The final score doesn’t reflect it, but there were times in this game that it seemed →
Basketball Season Coverage
It’s a new week, and your University of Kentucky Wildcats moved up one spot to fifth in both the AP and Coaches Polls. Villanova reclaimed the top spot in the AP Poll after former number one Baylor lost at West Virginia, although Kansas actually got more first-place votes. Kansas did get the top spot in the Coaches Poll, followed by Villanova, UCLA, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.
Here are both polls for your viewing pleasure:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 16th, 2017 @ 12:12pm
Today’s least surprising news? Malik Monk just won SEC Freshman of the Week. Again. Actually, for the third time. Monk averaged 21 points and 3.5 assists in Kentucky’s wins over Vanderbilt and Auburn and has scored 20+ points in ten games this season. That’s pretty impressive. Monk is now tied with De’Aaron Fox for SEC weekly honors with four (he won the Player of the Week after his massive 47-point game vs. UNC).
Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s Quindarry Weatherspoon was named SEC Player of the Week after scoring 25 points in the Bulldogs’ win over Arkansas this weekend. If you’re wondering what Kentucky has to do to avoid an upset in Starkville tomorrow night, stopping Weatherspoon is a good place to start.
Let’s celebrate Monk’s award by watching his highlights from Saturday, because there were a lot of them:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 16th, 2017 @ 10:00am
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of John Calipari is like? Well, so did The New Yorker, so they sent one of their writers, Yaron Weitzman, to follow him as he made the media rounds to promote his book in Manhattan following Kentucky’s win over Michigan State in the Champions Classic in November. Weitzman gives us some great behind-the-scenes moments with Cal, including the moment he found out point guard Quade Green was coming to Lexington:
Back on the road, Calipari called Tameka Johnson, the mother of Quade Green, a crafty point guard from Philadelphia. “I’m really excited to be coaching him,” he told her. He hung up and informed Lindsey that Green had committed to Kentucky. “And they say I have to buy players—why would I need to buy players when all mine go to the N.B.A.?”
Lots of other great stuff, including the one moment in Calipari’s life in which he admitted he was “scared shitless,” so go check it out.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 16th, 2017 @ 9:00am
Good morning, friends, and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Whether you’re at work/school or at home, we’ll get you through the day, which is chock full of UK sports news. Shoutout to the UK Cheerleading squad, who brought home their 22nd national championship yesterday, an unprecedented feat. Here’s part of their routine:
— American Cheerleader (@cheerleadermag) January 16, 2017
The UK Dance Squad also turned in an impressive performance, finishing second in the Hip Hop competition and fourth in the Pom competition. Well done, ladies.
Now, on to the rest of today’s agenda…
1. We’ll look forward to Mississippi State
Starkville is the armpit of America, so thankfully, Matt didn’t require one of us to go, but we’ll do our best to prepare you for Kentucky’s game throughout the day. Here’s a glimpse at what Ben Howland’s squad has done so far this season:
Given the horrid state of SEC Basketball, it’s hard to tell how impressive Mississippi State’s 3-1 league record really is, but regardless, the Cats can’t afford to look past tomorrow’s showdown at The Hump.
2. John Calipari will be on the SEC Teleconference
Cal will discuss tomorrow’s matchup and take a few questions on this morning’s SEC Teleconference, so check the site mid-morning for highlights.
3. Joel Justus will preview Mississippi State at 2:45 p.m.
Because Calipari’s doing the SEC call, assistant coach Joel Justus will preview Kentucky’s road trip at 2:45 p.m., along with a few players. We’ll have a live stream on the site and a recap shortly after.
4. Four future Cats were named to the McDonald’s All-American Game
If you missed the news last night, Quade Green, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, and Jarred Vanderbilt were chosen for the McDonald’s All-American Game, which will be played March 29 at the United Center in Chicago. In a telling stat, 29 Kentucky players have been chosen for the all-star game in the Calipari Era, the most by far of any program. In fact, this screenshot tells you all you need to know:
Coincidentally, all four of Kentucky’s commits will play on the same team as Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox, which is good because, you know, peer pressure. Speaking of…
5. Bamba will take an official visit to UK this weekend
Mohamed Bamba is the biggest remaining target in the 2017 class and this weekend, he’ll take his official visit to Lexington. The 7-footer already visited for Big Blue Madness and has taken official visits to Michigan and Texas. Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo have been relentless in their pursuit of Bamba, so hopefully having him on campus this weekend can further Kentucky’s case. His 247 Sports Crystal Ball is a 50/50 split between Duke and Kentucky, but on Thursday, Jerry Meyer flipped his pick from the Blue Devils to the Cats, which is a very good sign.
6. Calipari visited Immanuel Quickley yesterday
Because the man is incapable of sitting still, Calipari was on the recruiting trail yesterday, visiting 2018 star Immanuel Quickley. Quickley is currently the only point guard in the 2018 class with a scholarship offer from Kentucky, and visited UK for Big Blue Madness back in October. He’s also got offers from Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, and Virginia.
7. Drake wore a Zion Williamson jersey over the weekend
Zion Williamson is considered one of the best players in the 2018 class and still doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky, but he does have the endorsement of one of UK’s most famous fans, Drake. Drake was pictured wearing Williamson’s jersey this weekend:
A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on
Don’t put your middle fingers up like that, kids. It’s not nice.
8. So, landing Lynn Bowden was huge
In case you missed it between all the basketball, Mark Stoops landed a huge recruit on Saturday in four-star athlete Lynn Bowden. Bowden chose the Cats over Penn State and West Virginia, and has been described as the most electric playmaker since Randall Cobb. Keeping Bowden on board will be paramount over the next couple of weeks, and cross your fingers that Ohio State doesn’t come calling.
A photo posted by HUNCHO 😎 (@h.huncho_) on
9. How about those Green Bay Packers?
Speaking of Randall Cobb, how about last night’s Packers/Cowboys game?? Green Bay advanced to the NFC Championship in thrilling fashion thanks to a last second 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. It was awesome:
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 16, 2017
Bud Dupree and the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship game as well. The Packers take on the Falcons in Atlanta next Sunday. Anyone want to swing through Nashville and pick me up on the way to the game?
10. Today’s the last day to #NBAVOTE
Do you want your favorite former Cats to be NBA All Stars? Then you best get to voting because the polls close today. Here’s how:
- Go to NBA.com/vote and select your favorite players (you can vote once per day)
- Vote through the NBA app (once per day)
- Tweet, retweet or reply with an NBA player’s first and last name or Twitter handle with the hashtag #NBAVOTE. You can vote for up to ten players per day using this method.
- Do the same thing on Facebook
- You can even just Google search “NBA Vote All-Star” and it will pull up a special ballot.
Radio in an hour…
Wenyen Gabriel was the surprising X-factor in last night’s game playing 29 minutes. In those 29 minutes Gabriel scored six points and grabbed 16 rebounds, the most in any SEC matchup by a player in the Calipari Era.
Gabriel opened up yesterday’s game with a three-pointer and his 29 minutes were the most he’s played all season. After the game, Calipari had nothing but praise for the freshman, in few little words.
Gabriel’s 16 rebounds yesterday are the most ever for any player in the Coach Cal era in SEC play. pic.twitter.com/cCzQtCIEQU
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 15, 2017
“Woo,” Calipari said, “Wow.”
Not many people can leave Calipari speechless, but apparently 16 rebounds does the trick.
This was an interesting graphic that was displayed during yesterday’s win over Auburn. In Calipari’s career, his players have made $1.2 billion. His current Kentucky players on NBA rosters are making $172 million combined just this season. As the graphic mentions, his $1.2 billion combined is worth more than the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise. ESPN continues to give the Cats more recruiting tools to use. We are looking at you Mo Bamba.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 14th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
There are games we’re going to remember from this season, and there are games we probably won’t; aside from a few highlights, today’s was the latter. After holding a comfortable 12-point lead at halftime, Kentucky sleepwalked through the first twelve minutes of the second half, letting Auburn cut the lead to four. Thankfully, the offense woke up and went to work, putting Auburn away by a final score of 92-72. Malik Monk led the way with 24 points and six assists, but you could argue the night really belonged to Wenyen Gabriel, who turned in a career-high 16 rebounds. In fact, that’s where we’ll start tonight’s recap.
1. Wenyen Gabriel came to play
Admit it: before tonight’s game, you wondered why John Calipari was letting Wenyen Gabriel start. The freshman forward showed us all why early on, hitting two threes, grabbing five rebounds, and blocking two shots in the first seven minutes. He finished with a career-high 16 rebounds, 6 points, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in 29 minutes. If you believe in the plus/minus efficiency numbers, Kentucky was +28 with Wenyen in this afternoon.
“Woo! Wow,” John Calipari said of Gabriel’s performance afterwards. “I told him, you’re a double-double if you just make a free throw. Just make some free throws and you’re a double-double.” (Wenyen missed all four.)
“It felt good,” Wenyen said of seeing his threes fall early. “It kind of felt like I am going back to how I was, how I was playing in high school. My confidence is coming back and I’m about to start playing more aggressive.”
Wenyen’s story was mentioned a lot on ESPN’s broadcast, so if you haven’t yet, check out my profile of him from last month. The more attention it gets, the better.
2. Kentucky’s defense wasn’t great, but the offense compensated
Until the last five minutes of the game, Kentucky’s defense was hot garbage. Auburn got the best of Kentucky in points in the paint (38-36) and second chance points (14-10), which showed Calipari this team’s got a long ways to go.
“They have got to get better,” Cal said. “At the end of the day, if we’re going to be anything, it will be because we’re a terrific defensive team. We’re not there yet. We’re just not.”
With the score close, Kentucky went on a 14-4 run, thanks in part to some thrilling plays by Malik Monk. Thankfully, the defense followed suit, not allowing Auburn to score a single point in the final 4:28 of the game.
3. Did you see these plays by Malik Monk?
This dunk will be on SportsCenter’s Top 10 tonight:
Malik Monk Soars for a MASSIVE Slam!! pic.twitter.com/6VsPdXucnN
— Wildcat Dunks (@WildcatDunks) January 14, 2017
This circus shot may be too:
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) January 14, 2017
He topped off his big night with a photobomb, ala the 2014-15 team:
Speaking of Monk…
4. The threes were falling
Kentucky made 11-19 threes today, eight in the first half, for a season-high 57.9%. After a 1-9 three-point performance vs. Vandy, that was certainly nice to see. Monk had four of those threes, followed by Isaiah Briscoe and Gabriel with two a piece and De’Aaron Fox, Mychal Mulder, and Dominique Hawkins with one each.
5. Mychal Mulder had a good night
Mulder finished with 12 points, one shy of his career high, thanks in part to Calipari utilizing his four-guard lineup. Cal said he put Mulder in because he was frustrated that his bigs couldn’t stay in front of Auburn.
“I thought Mychal played well. That’s as good as Mychal has played. And it’s good, because we need that, like in this kind of game,” Cal said. “Understand, every team is doing the same thing to us. This is not hard. If you can’t move your feet and stay in front of everybody, either I have to play a zone or you can’t play. It’s, you know, that’s why I want Mychal, we went small lineup. Let Mychal try to stay in front then.”
6. “I don’t enjoy coaching the way I did today”
If you couldn’t tell from him pacing the sideline and screaming/yodeling at his players, Cal was not happy with his team for most of this game. Afterwards, he lamented that he basically had to hold his team’s hand throughout the game, calling out plays on each possession.
“I had to fight them the whole game. I don’t enjoy coaching the way I coached today. I should be a cheerleader. Obviously they are not ready for that. And what bothered me in the second half, as they made their run, I had to make a call every time down the floor. That’s not how you want to coach. You’re not going to be that team, if you have to — and if I have to do that, I will. But at some point, this team’s got to be empowered, and they are just — they are not ready.”
7. So. Many. Fouls.
For the second game in a row, it was hard for either team to get in a flow because of all the fouls that were called. Fifty-one fouls were called tonight, 31 on Auburn, 18 on Kentucky. Between this game and the last one at Vandy, 92 fouls have been called, which is absolutely absurd.
“Fouls are errors,” Bruce Pearl said. “We fouled them 31 times.”
Unfortunately, Kentucky didn’t capitalize enough on Auburn’s errors, making only 53% (17-32) of its free throws, an uncharacteristically bad mark. Calipari joked afterwards the poor free throw shooting was contagious.
“It’s contagious. We were in there arguing who missed the first couple. I said, first of all, Isaiah Briscoe said it was Wenyen. I said it wasn’t Wenyen. Someone missed before Wenyen, and I think it was Bam, and then Bam was saying it was somebody else. But what happens is you see a guy miss, and now you’re going to the line saying, ‘Geez, I can’t miss.'”
De’Aaron Fox fouled out with seven minutes left, and if you’re one for silver linings, the fact that Kentucky won by 20 with him on the bench for that long is a good one.
8. “We’re a month away”
We’re less than two months away from the SEC Tournament, which is good, because Calipari estimated his squad is a month away from what they need to be to make a postseason run.
“I still think we’re a month away to be what we need this thing to be if we’re going to be one of those teams at the end because we’re not there right now,” Cal said.
For all of the faults Calipari found in his squad today, he said he was encouraged by their chatter after the game in the locker room.
“These kids are trying. I love the chatter in the locker room. They were talking and you know, when kids are excited, they chatter. So you had just everybody in there talking and it was — then they talk louder and I’m in my office and I can hear them in there. That’s what I want to hear. I want to hear that at dinner. You know, it means they care about one another. They like each other. There’s some emotion between them.”
9. All in all, it’s been a pretty nice Saturday
Kentucky’s defense was bad and De’Aaron Fox was on the bench the last seven minutes, but they still won by 20. The football team got arguably their most explosive commitment of the Stoops era in Lynn Bowden, who announced his commitment on our pregame show. Add in a Duke loss (even if it was to Louisville) that included Grayson Allen getting smacked in the face and that’s a pretty nice little Saturday. Do your best to go enjoy the rest of it.
By Nick Roush on ©January 14th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
The pace of the game was slowed to the speed of smell. The only thing keeping fans on either side awake were the referees’ whistles. Then, things got scary.
With 7:24 left in the game, De’Aaron Fox picked up his fifth foul. Despite his protests, Fox’s block was legitimate. Kentucky’s lead was cut to just eight and they were forced to finish without their starting point guard, who accounted for 13 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
The Cats were ready to respond.
“We had to pick up the energy because we lost a very important player,” Bam Adebayo said after the game. “The team came together and we played even harder because we had to make up for the what we were losing defensively and offensively.”
A lot of that energy can be attributed to Mychal Mulder. Entering the game shortly after Fox fouled out, Mulder had 9 points, an assist and a rebound in the final six minutes.
“In that time of the game, it is just time to win,” Mychal Mulder said after the game. “We lose De’Aaron to five fouls and that is something that we are going to have to deal with once in awhile. But, you know, we still have a lot of guys and guards who create plays and finish at the rim and play hard defense. So, you know, it was winning time from there on out and we just tried to push the lead as much as we could.”
Once Fox was finished, a.k.a. winning time, Kentucky outscored Auburn 19-7. Auburn’s last field goal was a three-pointer with 4:28 remaining. They didn’t score another point before the final horn.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 14th, 2017 @ 8:30pm
After taking a 20-point L to John Calipari’s sixth-ranked Wildcats, Bruce Pearl was asked to discuss his relationship with Calipari, which goes back to their Tennessee-Memphis rivalry of a decade ago.
Pearl had some really nice things to say about Cal, which I will share with you below at this time:
“For a long, long time, one of the greatest jobs in the history of college basketball is what John Calipari did at UMass. I’ve said it for a long time. I grew up in Boston and I went to Boston College. I was there and I left when I was 22 years old. I know what UMass basketball was, I know what he made it, and I know what it has been since he left. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for that.
When he went to Memphis, he was at a place, and it’s hard to believe this, I was at the big school. I was at Tennessee and Memphis was a small school in the corner. They hated Tennessee, and that was the beginning of John and I having a bit of a rivalry. I’d like to think that the things he doesn’t like about me are some of the things I don’t like about him, but I have great respect for him. I always have. When you have respect for a coach like that, and I do, you have to challenge John. I want him to have to prepare to play Auburn. I want him to be pissed off that we beat them last year. They weren’t a great team and we made some shots and made some plays. It was a tough place to play and it matters if you can beat John Calipari at Kentucky. You do want to earn the respect of them here because you respect him.”
In response to that, Calipari said (jokingly I assume), “They beat us last year?!”
Cal then went on to say, “You’re competing in a league. You’re trying to do your best and you’re going against guys, but I have no problem with Bruce. He’s doing a good job.”
Prayers up for Auburn’s Mustapha Heron after he got caught on the wrong end of a Bam Slam. Heron came over to help inside and that is one life decision I am sure he would like to take back.
Watch as he finds himself on a new poster:
— Wildcat Dunks (@WildcatDunks) January 14, 2017
By Drew Franklin on ©January 14th, 2017 @ 7:03pm
With over half the regular season games in the rearview mirror, it is time for someone, anyone, to step up and join De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe and Bam Adebayo as a regular contributor. This team is still one steady player away and someone needs to elevate their game in this final half of the season.
Today, Wenyen Gabriel and Mychal Mulder each played their best games of the season (and I guess you could say in their careers) to make their case for more playing time moving forward. Gabriel hit two three-pointers and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds with two blocks in his career-high 29 minutes; while Mulder scored 12 points for his first time in double figures since late November.
John Calipari was very complimentary of both players, although he told Gabriel it would’ve been a double-double if he would hit his free throws. When asked about the other aspects of Gabriel’s game today, Cal said, “Whew, Wow!”
Hopefully we’ll see more of the same from both guys in the games to come.
Kentucky got its revenge for last year’s loss at Auburn with a big win Saturday in Rupp Arena. Auburn did give the Cats more than most expected Bruce Pearl’s club would, but it still wasn’t enough for an upset as Kentucky went on to win big, 92-72.
Check out the stats from the game and then join us for postgame chatter throughout the rest of the night.