Basketball Season Coverage
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 29th, 2018 @ 12:00am
Q. How close was today?
JOHN CALIPARI: I have to watch the tape but it was, the energy was unbelievable and we just rode the guys that had energy. I said late in the game, we had a guy get beat two or three times straight line drives late. Seven minutes to go, you’re out. Ashton went in and settled it down. Which may look like Ashton should maybe be in the game the last part of the game. Let him be in there guarding and keeping people in front and mixing it up. Tyler played well. I thought Keldon really did some really good stuff. And they’re figuring out to sub themselves. I left Reid in there too long at the beginning of the game. He should have been in four, five minutes and — the beginning of the game there’s anxiety and it’s not just playing the game, there’s all the stuff that goes with the beginning of the game. And then after that they settle down and played. A few turnovers we didn’t need to have but you know what, we passed the ball to each other, we were trying and again trying to get five, six seven guys in double figures, you know, it was good.
Q. Yesterday you emphasized defense. How well do you think your guys did it deep into the shot clock tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: Better. Better. Look and I told them after, my whole career if my team’s not doing something, I’m, I look back at what I’m doing and what I’m teaching and saying, how do we do this. Because in most cases the teams I coach will do what I ask them to do. So am I not doing the right things, do we need to focus on other stuff. We are zeroed in right now defensively on what we have to do. Now we made some mistakes but effort and energy we scrambled, we didn’t stop as much. 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. We also added something, three stops in a row equals a kill. 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. And you could say what you want, these guys are a little bit snake bit now because the game I watched they were up 12 the last game they played at home and they, the guy makes a three at the buzzer and beats them and so King, he’s going to get this thing right, they got a young team they’re inexperienced, but to be honest, they’re probably better than a couple teams we played already. And we didn’t do this to those teams. I told them, this is the best we played. 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. Well, no, you take me out when I make a mistake. No, you got scored on four straight times, that’s why you didn’t have confidence. Don’t put that back to here. And so again, you play with that energy, you play with that, it’s easier. 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.
By Drew Franklin on ©November 28th, 2018 @ 11:41pm
It pains me to report that Sophomore Nick Richards has lost his place in the rotation and fallen behind Reid Travis, PJ Washington and true freshman EJ Montgomery.
After starting two straight games for the Wildcats, Richards came off the bench Wednesday night against Monmouth, but not until there were only four minutes left in the first half. He played only nine minutes in the entire game.
Afterward, John Calipari was asked about Richards’ decline in playing time, to which he said, “Because he’s behind those other three.”
“Like in the Bahamas, you do understand I only played three big guys,” Cal explained. “Only three big guys played. I didn’t play four. So now who is the fourth big? Whoever chooses not to play with energy. Whoever goes to practice and if you’re not practicing then you’re the fourth big, you’re out for a minute. Now you’ll get a chance to play, but you better play well because you’re that odd man out right now. So if you looked at our practice you would say the fourth big on your team is Nick.”
As Sophomore Nick Richards’ biggest fan, this news spoiled all the happiness I had from the win. But I have no doubt SNR will take this to heart and come back bigger and badder than ever.
Take a look at Kentucky’s stats on the season through seven games played. Three-point shooting is up almost two percent and three-point defense is gradually getting better. (Thanks, Monmouth!)
Also of note: Quade Green is closer to becoming the fifth Wildcat with a double-digit scoring average.
By Drew Franklin on ©November 28th, 2018 @ 11:12pm
Fans are wondering if Jemarl Baker will ever play a game for Kentucky, and the latest update doesn’t shed any new light on Baker’s immediate future.
When asked to provide an update on Baker’s playing status, Calipari said, “Everyday I look at the sheet it says he’s out. He’s telling me his knee’s feeling better, so at some point when I look at that sheet, it’s going to say FULL. Right now it says OUT, so he’s out.”
There ya go… the latest on the mystery of Jemarl Baker, straight from his coach’s mouth.
For what it’s worth, Baker was dressed out and participated in pregame warmups.
That was more like it. Kentucky stepped it up in a big way defensively on Wednesday and put together a near 40-minute performance in the Cats’ most complete game of the season.
Here are five takeaways from UK’s 90-84 win over Monmouth.
1. The Win:
Kentucky fans have been waiting to see a blowout win like that. Some folks would have predicted a 7-0 start to the season, but no one predicted anything worse than 6-1. That’s where UK’s at after tonight’s win. No one is complaining about the record but some UK fans have expressed concerns about the way the Cats have won their games and obviously the lone loss was an eye-opener.
But there won’t be too many complaints from tonight. UK rocked Monmouth from start to finish and it was possibly the best performance of the season. The Cats continue to shine offensively and wasn’t overly careless with the ball tonight, but obviously the biggest positive is the defensive performance.
I was starting to wonder if this team would never get there defensively, which I know was probably premature, but at least we finally saw a step in the right direction. Even if it was Monmouth that was important.
The biggest difference I saw on Wednesday evening was UK looked more comfortable finding their guys in transition or covering a teammate’s mistakes. That’s primarily how UK’s been getting lost this season. Kentucky wants to play fast and if that works it means you’re going to speed up the opponent. If you’re speeding up the opponent that means the tempo is going to be quicker. All commonsense but it’s where UK was struggling and allowing opponent’s to get open looks.
That isn’t UK’s only defensive concerns, some guards are getting blown by, but all things considered tonight was better. Monmouth still doesn’t have a win on the season, so we need to remember that, but hopefully UK can continue to build on tonight’s defensive effort.
Also nice to see a team struggle from deep. 12.5 percent with two made threes isn’t good for Monmouth.
I’m starting to fall in love with this group from an offensive standpoint. They can score inside but Calipari was right about how good they are shooting. Quade Green is above 40 percent on the year and hit four threes tonight. Herro is heating up and looking dangerous from the perimeter. Keldon’s shot continues to be a pleasant surprise and the bigs still appear to be a threat from deep. I can’t imagine a lineup that at anytime doesn’t have at least three shooters on the floor, and most times there may be four guys.
That’s going to be tough to guard.
Just because UK had one good defensive performance tonight doesn’t mean they’re turned a corner, and the defense will probably never be top 10 or 20 in the country, but if you’re going to have a suspect defense it really helps to have a great offense. There aren’t too many better than UK in my opinion. And they are just getting started, bro.
Monmouth also played zone, they doubled the block, tried to make Herro catch the ball feet off the three-point line. Again, the Eagles aren’t great, but UK beat them in a variety of ways.
4. PJ Washington:
I guess it was nice to see him take care of the ball a little more tonight, but he’s really had a really tough two game stretch after an amazing three straight games.
Consistency seems like it’s going to be a problem again for Washington, but let’s hope its fixed before the schedule becomes meatier.
Offensively if he scores 19 or 25 points the Cats are going to be tough to beat. But UK won’t be reliant on his scoring. There are other guys that will step up and take care of the points. But UK can’t have this defensive effort from Washington. I think it’s almost all effort because I know he’s talented enough and we’ve seen him have nice defensive stretches (against UT last year for sure). Let’s just hope it’s being disinterested in the opponent because UK needs Washington on the floor but can’t play him when he’s standing around.
5. Moving Forward:
The Cats go to a football scheduling format starting on Saturday where UK will only play once a week. Those games will be on Saturday’s and maybe only one more true cupcake left on the schedule.
It would make UK fans feel warm and fuzzy inside if the Cats did more of the same defensively against UNC-Greensboro like we saw tonight.
But most importantly is all the practices UK will have over the next month. I’m not sure if we’ll get the infamous Camp Cal rants, but we should see a lot of improvement over December. And with only one game a week it means we should be seeing improvements week-to-week.
Nice win for UK tonight but now consistency becomes important.
The Kentucky basketball team we’ve all been waiting for made an appearance in Rupp Arena tonight. It helped that the Cats played a horrible Monmouth team, but it was still a fun game to watch nonetheless.
Kentucky controlled the game from start to finish, something we haven’t been able to say all season. Tyler Herro led the way in scoring with 16 points, followed by fellow double-digit scorers Keldon Johnson with 15, Quade Green with 14 and Reid Travis with 13.
In the end it was UK on top, 90-44.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 28th, 2018 @ 8:15pm
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1. The start to the 2018-19 season for the Monmouth Hawks has not exactly gone to plan for Head Coach King Rice. After going 11-20 last season, the Hawks have lost their first seven games of this season. Not to put the cart before the horse here, but when you include the pending loss to Kentucky tonight, an 0-8 start has to be mentally dismantling for any team. It is hard to believe that Coach Rice is just two years removed from having Monmouth finish with a 27-7 record and a trip to the NIT in the 2015-16 season.
2. Part of the reason that Monmouth has struggled so much to start the season is that they just flat out cannot score the basketball at a high enough clip. The highest the Hawks have scored in a game this season is 74, and every other game has been 63 or less. Their struggles to score have them as one of the lowest scoring team in the country at this point in the year. Monmouth’s 60.6 points per contest ranks 339th out of 353 Division I teams, whereas Kentucky ranks 33rd with 84.5 points per game. We all know Kentucky has struggled on defense to begin this season, but tonight’s game could be a good chance to get back on track with both on ball defense and three-point defense.
3. If Monmouth’s team scoring didn’t tell the whole story, looking at their individual stats will do the trick. The Hawks best player is the only player they have scoring in double figures on the year. Sophomore guard Deion Hammond stands at 6’4″ and 200 pounds and is scoring 12.9 points per game, to go along with 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. He’s made 32% of his threes on the season, but is shooting just 35% from the field overall. His percentage from the field can be detrimental to the team, as he’s attempted 31 more shots than any other player. I can see Hammond using the spotlight of playing in Rupp to try to shoot the lights out tonight and take more shots than he has in a game all season. The over/under I’m setting is at least 7 three point attempts and 16 attempts overall.
4. On top of the issues with actually getting their shots to fall, Coach Rice’s squad struggles to match the size of opposing teams. The Hawks’ leading rebounder this year is their starting point guard who stands at just 6’3″. The four tallest players for Monmouth measure in at 6’11”, 6’9″, 6’8″, and 6’8″. Not a bad front line at all, except for that 6’11” Sam Ibiezugbe plays just 7 minutes per game, 6’9″ Diago Quinn plays only 8 minutes, and 6’8″ Nikkei Rutty checks in for 10 minutes. In fact, the tallest player that actually plays significant minutes is 6’8″ Mustapha Traore whose 4.6 rebounds per game are second on the team.
5. Last year’s match up with Kentucky in the Citi Classic in Madison Square Garden was the first time the Hawks and the Cats have played against each other. Kentucky won the series opener by the score of 93-76, as Hamidou Diallo showed out in front of a ton of onlooking family and friends to finish with 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. The Cats also had big contributions from PJ Washington, 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks, as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 15 points, 9 assists, and 6 boards.
Go Cats. Beat Hawks.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 28th, 2018 @ 4:30pm
It seems like only yesterday LeBron James Jr. was trying on John Calipari’s championship rings at the Joe Craft Center, but today, his father suggested he has a different coach in mind for when “Bronny” goes to college in 2023.
In a comment on ESPN’s Instagram post with Mike Krzyzewski’s comments about Duke fans needing to back off his players, LeBron wrote, “Big FACTS! Love Coach K!! The absolute BEST! Hope he’s still at the helm when my boy comes up.”
Krzyzewski coached LeBron on Team USA, so they have a previous relationship, but comments like this further prove that Duke, not Kentucky, is the cool school now, and K, not Calipari, has the momentum. Dangit.
The Cats will return to Rupp Arena tonight for another home game after beating Tennessee State on Friday night. The Wildcats are now 5-1 on the season, but they still have some issues to work through.
Defense remains a major weakness for this basketball team and it is something John Calipari addressed at his pregame press conference. Now the Cats will take another stab at it with Monmouth coming to Lexington. The Hawks will be Kentucky’s final cupcake of the season (ranked 263rd in KenPom) with the non-conference slate starting to wind down. We’ll see if UK can gain some momentum before a very good UNC Greensboro team comes to town on Saturday.
Nuts and Bolts
King Rice was a point guard for Dean Smith at North Carolina in the late 1980s and early 1990s who immediately got into coaching once finishing playing in college. After serving in an assistant role at Illinois State, Providence, and Vanderbilt he landed the head coaching job at Monmouth.
After originally competing at the Division II and Division III level, the Hawks moved to the big leagues and made the NCAA Tournament four times from 1996-2006. King Rice was brought in to get Monmouth back there, but that hasn’t happened despite two MAAC regular season league titles.
Monmouth reached 27-plus wins in both 2016 and 2017, but were upset in their conference tournaments. They saw both of those seasons end with an NIT bid. King Rice is now in his eighth season in West Long Branch, New Jersey and under his watch the Hawks only have three winning seasons. After a 11-20 season last year, Monmouth is off to a 0-7 start this season.
This will only be the second time that these two programs have met on the hardwood. Last season, Kentucky faced Monmouth in Madison Square Garden and came away with a 93-76 victory behind 23 points from Hamidou Diallo.
Out in the desert, Kentucky is currently a 24-point favorite with a total of 147. That’s a projected final scored of 85.5-61.5. On the year, Kentucky 1-5 against the spread. Monmouth isn’t much better, either. On the season, the Hawks are 1-5-1 against the spread. Something is going to give.
The Hawks have been one of the worst offensive teams in Division I to start the season. Monmouth is very sloppy with the ball and are woefully inefficient from the field. It all starts with the guard play.
Sophomore Deion Hammond is the squad’s leading scorer putting up 12.9 points per game on just .350 shooting percentage. That is not efficient, but he can attack the rim. He dropped 19 points in a loss to UK last season.
The Hawks do not have another scorer in double-digits. Point guard Nick Rutherford leads the team in minutes and rebounds, but has more turnovers than assists. Ray Salnave joins them in the backcourt and he has been the perimeter’s most efficient scorer to start the season.
Monmouth struggles to score the ball, but they are a really good defensive team. This group does a good job pressuring the ball and creating turnovers. It all starts with their athletic backcourt. They will challenge UK for steals and will be looking for takeaways to create cheap scoring possessions.
In the paint, Mustapha Traore is the squad’s go-to threat. The redshirt junior from Philadelphia leads the starters in field goal percentage (.488) and is very good at crashing the offensive glass. In Monmouth’s perimeter based offense, he’ll mostly be the only big on the floor.
The Hawks struggle to score and have been very bad on the glass to start the season. With defense being their strong point, expect a similar game plan to the one Tennessee State used. Monmouth will run when they have an opportunity, but most of the night they’ll be worried about getting back and playing team defense.
Keys to Victory
- For the second game in a row, Kentucky will be facing a small ball lineup that struggles to score. Monmouth doesn’t have the shooting to space the floor so this should make life easier on Kentucky’s perimeter defense. Kentucky must begin to make strides on that end of the floor.
- Kentucky has another huge advantage in the paint. After being challenge by Tennessee State on the glass, UK should get back to their dominant rebounding ways tonight. Expect another huge rebounding margin for the Cats where the offensive glass will create a ton of extra possessions. Nick Richards had one of the best games of his career against Monmouth last season by scoring 20 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.
- In half-court offense, Monmouth’s defense will present some challenges for UK. The Hawks are very athletic and can keep people in front of them. It will be a challenge for UK’s young point guards. Both Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans must take care of the basketball and run the offense through the post.
Just a few years ago, this program got a lot of attention from some of the work its bench was doing. On their way to a regular season conference championship, Monmouth’s bench mob was having a ball creating unique celebrations. They were a hit on social media and even got some attention from ESPN. Here were some of their greatest hits.
When John Calipari picked up his copy of the NCAA’s first NET rankings of the season on Monday, his Kentucky Wildcats were nowhere to be found in the top 25. So he looked a little further down the list, then a little further, then a little more, then a little more after that, and realized his Cats didn’t even crack the top 50.
Kentucky was all the way down at No. 61 on the list, behind schools like Furman, Montana, North Texas, Abilene Christian and Liberty.
On Tuesday he was asked what he thought of his team’s place in the NCAA’s new system. He simply said, “Too early. Somebody told me there was a team that was five or eighth that you’re like, what? It’s too early. Don’t care.”
And he’s exactly right. It’s way too early to read into the NET and I’m wondering if the NCAA has regrets about releasing it so early in the season. The rankings won’t really be a good representation of college basketball’s best teams until February. Right now, it’s nothing more than a misrepresentation of the best teams. Undefeated Kansas being outside the top 10 with two AP top 10 wins is all I needed to see. Ohio State at No. 1 is a joke.
So like Calipari, you should not care. I know the Big Blue Nation is guilty of caring way too much, but the NET in December is really stupid.
And I have no idea how Calipari read the rankings yesterday. I wrote that first paragraph like he had a hard copy but somebody probably just sent him a text with UK’s ranking and then he went back to whatever he was doing. Probably yelling about defense, I assume.
On what he said on his radio show …
“You listened to the radio show? Oh. [Laugher.] I do repeat myself. Do I repeat myself? I really do. See, what happens you get older, you repeat yourself. And let me give you one story: So I go in and I’m recruiting and we had gone to two or three homes and I go into the home and there’s a story I like to tell that kind of makes a point of how we do this. It’s a funny story and I told the story early and they laughed and it was really good. And we got going and it went a little longer than I thought so then by accident I told the story again. They laughed and we walked out and I can’t remember who was with me but they said, ‘You know you told the story twice?’ And I go, ‘You’re kidding me.’ ‘Nope, you did it twice.” So I called the mom and I apologized and I said, ‘Why didn’t you stop me?’ and she said ‘It was pretty funny, I liked hearing it again.’ [Laughter.] ”
On if he got the player …
“I can’t remember. We probably, like many, we probably lost him.”
On if he has personally had to reboot …
“Yeah, what I told them yesterday is – here’s what’s happened to me personally: I’m expecting them to be farther than they are ready to be and there’s an expectation that brings a frustration. Like, you should know this. Well, they don’t know. I literally have to start coaching the games as though they’re practice until we figure it out. The issue is not what’s happening offensively. It has nothing to do with our offense, what we’re doing. We need to shoot it better but it’s hard to be confident on offense when you’re getting beat on defense and you get beat on a dribble and you get beat on a 3. It makes you tentative on offense. It just does. You could say whatever it is and it’s this this and this, but I’ve done tis 30 years. We have to get better defensively and that’s what we’re working on. So, as I was talking to one of my friends, he said to me, ‘You said the exact same thing a year ago.’ And then I thought back like, where were we defensively a year ago? How was Quade (Green) guarding? How was Hami (Diallo) guarding? How was Kevin Knox guarding and how was PJ (Washington) guarding? How was Nick (Richards guarding)? You want me to keep going? Wenyen (Gabriel)? We had one guy that was really guarding: Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander). The rest of us weren’t guarding anybody and it was driving me crazy, if you remember. And when he told me, I busted out laughing and I said, ‘You know what, you’re right.’ We are in the same position we were in and I should’ve known this early. I should’ve seen it in the summer. I got enamored like everybody else and now it’s, how do we get better defensively? And it’s showing them tape and it’s every day and it’s a process. And I just, you know, the question I have is has there ever be an easy year for me? Like just one year be a team that I can just sit there like, wow. I mean, every year is a grind and sometimes I forget. But yesterday – this is a great group of young people. And yesterday – they’re going to do what we ask them to do so be right and then hold them accountable. And I put my head in the sand of whatever you want to say. I always say, don’t get mad at these kids. They’ve made a commitment to come here and play for us and play here in the hardest place it is to play basketball. Everybody (says), ‘I can’t wait to play them’ every game. We’re going to kill them.’ Well, you don’t play us for three months. I mean, that’s every game, and they chose to come here under this spotlight to be coached and be challenged and know you’re here to get better as an individual player. You’re here to learn about being a better teammate. You’re here to learn about what the better angels within you look like. You’re here for all that, and it’s hard. We’re not just saying play loose and play and we’re going to be better. And they chose to come here, and that’s what I tell the fans: Don’t get on these kids. If you want to be mad, be mad at me. They’re going to do what I ask them to do or what I accept that they’re doing.”
On what his standard is defensively …
“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. We don’t stay in a stance, we don’t bounce, we don’t anticipate and we don’t play with hands like we should because of our length. We’ve been working on it. It’s hard for us to stay in front of people because we come up out of a stance. We’re never ready to go. We’re never anticipating what the guy is doing and we’re never helping the helper. All stuff that it just takes time. Now, what a lot of people do, if you have to teach a lot of young guys, you just go zone. You just say I don’t care, I’m going to play zone. I just don’t want to be that guy. Maybe I will be, but the issue playing zone, and I told them this, we can back our defense up and be better. Back it up, don’t stretch it out. Let’s just get from 19, 20 feet in and lets just play heels on the 3-point line and let’s just play tighter and we’ll be quicker and were not so spread out. There’s a problem with doing that. Normally they are going to take 18 to 20 seconds to shoot the ball now. That means you have less minutes with the ball, less possessions, less shots. I went around the room, ‘Anybody want to give up three or four of your shots? Oh, you don’t think you will, but oh so this guy won’t shoot any now? Is that how this goes?’ We gotta learn and understand why we’re doing this and how we play. Gotta be disruptive some. But, you can’t take chances, it’s discipline, and guess what young players never have? Discipline. And guess what I have to have personally? Stay with the process. Have discipline. Don t lose your mind. Don’t get frustrated. These guys gotta know I’m for them, and if they ever get to where they don’t think I’m for them and that’s their perception then I’m wrong.”
Vegas has spoken and Kentucky opened as a 24-point favorite vs. Monmouth tomorrow night at Rupp Arena. The Hawks haven’t won a game yet this season, but the Cats have only covered once, so gamble responsibly.
Despite Monmouth’s 0-7 record, John Calipari knows the Hawks will come out firing because Everybody’s Super Bowl and all that.
“Well, you say winless, but again they have nothing to lose. It was a five-point game with West Virginia, who is a pretty good team. At halftime it was five. It was like nine late and then two or three 3s and it spreads out. I’ve watched enough tape. They play fast. They play around a post player. I’ll be honest though, I think King (Rice) does an unbelievable job. But, I’m not worried about them. I know they can beat us. If we don’t guard, anybody can beat us. So, this comes down to let’s really guard. They have a three-quarter court trap that’s pretty good. They have a good two-three zone that they can go to. They’re aggressive man-to-man. They’ve been in almost every game except one and in that game a kid had 30 points at halftime. Every other game they’ve had their chances to win.”