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February 18, 2014

Notes: Cats trying to prove talents, improve team play

Kentucky players are chasing a college championship.

They're also trying to "prove themselves," as freshman guard Andrew Harrison said after last Saturday's loss to Florida, so that they have a chance to play at the next level.

Balancing those two concepts isn't always easy.

"I think that's the biggest question for all of us," said freshmen guard Aaron Harrison, whose team plays at Ole Miss Tuesday night. "We all -- all of our lives, we've been worrying about ourselves. When you put that group of people all together, it's really hard."

So hard, in fact, coach John Calipari has deemed it "impossible" in recent weeks.

The compressed time frame this freshman-laden Kentucky team has to work with has been fully evident this year.

Especially when it stands in such stark contrast to a senior-dominated team like Florida, which beat Kentucky by 10 on Saturday.

"But we all knew that coming to Kentucky," Aaron Harrison said. "Basketball isn't supposed to be fair or anything like that."

And that means youth can't be used as an excuse.

Even if the Gators made UK envy their experience.

"We can say we're younger and stuff like that," senior guard Jarrod Polson said, "but at the end of the day, we're a college basketball team just like them."

Title in Reach?
Kentucky now stands three games behind Florida in the SEC standings with just six games left.

"Florida would really have to stumble," assistant coach John Robic said of UK's chances at winning the regular season crown. "It would be pretty tough to catch them -- but you never know."

Calipari said he's "never been too big" on conference championships or tournaments.

"Every game we play is to prepare us for March, and that's how we approach it," Calipari said. "The goal is to be at our best in March."

That includes the SEC Tournament.

"I think it's really realistic for us (to win)," Harrison said. "We just have to stay focused and fix the few things we've broken down on, and make sure we're aware of them."

Lead Marshall
As in Kentucky's 80-64 win over Ole Miss earlier this month, the primary concern will be stopping guard Marshall Henderson.

"Obviously we have to pay special attention to Henderson," Polson said. "He'll shoot it from anywhere."

Henderson did in the first game against the Wildcats, attempting 18 shots.

But he made just six, and scored 16 points.

"We just can't give them any open looks," Robic said, "because he works extremely hard and never stops moving to get a shot off."

Henderson will get his shots -- whether they be from 35 feet or from an inch behind the line, Robic said -- and will make some.

"Can you keep your head about you if he does?" Calipari said. "And he seems to do it more at home than he does on the road."

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