NCAA BK

Kentucky benefits when Cousins controls his emotions

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

LEXINGTON, Ky.

Kentucky coach John Calipari talked about DeMarcus Cousins keeping his cool, John Wall spoke about his hulking teammate and how his emotions were kept in check — and Patrick Patterson said he was impressed with how the 6-foot-11, 260-pound freshman handled himself in his initial go-'round in the rivalry with Louisville.

"He is growing up and really maturing," Calipari said after Saturday's 71-62 victory over the Cardinals.

Um, what about the WWF-like forearm shiver Cousins delivered to the side of Louisville forward Jared Swopshire’s noggin’ within the first minute of the game?

Cousins has always been volatile, unpredictable and unable to keep his emotions in check.

When you Google “DeMarcus Cousins," you’ll find words such as “malcontent” and “immature."

Also “talented.”

In fact, he’s probably been blessed with as much natural ability as any big man in the country and could be the key to Kentucky’s national title hopes.

Think of a cross between Blake Griffin and Joey Dorsey.

Cousins was the most dominant player on the court in the rivalry matchup between Louisville and Kentucky at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

In fact, he completely overshadowed the pre-game buildup involving Calipari and his one-time friend and ex-Kentucky coach, Rick Pitino.

Cousins had 18 points and 18 rebounds in just 26 minutes as Kentucky held off a feisty Louisville team. He also, just 45 seconds into the game, showed why numerous coaches chose not to recruit him coming out of high school when he whacked Swopshire and picked up a technical.

"I didn’t see it,” Calipari said. "I’ll watch it on tape. Did you see how the game was played?

"I was just going for the ball,” Cousins said about the play. "I don’t know anything about a forearm. I was just going for the ball."

The replay showed otherwise.

"He’s a nutcase,” Louisville senior guard Edgar Sosa reportedly said of Cousins following the contest.

While National Player of the Year frontrunner John Wall appeared to be sleepwalking through the first 30 or so minutes of the game, it was Cousins who asserted his will and helped the Wildcats to their 15th consecutive victory to begin the season.

He used his strength, athleticism and even finesse at times — and Louisville simply had no answer. Samardo Samuels, the Cardinals' highly touted 6-foot-8, 245-pound big man, was overmatched.

There was plenty of trash-talking before and during the game. Cousins said that 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jerry Smith bumped into him after the national anthem.

But he was able to maintain his composure — at least for Cousins.

It’s all relative.

I’ve seen Cousins lose his cool several times over the last few summers, and his emotional outbursts scared off multiple college coaches.

But the word coming out of the Kentucky program is that Cousins has made significant progress in self-control.

"He’s come a long way,” said Wall, who knows a thing or two in that area since he was known as a hot-head on the court just a few years ago.

"I do believe I’ve grown up and made progress,” Cousins said. "But I still have a long way to go.”

While Wall was a non-factor for much of the game, it’s clear while watching him in the first 15 games of his career that he’ll show up each and every night. The same can be said for Patterson, the unflappable, sometimes emotion-less junior big man who is the antithesis of his teammate.

Louisville’s game plan was to go after Cousins and bait him into doing something stupid. The Cardinals aren’t the only team to utilize that tactic.

"Get inside his head and make him self-combust,” said one Division I coach who already faced Cousins this season.

"The plan didn’t work,” Cousins said.

Cousins, with academic-looking eyeglasses, teammate Josh Harrellson’s camouflage shirt and a dress hat he grabbed off some elderly worker’s head, hardly looked like the troublemaker that some portray him while sitting in a chair shortly after the game.

But once he gets on the court, anything can happen.

Anything.

Cousins can go for 18 points and 18 rebounds, melt down emotionally as he did late in the victory against Stanford, or even hit someone in the head.

And none of it shocks his teammates.

"If that happens, we need other people to step up,” Patterson said about the possibility of Cousins being tossed from an NCAA tournament game.

But there’s just no one else on the Wildcats like Cousins.

In fact, there’s no one else in the country like Kentucky’s enigmatic big man.

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