Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

February 4, 2014

Can Cauley-Stein keep it moving forward?

LEXINGTON — So, what will it be, Willie?

Kentucky's enigmatic 7-footer should have a warning label stripped across his back: May cause motion sickness.

Watching Willie Cauley-Stein play is like riding the county fair viking ship.

Back and forth, back and forth; a couple of sudden, jerking stops; and then back and forth, back and forth.

One point and one block to eight points and six rejections; black hair to gold curls, then back to dark; no points and four fouls on Saturday to 18 points, two shy of a career high, on Tuesday.

Cauley-Stein quelled the queasiness and uneasiness of Kentucky fans in the Wildcats' 80-64 win over Ole Miss.

The WCS Express was worth the ticket Tuesday. He was active from the time coach John Calipari hit the “go” button, inserting the big man at the 16:33-mark of the first half.

His impact was immediate, and needed — fellow post Cats Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson combined for three points and two boards in the first 20 minutes.

First, he threw down a dunk to polish off an alley-oop initiated by Andrew Harrison. Moments later, WCS grabbed a loose ball, spun and dropped in a deuce with the left hand.

“Well, he was outstanding tonight,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. “He finished everything at the basket. Even when we came up with somewhat of a stop, he would finish through contact.”

Another slam, this time off an Aaron Harrison assist, proved that the old Cauley-Stein was back. Or, is it the new Willie?

At this point, reverting back to the LSU-Missouri-Texas A&M-Tennessee Willie is not an option. Those games captured his recent offensive atrocity — he tallied four points in 52 minutes in those four contests.

For this team to be a factor in March, WCS must be completely out of hibernation.

The production may not always be through the roof, but goose eggs and snail-like efforts in the paint won't be taken well anymore.

He may not the most important player on the team, and he'll usually not be the highest scorer, but his length and athleticism give Kentucky an advantage on every defensive possession that he plays.

All told on Tuesday, Cauley-Stein amassed 18 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and a steal. He literally punched, not blocked, the ball late in the first half, deflating a Ladarius White shot attempt in the lane. On that same possession, he had another block and a deflection.

“We end up with 12 blocks because (Ole Miss) just thought they could drive it,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “He had defensive confidence, and there is such a thing as defensive confidence. He didn't have it against Missouri.”

The roar of the Rupp crowd fueled WCS, that was evident. The Big Blue faithful won't always be 23,000-strong in every arena, so that's something he'll have to get used to. But, by now, there shouldn't be any real surprises on the road for the sophomore.

So, again, what will it be, Willie?

If Tuesday is any indication, this season could be a much smoother ride.

And maybe Cats fans can even spare the Dramamine.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

Text Only
Local Sports
  • AARON SNYDER: Five Teams? Pretty Kool

    If these unseasonably cool July mornings aren’t enough to have your mind on the fast track to football, maybe some Kool Hits news will help.

    July 31, 2014

  • Golf scramble will benefit Paramount Arts Center

    Paramount Woman’s Association’s seventh annual Ladies’ Golf Scramble is scheduled for Aug. 11 at Bellefonte Country Club.

    July 30, 2014

  • Kittens call on Ingram

    Somebody had to follow Dave Miller.
    Scott Ingram is pleased to be the coach to fill the vacancy for the man who built Ashland Blazer softball into a perennial state Top 25 program. The Kittens have won the 16th Region championship every year since 2009.

    July 29, 2014

  • 0729kypgaJr0034.jpg Golfers go out with an encore

    Evan Goble said he “wasn’t completely ready for a playoff” on Monday.
    That didn’t stop him from holing two pressure-packed playoff putts to win the 13-14-year-old division of the final event of the summer on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour at Bellefonte Country Club.

    July 29, 2014 4 Photos

  • EKC Grid-O-Rama set for Aug. 15-16

    The annual Eastern Kentucky Conference football scrimmage contests are set for Aug. 15-16 at Fleming County and Raceland.

    July 29, 2014

  • Holliday embraces high expectations

    As Marshall football prepares to return to the gridiron to begin fall practice Aug. 4, this season the program finds itself labeled something that it has not been in many years: a favorite.

    July 29, 2014

  • Mobley, Jude key for EKU

    Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood has revamped the Colonels’ defense in hopes of containing OVC opponents’ spread offenses.

    July 29, 2014

  • ZACK KLEMME: Punchless Reds wasting solid pitching

    The last nine days have been an exercise in understanding just how slim the margin for error is for baseball teams — even good ones — that can’t score.

    July 27, 2014

  • 0726fbPrac0079.jpg Practice rolls on as kickoff approaches in less than 5 weeks

    As high school football teams strap on helmets and prepare for Friday nights next month, the theme of the first couple of weeks of practice for most is simple.
    You gotta work. Hard.
    And if you don’t, it’ll be exposed come Aug. 22.
    “Everybody looks good in helmets,” Ashland coach Tony Love said with a grin. “We’re all undefeated. There’s a lot of work to get done.
    “Our coaches and kids, we all know it, and that’s why they’re here and we’re here, and we’re gonna push hard every day.”

    July 25, 2014 4 Photos

  • kenzie-breaststroke.jpg Pennington makes push for Nationals

    Swimmer Kenzie Pennington had one last chance to make the cut for this year’s YMCA Long Course National Championships.
    The 15-year-old from Ashland didn’t disappoint.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo