Photo © Mark Zerof With two straight losses and the national media circling like sharks, →
By Hayley Minogue on ©11:45 am
After a thrilling victory over the Florida Gators yesterday, the UK Hoops team has advanced to the semi finals of the SEC tournament, and is currently getting ready to tip off against the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina, who is the favorite to win the tournament, has played UK twice this year already, and has come out on top both times. Most recently, the Hoops played the Cocks in Memorial, and they delivered us the most unreal thumpings that we have had in Memorial in the past three seasons, with a final score of 81-58. In the previous match ups, the key to Gamecock victory was out-rebounding the Cats. At Memorial, the Cocks grabbed 44 boards, while UK ended up with only 19 for the entire game. Kentucky is gonna have to tighten up their defense on Aleighsa Welch, who shot 10-16 from the field last game, had 10 rebounds, and 21 points. Tiffany Mitchell, the SEC POY, is also going to be a threat to the Cats, as well as SEC Freshman of the Year and the co-Sixth Woman of the year, Alaina Coates. Basically what we’re saying is that this South Carolina team is stacked. Today, more than ever, we’re going to have to have all cylinders running at full speed to keep up with the Cocks. Jen O’Neill, in you we trust.
#12 Kentucky v. #5 South Carolina
2nd Half 11:24: Where was this Kentucky team all season? Every single play is calm, precise, and passionately executed. Bria Goss has taken over the leading scorer position with 12, and Samarie Walker has grabbed four rebounds so far this half, bringing her to a total of five. Earlier I said a win today would take a full team effort, and man oh man is that exactly what we’re seeing. The bench has been absolutely vital today, and has 25 points. Kentucky is going to have to buckle down and keep playing their game this final 10 minutes. LET’S GO!!! UK49- SC38
2nd Half 15:54: Kentucky is still playing so very well, and SO SMART, but South Carolina came back to play this half. UK is shooting much better this half than last half, and taking really good care of the ball, having turned over the ball only three times so far this game. South Carolina is still not taking good enough care of the ball, and has 12 turnovers. Kentucky has scored 15 points off of those 12 SC turnovers, but is still getting out-rebounded by the Cocks 24-16. That UK bench though… 23 points for them. UK 45, SC 33
HALFTIME: I can’t stop raving people. Not only is Kentucky playing like championship team, but South Carolina is playing like… well the UK men’s team. Their shooting is horrendous. 0-4 on their three point shooting, and not looking too hot from the field either. Most of their shots have been inside drives or layups, and when you’re only shooting 46% and you’re within five feet of the basket, there’s some issues. Kentucky has done a great job of virtually shutting down Tiffany Mitchell, like we talked about, but Ibiam is carrying the Cocks (lol) with 12 points and four rebounds. The Cats will need to come out from the lockers playing fresh like they did in the first half to secure the W today and take us to the championship tomorrow.
1st Half 3:51: This is the best half of basketball this team has played all season. There, I said it *knock on wood*. Jennifer O’Neill is grabbing DEFENSIVE rebounds folks. TWO of them. Our two leading scorers are Buckets and Harper, the two freshmen on the team, who both have seven points. Azia Bishop is our leading rebounder with three grabs, and just banked in a jumper. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO HAPPY, but I’m confused. Where are you Walker, Evans, Goss? You all start and so far, between the three of you you have four points. Ending this half strong into halftime will hopefully just twist the dagger. UK 27, SC 17
1st Half 6:45: After deciding that her new name was Makayla Buckets, we have also decided that the kind of heart and passion that we can see Buckets (formally, and formerly Epps) contributing to this team is something that any program should envy. She’s scored five points in the past minute, which is all her points, and she’s just warming up. She’s versatile, consistent, and even when she’s on the bench, she’s never really on the bench. Buckets does not sit down. Every play is her cheering a success, telling her team that “it’s alright, you got this” when they miss a shot or commit a turnover.. She’s really just the kind of young woman that is going to continue to bring growth and attention to an already prominent program. Cats are up on the Cocks 19-11.
1st Half 11:37: wow wOw WOW!!! This Kentucky team >>> Let the numbers do the talking… South Carolina with nine turnovers to Kentucky’s two, with a subsequent eight points off turnovers to their zip. Linnae Harper is leading the Cats with five points. Coach Mitchell is currently subbing four at a time. Last time we played, South Carolina scored 81 points. They’ve scored SIX in the first eight minutes of this game. WOWZERS! Cats are up 12 to 6.
1st Half 13:12: This Kentucky defense is just where it needs to be today folks. UK is capitalizing on every turnover, with a total of seven of our 11 points being scored off the Cocks poor passing and ball handling. Seeing UK jump out with a lead like this so early in the game is easing our tensions for sure, but something tells me these fightin Cocks ain’t done yet. SC calls another timeout to compose themselves. UK 11, SC 2
1st Half 15:30:- After some really sloppy turnovers from the Cocks early on, the Wildcats have been able to settle down into their defense early on. Our transition defense has been on point so far, and Kentucky has returned to playing man to man defense. South Carolina is continuing to make super sloppy turnovers, and is shooting really poorly. South Carolina has turned the ball over FIVE times compared to Kentucky’s one TO. They will take a time out to “chat,” which terrifies me because their coach is the scariest woman at this tournament. Cats are up 4-2 on the Cocks.
Tipoff- I’m sorry, but I’m not mature enough to not laugh at a ‘Cocks’ chant. The Kentucky fans have already showed up, and they brought the business. Their may be more SC fans, but I have faith in how loud these fans can get, and know they’re about to get #turnt for the Cats. We have located Cocky and WILL be getting a picture with him, then promptly delivering him a swift kick to the shin. The Cats looked pretty good during warmups, but so did SC. I’m starting to get so nervous you guys!!!! If the men’s game starts to go South, everyone #FlipTeams and head over to ESPN to watch this battle royale. Here we go Cats!
10 Til Tip- After the most sub par hotel breakfast I have ever had, we find ourselves nestled once again on press row, right behind ESPN and right next to… well no one so far, but I’m sure we will be shortly joined by some massive meanie pants. Battle of the Bands is occurring once again, but luckily they’re not both playing at the same time anymore. Something I’ve never seen before though… UK is playing “Hey Baby” and the South Carolina band is singing the lyrics. Never have I ever seen a band be nice to a competing band. Those tuba players are cut throat. There is a massive showing of Gamecock fans today, but the #BBN is still trickling in and Wilder and I have faith they will soon show up. We’ve also been working really hard to make friends with the Tennessee fans, so hopefully they’ll cheer for us as well. We’re going to need all the help we can get.
By Jonathan Schuette on ©11:40 am
We’re just around 20 minutes away from tip-off and the Cats are trying to loosen up and knock off the shooting rust that has been plaguing them over the past few games. Don’t forget to join us for the live blog a few minutes before the game begins.
Also, Spelling isn’t a major at Florida.
By Jonathan Schuette on ©10:45 am
We’re just about an hour away from tip-off, but the Rowdy Reptiles are already in attendance for this afternoon’s game and are being treated to a Florida Dazzler performance. It’s going to be a tad rowdy today.
By Jonathan Schuette on ©10:10 am
It’s all been leading up to this. Kentucky, in desperate need of a quality win to boost their tournament profile, marches into Gainesville this afternoon to take on the Gators of Florida. Given Kentucky’s sub-par performances over the past few weeks, people are starting to question whether or not the Cats are ready to step-up and become a contender on the national stage. A win today over the #1 ranked Gators doesn’t guarantee much as seeding for the upcoming SEC Tournament has already been established for the Cats, but it should do wonders for a young team’s confidence if they can pull off an unlikely upset. There will be many things to look for in today’s contest, and Athlon Sports has given some keys to the game for the Cats.
Pivotal player: Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
If Kentucky is going to have any chance to upset Florida, the Wildcats are going to have to crack the Florida defensive pressure. The Gators hold opponents to a 0.71 assist-to-turnover ratio, second to Arkansas in the SEC. Point guard has been an issue all season for Kentucky with Harrison, who averages 1.4 assists per turnover.Biggest question: Can Kentucky find its shot?
It’s easy for opponents to gang up on Julius Randle when Kentucky can’t make a shot — or takes bad ones — from outside. The Wildcats are shooting 34.4 percent from the floor in the last three games and 15 of 65 from 3-point range. The slump has been team wide with James Young, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and Alex Poythress all struggling from the field.
By Jonathan Schuette on ©9:25 am
Tune into 630 WLAP in Lexington at 9:30 am for the KSR pregame show with Ryan Lemond and the KSR crew. The show will also be streaming live on WLAP.com.
Stick around for the Texas Roadhouse Countdown to Tip-Off Pregame Show on the IMG Network with Oscar Combs and Ryan Lemond. A list of affiliates around the state can be found here or you can listen online here.
Feel free to comment below.
By BrandonRamsey on ©9:05 am
- One of the best defensive teams in the country; allowing just 58.2 ppg.
- A well-balanced offense with 5 guys scoring over 9.3 ppg.
- #20 shoots 44.1% from 3, but the rest of the team is just average from 3.
- Very experienced group. 4 seniors in the starting lineup with big game experience.
#5 PG Scottie Wilbekin: 6’2’’ 176 SR
The senior point guard is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. Wilbekin averages 1.5 steals per game and is just an all-around tenacious defender. Offensively he will look to attack the basket off the dribble and has a very good pull-up jumper. He also is a good 3-point shooter, connecting on 36.9% of his shots from beyond the arc. Wilbekin averages 12.9 points and 3.9 assists per game. Back in Lexington Wilbekin was able to penetrate the defense and get to the foul line 12 times, connecting on 11 on his way to 23 points.
#20 SG Michael Frazier II: 6’4’’ 199 SO
Coming off one of the most prolific shooting nights in SEC history (11/18 from 3 for 37 points), Michael should have plenty of confidence going into tonight’s game. Frazier is one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the country at 44.1% (68/159). He is mostly a 3-point shooter, but he does have a solid mid-range game as well. Michael averages 13.1 points per game.
#24 SF Casey Prather: 6’6’’ 212 SR
Prather simply had his way with the ‘Cats earlier this year, going 8/9 from the field and 8/12 from the line for a game-high 24 points. Casey is not a threat from the perimeter and isn’t a post player, yet he is the best player, statistically speaking, the best team in the country. The senior is an excellent rebounder on both ends of the court and is very tough to stop inside of 15 feet. Prather averages 14.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He is extremely efficient offensively, shooting an impressive 61.8% from the field.
#15 PF Will Yeguete: 6’8’’ 230 SR
Yeguete won’t take a ton of 3’s, but he is a good shooter out to 18 feet or so. The senior is a very hard worker who does a good job defensively and will look to contain Julius Randle. He averages 5.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and over 1 steal per game.
#4 C Patric Young: 6’9’’ 240 SR
Patric Young is a man! He is an effective low post player with serious strength who will look to impose his will on the block on both ends of the floor. He is a good finisher inside (54.8% shooting) and a very good offensive rebounder. Young averages 10.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and just under 1 block per game. He struggled a little bit in Lexington, shooting just 4/11 from the field.
#0 PG Kasey Hill: 6’1’’ 181 FR
An extremely quick, explosive guard off of the Gator bench. Kasey has struggled this season from beyond the arc, but is very good at creating shots for himself, or others, off of the dribble. The talented freshman guard averages 5.5 points and 3 assists per game.
#10 PF Dorian Finney-Smith: 6’8’’ 212 RS SO
Finney-Smith is a versatile player off the bench who can play either forward spot. He has good size and athleticism; he is a great offensive rebounder and will shoot 3’s even though he is just 30% from beyond the arc. Dorian averages 9.3 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game. Scored 8 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench in the first meeting.
#23 PF Chris Walker: 6’10’’ 220 FR
Walker has played limited minutes, about 5 per game, since becoming eligible. He is an extremely talented big man who is great in transition, can finish around the rim, and is a good shooter out to 15-17 feet. He is a very explosive athlete who can block shots and rebound. Has averaged just 5 minutes in his 3 games since being back, but has the potential to be a game-changing player.
- It wasn’t until later in the 2nd half when Florida’s offense finally started clicking. The ended up shooting 60% from the field in the 2nd half, but still just 44% on the game, including going just 3/13 from 3. UK was able to keep Michael Frazier from getting going, but Wilbekin and Prather more than made up for his off night.
- The Gators are known for setting a lot of ball screens. Generally they will “roll-and-replace” coming off of the screen, meaning that the screener will roll to the basket while the player on the block then replaces the screener’s spot on the perimeter. This can be a difficult action to guard because of the spacing and movement.
- Florida gets very good spacing offensively and does a good job of moving the ball. Scottie Wilbekin will look for opportunities to attack the basket off the dribble and Casey Prather will actively slash to the basket. Spacing is important for these two players to be effective.
- They are not a very good shooting team, but Michael Frazier and Wilbekin can both knock down 3’s. Outside of those two guys the Gators will score either in the post or by attacking the basket.
- Florida has a very balanced offense with 4 guys averaging in double-figures (and a 5th at 9.3 per game). However, even though Prather averages over 14 ppg, the Gators don’t really have a “go-to” scorer who can just get his shot whenever he wants it.
- Earlier this season in Lexington the Gators dominated in the paint, out scoring the ‘Cats 34-22 down low. Also, they were able to get 22 points at the foul line.
- Florida is one of the best defensive teams in the country. You can gather that much by simply looking at the statistics. They are holding teams to 58.2 points per game and under 40% shooting from the field. They also do a good job of rebounding the basketball, especially keeping teams off of the offensive glass.
- The Gators do a very good job of getting back in transition and disrupting the opposing team’s offensive rhythm. They don’t necessarily force a ton of turnovers, but just do a good job all-around of keeping team’s from getting good shots.
- In the half-court Coach Donovan will mix up the looks frequently. They will extend out to a ¾ court press at times, will play a 1-3-1 zone, and have a solid man-to-man defense.
Keys to the Game
- This is going to take a total team effort. The last few games have not been pretty, but this is as good of an opportunity as a team can have to get some momentum going into tournament play. A win over the #1 Gators on their home court would make up for much of the disappointment that the ‘Cats have faced this season.
- Take care of the ball. We have talked about how good Florida is defensively, so Kentucky will need to make sure that they at least get a shot up each time down the court. A good goal would be to have less than 12 turnovers; we turned it over 13 times against them earlier this year.
- Win the battle of the boards and get 2nd chance points. Florida is a good rebounding team, but their big men don’t have the kind of size and athleticism that the Kentucky big men have. Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein should be able to get some offensive rebounds that could lead to some easy put-backs for the ‘Cats. Florida outscored us 12-8 on 2nd chance points at Rupp, but WCS was a complete non-factor in that game getting just 2 points and 2 rebounds in 27 minutes. He will need to show up and play very well tonight.
- Kentucky will need to knock down some shots at some point; this is something that Coach Calipari mentioned in his press conference. Florida is very good with transition defense so there won’t be many easy fast-break opportunities, and they really pack there defense in in the half court, so driving lanes can be tough. I think that UK needs to try and attack and not just settle for jumpers and 3’s, but we will need to hit some of those to stay in the game.
- Guard ball screens well. Florida runs a ton of ball screens and Kentucky simply has not been good at guarding them this season. We really did a pretty good job of this in the first meeting, particularly in the 1st half.
By Jonathan Schuette on ©9:00 am
Florida students have been camping out for the opportunity to attend today’s game for quite some time now. This photo, taken by a Redditor last night, gives a little glimpse on how rowdy the reptiles are going to be for the game this afternoon.
By Jonathan Schuette on ©10:45 pm
Unless this very visit to KSR late in the evening is your very first glimpse at news on the day, then I virtually guarantee you’ve heard of today’s most notable celebrity birthday. If you’ve logged onto any assorted social media account, pop culture news site, or even turned on your local drive time radio show on the way to work this morning, you’ve almost assuredly heard that today, March 7th, is Bryan Cranston’s birthday. The American born actor, most known for his role as Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad, turned 58 years young today. While the younger population around the world currently knows him for his critically acclaimed role in Breaking Bad, others recognize Cranston for his roles in wildly popular shows like Malcolm in the Middle and Seinfeld. He hasn’t been limited to those three shows either, judging by his IMDB profile, Cranston has been credited with 130 acting jobs since his career began back in the early 1980′s.
This is usually the part of the celebrity bio where I’d try and say something complementary about Cranston and his wonderful career, but alas, I can’t really add anything as it’s all already been stated by everyone else who writes about pop culture on the internet. So, to conclude, I’ll leave you with my personal favorite (and wildly underrated) scene from Breaking Bad where Walt confronts Drug lord, Tuco Salamanca.
(It’s Breaking Bad, so I’ll throw in a NSFW tag.)
On to the day’s news:
-The Cats opened up as an 8-point underdog for tomorrow’s contest in Gainesville. According to Vegas Insider, Kentucky is 12-14-2 against the point spread this season and is 4-6-1 against the spread on the road. I’ve seen numerous predictions from Twitter and other sources, but it seems as though people are leaning toward a Gator cover in tomorrow afternoon’s match-up. It’s also worth noting that Kentucky is 6-13 all-time when facing the nation’s top ranked team. In case it has slipped your mind, the tip for tomorrow’s contest is slated for high noon on CBS.
-Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young had the opportunity to speak with members of the media today about the state of the program and the prospects for the team’s immediate future. Their full comments can be found by following this link, but below you’ll find some of their most notable statements.
On if this team can make a run …
“Definitely. It’s to that point where our backs are kind of against the wall. Players are going to have to show that they’re players – everybody on the team. It’s definitely a thing that we’ve got to keep in mind when we go in there.”
On what he took from the first Florida game …
“After that game I felt like we could beat anybody in the country. And then the next couple of games (I felt like we could) lose to anybody in the country. So it’s like a wide spectrum of our team. That just goes with what Cal tries to do here.”
On if they hit a wall against Florida after doing so well the first 30 minutes and if that’s a conditioning thing …
“No. I think being a young team you make those mistakes at the end. We’re so young you don’t really know when the crunch time or the winning time is. It’s the last five minutes of the game and that’s when – everything else before that really doesn’t matter. You win or lose a game in the last five minutes, and I think we’ve learned that the past year pretty much. The last five games have been a struggle, but definitely watching that game back on film, easily you win if you take care of the things that you’re supposed to do as an individual.”
On going back and looking at his video from a down shooting night against Alabama …
“I looked at the video and I just kept leaning back a little bit too much and just kicking my leg out. I came to the gym a little bit later and worked on my shot a little bit so it should be good.”
On it getting discouraging to keep missing shots …
“I try to just not think about the next shot and just keep moving forward and just shoot. I kind of got my confidence down last game and I think that’s really affecting my shot.”
On playing with pressure off their shoulders …
“Yeah and just play with an unleashed offense is what Coach says. Go out there and have fun with it and we’re doing a lot better with that in practice. We just got to turn that into game and have more fun with it.”
-During his pre-Florida presser, John Calipari told the press he didn’t believe that this team was done – not by any stretch of the imagination. “To have people say ‘this team is done,’ I just don’t believe it. A team that has this kind of skill and ability?” Calipari said. However, numbers aren’t the whole story. The x-factor for this team is confidence. “Let’s hope the light goes on. If it goes on this game, fine. If it takes another game, fine. We just need the light to go on. I’ve had teams come around at all different times. I believe in this team, I believe in the individual players. These are great players.”
-Matthew Mitchell and his UK Hoops squad earned a much needed victory over Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament this afternoon. The Cats held off numerous runs from the Gators and ended up prevailing 75-70 despite trailing by seven at the halftime intermission. Our own Wilder Treadway gave a full recap of this afternoon’s game in Duluth, Georgia and it can be found by following this link or scrolling down a bit further.
The women will do battle with the top-seeded Gamecocks of South Carolina at noon tomorrow on ESPNU. Set your DVR accordingly.
- In news that makes you go “D’awwwww,” John Wall took to Instagram today to help grant a young cancer patient named Miyah’s dream of meeting pop star, Nicki Minaj. In a mere matter of hours, Wall’s video reached Nicki Minaj and plans are in order to help fulfill young Miyah’s dream of wearing one of Minaj’s signature pink wigs. Way to help make the world a better place, John!
We’ll see you bright and early for pregame coverage tomorrow, Cats fans.
By Andrew Cassady on ©9:30 pm
With six minutes remaining in the game three weeks ago in Lexington the Cats and the Gators were all knotted up at 53 apiece. From there Florida found a way to score on their next nine possessions and put the game on ice through veteran play. Kentucky on the other had was outscored 16-6 over that final stretch while showcasing the same problems that have been plaguing them all season long. Tomorrow afternoon is one final chance to get it all right in time for the post-season. Here’s what the Cats will need to do in order to pull off the upset.
Take The Crowd Out of It
First and foremost the Cats will need to try and take the rowdy reptiles out of the game early. The O-Dome is always hyped to host the Wildcats and with a perfect SEC record on the line you can expect tomorrow to be no different. One of the problems the Cats have faced all season long is the slow start. They can ill afford one of those tomorrow. In Lexington the Cats jumped out to a 5-0 lead which the rode all the way to a 3 point margin at the half. If they can come out early tomorrow and hit some early jumpers the crowd could get quiet and offer UK a chance at the upset. After a hot start the boys in blue will need to work on containing UF’s ability to score.
Shut Down Wilbekin
Senior guard Scotty Wilbekin has just about wrapped up SEC player of the year and for good reason. Wilbekin is averaging 12.9 points, 3.9 assists, and 2.6 rebounds this season while leading the Gators to the #1 ranking. Scotty has been the guy with the ball in his hands when Florida has needed a bucket late and was key to their win in Rupp. Wilbekin scored 23 in our match-up a few weeks ago including 7-8 from the charity stripe. If Andrew can find a way to keep Wilbekin around his averages then the Cats will have a better chance at the W.
Julius Randle to Go Insane
Julius Randle played pretty well in the Lexington loss as he finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds on 4-7 shooting. Unfortunately Casey Prather played a bit better as he finished with 24 points and 4 rebounds. Randle has been the subject of continuous double and triple teams over the last few weeks and a reason for that has been the poor outside shooting of the Cats. If the other guys can play well then Randle can be freed up like he was against Ole Miss when he scored 25. A big game from Julius will be one of the biggest reasons behind a Cat win.
Do you have any hope remaining the Cats can win if they nail these keys to the game?
By Will Lentz on ©8:00 pm
Much has been made about Kentucky’s perilous drop from preseason number 1 to #25 in this weeks polls, but let’s not pretend like the wildcats are alone. Not a single preseason top 5 team has had the kind of season their fans were expecting. Let’s take a look at where they were, where they are, and where they might go.
Preseason Ranking: 1
Current Rank: 25
Conference Record: 12-5
Season Outlook: If you are reading this at 8PM on a Friday night, I don’t need to tell you too much about what Kentucky’s future looks like. At this point, the preseason expectations have all but vanished, and just seeing the team play well to end the season would likely count as a victory for most fans. It starts tomorrow with a noon game against Florida, and then next weekend with the SEC tournament.
Preseason Ranking: 2
Current Ranking: 22
Conference Record: 12-5
Season Outlook: Michigan State was hobbled with injuries, sure. But they have also dropped 6 of their last 11 in almost reverse Izzo fashion. Typically the Spartans are rounding in to form later in the season and pose to be a tough out to any team in the tournament… but with recent losses to Georgetown, Illinois and Nebraska, they aren’t striking fear in to too many teams. Still, Lunardi has them as a 4 seed, which seems a little high.
Preseason Ranking: 3
Current Ranking: 11
Conference Record: 14-3
Season Outlook: What once looked like a major hangover after a title year, is starting to turn around a little bit. The AAC’s NCAA tournament will be interesting. Throughout the conference season, a number of teams have appeared to be better than we originally expected, with Memphis, SMU, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Louisville ending up ranked. Are they as legitimate as they look, or have they been feeding on the weaker dredges of the conference? It’s tough to say. Louisville could be poised to go deep in March, but they are still a leap away from being the kind of team you expect to win the title, like they were last year.
Preseason Ranking: 4
Current Ranking: 4
Conference Record: 12-5
Season Outlook: Say what you want about ESPN bias towards Duke, but how many other teams have lost games and rose in the polls? At times they look like title contenders, at times they lose to Wake Forest and UNC. And I am pretty sure no team has every lost to Wake Forest and gone on to win the title. The ACC tournament will be telling. The biggest question with the Blue Devils is – can they beat quality teams back to back to back? It doesn’t seem like a group that can go without opening themselves up to an unexpected loss. Also, just for the sake of mentioning it? Same conference record as Kentucky and Michigan State, for what it’s worth.
Preseason Ranking: 5
Current Ranking: 8
Conference Record: 14-3
Season Outlook: Kansas actually seems to be the most poised of the preseason top 5 to cut down the nets in April. A lot of it will depend on the availability of Freshman superstar Joel Embiid, who has been having back issues for the latter half of the season. They are currently projected to be a one seed, and with the dwindling strength of the Big 12, might as well be a shoo-in to a match up with a 16.
Final takeaway? It’s not been the season we thought it would. Last year we knew it was a down year in CBB, but everyone thought this would be one of the best seasons to date. With all the super star freshman coming in, and a lot of key returnees, it was predicted that there would be a number of legendary teams poised to battle it out. Instead? It’s been a grab bag of successes and failures. Any of the above teams could go on to win the tournament and end at the top of the polls where they started. Or any could fail to make it out of the first weekend.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©7:30 pm
For the past month, Florida fans have been trying to get Justin Timberlake to come to Gainesville to sing the national anthem on Senior Day via the #BringJT2UF social media campaign. Timberlake just wrapped up the South Florida portion of his tour, so Florida fans thought he should swing by Gainesville to give Florida’s seniors the ultimate send-off.
Well, Justin Timberlake has better things to do, and posted this on Twitter a little while ago:
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) March 7, 2014
Sorry, Gators. I hear Matt Walsh is available if you don’t have a back up.
By Wilder Treadway on ©7:10 pm
Photo from SEC Facebook
After falling behind by nine points in the first half, it looked like a bad case of déjà vu for the 12th ranked Kentucky Wildcats. The Gators had upset UK twice already this season, and Coach Matthew Mitchell was still searching for answers on how to stop the potentially potent Florida offense. The Cats went into the locker room down seven, getting zero points from star forward DeNesha Stallworth after a foul-laden start to the game, and blue clad fans in Duluth, Georgia were shaking their heads in frustration…
The second half started and Kentucky came out firing. Stallworth scored all 13 of her points in the final 20 minutes to lead the Wildcats, and UK fought off numerous late charges by the Gators to gut out a come-from-behind 75-70 win over the reptilian rivals from Florida. Four Wildcats finished in double-figures, and Kentucky was able to use their height advantage inside to dominate the rebounding battle 42-29.
Let’s break it down…
“Our players have worked really hard to improve since the last time we played them. So it was very gratifying to win this game and also to shake off a very poor first half,” Coach Mitchell commented after the game. Too early to call this conference tournament a revenge tour? After the Wildcats fell to the Gators twice this season, Kentucky was able to redeem themselves today. UK will have another chance to do the same thing tomorrow as they play South Carolina, another team the Cats lost to twice this season.
Confidence was key for Kentucky, who at times this season would fade away in the face of adversity throughout the course of the game. After the Cats fought back to take a lead near the end of the game, Florida hit two straight 3-pointers to tie it up at 70 with just over a minute remaining. Crumble, you say? Absolutely not. For the second game in a row, sophomore Janee Thompson stepped up to the plate and delivered a game clinching mid-range jumper to set Kentucky sailing to victory. Mitchell has instilled his total confidence in the majority of his players, and nearly every Wildcat has the green light to go and make a play when the time calls for it.
Junior Bria Goss finished with 11 points this afternoon, pushing her over the 1,000 point mark for her career. She is the 29th Wildcat to record over 1,000 points, so shouts to you girl…shouts to you.
If you’ve followed KSR’s coverage of Kentucky women’s basketball this season (and I know you have), you’ll know that Florida’s head Coach Amanda Butler is one of my personal favorites. She’s everything I want in a coach. Feisty, angry, and most importantly: stompy. That held true to today as there were several instances where the officials had to remind Butler to keep her place in the coaches box, and when Kentucky made their second half run…yeah, she wasn’t very happy. Obviously I was cheering for the Cats to ruin Butler’s day, but I can’t help but smile and cheer a little whenever I see the energized woman.
After Stallworth only played a measly two minutes in the first half, Coach Mitchell knew that the post play would be a key to the final result of the game. “We talked about toughness in the post, that you had to be patient but really, really tough. I thought our play on the interior really stepped up and battled there and played tougher in the second half. We made some real tough buckets.”
While he was pleased with the results, Coach Mitchell definitely knows there is room for improvement for Kentucky, and thought there was way too many turnovers. When Hayley was in the locker room with the team, he heard the head man complain “four turnovers?! Gosh…” about point guard Thompson. Stallworth had five giveaways of her own, and there will be no room for that against a top five team like the Gamecocks tomorrow. Expect another solid effort from USC (no surprise there) as the Gamecock coaching staff was sitting next to Hayley and I the entirety of today’s game scouting their next opponent. Gamecock Coach Staley is extra terrifying…don’t forget it.
Kentucky returns to action in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament against the top seeded South Carolina Gamecocks tomorrow afternoon at 12 pm. Yes, that’s the same time as the men’s game, so get ready for some double Wildcat action comin’ at ya on KSR. Till then…Nae Nae.
Someone tell me something to do/somewhere to go in Duluth, Georgia…please….
By Not Jerry Tipton on ©7:00 pm
The 2013-14 season is almost over, and Kentucky is still trying to atone for the disaster was the 2012-13 season. John Calipari’s team is trying to do something that no team in the history of college basketball has ever done: Win a national championship relying primarily on 6 freshmen who were McDonald’s All Americans. With disappointing losses to a whole bunch of teams, the team will fail to reach its ultimate goal of perfect season, and will instead try to console itself with a national title. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*The Great Compromise: After the 2010 NBA Draft, which saw 5 Kentucky players selected in the 1st round, John Calipari famously called it “the greatest day in the history of Kentucky basketball.” At the time, many – if not all – UK fans disagreed with him, claiming that they could point out at least 7 days that were better: the days when Kentucky won national championships. However, in hindsight, it turns out that not only was that day not the best day in program history, it was quite possibly the worst day in program history. The 2010 NBA Draft showed recruits that doing a one year stint in Lexington was the safest route to guaranteed millions in the NBA. As such, recruits now show up on campus with one thing on their mind: the NBA. They do not give one whit about college, or their teammates, or college basketball, or UK fans, or blue or white. Sure, most of them tend to return to Lexington after they leave (but not all; whither Kevin Galloway?), but this is likely due to the allure of the Bluegrass region, namely, the horse farms, the bourbon and the castle out on Versailles Road. Still not convinced? Consider: How many of these former Wildcats have moved their families to permanently reside in Lexington?
*Sweet Revenge: During Monday’s press conference, John Calipari made the statement that “it’s hard to have fun” playing basketball at Kentucky. UK senior Jon Hood, in a blatant show of insubordination, vociferously disagreed with his coach, saying that he “has had a blast” playing at UK. It isn’t often that you a see a 5th year senior call his coach “stupid” in so many words, but by claiming that he’s had fun in Lexington the past half decade, that’s exactly what Hood did. In what was perhaps not a coincidence, the Cats came out the next game and shot 32% from the field, almost losing to Alabama before being bailed out by a 15-2 run in the second half to barely win by 7. If the preseason #1 Wildcats don’t go on to win a national championship, it just may be that this dustup between player and coach was the culprit.
*Please Don’t Bury Me: Last week, former UK commit (and current New Mexico State junior) K.C. Ross-Miller got suspended when he threw the ball at an opposing player, thereby inciting a riot on the court between fans and players. This does not bode well for Kentucky. The one ingredient that most UK fans think is missing from the current team is toughness. By having the intestinal fortitude to attack an opposing player even though the game was over, Ross-Miller showed that he isn’t scared of anything or anybody. Most will remember that John Calipari told Ross-Miller to “go the hell away” when he was named the coach, by refusing to honor the scholarship offer that was extended to him by prior coach Billy Gillispie. Seeing as how Gillispie was named National Coach of the Year in 2007, and Calipari was not, maybe the much maligned Texan knew what he was doing after all.
* On this date: On this date in 2013, Kentucky was headed for the NIT.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©6:00 pm
And now something happy to round out your Friday. John Wall posted this video on Instagram earlier today of himself and Miyah, a five-year-old fan diagnosed with cancer. In the video, Miyah says its her dream to meet hip-hop star Nicki Minaj and wear one of her trademark pink wigs. Wall asked his followers to help spread the word on social media with the hashtags #HelpMiyahMeetNicki and #PinkWigForMiyah.
It’s already worked. Four hours after the video was posted, Minaj responded, telling Miyah that she’s going to see what she can come up with:
Good on ya, John Wall.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©5:30 pm
Earlier this week, our favorite columnist down I-64 seized Kentucky’s struggles as the perfect opportunity to post the John Calipari attack piece he’s been sitting on for four years. While many in the national media praised Forde for his brave commentary and “saying what needed to be said,” the rest of us saw it for what it was: Forde being Forde.
Today, Grantland’s Andrew Sharp included Forde’s article in his “Worst” of the week column, saying that whenever UK struggles, the national media immediately turns it into a reflection on John Calipari’s character:
Because this is college basketball, Kentucky’s struggles immediately turn into a referendum on John Calipari’s character as a leader and his soulless approach to recruiting. Maybe this is all karma! Someone actually wrote this week that it’s time to rethink the Kentucky title teams from a few years ago, because those weren’t really Calipari’s teams. It’s one of the most reliable laws in sports: College basketball people HATE John Calipari. When he’s winning, it’s because he’s cheating. When he’s losing, it’s proof he was never a good coach anyway and we get headlines like “You Made Your Bed John Calipari, Now Lie In It.”
Sharp continues on to say that Kentucky’s struggling this season because Andrew Harrison has yet to mature into the point guard Cal needs to run the system, a problem that is far from unique in college basketball right now. As Sharp put it, “don’t make this a bigger deal than it has to be.”