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January 22, 2013

Notes: Polson ready when called; UK's effort improving

John Calipari has no problem going to Jarrod.

With the possibility that forward Willie Cauley-Stein will miss his second straight game Tuesday at Alabama (9 p.m., ESPN), Kentucky's short bench gets even shorter, and junior guard Jarrod Polson can expect more minutes.

Especially after playing a Southeastern Conference career-high 10 minutes last Saturday at Auburn, shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from the field for six points and three rebounds.

"He played good," Calipari said. "Jarrod played good. We're gonna stay with the rotation we have, and hopefully he'll get, you know, the minutes and get in there and perform."

If Polson's last two games are any indication, he'll get minutes; not starter minutes, maybe, but more than he's used to since he's been at UK.

In his last two SEC games, Polson has tallied 17 minutes. That's two fewer than he played in 38 conference games as a freshman and sophomore combined.

Unlike in past years, Polson can make a positive impact.

"I definitely feel a lot better" Polson said. "Anytime I get out there I'm just trying to work hard and I think Cal sees that and appreciates it."

And Polson said once he sees one shot fall it helps his confidence.

"When you get a few baskets that will increase your confidence a little bit," Polson said.

Polson had no problem scoring in the paint against Auburn on Saturday, including a putback over much bigger defenders.

On another basket, he blew by Tiger defenders and had a chance for a dunk. He went for a layup instead.

"I just faked a pass and dribbled one more time and thought, 'Oh my gosh,'" Polson said. "It was weird. I wish I would have dunked it, but it was too late for that."

Polson joked that next time he had an opportunity like that he wouldn't pass up on a dunk.

But it's no joke that Polson will have to give the Cats valuable minutes, especially with Cauley-Stein sidelined.

"If my number's called I'll be ready," Polson said.

Cal's happy
Calipari rarely smiles on the bench, and this season his smirk has been seen less than in years past.

But though he's a stern coach on the sideline, Calipari said he's happy, especially since the Cats have won two straight and are undefeated on the road in the SEC.

"Team's making progress," Calipari said. "Team's making progress and that's all I can ask."

And although the Wildcats have more losses at this stage of the season than any Calipari-coached UK team, he's not worried about wins and losses.

He said in 10 years people won't remember the wins and losses, but instead the character of this team.

"I keep coming back to, wins and losses come and go; these kids will not be defined by those things," Calipari said. "They're going to be defined by how they played."

Polson is no stranger to playing on quality teams. He's been to two Final Fours in two seasons, including last season's national championship. He is starting to see this year's team turn the corner.

"The Auburn game was a big step," Polson said. "Finally putting a team away for once when we had a big lead and kept it. I think we're improving a lot."

Contagious effort
A big reason why Calipari is so happy is he's seeing more effort from his players.

All season one player or another - minus freshman Nerlens Noel - has been criticized for not leaving it all out on the floor. The two guiltiest parties have been Kyle Wiltjer and Alex Poythress.

But Calipari has been pleasantly surprised with how the two have been playing as of late.

"Kyle has done well. Kyle's effort level has been off the charts…," Calipari said. You're not going to shoot it great every night, you're not, but you can have an effort every night."

Calipari said Wiltjer has been coming up with loose balls, sprinting and helping on pick-and-rolls.

And Calipari even thought Poythress was better against Auburn. He finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and got to the free throw line eight times. Calipari said he will play Poythress in three-minute spurts to keep his energy level up.

"I thought Alex was better," Calipari said. "Alex was about on the charts 20 percent better than the last games. That's a big jump, man - 20 percent. Now, we've got to keep him rolling in that direction."


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