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Calipari was asked about another improbable Final Four run

This isn’t what fans want to hear hours after Kentucky lost another SEC game, but it was one of the highlights of John Calipari’s postgame press conference, so let’s address it.

As Calipari left the podium to hop on a late flight back to Lexington, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman stopped him to ask, “Do you see a Final Four run possible?”

Cal answered, “Yeah, I do. I do. You saw that team out there — if that’s a No. 1 seed and we’re on their court, and we got a four or six-point lead with a chance… but everybody’s gotta play for us. And the other thing: we gotta make some shots. This is the game of basketball. If you’re wide open and you don’t think you can make a three, make a two. We just gotta do that.”

It’s hard to doubt Calipari when it comes to Final Fours, but this team has a lot of growing up to do in a very short amount of time if a trip to San Antonio is anywhere in the real of possibility.

As Cal said earlier in his press conference, his mind and his players’ minds are only on one thing right now: winning the next game.

The Final Four isn’t on anyone’s mind.


Calipari: “I really believe if we win a game we’ll get going”

With Wednesday night’s loss at Auburn, Kentucky’s losing streak hit four games for the first time under John Calipari. And with only five games left on the schedule, is it too late to turn things around and salvage the regular season? Or even worse, are Kentucky’s NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy?

When asked, Calipari wouldn’t even address the possibility of missing the tournament for only the second time as UK’s head coach.

“I got one thought: let’s just try to win the next game,” he said. “Just one game.”

Once Kentucky wins that one game, he believes the Cats will climb out of the nasty funk they’re in and get back to winning basketball.

“I really believe if we win a game we’ll get going,” he said. “I’ve had teams in this kind of mode that we’re in, but the league was different, that we could go get a league game somewhere.”

“There’s none here. You better come and play, and the other thing is everybody gives us their best shot. There’s no one that’s gonna not play against Kentucky, especially if they think they have the chance to beat you for the first time in six years.”

Kentucky’s next opportunity to get back into the win column will be this coming Saturday when the action returns to Rupp Arena after a tough two-game stretch away from home. Things haven’t been so great at home either, though, as Kentucky has lost two of four on its own floor and needed late heroics to hang on against unranked Vanderbilt and unranked Texas A&M.

Alabama is up next in the two teams’ only meeting of the season, and Calipari knows his team is in for another fight.

“We have another tough game. We got Alabama, who’s on a win streak and beating everybody’s brains in. Now you got them. The league is not what it has been and now we don’t have any room for error. As a coach I just gotta keep them going and get to work and say, how do we get better and what do we do to try to turn this around?”

If they are going to turn it around, Saturday is a must-win game and the only game on the Cats’ minds.


LIVE: John Calipari Speaks after Kentucky’s Loss at Auburn

Drew Franklin is at Auburn Arena where John Calipari and select players are breaking down the loss at Auburn.


Kentucky Falls Short in 76-66 Loss at Auburn

© John Reed | USATSI

On the road against the top-ranked team in the SEC, Kentucky played well enough to win but could not close the deal.  The Cats rediscovered their offense to take a second half lead, but fell apart down the stretch in the middle of a raucous environment at Auburn Arena.

It looked like Kentucky turned the corner when Wenyen Gabriel threw down this monstrous, unexpected slam to take the lead with 13 minutes to play.

The actual turning point happened five minutes later.  Up four, Hamidou Diallo’s corner three touched every part of the rim before rolling off the cylinder.  Instead of taking a seven-point lead, Auburn cut it to two and stole the momentum.

Kentucky led by four entering the under-eight TV timeout.  At the under-four TV timeout, Kentucky trailed by five.  That was all she wrote.

The Cats’ fourth consecutive loss drops UK to 6-7 in SEC play.


© John Reed | USATSI

Kentucky Falls Short in 76-66 Loss at Auburn

© John Reed | USATSI

On the road against the top-ranked team in the SEC, Kentucky played well enough to win but could not close the deal.  The Cats rediscovered their offense to take a second half lead, but fell apart down the stretch in the middle of a raucous environment at Auburn Arena.

It looked like Kentucky turned the corner when Wenyen Gabriel threw down this monstrous, unexpected slam to take the lead with 13 minutes to play.

The actual turning point happened five minutes later.  Up four, Hamidou Diallo’s corner three touched every part of the rim before rolling off the cylinder.  Instead of taking a seven-point lead, Auburn cut it to two and stole the momentum.

Kentucky led by four entering the under-eight TV timeout.  At the under-four TV timeout, Kentucky trailed by five.  That was all she wrote.

The Cats’ fourth consecutive loss drops UK to 6-7 in SEC play.


HALFTIME: Kentucky Trails Auburn 39-33

HALFTIME: Kentucky Trails Auburn 39-33

Kentucky’s offense had a sluggish start that featured eight turnovers, but they were able to get things going with 18 points in the paint to close the gap to just six points.


UK vs. Auburn Valentine’s Day LOVE BLOG

UK vs. Auburn Valentine’s Day LOVE BLOG

Want to advertise your product or company on KSR? KSR is now looking for sponsors for the live blog for the remainder of the 2017-18 basketball season. If you’re interested, please email ksrads@kentuckysportsradio.com.

Live Blog UK vs. Auburn Valentine’s Day LOVE BLOG
 


ESPN: 36 Division I programs could face NCAA violations due to FBI probe

Three of the ten people indicted in the FBI’s probe into college basketball will have their arguments heard tomorrow in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, but more interesting are these tidbits in ESPN’s article about what the FBI has discovered. Sources tell ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that as many as 36 Division I programs could face NCAA violations for what has come to light in the investigation, specifically information seized from NBA agent Andy Miller.

Regardless what happens with the criminal cases, sources with knowledge of the FBI investigation told ESPN this week that the clandestine probe could result in potential NCAA violations for as many as three dozen Division I programs, based on information included in wiretap conversations from the defendants and financial records, emails and cell phone records seized from NBA agent Andy Miller. His office was raided on the same day the FBI arrested 10 men, including four assistant coaches, in late September.

“It’s not the mid-major programs who were trying to buy players to get to the top,” a source told ESPN. “It’s the teams that are already there.”

This is a pretty timely article considering Kentucky’s about to play Auburn, which used to employ Chuck Person, the former assistant coach who faces six federal charges for funneling $18,500 to the families of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy in exchange for the use of financial management services at the next level. Wiley has been ruled ineligible this season, and while Purifoy has yet to receive official word from the NCAA, he reportedly expects the same. Both will declare for the NBA Draft this summer.

The question remains: what will the NCAA do about all of this?

[ESPN]


A Kentucky fan was the first in line for the Auburn student section

Lexington’s own Evan Caldwell, now a student at Auburn, was the first in line for Auburn’s student section today. He waited six hours to be the first one through the Auburn Arena doors for tonight’s game.

Hopefully Evan and the other UK fans in attendance are rewarded with a Kentucky win tonight.


Bruce Pearl: Shai Alexander one of the top guards in the SEC

As John Calipari said after the Texas A&M loss, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the only guy on Kentucky’s roster right now that’s playing well, a testament to the former four-star recruit’s toughness and positive attitude. Earlier this week, Bruce Pearl said he believes Shai is one of the best guards in the league alongside Auburn’s Jared Harper.

“I’m really impressed with [Shai] Gilgeous-Alexander. In my mind with going through the league, Alexander and Jared are the top guards in the league. He’s [Gilgeous-Alexander] is really good. He’s really good in the ball screen, play making outside of the ball screen and it’s just going to be a tough cover for us.”

At times, Shai is Kentucky’s ONLY offense, but he can’t beat Auburn alone. Hopefully he’ll get some much-needed help tonight.


Auburn student section’s cheer guide is harsh on Tony Barbee

Auburn student section’s cheer guide is harsh on Tony Barbee

If tonight’s “Jungle Times” is any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be a long night of heckling for UK assistant Tony Barbee.

The official game day guide of Auburn’s student section takes aim at the Tigers’ former coach with four fun facts.

One of those fun facts reads:

AC Tony Barbee — Claimed that he just couldn’t get players at Auburn and that when he could, Auburn would start winning. Bruce Pearl on the other hand has already signed 10 4 and 5-star players in his first 4 years at Auburn, not including SEC Player of the Year candidate Bryce Brown.

The “Jungle Times” also teaches students “general” and “situational” cheers.

See an enlarged version here.


Auburn’s leading scorer will play tonight

Auburn Athletics

In news we knew was coming, Bryce Brown will play tonight. Auburn’s leading scorer missed the Tigers’ win over Georgia Saturday with a shoulder injury, but per Jeff Goodman, he will try to make a go of it vs. Kentucky:

Brown averages 16.6 points per game and leads the SEC in made three-pointers with 81. Earlier today, he was named to the top 30 list for the Naismith Award, along with Kevin Knox.

Yesterday, Hamidou Diallo said he’s ready to prove himself on defense. Slowing down Brown would be a great start.


10 Things To Know About Auburn

10 Things To Know About Auburn

@AuburnMBB

Tonight at 9 p.m., Kentucky will take on the tenth-ranked Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Alabama. As we continue to count down the time until tipoff, here are ten things you should know about the best team in the SEC.

1. They score a lot

The Tigers lead the SEC and are tied for eighth nationally in scoring with 85.5 points per game. To put that into context, they’re currently on pace to be the SEC’s highest-scoring team since the 1996 Kentucky squad, which averaged 91.4 points per game. Auburn has eclipsed the 90-point mark four times in SEC play, two more than any other team. They’ve shot over 50% from the field in four out of their last five games.

2. Their best player missed the last game

Starting guard Bryce Brown leads the Tigers in scoring with 16.6 points per game, but missed Auburn’s win over Georgia with a shoulder injury. He was able to practice yesterday but it still questionable for tonight’s game (which means he will play). If he does go, Hamidou Diallo will have his hands full.

3. They do not match up well with Kentucky

Auburn’s tallest player (that plays) is 6’8″, which means Kentucky will have a considerable size advantage. The Tigers start four guards and a forward, so, on paper, the matchup is in the Cats’ favor. As Bruce Pearl noted yesterday, two of Auburn’s three losses came against teams with bigger frontcourts.

“They are really long, and we’ve been bothered by teams like Texas A&M and Alabama who do a great job with using their length.”

Kenny Payne has been hammering that message home with the big men this week.

“I think our advantages are going to be our length, our athleticism. They are not a tall team. They are basically, it looks like, three or four guards and a forward. Their tallest guy is 6-7, 6-8 that is playing minutes. We have to take advantage of that. That means offensive rebounding, that means stuff around the baskets we have to be strong. We have to be the aggressor. We have to go after them. We really have to go out and play desperate basketball and confident basketball, which is really important.”

4. They’ve only beaten Kentucky twice in the past 28 years

Kentucky has an overwhelming 92-18 lead in the series, with Auburn’s most recent win coming two years ago at Auburn Arena, Bruce Pearl’s first over Calipari and the Cats with the Tigers. Before that, Auburn had only beaten Kentucky once since 1990, a 66-63 win in 2000 over a 20th ranked UK squad that included Tayshaun Prince, Jamal Magloire, and Keith Bogans.

5. The last time they beat Kentucky, fans stormed the court

Auburn fans storming the court after beating Kentucky two years ago wasn’t surprising, but I forgot how Calipari sent most of the team to the locker room in the final seconds to avoid the chaos. Watch as Jonny David checks in so Tyler Ulis can go to the locker room early:

LOL. I can’t decide whether Calipari was protecting Ulis or protecting Auburn students from him.

6. Calipari has a 9-4 record vs. Bruce Pearl

The Calipari/Pearl rivalry isn’t nearly as intense as it was when Calipari was at Memphis and Pearl at Tennessee, but the two definitely aren’t best friends. Tonight will be their 14th meeting, with Calipari holding a 9-4 edge.

7. They’re having a White Out

Because duh.

8. Jared Harper leads the SEC in assists

Sophomore guard Jared Harper has a SEC-best 149 assists this season and also boasts one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the country (3.17). Harper has 77 assists to only 21 turnovers in SEC play and has seven or more assists in 13 games this season. That’s really good.

9. Their fans have been warned to stay classy

@JamesCrepea

Tony Barbee was Auburn’s coach for four years before being fired and missed Kentucky’s game there two years ago because he was on a “recruiting trip.” Earlier this week, Bruce Pearl begged the Auburn fanbase to stay classy in regards to Barbee, who will be on the sidelines tonight.

“I would think it would only be fitting and fitting with Auburn to be classy. He was our basketball coach for four years. He moved his family here. He was a part of this family. And I would, rather than have it be anything other than welcome him back to where his family spent four years. It should be nothing else.”

Speaking of Auburn fans…

10. This is still the greatest GIF ever

And I will use every excuse to post it.


WATCH: Calipari admits he’s still chasing 40-0

WATCH: Calipari admits he’s still chasing 40-0

Andy Katz was recently in Lexington to do some work for NCAA.com, and part of that included a behind-the-scenes tour of the Rupp Arena locker room with John Calipari. During the tour, Calipari reflects on his time at Kentucky, the 2012 National Championship, and yes, how he’s still chasing that perfect season despite coming up short in 2015.

“When you look at it, they all sacrificed for each other and guess what? We almost won all 40. I’m still hacked off we lost that game. That team should have been 40-0. That would have been the statement in the history of our sport, if we could have won all 40. And it didn’t happen. So they kind of go by 38-1. Now, that’s the best record in the history of the NCAA. Like to get 40 sometime before I retire.”

As that quote suggests, this video will bring up plenty of happy memories, and yes, a few sad ones, but it’s still a great reminder of the success we’ve had in the past decade. It also includes a pretty cool story about how the 2012 National Championship floor ended up in the Rupp Arena locker room.

And yes, Cal, I’m still hacked off we lost that game too.


Pregame Scouting: Auburn Tigers

Pregame Scouting: Auburn Tigers

Happy Valentine’s Day, Big Blue Nation! If you’re anything like me, you’re spending tonight with your most significant other, the Kentucky basketball team. Except lately, the Wildcats have been like that unhealthy relationship that you keep running back to when they say they’re going to change. The most recent version of the Cats changing occurred after a “team meeting” which involved players taking the blame for some struggles throughout the season. Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green were honest with the media yesterday, as both essentially put themselves on blast for the team’s struggles. Now let’s see if anything comes of this latest change.

The Cats are in War Eagle territory tonight to take on the current best team in the Southeastern Conference, the Auburn Tigers. Head Coach Bruce Pearl has done a masterful job coaching this team without two of their better players who have been out for the season in relation to the FBI/Adidas scandal. Auburn is currently ranked as the #10 team in the country, sitting at a 22-3 record.

The Tigers’ best player, Bryce Brown, missed the last game with a shoulder injury. He’s returned to practice the last few days, and most would say there’s no way that Bruce Pearl wouldn’t play him in tonight’s game. Let’s take a look at the probable starting lineup for the Tigers, assuming that Brown suits up.


#2 Bryce Brown, Junior Guard, 6’3″

Bryce Brown is one of the most improved players in the nation this season. He was the 369th ranked recruit coming out of high school and averaged just over 7 points last season, but now he’s one of the candidates for SEC Player of the Year. As I mentioned earlier, Brown is nursing a shoulder injury that could slow him down a little tonight, but that is to be determined.

The junior is the 6th best scorer in the SEC and the team leader at 16.6 points per game. He pulls down 2.3 rebounds and dishes out 1.9 assists per game. He can fill it up from anywhere on the floor, hitting 41.5% of his threes and 78.7% of his free throws. Last season against the Cats, he scored just 6 points in 27 minutes.

A true scoring guard, Brown is one of four starting guards for the Tigers this season. He most likely matches up with Hamidou Diallo for Kentucky. Diallo was very critical of his own defensive effort in the media session yesterday, so hopefully he comes out tonight ready to fight. Shutting down Brown would go a long way towards pulling off an upset.

#5 Mustapha Heron, Sophomore Guard, 6’5″

Mustapha Heron was far and away the best player for the Auburn Tigers last season, and he has continued as one of their main contributors this year. Heron was the first 5-star recruit to sign with the Tigers in Auburn basketball history. He had 11 points and 3 rebounds against the Cats last season.

While Bryce Brown is the 6th best scorer in the conference, Heron is just one spot behind him as the 7th leading scorer in the conference. He’s currently averaging 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and a team leading 1.3 steals per game. Heron is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor, but his three point shooting has dropped some this year. He’s shooting 33.7% from three and 80.7% from the free throw line.

At only 6’5″, Heron is the second tallest player in the starting lineup for the Tigers. A four guard lineup brings about match up problems galore for both teams defensively. Kentucky will most likely use Kevin Knox on Heron, but doing so results in PJ Washington defending a 6’3″ guard. Zone may be hard to play with outside shooting being a strength of this Auburn team.

#1 Jared Harper, Sophomore Guard, 5’10”

Jared Harper returns as a second year starter for Coach Bruce Pearl this season. Harper was a four-star rated prospect and a top 50 player coming out of Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Georgia. He finished with 8 points and 3 turnovers in the loss to Kentucky last season.

Harper is a third straight outside threat for the Tigers. He’s a facilitator as well as a scorer for this offense, leading the team with 6 assists per game, good for best in the SEC. He’s also scoring 13.3 points, pulling down 2.2 rebounds, and swiping 1.2 steals per game. He’s shooting 41.3% from deep and 81% from the charity stripe.

The sophomore is truly the quarterback of this Auburn offensive attack. At 5’10” and 170 pounds, Harper is outsized by nearly every player he goes up against, but he has continued to impress. He’ll face a challenge in Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tonight. Harper probably matches up better with Quade Green, but it’ll depend on the various lineups Coach Cal throws onto the floor.

#13 Desean Murray, Junior Guard, 6’3″

Desean Murray is the fourth and final guard in the starting lineup for Bruce Pearl. He is playing in his first season at Auburn, sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He spent his freshman season at Presbyterian College, where he was a Big South All-Conference first-team selection while scoring 20.2 points per game.

Murray has stepped into a role of almost playing a power forward for Auburn. He’s averaging 11 points and a team leading 6.9 rebounds on the year, while shooting 37.8% from three and 85.7% on his free throws. Murray go get buckets for Coach Pearl, so if Bryce Brown does not play, look for Murray to be picking up the slack.

The junior measures in at 6’3″ and 225 pounds, and he plays so much bigger than those measurements would allude. The closest to a forward of the four starting guards, Murray plays most of his game inside the arc, despite having the ability to stretch the floor. PJ Washington will be in for one of his more difficult defensive assignments, having to keep up with Murray all night.

#24 Anfernee McLemore, Sophomore Forward, 6’7″

Anfernee McLemore is the lone non-guard in the starting lineup for Auburn this season. He was ranked as a three-star prospect in most recruiting services, but earned that fourth star in ESPN’s rankings. He played just 6 minutes in the game against Kentucky last season, totaling 2 points and 3 rebounds.

McLemore is the closest thing to a post-presence that Bruce Pearl runs out there, but it has been working for Auburn this season. He’s scoring 7.5 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and blocking an SEC leading 2.8 shots per game. He can step away from the basket and knock down shots, hitting 16 of 42 threes attempted this year.

Despite being just 6’7″ and 220 pounds, McLemore is an intimidating force in the paint for the Tigers. He’ll match up with Kentucky’s Nick Richards to start the game, but if Kentucky has to go small to keep up with Auburn’s four-guard lineup, he’ll draw the eye of Jarred Vanderbilt for parts of the game.


Go Cats. Beat Tigers.

@BrettBibbinsKSR