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(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
One week ago, the Cats were riding an emotional high after beating LSU in overtime. After a bumpy season, the fan base was mostly back on board the bandwagon. We wrote about the team having “the moment” when Julius hit the game winner in OT. The staff hung a picture of it in the practice facility.
A week later, all that momentum came crashing to the ground. Just about everything that could have gone wrong did tonight. A team with Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Dakari Johnson couldn’t hit a shot in the paint. Julius, the team’s leading scorer, was 1-7 from the field, missing gimmes left and right. Kentucky’s poor shooting streak went ice cold, with the Cats only hitting 26.9% from the field. Laimonas Chatkevicius, a sophomore from Lithuania who was averaging four points a game, owned Kentucky in the paint in the second half, scoring eight crucial points down the stretch. UK’s passing went from awful to atrocious, and James Young wasn’t the only offender. Kentucky did manage to outrebound South Carolina 46-28, but mostly because they were missing so many shots.
At this point, this team’s problems are all mental. Physically, they’re still one of the most talented groups of individuals to ever play together. Don’t judge these players by their performances right now–most will play in the NBA, and some will play well. But somehow, they weren’t even able to beat a team that’s lost 18 games with half of the crowd on their side. What’s the problem?
We may not need to look any further than the sideline. As the game went on, John Calipari became undone, right down to his shirt tail, and despite both Julius Randle and Orlando Antigua’s best efforts to hold him back, he was thrown out with 10:21 left. Cal being thrown out wasn’t shocking–we could all see it coming. What was most shocking to me was how the players reacted to his outbursts. Randle, the Harrison twins, and Alex Poythress all had back-and-forths will Cal throughout the game, and after the game, Calipari told Tom Leach (but not the media, more on that later) that his team played better without him.
Well, he was right. After Cal was thrown out, Kentucky went on a 14-2 run to pull to within four with 4:09 remaining. For the first time the entire game, they looked like a team, banding together, leading each other in pep talks, and giving fans hope that the nightmare would end. Step in coach John Robic said that he was proud of how the team fought, and Aaron said that at the end, the game became about pride, with the Cats “fighting, scratching, and clawing” to get the win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, but at that rate, it was trying to use a bandaid when you needed a tourniquet.
The one thing I hope people don’t do is attack the players. Although they fell short, the banded together at the end of the game and tried to win. Cal talks a lot about them needing to be “player-driven” rather than “coach-driven,” but at this rate, it’s clear: they need guidance.
While South Carolina “sandstormed” the court (#puns!), reporters scurried back to the media room to hear the aftermath. John Calipari took radio duties tonight, leaving John Robic to face a roomful of mostly UK reporters to explain what happened. Robic gamely tried his best, sparring with Jerry Tipton as to why Cal wasn’t there (“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.” “Why are you here?” “They told me to come in here.”), and praising the team for their late rally.
Aaron Harrison and James Young were emotional, but professional, politely answering questions and hanging onto hope for the rest of the season. “It’s frustrating to lose but coming up, we know we can do and it’s going to be a great story,” Aaron insisted. Why? How? “Because we know what we can do. We know, we talk about it. Even after the game, we just, we know what we can do and we know we’re going to make a run to have a big, great story for everyone to talk about.”
Anything’s possible, but as the team unraveled before my eyes tonight, I can’t shake the feeling that we saw something really bad go down.
By David Mulloy on ©10:22 pm
It took just a little more than 24 hours, with Sunday’s series finale moved to this afternoon due to the impending “Ice-Ageddon, for UK to sweep Eastern Michigan with the Cats outscoring the Eagles 30 to 9 on the weekend.
Friday: UK 8, EMU 2
A.J. Reed took his normal Friday night spot on the mound for UK and allowed just two hits over six scoreless innings and struck out five in his third win in as many starts. Sophomore Sam Mahar took over for Reed in the seventh, working an inning and a third and allowed the only two EMU runs of the game (both unearned). Freshman Logan Salow worked the last inning and two-thirds and struck out four of the five batters he faced.
Offensively the Cats were led by leadoff man Kyle Barrett who knocked in a run in route to a 3-for-5 day at the plate. Reed scored twice, going 1-for-3 day at the plate, and was intentionally walked twice while Micheal Thomas, Thomas Bernal, and Connor Heady each knocked in two runs apiece.
Game One: UK 9, EMU 5
Kentucky won the first game of today’s double-header over Eastern Michigan as starting pitcher Chandler Shepherd finished an inning short of pitching his first complete game of the season, giving up three runs on the day (none earned). Shepherd’s stat line on the noon game included five hits, one walk, and six strikeouts over his eight innings of service. Freshman righty Zack Brown came in to close out the game in the top of the 9th, allowing three hits, two runs (one was earned), and one walk with no strikeouts.
On the batting front, Kentucky lit up the Eagles with six wildcats recording runs. Sophomore Ka’ai Tom
had the best game hitting wise for the boys in blue, going 2-for-4 on the day including 3 RBI. Tom also
recorded two doubles on the afternoon, with one of them coming in the second that scored A.J. Reed,
and the other coming in the fifth that scored Austin Cousino.
Game 2: UK 13, EMU 2
The Cats competed the sweep behind four shutout innings by sophomore Kyle Cody, who gave up just two hits and struck out three before giving way to the UK bullpen.
Offensively, the Cats were led by A.J. Reed who hit his SEC leading seventh home run of the season, a two run blast, and extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Juniors Austin Cousino and Max Kuhn each knocked in three runs apiece and batted 3-for-5 and 4-for-5 at the plate respectively.
The Cats will carry a seven game winning streak into a home and home two game midweek series with Cincinnati on Tuesday and Wednesday before hosting Ball State in the final weekend series before SEC play.
Coach Cal was absent from the post game media room, but took the time to speak with Tom Leach after the game. After the game he had not given up on his team just yet, “Proud of the guys for not giving up but we all have to figure out what do we each have to do to get this team right.”
Cal had somewhat mixed emotions about his first ejection since 2010, “I wish I didn’t get thrown out of the game, so that I could fight with our team.” He said later on, “I feel bad I got thrown out of the game, but to be honest we were better when I wasn’t out there.” Cal believed his departure helped calm the team down and he’s right: the Cats went on a 14-2 run after South Carolina hit both of Calipari’s technical free throws.
The Cats’ long field goal drought was dreadful to watch. They missed field goals short and long, failing to convert tough buckets in traffic, “I think we’re still trying to avoid contact,” Calipari said, “We weren’t ready and the game was too physical, bottom line.”
It’s hard to imagine this Kentucky team getting out-physicaled, it’s even harder imagining this loss in March. Cal is keeping the faith, “We have to continue to believe in ourselves and each other and I know our fans are fighting with us.”
It’s been a rough week for the #BBN, with back-to-back losses coming at the worst time of the year. We can make it through this! Talk it out with Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond, who are ready to take your calls. Join them on the KSR postgame show by calling 1-800-444-8484 or 502-571-8484.
Listen in on 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP, or stream online.
Discuss the show below.
John Robic said that it was a hurting locker room, and once Aaron Harrison and James Young walked in, you could see the pain on their faces. Red-rimmed shiny eyes met the media to try to explain Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina, their eighth of the season.
What was going through their minds when Cal was ejected? “It was just another obstacle we had to overcome,” Aaron said. He admitted it is frustrating to lose, but remains hopeful and confident about the rest of the season. “We know what we can do, and it’s going to be a great story.”
A quiet James Young said he believes it can still happen, too. “Yeah, definitely. We didn’t come this far, we’re not going to lose, we’re going to keep playing and make a great run.”
The Kentucky gymnastics team upset Auburn in Memorial Coliseum last night 196.275-194.825 with five Wildcats scoring a 9.925 or higher on floor. Not only did UK post a record breaker on floor, but they also scored the seventh best bar score in team history with 49.175, and the fifteenth best vault score with a 49.2.
Kentucky, as per usual at home, started out on vault. With five gymnasts on the event, four of them broke or tied their season or career highs. Shannon Mitchell tied her nearly perfect career high of 9.9, Audrey Harrison posted a season high 9.875, and Shelby Hilton tied her season high as well with a 9.8. Kenzie Hedges contributed a solid 9.85, and Kayla Hartley achieved a career high of 9.775.
The Cats took the momentum with them to the bars where Kayla Hartley posted a career high 9.9, Kayla Sienkowski’s 9.875 broke her career mark, Marissa Beucler posted a 9.875, and Amy Roemmele contributed a 9.825. Shelby Hilton gave the Cats a 9.7.
On beam, both Kayla Sienkowski and Marissa Beucler both achieved a 9.7, and Shannon Mitchell scored a 9.875. Audrey Harrison nearly achieved perfection with an outstanding 9.925.
Finally on the floor, five gymnasts posted scores of 9.925 or higher. Audrey Harrison led the pack with a career high 9.950, and Hartley, Hedges, Taylor Puryear, and Hilton all posted outstanding 9.925′s.
Now, Kentucky will try to take the momentum from their win over Auburn to face No. 19 California and Centenary on March 7th for Senior Night where the Cats will honor outstanding seniors Audrey Harrison, Holly Cunningham, and Kayla Sienkowski. The meet starts in Memorial at 7pm, but arrive early to see the Senior Day ceremonies.
Come out and cheer the Cats on in their final home meet and give the three seniors a fond farewell!
After taking over coaching duties after Calipari was ejected from the game, John Robic was sent in to speak to the media after UK’s loss to South Carolina while Cal took radio duties. Jerry Tipton asked Robic why Cal wasn’t in the room, and Robic said he wasn’t sure. “Why are you here?” Jerry asked. “They told me to come in here,” Robic quipped.
Robic was clearly at a loss for words when asked about the officiating, defaulting to the “I guess some just didn’t go our way” line. Despite the outcome, Robic said he liked how the team banded together in the end: “Our guys played great, they fought, they didn’t give up. They showed some toughness in the end.”
How is the team doing now? “They’re a hurting locker room right now,” Robic said. Were the Cats emotionally hungover from the Arkansas loss? “No, no,” Robic insisted, saying that the team had a great practice yesterday.
Although their comeback fell short, Robic ended by insisting that “these kids care. It hurts not to win.”
Yes it does.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did. The Cats dug a hole to deep to recover from during 15:20 stretch without a bucket going through the net. It was an ugly game featuring 3 technical fouls, a Calipari ejection and 70+ free throws.
Kentucky turned it around after Calipari’s ejection. Aaron Harrison’s shots started falling and hustle took care of the rest. Erasing a double-digit deficit, the Cats made their final push in the last 30 seconds. Down seven, Aaron Harrison hit a three, James Young stole the ball and got it Julius Randle for an ‘And 1′ to cut it to one. Unfortunately Alex Poythress’ three with 6.1 seconds to go (a very good look), came up short.
The Cats looked their worst for the majority of the game but never gave up. Is there still room for optimism?
Lieutenant Dan Mrs. Tyler Thompson’s neighbor in the stands is there early and ready to go. She is spending the entire game next to him and his yellow Crocs. God bless her.
UPDATE: IT GETS WAY BETTER! Mrs. Tyler says they call him Gamecock Jesus.
The former Kansas State coach has yet to achieve similar success at South Carolina. No success = no smiles. Hell, even during success this dude is insane.
That should haunt your dreams for the foreseeable future.
Hopefully this is the Martin we’ll see most often this evening.
College basketball’s favorite referee is back at it again. It’s not a good thing when people know the ref’s name, but Teddy Valentine loves the limelight. Today he got under the skin of Mick Cronin and it was golden. When his team tried to hold him back, he shoved an assistant out of the way. Stay Classy Cincinnati!
In other AAC related news, Memphis’ 15-1 run to end the game dismantled the cardinal birds 46-43. Ricky P’s beard is no more.
Kentucky’s next 7-foot stud wouldn’t be where he is today without his Dad. Karl Sr. was a stud at Monmouth before turning to coaching. His job since 1995 has been the head coach of Piscataway Tech, but it’s time to put down that job for a more important one- being a Dad. Karl Sr. told MyCentralJersey.com, “I’ve enjoyed being around the kids and teaching the game, and the fun we had as a group. It’s sad, but at the same time I’m happy because I gave 19 great years to that school.”
Karl Sr. has been his coach off the court and in the local parks since Jr. could pick up a basketball. “Center of Attention” was a documentary that followed the basketball family around during his Junior season. You can watch it and read what I saw, but to make a long story short: the Big Blue Nation is adding a quality new family.