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February 25, 2013

Mays carries Cats in crucial win against Missouri

Julius Mays admitted making a mistake.

The Kentucky guard had an open Archie Goodwin ahead of the pack Saturday night in the final seconds of regulation in the Wildcats' game against Missouri.

The Tigers were lost in transition and as Mays was hurrying across midcourt, the much-faster Goodwin was streak on the opposite side of the court all by himself.

"Oh man, I didn't even know how much time I had," Mays said afterward.

Mays didn't pass to Goodwin, but instead pulled up midway between the three-point line and midcourt with a couple seconds left on the clock. The shot didn't fall and the Wildcats were headed to overtime, and Goodwin headed straight to Mays to let him know he made a mistake by not passing.

It was about the only thing Mays didn't do right in the Wildcats' 90-83 overtime win.

The senior finished with a season high 24 points, hit four threes, recorded six rebounds and had the game-tying assist to Willie Cauley-Stein that eventually forced overtime.

"Julius was terrific," UK coach John Calipari said. "The shots he made and the leadership."

Fans will remember that leadership when they think of the game that might have saved Kentucky's season, but it doesn't show up on a stat sheet. He stuffed that, too, including in the minutes column.

As a veteran and one of UK's best scoring options, Mays was indispensable, and Calipari had no choice but to keep him on the floor. Mays played a game-high 44 minutes and has played 122 of a possible 125 in UK's past three games.

"Julius is that guy that we can count on when we need a stop or we need a play to be made," Goodwin said. "He just makes the game so much easier for everybody else, because (of) the way he shoots the ball and how he's been shooting of late, and he's a great playmaker."

Mays transferred to UK from Wright State, where he said he was one of the few playmakers. He had to be the guy to create his own shot and score. Surrounded by talent at UK, his role has changed.

But the Cats might need to rethink his ability to take over a game.

"At first we didn't think he was (a playmaker) - well, I knew he was a playmaker," Goodwin said. "But the coaches might have not thought he was as much of a playmaker as he is now. "

But Mays has made a habit of making timely plays. Alex Poythress called him clutch and Mays said there might be some truth to him being more comfortable shooting with the shot clock running low or a hand in his face.

Only one of his four threes he made was an uncontested trey, and that's the way he likes it.

"Before I came here I wasn't really a run off screens, shoot wide open shots (player)," Mays said. "I was more of a create my own shot, and I like more of a pull-up three than catching it off of someone else creating it for me. I feel like with the offense we've been running where it's more open, it gives me space to shoot the pull up three, and I'm comfortable with it."

Mays is averaging 9.9 points per game and has scored at least nine in nine of his past 10 games. He's made four threes in four Southeastern Conference games.

But for as good as Mays has been on the court, the Cats can't stress enough his importance off the court. Even away from basketball.

"Man. Julius, there's not another person like Julius," Goodwin said. "He's a great leader and he's a great big brother to me. He's like my best friend. He's just always there for encouragement."

There was a point in the game where Calipari was ready to chew out Ryan Harrow.

Instead the veteran Mays stepped in and told Calipari he'd handle it. Goodwin says that is the norm with Mays.

"Sometimes when things are not going our way, he's always the person that pulls me aside and just tired to get my head back right," Goodwin said. "I just thank him for that, and I'm going to miss him after the season's over. He's going to be the type of guy you have a long life relationship with, because you don't find too many people like him."

But the team isn't ready to think about life after Mays. Next year's team will look drastically different, but these Cats still believe special things will come their way this season.

"We are taking it a game at the time, we control our own destiny…," Mays said. "Our next game is our most important game."


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