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Basketball Season Coverage

Shai’s Spirit is taking Kentucky to New Heights

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as Kentucky’s steadiest force on the court.  His production over the last month has stood above the rest, but it’s the intangibles that have made a difference in his game, and the entire team.

As soon as John Calipari took the podium following Kentucky’s 20-point victory over Buffalo, he sang the praises of Wenyen Gabriel and Hamidou Diallo.

“The reason this has been the most rewarding season I’ve had in over 30, or however many I’ve done over this, is because what’s happening for Wenyen, what’s happening for Hami.  You saw what he is and what’s he capable of today.”

Cal finished his statement with a little joke about the other player in the room, SGA.  “I really didn’t enjoy coaching Shai, but he’s a good kid I guess,” Calipari said with a smile.

What makes Shai different than his teammates is his attitude and work ethic.  When Kentucky struggled, he did not let it get him down.  He just kept going to work.  His perseverance has paid off tremendously.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 19 points yesterday, but he only made 5-of-18 shots.  Instead of letting one bad day of shooting get him down, he responded by hitting 10-of-12 shots for 29 points.  His production has carried Kentucky over the top, but Calipari believes his infectious attitude has been the biggest difference-maker for his young team.

“He has a spirit about him, a smile,” Cal said.  “His spirit starts moving us that way.  He was the one guy having fun.  The other guys on this team two months ago, everything was a struggle.  This kid was just smiling and laughing, and I kept bring it up, ‘be like him.'”

Shai had a few kinks to work out throughout the year.  After hours of film and early morning workouts, he’s never been better.

“What he was missing, any kind of skip, he couldn’t see it.  So you gotta keep showing him and you have to reward him.  Now you’re seeing him come down and throw skip passes, but it took two months,” Cal said.

His patience and positive attitude has paid off.  “He’s playing himself into being one of the best players in the country,” Calipari said.


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Kentucky is headed to the Sweet Sixteen in ‘Catlanta! Head to now to get your official Sweet Sixteen tee!

[AVAILABLE NOW: Get your Sweet Sixteen apparel!]

LIVE: Kentucky’s Postgame Press Conference in Boise

John Calipari and a few Kentucky Wildcats will be taking the podium to talk about Kentucky’s victory over Buffalo in the round of 32.  See everything they have to say below:

© Kyle Terada | USATSI

Diallo, Gilgeous-Alexander Carry Kentucky to a 95-75 Victory over Buffalo

© Kyle Terada | USATSI

For the seventh time in nine years, Kentucky is in the Sweet 16.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander steadied the ship and Hamidou Diallo exploded for 20 points to lead Kentucky to a 95-75 win over Buffalo in the Round of 32.  On paper, Kentucky’s performance looked dominant, but that was not always the case.

A strong start put Kentucky up by as much as 12 in the first half, but Buffalo would not go away.  Wes Clark, who finished with 26 points, found his range from behind the three-point line to cut the Kentucky lead to five with 12 minutes to play, but it was not enough to keep up with the Cats.

As the team struggled to fight through foul trouble, Shai took control of the game.  After a 27-point performance, Gilgeous-Alexander now averages 21.8 points per game in the postseason.  Diallo’s energy put Kentucky over the top with a few incredicble dunks.

Kentucky will play the winner of Kansas State-UMBC next week in Atlanta.

HALF: Kentucky 51 Buffalo 42

HALF: Kentucky 51 Buffalo 42

After 20 minutes of play, your Kentucky Wildcats lead the Buffalo Bulls 51-42 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

If that high score was any indication, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads the way with a whopping 17 points, followed by Kevin Knox and Wenyen Gabriel with eight a piece. As expected, Buffalo ain’t scared, connecting on 5-17 threes thus far. While a nine-point lead feels good, Kentucky is facing some serious foul trouble, with Sacha Killeya-Jones and Kevin Knox with three fouls each. PJ Washington and Nick Richards have two a piece as well.

Twenty more minutes…

UK vs. Buffalo LIVE BLOG

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Live Blog UK vs. Buffalo LIVE BLOG

Ten Fun Facts About Kentucky-Buffalo

1. Kentucky is 24-0 all-time in the NCAA Tournament against teams seeded 12 or lower.  Buffalo is the 13-seed.

2. The Cats are also 5-0 in the second round vs. teams seeded ten or lower.  Last year they defeated ten-seed Wichita State in the second round 65-62.

3. Buffalo has never been to a Sweet 16.  In fact, their win over Arizona was the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory.  Their 27 wins in 2018 are the most in school history, winning each game by an average of 9.3 points.

4.  Buffalo played Cincinnati close.  The South Region’s two-seed only beat Buffalo by six in the Grand Cayman Islands during a holiday tournament.  The Bulls also played Syracuse within seven, but took a pretty bad beating (89-73) at the hands of a much bigger Texas A&M team.

5. Even though Buffalo dominated Arizona in a 21-point victory, Arizona still shot 45 percent from the field.  Buffalo surrenders 76.3 points per game, ranked No. 260 in the nation.

6. Buffalo has scored less than 70 points just twice this season.  The Bulls were held to 67 against Cincinnati and 62 against St. Bonaventure.

7. The Bulls are one of the five-best scoring teams in the nation, averaging 84.5 points per game.  Five UK opponents scored more than 80 this season; Kentucky was 2-3 in those games.

8. This is Nate Oats’ first college head coaching gig.  The 43-year old replaced Bobby Hurley after spending two seasons on his staff as an assistant coach.  Prior to joining the Buffalo staff, he coached Romulus High School in Michigan for 11 years.

9. Kentucky has a 75.8 percent chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI.

10. Buffalo’s mascot is Victor E. Bull, a name that will not make much sense after today’s game.

Quade Green is Due

Kentucky point guard Quade Green has been quiet, too quiet.

Green starred during UK’s February four-game win streak.  He averaged 13.5 points per game by knocking down 47 percent of his threes.  More importantly, he became the Cats’ best distributor.  A team that struggled to get more assists than turnovers in a game, suddenly had a +1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Kentucky’s offense has not slowed down since that four-game stretch, but Green has.  Since the regular season finale at Florida, he has not hit a three-pointer (0-7) and he’s only reached double-digits once, a ten-point performance against Tennessee in the SEC Title.

Most would press and try to force the ball through the net.  Quade is not most.

I know my time will come. But I’m not really focused on that; I’m focusing on the team,” Green said yesterday. “Whoever is hot gets the ball; if you miss them, you miss them, if you make them, you make them. Simple.”

Quade’s unselfish message isn’t just talk.  Against Alabama he had eight assists and zero turnovers to create a season-high +10 assist-to-turnover ratio.  He did it all while taking just four shots.

An unselfish attitude can carry Kentucky, only if shots are falling.  That did not happen from behind the three-point line against Davidson.  For the Cats to reach their potential, Quade must rediscover his shot.  A 37 percent three-point shooter, he has all of the tools.  It’s just a matter of time.

Buffalo’s Elite Offense will be Tested by Kentucky’s Disruptive Defense

Buffalo’s Elite Offense will be Tested by Kentucky’s Disruptive Defense

Ken Blaze | USA Today

Buffalo’s explosive offense carried them to a fist round NCAA Tournament victory.  Today they’ll be put to the test against a lengthy, proven defense for the first time.  The Bulls average 84.8 points per game, good enough for a three-way tie with Duke and Xavier as the nation’s No. 3 scoring team.

They’ve reached the top through balance. Buffalo pushes the pace, yet they’re still ranked in the Top 20 in offensive efficiency.  Four players shoot more than 40 percent from behind the three-point line, yet they don’t completely rely on long-range scoring with just 34 percent of their points coming from three.

The Buffalo blitz kept Arizona on their heels.  Ranked No. 88 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rating, Arizona’s bigs could not keep up with the athletic Bulls.  Kentucky can afford to play small with P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel, yet still have disruptive length.  UK’s defense is ranked No. 15 is field goal percentage defense (40.5%), No. 4 in three-point defense (30%) and is No. 22 in KenPom.

“I think our length is what bothers teams, and our athleticism. And we’ve been able to defend the rim,” Wenyen Gabriel said yesterday.  “Our communication has picked up as a team. As young players we’ve been coming together and that’s helped us defensively.”

The statistics create an equation for an excellent match-up.  The will to win will be tested by a fight to the finish.

“We’re playing like we have nothing to lose,” John Calipari said. “If we play and they play, it’s probably going to come down to who has the ball last. That happens in the NCAA Tournament when two teams are fighting.  If they come after us and we back up, they win the game. It’s just how it is.”

WATCH: Inside the Madness Highlights UK’s Comeback over West Virginia

A day after watching college basketball’s most improbable victory, it’s time relive Kentucky’s most improbable victory of the 2017-18 season.

In this week’s edition of Inside the Madness, the Facebook Watch crew takes you through Kentucky’s comeback victory on the road at West Virginia.  You’ll discover the secret to UK’s success — Go Karts.