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January 29, 2013Kentucky coach John Calipari said freshman Willie Cauley-Stein is doubtful for Tuesday's game against Ole Miss after receiving minor knee surgery on Jan. 17.
So the odds are against Cauley-Stein playing Tuesday at Tad Smith Coliseum.
But he is scheduled to be there.
"He's making the trip," Calipari said prior to Monday's practice. "Don't know if he'll practice today. He's running up and down, I don't know if I want him to do that but he may.
"I would guess doubtful for Tuesday, questionable, I don't know. He'll probably try to convince me he's ready so we'll see."
In Cauley-Stein's absence other players have stepped up, but there's no denying the Cats could use his 21 minutes per game, 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.
If he doesn't play Tuesday it will be the fourth consecutive game he's missed.
UK is 2-1 in Cauley-Stein's absence.
The Wildcats are used to being the meal ticket, the quality win opponents crave. But as this bizarre season continues for Kentucky, it hopes to upset the Rebels to capture its first Top 25 win of the season.
The players realize the importance of Tuesday's game against Ole Miss, but Calipari isn't just singling out the Rebels.
"They're all (must wins)," Calipari said. "Every one is. If you told me you're going to lose this and win the next nine, all right, wake me up when it's over and I'll sit and watch the game."
In Calipari's either/or scenario, that would include a win at Florida and at home against Missouri. Guaranteed that, most fans probably would be OK with defeat at Ole Miss.
But there have been no guarantees for the Cats this season.
Ryan Harrow said the pressure is on Ole Miss as the favored team. He admitted that it's a bit odd to play the underdog role.
"We're Kentucky and we're the ones used to it," Harrow said. "We just have to go out there and play and do what we do."
Forward Alex Poythress said Kentucky has been the underdog "all season," regardless of what the gambling line says.
"It's not odd," Poythress said. "We're just a basketball team, really. One team's going to be favored, one's not. You've just got to play basketball at the end of the day."
As UK is trying to improve its NCAA tournament resume, Calipari just wants his team to be the best it can be.
Right now, the Cats haven't met their potential. And they're not close.
"I don't want to say we're the least version of ourselves, but we're certainly not the best version," Calipari said.
Calipari wasn't all doom and gloom. He's seeing some improvement.
But he said it seems that when one of his players gets on the right track, another slips off the rails.
"All of the sudden, Ryan was playing well, and now it's almost like we got to play Jarrod (Polson). Archie (Goodwin) does fine, and then all of the sudden he's taking bad shots. And then Alex is not competing, then he's playing well. Now you got Kyle (Wiltjer) and Nerlens (Noel) playing well, you got the injury (to Cauley-Stein). So we've had a lot of stuff thrown at us."
If the Cats want to take the next step to becoming a better team, he said, every player will need to buy in and sustain the energy Calipari is pleading them to play with.
"No excuses, but we've just got to get to that point in the season where everybody totally surrenders to each other," Calipari said. "Surrender to each other, man. Do it. Talk more... .You just have to surrender and do what the team needs you to do. And we're just not quite there."