There wasn't a hotter player in all of college basketball than Providence's LaDontae Henton.
LaDefinition: Henton was a volume scorer. The 6-foot-6 swingman scored 24 points in a win over Florida State. He torched Notre Dame for 38. He threw down 29 on Yale. He walked into Rupp Arena on Sunday averaging 24.3 points per game.
The Lansing, Mich., native walked out having scored all of three points — 21 below his average — in Providence's 58-38 loss to the top-ranked Cats at Rupp Arena.
Henton took eight shots and made one. He bricked all five of his second-half tries. His per-game scoring clip went from fiery to frigid.
Take a bow, Willie Cauley-Stein.
"I just played defense," said Kentucky's junior center/forward/whatever who was matched up on the once-hot Henton. "Not much to it."
Come on, there had to be plenty to it.
"Willie did what Willie do," said teammate Andrew Harrison.
Willie did what few people in the entire country can do, or at least people who stand 7 feet tall. The long, athletic Kansas native went out on the floor and not only guarded the crafty Henton, he shut him down.
"It's hard when you're (being guarded by) a seven-footer with feet like that, to really get shots off," said UK coach John Calipari of Henton.
It was all part of yet another dominating defensive effort by Calipari's stingy squad. The previously unbeaten Friars hit seven of their first 10 shots, then wilted under UK's constant pressure and length.
By the final horn, Ed Cooley's team had committed 18 turnovers and shot just 28.2 percent — the fourth team in seven games that Kentucky has held to less than 30 percent, a truly ridiculous stat.
As for Cauley-Stein's turn to be a star, well, he preferred to have nothing of it.
"I mean the dude played the four position," said Cauley-Stein. "I don't know who else I would guard beside him."
But this wasn't just any dude. CBS Sports tabbed Henton its National Player of the Week after he filled up against Notre Dame. Over his previous four games, he had made 42 of 67 shots for 62.6 percent. His Twitter handle is @HentonBuckets23, for heaven's sake.
"Everybody's going to key on him, but LaDontae's averaged about 30 point his last three games," Cooley said. "I think they put (on him) probably one of the best defensive players I've seen in a long time in Cauley-Stein. He's got quick feet, he's long, he jumps over mountains. It was a tough matchup."
Some thought — or hoped for the sake of viewing a competitive game — that the Big East school would be an interesting match for Calipari's wrecking ball. Providence had beaten some quality foes. Cooley possessed some skilled players.
Point guard Kris Dunn, who had missed practice time and games with a sprained ankle, returned with a full coating of rust. He committed seven turnovers in the first half. And though Providence stuck to its plan for about 24 minutes, the Friars eventually, to use a Calipari phrase, let go of the rope.
Someone asked Cooley to analyze Cauley-Stein's disruptiveness. The coach replied, "That's something for a general manager."
That would be an NBA general manager, a fraternity that whenever a member wants to daydream about the future he need only flip on some Kentucky video.
"Look, this is a work in progress," Calipari cautioned, pointing to upcoming games with Texas (Friday), North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville, among others. "It's no different than last year."
Then Cal slipped into auto-correct. "The difference is we got some vets, so we're a little bit ahead of where we were."
One of those vets happens to be Cauley-Stein, a "big" who can not only guard a "wing" but shut him down, who Sunday "did what Willie do."
-Chad FordKentucky actually has a whopping four players with a 30 or higher PER after seven games. There isn't another team in the NCAA that's even close. Cauley-Stein is one of those four, despite posting the lowest usage rating of any of the players on our Big Board. Cauley-Stein continues to be efficient doing what he does well -- rebounding, shot blocking and scoring at the rim. At this point, no one thinks he's ever going to amount to much offensively, but he has the potential to be a defensive monster in the NBA.
An ugly, physical, erratic first half gave way to a big Kentucky run in the second half, and ultimately, top-ranked Wildcats just got their toughest win of the season so far.
UK remains unbeaten, now at 8-0, following that slog of a home win over No. 6 Texas on Friday night. The final: 63-51. A 12-point differential doesn't do justice to how Texas traded blows above Rupp Arena's rims, and how close the game felt for about 32 of the game's 40 minutes.
Despite foul trouble, Texas rebounded 44 percent of its misses and 68 percent of Kentucky's, winning the battle on the glass, and pretty handily. Kentucky shot 1 for 12 from 3-point range. But Texas, playing without its starting point guard (Isaiah Taylor is still out with a wrist injury), gave the ball away 22 times.
That's your difference.
With the loss, Texas is now Texas 0-8 all time against teams ranked No. 1.
Kentucky is now 90-4 under John Calipari at home.
Looking for a player to shine on? Junior Willie Cauley-Stein was absolutely vital for Kentucky. He was the team's best Friday night, becoming the first UK player this season to put up at least 20 points in a game. The 7-footer went for a career-best 21 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocks. And he had three terrific alley-oop finishes.
Here's one of them.
Defense was always going to be the story here. Entering the game Texas was forcing opponents to shoot 31 percent from the field, third-best in the country. Kentucky was at 28 percent, tops in the land. There are no grand takeaways except to say the incredible defense from beginning to end for both teams reestablished that, even with the fouls plaguing the flow, both teams proved they can be the two best defensive teams in the country. (Kentucky is now and has been clearly the best.)
Fifty-one total fouls were called. It got egregious almost immediately.
Texas was able to keep it interesting, and close, after falling behind by 16 midway through the second half because of its defense. This after Kentucky started on a 10-0 run and held the Longhorns to one field goal in the first eight minutes of the second half.
And for Calipari, his team moves on and is probably better for it. No team can physically and vertically challenge the Wildcats like the Horns. I wish the game had been more liberally called, allowing the bigs to be bigs and the talent to shine through. Instead, it was a distilled version of a top-10 matchup, one that Kentucky deserved to win, regardless.
There's now little doubt Calipari would prefer to not have to see this team again come NCAA Tournament time. It wasn't an exposé for Kentucky, but an eye-level look against a team that's as close to an equal as UK will see all season.
http://www.si.com/nba/2014/12/10/nba-big-board-draft-jahlil-okafor-karl-towns-emmanuel-mudiayCauley-Stein, 21, a Big Board fixture last season whose return to Kentucky surprised many executives, is a known commodity. He defends, rebounds and runs the floor but is limited offensively. Still, Cauley-Stein is shooting 62.3 percent and has raised his free throw shooting to 63.0 percent after connecting on just 48.2 percent last season.
Not a far-fetched comparison.Who is he defensively? I've only seen a few games, but to me he looks like he has some Joakim Noah in him with his versatility on D. That sound at all right?
NBADraft.net has him going at 10 to the Pacers right now. I think this is quietly a pretty deep draft, especially for big men.I really like him. I could see him being a great starting center in the new NBA where everyone else is a shooter. He will likely be better than his draft position.
It has great depth in the front court. Don't see many game changers on the perimeter besides Russell, Johnson and Mudiay. I think there's a few no-brainer's and quite a few guys who will make solid careers for themselves.NBADraft.net has him going at 10 to the Pacers right now. I think this is quietly a pretty deep draft, especially for big men.