The bus ride back from Louisville on Saturday hurt, Willie Cauley-Stein said. It left a "disgusting" feeling in his stomach.
But two days removed, he sees the positives from the three-point loss.
"Yeah, we got a lot of good things out of the game," Cauley-Stein said. "We just have to capitalize on those and then work on stuff we did wrong and just move forward from it."
Kentucky will get a chance against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday (ESPNU, 6 p.m.) in its final game before conference play begins.
As the 8-4 Wildcats stand on the precipice of a new (calendar) year, they see optimism for the future.
"To me, this could be, at the end of the day, my most rewarding year as a coach," John Calipari said. "When you go through a season, you don't judge it just by wins and losses. You don't judge it just by championships. You judge it by what was accomplished by a team and how far they've come."
To keep moving toward that reward, UK must continue progressing. Cauley-Stein said this team is at a crucial juncture of the season because of what they built in fighting the Cardinals down to the final minute.
"You know, to be honest it could go either way," Cauley-Stein said when asked about the rest of the season. "We're at a point where we did a lot of good things and we can step up from it and keep it rolling, or take a couple steps back and have to start from square one again. We're in a position where we can keep it going and get a lot better and turn our season around and make it where we want to be in the end."
No free-throw switcheroo
There was no conspiracy, Calipari said, about a free throw shooting switch that occurred late in the first half against Louisville.
A public video depicting Nerlens Noel stepping to the free-throw line after a foul before ceding his spot to Alex Poythress created conversation online, but Calipari said there was nothing to it.
With 1:05 left in the half, Poythress drove on the baseline before passing to Noel in the post. A foul was called. Officially, it was credited to Louisville's Russ Smith, guarding Noel on the play. Noel stepped to the line, but Poythress eventually took his place and shot both free throws.
A spokesman said the UK bench thought Poythress had been fouled and called the referees' attention to it. The referee then told the official scorers table that Poythress was the shooter.
Calipari said Monday he had thought Poythress had been fouled and was "not going to let them" put the wrong shooter at the line.
As for the notion that he was seeking an advantage by switching out Noel for Poythress, he pointed out that has had his struggles from the line, and said that, given Poythress' struggles in the game, he "would've had more confidence in Nerlens at that point."
"I wasn't on the grassy knoll in '63," Calipari said, referring to a popular conspiracy theory regarding President John Kennedy's assassination. "The conspiracy people, I wasn't in Dallas and I wasn't on the grassy knoll and I was four years old."
Free-throw shooting emphasis
Cauley-Stein promised he would get in the gym to work on his free throws after missing all four attempts against Louisville.
He's doing just that.
The freshman, who is shooting 35.7 percent on the year from the stripe, spent an hour shooting free throws on Sunday and said he planned on doing the same thing after Monday's practice.
Calipari said he wants him shooting 100-200 per day.
"I'm going to get them down," Cauley-Stein said, "so next time it doesn't happen."
It's more than just Cauley-Stein getting in extra work at the line.
In his individual workouts with Poythress, a 64.2 percent free-throw shooter, Calipari is working in free-throw drills, with running as a punishment if he makes less than four out of five.
"Now, he hates to run," Calipari said. "So today, he made every free throw. No, that can't be the guy that went 2 out of 6 (against Louisville) and almost shot airballs left. Not airballs short. Left airballs. The same kid now makes every one today? Yes."
Site: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington, Ky.
TV: ESPNU (Tom Hart play-by play, Joe Dean Jr. analyst).
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); Sirius 123/XM 199).
Favorite: Kentucky by 27
Series record: First meeting
At Lexington: First meeting
Coaches' records: Calipari 0-0 vs. Eastern Michigan; Murphy 0-0 vs. Kentucky
Kentucky will face a first-time opponent for the second time this season. The Wildcats beat Lafayette 101-49 on Nov. 16 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Once it plays Eastern Michigan, Kentucky will have played 210 of the current 338 Division I programs. UK is no stranger to Mid-American Conference foes. The Wildcats are 45-6 against MAC teams. UK's most common MAC opponent is Miami of Ohio, against whom the Cats are 22-6 all-time. John Calipari is 3-0 in his career against the MAC.
Keys to the Game
1. Super Subs: If Kentucky opts not to start Alex Poythress, it likely won't be the only team in the game bringing a top talent off the bench. Eastern Michigan's leading scorer, Derek Thompson, has come off the bench in five of the Eagles' first 12 games, including the last two. Though he's often a sub, Thompson plays 22.9 minutes per game and averages 12.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He's the Eagles' most dangerous perimeter scorer, shooting 32-for-82 from three-point range this season. More than half of Thompson's field-goal attempts and makes are from behind the three-point line.
2. Depth Charged: Eastern Michigan might get worn down at Rupp Arena, but it won't be for a lack of available bodies. The Eagles have a deep rotation, with nine players averaging at least 13.5 minutes per game. A 10th player, James Still, averaged more than 14 minutes per game in the Eagles' first two games, but he was dismissed from the team on Nov. 16 after pleading guilty to a felony assault charge in Rhode Island. No Eastern Michigan player averages more than 29.1 minutes per game, and nine different players on the active roster have started at least once this season.
3. Competition Counts: Kentucky won't be Eastern Michigan's toughest nonconference test this season. Already this season the Eagles have played a pair of top five teams in Syracuse and Michigan. It's the first time since Eastern Michigan began recording games against ranked teams (in 1995-96) that the Eagles have played a pair of top five teams in a season. Those early tests were unkind to the Eagles. They lost to Syracuse and Michigan by an average of 37.5 points per game. Eastern Michigan beat Purdue 47-44 on Dec. 8.