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February 18th, 2018

Baseball Notebook: The BatCats Start 4-0

Kentucky Athletics (SEC Sports)

Ask any coach, the first weekend of the season rarely has an effect on where a team will finish in June. But Nick Mingione and Kentucky will obviously be a lot happier with this year’s start over last year’s. One year after starting 0-4, the BatCats began 2018 4-0 with an opening weekend sweep in South Carolina. The sweep included wins over Wofford, USC Upstate, and Evansville in a round-robin style series. The BatCats got big outings on the mound from Sean Hjelle, Justin Lewis, and Daniel Harper. The strong pitching performances helped UK to outscore their opponents 30-14 this weekend. The undefeated weekend was UK’s first 4-0 start since 2012.

Game Recaps

Kentucky 6 Wofford 1

Nick Mingione won his first season opener with a fundamentally sound victory over Wofford on Friday. Sean Hjelle threw six shutout innings while the offense scored runs in four consecutive innings. In the first four innings, Luke Heyer, Tristan Pompey, and Luke Becker all hit their first home runs of 2018. Carson Coleman and Alec Maley combined for eight strikeouts in three innings to close out the final three innings of a season-opening win. The 6-1 win was UK’s first opening day win since 2015.

Kentucky 6 USC Upstate 5

Before UK could blink, they were down 5-0 against USCU. The dreary Saturday afternoon weather in Spartanburg might have played a factor in a sluggish start for Zack Thompson and UK. Thompson was pulled after allowing five runs thru 2.2 innings on Saturday. Luckily for Thompson, his bullpen and offense picked him up over the next 7.1 innings. After picking up a pair of unearned runs in the sixth, UK trailed by three when Ben Aklinski ripped a solo home run to get the Cats within two in the 7th. While the bullpen kept the Spartans quiet, UK’s offense completed the comeback. T.J Collett and Kole Cottam drove in runs to tie the game in the 8th. After a scoreless 9th, the game headed to extras. Luke Becker led off the tenth with a double and Kole Cottam singled him home to give UK a 6-5 lead. Chris Machamer finished off the Spartans with a scoreless bottom of the tenth.

Chris Machamer came out of the bullpen to shut down USC Upstate on Saturday. (UK Athletics)

Kentucky 10 USC Upstate 3

Life was a beach and Kentucky was just playing in the sand on Saturday night. 35 minutes removed from an extra-inning win over the Spartans, the Cats started game two of the doubleheader. Justin Lewis was electric in six innings of shutout baseball. After turning down the Tampa Bay Rays offer, Lewis returned to UK for 2018. The redshirt junior struck out nine Spartans and allowed only two baserunners in his season debut. Lewis left the game with seven runs of support from his offense. The Cats scored two in the second and four in the sixth before the middle of their lineup started pushing balls over the fence in the 8th. Luke Becker and T.J Collett hit home runs in the three-run eighth as UK polished off a 10-3 win.

Kentucky 8 Evansville 4

Regardless of your opponent, making your collegiate debut is difficult. Freshman pitcher Daniel Harper made his inaugural start look easy in Sunday’s win over Evansville. The Kansas-native allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out eight in four innings against the Aces. Harper wiggled out of a couple early jams as Evansville went 0/4 with runners in scoring position against Harper. While the Aces struggled to bring runners in, UK was lighting up the scoreboard. Tristan Pompey went 4/4 with three runs and Ryan Johnson collected three RBIs on a bases-clearing double in the third. The Cats led 8-2 after six before Evansville attempted a late comeback in the eight. The Aces scored two runs and looked ready for more, but Maley slammed the door by recording two outs on three pitches. Evansville could not rally in the 9th and UK wrapped up their first 4-0 start since 2012.

 

Storylines

Kentucky’s Bullpen Answers Questions

No Logan Salow or Zach Pop? No problem. UK’s bullpen showed that they have a bevy of talent in 2018 to replace Salow and Pop. The Cats got 11.1 consecutive innings of shutout work from their pen to open their season. The biggest performance came on Saturday afternoon when the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings of scoreless to pick up Zack Thompson who was chased early. Brad Schaenzer, Jimmy Ramsey, and Chris Machamer combined to allow five hits and to strike out seven as their offense crawled back from a 5-0 deficit to win. It remains to be seen which guys will be consistent throughout 2018, but the opening weekend showed that Jimmy Belanger’s bullpen will still have guys that can finish games.

UK Athletics

Tristan Pompey is an OBP Machine

The “Lav Sav” has picked up where he left off in 2017. After reaching base in every game this weekend, Pompey has reached base in 41 straight games dating back to last season. Pompey went 4/4 on Sunday and is already hitting .470 with three doubles and six runs scored. It has been a lot of fun watching Pompey grow into what he is today. This weekend showed that there has been no dropoff since 2017. He had great plate appearances and reached base 11 times (four extra-base hits) at the leadoff position this weekend.

Luke Heyer and Ben Aklinski Make Loud 2018 Debuts

There has been so much attention on Pompey (for good reason), that centerfielder Ben Aklinski flew under the radar in the preseason. The speedy, athletic JUCO transfer hit .411 in four games this weekend. Aklinski collected his first career home run this weekend from the three spot in the lineup, and he also stole a base and scored three runs. Luke Heyer showed promise off the bench last season, but he has taken over as the starting third baseman in 2018. Yet another JUCO transfer from the class of 2016, Heyer hit two home runs this weekend and drove in six runs in four games in South Carolina.

The Week Ahead

Kentucky will have two days off to start the week before their home opener on Wednesday. Defending Big East Champions Xavier will come into Lexington for a 4 ET first pitch at the Cliff. The Musketeers are once again near the top in the Big East, so this game will be a good test for the young Cats. Next weekend, UK will host Oakland for a three-game series in Lexington.

 


FINAL HOURS: 20% off at the KSR Shop!

Kentucky’s big win against Alabama means the Big Blue Buckets sale is running all day at Kentucky Branded and the KSR Shop. Head to ShopKSR.com to receive 20% off all your favorite KSR and UK items.

Now is the perfect time to check out the KSR sweatshirts, jackets, UK fleece pullovers, t-shirts, hats, and more. Hurry, sale ends at midnight. Tell your family and friends. Go Cats!

[BIG BLUE BUCKETS: 20% off at the KSR Shop]


Happy Birthday, Erin Calipari!

@UKCoachCalipari

Ending the 4-game losing streak might’ve just been Cal’s early birthday gift for his daughter Erin, who turns 31 years old today.

If the skid was just a plot by Cal so that he didn’t have to buy a birthday gift… well played, sir.

Happy birthday, Erin! Hopefully the Vanderbilt mail staff doesn’t steal your brownies.

@JayWinkKSR


UK Hoops falls to South Carolina 81-63

(Via @KentuckyWBB)

It was another tough loss for Kentucky today as they played South Carolina. UK Hoops started off the game 6-of-13 from the field. An early three from No. 4 Maci Morris helped Kentucky come out strong in the first period. The score at the end of the first period was 19-18, with South Carolina holding a slight lead over the Cats.

The second period found UK Hoops lacking in their offense. Kentucky started off the period 0-4 from the field, with five turnovers. The Gamecocks were able to score their biggest lead of the game on a 13-0 run. The Cats only scored 2-of-11 from the field and had eight turnovers in the second period. The score at halftime was 38-26.

South Carolina scored 29 points in the third period, including 11 from the free throw line. Kentucky just wasn’t able to stop the Gamecocks, who were scoring 54% from the field and had hit 5 threes by the end of the third period. The score at the end of the third period was 67-44.

In the fourth period, UK Hoops hit a season high of 18 turnovers. The Cats were shooting 36%, their worst field goal percentage in a game since their game on January 15 against Vanderbilt. But, it wasn’t all bad news for Kentucky: Morris hit a career-high 35 points. The final score was 81-63.

“Great game for South Carolina today,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said in the post-game press conference. “They out-hustled us today.” As for Morrison’s career-high 35 point, Coach Mitchell had this to say: “She has worked really hard and we executed. Her teammates helped her get open with some good screens but she really gave it a great effort. Tough kid.”

UK Hoops will play the University of Mississippi at Mississippi on Thursday, February 22, at 8:30 pm. Kentucky will be back at Memorial Coliseum to take on Mississippi State University on Sunday, February 25 at noon.


Kentucky swimmer Asia Seidt claims SEC Title

Photo: UKathletics

While you were watching some basketball game last night, one Kentucky swimmer was earning a gold medal at the SEC Championships. Sophomore Asia Seidt brought home a first place finish for UK in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing with a new school record-breaking time of 50.86 seconds. She out-touched a Missouri swimmer, who finished second by just five-hundredths of a second.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” said Seidt. “I got third last year at SECs and I just wanted to come in and see what I could do. [Coach] Lars [Jorgensen] and I talked at the beginning of the year, and we really wanted to focus on being able to take it out in the 100 back and then bring it back even faster. That was something I was able to do tonight and I was really excited about it.”

Fellow sophomore Madison Winstead also made her way onto a podium last night, finishing third in the 100-yard breaststroke. The Lexington native also got her name in the Kentucky record books, posting a school-best time of 59.38.

More Cats will hit the deck today for the final day of competition. The meet will air live on SEC Network at 7 p.m., with events including the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, women’s platform diving and the 400 freestyle relay. 

Cats by 90!


@MaggieDavisKSR


Adam Silver “not rushing” through one-and-done rule change

Photo: Getty Images

Those wanting the end of the one-and-done era may have to wait just a bit longer.

During an All-Star Weekend press conference, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about a potential one-and-done rule change, and said the league won’t be “rushing” to a major decision anytime soon. He did acknowledge, however, discussions would need to start sooner rather than later.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest,” said Silver. “We’re outside of our cycle of collective bargaining right now, which is when we generally address an issue like that… There is no reason we shouldn’t at least be discussing it right now.”

The debate has to do with the eventual quality of league play. Silver says there is no debate that some 18-year-olds are able to play out of high school, but seeing them play against elite competition in college allows for greater success in the NBA Draft. He also adds that a rule change would likely help the G-League become more competitive and provide quality minutes for those not quite ready for the league.

The rule change would likely take the minimum age requirement from 19 to 18 if players wanted to enter the draft out of high school, with a two-year rule being implemented if you play college basketball.

Check out Silver’s remarks in their entirety:

 

If the rule were to be changed, we’d likely see the top ten prospects or so enter the draft each year, and the rest of college basketball would have to fight for the next-best tier athletes.

They’d just get two years to work with them.

Thoughts?


SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Things Fall Apart

(USA Today)

The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines from a crazy week of college basketball in the conference.

1. The Gators Take a Dive

In the SEC’s weekly competition to see which talented team has the worst week, the Gators have emerged victorious.

Mike White’s team somehow found a way to lose to both Vanderbilt and Georgia this week who happen to be two of the worst squads in the conference. It doesn’t get much more disappointing than that.

Every week I mention the Gators just because they consistently find new ways to surprise me. Last week they were surprisingly good, this week surprisingly bad. Its been like this all season and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What does make sense, however, is that Florida’s success is largely dependent on the play of junior guard Jalen Hudson. He is the leading scorer on the year for the Gators, but he failed to score a single point against Georgia and he only had 10 against Vanderbilt.

If Hudson turns things around then maybe Florida will be more consistent, but at this rate any prediction made about the Gators is sure to be a wrong one.

2. No Place Like Home

You have probably heard that home court advantage matters in college basketball. In fact, the saying has become a bit overused in today’s sports world. However, this week the SEC proved there is really no place like home.

Out of 14 SEC games, the road team was victorious just twice. Overall, that speaks to the parity of the conference. All season the SEC has been one of the best conferences in the country from top to bottom.

Good teams defend their home court. However, an argument can obviously be made that great teams find ways to win on the road and the SEC doesn’t have a great team this year.

I find that to be very true. There isn’t a great SEC team this season, but the same goes for every conference in college basketball. Villanova and Virginia are good, but even they have fallen victim to huge upsets this year.

This is the season of parity in college basketball, and the SEC standings are the brightest example of that.

3. Arkansas Wins the Week 

The Razorbacks are 19-8 on the year and have shot up to third place in the SEC after winning four straight conference games. They proved their worth this week as they were one of the two teams who won on the road after winning at Ole Miss.

Arkansas followed that up with an absolute thrashing of a depleted Texas A&M team on Saturday. Senior guard Jaylen Bradford has led the Razorbacks in scoring all season long and he showed up in a big way against the Aggies by posting 21 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.

When you have one of the conferences best players in Bradford playing well, it’s easy to see why Arkansas has enjoyed this much success. But the real credit should go to Head Coach Mike Anderson.

Anderson has always been an underrated coach, but this is the perfect season for his team to breakthrough and win the SEC Tournament. With the Razorbacks playing like this, an SEC Championship doesn’t seem out of reach.

4. Texas A&M is Heading for the NIT 

Just last week I said that the Aggies looked like the team most likely to win the SEC Tournament. Well fast forward to this week and I don’t look very smart.

In my defense, I made that prediction before two of  A&M’s players went down due to injury so it makes sense why they are walking out of this week with two losses.

Billy Kennedy’s team is now sitting at ninth place in the SEC with a 17-10 overall record. Add that with the fact that multiple players are down with serious injuries and you have a recipe for a good NIT team.

Tuesday’s game against a much improved Mississippi State team is a must win for Texas A&M. If they drop what will be a big resume-building game, expect the Aggies to miss the big dance. For a multitude of reasons, it just has not been Texas A&M’s year.

5. A Glimmer of Hope for Kentucky

Guess what everyone??? Kentucky won a basketball game in February!!!!

For the past two weeks, the Wildcats struggled….and struggled….and struggled some more. After the first four-game losing streak under John Calipari’s tenure at UK, it was obvious that these young Cats hit the freshman wall hard.

However, Kentucky figured out how to win basketball games once again and they defeated a good Alabama team in Rupp Arena on Saturday. While the Wildcat’s offense was still painful to watch, they found a new way to get a victory: through real team basketball.

A total of 5 players were in double figures for UK, and even more impressively the Wildcats had a ridiculous 44-27 rebounding advantage over the Crimson Tide on the boards.

This may not be a championship team, but its still an immensely talented one that is still healthy. If they keep rebounding well and playing more as a team on offense, then the Wildcats could find their way to the second weekend of the big dance.

Tuesday’s game at Arkansas will be the perfect test for UK. A win sends a statement that Kentucky can still conjure up a special run in the postseason. A loss will hand UK its 10th of the season, and with three regular season games left the Wildcats could still collapse and miss the NCAA tournament.

There is hope for the young Wildcats, but as Texas A&M would tell you, things can fall apart in a hurry in the SEC.


WATCH: KYWildcatsTV gives you highlights from Kentucky’s 81-71 victory over Alabama

Kentucky ended the worst losing streak of the Calipari era yesterday afternoon, and it felt pretty darn good to get that monkey off their back.

Everyone on the team carried their own weight, the energy was up, they rebounded well, and shots were falling in crunch time.

The voice the Wildcats, Tom Leach, was just about as excited to get back on the right track as you can imagine.

Check out the highlights synced with Leach’s call of the game:

Let’s start a new streak of our own.


The Optimists of #BBN Have Reemerged

It had been a borderline depressing couple of weeks for UK fans leading into yesterday’s clash with the Crimson Tide. Genuine frustration coupled with the understanding that this year’s team is full of potential made the 4-game losing skid almost intolerable.

And yet, like a light switch, the Cats turned on, and with the win came a swath of fans ready to realign their expectations for the remainder of the 2018 season.

There were, of course, those who viewed this W as a classic turning point.

Others saw the first in a potential string of victories.

And where do the most extreme glass-half-full folks come down?

All in all, it’s positive vibes like these that keep the fans’ morale afloat. But let’s also acknowledge that Rupp Arena was abnormally audible yesterday, and the Cats have to immediately turn around and head to Bud Walton Arena to face Arkansas on Tuesday.

If Saturday really was the day this team galvanized and started their March campaign, then the Razorbacks shouldn’t pose much of an threat. But if the Bama win was an outlier…

Baby steps, folks.

@JayWinkKSR


PREVIEW: UK Hoops travels to Columbia to take on No. 8 South Carolina

After a dominate 78-57  victory over Arkansas Thursday, the Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to stay in the win column this afternoon. The team is back on the road to play No. 8 South Carolina inside Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks have won seven straight games against Kentucky, including their 81-64 defeat over the Wildcats earlier this season.

The Cats fell to the then-No. 10 South Carolina inside Rupp Arena back in January. Junior Maci Morris scored 19 points and Taylor Murray added 17, but the duo was not enough to overcome South Carolina’s 60 percent field-goal shooting.

In order to compete with the Gamecocks today, Kentucky will need to recreate their balanced offense from last Thursday. Against Arkansas, the Cats had five players score in double figures: Morris joined Alyssa Rice, Keke McKinney, Tatyana Wyatt and Dorie Harrison. UK had the 32-7 advantage in bench points and a 38-12 edge in points in the paint. 

On the defensive end, the Wildcats will have their hands full with the reining SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, who is averaging 22.5 points per game and adding an average of 11.6 rebounds. On the season, she’s shooting 54.9 percent from the field. Wilson is currently on the watchlist for National Player of the Year – she needs just 36 more points to hit 1,000 points in SEC regular-season games.

Coach Matthew Mitchell knows the road ahead is a tough one.

“Victories right now are important there is no doubt about that, but we have a very difficult final three games,” Mitchell said. “Two out of the three are against top ranked teams that are at the top of our conference and then another road game. So it is a difficult stretch.”

Luckily, the Cats found some mojo during their shoot around this morning:

The game is USC’s annual Pink Game for breast cancer survivors. Tip is set for 3 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC network. Check back in following the game for more UK Hoops coverage!


@MaggieDavisKSR


Calipari defends playing Hamidou Diallo, and if he keeps working, he will continue to do so

After averaging only 6.6 points and nearly two turnovers per contest over Kentucky’s last ten games, Hamidou Diallo has not been a fan favorite as of late. His arguing with teammates and coaches have only made it worse.

He made comments earlier in the week about how bad it hurt to struggle the way he has and how hard he’s going to work to get out of his rut. He wanted to earn some faith back from the Big Blue Nation.

Last night against Alabama, Diallo again struggled shooting the ball, finishing with eight points on 3-9 from the field. But the effort and intensity were there, and the Rupp Arena crowd appreciated him for that. It looked like a step in the right direction.

After the game, John Calipari was asked about Diallo’s slump, how he was balancing nurturing him and getting the team back on the right track, and if his performance against the Crimson Tide was a step in the right direction.

For Coach Cal, Diallo is someone’s son, and if he’s willing to put in the extra time and effort, there’s zero chance he’ll leave him behind.

“Let’s think about that, it’s your son, and he’s struggling. It’s your son now, not somebody else’s son, your son. Would you want me to just bench him and say, we’ll worry about it next year? That’s what you’d want me to do with your son?”

The Kentucky head coach said his starting shooting guard has bad habits to break, but he’s in the gym late at night to fix them.

“I’m with Hami,” said Calipari. “He’s trying. He’s working. He’s got some habits that are so bad, and they are habits; that they pop out sometimes at the wrong time. My job is to make sure he’s not hurting the team — ready for this — or himself, and to keep working with him. But when I go in my office at 10 o’clock at night or 11, I’d better see him in there every once in a while, and you know what, I am.

Calipari then took ownership of the team’s struggles and told the audience it was okay to be mad at him, but said he’s going to continue to put the players first, even if it costs the team some games.

“Don’t be mad at the kids. Be mad at me. I recruited them. I’m coaching them. I’m the one that’s buying time for guys which may be costing us some games, but I’m going to continue to do it. I told you when I walked in the door, this is going to be about the players first, and I’m trying to stay that course.”


Do the Cats have trust issues?

Following yesterday’s win, Coach Calipari alluded to the fact that, despite the end of the season quickly approaching, some of his players still do not trust him. Yes, really.

At the beginning of this season, it was obvious this team did not trust each other. And back in October and November, that was fine  – they’re all freshmen, they’re playing together for the first time, they’re just learning how to play alongside equal talent. But through playing for UK and for Coach Cal, this would all resolve itself. Right?

Up until yesterday’s game, the answer was questionable at best. For the majority of the season, there has been a low percentage of assists and a high percentage of unsuccessful “hero ball,” especially in close games. While yesterday’s game showed improvement through a (less) selfish UK team, Coach Calipari believes there are still trust issues on the team.

“Why don’t they trust me? I’ve got a couple guys in here that do not trust me right now,” Coach Cal said after the game.

He used former players, like visitors Willie Cauley-Stein and Bam Adebayo, to show this team why they need to trust him and each other.

“I asked [Cauley-Stein and Adebayo], in front of my team: ‘why did you trust me? Why, Willie, did you trust me?’ You know what he did? He pointed to all of the NBA players on the wall [and said] ‘That’s why I trusted you.'”

Calipari then faced the back of the media room, where Bam had snuck in to watch the post-game press conference.

“Bam, you never got the ball, and you trusted me. And Miami thinks they got the best player in the draft.”

So what does this team have to do to trust each other? The answer probably won’t surprise you. Like most things, it simply comes with time and experience, something this team obviously has a disadvantage in at this point.

But, according to Cal, at least one player has it figured out: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

“He is one… like he trusts. He’s totally bought into: ‘what do you want me to do?,'” Calipari said. “He’s still, at the end of games, got to make better decisions, but that’s us helping him.”

Jarred Vanderbilt recognizes the team did struggle to have faith in one another earlier in the season, but he doesn’t see that problem anymore.

“I feel like we did at a point [struggle with trust].  But we’re starting to get better,” Vanderbilt said. “Each game, you can see the trust is getting there. Like today… the guys came together, we trusted each other. We even trusted Coach. We came together and got the win.”

And while Vanderbilt may believe the problem is solved, the Cats still struggle with one critical aspect of their game: assists. Kentucky has failed to dish out ten or more assists in five of their last six games. In other words, since the West Virginia game, UK has only hit double-digit assists once. Until that number improves, I think it’s fair to say, yes, the Cats still struggle with their trust issues.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Our Courtesy Acura Fans of the Game want a photo recap

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Facing a must-win situation at Rupp Arena, this young Kentucky team excelled down the stretch doing everything they’d struggled with in this four-game losing streak. They battled, played tough defense, forced turnovers (rather than turning it over themselves), and were aggressive on the offensive end. Beating Alabama was an important win for the team’s NCAA tournament resume. Let’s look back at a big win through the lens of KSR photographer, Dr. Michael Huang:

Since his return from injury, Jarred Vanderbilt has been Kentucky’s best rebounder by far. Further, the energy he brings to the court changes the team’s play when he enters the game. His offense on the other hand has been more of a work in progress. While he still missed some close in shots against Alabama, late in the game he put the team on his back scoring three huge baskets to help secure the important win. He also finished with nine rebounds.

On a team that is trying to find a consistent low post scoring presence, we are beginning to see flashes of that from Nick Richards and PJ Washington. Richards finished the game with 10 points on 3-4 shooting and an important 4-4 from the free throw line. While Washington needs to cut down on his turnovers, he led the team in scoring with 16 points, had five rebounds, and was 6-9 from the free throw line.

UK point guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green played the exact type of game they needed to in order to secure an important win. They combined for eight assists and only one turnover. Green has been playing at a high level and finding his shot again. He finished the game 5-6 from the field while the much talked about Alabama star freshman guard Collin Sexton finished the game 4-11 from the field.

Overall, the win against Alabama was a complete team effort. Kevin Knox battled first half foul trouble (picking up his second foul four minutes into the game). No problem. Other guys stepped up. Five guys finished in double figures with three other guys finishing with at least five points. UK dominated Alabama on the glass 44-27 (20-9 on the offensive glass).

Getting the win was huge but they need to continue to build on these strides. The road game at Arkansas will be a difficult task. They must continue to improve as we inch closer to March.

Check out KSR’s complete photo gallery on our Facebook page:


Rebounding made the difference for Kentucky

Kentucky won last night’s game over Alabama by ten points, but the Cats won the battle of the boards by far more than that. UK dominated Alabama, out-rebounding the Tide 44 to 27. The plus-17 rebounding margin was UK’s highest in SEC play, while Alabama’s 27 rebounds tied for the second fewest by a UK opponent this year. 

Off the offensive glass, UK out-hustled the Tide, resulting in a 20-9 advantage. Their dominance on the offensive end showed in second-chance baskets: Kentucky rebounded 20 of its 36 misses versus Alabama, leading to 20 second-chance points for the Wildcats. 

An equally impressive stat? All nine Wildcats who hit the floor pulled in at least one offensive rebound. Just five Alabama players did the same thing.

“They just outworked us on the boards,” Alabama’s Donta Hall, who finished as the team’s leading rebounder with six boards, said after the game. “They were the hungrier team, it seems like.”

And their head coach agrees. 

“Unfortunately, this wasn’t our best night rebounding, [and] they made us pay the price for it,” Coach Avery Johnson said. “We pride ourselves on being a good defensive team, and had we’d been able to get some more of those rebounds, we thought we could go out in transition and hurt them on their transition defense.”

But the Tide wasn’t able to do that. In fact, UK’s defensive boards were nearly as strong, beating Alabama 21-18 in the category. In terms of transition defense, Kentucky and Alabama both scored six fast-break points.

Prior to yesterday’s game, Kentucky was averaging just over 37 rebounds per game. What changed to allow the players to pull in so many more rebounds than usual?

“It was just mental,” Jarred Vanderbilt, the Cats’ leading rebounder said after the game. “It was like, we are going to kill the boards. That was our mindset going into the game. [We] told the guards if they can get it up, I mean, try to make it. But, if not, all of our big guys are coming right there for the putback.”

And they certainly did. Vanderbilt and fellow big man PJ Washington added a combined 14 boards, while Wenyen Gabriel grabbed seven of his own. In a game where both teams were otherwise statistically similar – Kentucky and Alabama put up similar numbers for field goal percentage, turnovers, points in the paint, blocks, steals, assists and fast-break points – rebounding was one of the key difference makers for the Wildcats. 

“We made some shots we had to make, but the biggest thing is, we are what we are,” Coach Calipari said after the win. “Like, let’s go get rebounds. Forget about missing shots. Go rebound. We’ve got 20 offensive rebounds. That was the difference in the game.”


@MaggieDavisKSR


Today on KSR: NBA All-Star Weekend Continues

@PelicansNBA

Saturday night is the best part of the NBA All-Star weekend and this year was no different.

Devin Booker Wins NBA Three-Point Contest

Devin Booker won his first (of many) NBA 3-point contest on Saturday night. Booker scored an all-time record of 28 points in the final round.

The Anthony Davis Signature Shoe is Coming

This is long overdue.

Donovan Mitchell Won the NBA Dunk Contest

Former Louisville Cardinal Donovan Mitchell won the NBA dunk contest.

The Bluegrass State dominates NBA All-Star Saturday. What’s new?

Joel Embiid Tried to Cheat in NBA Skills Challenge

Embiid tried to cheat in the NBA skills challenge, but ended up being knocked out by Chicago Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen.

Cheaters never prosper.

UK Hoops and Kentucky Baseball are both in action today

The Kentuck women’s basketball team takes on the No. 8 ranked South Carolina in Columbia. You can see the game at 3:00 pm ET on the SEC Network.

Kentucky Baseball finished their road trip in Spartanburg at 11:00 am ET against the University of Evansville.

Mood all day after snapping 4-game losing streak

Have a great Sunday, BBN!