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Basketball Season Coverage

Calipari reflects on the Kansas game after watching tape

Calipari reflects on the Kansas game after watching tape

How does John Calipari feel about the Kansas game after watching the tape? Not quite as bad as last night. A few minutes ago, Calipari shared these thoughts on Twitter.

“After watching the tape and understanding this will be a process with this young team, a few things came to mind: First of all, 50/50 balls. We have to demand we’re fighting for those. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be a great rebounding team. Need to demand it.

Third, when we get double-teamed in the post we have to do a better job of teaching how we play. It took PJ out of the game. Not fair to him. 18 turnovers – six too many. Most of them we tried to make the hardest play.

Lastly, I have to teach them how to finish games and play winning basketball with four minutes to go. That’s on me, not them.

I’m proud of how we fought, especially when we got down in both halves. Time to continue to grow and keep trending up.”

Just keep swimming.

Maria Taylor sets the record straight about Calipari’s arm grab

Maria Taylor sets the record straight about Calipari’s arm grab

ESPN’s Maria Taylor wants to set the record straight: John Calipari grabbing her arm during last night’s halftime interview was no big deal, and if you’re going to write a story about it, use her name.

In case you missed it, Calipari grabbed Taylor’s arm while ranting about his team’s rebounding but quickly let go once he realized his grip, telling Taylor, “Do I have your arm really tight?” to which she responded, “It’s really tight. I’m not your player!”:

Predictably, the media ran with it, posting the clip online with suggestive headlines:

I wasn’t even going to mention the moment today until Taylor posted an awesome video clapping back at the media on Twitter.

“I see that this whole Coach Cal grabbing my arm thing is taking off on the internet, but I just wanted to address it and say I’ve known him since 2012. I love interviewing him. I love his passion for the game. I love the way he coaches his teams and I was not offended at all by him grabbing my arm. It was not an awkward moment. We laughed about it and went on with our business. So, I hope you can too.

But if you can’t, and you’re writing about this story, I am not the ‘ESPN reporter.’ My name is Maria Taylor. Let’s go ahead and get this straight.”

That’s why Maria Taylor is the best. You go, girl.

ESPNs “scorebug” strikes again with bad abbreviations

ESPNs “scorebug” strikes again with bad abbreviations

If you go by ESPN’s new “scorebug,” Kansas didn’t beat Kentucky last night, KAN beat KENT.

Earlier this week, I went on a bit of a rant about ESPN’s new graphics, including the “scorebug” (it’s not even a real scoreboard!), but I have to give them a little more grief today over their abbreviations last night. Instead of using “UK” for Kentucky, they went with “KENT,” which is the name of an actual school in England, and entirely too similar to Kent Sate. Making matters more annoying is they used “KAN” for Kansas, which is only three letters, not four, so it doesn’t match KENT and only three letters away from KANSAS. So really, it’s just lazy.

Why not use UK and KU? On Sunday vs. Vermont, Kentucky went by “UK”:

Or, if that is too confusing, KY and KS, the actual postal abbreviations for each state?

One nice thing about the “scorebug” (and it’s not that nickname): I really like how the player stats/facts roll out to the side.

Also, kudos to them for getting rid of the chevron gradient on either side. Much cleaner. Now, they need to choose a proper abbreviation for each school and bump up the size of the shot clock and we’ll be good. Maybe.

…Actually, no. There’s still A LOT of chevron, and I’m not going to even get into whatever this was:

Or the title card that might as well have been the back of my Trapper Keeper in the 90s:

Or the awful Skycam angle:

But really, though, that’s just a matter of taste. Using the right abbreviations is common sense.

Louisville was the top TV market for the Champions Classic

Louisville was the top TV market for the Champions Classic

How much does the state of Kentucky love basketball? Louisville was the top TV market for last night’s Champions Classic with a 13.1 local rating over the two games. (Lexington’s TV market is not big enough to make these lists.)

Rank Local Rating Market
1 13.1 Louisville
2 8.3 Kansas City
3 5.6 Raleigh-Durham
5.6 Cincinnati
5 5.1 Greensboro
6 4.3 Charlotte
7 4.0 Indianapolis
8 3.9 Norfolk
3.9 Dayton
10 3.7 Detroit

Even though the Cats didn’t play until the second game, Louisville still led local markets for Duke vs. Michigan State, with a 10.4 local rating, beating out the three North Carolina markets of Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, and Charlotte. That number went up to 16.4 during the Kentucky vs. Kansas game, which was first ahead of Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Nashville.

Overall, ratings for the Champions Classic were up 27% from last year and second only to the 2013 event, in which a veteran Michigan State team beat a historically young Kentucky team by four at the United Center. Sound familiar? If I remember correctly, that season ended up being a pretty great story.


PHOTO GALLERY: Sleep Outfitters Slam of the Night

PHOTO GALLERY: Sleep Outfitters Slam of the Night

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Kentucky and Kansas met in game two of the Champions Classic at the United Center in Chicago. KSR photographer, Dr. Michael Huang was there to capture the best moments including the Sleep Outfitters Slam of the Night.

We knew the match up would be quite an early test for a young UK team but how would they respond on the big stage? While Kentucky lost the game 65-61 to the Jayhawks, you have to love the fight and toughness this team showed. When the team got down early, they never got rattled. They kept their composure and the rest of the college basketball world was introduced to Kevin Knox. The freshman from Tampa finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds.

Another big highlight was the play of sophomore Sacha Killeya-Jones. Coach Cal raved about SKJ after the Vermont game that his hard work in the offseason was now showing in games. That performance continued in a big way against Kansas. He finished with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks in 23 minutes.

So overall, sure there were plenty of mistakes (first half rebounding was rough), but this type of early game is a fantastic learning experience. Kentucky is back in action on Friday night against East Tennessee State University.

You’ll want to check out our complete photo gallery courtesy of KSR photographer, Dr. Michael Huang on our Facebook page:

Today on KSR, powered by DRAFT: Moving on from Kansas

Today on KSR, powered by DRAFT: Moving on from Kansas

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I know I’m not the only one in the Big Blue Nation dragging a little this morning. Refill that coffee cup and let’s roll through today’s agenda.

Last night was more encouraging than discouraging

Kentucky lost to Kansas by four, but given this group’s youth and inexperience, the way they fought back and hung tough after being punched in the fact was more encouraging to me than their mistakes were discouraging. Calipari said the team hasn’t even worked on late-game situations yet, so getting this test this early on will only help them as the season goes on.

Also encouraging: the play of Sacha Killeya-Jones and Kevin Knox. Remember all that uncertainty at the end of last year over whether or not SKJ would stay at Kentucky? I’m glad he did because he’s an entirely different player, and without him, the Cats would have lost by much more. Hopefully this performance will breed even more confidence and playing time for the veteran.

Meanwhile, we all wanted to see which of Kentucky’s freshmen were the most ready for the big stage, and Kevin Knox was that guy. When Kansas looked like it might blow Kentucky out in the first half, Knox showed no fear, stepping up and pulling the Cats back into it. I continue to be amazed by the young man’s maturity on and off the hardwood, the latter on full display in the postgame press conference:

Check out KSR’s photo gallery of the game

Hidden in that photo gallery is this awesome picture of Jarred Vanderbilt staring down Duke

Duke looked scary good last night, but if we’re going to meet them in March (or April), I’m glad Jarred’s on my side.

Former Cats share words of encouragement

They’re right.

Quentin Grimes announces

The five-star combo guard will announce his decision at 7:30 p.m. EST. Kansas is the favorite and I expect he’ll pick the Jayhawks. Kentucky has hung around this recruitment for a while because I think Grimes really likes the UK staff, but with Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro already on board and Quade Green and/or Shai Alexander likely to stick around for another season, it just makes sense for him to go elsewhere.

Regardless, we’ll be watching.

Shifting back to football

With the Champions Classic over, we’ll start to shift back to football ahead of Kentucky’s trip to Georgia on Saturday. Mark Stoops will preview the game on the SEC Coaches Teleconference around lunch and Matt House will give us an update on his defense after practice. Freddie Maggard will also break down the Bulldogs as only he can in his scouting report this afternoon, so hang in there, football junkies.

College basketball on TV tonight

6:30 PM Indiana #22 Seton Hall FS1
7:00 PM American #24 West Virginia
8:00 PM Bucknell #9 North Carolina ACC Network Extra
8:00 PM Niagara #14 Minnesota
9:00 PM Creighton #20 Northwestern BTN
10:00 PM CS Fullerton #21 Saint Mary’s
11:00 PM Central Arkansas #23 UCLA PAC12

UCLA will hold a press conference about the China incident

With LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley back in the country following their arrest for shoplifting in China, it’s time for Steve Alford to address their futures at UCLA. Alford has called a press conference for 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST, and, in a true sign of the times, it will be aired live on ESPN.

That’s like three cups of coffee from now. Radio in an hour…

Sacha Killeya-Jones earned himself some playing time tonight

Sacha Killeya-Jones earned himself some playing time tonight

The Kentucky Wildcats suffered a tough loss to the Kansas Jayhawks by a final score of 65-61, where the team’s inexperience was magnified on the national stage. Rebounding woes, defensive breakdowns, and shot selection issues were just a few frustrations that led to UK’s third loss to KU in three years.

That being said, there were some big performances from several different Wildcats that should make Kentucky fans thrilled for what’s to come as the season progresses.

One of those big performances? Sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones.

Star freshman Kevin Knox says Killeya-Jones’ hard work in practice has translated into in-game impact for the Wildcats, and increased playing time is almost certain for the big man.

“In practices, he’s been working his butt off, hitting that mid-range shot that he hit tonight,” Knox said. “He’s been hitting that consistently now in practice, rebounding his butt off, playing hard, playing with energy on defense and blocking shots. Like Cal said, if you do it in practice it’s going to translate to the games. Sacha has been playing really well the last two games, and if he keeps it up, I could see him getting a lot more minutes.”

John Calipari told reporters he’s impressed with Killeya-Jones, saying the Kentucky big man is only going to get better as he gets older.

“He’s getting better and better. You have to understand, he was one of the youngest freshman in the country a year ago. He was 17. So he’s 18 years old, basically a freshman.”

Killeya-Jones finished the day with eight points (4-6 from the field) and nine rebounds, including some massive mid-range jumpers to cut the Kansas lead at various points. Coach Cal told reporters he encouraged him to keep taking those shots.

“The shot he made at the foul line because they weren’t playing Nick, I just told him “If you get it there, shoot it.” He said “You want me to shoot that?” Yes I do,” he said.

Kansas coach Bill Self told the media the SKJ jumpers really threw him a curveball.

“I certainly didn’t anticipate him stepping out and making a couple 18-footers,” he said.

Self also gave fans a gentle reminder about just how talented Killeya-Jones, along with the rest of this Wildcat team, truly is.

I could be wrong, but I think they played eight McDonald’s All-Americans tonight. Everybody can play,” said Self. “It didn’t surprise me at all with Sacha.”

And he’s right.

Coming out of high school, Killeya-Jones was a consensus five-star recruit with tremendous upside. He was expected to be a massive difference-maker with his smooth moves on offense and shot-blocking ability in the post. When he got to Kentucky, however, we saw a major adjustment period.

As a freshman, he bobbled the ball around in the post, found himself in foul trouble, and honestly, he was unplayable for the most part.

He told KSR this summer things were starting to click for him, saying his hard work in the offseason has really started to pay off.

Now, his comfort on the court has been impossible to miss, and Killeya-Jones will almost certainly become a focal point of this team going forward.

Notes And Observations From An Ugly Kentucky-Kansas game

Notes And Observations From An Ugly Kentucky-Kansas game

Of all the marquee basketball games we’ve seen, that was one of them.

The Champions Classic’s nightcap pitted the No. 4 and No. 7 teams in college basketball against each other, but neither side played like a ranked team. One can chalk it up to youth and inexperience; the other is Kansas, and I think they’re still jacking up contested jumpers in the United Center parking lot.

Unfortunately for the Big Blue Nation, John Calipari’s young Wildcats were on the losing side in the end, 65-61; but the way they fought and hung in there down the stretch is a major positive takeaway going forward. They have several things to learn and improve on after only three college basketball games in their careers, and they were still in the hunt until the final buzzer against a veteran team. We’ll take that, right?

More postgame thoughts from Chicago…

The Kansas guards were not good.

Devonte Graham, a National Player of the Year candidate (allegedly), was 3-for-14 from the field with five turnovers. Coming into this one, he was projected to be the best player on the court. Instead, we watched him jack up some of the worst shot attempts one could take, and only hit his mark three times in the entire game. Now some of that can be attributed to UK’s defense, but most of the time he was just throwing up bricks to throw up bricks. It was a rough night for one of college basketball’s top players (allegedly).

Joining Graham in the awful game discussion is Malik Newman, who went 4-for-14 from the field. Yes, you can commend him for the big three-pointer late, but Kentucky was in the game because he drove into the lane with his head down all night, only to watch his shots get swatted. Newman couldn’t take enough bad shots; unfortunately, he hit one wide open three-pointer in the end that proved to be the biggest shot of the game. You live with that one after all the garbage he threw up before that moment.

Kansas’ third “star” guard, LaGerald Vick, wasn’t much better than his friends. He went 4-for-13 from the field, which makes them 11-for-41 as a group. They’re Bill Self’s three offensive weapons and they could not score from the field (4-for-16 from outside, too). If they had done anything close to what they’re capable of, Kansas runs away with this one. But their offensive struggles made it a ball game, and to me, that’s your story.

Kevin Knox is Kentucky’s only offense. 

As bad as the Kansas offense was, Kentucky’s wasn’t much better. It was pretty much the Kevin Knox show when the Cats needed a bucket as he led the team with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. It’s pretty clear he’s going to need some major help, but for the immediate future it’s mostly going to fall on his shoulders when Hamidou Diallo isn’t playing well. That was the case tonight, and Knox had a great game outside of the forced shot attempt in the final seconds with his team down two.

Nick Richards and P.J. Washington have to do better.

Richards and Washington may want to forget this one. Together they combined for seven of Kentucky’s 18 turnovers and only four points.

Richards did grab nine rebounds, but he was a liability offensively. Washington had some key blocks, but he wasn’t much help anywhere else.

Sacha Killeya-Jones showed some promise, and that’s exciting.

We’ve long wondered when Killeya-Jones will have his breakout moment, and it might’ve been in this one. Kentucky’s sophomore big man had eight points and nine rebounds in only 23 minutes of action, and he showed off a jump shot that put some much-needed points on the board when UK’s offense was non-existent. If he can continue to hit that shot consistently, he’ll have to see more of the floor. The same goes for his rebounding, which he also did well.

As good as Knox was, Killeya-Jones may be the brightest takeaway for Kentucky.

Kansas only had six players.

The Jayhawks were gassed in the end (especially the big fella), and they have Billy Preston to thank for that. In case you missed it, Bill Self benched his star freshman right before tip-off due to an investigation into the financing of a car he wrecked over the weekend. It sounds like some serious trouble, and it didn’t hurt Kentucky’s chances that he sat in street clothes on the sideline.

Kentucky is still kind of a mess right now, but they’re fighters.

The offense is so disorganized and often lost. There were way too many inexcusable turnovers. The defense gives up too many good looks. It was far from a good, clean game.

That being said, it’s to be expected from a team of kids who are only five days into their college careers. Those things will work themselves out in time. The one thing you can’t really teach at this point in the season is playing hard and not giving up, and that’s exactly what they did in a game in which they weren’t playing sound basketball. Close games like this will go a long way in their overall development, and those sloppy miscues and disorganization will be fixed with each passing game. Kentucky isn’t a great basketball team right now, but they sure do have the pieces to be one on down the road.

To quote John Calipari, I like my team.

Good night from Chicago.

Calipari wishes he’d played both point guards at the end of the game

Calipari wishes he’d played both point guards at the end of the game

If it was possible to merge Quade Green and Shai Alexander into one point guard, Kentucky may have won today. Both players finished with six points, but their strengths are each other’s weaknesses. Quade runs the offense well, but can’t guard. Shai can guard, but turned it over six times. The two guards rotated in and out during the final four minutes of the game, and afterwards, John Calipari said he wished he’d played them both together.

“I’ve just got to figure out how to play with four minutes to go. Who do I have on the floor? I should have had two point guards on the floor at that time. Do we go smaller? I don’t know. This is going to be a process of hit or miss, see what we like. When it works, we’ll all know that’s what we should be doing.”

“I still don’t know how we’re going to play late in a close game. Obviously, I thought Quade [Green] was going to throw that lob, and he shot it. He’s a freshman.”

The uncertainty at point guard is forcing Cal to have to be way louder during the game, and, as he said, effectively be the team’s leader.

“We don’t have a leader, so I have to lead. I’m too old to lead. I’m too old to stand the whole game. But they need me in that role right now because nobody has taken it yet. It develops. It will develop over time.”

Once he got past the glaring errors (18 turnovers! One-handed rebounds! Sloppy passes!), Calipari actually seemed pleased with his team’s effort.

“We’re a ways away to being what we need to be. But to play in a game like this in that environment and have a chance to win? Wow. Bunch of freshmen did pretty good.”

LIVE: John Calipari, Kevin Knox & Sacha Killeya-Jones after the Kansas game

John Calipari, Kevin Knox & Sacha Killeya-Jones are about to address reporters about his team’s performance vs. Kansas. Tune in via our Facebook Live stream:

Kentucky falls to Kansas, 65-61

Kentucky falls to Kansas, 65-61

Coming in, many didn’t give Kentucky a shot vs. Kansas, but the Cats stayed in it until the end, ultimately losing to the Jayhawks 65-61.

It was a very messy game, but there flashes of promise throughout. Kevin Knox was great, pulling Kentucky out of a hole in the first half on the way to 20 points and 7 rebounds. Hamidou Diallo finished with 14 points and made some big shots; however, I was most impressed with Sacha Killeya-Jones, who came off the bench to put up 8 points and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes. Sacha was Kentucky’s only effective big tonight, keeping the Jayhawks honest with a midrange jumper and doing his best to battle with Udoka Azubuike down low. We’ve seen his renewed confidence in spurts this season, but tonight, he showed heart and hustle.

Kentucky made plenty of mistakes. The first half rebounding was atrocious, the passes were sloppy, PJ Washington had a really bad night; however, the fact that they stayed in it despite those errors is very encouraging. This group showed a lot of fight when Kansas came out firing and hung tight, and, this early on, that’s more promising than anything.

HALF: Kansas 34 Kentucky 33

HALF: Kansas 34 Kentucky 33

It wasn’t pretty early on, but Kentucky bounced back after a rough start to stay within one of Kansas at halftime, 34-33. Kevin Knox leads all scorers with 12 points, including 3-4 from behind the arc, followed by Hamidou Diallo with 6. PJ Washington and Nick Richards spent most of the half on the bench in foul trouble.

Kentucky is very fortunate to only be down by one considering they were outrebounded 24-13. The Cats’ effort on the boards was atrocious, and as Calipari said, there’s no way they’ll win this game if they keep that up.

Despite some ugly stretches, Kentucky has clawed its way into this game despite their youth. Buckle up for the second half, which should be spicy given this trash talk as the teams left the floor:

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Live Blog UK vs. Kansas LIVE BLOG, sponsored by Anthem Medicaid

LIVE: Watch UK’s pregame warmups in Chicago

Tune in now to see the Cats get ready for Kansas.

Immanuel Quickley is in Chicago to see the Cats

Immanuel Quickley is in Chicago to see the Cats

Days after officially submitting his National Letter of Intent to the University of Kentucky, five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley is in Chicago for the Cats’ game against Kansas. John Calipari’s next great point guard made the trip from Maryland to root on his future team in the Champions Classic.

Go Cats.