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January 13, 2014

Cats travel to Arkansas focused on improvement

Kentucky's players returned home after a win at Vanderbilt thinking everything was fine.

It wasn't. Not for their coach.

"I kind of hit them in the mouth (with the truth)," John Calipari said. "I think they were all, like, stunned."

Calipari didn't like the way they failed to put the Commodores away in a 71-62 win. He didn't like that his team was content with a win that wasn't them at their best.

Calipari's reality check figuratively slapped "everybody" on the team, he said.

"I'm trying to get these guys excited about winning and excited about us getting better," Calipari said.

No. 13 Kentucky has another chance to do that Tuesday when it plays at Arkansas, where Calipari's UK teams are 0-2.

The Razorbacks figure to employ their frenetic style of play on the Wildcats -- "Our defense is geared toward not letting teams do what they want to do," coach Mike Anderson said -- hoping to pressure the ball (Arkansas ranks sixth nationally in creating turnovers) and attack the basket (they make 53 percent of their two-pointers).

Arkansas can ill afford to let Kentucky play a half-court game, Anderson said, given the size disparity between the two teams. So the Hogs will try to turn Tuesday into "a 94-foot game," he said.

"You have to have tough, strong-willed players," Calipari said. "If you're timid in any way, they overrun you."

The Razorbacks had a 23-game home winning streak snapped last week in a two-point overtime loss to Florida.

"They're used to playing close games," freshman center Dakari Johnson said. "We just got to go in with the mindset that we really want to compete."

Competing, Calipari said, is the most crucial component for this team. He wants this group to be the best it can be, and that won't be judged by margins of victory or defeat.

Instead, it's the work his teams put into it. He told stories of former players staying in the gym late or organizing early-morning workout sessions.

So far, this team doesn't have enough of that.

And there's only so much he can do to change it.

"You can encourage it, but that's the best you can do," Calipari said. "If it comes from them, they're inspired."

So he wants to see his players inspired off the court and focused on it. He wants them "committed" and "driven" to succeed. He wants that mentality to bleed over onto the court -- starting, preferably, on Tuesday.

"Guys got to be more invested in this," Calipari said. "And they're beginning to be."

KENTUCKY AT ARKANSAS | TUESDAY | 9 P.M. | ESPN
No. 13 KENTUCKY (12-3, 2-0 SEC)
Coach: John Calipari (135-29 in fifth season at Kentucky; 538-167 in 22nd season overall)
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt 71-62
Roster | Stats
ARKANSAS (11-4, 0-2 SEC)
Coach: Mike Anderson (48-31 in third season at Arkansas; 248-129 in 12th season overall)
Last game: Lost to Florida 84-82 (OT)
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Andrew Harrison Fr. 6-6/215 10.9 2.8
G Aaron Harrison Fr. 6-6/218 14.0 3.3
F Willie Cauley-Stein So. 7-0/244 9.4 7.7
F James Young Fr. 6-6/215 14.1 4.5
F Julius Randle Fr. 6-9/250 16.7 10.9
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Rashad Madden Jr. 6-5/180 11.2 2.2
G Fred Gulley Sr. 6-2/182 3.6 1.5
G Michael Qualls So. 6-6/210 12.7 5.0
F Coty Clarke Sr. 6-7/232 8.7 6.1
F Bobby Portis Fr. 6-10/242 12.5 6.3
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Bud Walton Arena (19,200), Fayetteville, Ark.
TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler play-by play, Jimmy Dykes analyst, Shannon Spake sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst, Matt Jones sideline); XM 91/Sirius 91
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Kentucky by 1

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 25-9
At Fayetteville: Tied 6-6
Coaches' records: Calipari 5-4 vs. Arkansas; Anderson 2-2 vs. Kentucky

Last meeting:Arkansas 73, Kentucky 60 (March 2, 2013, Fayetteville, Ark.)
Coty Clarke had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Razorbacks, who improved to 17-1 at home by outscoring the Wildcats 41-31 in the second half. Kentucky got 14 points from Archie Goodwin and 13 points and 10 rebounds from Willie Cauley-Stein but shot 3 for 14 from three-point range. Arkansas outrebounded Kentucky 43-36 and got 15 points from Marshawn Powell and 13 points from B.J. Young, winning despite shooting 34.8 percent from the floor.

Game Storylines
1. Home Cookin': Though Kentucky is favored, winning at Bud Walton Arena is no easy feat. Arkansas is 9-1 at home this season. A loss last Saturday to Florida snapped a 23-game homecourt winning streak. In 10 games at Bud Walton Arena -- 405 total game minutes -- Arkansas has trailed for 36:45. In half those games, the Hogs haven't trailed at all. The Razorbacks are averaging 89.8 points per game at home this season and 74 points per game in road and neutral sites, including a 69-53 loss at Texas A&M in their SEC opener.

2. Frosh Face: Kentucky has a size advantage against the Razorbacks, but Arkansas isn't without a presence in the post. Freshman Bobby Portis averages 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, is the first Hog to have played in the McDonald's All-American game since 2004. Portis will step outside on occasion (he's 3 for 16 from three-point range), but does most of his damage around the rim. Portis had an 18-point, seven-rebound game against Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational and has twice been named SEC Freshman of the Week.

3. High Octane: Arkansas leads the SEC in scoring at 84.5 points per game (Kentucky, at 80.5, is second) and is the only SEC team this season to have scored 100 or more points in a game three times this season. The Razorbacks know how to spread the wealth. Like Kentucky, Arkansas has four players averaging double-digit scoring. And the Hogs lead the league in assists at 16.7 per game in a total team effort. No Arkansas player has more than 33 assists, but six players have at least 24.



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