Basketball Season Coverage
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 01st, 2018 @ 1:56pm
Kentucky trails UNC Greensboro 40-37 at half, but that’s just the first bit of bad news. Keldon Johnson suffered an ankle injury late in the first half after going up for a rebound.
The freshman landed awkwardly on his left ankle and had to be helped to the locker room. Thankfully, he returned to the bench just before halftime and appeared to be testing the ankle out to see if he could go back in before the buzzer sounded. We’ll bring you an update from UK as soon as we have one.
As for the rest of the team, the score may not indicate it, but they played really well in stretches, going on a 10-0 run to take a 23-17 lead with 9:30 left. When Keldon went down, the energy shifted and UNC Greensboro stormed back to take the lead going into the half. Reid Travis leads the Cats with 10 points, followed by EJ Montgomery with 8. UNC Greensboro’s Francis Alonso has 19 points, including four threes. He’s really, really good.
UPDATE: Keldon Johnson started the second half. Phew.
By Brett Bibbins on ©December 01st, 2018 @ 11:00am
1. UNC Greensboro returns three of the starters from last season’s Southern Conference champion team, as well as the sixth, seventh, and eighth men. Last year’s best player, Francis Alonso, returns as the two guard for the Spartans and is averaging 19 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game so far this year. He’s also shooting lights out to begin the season, including 93.3% from the free throw line and 46.2% from three point while attempting nearly 7 per contest. James Dickey, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the Southern Conference, stands at 6’10” and is the tallest player in the lineup for UNCG. Lastly, Demetrius Troy runs the point as a senior and two year starter. On top of the three returners, the two new starters this season, both played at least 15 minutes per game last year. Today’s game will require Kentucky’s experienced players to match the experience levels from the opposition.
2. It has been well documented that the largest struggle for the Cats to begin this season has been defending the perimeter. Both the three point shot and guards attacking off the bounce have been weaknesses, with exception to the Monmouth game earlier this week. Unfortunately for Kentucky, UNC Greensboro poses a much larger scoring threat than any team they’ve faced all year, outside of Duke. The Spartans are ranked 16th in the country in scoring at 87.6 points per game and have only scored less than 80 twice out of their eight games on the year.
3. In his 8th year as the Head Coach of the Spartans, Wes Miller has the team ranked third in the preseason polls for the Southern Conference. Despite finishing 27-8 last season and returning a ton of talent, the media projected them to fall behind both Furman and Samford in the final standings. Francis Alonso was also named to the preseason All-Southern Conference Team, after being named first team all conference last season.
4. UNC Greensboro made the NCAA Tournament last season for only the third time ever, and the first time since 2001. The #13 seeded Spartans took #4 seed Gonzaga down to the wire before falling by the score of 68-64. This year’s team features almost all of the contributors from last season, but with another offseason of practice together under their belt. The Spartans are the real deal as an out of conference opponent, and many media members have said they are better than the Cats’ future opponents Utah and Seton Hall.
5. Today will be the first ever meeting between the Spartans and the Wildcats. UNC Greensboro had not played a ranked team in the regular season since the first game of the 2016 season. Kentucky will be the second one they play this season so far, as they narrowly fell to #23 LSU in Baton Rouge by the score of 97-91. If Kentucky doesn’t come out ready to play this afternoon, they’ll be trailing the all-time series 0-1.
Go Cats. Beat Spartans.
By Nick Roush on ©December 01st, 2018 @ 9:30am
Come join the More Than A Bakery family! We are growing!
More Than A Bakery is not just a facility, it’s a new way of thinking about work. We’re building a community, where our work gives back to our families, friends, and neighbors. Life needs balance, and we’re striving to ensure that everyone at More Than A Bakery not only cares about their careers, they enjoy them.
That means that we provide opportunities for growth, benefits for stability, and community outreach to show just how much we care. Visit www.morethanabakery.com for more information.
It’s game day in the Bluegrass. The Cats will tip-off at 1:00 against UNC-Greensboro at Rupp Arena this afternoon. Tom Hart will be dropping KSBar shout outs alongside Jimmy Dykes on ESPN2.
Kentucky is just a few days removed from a 46-point victory over Monmouth. Don’t expect them to replicate that margin of victory over UNCG.
The Spartans return six of their top eight players from a team that won the Southern Conference tournament last season. A 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament, they took Gonzaga down to the wire, only to fall 68-64 in the first round.
If the on-court results don’t capture attention, maybe Vegas will. Kentucky only opened as a 10-point favorite over UNCG.
If Kentucky does not bring their A-game, it could be a long afternoon at Rupp Arena.
A Birthday Surprise
Instead of baking brownies for the players on their birthday, yesterday Ellen Calipari received a homemade batch of brownies from Brad and a surprise from his teammates. How sweet.
We think of this program as a family and Ellen is at the heart of it all. We were able to surprise her tonight for her birthday! pic.twitter.com/5pVLi9r6xZ
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 1, 2018
A Birthday Commitment
J.J. Weaver had a different kind of birthday celebration. The four-star pass rusher celebrated by committing to Kentucky. A Rivals250 recruit, Weaver could be the first of two four-star linebackers from Louisville to commit in a week. Jared Casey was in the stands for Weaver’s announcement. That’s gotta be a good sign, right? Casey will decide next Thursday. Click here for more from Weaver’s announcement.
Men’s Soccer Season Ends
Maryland scored on their first short attempt, and Kentucky simply could not catch up. The Cats fought like hell at The Bell, but could not punch their first ticket to the College Cup. Maryland defeated UK 1-0 to end Kentucky’s spectacular season.
UK Volleyball Keeps Rolling
Shortly after the soccer game ended, Kentucky’s volleyball team swept Murray State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. They’ll play for a Sweet 16 berth at Memorial Coliseum vs. Purdue tonight at 7:00.
Conference Championship Saturday
- Big 12: #14 Texas vs. #5 Oklahoma at Noon on ABC
- Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Appalachian State at Noon on ESPN
- C-USA: UAB at Middle Tennessee at 1:30 on CBSN
- AAC: Memphis at #8 UCF at 3:30 on ABC
- SEC: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Georgia at 4:00 on CBS
- Mountain West: #25 Fresno State vs. #22 Boise State at 7:45 on ESPN
- Big Ten: #21 Northwestern vs. #6 Ohio State at 8:00 on Fox
- ACC: #2 Clemson vs. Pitt at 8:00 on ABC
College Basketball on TV
- Noon: Louisville at Seton Hall on Fox
- Noon: St. John’s vs. Georgia Tech on ESNPU
- 2:00: #1 Gonzaga vs. Creighton on Fox
- 2:30: #12 Kansas State at Marquette
- 2:30: #20 Texas Tech vs. Memphis on ESPNU
- 3:30: #19 Purdue at #7 Michigan on ESPN
- 4:30: #5 Nevada at USC on Fox
- 7:00: Stetson at #3 Duke on ESPN2
- 9:00: #18 Oregon at Houston on ESPN2
Two New State Champions
Two mountain teams lost by a combined two points in an electric start to the state championships at Kroger Field. In the Class A title, Beechwood’s John Odom picked off a late pass to secure a 21-20 victory over Pikeville.
In 3A, Central avenged a 2017 state semifinal loss to Corbin. The Yellow Jackets dominated the third quarter to take a 20-19 lead. After Corbin blocked a punt with less than a minute to play, they had one last chance to win the game, but the 44-yard field goal never had a chance. The two teams did not share pleasantries after the game.
[WATCH]: End of the Class 3A title game ends with PUNCHES THROWN.
— Alex Walker (@AlexWalkerTV) December 1, 2018
Three more teams will be crowned state champions today at Kroger Field. Mayfield and CAL kick things off at 1:00, followed by Johnson Central and Franklin-Simpson at 4:30 and the 6A showdown between Male and Scott County at 8:00. If you can’t make it to Kroger Field, you can watch all the action at KSBar.
R.I.P. George H.W. Bush
The 41st President of the United States, and the father of the 43rd, passed away late last night at the age of 94. A WWII fighter pilot, CIA director, congressman and U.S. Ambassador, Mr. Bush exemplified what it means to be a public servant.
After blitzing Monmouth on Wednesday night, Kentucky returns to the hardwood this afternoon for their second toughest challenge of the season to this point. With the month of December finally here, we’re about to learn a lot about the 2017-18 Kentucky Wildcats.
UNC Greensboro currently sits at 7-1 on the year with their only loss occurring against LSU on the road by six points. The Spartans are the heavy favorite to win the SoCon this season and they are putting up points in bunches. UNCG has scored at least 80 points in six of their eight games and will be one of the most efficient offenses UK will see all season. Today will be a true challenge for the Wildcats.
For the second game in a row, the head coach on the visiting sidelines is a former North Carolina point guard. Wes Miller is in his eighth season at Greensboro and the Spartans are fresh off consecutive regular season conference titles. Last season, Miller reached his first NCAA Tournament as a head coach with the Spartans winning 27 games before losing to Gonzaga in the Round of 64. The Greensboro native will turn 36 next month and is a rising star in the coaching ranks.
UNCG has been to three NCAA Tournaments and has just eight conference titles in school history. The school did not allow male students in until the 1965-66 school year and didn’t become a Division I program until the 1990s. The Spartans made their first tournament in 1996 and are currently on the best run in program history under Wes Miller.
Francis Alonso is a senior from Spain who is the program’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. He sets the tone for this high scoring offense.
The playmaking guard leads the team in free throw attempts. From the charity stripe, he is hitting above a 90 percent rate. The combo guard is pouring in nearly half of his three point attempts and is second on the team in assists. He is an excellent basketball player.
Fellow senior Demetrius Troy runs the offense from the lead guard spot and he has an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio. The Raleigh, North Carolina native sets up everyone first, but can consistently hit shots from deep. Joining him in the backcourt is Malik Massey as UNCG runs a three-guard offense most of the time. However, Massey doesn’t stay in the lineup long because of what Wes Miller has coming off the bench.
Isaiah Miller ranks 13th in the NCAA in steals in addition to providing this lineup with instant offense. The Georgia native is second on the team in scoring and has a very efficient .578 shooting percentage. He is not much of a threat from the outside, but is a terrific athlete. The six-foot guard is a slasher who has the athleticism to make shots over size. Add that with his defensive prowess and he’s an integral piece for this UNC Greensboro squad.
UNCG has some size on their squad, but they want to play pace-and-space. To do that you need an effective stretch four. They have that in Kyrin Galloway.
The junior from Georgia is putting up 13.9 points per game and is hitting over 60 percent of his shot attempts. The 6-foot-8 big is hitting treys at a .459 clip and is key to creating the space UNCG’s guards need to make plays off the bounce. UK has yet to see a four that can stretch the floor like Galloway this season.
In the post, James Dickey controls the paint and leads the team in rebounds at over eight boards per outing. Outside of dunks and lay-ups, Dickey is not much of a threat on offense but he does most of his damage on the defensive end.
The 6-foot-10 big ranks fourth in UNCG program history in blocks and he has 17 in just eight games to start the season. UK’s bigs and drivers will be challenged at the rim. Getting him out of the game will be essential to creating easy scoring opportunities for the Kentucky offense.
Keys to Victory
- The Spartans are easily the best offensive team Kentucky has seen since the embarrassing loss against Duke. After two games against some very inferior offenses, UK’s defensive flaws will be exposed against UNCG if they have not improved. The Wildcats must have some rim protection to help eliminate drives and communicate while guarding against a very savvy offense.
- UK’s bread-and-butter is to get its bigs touches on the block, but James Dickey will be a problem in the paint. The lanky big is an excellent shot blocker and he’ll present quite the challenge. UK must attack his body and look for contact. If he gets in foul trouble UNCG will be in trouble. Greensboro’s defense will want to funnel everything inside to Dickey. Kentucky will get plenty of open perimeter looks. They must knock them down.
- The one thing UK’s defense has done well all season is guarding without fouling, but today will be a totally different challenge. UNCG is tremendous at earning free throw attempts and knocking them down. The Spartans are hitting just under 70 percent as a team and if the right guys get to the stripe they can make you pay. UK must be smart in who they challenge at the rim. Silly fouls like out of control charges and reach ins 30-plus feet away from the basket cannot happen. Kentucky must keep UNCG out of the bonus for as long as possible.
- The biggest threat Kentucky’s offense has been their offensive rebounding. On the year, UK ranks first in Division I at collecting boards on 45.9% of their misses. They must dominate this phase once again.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 30th, 2018 @ 7:15pm
The Kentucky men’s basketball team is hosting a very special visitor this weekend.
And it’s not a high-level recruit or former player.
Meet Kaylee, a Kentucky basketball super-fan with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Her one wish? To live the life of a Wildcat and hang out with the team for the weekend.
She started the trip by watching practice and getting autographs from the team:
Kaylee is looming forward to the game tomorrow but hard to top this. pic.twitter.com/9BYFkJDyaZ
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 30, 2018
Her favorite player? Quade Green, who she got a picture with after practice today.
She’ll be at the game tomorrow and then she’ll be with the team the rest of the weekend, so we’ll be sure to post updates on Kaylee’s special visit as they come.
By TJ Walker on ©November 30th, 2018 @ 3:15pm
During today’s media opportunity associate head coach Kenny Payne assessed his thoughts on sophomore PJ Washington and his importance to the team. He summed up what Washington means to this group better than I could with a million T.J.’s Takes. Payne nailed it.
“Contrary to most people I believe that P.J. Washington is a dominant basketball player that is super talented that can put this team on his back,” Payne said. “But for whatever reason there’s inconsistencies there. He has to handle that. He has to control that. He controls his own destiny, not us. We want him to play like he played those three games when he was dominant. Every game. That’s his test.
“I think he understands it more. I think he’s capable of being our best defender or one of our best defenders. I really think the game he got all the rebounds right after Nick (Richards) had the 19 rebound game. During that game he was telling Nick, ‘I’m getting your numbers. I’m beating 20 rebounds or 19 or whatever that number was.’ I think he’s the type of player that when he’s at his best our team is like really good. Personally, not coaching staff wise, personally I think when we play great or we lose… I hate to say it to you guys in the media, I look at (PJ). When our team energy isn’t right, I look at him. When our rebounding ain’t great, I look at him. When we’re not playing great offensively or defensively, when the game is tight. What has PJ Washington done? Is he in foul trouble? Is he playing with energy? That’s just me.”
Washington is averaging 12.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He didn’t reach Richards’ season-high 19 rebounds in that game against VMI, but he did finish with a 19 point and 18 rebound double-double. The game before he finished with a season-high 25 points against North Dakota. But in his last two games he’s combined for just 14 points and 15 rebounds.
When asked why he said “contrary to most people” Payne went into more detail:
“He’s a solid, good college player, and that’s good enough. That’s not good enough. Not for this program. Not for who and what his talent is. I will challenge PJ Washington to max out. To give us 110 percent, not just 100. It’s easy for PJ to give 85-80 percent and be a good player. He will not reach what he’s trying to attain by giving 85 percent. He has to give 110 percent and if he does, again I don’t like to put it on one player, this team becomes dominant.”
And UK could use 110 percent PJ Washington tomorrow. The Spartans of UNC Greensboro are 7-1 on the season with its only loss coming at LSU where they lost 97-91. Payne doesn’t expect an easy win tomorrow and expects to see the Spartans dancing in March.
“To be honest, I believe just from watching the games I’ve watched we’re playing an NCAA team, a tournament team that is very capable of beating us,” Payne said. “We’ll have to play with the same intensity we played the last game with. Be energetic, athletic and focused on defense for long stretches because they don’t make many mistakes. They are really good at shooting the ball, they’re really good at passing the ball. A true test to being an excellent offensive team is being a good passing team. They are a good passing team. Their guard play is really good. Again, we’re playing an NCAA Tournament team.”
!!!! DEAL OF THE CENTURY ALERT !!!!
Fans of the greatest program in college basketball history can go see their team in action this Saturday for only $15. Yes, FIFTEEN DOLLARS. American.
These tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com but only if you use the promo code GOCATS.
The tickets are 200-level seats from the unused student inventory and the deal will be available until one hour before tip-off Saturday afternoon.
So those of you who asked for the opportunity to buy the tickets the students don’t want, you got your wish. The UK ticket office was listening and they got you.
Click here for a direct link to purchase.
There are big birthdays, and then there’s the one Joe B. Hall is celebrating. The former Kentucky coach turns 90 today, and the birthday wishes are pouring in online.
First up, John Calipari, who is now 16 wins away from tying Joe B. for the second most victories by a UK head coach in program history:
It's also Joe B. Hall's 90th birthday today! I can't think of a better man, friend and mentor than Coach Hall, who has been unbelievable to me during my time here. Love looking over at practice and seeing him in the gym. We'll get that 1-3-1 zone in there one day, Coach! pic.twitter.com/asTpL5nGwN
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) November 30, 2018
You knew the venerable Oscar Combs would put together a great birthday tribute:
Happy 90th Birthday to Coach Joe B. Hall. The native Kentuckian started the fabulous tradition of taking the Wildcats to rural communities throughout Kentucky with the Blue-White scrimmages in ‘70s-‘80s. Enjoy your day Joe B., but please, let the guards shoot. @KentuckyMBB #BBN pic.twitter.com/AXE7RsVEnW
— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) November 30, 2018
From the Lexington Herald-Leader and https://t.co/WIoTvyc0kK files, the 1975 Wildcats carry Joe B. Hall off the floor at Dayton (Ohio) Arena after beating IU 92-90. Earlier in December, IU had beaten UK 98-74 in Bloomington. Take that, Bob Knight! @KentuckyMBB #BBN pic.twitter.com/T0iuQjlfgR
— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) November 30, 2018
Finally, a great quote from Doug Brunk, the author of “Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories from Kentucky Basketball Greats”:
Sending 90th birthday wishes to former @KentuckyMBB Coach Joe B. Hall! “The fan devotion of Big Blue Nation was a stimulus to my hard work,” Hall reflected in Wildcat Memories. “I was very serious about what it meant to so many people. I tried not to let those fans down.” pic.twitter.com/1lbHZH7Pr2
— Doug Brunk (@dougbrunk) November 30, 2018
Happy birthday, Coach.
By TJ Walker on ©November 29th, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Rivals says that six other freshmen have had a better start to their college careers than Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson. The 6-foot-6, 211-pound wing is averaging 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Johnson has scored double-digits in all but one game (nine points against VMI) and is shooting 50 percent from the floor.
The six players ranked ahead of Johnson have similar numbers and you can make the case that five players have better stats, but outside of the Duke freshmen no other freshman on the list is playing on loaded rosters like UK or Duke’s. Maybe an exception for UNC’s Coby White, but he’s taken 14 more shots on the season than Johnson and is shooting at a lower clip from the field. Had Johnson picked Maryland, Texas or NC State (other schools in the running during his recruitment) it’s easy to assume Johnson’s numbers would be as good as any first year player in the country.
Rivals entire top 10:
- Zion Williamson
- R.J. Barrett
- Luguentz Dort
- Bol Bol
- Romeo Langford
- Coby White
- Keldon Johnson
- Ignas Brazdeikis
- Xavier Johnson
- Antoine Davis
No reason to get worked up over this list (or really any piece of journalism if we’re being honest) but there are several head-scratching omissions. No Charles Bassey, Moses Brown or Nassir Little in the top 10? I’m sure Rivals didn’t want to be too Duke heavy, but Cameron Reddish has been great for the Blue Devils. All those players that I just listed were included on the “Honorable Mention” list, which included 16 total players.
But no Tyler Herro, who’s averaging 10.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and a team-high 1.7 steals per game.
I don’t think anyone is touching the top two players on the list, but I can’t wait to see Johnson progress. I wouldn’t be shocked if he finished as the third best first-year player in college basketball when it’s all said and done, although Little and Bol are freaks.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 29th, 2018 @ 9:00am
The main storyline for Kentucky’s 90-44 obliteration of Monmouth was centered around the team’s dominant performance on defense, but head coach John Calipari was also quite excited about something he saw on the other end of the floor.
After his team’s 10-make, 42-percent performance from beyond the arc, Calipari was quick to announce it was his best three-point shooting team since he arrived in Lexington.
Not the years with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, or Malik Monk in his arsenal. This 2018-19 squad.
“This is the best three-point shooting team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “We need to take between 18 and 24 threes. I don’t — any time my teams historically have shot 30 threes, we don’t ever win. We just don’t. I don’t know why, the way I coach, the way the system is, the way we do this. But when you have a team like this they should shoot 18 to 24 threes. They really should.”
Wednesday night, the Wildcats reached the latter of that threshold, taking a season-high 24 shots from deep. They made the most threes of the season with ten, and finished with their highest conversion rate at 42 percent (previous high was 39 percent). And they accomplished the feat by spreading the wealth.
Six different players hit three-pointers tonight, two of them being forwards Reid Travis and PJ Washington, and another two hitting multiple shots from deep.
Calipari doubled-down on his high praise, singling out point guard Immanuel Quickley as the only three-point shooter not carrying his weight on the team. For a player that won the three-point contest both at the McDonald’s All-American Game and Big Blue Madness, he needs to step up to give Kentucky the most versatile shooting squad since Calipari has been at Kentucky.
“I’m telling you, it’s the best three-point shooting team I’ve had,” he said once more. “Come on, Immanuel, you can’t shoot 19 percent from the three. No. No. Not when you’re making 60 some shots in practice. Not when you — no, you’re not, you have to, you add him to what we’re doing and he starts making threes, with Quade, with Tyler, with Keldon and our bigs? Because our bigs can shoot. So now you have PJ and you have Reid who can shoot threes.”
Quade Green, who hit a career-high four three-pointers tonight, said his teammates should get credit for finding the hot hand in the overwhelming victory. With ball movement and made shots on the outside, it allowed the post game to develop, as well.
“It felt good, thanks to my teammates to find me when I was open,” the sophomore point guard said. “Thanks to them, I was able to hit open shots. … They play zone so we wanted to get them out of their zone a little bit, make the wings come up in the bottom half so the big men can operate.”
As for Calipari’s “best three-point shooting team” comments, Green said he’s just focused on using his team’s success on Wednesday night to help develop consistency going forward. Still, though, the Philadelphia, PA native couldn’t help but admit he would look into that a bit and follow up later.
“I don’t know, I’ve never looked at it like that,” he said with a laugh. “I’m gonna have to do some research and get back to you on that.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 29th, 2018 @ 12:32am
Coming into this game, John Calipari sounded defeated when discussing his team’s defensive woes. A man who prides himself on getting young guys to buy in on defense, Calipari couldn’t help but let out a rueful laugh when asked where he’s setting the bar in practice.
“How about this: The standard defensively (is) let’s just be better than yesterday. Then let’s look at the last game and let’s get better.”
Kentucky’s defense was better tonight. A large part of that was their competition, a winless Monmouth team that was painfully outmatched; however, baby steps are baby steps, and Calipari will take it.
“Better. Better,” Cal said. “We are zeroed in right now defensively on what we have to do. Now, we made some mistakes, but effort and energy — we didn’t scramble as much. We didn’t stop as much.”
The most notable difference on defense was on the perimeter. After allowing 38 threes over the last three games, Kentucky held Monmouth to 2-16 from beyond the arc; in fact, the Hawks only made 16 shots total. More often than not, Kentucky’s players were in the right position and worked together, which is more than we could say for the last six games. Calipari attributed that improvement to a new drill in practice.
“Three stops in a row equals a kill. Now, we had two stops in a row probably eight times, seven, eight, nine, but we had five kills. That’s how you stretch games out.”
It was also refreshing to see Kentucky use their length and athleticism in transition. For that, we have Tony Barbee to thank.
“Tony Barbee said, we got to put in a transition defensive drill because that’s where our issues start. And we did it for two days and we did it today. It was great move.”
Whatever the drill may be, it’s working. Cal said that for the first time, his players took pride in their defense, which propelled them in other areas of their game.
“I told them, this is the best they’ve played and it’s because of what we did defensively. And, as they guard, do you seeing them building their own confidence on offense? When you guard and build confidence in yourself, you’re going to be aggressive on offense too.”
No one proved Calipari right more than Tyler Herro. Herro led all scorers with 16 points tonight, but he also had eight rebounds and five steals. We all scoffed when Calipari praised Herro’s defense on Media Day, but Herro’s energy on defense was the catalyst he needed for a big game on offense. He still gets beat by his man on occasion, but now, Calipari has an example he can use to inspire others.
Keldon Johnson’s listening. In his postgame radio interview with Mike Pratt, he gave the defense a grade of “B.”
“I think we’re steadily improving, but finishing up the full 40 minutes, the whole game plan, talking…If we get the defense, the offense will come.”
Again, Monmouth is not a good basketball team; yet, with the schedule getting considerably harder from here on out, Kentucky needed to beat up on a team to show they can carry over Calipari’s lessons from practice. Speaking of, the work is just going to get more intense at the Joe Craft Center.
“I told them I’m going to be tougher in the practices and lighten up in the games and accept where they are,” Cal said. “We are who we are. I’m not going to try to force it along, we’re not skipping steps. This was a good first step for us.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 29th, 2018 @ 12:25am
For the first time this season, the Kentucky basketball team suffocated an opponent on both ends of the floor, defeating the Monmouth Hawks by a final score of 90-44.
Shooting 57 percent from the floor, 42 percent from three (on a season-high 24 attempts, nonetheless), and 87 percent from the free throw line, things were working on offense. Their effort on defense, however, was what really turned heads in the victory.
The Wildcats allowed the Hawks to shoot just 27 percent from the field, 12.5 percent from three, forced 16 turnovers, and blocked five shots. Nothing came easy for Monmouth, both on the perimeter and in the paint.
“We are zeroed in right now defensively on what we have to do,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said after the game. “Now we made some mistakes but effort and energy we scrambled, we didn’t stop as much.”
Calipari said the defensive intensity was so high that players were fighting to hold the opposition under four points each stretch to avoid substitution at the next break. It was a positive improvement
“There were times where they left the — they held them under four points and I went to sub and the guys in the game said, what? They don’t have six yet, leave us in. And they stayed in the game. And so they’re taking pride,” he said.
It’s centered around a new system recently implemented by the Kentucky coaching staff. To put it simply, stops equal “kills,” which slowly help spread UK’s lead in games like it did tonight.
“We also added something, three stops in a row equals a kill,” Calipari said. “Now we had two stops in a row probably eight times, seven eight times, nine. But we had five kills. That’s how you stretch games out.”
Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans, who finished with a season-high seven points to go with two rebounds, three assists, and one steal, said the brand-new system is forcing players to compete at a higher level.
“We heard about it right when we came out, I’m not even gonna lie to you,” Hagans said. “But that made us play more aggressive on the defensive end. He was saying if we keep getting stops, he’s going to leave that group in, call a timeout if they need it, if they get tired. It’s making guys play harder.”
Hagans says they get regular updates on their total kills throughout the game.
“They kept track of the kills on the bench,” he said.
With the new system, Calipari said it was easily the best overall team performance he’s seen all season long. When the defensive intensity ramped up, the offense came along with it, and it resulted in a 46-point smothering on Wednesday night.
“I told them, this is the best we played,” he said. “And it’s because of what we did defensively. And as they guard, do you see them building their own confidence on offense? When you guard and you build confidence in yourself you’re going to be aggressive on offense too.”
In his eyes, it was a great step forward for a team that has been relatively underwhelming thus far in the season.
“You play with that energy, you play with that, it’s easier,” he said. “I told them I’m going to be tougher in the practices and lighten up in the games and accept where they are. We are who we are. I’m not going to try to force it along, we’re not skipping steps. This was a good first step for us.”
No, the 0-8 Monmouth Hawks aren’t very good, but for a team that has struggled so much against lesser opponents this season, it was definitely a breath of fresh air. The players and coaches have been stressing consistency on both ends of the floor all year, and for the first time in seven games, they finally accomplished that.
By Maggie Davis on ©November 29th, 2018 @ 12:20am
Three Wildcats talked to the media following Kentucky’s big win over Monmouth. Here’s what Tyler Herro, Quade Green and Ashton Hagans had to say:
Tyler Herro touched on his 16-point performance, the team’s three-point shooting and his improving defense.
Quade Green talked about finding his shot and the role “energy” will play in determining the starting five. Plus, what does Coach Cal yell at him during the game?
Ashton Hagans discussed the team’s ability to communicate on the floor and how the team is preparing for December’s tough schedule.