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January 13, 2013
Notes: Despite struggles, Cats not worried about bubble
Kentucky is in an unusual position.
Although Selection Sunday is more than two months away, UK fans have grown accustomed in the John Calipari era to discussing whether they will be a top seed, in which region the Wildcats will be placed, or whether their draw will be favorable.
This year, at this time, the once top-five team is firmly on the tournament bubble after losing 83-71 to Texas A&M Saturday at home.
But Calipari isn't too concerned.
"I think we'll be fine, but no, you've got to win games," Calipari said. "For us going forward, each game we play, we just have to worry about being the best team in the gym."
Calipari realizes his team is in a tough situation. He said the Cats are getting better and will continue to learn, but the biggest obstacle will be winning games while learning.
UK already has five losses on the season, the most the Cats have totaled in 15 games since the 2007-2008 season, when UK was an 11 seed and was eliminated in the first round.
"It's going to be another month before this team comes together," Calipari said. "I just hope we are winning enough games as we learn to do this."
Like Calipari, the players are remaining calm. There are still 16 games left in the season plus the Southeastern Conference Tournament, so chances will present themselves.
"I don't think that's going to be a problem," Ryan Harrow said. "We still have a lot of time and have a lot of games. Coach is going to figure this out, we just have to buy into what he's talking about."
But he realizes the expectations that come with playing at UK, and making the tournament is a given.
"We are always supposed to make it to the NCAA tournament," Harrow said. "So we just have to keep that attitude."
UK will take it one game at a time with the next game being at Rupp Arena against rival Tennessee. And the Cats still have time to build their postseason profile.
"We still have the likes of Missouri and Florida to play," guard Archie Goodwin said. "We still have a lot of room for growth, and I think we'll make the adjustments that we need to by the time (the) tournament comes around."
Harrows ups and downs
Over the past few weeks, Harrow has been on a tear.
After averaging fewer than three points on 6-of-27 shooting in his first five games, the sophomore has been one of UK's most reliable offensive players in the last six.
Harrow shot just 5-of-13 on Saturday but hit some timely shots to keep UK in the game.
He finished with 14 points.
"In the second half I thought I played well," Harrow said. "I was doing things the team needed me to do.
"Coach said even though I missed some of those shots as long as I get it on the rim our guys can rebound it and put it back in. That's what he wanted me to do, take those shots, and I made some and missed some."
And while he hit some big shots and created other opportunities, he was uncharacteristically reckless with the ball. His five turnovers Saturday were a season high, while the rest of the team only turned it over six times.
But Harrow said his confidence isn't down and he is just waiting for the next game.
"We got to keep guys' morale up in the next practice and be focused for the next game," Harrow said.
Waking up Alex
It's been a reoccurring theme this season, but UK is begging to get more out of freshman Alex Poythress.
It seems everyone - players, coaches, and even the fans - know his potential and want to see him reach it more often and for longer stints.
He had 12 points in Saturday's lost but only attempted eight shots.
Calipari said it starts with intensity.
"I wish we could get Alex with more, you know, scream, yell," Calipari said. "'Ahh I want to win, stopping this guy.'"
Calipari turned to Poythress on the bench after Nerlens Noel celebrated a dunk on Saturday and urged him to be more demonstrative in the way that Noel is.
"I'm looking at the dude and he's got his head down," Calipari said. "I mean, that's, you know, we need him to play better."
But Harrow has seen changes in Poythress' game and he thinks everyone will see the results sooner than later.
"He's working hard to make the changes, it won't just happen overnight," Harrow said. "I know Alex will keep working hard until the changes are obvious to everyone."