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November 20, 2012

Woods apologizes as Eagles prep for Kentucky

So, Sean Woods is sorry.

Like, really sorry.

The Morehead State coach made that clear on Tuesday - the eve of his Eagles' game against Kentucky in Rupp Arena - when he apologized, then apologized some more, for comments he made during a Monday teleconference about the current Wildcats.

"I still love this place. I'm still the same Sean Woods," Woods, a former UK point guard, said prior to Morehead's practice at Rupp. "I didn't mean anything to piss off anybody when I said what I said the other day. If I could take it back, I would. It's just what I was feeling at the time. (UK) is my favorite place and I'm fortunate to be a head coach at Morehead State."

Woods created a stir on Monday when - prompted by a reporter's question about Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein admitting he'd never seen video of Christian Laettner's famous shot against Woods' Wildcats in 1992 - he lamented the lack of knowledge today's player has for basketball history.

Woods noted that he wasn't just talking about Kentucky players, but went a step further when he said he didn't like the vibe he got when he encountered UK's players at a recent telethon to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy.

"They didn't seem like Kentucky basketball players to me," Woods said Monday." And I'll leave it at that. I'm a Kentucky basketball player through and through, and there's just a certain aura about you."

Woods went on to say, "There's just a certain way and a certain look Kentucky basketball players should have, and not have such a sense of entitlement. I think today, it's still an honor to wear that uniform."

On Tuesday, Woods said several times and in a variety of ways that he regretted those comments, noting that what he mentioned about the telethon "was just something I shouldn't even have said."

Woods said the he " didn't want - and would never try - to degrade Kentucky basketball players or this program."

"To set the record straight, I love my university," said Woods, whose jersey is retired at Rupp Arena. "Everybody knows that. John Calipari has been great to me, and I would never do anything to hurt him and his situation here. He's doing a heck of a job and I love him dearly, and whoever wears this uniform become my instant brothers."

If you believe Calipari and the current Cats, Woods' comments didn't cause much of a stir. Calipari said he was unaware of them until someone pointed them out - "Knowing Sean, I figured he misspoke," Calipari said - and of the three players who met with reporters on Tuesday, only Julius Mays admitted knowing what Woods had said.

Woods is entitled to his opinion, Mays said, but the UK senior disagreed with it, saying the coach hadn't spent enough time around his teammates to form an opinion, and adding that he didn't get any of the same feelings Woods did from the young and highly-regarded Cats.

"They've been really humble," Mays said Tuesday. "They've worked for everything they've got. They worked to get here. I feel like they still have chips on their shoulder, to show people, to show the world that they can play. I don't think there's any cockiness or any sense of entitlement. I don't get that vibe from being around them."

Calipari, though he insisted he wasn't offended, also offered a dissenting view from Woods'.

"At the telethon and whatever these guys have done, they were hugging volunteers, so I don't know where he got that," Calipari said. "Maybe someone didn't know him or something. I don't know. But I love what our kids are about, what they've done academically, what they do in the community. Being here is a big deal. It's hard to deal with all the stuff that goes around, but these guys seem to do it pretty well."

MOREHEAD STATE AT KENTUCKY| WEDNESDAY | 7 P.M. | FS SOUTH/UK IMG
No. 8 KENTUCKY (2-1)
Coach: John Calipari (104-15 in fourth season at UK; 507-153 in 21st season overall)
Last game: Beat Lafayette 101-49
Roster | Stats
MOREHEAD STATE (3-1)
Coach: Sean Woods (3-1 in first season at Morehead State; 53-81 in fifth season overall)
Last game: Beat Lafayette 88-74
Roster | Stats
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Julius Mays Sr. 6-2/192 6.3 2.0
G Archie Goodwin Fr. 6-5/198 15.0 3.7
F Nerlens Noel Fr. 6-10/208 11.7 8.0
F Alex Poytress Fr. 6-7/239 16.7 6.7
F Kyle Wiltjer So. 6-10/239 15.7 4.3
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Devon Atkinson Sr. 6-1/175 7.8 2.0
G Angelo Warner So. 6-3/200 7.5 4.0
C Jason Holmes Sr. 6-9/225 4.8 3.3
F Milton Chavis Sr. 6-6/210 17.3 4.0
F Drew Kelly Jr. 6-7/235 5.0 4.8
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington, Ky.
TV: Fox Sports South/UK IMG Network (Dave Baker play-by-play, Kyle Macy analyst, Tom Werme sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Mike Pratt analyst); Sirius 137, XM 199).
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Kentucky by 24

Series Information
Series record: Kentucky leads 9-0
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 7-0
Coaches' records: Calipari 1-0 vs. Morehead State; Woods 0-2 vs. UK

Last meeting: Kentucky 75, Morehead State 59 (Nov. 13, 2009, Lexington, Ky.)
In the first game of the John Calipari era, Kentucky played without star John Wall, forced by the NCAA to sit out the season opener. So another freshman point guard took center stage. Eric Bledsoe scored 24 points to lead the Wildcats, who outscored the Eagles by eight points in each half. Patrick Patterson added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Kentucky. Another future NBA standout, Morehead's Kenneth Faried, had 17 points and seven rebounds.

Keys to the Game
1. Meet the Press: Sean Woods played for Rick Pitino, and his Mississippi Valley State teams tried to replicate his former coach's frenetic style. So far, Morehead State has done the same. The Eagles are forcing 22 turnovers per game and average 13 steals per game, and Morehead State scores 27 points per game off opponents' turnovers. Woods' team will press full court, and that will be a mostly new look for UK. How the Cats handle it will determine whether the Eagles can make a game of it.

2. Foul Play: The downside of Morehead State's press? The Eagles foul. A lot. Morehead State has been whistled for 95 fouls this season, 37 more than its opponents. The Eagles' opponents have 94 free-throw attempts to Morehead's 56. That's not necessarily an advantage for Kentucky. The Wildcats are shooting 64.6 percent as a team from the free-throw line, and three of UK's starters shoot 68 percent or lower on freebies. The Eagles figure to give the Cats some chances at charity, and UK will need to cash in.

3. One in a Milton: Kentucky's biggest defensive challenge Wednesday should be Morehead State's Milton Chavis, who leads the Eagles in scoring at 17.3 points per game, more than twice the scoring average of his closest teammate. Five other Eagles average between 7.5 and 8.5 points per game. Chavis, a senior who spent his first two seasons at Kilgore College, has led Morehead State in scoring in every game this season, including a 24-point performance in the season opener against LIU-Brooklyn at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.



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