Part two in an eight part series previewing the 2014 Kentucky Football Wildcats. Cats hope →
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Another weekend, another swarm of happenings on and off the court around Kentucky athletics. This weekend was highlighted by the victory over Vanderbilt and the continued progression of this UK basketball team towards its March goals. As I sit here with a number of different irons in the fire (more on this in a bit), lets look at what I think are the give big storylines of the weekend:
Cats Show Toughness in a Road Win:
Most people were projecting Kentucky to roll in Nashville versus Vanderbilt because…well on paper Vandy looks terrible. They only have 7 scholarship players, can’t score and have had a difficult early season. But if you have watched Kentucky basketball for a long time, you know one truth…winning at Vandy is never easy. In fact, in the last 24 years, Kentucky has only won by double digits at Vandy three times. Saturday was nearly the fourth as Kentucky won by 9 points in a game it controlled the entire way, but could never quite dominate. I was impressed by Kentucky’s performance because it was able to win without actually playing all that well or shooting with any consistency. Vanderbilt created a gameplan centered around allowing Kentucky to shoot from the outside (something many teams this year will do) and with the exception of a couple of early shots from Polson and late shots from the Twins/Young, the Cats were consistently misfiring. But due to offensive rebounds, good ball movement and overall grit, Kentucky was still able to win without truly having too many nervous moments. The interior passing by Kentucky is getting better, the rebounding at every position is becoming quite strong and the team’s toughness is making it one of the most physical in the country. On paper, Kentucky should beat a team like Vanderbilt handily. But as Vegas pointed out in setting the spread at eight, games like this just dont happen in Nashville when Kentucky comes to town (the only teams to blow out Vanderbilt were the 1996 and 2003 groups…both excellent groups). This Kentucky team got its victory and grew…another good step towards their ultimate goals.
pic by the Cats Pause…the Twins are still squinting
Harrison Twins Continue to Improve:
For me, this season comes down to the Harrison Twins. We know what we will get from Julius Randle most of the time (when he is not cramping), Willie is a rim stopper and his offense continues to develop and UK is getting some solid contribution from the Poythress/Young combo. But for Kentucky to have a shot at #9, the Twins have to be stars. The reality is that Kentucky under Calipari must have a Point Guard capable of running his team and getting the other stars involved. Thus for me, Andrew Harrison is the key to the whole thing. His first ten games were disappointing, but ever since that stretch, I have seen consistent improvement. Saturday was, in my opinion, his best game of the year as a point guard distributor (and not just a scorer). He made the right pass, got the ball going correctly to initiate the offense and was a floor leader. It led Calipari to praise him as effusively as we have seen all year. As for Aaron, he hit big shots again and showcased that when UK needs a basket, he may be the go-to perimeter guy. Every game, I watch the Twins more than any other players on the court. Kentucky will go as far as they carry the team. Saturday was another positive step in their development.
National Folks See UK Potential:
I spent much of Saturday evening in Louisville at a sports bar with Doug Gottlieb, watching basketball and chatting about sports. It was actually a great time (Doug is an interesting guy and passionate about college basketball) and when former UK assistant coach David Hobbs showed up a bit later, the stories those guys told were absolutely epic. I learned more about 1990s SEC basketball “Behind the scenes” stuff than I would have ever imagined. But before we traded Ramel Bradley tales, Gottlieb told me that he thought UK was just a bit away from turning the corner and being a top 5 type team. This opinion was also echoed in a column on CBS in which he stated that Kentucky was on its way to meeting preseason expectations. There is no doubt that Kentucky has more talent than any team in the country and they have more upside than any team by far. The question is how it can come together in 2 1/2 months. Huge strides have been made in the last 30 days…many believe (including two guys that aren’t exactly UK lovers) that even better strides are to come.
Patrick Patterson is finding his NBA groove in Toronto…playing well and here, interacting with Drake, who is still a Cat fan.
Future Showcases Itself in Paducah:
I did not get to make the trip to Paducah this weekend for “Mustang Madness”, but by all indications it was a great event. The Western Kentucky fans showed out for a good crowd and Calipari and the Assistants all made the trip to see two future Cats in action. Trey Lyles is a different type of Calipari player. He is tall and long but not overly athletic. However he is a very intelligent player who makes great decisions and may be one of the best big men passers we have seen here in a long time. When young players make boneheaded decisions, it is the norm but I think you will see much less of that from Lyles, who is a young player with an old man’s game. As for Tyler Ulis, he is a point guard unlike any that have played here under Calipari. He will not be a one and done and could end up being a four year college player. But he is also a great passer, and will be one of the best floor leaders that has played under Cal. As good as this year’s team is with talent, next year’s group may see that level of passing and Ulis/Lyles showcased that on Saturday. Because I think UK will have more players back next year than was previously imagined (maybe many more), we are going to see a great deal of depth next season and a different type of Calipari team. It should be fun to watch.
This kid made a lot of UL fans mad today…he made me laugh. 10 year old UK fan who went to watch the UL game as Bobby Petrino
Derrick Ansley to Georgia?
It has been a strange week or so in college football coaching news and now the oddity comes to Lexington. UK’s defensive back coach is being rumored to leave for the same position at Georgia, according to a couple of Georgia websites. The impetus may be the move from the Georgia Defensive Coordinator to Louisville (for an absurd $1 million a year guaranteed for 5 years) and some see the Ansley chatter as proof that Kirby Smart may leave Alabama for Georgia (Ansley worked for Smart before coming to Kentucky). Who really knows? What we do know is that Ansley has been good on this Kentucky staff and is the Cats’ main contact down South in recruiting. He is very strong in this area and while he doesn’t get the credit of Vince Marrow with fans, he has been very successful. Losing him to Georgia would be a blow for the Cats’ recruiting fates, but showcases that when you have success…even in the limited world of recruiting…other schools will come calling for your coaches.
Thats all for now. I have to get back to watching the Golden Globes and hoping to see a glimpse of the lady above, Margot Robbie (from the “Wolf of Wall Street”) who I am in love with. Drew and I will be spending the next two weeks doing work for Tennis Channel and covering the Australian Open (albeit from Kentucky). Our work is on the Outer Courts blog here that many of you have visited before. Check it out, even if you don’t like tennis as we will have things there you will enjoy. See you on radio in the morning….
Prepare, Kentucky fans: the office Louisville fan will likely be ready to give you an earful tomorrow morning. Multiple outlets have reported that Georgia defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, will leave the school for the same position at Louisville. At first glance, this appears to be an impressive hire – the Cards have stolen a coordinator from a top-notch school after all. All is not as it seems, however, Here are a few tools you can use to combat their gleeful squeals if it becomes too much.
1. Grantham’s star was far from on the rise. After scrolling through various Georgia message boards, it is apparent that Georgia fans are uniformly ecstatic to see Grantham gone. A glance at the point totals from Georgia opponents this year shows that their happiness might be well-founded. Grantham’s defense (UGA’s injury problems were mostly confined to offense keep in mind), only held TWO opponents this year to under 21 points: Kentucky and Appalachian State (heck, even Kentucky’s awful offensive attack managed to put up 17 points). In fact, six times this season, Georgia’s foes scored over 40 points. Grantham has continually been attacked in the media for fundamental shortcomings in his defense and he was routinely blamed by Bulldog fans for UGA’s woes this season.
Here’s your reminder that Todd Grantham makes nearly $1 million a year
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 12, 2013
2. The above tweet followed another less-than-impressive showing from the Dawg D. Todd Grantham now makes exactly 1 MILLION per year and he will do so for the next five years (guaranteed). After a week full of high-profile names being tossed about by UL fans (Shannon, Chizik, Steele, etc.), the Ville finally settled on what would be at least their fourth choice if you believed all the rumors. One might reasonably think that the fourth choice wouldn’t be worth such an outlandish amount of money. When coupled with the fact that Grantham has been terrible and was rumored to have been asked to look around by Mark Richt, the salary seems even more ridiculous. Louisville football: where mediocrity at your last job will lead to untold riches.
3. It really is amusing to read the reaction of Georgia fans. Here is a summary of a few of my favorites:
-Best thing to happen to Georgia since Herschel
-Dear Jesus, don’t let me get my hopes up and then get shot down
-Tennessee fan: Was hoping he’d be a lifer
-Gonna be some serious shootouts in Louisville next year with Petrino and Grantham running that team
-If you are a fan of UGA and the Falcons, we can now forgive Bobby Petrino
Enjoy your evening.
With Kentucky coming off a 71-62 win against the Vanderbilt Commodores, the SEC season is still young. The Cats have 16 games before the start of the SEC tournament to perfect their weaknesses and master their strengths. After the game, Cal was thoroughly pleased with their performance, but knows they still have a long way to go before they get where he wants them to be. With that being said, Kentucky needs to improve, but in what areas? To find out, I headed over to teamrankings.com. They do a great job of listing a variety of stats and how that team compares to other teams across the country in both offense and defense. Kentucky’s full page can be found here. I analyzed and determined what statistical categories Kentucky ranked in the top 35 in the country and in what categories Kentucky ranked below 100. Note that there are 345 teams in Division 1 College Basketball. The first chart is Kentucky’s offense, while the second focuses on Kentucky’s defense.
|KENTUCKY: THE BAD||KENTUCKY: THE GOOD|
|Assists/ Turnover 1.000 (#174)||Points/Game 80.5 (#23)|
|Assists/Game 12.6 (#169)||Total Rebounds/Gm 43.8 (#5)|
|Free Throw % 66.0% (#287)||FTA/FGA 0.592 (#4)|
|Three Point % 29.8% (#308)||Two Point % 54.8% (#10)|
|FGA/Game 56.3 (#145)||Shooting % 47.6% (#33)|
|3PM/Game 4.9 (#298)||FTM/Game 22.0 (#5)|
|3PA/Game 16.3 (#251)||FTA/Game 33.3 (#2)|
|Def Rebound % 72.6% (#101)||1st Half Pts/Gm 37.7 (#36)|
|Steals/Game 4.3 (#329)||2nd Half Pts/Gm 42.7 (#14)|
|Steals/Play 5.3% (#333)||Off Rebounds/Gm 14.5 (#3)|
|Turnovers/Game 12.6 (#174)||Def Rebounds/Gm 26.2 (#17)|
|Off Rebound % 45.5 (#1)|
|Blocks/Game 6.8 (#7)|
|Block % 11.2% (#13)|
Most surprising stat from the bad: Three Point %, 29.8% For Kentucky to have the back court of James Young, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison; this seems like a very low percentage. Cal must have confidence in their abilities, since they shoot 16 threes per game. Can the team get their percentages up come tournament time?
Most suprising stat from the good: 1st Half Pts/Gm 37.7 We all know Kentucky has had some slow starts, but maybe they aren’t as slow as we thought. Kentucky is still doing a decent job of scoring in the first half but they certainly have room to improve. If they can get their first half points average closer to their second half average, look for the slow start talk to disappear.
|DEFENSE: THE BAD||DEFENSE: THE GOOD|
|Opp Assists/Turnover 0.929 (#135)||Opp Assists/Game 10.2 (#27)|
|Opp FGM/Game 23.6 (#118)||Opp Total Rebounds/Gm 31.4 (#31)|
|Opp FGA/Game 61.5 (#330)||Opp Effective FG % 42.9% (#12)|
|Opp 3PM/Game 5.6 (#109)||Opp Two Point % 41.6% (#12)|
|Opp 3PA/Game 18.4 (#185)||Opp Shooting % 38.3% (#14)|
|Opp 1st Half Pts/Gm 33.3 (#184)||Opp Shooting Efficiency 0.939 (#12)|
|Opp Off Rebounds/Gm 10.2 (#245)||Opp 2nd Half Pts/Gm 32.8 (#27)|
|Opp Off Rebound % 27.8% (#114)||Opp Def Rebounds/Gm 17.1 (#2)|
|Opp Steals/Game 6.1 (#160)||Opp Blocks/Game 2.4 (#16)|
|Opp Steals/Play 7.1% (#104)||Opp Block % 4.3% (#15)|
|Opp Turnovers/Game 11.0 (#285)||Opp Personal Fouls/Gm 25.4 (#1)|
|Opp Turnovers/Play 13.5% (#312)||Opp Personal Fouls/Play 29.7% (#3)|
Most surprising stat from the bad: Opp FGA/Game 61.5 To my surprise, Kentucky’s opponents average more attempts per game than Kentucky themselves. This certainly needs to improve before the SEC and NCAA tournaments. Whoever shoots the most shots usually has the best chance to win.
Most suprising stat from the good: Opp Shooting % 38.3% Contrary to the last stat, Kentucky is doing a good job of holding their opponents to a low field goal percentage. If a team gets hot against Kentucky however, shooting more shots favors Kentucky’s opponent.
What stat surprises you the most?
(stats from teamrankings.com)
Follow me on twitter: @Perk_21KSR
With the Spring semester just a few days away, the first of Mark Stoops’ second recruiting class are getting settled into their new homes. Throughout the day, Drew Barker, T.V. Williams, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Mikel Horton, and Dorian Hendrix were arriving on campus for the foreseeable future. Along with the five new freshmen, JUCO transfers Cory Johnson and A.J. Stamps were also unpacking into their dorms. What does that mean? A head start on the rest of the competition. All seven will be eligible to participate in winter conditioning with Kentucky’s High Performance Coordinator Erik Korem, as well as take part in spring practices. Surprisingly, Twitter was pretty quiet today. I expected a lot of tweets from the incoming class, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Maybe that means they’re having such a great time during their first day in Lexington that they haven’t felt the need to tweet. Either that or they’ve been busy preparing for next season already. One player had good things to say upon arrival, and that was wide receiver T.V. Williams.
I’m in Lexington!!!
— I Am T.V. Williams (@Trey1Williams) January 12, 2014
I just stepped into Lexington feeling like the man of the year hahaha
— I Am T.V. Williams (@Trey1Williams) January 12, 2014
These seven new Wildcats are expected to come in and make a huge impact for Kentucky next season. As evident last year, freshmen can have a major impact on the field. Players like Jojo Kemp, Ryan Timmons, Jeff Badet, and Alex Montgomery provided much needed energy & big plays on offense, despite their lack of experience. This coming season won’t be any different. For more on each of the seven newcomers’ expected impact this season, check out this article from Chris Fisher of 247sports.com. It’s a great read to get you prepared for things to come in Kentucky football. If you haven’t created an account at 247sports.com by now, you really should take up on their 30-day free trial offer.
The 9th ranked Kentucky Wildcats (14-3, 2-2 SEC) returned to their winning ways this evening defeating the Missouri Tigers (13-4, 2-2 SEC) 80-69. After a slow start in which the Cats were down by eight points early, Kentucky went on multiple runs and used the aggressive play of Bria Goss who finished with 20 points to soar to victory.
“I wanna compliment our players today for playing tough and getting a win today, cause we really needed it,” said Coach Mitchell following today’s win. He seemed very relieved to notch another W, especially against a much improved Missouri team rolling off of a win against Georgia last week. “For our immediate psyche right now, we needed to win. We were coming in low, they were coming in high.”
The Cats seemed to fix their scoring woes tonight as five players finished with double-figures, featuring Goss’ 20, Thompson’s 16, 11 for O’Neill and Stallworth and 10 for Walker, who also finished with a double-double with 13 rebounds. Kentucky had the thirst for a win, and everyone’s glad they got it. With the SEC season heating up, UK couldn’t afford to get down in the league standings so early, by so much.
“I’m as happy about this win as I have been in a long time.”-Mitchell
Missouri’s Bri Kulas was a monster, scoring 20 points in the first half, but the Wildcats seemed to pay special attention to the senior in the last 20 minutes, allowing just seven. MU’s MO all season has the 3-point shot. Coming into tonight’s game leading the league and ranking 4th in the nation in 3-point field goals, the Tigers shot just 32% from behind the arc, and made two less shots than they average.
The Tigers head coach Robin Pingeton is a new KSR favorite. She is exactly what Hayley and I love in an opposing coach: a little crazy, really loud, and really stompy. By stompy I mean she spends a lot of time pacing the sideline waving her arms around stomping in her modest sized high heels. After a charging call on Mizzou, she even walked over to the press table and asked us if we thought it was a good call. She had tons of respect for Kentucky following the game, seeming to look up to Coach Mitchell for his resurgence of a women’s basketball at a school without much prior history in the sport. Take a look for yourself…
Kentucky has this week off, and will return to action next Sunday afternoon as the Wildcats travel to the plains to face the Auburn Tigers. Until then, take a charge Wildcats, take a charge.
From Tom Leach, the Voice of the Wildcats
Any day Kentucky wins a road game with Julius Randle and James Young hitting a combined five of 20 shots is a good day. That’s what you take away from the win at Vanderbilt.
With just three minutes to play, the Cats were up by 13. But rather than closing out a more decisive win, they gave up two three’s, sandwiched around a missed front end of a one-and-one at the free throw line, and gave the Commodores some hope. That’s the kind of stretch that can cause you to lose a game you have no business losing in March. But the same is true of the slow starts coach Calipari was lamenting going into this game. Of course, neither is all that surprising for a team relying on so many freshmen.
Improvement may not be coming by the leaps and bounds fans want but it is a team that is getting better. Calipari is doing his best to push them to make it happen faster but it’s also clear that he is very encouraged by what he is seeing week in and week out. And there were several things to like about this win, in addition to achieving it without much offensive production from the two top scorers:
–Willie Cauley-Stein’s work with assistant coach Kenny Payne on the low post game is paying dividends. WCS scored on a variety of moves and with the attention Randle gets, Cauley-Stein figures to have plenty of space in which to operate, if he can continue the kinds of moves we saw in this game
–starting with a more energetic outing at North Carolina, Alex Poythress has had a month of consistent production and is starting to expand his game a bit
–Andrew Harrison had his first turnover-free game of the season and he showed a steady hand in directing UK’s offense. He also grabbed eight rebounds and kept the defense honest by knocking down a couple of three’s. Perhaps more importantly, he kept the ball moving in the manner Calipari has been pushing him to do, rather than letting it get stuck in his hands for too long
–and the bench is expanding. As he did against Belmont, Jarrod Polson gave UK an important offensive spark in the first half. And Derek Willis played solid enough in a first half stint to earn his coach’s trust for the second half–now he just needs to start knocking down open shots and he’ll get more minutes.
Now, Kentucky gets a chance to show it is ready to move to a new level, by winning at Arkansas. It’s a virtual must-win game for the Hogs and this will be easily the most hostile environment these Kentucky freshmen have seen this season. Coming away with a loss there would not be a surprise but getting a win would make a strong statement about a maturing team. It’s still a long way from tournament time but if this team can make such a statement at Arkansas, that would be impressive.
–listen to Tom each weekday morning at 9:06am eastern on “The Leach Report” radio network
In an article written by Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com, Dakari Johnson’s high school coach shared his thoughts about the future of his former center. Kevin Boyle, currently coaching at Monteverde (Fla.), has coached former one-and- dones Kyrie Irving and our very own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, so he has a pretty good idea of how players progress and improve throughout their careers. When asked about Dakari’s future and further progression, he feels that another year will do good for his former big man.
“Dakari’s a great kid, very good player. He’s going to be in the NBA one day, but he definitely needs to stay and get a year or two more to keep developing his skills, which will help him get to the league. You can’t go to the league if you’re not ready.”
Currently, Dakari is only averaging 3.9 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game. While his services have been shared with both Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle, those numbers aren’t going to land you a big time rookie contract at the next level. Once projected to be a 2014 1st round draft pick, Dakari now finds himself held back to the 2015 draft class, falling to the 19th pick. As one NBA scout noted:
“Johnson should stay without a doubt. Not an NBA guy right now. He would languish on an NBA bench for three years before playing meaningful minutes if he came out this year.”
Also falling back to the 2015 Draft class are the Harrison twins. One could only imagine the level of talent UK’s 2014-2015 team would have if that were to become true, especially with Towns, Booker, Ulis, & Lyles added in to the mix. For the entire article from Zagoria, you’ll be able to find it here.
By Ally Tucker on ©6:00 pm
A few weeks ago, as Kentucky was sporting an 0-3 record against the 3 ranked opponents it had played, the common line being thrown around was that the pre-season expectations were way too high for this team. How could they be anything but disappointing with such lofty expectations? A few weeks have passed, and Kentucky has picked up a quality win against Louisville, while taking positive steps in a 2-0 SEC start. The story line is changing and evolving as the critical eyes watching Kentucky game in and game out are seeing progress. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports believes some of the previous problems are working themselves out. At times though, Parrish still sees characteristics of a young team, including Aaron Harrison’s decision (or non-decision, rather) at the very end of the game when he couldn’t decide whether to lay the ball up to extend the lead or kick it back out to run the clock out.
“So, obviously, these young Kentucky Wildcats are still very much a work in progress. Regardless, let the record show that the nation’s preseason top-ranked team is on a four-game winning streak that’s taken them from 8-3 to 12-3, and the issues they had in November and December seem to be diminishing with every 40 minutes of basketball.”
Parrish says that although this team isn’t “great” right now, and probably wouldn’t be favored to win a 68 game tournament right now… things are pointing in the right direction.
“But Calipari’s roster of McDonald’s All-Americans is undeniably pointed in the correct direction, and the best way I can explain why is to revisit that silly lob in the final seconds of Saturday’s 71-62 victory over Vanderbilt here at Memorial Gym. Again, the lob was equal parts senseless and ridiculous; don’t ever forget that. But the lob was also an anomaly because UK’s number of moments laced with inexperience– Calipari calls them “AAU plays”– are decreasing on the regular. So projecting greatness for the Wildcats suddenly doesn’t seem as silly as it did when they started the season by losing three of their first 11.”
Not only are guys like Parrish starting to re-write the script on this Kentucky team, but Calipari himself is finding more and more to be positive about. Although he knows his team isn’t there yet, his post-game comments showcased a sense that they are, for now at least, on the right track and improving more than they are taking steps backwards. For a young team loaded with talent, that’s exactly where you would hope to find them at the start of conference play.
The Big Blue Duo
During commercials of the UK women’s basketball game vs. Missouri, be sure to tune in to the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers. Kentucky’s own Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan are currently leading the Broncos defense to a possible victory over the Chargers. Both have had terrific years defensively, helping Denver earn a #1 seed in the AFC conference. As it stands, the Broncos are ahead of the Chargers 14-0. With #BBN’s Randall Cobb eliminated with the Packers last week, Trevathan and Woodyard, along with fellow Bronco Jacob Tamme, are the only remaining NFL players from UK in playoff contention.
On the year, Trevathan lead their team with 129 total tackles. Woodyard followed in 2nd, racking up 84 tackles himself. With All-Pro linebacker Von Miller missing most of the season, both have stepped up tremendously on and off the field for Denver. Great to see former Wildcats leading such a dominant defense at the next level.
The A Capella Fellas, an a capella group of older men, wearing white turtlenecks and blue vests, sang the National Anthem to kick off the pregame festivities tonight as the 9th ranked Kentucky Wildcats tip off against the University of Missouri Tigers. This is a special game because it will be the first time that the UK Hoops team plays Mizzou at home in Memorial. Last year, Mizzou’s first year in the SEC, they finished near the bottom of the conference standings. This year, they are once again predicted to not finish so well, but after shocking upsets in the SEC so far this year, it’s really anybody’s conference. Without further ado, let’s get started.
#9 Kentucky v. Missouri
FINAL: Kentucky scored a home victory over Mizzou tonight, 80-69. This marks the 700th win in program history! YAY! The Cats won this game after a two game losing streak, and will hopefully never ever lose again. Make sure to stay tuned for Wilders post game in a few minutes. Peace and blessins.
2nd Half 3:34: Wilder- Just when Kentucky builds up a double-digit lead, Missouri is able to find a play to keep things just a little too close, and that just happened as Kulas hit a spot up 3-point shot at the snap of a finger. It has been an all-around performance for UK on offense as Goss leads the way with 17, followed by Thompson with 11 and Walker with 10. Kentucky trying to pull away 69-58.
2nd Half 6:56: Wilder- The intensity seems to be back alive for this Kentucky team which is a good sign based on the past few games. O’Neill still continues to struggle, but Goss, Stallworth, and Thompson have all stepped up to take the reigns for the Wildcats. Without Kulas scoring, Mizzou looks pretty frazzled on offense. They haven’t shot a 3-pointer in a while, and without that, the Tigers lose a large part of their points. The Wildcats definitely look better, but Missouri refuses to go away and have found different scoring options other than Kulas, especially in transition. Kentucky leading 61-52.
2nd Half 11:49: Hayley- GUYS IT FINALLY HAPPENED. Over the past three seasons covering this team, I’ve developed an anxiety that haunts me in my sleep, an anxiety that feels like there will be a time that the ball/a player/a ref will crash, slam, or fall into my computer at a game. Just moments ago, a block by Jelleah Sidney hit the top of my computer and bounced off. I can only imagine the heinous face that I undoubtedly made, the shock on Wilder’s face, and the replays that may or may not make it on SC Not Top 10… ok they won’t but whatever. Kentucky has thus far held Mizzou’s shining star Bri Kulas, who scored 20 in the first half and had 9 boards, to a scoreless half. Thank Gawd. This chick got game. Kentucky will have to continue to shut down this Tiger if they want to add a tally to the “victory” column. UK 51, MIZ 44
2nd Half 15:52: Hayley- Ok I’m going to out and say it. Jennifer O’Neill is in her seasonal rut. Against South Carolina, she was 1-13 from FG range, and in the first half she was 1-4 from the field. The past three seasons, she always seems to lull off during this time of the season. It’s frustrating not only to me the blogger, but also to me the fan. O’Neill was the first McDonald’s All American this team ever signed. She is in a leadership position by default because she is a junior, but she’s not setting the right example. In the past, I’ve felt bad for her, especially after a tough loss during press conferences because she shuts down and looks so visibly upset, but right now…. not so much. UK 45- MIZ 38
HALFTIME HAYLEY REPORT: Mascot basketball is my all time favorite halftime entertainment. Most people *cough cough Wilder* absolutely hate mascot basketball because they follow no rules… I think that’s why I like it though. There’s traveling, granny shots, short armed inflatables who can’t even shoot, falling, injuries… you know, things that aren’t really funny that have me geeking out. Samarie Walker is moving on up the list in the #MinogueDubDubWatch with eight rebounds and five points, and I’m adding Bria Goss. Goss has 10 points already and 4 rebounds. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever even put her on the list.. Four for you Bria Goss, you GO BRIA GOSS!… Mean Girls reference on KSR? Might be another first… So far this game, I’ve been extremely disappointed with the guards. Janee Thompson has six points and three assists, but also has two turnover. Jen O’Neill only has three points, and has two turnovers as well. Against Mizzou, we’ll probably be fine and pull out on top, but against teams like Tennessee and Florida, this team HAS to have a strong guard up top. HAS TO. Coach Mitchell will more than likely give them the stern halftime talking, but he shouldn’t have to do that every game.
HALFTIME KENTUCKY 37 MISSOURI 31 After a slow start to the game that had Kentucky fans and Coach Mitchell a little weary about this team, the Cats finally hit their stride at the end of the half to go into the locker room with a lead. UK was finally able to loosen up the paint area with some nice outside shots, and bigs Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth took advantage. Missouri’s Bri Kulas absolutely dominated for the Tigers, finishing with 20 points in the first half alone. Kentucky is finally starting to look like the team we know and love, but they gotta keep it up.
1st Half 4:23: Hayley- This team is really starting to frustrate me. They can’t all seem to hit a rhythm at the same time. Sometimes Samarie Walker will be playing like a woman possessed, other times she seems shut down. I put her on #MinogueDubDubWatch (she has 5 points and 6 blocks), and I know she’ll get there, but I just want more from her. Azia Bishop just went down hard under the Kentucky basket, and when I say hard, I mean HARD. Knee right to floor. Great, that’s just what we need, another big hurting her leg. She joins Samantha Drake, who tore her ACL early in the season, on the bench. I cannot handle these injuries. Luckily for us, the Hoops have hit an 11-0 run. We’re taking the lead, but are we going to hold onto it? Kentucky 27- Mizzou 24.
1st Half 7:32: Wilder- Missouri’s Coach Pingeton is what us young folks like to say: “on one”. She is stomping, she is screaming, she is fist pumpin’, and I love it. Meanwhile, the Tigers are starting to get hot from beyond the 3-point line and that’s deadly for them as they are 4th in the nation in long distance shooting. Kentucky has found no answers on offense lately, as the Tigers have completely packed in the paint, leaving no room for Stallworth or Walker to operate, and none of Kentucky’s guards have been able to knock down shots. Missouri continues to lead 24-16.
1st Half 11:35: Wilder- Hayley and I have been feeling a little too kind to other teams lately. Too often, in today’s game and the game against Florida we have found ourselves “liking” the opposing team and their coach…but hey, I’m just a fan of the SEC. The Cats are getting a little more consistent play on offense, and have been able to contain the sharp-shooting Bri Kulas from Mizzou…so far. Kulas is averaging nearly 23 points in league games, so she’s dangerous. One thing that the Wildcats have done well today is offensive rebounds. Cats looking to get over the hump and trail Missouri 16-12.
1st Half 14:00: Hayley: Good news folks, this Mizzou coach is just what we’ve all been waiting for. She’s animated, she’s yelling, and sometimes it looks like she could be doing yoga. Her deep voice is shouting some of the best things I’ve heard all season, from words of encouragement to battle cries, this woman is the picturesque intense with a modest heel. Kentucky is off to a somewhat sloppy start, which we could have predicted. Everything today has felt so rushed, from the moment I woke up to the moment these athletes stepped on the court. Mizzou came in calm and composed, and the Hoops just feel so rushed. Lookin for them to settle down and play their game. UK 7- Miz 14
Pre Game: Hayley: Once again, an extremely sub par internet connection kept us from getting the proper time to scout the scene in Memorial today. Mizzou has a packed bench, something that we haven’t been seeing much of this season so far. Kastine Evans will not be playing today due to a “right leg injury,” and that’s all we got. A short, two line media advisory sitting on our chairs when we walked in. Jennifer O’Neill will be starting in her place. Let’s hope that Evans will be able to quickly fix this injury or rehab off of it. Three Hoops players injured on the bench is too sad for Wilder and myself.
The Kentucky/Vanderbilt game last night created plenty of memorable moments, and maybe a few we’d like to forget. Re-live some of the memories with the CatsPause.com photo gallery . While you’re over there, be sure to check out the message boards as well and contribute to the discussion. Go Cats. Go photo galleries.
The plus or minus is one of my favorite statistics. While points, rebounds, and assists are typically used to evaluate a player’s performance, I prefer the plus or minus because it concerns the only thing that matters at the end of the day – the score. The plus/minus simply measures the score of the game while a player is on the court. Thus, it leaves out all of the individual statistics and assesses how well a team performs with certain players in the lineup. In the two games that Jarrod Polson has played significant minutes, he has been a darling in this department.
In yesterday’s game at Memorial Gymnasium, Kentucky outscored Vanderbilt by 7 points during Polson’s 14 minutes. In the 26 minutes that he was on the bench, UK only managed to outscore Vandy by 2. Against Belmont, UK finished with a +12 margin during Jarrod’s 21 minutes. While he was off the court, Kentucky only outscored Belmont by 1 point. These two games are a small sample size, but they seem to indicate that the team is playing better with Jarrod Polson in the lineup.
Of course, the plus/minus isn’t perfect. It doesn’t take garbage minutes, or the strength of an opponent’s lineup into account. But I feel more often than not it is a good indicator of how well a team performs while a certain player is in the game. If you’re a believer in the plus/minus (like me) then you can’t deny how much better UK has played with Polson in the lineup. His experience could be of vital importance in UK’s upcoming road games, if he is able to see the court.
Via a tweet from Chris Fisher, Kentucky has offered 2015 forward Carlton Bragg a scholarship after watching him play Saturday night. Bragg, as you may already know, is a 6’8 forward out of Cleveland, OH. He’s currently ranked 9th overall in the 2015 class, and the 3rd best at his position. For more on Bragg, check him out over at 247 Sports here.
— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) January 12, 2014
According to Chris Fisher of 247Sports.com, Kentucky defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley could be on the move. Ansley is one of the frontrunners for the same position at Georgia. Stay tuned as Ansley mulls over the decision.
To read more about the potential move, click on Chris Fisher’s article here.