Cats host Portland in Rupp Saturday afternoon

UK forward Nerlens Noel runs after Samford guard Russell Wilson during the second half of the men's basketball game vs. Samford at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, December 4, 2012. Photo by Emily Wuetcher | Staff.

By David Schuh | @KernelSchuh

dschuh@kykernel.com

The UK basketball team ended its two-game losing streak with a comfortable win over Samford Tuesday night, but it was the Cats’ second-half effort that made head coach John Calipari frustrated again afterward.

“We’re going to condition in the morning for the next three weeks and then practice because I can’t think of any other reason why you wouldn’t come out in the second half and play,” Calipari said. “You need to learn how to play a full game.”

The effort that Calipari referenced can’t be seen in the box score. Six Cats scored in double figures, led by freshman Archie Goodwin with 18 points. Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, playing maybe his most complete game of the season.

However, it’s those hustle plays and the defensive side of the court that the Cats will be working on in the coming weeks.
“We just lacked energy,” sophomore Kyle Wiltjer said. “We let down on defense so we just have to work on not giving up on any play no matter what the score is.”

With that in mind, UK will have another statistically inferior opponent ahead on Saturday in the University of Portland. The toughest opponent the Pilots have played is UNLV, who they lost to by eight at home on Tuesday.

In the grand scheme of things, it will be a working tool for the young Cats as they continue to build the team the fans hope they can be.
“I see us getting better each and every day,” freshman Alex Poythress said. “If we continue to get better every day we will be fine at the end of the road.”

The major event the Cats are looking to is the Dec. 29 matchup with Louisville. With three relatively subpar opponents leading up to it, that game will be a great measure of where the team is at the turn of the calendar.

And given the amount of free time available after finals are over, Calipari is ready to turn up the heat on his young squad.

“We’re sliding into Camp Cal time,” Calipari said. “No classes, no timeframe … none of that. Do nice conditioning in the morning. Do practice in the afternoon. Come back in the evening and walk through and do some shooting and other things.”

The game Saturday will tip off at noon and be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.