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January 2, 2013The 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.
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."