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By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©11:35 pm
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
It had been a while since the Cats played an actual game, and boy, could you see that in the first half. In true Kentucky fashion, the Cats stumbled out of the gate again tonight, but rallied behind a strong performance from the bench to put away Mississippi State by a final score of 85-63. Here’s the bad and the good of it all.
Another awful start
Maybe the team was still wrapped up in the fun times of Camp Cal. Maybe the Louisville game went to their heads. Or maybe they were just rusty after the long break. Regardless of the reason, Kentucky looked straight up awful for the majority of the first half. Mississippi State jumped out to a 12-2 lead, and the Cats didn’t score until the 15-minute mark. They were listless, slow, and submissive to a smaller Bulldogs who led 40-37 going into the half. After the game, John Robic (stepping in for Cal, who went to be with his son, Brad, who underwent ACL surgery yesterday) said that the Cats “settled” in the first half, and weren’t mentally ready for the game:
“I think we were rusty. Having 13 days, even the players were like, ‘We finally get to play a game.’ It’s just the way the schedule went, but I do think that we were a little bit rusty. We’re in game shape, but we weren’t ready for the game when it started. And it took us some time.”
Of all of the team’s bad habits, slow starts could be the worst. Or free throws, but Cal says not to worry about that.
Julius Randle’s reaction to double and triple teams
Mississippi State followed through on their promise to double team Julius Randle early and often. As a result, Randle had a relatively quiet night, tying a season low with only seven field goal attempts for eight points. However, he’s still Randle the Reliable when it comes to rebounding, grabbing 14 boards. Julius was even triple teamed at times tonight, and in those situations, needs to kick it out more often to his teammates, who are more often than not wide open. Robic lamented about that after the game:
“First off, he has to catch the ball tighter, no question. If he sees space, he has to take it. If they are going to send two or three players at him, he has to sacrifice himself for the betterment of the team, our players are finally understanding to be in certain spots on the post‑ups.”
James Young’s got to be starting something
Young notched his second straight double-double, with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Fifteen of those points came in the first half, when the Cats needed offense the most. At 8-18 from the field and 3-10 from behind the arc, James missed a lot of shots, but at times early on, he seemed like the only player willing to start things offensively. Robic said that James always has the green light from the staff to let ‘er rip: “I can’t think of any of the 18 shots that were bad or forced shots. James is a scorer. If he has it going, he has it going. He has that green light to shoot the ball.” Robic also praised James for playing a “complete game” and talking more with his teammates, something he noted the entire team is doing better after the break.
Dominique was Dominique
How can you not love Dominique Hawkins? In what is becoming his trademark, Dominique came in early in the first half and infused the team with energy, attacking the basket and taking advantage of open space. Mississippi State failed to guard him, so Andrew Harrison encouraged him to shoot. Robic said that Hawkins is the type of player that does everything the staff asks him to do, brings hustle, and always defends well. In short, he’s a coach’s dream: “He just brings an energy that you have to find time for him on the floor and that’s why he’s out there.”
We all owe Marquis Estill and Cal’s dentist a big thank you.
Dakari Johnson had his best game yet
Matt nailed it today when he predicted Dakari Johnson would have a big game. Dakari was ridiculously efficient tonight, scoring eight points in eight minutes off 4-4 shooting. After the game, Robic said that tonight was “the first signs of Dakari actually finishing plays,” and said the game was huge for the big man’s confidence. When the matchups are in his favor, Dakari can be dominant down low, and even though he’s not as athletic as Willie, he did manage to get one of the slowest and lowest lobs in UK history tonight.
Alex didn’t play, he dunked
All we’ve heard lately is how well Alex Poythress has been playing in practice. It’s been a major headline in the past few weeks, with Cal calling for Alex to carry that performance over to games. Well, he did. Alex looked like a totally different player tonight, with all five of his field goals dunks. Alex finished with twelve points in what may have been his most complete game in recent memory. Robic raved about Alex after the game, telling reporters that the sophomore’s confidence is at “an all-time high,” and Alex said that he’s happy to be making “the plays you always dreamed of” making at Kentucky. Based on Alex’s performance tonight, James Young may have put it best when he said “I guess you could put him anywhere on the court you want and he’ll catch a lob.”
More second half, less first half on Saturday, boys.
After what felt like months away from Kentucky basketball, the Cats returned to action Wednesday night and kicked off SEC play with a win over Mississippi State. Now we do what we always do after games and listen to Matt Jones and his callers discuss the action. So tune in to 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP, or stream online to hear Matt and KSR nation review the game on the KSR postgame show.
Share your voices and opinions by calling 1-800-444-8484 or 502-571-8484.
Discuss the show below.
By Ally Tucker on ©10:50 pm
**John Calipari was unable to participate in the post-game interview because he left early to be with his son Brad, who is recovering from ACL surgery. Assistant coach John Robic sat in for him and took questions.
Now that SEC play has started, Calipari has stated that he might try to dive a little deeper into his bench. Tonight the Cats got strong play from a trio of players off the bench, highlighted by the play of big man Dakari Johnson. Johnson has seen sparse minutes so far this season, but made the most of the his 8 quality minutes tonight. Johnson finished with 8 points in those 8 minutes. John Robic was pleased with Johnson’s play and thinks that adding another presence down low will only benefit this Kentucky team in the long run.
“The person who did the best job was Dakari. He caught the ball tight and was forceful when he caught the ball. That was a big game for him and his confidence. And a big game for our team. Having another 7 foot body in the middle is big.”
Poythress also showcased the kind of energy and impact that Calipari has been talking about him having in practice all week. “That’s how Alex has been practicing,” Robic stated. “He’s played very, very well. His confidence level should be at an all-time high. He’s bringing an energy. He’s doing the things that he can do. Now, keep doing those things but he has to expand some other things. He’s playing within his game and he’s able to do a lot of good things.”
And last but not least, Dominique Hawkins continued to garner more praise off the bench in his role for the Cats. Hawkins contributed 4 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Early in the game when the Cats were struggling, Hawkins’ hustle and ability to move the ball effectively on offense kept Kentucky in the game.
“He does what we ask him to do,” Robic said of Hawkins. “He doesn’t know any better. He doesn’t lie. We try to tell him to lie every now and then. He hustles. He puts pressure on the ball. We’d like to see him have a little more confidence shooting the ball. He just brings an energy and you have to find time for him on the floor.”
Go Cats. Go depth.
By Ally Tucker on ©10:12 pm
(Photo credit to Tyler Thompson)
The Cats appeared a little rusty after a long lay off and a week of Camp Cal. Mississippi State gave Kentucky all they could handle early, but Kentucky found its groove in the second half behind inspired play from Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and James Young. Hawkins, Johnson and Poythress gave the Wildcats a huge spark off the bench, and James Young led the offense all night long on the way to a double-double (26 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists). Johnson chipped in solid minutes as well as point production, finishing with 8 points. Perhaps the star of the second half though was Poythress, who dunked everything thrown his way, roaring to 12 points.
Kentucky put the Bulldogs away starting around the 12 minute mark of the second half and never looked back. Kentucky turned an eight point game into a blowout, including a number of highlight reel dunks. Kentucky moves to 1-0 in SEC play.
Kentucky is ready to start conference play tonight against Mississippi State, while others around the country have started already (hopefully you watched Ohio State/MSU last night). But in preparation, the Sporting News has compiled a list of “College Basketball’s Best States,” of which Kentucky is certainly a part. The midwest area commonly known as “College Basketball-topia” comprises the entire top four, in fact, with Kentucky, Ohio, Kansas, and Iowa.
Understand, the question is NOT “what state has the best college basketball tradition?” or “which state has the best basketball programs historically?” If that were the case, hard to argue that Kentucky and North Carolina would be outside the top 2. Instead, Sporting News asks specifically: which state is playing the best basketball right now? Looking at it that way, it’s easier to accept Iowa at #3, one spot ahead of Kentucky. I disagree, but I understand. The Cyclones are coming off a Baylor win, and none of their players are terrified of airplanes anymore, so it’s easy to like that team.
But our beloved home state comes in at #4 on the list, which is substantially better than #8 North Carolina. There are honorable mentions to the supporting players (Eastern, Western, and Morehead), but most of the attention is on the two pillars: UK and UL.
Kentucky and Louisville have both won a national title in the past three years, and schools like Murray State, Western Kentucky and Morehead State have wrecked more than a few brackets with their memorable upsets. Without a really strong mid-major to support the two big schools, though, Kentucky is probably a couple notches below where it would have been in the past few seasons. The recent news out of Louisville—the Cardinals dismissed Chane Behanan and lost Kevin Ware to injury—doesn’t help, either.
I don’t know why they wouldn’t just say that the state of Kentucky won two championships in the last two years, but I guess they’re not wrong. And putting Kentucky at #4, instead of #1, which would have been the case a couple years ago, seems completely fair. We’ll see how both Louisville and UK are performing in March, but that seems about right for now.
Ohio, Kansas, and the aforementioned Iowa are the top three.
Right now, there’s a public meeting going on in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom about the plans to renovate Rupp Arena. Lexington mayor Jim Gray and NBBJ architect Robert Mankin are on hand to update fans on the project’s progress, and so far, we’ve even gotten some new renderings (sadly, no Star Wars characters).
Some other notes, via the @RuppDistrict Twitter feed:
- The goal is to “Free Rupp” by taking down the exterior walls and replacing them with glass, making for a transparent space where you can see people moving inside from the outside, similar to the Staples Center and the Barclays Center.
- The upper bowl of the arena will “absolutely be changed” to include chair backs, new restrooms, concessions and other amenities. HOORAY!
- New “overlook decks” could be put into the four corners of the upper bowl.
- Big Bertha will be a thing of the past, replaced with a large, center-hung scoreboard and LED ribbon boards.
- WiFi will be available throughout the arena, along with improved sound and technology.
Thoughts? You can still fill out a survey to give the group your opinions here.
Believe it or not, Bobby Petrino is headed back to Louisville. The cheating girlfriend has finally edged her way back in, and Cards fan are living in delirious denial, which only means one thing: they’ll spend the next few months passionately defending the decision, if only to convince themselves. To prepare for this, here are three common arguments Louisville fans will use to justify the hire, and some easy ways to debunk them.
YAHTZEE! 2015 3-star safety Marcus Walker has committed to Kentucky. The scoop was first reported by Scout’s Patrick Loney, and Walker confirmed the news on Twitter moments ago:
Just committed to Kentucky! Im a wildcat finally #bbn
— * 12-16-13 AG* (@Prim3timejr4) January 8, 2014
Walker, from Lake Wales, Florida, is considered the 22nd best safety in the country by 247 Sports Composite and the 372nd best player overall. The 6’1″, 185 lbs. defensive back had offers from Florida, Vandy, Central Florida, South Florida, Duke, and others, and is teammates with 2015 center Luke Hiers, who is also considering the Cats. He’s Kentucky’s second commitment in the 2015 class behind cornerback Montrell Custis.
Welcome to the fam, Marcus!
Tune in to 630 WLAP in Lexington at 5:30 pm for the KSR pregame show with Matt Jones, Ryan Lemond, and Drew Franklin. The guys will be live from the food court at Rupp Arena to get you ready for tonight’s SEC opener against Mississippi State. 98.1 The Bull will carry the second half-hour of the show, beginning at 6:00 p.m, or listen online at WLAP.com.
Stick around for the Texas Roadhouse Countdown to Tip-Off Pregame Show on the IMG Network with Oscar Combs and Matt Jones. A list of affiliates around the state can be found here or you can listen online here.
It’s hard to argue that the University of Louisville football program hasn’t been a stepping-stone for a long time now. Every head coach that has success while in the position has been quickly hired away by a bigger, more well established football powerhouse. John L Smith, Bobby Petrino, and, the most recent, Charlie Strong are just a few names that come to mind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; a lot of universities would love to have the success that UofL has had over the years, even if it means taking on the title of being a stepping-stone.
With that being said, the idea of being a stepping-stone doesn’t sit well with Tom Jurich. Jurich didn’t wait long after the departure of Strong to voice his opinion on the subject, stating below how he feels about the term:
“I think it’s a great program. A lot of positive energy around it and I think it’s a program that has really made it on the map. We’re going to do everything we can to sustain that. Stepping stone is a word that gets thrown round a lot. There is a lot of school’s that would dream to be a stepping stone spot. They’d love to.”
It’s understandable for an AD to have high expectations for his program. While it may be ludicrous for Tom to suggest that UofL is a destination job, you can’t really fault him for striving for the best.
So when Jurich set out to find his new head coach a couple days ago one would think that he would go after a coach who would look at UofL as more than just a place to stop by en route to success. In comes Bobby Petrino. In theory, Bobby Petrino could potentially view UofL as a destination. If there’s any place further down than rock bottom, Bobby Petrino is there right now. After having to settle for the WKU position last year, a job at an ACC-bound UofL, which just came off of a 12-1 season, seems like a godsend. With his age, and everything he has been through at this point, one could see Petrino staying at UofL if he has success, despite how much his past would suggest otherwise.
So perfect situation, right? Tommy gets his highly successful head coach, Petrino gets his 2nd 3rd 4th chance, and UofL fans can keep flashing their L’s at me; everyone wins. The only problem: By going out and hiring Bobby Petrino, Tom Jurich is saying the exact opposite about his program. Being a destination job isn’t just about having a coach that stays a long time. To be a destination, UofL needs to have coaches salivating at the idea of leading its program. To be a destination, coaches need to hope that one day they could be good enough to get that job offer from Tom.
Hiring Petrino does the exact opposite. As mentioned before, UofL will never be in a better position than it is now. Charlie Strong proved over the last 4 years that you could win at UofL without cutting corners. By hiring Bobby Petrino, UofL is saying that it will do whatever it takes to win. By allowing Bobby Petrino to ink his name on that contract the University of Louisville is showing how desperate it is. How can Tom ever make the case that UofL is a destination for coaches when he takes a coach that nobody else wants to hire?
While it’s easy to hate him, UK fans wouldn’t have such hatred towards Tom if he just admitted what he was doing. Even with everything that has happened, Tom still makes the case that he is striving to make UofL a destination, even though his actions suggest otherwise.