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February 12, 2013

Notes: Goodwin keeps his cool; Wiltjer finds his voice

Archie Goodwin knows he's struggling. Knows he's not playing "to the best of my abilities."

The freshman guard is averaging 12 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting in SEC play. He's shot 1-for-20 from outside in his last 11 games.

"If I let experiences like this frustrate me, I'd never be the player I want to be," Goodwin said. "I don't let it frustrate me. I just try to find different ways to improve myself and help get a win. As long as we're getting wins, that's the only thing that really matters at this stage."

That's exactly the mentality coach John Calipari is asking him to have -- starting, perhaps, in Tuesday's game against No. 7 Florida (19-3, 9-1 SEC) that will put a premium on guard play.

"You have to lose yourself in the team," Calipari said. "That's where he's not yet. Anything that he does out there, it's him doing it, versus, you're doing this for the team."

Calipari said Goodwin is still trying to establish his own identity as an individual player.

"Don't worry about that right now," Calipari said. "We got eight games left."

Following the Auburn game, Calipari said sitting on the bench and watching his teammates make plays without him may have "been good for him."

"I guess he's trying to say they can win with or without me, or something along those lines," Goodwin said. "Which I never doubted that."

He was on the bench because of foul trouble, induced from an on-court altercation in which an Auburn player seemingly punched him. At the time, Goodwin appeared ready to respond.

"Yeah it was a little bit in the heat of the moment," Goodwin said. "But after I calmed down, I wasn't going to hit him. There's no reason in that. There's no point jeopardizing my future just because he hit me."

Goodwin said the punch showed "immaturity" on the Auburn player's part, and said that he should expect that, "because people are going to try to take shots at us. Just because they might be jealous of the position we're in."

Regardless of what position's he's in, Calipari said that Goodwin needs to play hard, even if he's not playing well. If he commits a turnover, "run the guy down and block it." If he misses a shot, "don't worry about it." On defense, don't go under screens or fail to block out.

Calipari pointed out that past players - he named Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as an example - found ways to fight through a bad game to still help the team.

"A lot of great players have stretches where they don’t play the game like they expect," Goodwin said, "but it's just something that they work through and get over."

Alter Ego
Quietly Kyle Wiltjer is turning into one of Kentucky's biggest leaders, and he's doing so with his voice.

All season Calipari has been pleading for a player to speak up and take control.

Calipari saw flashes from senior Julius Mays; forward Nerlens Noel's energy has never been criticized.

But there hadn't been a consistent voice for the Cats until Wiltjer took control.

"I just kind of stepped up and kind of got energetic in practice one day and Cal picked up on it," Wiltjer said. "So I just kind of kept doing it every day."

And he hasn't stopped.

Calipari has made a point to mention Wiltjer's leadership after nearly every game during UK's five-game winning streak. He's also made a point of using Wiltjer as an example to other teammates.

"It's like Kyle in practice," Calipari said. "Why should Kyle practice like that and no one else?"

And when the Cats take on Florida Tuesday, Calipari will look at Wiltjer to be a leader, though he added that even Wiltjer might not be ready for the atmosphere.

"If I look back (Wiltjer) probably played very few minutes down there (last year)," Calipari said. "They haven't felt this down there. They haven't played a team that's been there, done that and a team that's hungry to beat us."

The Cats beat the Gators three times last season, but Wiltjer averaged fewer than nine minutes and four points per game in those meetings.

But with Wiltjer's new leadership role, he's ready to propel the Cats to an upset bid Tuesday.

"We have confidence in ourselves, and we're going to go in there, try to play good defense and we'll see what happens," Wiltjer said.

This newfound energy from Wiltjer comes as a surprise based on his interaction with fans and the media.

The typically monotone sophomore is never one to give an outlandish quote or provide opponents with bulletin board material, but Willie Cauley-Stein explained why Wiltjer is different on the court.

"I've never seen that other Kyle," Cauley-Stein said. "When's he's around me, we make goofy videos. Maybe he doesn't like the media."

Wiltjer laughed but didn't shoot down the idea Monday when asked about the media.

"Well, I don't know about that," Wiltjer said with a smile. "But yeah. Next question, I guess?"

UK returns to rankings
Kentucky's ranked again.

The Wildcats are No. 25 in the latest Associated Press poll, up nine spots from the previous week. It's the first time UK has been ranked since Nov. 26 - a full 10 weeks ago.

"I just feel like this is somewhere we should have been," Goodwin said. "We're not where we want to be."

And where is that?

"I'm pretty sure we want to be in the No. 1 spot," Goodwin said. "That's where we're aiming right now."

UK's even further from that spot in the other polls.

The Cats remained outside the top 25 in the coaches' poll but did move up from No. 39 to No. 31. They received 27 points, 23 more than the previous week.

In the NCAA's official RPI rankings, Kentucky dropped three spots to No. 49.

"We shouldn't be worried about that kind of stuff," Wiltjer said. "Just worry about keep getting better every day."

Noel wins fourth SEC weekly honor
Nerlens Noel won his fourth straight SEC Freshman of the Week award after averaging 10 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks last week in wins over South Carolina and Auburn.

Wiltjer is the only UK player to win SEC Player of the Week this season. Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein have joined Noel in winning Freshman of the Week honors, each having one win.


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