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March 2nd, 2015

Kentucky unanimous #1 in both polls for the 2nd straight week

For the second straight week, Kentucky is the unanimous #1 team in college basketball in BOTH the AP and USA Today/Coaches Poll:

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Gonzaga took quite the dip, didn’t they?


Devin Booker and Karl Towns among 10 finalists for Wayman Tisdale Award

© Mark Zerof

© Mark Zerof

Congrats to Karl Towns and Devin Booker, who are among the ten finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the nation’s top freshman. Here’s the complete list, via CBS Sports:

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The winner will be announced on March 16. I love Devin and Karl, but I’m pretty sure Jahlil Okafor has this one locked up.


Calipari says Willie should be “right there” in the Player of the Year race

Chet White | UK Athletics

Chet White | UK Athletics

Willie Cauley-Stein is one of 14 finalists of the Oscar Robertson Trophy and over the weekend, CBS Sports’ Doug Gottlieb said he believes Willie should win it. Not surprisingly, John Calipari agrees.

“He should be right there,” Cal said of Willie when asked where he should rank in the Player of the Year race. “He should be one of those guys. I don’t know if it’s all about numbers. If it’s all about numbers, you should just give it to the leading scorer every year. Or do you have the most outstanding player is a player that’s driving the best team?”

Cal also brought up Bill Walton’s comments in which he said Kentucky should win Player of the Year. No, that is not a typo. “I think what was really funny was what Bill Walton said. The Player of the Year, he says, should be the University of Kentucky because of how they share, how they sacrifice, how they sacrifice numbers for each other, that should be the Player of the Year.”

Works for me.


Tom Izzo says he’s not crazy about what UK’s undefeated run will do for college basketball

When did Tom Izzo get so salty? On today’s Big 10 teleconference, Izzo was asked what he thought about Kentucky potentially matching Indiana’s unbeaten 1976 record, and well, he was kind of a jerk about it:

I’m not sure I’m crazy about how everything’s worked out, what it’s going to do for college basketball,” Izzo said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment whether he’s got 12 pros or 10.”

Kyle Tucker asked Cal about Izzo’s comments during today’s SEC coaches teleconference, and Cal said he hadn’t heard them yet. “First of all, I didn’t hear them but Tom and I are friends,” Cal said. “I haven’t talked to Tom. He and I will talk.

While Izzo credits Kentucky’s success to its plethora of talent, Cal prefers Jay Bilas’ version from College GameDay on Saturday. “I like the comments Jay Bilas made, which is, this is, when you look at this team and how they’ve come together, and how they share, and what they do, I think that’s the narrative,” Cal said. “I think that should be what this is all about, not how many guys have the chance to be pros. Other teams have really good players, too.”

Somebody’s got some ‘splaining to do…


Trey Lyles named SEC Freshman of the Week

Congratulations to Trey Lyles, who was just named SEC Freshman of the Week. Lyles scored 18 points in each of Kentucky’s wins last week. Lyles has become this team’s x-factor, giving the Cats another dimension on offense and a crucial presence on the glass.

This is Trey’s second SEC Freshman of the Week honor and the 11th time a Kentucky freshman has brought home the award.

I think this calls for some T. Lyles:


Mark Fox calls UK “without question, the best basketball team in America”

Georgia coach Mark Fox knows what’s coming to Athens tomorrow. Kentucky beat Georgia 69-58 in Rupp in early February, then considered one of the “big tests” for the Cats this season. Per usual, they aced it. “We got it close, but the game wasn’t close,” Fox said on today’s teleconference. “They have, without question, the best basketball team in America.”

What makes UK great? Unselfishness. “The thing John should get credit for — they’re so unselfish. That’s why they’re so dominant,” Fox said. “They can beat you in so many different ways that there’s not just one thing that jumps out at you…That’s why people have not been able to find a way to beat them, because Kentucky always has something else they can turn to.”

Kentucky was without Trey Lyles when the Cats beat Georgia on February 3. Lyles is back and scored 18 points in each of Kentucky’s last two wins, performances that earned him SEC Freshman of the Week. “They’re a different team with Lyles in the game,” Fox said. Georgia guard JJ Frazier said he thinks Kentucky can play with anyone. Fox’s response? “Well, playing and beating are two different things.”

Welp.


Another day, another awesome ESPN promo about the Cats

These never get old.


Former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon at the center of sexual assault scandal

On January 29, Duke junior Rasheed Sulaimon was dismissed from the team, and today, we may know why. According to The Duke Chronicle, Sulaimon was twice alleged to have committed sexual assault during the 2013-2014 school year:

Separate allegations of sexual assault by Sulaimon came from two female students in the 2013-14 academic year. Both students voiced allegations publicly, but neither filed a complaint through the Office of Student Conduct or took legal action through the Durham Police Department. The students declined to discuss their allegations with The Chronicle.

Neither student filed a complaint through Duke’s Office of Student Conduct or with police out of “fear of backlash” from the Duke fan base; however, members of the athletic department were made aware of them as early as March 2014, including Mike Krzyzewski. Yet, Sulaimon was not dismissed until January 29, 2015. Yikes.
To read more, head on over to The Chronicle. And keep this quote about Kentucky from former Dukie Jay Bilas in mind:
How many guys at Kentucky have been suspended? None. How many have been arrested? None. They are doing it the right way. You don’t like it, that’s your business. But I’ll tell you what, those are really good kids that have done a great job.”

Two more until history (Monday Show Thread)

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the Monday edition of Kentucky Sports Radio. Today, Matt and Ryan will recap Kentucky’s big win over Arkansas and look ahead to tomorrow’s road test at Georgia, the penultimate game of the season. The Cats are two away from history, and if Saturday’s game was any indication, you better stock up on confetti.

Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080.

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Jerry Tarkanian’s son says no one was more loyal to his father than John Calipari

A few weeks ago, legendary college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away at the age of 84. “Tark the Shark” was a character and, it turns out, a true friend to John Calipari, a man with whom he had very much in common. In the early 90’s, Tarkanian coached arguably the most talented team ever, the UNLV squad that included Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon,and Elmore Spencer. The Runnin’ Rebels came up just short of an undefeated season, losing to Duke by two points in the Final Four.

Tarkanian’s son Danny recently spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about Cal and Tark’s friendship, which he says ran very deep. “Loyalty was very important to my dad and no one has been more loyal (than Calipari),” said Danny.

Danny said Cal invited Tark to one of UK’s practices at the Final Four last year and at the Maui Classic in 2010, asked him to sit on the bench next to him:

“When practice was over, he had the players come over and shake my dad’s hand,” Danny said. “He said nice things about him and kissed him on the forehead.

“Then he gave us a ride back to our condo on the team bus,” Tarkanian said.

Danny Tarkanian said Cal was in constant contact with his family during Jerry’s health problems, a gesture he won’t soon forget. “He’s a wonderful guy. We are big Big Blue fans,” he said.

[Las Vegas Review Journal]


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Monday Morning SEC Power Rankings

1. Kentucky (Last Week: 1)
Record: 29-0, 16-0
BPI: 1
Past Week Results: Win-Mississippi State 74-56, Win-Arkansas 84-67
Next 2 SEC games: at Georgia, Florida
Analysis: Question for the reader, how many points would they have to lose to Georgia and Florida to drop them out of this spot?  My guess: 495 points combined.

2. Arkansas (Last Week: 2)
Record: 23-6, 12-4
BPI: 21
Past Week Results: Win-Texas A&M 81-75, Loss-Kentucky 84-67
This Week’s games: at South Carolina, LSU
Analysis: Yes their UK showing was a complete dud, but they are still clearly the 2nd best team in the league.  Win out and make SEC title game and maybe they are a player for the NCAA’s.

3. Texas A&M (Last Week: 4)
Record: 20-8, 11-5
BPI: 35
Last Week Results: Loss-Arkansas 81-75, Win-Auburn 80-55
Next 2 SEC games: at Florida, Alabama
Analysis: Nice fight back against Arkansas and then dominate Auburn.  Will be interesting if they win in Gainesville.

4. LSU (Last Week: 5)
Record: 21-8, 10-6
BPI: 32
Past Week Results: Win-Auburn 84-61, Win-Ole Miss 73-63
Next 2 SEC games: Tennessee, at Arkansas
Analysis: Just have no idea what LSU team you will see.  If they can pull upset in Fayetteville this week, they might be SEC #2.

5. Ole Miss (Last Week: 3)
Record: 19-10, 10-6
BPI: 33
Last Week Results: Loss-Georgia 76-72, Loss-LSU 73-63
Next 2 SEC games: at Alabama, Vanderbilt
Analysis: After chugging along for weeks, they hit a brick wall against other NCAA teams.  Doesn’t bode well for March.

6. Georgia (Last Week: 6)
Record: 19-9, 10-6
BPI: 27
Past Week Results: Win-Ole Miss 76-72, Win-Missouri 68-44
Next 2 SEC games: Kentucky, at Auburn
Analysis: Despite 2-win week, still not sold on them.  Losing at home to South Carolina still leaves nasty taste in the mouth.

7. Vanderbilt (Last Week: 9)
Record: 17-12, 7-9
RPI: 39
Last Week Results: Win-Tennessee 73-65, Win-Alabama 73-66
Next 2 SEC games: Mississippi State, at Ole Miss
Analysis: Stallings got a little bit of a raw deal but Vandy might actually hit 20+ wins this year.  Actually a success for a team that started so poorly.

8. Florida (Last Week: 8)
Record: 14-15, 7-9
BPI: 32
Past Week Results: Loss-Missouri 64-52, Win-Tennessee 66-49
Next 2 SEC games: Texas A&M, at Kentucky
Analysis: Yeah they won a game but also lost the worse game in the SEC this year.  Lucky the rest of the league sucks so bad that you can’t move them up.

9. Alabama (Last Week: 10)
Record: 17-12, 7-9
BPI: 59
Last Week Results: Win-South Carolina 59-51, Loss-Vanderbilt 73-66
Next 2 SEC games: Ole Miss, at Texas A&M
Analysis: They could have easily been a 7th NCAA team for the SEC this year.  Anthony Grant might have run his course and it’s time to go.

10. Tennessee (Last Week: 7)
Record: 14-14, 6-10
BPI: 90
Last Week Results: Loss-Vanderbilt 73-65, Loss-Florida 66-49
Next 2 SEC games: at LSU, South Carolina
Analysis: Complete collapse from the Vols over the last couple weeks.  Losing to Florida by 17 is a real embarrassment this year.

11. South Carolina (Last Week: 12)
Record: 14-14, 5-11
BPI: 73
Last Week Results: Loss-Alabama 59-51, Win-Mississippi State 81-68
Next 2 SEC games: Arkansas, at Tennessee
Analysis: Say what you will but Frank Martin’s team plays hard and competes almost every night.  Don’t be surprised if they give Arkansas a scare.

12. Mississippi State (Last Week: 11)
Record: 12-17, 5-11
BPI: 134
Last Week Results: Loss-Kentucky 74-56, Loss-South Carolina 81-68
Next 2 SEC games: at Vanderbilt, Missouri
Analysis: After being scrappy most of the year, they’ve fallen apart the last 2 weeks.  Trying to avoid 20 losses at this point.

13. Auburn (Last Week: 13)
Record: 12-17, 4-12
BPI: 148
Last Week Results: Loss-LSU 84-61, Loss-Texas A&M 80-55
Next 2 SEC games: at Missouri, Georgia
Analysis:  Badly want to move them to the bottom of these rankings but since Missouri gets their shot at Auburn this week, I’ll hold them steady for now.

14. Missouri (Last Week: 14)
Record: 8-21, 2-14
BPI: 174
Last Week Results: Win-Florida 64-52, Loss-Georgia 68-44
Next 2 SEC games: Auburn, at Mississippi State
Analysis: Finally got a win and now get the 2 most reeling teams in the conference this week.  Chance for some kind of bright spot.


Wendy’s Top Ten Tweets of the Weekend

cod

Our premium sandwich is made using only wild-caught North Pacific Cod, hand-cut from a whole fillet so it’s tender and deliciously flakey. It’s then lightly coated in a crispy, panko breading and topped with a creamy, dill tartar sauce and crunchy dill pickles. Pair it with Natural Cut fries and a drink of your choice for a meal that’s definitely the catch of the day.
 ___________________________________________________________________

You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top Ten Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtopten. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:

 

#10 Derek L. Anderson

I hate using this word, but…..I am such a ‘hater’ of Derek right now with all the pictures he has been posting.

 

 

 

 

#9 Brandon Harris

Soooo you’re taking him to the tournaments, right?

 

 

 

 

#8 Uncle Tim

John has finally made it.

 

 

 

 

#7 J Leach

I’m scared.

 

 

 

 

#6 Alan

Sure they’re built for it, but could they actually do it? That’s the question.

 

 

 

 

#5 Matthew Terry

Man. Sign him up for running back. Stat.

 

 

 

 

#4 FakeBarneyKSR

Noice.

 

 

 

 

#3 Andrew Harrison

This clears a lot up.

 

 

 

 

#2 Doug Shows

Doug is so evil.

 

 

 

 

#1 Brandon Roberts

I’ll agree. It was pretty classy.

@Sealey_KSR


March 1st, 2015

Why is This Season So Special for UK Fans?

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I got a call this afternoon from a reporter for the Wall Street Journal hoping to ask me some questions about a story he is doing on the Cats. This has become a fairly regular thing over the past few weeks as more and more of the national media descend on Lexington try and cover what has become one of the two or three biggest stories in all of sports. Because of my somewhat self-centric view of the world (ex-girlfriends of mine are all currently nodding in agreement), I tend to judge just how much buzz is out there based on how many times such questions are asked of me, and on that scale, we are entering into unprecedented times. While most ask me about the team or the fanbase, this particular reporter had a very specific question. He asked me, “Is this season the most special ever for UK fans and if so, why?” I thought it about for a second and said that this is quite possibly the most special season for UK fans in my lifetime, and the only one that was close was probably the 1992 “Unforgettables” team. He asked why that was the case and I gave the best answer that I could (I was slightly distracted by NASCAR), but when I hung up, I wanted to explore the subject a bit further. After some reflection, I am more confident than I was before. This season is different and for most fans, has a “special” feel that I haven’t sensed at any point in my UK fandom previously. I think there are a number of reasons why:

1. The HISTORICAL GREATNESS

The most important answer is also the most obvious. Fans love this team because it is one of, if not the, best ever in the history of the program. Sometimes it isn’t easy to see and feel greatness while you are going through it. The 2012 Kentucky team will go down as one of the 2-3 best in school history and possibly the best nationwide in the past decade, but during the season it didn’t necessarily always feel like that. The team took some time to get going (because they were so young), lost a heartbreaker to Indiana, had point guard issues (remember the geniuses saying bench Teague and let Doron Lamb play point?) and didn’t feel like a true juggernaut until February. This team has been a freight train from moment one. Since the day the Harrison Twins decided to return, we have all expected greatness and watching that expectation become reality has been amazingly rewarding. How often in life does something highly anticipated actually come to fruition? Rarely in my experiences, but this time it has met, and even exceeded, our high hopes. It isn’t hyperbole to say that this is one of the best overall defenses in college basketball history. Their Kenpom numbers are the best since the statistic was created and the team’s length has caused difficulties in scoring that we simply have not seen before. The wins this team has produced over Kansas, UCLA, Arkansas, etc are blowouts against ranked teams/historic programs of a scale that simply are unheard of. In order for a team to be loved, it must have many positive characteristics beyond the performance on the basketball court. But make no mistake…what is most important is winning and when a team kicks ass on a historic level like this one…well that’s quite a start.

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Even Phil Jackson had to see this group in person

2. The Team’s Unbelievable UNSELFISHNESS

I always knew this team would be good, but even I have to admit that I never thought it would do it in this way. When John Calipari created the now-famous “Platoon” system, I was a skeptic…not of the idea, as I thought it was brilliant. But I was skeptical of whether he could stick with it during the difficult times of the season. And while Calipari has definitely deviated from utilizing the platoons rigidly, the general overall theme of it still rings true. This team plays nine guys, close to equal minutes, and does so with no complaints and to the benefit of all involved. When the Harrison Twins and Willie came back, they couldn’t have thought their minutes would go down…but they have and they have accepted it nonetheless. How could Karl Towns have imagined himself anything but a 30 minute-plus player or Trey Lyles a secondary option, or Devin Booker coming off the bench? The answer is they didn’t, yet the players have not accepted the role, they have flourished in it. What has been better than watching these guys cheer on their fellow teammates during big moments from the bench, knowing that their individual accolades are muted because of the system? I never thought there would be a team mutiny this season because of having too much talent, but I also never believed Calipari could juggle this many players with virtually no negative ramifications at any point? Even when the outside clutter has clouded the views of others (like with the Andrew/Ulis debate of early January), Calipari remained focused and what we have now is a team full of talent, that plays together, sacrifices for the team and passes at a level we haven’t seen at this school since 2003 (still the best passing team of my lifetime). It is truly remarkable and part of what makes each game so entertaining.

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Eight different players have led the team in scoring

3. The PERSONALITIES

I am a sucker for the big personality. There is a reason I loved Demarcus Cousins and will still go to bat defending him any day…he was full of life and energy and I gravitate towards players of that ilk. This team doesn’t have a lot of huge personalities…Willie Cauley-Stein is probably the closest and he is more eccentric than strong in his personality archetype. But while this team may not be full of guys who could host their own talk show, it might be the highest quality group of young men that Kentucky has seen in my lifetime. Nearly every year, there is always at least one guy that kind of makes your eyes roll and who is at least a bit of a troublemaker. Not in this group. What you see is what you get and what you are seeing is the nicest collection of UK players that I have ever come across. They are uniformly polite, considerate and the type of guys that if they came home to date your daughter, you would be proud of her choices. As Jay Bilas said on College Gameday Saturday, there have been no arrest, suspensions or even fits of bad behavior. In fact, the biggest controversy of the season was when Karl Towns (who is almost too nice to be a real human being) did one chin-up on the rim during a game at LSU. A reporter doing a story recently on Calipari called and asked me, “Matt off the record now…these guys can’t be as nice as they seem. There has to be something I am missing, right?” I told him, the answer is no. They are as likeable as you think they are, and there are no secret dark clouds. This is a team of guys you can root for with no reservations or Bobby Petrino-esque “hold the nose while you win” qualms. They don’t just win, they do it with people you would actually like in real life.

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This sign at the game worked. She said yes.

4. Confounding the CRITICS

Let’s face it…Kentucky is the most criticized program and Calipari is the most criticized coach in the country. Part of that is the attention given to Calipari, the most controversial (and best) coach in college basketball today. Because he wins and wins at a huge level, and does so without buying into much of the old-school college mythology (or sucking up to what passes for the college basketball writer “intelligentsia”), he will always be a target for criticism. Put him then at Kentucky, a place that for a myriad of social reasons will never be the favorite of most of the media, and you will have a massive target. However this year, the chattering class of Cal haters has almost nothing they can say. After Pat Forde embarrassed himself with his infamous “Calipari you made your own bed” article last year (seriously read it again a year later…it is hilarious in its awfulness), most held their fire early in the year, waiting to see how this would all work out. Virtually all of them (a) began by criticizing the platoon system, (b) said there was NO WAY the Cats could go 40-0, (c) took shots at Andrew Harrison as a stand-in for Calipari and (d) criticized the SEC for being weak and providing no real test for the Cats, but yet none of these attacks truly hit their target. Why is that? Well Kentucky is too damn good. To say anything except this team is playing at a ridiculous level and doing it with kids that are playing the right way, is even a stretch for Calipari’s most indignant hater. They have to accept what is painfully obvious to everyone…Kentucky is great, with good kids, playing as a cohesive unit and a coach that is at the top of his game. Throw in the players dismissed at Duke/Louisville, the turmoil at Florida, the NCAA problems at Kansas and what do you have…Kentucky on top and oding it the right way. That has to hurt and it makes UK fans even more gleeful in watching the nattering nabobs of negativism squirm.

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John Short gets the shirt with the saying he made famous

5. HISTORY

No fanbase in America cares about college basketball more than Kentucky. The ratings showcase that no matter the game, no matter the team, the state of Kentucky cares more about the sports and watches it more often than any other set of fans in the nation. And that love of all things college basketball extends into its history. Along with Kansas, no place in America cares more about college basketball’s past than Kentucky. No program has been consistently good longer than the Cats and no decade has seen a drop in relevance from the Big Blue. From Rupp to Hall to Pitino to Tubby to Calipari, Kentucky has always been in the college basketball conversation, no matter the players. And thus when we have a team here that is special, that transcends just the normal “great” year into something higher, we not only know about it, we can appreciate it. 29 wins in a row, the best start in the history of the program, means much more to us than just a number. We can remember the teams that didn’t get there, the 54 group that chose not to play in the postseason while undefeated, the 96 group that was clipped by Cal’s UMASS team, the 2010 court storm at South Carolina, the Watford shot in Bloomington and many others. We have seen truly great teams not get to where this one currently stands and that makes us all the more appreciative of what we are witnessing. A school that has seen Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel, can appreciate how Willie Cauley-Stein combines their shot blocking with an unparalleled 7-footer’s ability to guard the perimeter. We know shooting and thus when Devin Booker gets hot, we can be correctly in awe. UK has had its share of large wins, but a 41-7 half against a traditional power like UCLA…well we know that’s special. Its one thing to be a witness to greatness, but it is another to do it at a place where 100 years of basketball at its top level have been played. To go undefeated here, where so many greats have come before them…we know what that means. And to look at this group and watch it take place…how can one not be as excited as at any point in the program’s history?

It seems almost heretical to say…but the interest in Kentucky basketball may be higher now that any point in history. In part because of changes in media coverage and information available due to technology, fans know more about this Kentucky team than possibly any group ever. They obsess over ever game and the tv ratings in Kentucky are higher than they have been in decades. With all of this interest and energy in the fan base, this could end up being the most special season in UK history. While we don’t know the final result, it has been a ride unlike any other, starting in the Bahamas in August heading next to a cold night in Athens this Tuesday. The final ending of this ride is unknown, but the uniqueness of this trip is not. We will never have another year like this one and the UK fan base more than any other, can appreciate just how wonderful it has been.


Former Cats Shine in Sunday’s NBA Games

Russ Isabella/USA Today

Russ Isabella/USA Today

This post might start to get redundant with the plethora of former Cats in the NBA. But, it was another big day for some of Big Blue Nation’s favorite sons.

Enes Kanter is proving the trade from Utah to Oklahoma City was a good thing for him personally. He put together another double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds against the Lakers. The big man also pitched in five assists showing his unique skill set. In his four games with the Thunder he’s averaging 15.8 points and nine rebounds a game.

Terrence Jones made his presence known in what was the game of the day between the Rockets and Cavaliers. Jones played a team-high 44 minutes and registered 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He also pitched in seven rebounds and the Rockets were +15 with him on the court.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked like the MKG from Kentucky with a double-double in the Hornets 98-83 victory over the Magic. The New Jersey native had 11 points and 13 rebounds and what I imagine was a smile on his face the entire time.

Nerlens Noel became the third former Kentucky player to get a double-double on Sunday, which is just two players less than Louisville has currently playing in the NBA. Noel had 10 points and 12 rebounds including an impressive 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Noel, like Kidd-Gilchrist and Jones, led his team in minutes played as well.

 


UK Hoops Take Down #2 South Carolina, 67-56.

(H/T @UKHoopCats on Instagram)

(H/T @UKHoopCats on Instagram)

In what was arguably the most important game of the season for the UK Hoops team so far, Kentucky defeated South Carolina today in Memorial Coliseum, 67-56. Not only did today’s game close the regular season and give the seniors a night to remember but it was the first time in program history that the Cats have brought down a #2 ranked team. This victory had not only be sweet for the seniors, but also for Janee Thompson, who had her season-ending injury earlier in the year against the Gamecocks.

In the first half, Kentucky jumped out to an early two point lead with a tip-in by senior Azia Bishop. From there, both Kentucky and South Carolina went on almost five minute scoring droughts. Kentucky’s drought ended on a layup by Bria Goss, giving the Cats a four point lead over the Gamecocks. After back-to-back plays by South Carolina after the 11:44 media timeout, they took the lead and extended it to six before a three pointer by Kyvin Goodin-Rogers swang the momentum in Kentucky’s favor. After a jumper by Makayla Epps and a layup by Azia Bishop in the closing seconds of the half, Kentucky went into halftime with the five point lead, 27-22. From there, the Cats never looked back.

Makayla Epps shot a slick jumper and a pair of free throws in the opening two minutes of the second half to bring the Cats’ lead to seven. South Carolina didn’t score a field goal in the first 8 minutes of the half, giving Kentucky the opportunity to extend that lead to seventeen before USC’s A’ja Wilson tipped one in for the Gamecocks, but Jen O’Neill and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers had the answers. At 12:17, Jen O’Neill shot a jumper and twenty seconds later, Goodin-Rogers made another three pointer to hammer the proverbial nail into South Carolina’s coffin. The Gamecocks didn’t want to give up and managed to go on a little run to cut UK’s lead to seven. But after back-to-back layups by Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper in the final two minutes, Kentucky took the eleven point victory, 67-56.

Kentucky had three players end the game in double digit scoring: Jenn O’Neill with 15 points (8 rebounds, 3 assists), Makayla Epps with 14, and Azia Bishop, who ended one rebound shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds.  Neither team was really stellar from the field; Kentucky only went 19-60 (31.7%) and 2 for 13 from three point range. South Carolina didn’t do much better; 20-62 from the field (32.2%) and 27.3 from the three point line.

“It was a great victory for us. I’m proud of our team and I’m especially proud of the seniors,” Matthew Mitchell said after the game. “Sometimes life doesn’t work out where people get what they deserve, and this game was going to be hard to win (…), but I’m so proud of (the seniors) and what they’ve done. This is just icing on the cake, to get the victory. Their memory of senior day will be something to remember.”

Not only was this win important for the four Kentucky seniors, but it also gives the Cats tremendous momentum going into the SEC Tournament. Kentucky is the sixth seed in the tournament and will play the winner of the Vanderbilt/ Alabama game on Thursday night at 9:30. The Cats’ bracket has the third seeded Mississippi State and the second seeded Tennessee in it as well.  Kentucky’s game on Thursday will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.

If your curious, here is the full bracket (click to enlarge):

WomensBracket

Go Cats.

 

@JC_KSR