Yesterday, I wrapped up another mega UK sports weekend by spending the afternoon at Rupp →
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In a battle between the nation’s top offensive (UK) and defensive (USC) teams, offense won out as the Cats scored early and often in a 13-5 rout of top ranked South Carolina in the first game of the series and SEC opener at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Head Coach Gary Henderson tried to down play the significance of the win but did admit, “Obviously the first three innings went our way but you have to give a lot of credit to our hitters.”
This is the second time this season that the Cats have knocked off the top ranked team in the nation with the other being Virginia in the first game of the season, but don’t tell that to A.J. Reed. “We dont really look at rankings very often. We think we are as good as any team in the country.”
The Gamecocks jumped out of the gate and got on the board first as shortstop Marcus Mooney led off the game with a double to right and scored on a one out single by third baseman Joey Pankake (pronounced just as you would expect it to be).
The Cats would waste no time beginning their offensive onslaught as right fielder Kyle Barrett (2-for-4) smacked a leadoff double in the bottom of the first and Max Kuhn(2-for-4, RBI) walked to set up a two-run double by Reed (2-for-4, 2B, RBI). Thomas Bernal would leg out a two-out infield single to score Ka’ai Tom who reached on an error.
UK would bust the game open in the second as JaVon Shelby led off the inning with a solo shot to left and Micheal Thomas (1-for-5, HR, 3 RBI) worked a two-out count until he got a pitch he liked and took it over the left field wall for a three run blast. Matt Reida would follow that with a two run single through the right side to make it 9-1 as the Cats chased South Carolina starter Jordan Montgomery, who gave up nine runs (seven earned) on ten hits, in just two innings.
Austin Cousino (1-for-4, RBI) would tack on another with two outs in the third by himself as he singled, stole second, stole third, and scored on a throwing error. It was also the first run that the Gamecock bullpen allowed in the last 62 innings.
The Cats would add three in the fifth while South Carolina would add two runs in the sixth and two in the eighth to make to 13-5.
Reed (4-1) was outstanding in his sixth start of the year. The lefthander worked eight innings, allowing nine hits and five runs (three earned) on 117 total pitches, 74 of which were strikes. Henderson on Reed’s performance, “I though A.J. was over excited early on.” “A.J. goes seven and gives up three (earned runs) against the number one team in the country, even though that’s not his best, it’s the kind of the effort we’ve grown to expect out of him.
The Cats and Gamecocks will play the second game of the series tomorrow at 2pm and the series finale Sunday 1pm.
Relevant Game Note: The last time UK beat #1 South Carolina to open a series was two years ago, on the same night that #2 seed Duke lost to #15 seed Lehigh.
I decided to take a break from the vertigo of the press box to do a little exploring during the first half of the Wichita State game to give you guys a behind-the-scenes look at the NCAA Tournament. While everyone in the stands is watching a relatively boring game, here’s a look at what’s going on behind the curtain…
This is just one of the tables topped with all the reading material you could ever dream of for the teams playing in St. Louis. That rustling sound you hear is a million trees crying, and not just about Rick Bozich.
I know I’m supposed to hate him, but I’m fascinated by the Wichita State Shocker mascot. He must have picked up on this, because he did a little shimmy in front of me as he walked onto the court. I thought my phone was on video mode, but sadly, it was not. I will get a selfie with him before the weekend is over.
Even though the views suck, the spread here at the Scottrade Center is impressive. The dinner was delicious and actually healthy, but their snacks are where the staff shines. Baskets of Oreos are EVERYWHERE, along with these individually portioned cups of snack mix. +1,000 points
Even better, for the non-coffee drinkers, they have a wide selection of teas. It is pathetic how excited I was about this.
I had a fun conversation with Jeff Goodman, who said his key to the game is Andrew Harrison’s play. (Ditto.) I even impressed him with this telling stat: Kentucky only has 11 minutes of NCAA Tournament experience heading into tonight’s game. (Thanks, Jon Hood!) See if he tweets that one out.
More UK fans are slowly trickling into the arena. I’ll be heading back down after this game’s over to take video and pictures of the Cats warming up. Until then, time for more Earl Grey…
By Drew Franklin on ©March 21st, 2014 @ 8:00pm
Good evening from high atop the Scottstrade Center. The media has been sent to the rafters for tonight’s games, and I must say, the Scottstrade staff has done an excellent job keeping the dust off the top of the scoreboard. It really is clean.
The doors have just opened for tonight’s session, which means we’re getting ready for Cal Poly and Wichita State. I’ve seen more Wichita State fans here so far than any other fan base (still hoping for that late arriving BBN contingent), so it should be a fun time.
Use this thread to talk about the game, or more likely, how you feel about the next one. I’m going to go find something more entertaining to look at than the St. Louis Blues’ banners.
Tune in to 630 WLAP in Lexington at 6:30 p.m. for the KSR pregame show with Matt Jones, Ryan Lemond and Drew Franklin. There are only six of these pregame shows left this season, so you won’t want to miss out!
98.1 The Bull will carry the second half-hour of the show, beginning at 7 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.
Dayton over Ohio State, Harvard over Cincinnati, and Mercer over Duke. After a day and a half of tournament play it seems that this season is the year of the upset. With so many underdog victories happening in the tournament, should we be worried if Kentucky is next?
I don’t believe so.
Kentucky already has a head start on being upset. The preseason publicity on Kentucky gave the players the mindset that they were the best and nothing could bring them down, until they lost to Michigan State and the nine other losses to follow. While a 10-loss season might be a hard pill to swallow, it is also what will help us progress in the postseason the best we can.
The Wildcats did not get into this tournament because they are Kentucky; they made it because they worked for it. Of course, all the other teams worked as well to improve their talent and skills. However, this team didn’t just work hard on their talent or skills, this team worked hard to prove to the world they were worthwhile after they fell hard from the now unrealistic 40-0 talk.
This season has given something to Kentucky not many of the other schools have, perseverance and the gift of going into the tournament humble for the opportunity. This Kentucky team understands you can’t overlook the little guy to get to the top. They go game by game now. This tournament has shown the little guy can compete and Kentucky is ready for it.
Many believe that if Kentucky had won the 2012 SEC Tournament Championship they would not have got the kick in the ego they needed to win the National Title. The same could be said with this team. If (when) they go far in the tournament, it will be because they are humbled by their experiences on the court, not because of their talent alone. If there is anything we have learned this season, it is that talent can only take you so far.
First Kentucky has to take on the other Wildcats, Kansas State, but according to Catpause.com, the team is ready for them.
“That’s definitely not a team to overlook,” freshman forward Julius Randle said. “It’s a really, really good team.”
Kansas State has a history of not backing down to big contenders, which was made apparent over an OT win over Kansas and Iowa State late in the season. However, Kentucky isn’t quite ready to roll over either.
The Cats have talked about shocking the world by bringing the tweak to the tournament. The team is ready to make a big run by mixing being humble, having perseverance and their skills together to make each other the best that they can individually and as a team.
Tonight is just the first stop on what the Big Blue Nation hopes to be a long tour for Cal’s “Tweakables”.
- Undersized, physical team that really gets after it defensively.
- #2 Marcus Foster is an extremely talented player; 15.6 ppg, 40% from 3.
- Very good passing team; 27th in the country in assists.
- Can struggle to score at times; not a great shooting team.
#55 PG Will Spralding: 6’2’’ 185 SR
Spralding is a solid, senior-leader point guard who boasts an impressive 3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He averages 7.8 points per game to go along with 3.1 rebounds and 3 assists per game; he also is a pesky on-ball defender averaging nearly 1.5 steals a game. While Spralding is primarily a distributor, when he does shoot it will most likely be from beyond the arc, 139 of his 194 shots are 3’s. He is shooting 34.5% from 3.
#2 SG Marcus Foster: 6’2’’ 200 FR
An extremely talented freshman that is capable of carrying K-State. Foster averages 15.6 points per game and shoots just over 40% from 3-point range (78/193). He is a very good perimeter shooter but is also capable of creating his own shot off of the dribble. Foster has a very green light offensively and will be looked upon to create a lot of offense.
#11 F Nino Williams: 6’5’’ 220 JR
Nino has worked his way into the starting lineup recently, but look for #1 Shane Southwell to play more minutes off of the bench. Nino is a physical, hard-working, undersized forward who averages 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He will really attack the offensive glass!!
#25 F Wesley Iwundu: 6’7’’ 195 FR
A long forward with some skill offensively. He isn’t a shooting threat from the perimeter, but is good with short drives to the basket and does a good job of getting to the foul line. Iwundu averages 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
#42 F Thomas Gipson: 6’7’’ 265 JR
The lone true post presence for the Wildcats. Gipson is an undersized big height wise, but makes up for it in strength. He averages 11.8 points per game to go along with a team leading 6.5 rebounds. Gipson is an efficient scorer down low, shooting 56% on the season and is also over 70% from the foul line.
#1 G Shane Southwell: 6’7’’ 215 SR
The senior guard started for most of the season, but comes off the bench now to provide an extra spark of offense. Southwell is third on the team with 9.8 points per game to go with 4.4 rebounds, just under 3 assists, and a team leading 1 block per game. He shoots under 30% from 3, but does make 1 per game. Long, versatile player who can guard multiple positions.
#12 G Omari Lawrence: 6’3’’ 205 SR
Strong, back up guard that averages 3.2 points per game. Not really offensive minded, but Omari is a good defender.
#23 G Nigel Johnson: 6’1’’ 180 FR
A talented, athletic, freshman guard who comes in the game looking to score. Nigel averages 4.3 points per game in just about 13 minutes; he takes over half of his shots from beyond the arc but has connected on just 27.9% of them.
#50 F D.J. Johnson: 6’9’’ 250 SO
Johnson is the Wildcat’s back up big man. He is a load on the block; he averages 3.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. D.J. is a good defender. Lefty.
Kansas State Offense
- It is a pretty vanilla offense that the Wildcats will run. For the most part they will get the ball to a forward on the elbow or a little higher out to the wing and then run Foster, Spralding, or Southwell by for a hand off. If the defender goes under the hand off they will step back for a jumper and if the defender follows they will look to drive to the basket. Other than hand offs, K-State will set pin down screens to free up players as well. A pin down scree is where a big man starts out towards the wing and then moves down toward the block to set the screen as a guard runs off it towards the wing; they “pin down” the defender under the basket. Along with the guards that are more of a shooting threat, guys like Nino Williams are effective off of this screen because they can get a catch and then quickly take a couple of dribbles and use their strength to finish inside.
- The Wildcats are not a stellar offensive team by any means. They rank 211th in points per game (69.7) and 212th in field goal percentage (43.6%). From 3-point range they shoot just 33.4%, but take a very high number of them.
- They will run a variety of actions and sets to free up Marcus Foster for a shot. They like to get him the ball off of hand offs and pin down screens especially. He is very talented and can score in a variety of ways.
- A very good passing team that will move the ball and find the open man. Kansas State is an unselfish team across the board as seen by their 15.5 assists per game, which is 27th in the country.
Kansas State Defense
- Statistically, Kansas State is 67th in points allowed (65.7) a game, but against the best teams on their schedule they have given up many more points than that.
- Without any real rim protection the Wildcats are susceptible to guards attacking the rim and taller big men scoring around the basket.
- What they lack in size they make up for with physicality. They will knock drivers off their path, make cuts hard, and do their best to box out bigger opponents.
Keys to the Game
- Dominate down low. I think this is the primary key because it is the most glaring advantage that we have on K-State. They won’t start anyone over 6’7’’ and backup D.J. Johnson is the biggest player they have at 6’9’’ 250. Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, and Willie Cauley-Stein should be able to do just about whatever they want down low.
- Look to attack the rim off the dribble from the perimeter. Kansas State’s lack of size should allow for the Harrison twins and James Young to get some clean looks at the basket as they penetrate. Without a real rim protector we should be able to get up a lot of shots and also really crash the offensive glass.
- Don’t allow Marcus Foster to completely go off. The NCAA tournament always has one or two stories of a player going crazy and leading his team to a deep tournament run. Foster is good enough to be that type of player, so the ‘Cats will really need to do a good job on him. He can score off the dribble or as a stand still shooter; it is going to take a team effort against him.
- Control the tempo. I think you really want to get up-and-down the court against K-State and make them run. If we can get out in transition for some easy buckets and get this game into the high 70s I think the advantage swings greatly in our favor.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 21st, 2014 @ 5:00pm
Quicken Loans just announced that only 16 perfect brackets remain in Warren Buffet’s Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Whoa.
Feel free to use this thread to talk about how yours isn’t one of them. (If it is, what’s up? My name is Tyler. Can we be friends?)
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 21st, 2014 @ 4:36pm
I have arrived in St. Louis, and because my hotel room won’t be ready for a while, I’m stationed at the Union Station hotel bar to keep an eye on you guys and eavesdrop on the Wichita State fans next to me. (They’re already on their third beers of the day and have just started chatting with a Kentucky fan…this will be good.)
Just from driving into town, it’s clear that the BBN may be outnumbered for the first time in recent memory. After the monstrous turnout in Atlanta, I was expecting to see more Cats fans, but so far, it’s predominately Wichita State, Kansas, and Kansas State fans. Let’s hope the BBN is on the road and that changes by tip time.
While we wait, let’s all get excited for the next big game of the day in St. Louis, (15) Eastern Kentucky vs. (2) Kansas. There are a TON of Jayhawks fans here, and hopefully the Kentucky fans who are already in the Scottstrade Center will cheer loud and proud for our friends down I-75. If you’re not here, tune in on TBS.
Do the Colonels have a shot? Let’s hear it.
Lagrange, OH (Keystone)
247 Composite: .9184****
The Cats have made an early push for a Top Ten tight end from the state of Ohio. After a Junior Day visit during the LSU home basketball game, C.J. Conrad declared the Cats as his number one choice. Vince Marrow is once again off to a hot start in Ohio as he attempts to add depth to his position.
Conrad looks like your traditional “big white guy” tight end, but he sure doesn’t play like it. Conrad has spent much of his time in high school playing outside wide receiver. He’s a 6’5″ giant, yet he can beat corners deep or run a screen right through the middle of the defense. Conrad is much like 2014 commit Daryl Long: a perfect Air Raid tight end.
Conrad recently picked up an offer from Arkansas, and Ohio State is looming in the background. The 247 Crystal Ball is in favor of the Cats: UK-71% Ohio State-29%. The Crystal Ball is a great guideline, but I also like when his high school buddies are rooting for the Cats:
@cjconrad1 should go to Kentucky , it's closeish to me and they got good apparel …
— nick mclaughlin (@nickmclaughlin7) March 11, 2014
I agree with his running back, black jerseys are beautiful. Check out C.J.’s Sophomore highlight reel below.
The Blue Devils were sent home early from the tournament this afternoon by Mercer, yes, Mercer. The Bears (I think they’re the Bears) packed up Jabari Parker’s bags and gave him a surprising exit from the tourney in the second round. Coach K, sorry about ya.
B-Dubs in Louisville is packed with UK and Louisville fans for this afternoon’s games and they all came together to root for Mercer in the second half. It’s the first, and probably the only, time we’ll join forces for one cause.
Today, we’re all Mercer.
Buh bye, Dukies.