion.
It may only be a few days into the season, but here are five things we learned from Tuesday night’s Champions Classic:
GROWING PAINS: NBA scouts and coaches may be drooling over the young Wildcats, but Kentucky coach John Calipari was right to be concerned about how they’d fare against a tough, experienced Michigan State team. After steamrolling two nonconference patsies, the top-ranked Wildcats were humbled early and often by the No. 2 Spartans. Smothering the Wildcats defensively and leaving them flat-footed with their surprising speed on offense, Michigan State had a 10-0 lead before Kentucky got its first bucket. The ‘Cats had seven turnovers before the midway point of the first half, and would finish with 17. They made just 20 of 36 free throws.
“You got guys crying in there, which is a good thing,” Calipari said. “I want it to hurt like that. I knew this would get their attention.” And if the Wildcats take this loss to heart, look out. Julius Randle nearly pulled off the comeback on his own, scoring 23 of his 27 points in the second half, including a jumper with 42 seconds that pared Michigan State’s lead to 2. The Wildcats also outrebounded the Spartans 44-32 — yes, you read that right.
“They’ll get better because of this game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
SPARTY CAN RUN: Michigan State is often dismissed as a football team on hardwood because of its stingy, relentless defense. But these Spartans can run with the best of ‘em. Really. Michigan State had 21 fast-break points, and the Wildcats will be having nightmares about all the times Gary Harris and Keith Appling left them in the dust.
“We’ve been trying to run since last year,” Harris said. “This year, we’re actually doing it. We put a bigger emphasis on it this summer, and we have the guys to do it.”
WIGGINS VS. PARKER: Watching the wunderkids, it was easy to forget they’re only two games into their college careers. Limited to only nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Andrew Wiggins was simply dazzling in the second. After badgering coach Bill Self all day to guard Jabari Parker, he simply did it, essentially shutting Parker down over the last 10 minutes. Wiggins finished with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a long jumper and dunk that turned a tense, 2-point game into a Kansas victory. “It’s just all pride. You take pride in what you do, if it’s offense or defense,” Wiggins said.
Parker was equally impressive, finishing with 27 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block before fouling out with 1:16 left. “He was best player in the game for a big stretch tonight,” Self said.
SWALLOW THE WHISTLE: New rules this season are intended to increase scoring and open up games that were little better than slugfests. So far all they’ve succeeded in doing is turning exciting games into tractor pulls. The Michigan State-Kentucky game was an excruciating 2 1/2 hours, with 46 fouls called, including four in a 12-second span. The Duke-Kansas game was a little better, coming in around 2 hours, but with a whopping 53 fouls. No wonder there were groans and chants of “Let them play!” from fans.
“To be honest, I don’t like it,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It just takes away all aggressiveness defensively. … We’ve got to adjust because that was a pretty fragmented game.”
But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he’s tired of hearing everyone whine about the fouls. “The officials are doing what they’re supposed to do. Everyone just has to keep adjusting,” he said. “Too much is being said about it. Start playing the way we’re supposed to play.”
KEEP IT COMING: Games hyped as much as these were — “Sneak preview of the Final Four!” — often fall flat, particularly when they come so early in the season. But Michigan State-Kentucky and Kansas-Duke more than lived up to their billing, as did the individual matchups. With defending champion Louisville, Arizona, Michigan and about a dozen others looking like they’ve got the potential to go deep into March, this could be a heck of a season.
“I think it’s going to be an unbelievable year for college basketball,” Self said. “There’s the potential for more great teams than what we’ve had in recent memory.”