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January 18, 2013

Cauley-Stein's status uncertain as UK meets Auburn

The injury is old. The fix is new. The prognosis is unclear.

That's the status of Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein who underwent a minor procedure this week on his left knee and whose status for the Wildcats' game at Auburn on Saturday is to be determined.

"He probably is going to come back after a short period and be rested and ready to go, I would imagine," UK coach John Calipari said. "But he'll be weight training and doing anything else and running and all the other stuff, so he'll be fine."

It was unclear as of Friday whether Cauley-Stein would travel with the Wildcats (11-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to Auburn. And though Calipari didn't rule out the possibility that Cauley-Stein could play against the Tigers, he expected that UK would be "one (player) short for a short while."

"It shortens (the rotation) a little bit," forward Kyle Wiltjer said. "Guys are going to have to step up. We'll be ready."

Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot, 244-pound forward from Olathe, Kan., averages 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He's played in all 16 games this season and has started the past five.

Calipari didn't detail how Kentucky would alter its rotation if Cauley-Stein can't play, but guard Ryan Harrow said the Cats likely would go small to start - with Alex Poythress at power forward - and keep Wiltjer as the team's sixth man.

"I think he's still going to be coming off the bench to give us the scoring off the bench," Harrow said. "But it's just a time for all of us to step up a little bit."

Cauley-Stein leaves a void to fill - he's averaged 7.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his five starts - but Calipari noted that he's hardly been UK's most productive player.

"The impact if he doesn't play is that we're one short of where we were," Calipari said. "But against Duke he played six minutes. Maryland, he was not a factor. So what happens is, other guys got to step up and play."

Cauley-Stein's injury dates back to junior high school, Calipari said, and had bothered him in recent weeks. There were times, Calipari said, when Cauley-Stein would take himself out of games or stop running during a shootaround.

The injury was "nothing major," Calipari said, but Kentucky opted to have Cauley-Stein go through what the school called a "minor procedure" on Thursday. Citing student privacy laws, UK declined to provide further details.

"And let me say this: We didn't have to do anything," Calipari said. "It could've been, 'You're fine. Put the knee sleeve on and go.' But as you know, that's not how we operate here. If I err, I'm going to err on the side of the kid. Let's just be safe."

In theory, Kentucky can afford to play it safe against Auburn (8-8, 2-1 SEC), which starts only one player taller than 6-foot-6. But Calipari suggested that the Tigers' lack of size is "why it would have been better for us to have another big guy."

And Calipari insisted that Auburn is no pushover. The Tigers, coached by Tony Barbee - who played for and coached under Calipari - will play with great effort, and suggested that the Tigers are further along in their development than are the Cats.

"What's happened is, Auburn has bought into how they're going to have to play," Calipari said. "We have not."

Calipari said the game could be "one of those ones that will maybe bring guys together." The Tigers have their first sellout of the season. The environment figures to be hostile.

And the odds are good that UK will be down a man. Cauley-Stein's long-term prognosis, though, is unclear.

For now, he's handling the uncertainty.

"He's good," Harrow said. "When you talk to him, he's laughing and still cheerful and stuff like that. I think he's handling it pretty good."


KENTUCKY AT AUBURN| SATURDAY | 9 P.M. | ESPNU
KENTUCKY (11-5, 2-1 SEC)
Coach: John Calipari (113-19 in fourth season at Kentucky; 516-157 in 21st season overall)
Last game: Beat Tennessee 75-65
Roster | Stats
AUBURN (8-8, 2-1 SEC)
Coach: Tony Barbee (34-44 in third season at Auburn; 116-96 in seventh season overall)
Last game: Lost to Arkansas 88-80 (2OT)
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Ryan Harrow So. 6-2/170 10.3 2.5
G Archie Goodwin Fr. 6-5/198 15.2 4.8
F Nerlens Noel Fr. 6-10/208 10.9 9.3
F Alex Poythress Fr. 6-7/239 13.2 6.4
F Willie Cauley-Stein Fr. 7-0/244 7.6 5.8
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Josh Wallace Sr. 5-10/170 3.4 2.5
G Shaquille Johnson Fr. 6-5/210 4.9 2.8
G Frankie Sullivan Sr. 6-1/206 17.8 4.4
C Rob Chubb Sr. 6-10/250 9.9 7.8
F Allen Payne Jr. 6-6/215 8.4 4.9
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Auburn Arena (9,121), Auburn, Ala.
TV: ESPNU (Tom Hart play-by play, Matt Doherty analyst).
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); XM 199.
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Kentucky by 7.5

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 86-17
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 88-16
Coaches' records: Calipari 3-0 vs. Auburn; Barbee 0-2 vs. Kentucky

Last meeting: Kentucky 68, Auburn 53, Jan. 11, 2012, Auburn, Ala.
The Wildcats didn't have as easy a time as the final score suggests. UK didn't take its first double-digit lead of the game until the 1:31 mark of the second half on a lob dunk by Anthony Davis. The Wildcats closed the game on a 23-6 run. Davis and Doron Lamb scored 14 points each for Kentucky, which won its 13th straight game against the Tigers. Marquis Teague and Terrence Jones added 12 points each. Rob Chubb had 14 points and eight rebounds for Auburn, which led 47-45 with 10:52 to play.

Keys to the Game
1. Scoring Load: Auburn boasts a pair of dynamic scorers in guards Frankie Sullivan and Chris Denson, but Denson has been sidelined with a stress fracture and isn't expected to play until next month. That's shifted the scoring load to Sullivan, and he's carried it well. He scored 26 points in Auburn's last game at Arkansas, his ninth game this season with at least 20. He scored 21 in the Tigers' near-upset of Illinois. He's the SEC's second-leading scorer this season and ranks third among active SEC players with 1,375 career points.

2. Threes With Ease: Auburn can spread the floor with good shooters. Sharpshooters Jordan Price and Noel Johnson would rank first and third in the SEC in three-point shooting if they'd made the 2.5 threes per game required to qualify. Price is 19-of-36 from three-point range this season (52.8 percent); Johnson is 29-of-66 (43.9 percent). In one three-game stretch earlier this season, Price made 11 straight three-pointers. Four times this season Auburn has matched its season high of 11 three-pointers. Auburn is 1-3 in those games.

3. Mirror Images: Tony Barbee is a former John Calipari, assistant, and both coaches' teams are 2-1 in SEC play. But the similarities don't stop there. Both Auburn and Kentucky have even scoring margins in league play. Both average 33.7 rebounds per game in conference play and allow 35.7 for a -2 rebound margin.



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