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Basketball Season Coverage

The Halftime Speech from Utah Valley’s President Didn’t Work

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune

Leading by nine at Rupp Arena entering halftime, Utah Valley President Matt Holland entered the lock room to inspire the Wolverines to win one for the Gipper.  Cameras captured Holland’s best Knute Rockne.

The speech was awkward in so many ways.

Instead of getting motivated, the players appear puzzled, wondering why the President was speaking to them.  When he tries to fire them up — “You can do this” — he does not even raise his voice.  Holland’s speech is capped off spectacularly…by referring to himself in third person.

After Holland’s speech, Kentucky went on an 18-0 run one minute into the second to retake the lead for good.  Let this be a warning to all university presidents: let the coach do the coaching during halftime.

Our Courtesy Acura Fans of the Game want our Photo Recap

Our Courtesy Acura Fans of the Game want our Photo Recap

A Message from our friends at Courtesy Acura:

Courtesy Acura has proudly served the greater Lexington area for more than 30 years, and is bringing you the KSR Fans of the Game and a recap of our spectacular photos from Kentucky’s 73-63 victory against Utah Vally on Friday. Whether you visit the dealership searching for a new or used automobile, or you’re seeking expert service on the model you’re already driving, they’re here for you. Visit their Acura dealership in Lexington, KY, and you’ll find a wide variety of the newest and most popular Acura models. With a convenient location at 3701 Nicholasville Rd. in Lexington, KY, Courtesy Acura is just a short drive away for our neighbors in Nicholasville and Georgetown, as well as our friends in Louisville, KY.

The college basketball season officially tipped off last night. Kentucky fans probably didn’t quite expect to see their team have to battle back to secure a win. Credit former Cat Mark Pope and his Utah Valley team for taking it right to Kentucky, including taking a 34-25 lead into halftime. Having a young team like UK figure out how you have to fight every possession might end up being the best learning experience for these guys in the long run.

Hamidou Diallo made his official debut as a Kentucky Wildcat. His performance was similar to his team, a tale of two halves. In the first half, UK hit just 7-32 from the floor. In the same half, Diallo was 2-for-8 from the field for only five points. Kentucky fans witnessed Diallo at his best in the second half, playing like a veteran and providing a much needed spark with some vicious dunks. Diallo scored 13 points in the second half, finishing with a game-high 18.

The performance of freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might have been the biggest surprise to fans in particular when he was introduced in the starting lineup over Quade Green. He finished second on the team in scoring with 13 points on 5-9 shooting. But, his impact showed up in more than just the box score. SGA’s length on defense might be where he made his biggest impact. Coach Cal actually played some zone against Utah Valley and it ended up being a turning point in the game. Mark Pope referenced in the postgame how difficult it was for his team to face a player with a seven foot wingspan at the top of the zone defense.

Sure this team might have a long way to go but learning how to fight back against Utah Valley might be exactly what this young UK team needed. Kentucky has another tough test tomorrow against Vermont before heading to Chicago to face Kansas in the Champions Classic. For now, check out our complete photo gallery from Friday’s win courtesy of KSR photographer, Dr. Michael Huang:

Nick Richards on UK’s First Half: “We Were Just, like, Chilling”

Alongside the missed layups, the defensive struggles and the lack of rebounding, energy was a serious problem during the first half of tonight’s game. And fans weren’t the only ones who noticed. Nick Richards was also painfully aware of their energy issues during the first twenty minutes of the regular season.

“We were sluggish in the first half,” Richards said following the Cats’ 73-63 victory. “We were just, like, chilling. Everybody didn’t have a little groove to them.”

Although the Cats never fully put the Wolverines away, they were eventually able to find a little bit of this “groove.” Their second half performance brought the energy, excitement, speed and, yes, dunks, Kentucky basketball is all about.

“In the second half, we said ‘we’re Kentucky. They’re Utah Valley. We can’t let them beat us or let this game get out of control,'” Richards said. “Everybody came together and just had a bit more energy, more spirit, to hopefully try and get the dub.”

So what took the team so long? Like John Calipari has been saying for months, it’s simply their age and level of inexperience.

“I don’t know what it was, but I think it was just the first time playing in Rupp, for me,” Richards said. “I had a little bit of butterflies in my stomach, but as the game went on, they went away.”

It was far from Richards’ best game. Against Centre, the big man finished with 17 points and six rebounds. Tonight, he ended with ten points and three rebounds. But at the end of the day, it was about the team coming out with a victory.

“In the second half, we proved that we were the better team.”


WATCH: Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander speak to the media following 73-63 victory over Utah Valley

WATCH: Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander speak to the media following 73-63 victory over Utah Valley

Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander spoke to the media following Kentucky’s 73-63 victory over Utah Valley.

Watch their interviews below.

Diallo discussed his rough start and big turnaround, Kentucky playing zone, who brought the energy, and what changed after halftime.

Richards talked about his presence in the low post, Kentucky’s success playing zone, and how they need to attack against Vermont on Sunday.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander discussed how the starting point guard is chosen and the difference between “practice Cal” and “game-time Cal.”

We’ll see you all on Sunday at Rupp Arena when the Wildcats take on Vermont.

Let’s get this money.

Player breakdown from Kentucky’s 73-63 victory over Utah Valley

At halftime, I had no idea what kind of recap I was going to have to write. There were countless reasons to pull your hair out, and other plays that made your jaw drop.

And frankly, that may just be the way this team will be this year.

Kentucky pulled out the ten-point victory over the Utah Valley Wolverines, and it was in the wildest fashion imaginable. Back and forth, up and down, yet somehow, the Wildcats made the winning plays when they mattered most and are now 1-0 as a result.

Let’s break down the individual performances:

Nick Richards anchored the middle

When no one else wanted to score in the first half, Richards went to work. He laid it in to start the game, and found the bottom of the net following several other pretty moves in the post.

On defense, Richards was blocking/altering shots on a consistent basis, when other frontcourt-mates weren’t making much of an impact.

With eight points, two rebounds, and a block in the first half alone, Richards was the glue guy in the middle for a team that needed SOMEONE to make an impact.

After a hot streak in the second half, the offense slowed down just a bit. The Kentucky center found the ball and scored once again, and another big run started back up. The kid does not get rattled in the slightest.

He ended the game with a solid statline of ten points, three rebounds, and three blocks, but without his stability in the first half, Kentucky is down by a whole lot more than nine.

Hamidou Diallo may be the energizer this team needs

The Wildcats were down by nine at the half, and if you ask just about any Kentucky fan, the wheels looked to be falling off. Kevin Knox hit a three, and followed it up with a big slam to get the crowd back into it, and then Diallo took the roof off the place with a windmill dunk in transition.

Just like that, the Wildcats went on a run, took the lead, and never looked back.

He may miss some ugly shots and force the situation sometimes, but when Diallo uses his athleticism to his advantage, he can completely flip the momentum in a game.

Aside from the ridiculous dunks, Diallo showed a ton of promise from beyond the arc, and really had some excellent touch from various spots on the floor. His confidence was soaring, and he was making just about everything he threw at the basket. He finished the day with 18 points (8-16 from the field and 2-4 from three), five rebounds, three assists, and just one turnover.

When he’s rolling, Diallo is a pretty darn good basketball player.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was solid as the starting point guard

We were a bit shocked to see Gilgeous-Alexander announced as a starter before the game, but he proved to be more than capable as a leader of this team.

SGA finished second on the team with 13 points on 5-9 shooting, but his impact on the game was massive on both ends of the floor. After the game, Utah Valley coach Mark Pope told reporters he wasn’t prepared for the Kentucky zone, and Gilgeous-Alexander’s 7-foot wingspan right up front was the most bothersome for his Wolverine team.

“The zone is definitely going to be a big help for us this year,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We have a lot of length and us at guard spots,  it is going to be tough on the other teams’ offense to score on us.”

In just about every game, both preseason and today, the opposition has called SGA by name when referring to his length and annoyance on defense. That in itself is a sign of good things to come for him.

We’ll get to Quade Green later, but the Canadian freshman had a big night, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the starting lineup going forward.

Kevin Knox and Wenyen Gabriel had cold nights

The Kentucky forward combo combined for 6-24 from the field, and that was with the help of a few buckets in the second half. Yikes.

Knox is arguably Kentucky’s best player, and Gabriel is one of the team’s best shooters. When they aren’t putting the ball in the hoop, the team has to find someone else to take over the scoring load.

Luckily, Richards was there in the first half, and Diallo exploded in the second, but UK needs both Knox and Gabriel to make big impacts on the offensive end.

Knox hit a clutch three and a nasty dunk in transition, and Gabriel made a couple of impressive plays on both ends of the floor to help seal the victory in the second half. The Kentucky sophomore, specifically, finished the day with 13 rebounds and three blocks, obviously making the hustle plays throughout the day when his shot wasn’t falling.

Not horrible overall games from these two, but the offense needs to click against Vermont.

Sacha Killeya-Jones provided solid minutes

As I mentioned last game, if SKJ can come in, score a few baskets, rebound, and play defense, he will be a difference-maker on this team.

Tonight, Killeya-Jones finished with four points on 2-3 shooting, two rebounds, and one turnover in just 15 minutes of action. Nothing special, but he was effective.

He committed a couple silly fouls throughout the game, but for the most part, he was nothing but positive on the interior. He didn’t give up easy layup attempts, didn’t miss any gimmes on offense, and he provided energy.

For a kid that received so much criticism last year, I’m impressed with what we’ve seen in short spurts out of the sophomore big man.

PJ Washington and Quade Green were invisible

If Kentucky wants to have a chance against Kansas on Tuesday, we have to see production out of these two. No discussion.

Washington and Green came in as five-star prospects, and for the most part, they have lived up to that billing. The UK point guard missed a couple open looks, but for the most part, he wasn’t assertive, and he wasn’t being a floor general.

Reporters even asked Calipari after the game if Green was feeling alright because it just wasn’t anything like we’ve seen out of him in the first four or five times we’ve seen him play. Coach Cal said there wasn’t anything to it, he just had a rough night, and even went as far as to say he needed some more minutes to get the efficiency rolling.

Washington only shot the ball once, but went to the line six times, converting just three of his attempts. He finished with five points, three rebounds, two assists, and four (ugly) turnovers on the night. Like Green, Washington just wasn’t himself in the season opener.

Shake it off and get them on the next one.

It was an ugly one, but the Wildcats got it done to open the season.

On Sunday, however, we’re going to see just what this Kentucky basketball team really is.

When Kentucky Needed Momentum, Diallo was there

Kentucky’s first half performance was far from what fans expected. Sure, Cal has been warning of “growing pains” for weeks, but the BBN couldn’t have foreseen just how prominent these pains truly are until tonight. In the first half, the Cats hit just 7-32 from the floor, a shocking 21.9 percent. From behind the arc, Kentucky went 2-8 for 25 percent. When the halftime buzzer rang, the Cats went into the locker room trailing 25-34.

Diallo’s play may not have been the most problematic aspect of Kentucky’s first half, but it certainly wasn’t ideal. During the first 20 minutes of action, Diallo contributed just five points and three rebounds, while quickly picking up two fouls. His first half was mired in missed jumpers, missed layups and missed opportunities.

We’ll never know what John Calipari said to his team in the locker room, but, evidently, it worked. When Coach Cal called upon his players, Hamidou Diallo answered.

The redshirt freshman came out firing in the second half. After a three-point basket courtesy of Kevin Knox, Diallo brought Rupp Arena to its feet with a windmill slam. And, man, was it beautiful.

But it didn’t stop there. He followed up this dunk with another dunk. Then there was a defensive rebound and a solid three-point bucket. His energy was infectious – both on the court and in the crowd. He finished as the team’s leading scorer, contributing 18 points, while adding five rebounds, three assists and only one turnover.

How’d he turn his performance around so drastically in the second half?

“I just went out there and played basketball, to be honest with you,” Diallo said.

After a very will-he-or-won’t-he first few games this season, Diallo’s second-half self was the player this team needs, especially on the offensive side of the glass.

“I think that’s exactly what we all envision him being. And what we need him to be for us as a team,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said of his teammate’s night. “He was special tonight.”

What did Coach Cal think of Diallo’s performance?

“I thought Hami played pretty good. I thought, if that’s who Hami is every night, we’re going to be fine,” Calipari said. “Now, defensively, he’s got a long way to go, but he’s now saying, Coach, tell me how you want me to play offensively. And he’s playing that way.”


Photo: @UKSportsNetwork

Patrick Sparks Returns to Rupp

Photo: @UKSportsNetwork

Patrick Sparks brought fans to their feet during tonight’s Kentucky vs. Utah Valley matchup. Even when the game was ugly, Rupp had nothing but love for the former Cat. A member of the UK team from 2003 through 2006, the Muhlenberg County native served as the night’s celebratory “Y.”

Welcome home, No. 22. You’re welcome anytime.

Calipari: “Whatever this team needs, I’m going to do it”

Calipari: “Whatever this team needs, I’m going to do it”

Earlier this week, John Calipari told reporters that he’s been harder on this team in practice than any team he’s coached at Kentucky. His demeanor during the game told a different story.

“I’ve never clapped or cheered as much in a game,” Cal said. “More than all of last season. Whatever this team needs, I’m going to do it.”

Cal went into more detail on his radio show, telling fans that he’s trying his hardest to be a cheerleader instead of a critic during games because he’s knows this young group could easily panic.

“I had more positive comments and claps in this game than all of last year. I have been very tough on these guys in practice. Not screaming, yelling, kicking — no. I have raised the bar. These practices have been bears. I’ve held them accountable. If I need to stop a guy and tell them, you’re not doing that, that’s unacceptable, I do it. So, when we get in the game, I’ve got to be positive. I’m not trying to beat anybody down, I’m trying to get them to play well. They have to learn.”

Kentucky’s errors in the first half are glaring — they missed their last 15 shots — but like Calipari said, for now, let’s focus on the positive.

“Right now, I’m having to teach them, they think shootaround means shoot hooks,” Cal said. “No, shootaround means getting ready for a war you’re going to play and getting your mind right. And you’re trying to do it in 30 or 45 minutes. Right now, we need an hour with these guys because they’re not paying attention. We’ve got to do it again, do it again. But that’s okay, it’s where we are. They’re not doing it because they’re mean. They’re not doing it because they’re trying to be disruptive. They’re doing it because they don’t know. They don’t know. And that’s part of what coaching a bunch of young kids is.”

“But when we got it going today, it looked pretty good, didn’t it? ‘Why don’t they play like that the whole game?’ They’re 17 and 18 years old, that’s why they don’t play that way the whole game.”

Baby steps.

Some Postgame Thoughts From Nashville

Hello, Big Blue Nation.

Drew here, reporting to you from the Music City, where Kentucky will play a very important football game at Vanderbilt tomorrow. But before we start pregaming for that one on Broadway, allow me to share with you some of what happened from Friday night’s basketball season opener in Rupp Arena.


It’s safe to say Kentucky didn’t get off to its best start.

Raise your hand if you had Utah Valley leading by nine at halftime. Nobody?

I think we were all quite perplexed by the first half, in which the visiting Wolverines out-rebounded and out-scored Kentucky by nine in each column. The Cats’ young defense made it way too easy on one end; on the other, Kentucky couldn’t make a basket as they went 7-for-32 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. They just couldn’t hit shots — not even the easy ones. It happens. (Hopefully not too often though.)

Calipari went zone in the second half, and it won the game.

After the excruciating first half, the second half gave us some fun-filled domination. Kentucky went to a 2-3 zone to get some stops, and before we knew it, an 18-2 run blew the game wide open in favor of the Cats.

Switching to the zone created severals steals, which created several dunks, which created momentum. That’s the story of the game right there. If you had to point to one game-deciding factor, there’s no doubt it was the second half defense and how it sparked everything else.

Hamidou Diallo played two different games.

Just as the defense was night and day in each half, Hamidou Diallo’s offense was the same. First half Hamidou Diallo went 2-for-8 from the field for only five points; second half Hamidou Diallo went 6-for-8 from the field for 13 points, giving him a game-high 18 in his official debut.

This is only a guess, but I think Diallo will give us a few more of these games in the future. In my uninformed opinion, he seems to be a guy who can be good and bad in a single game. It’s a good thing his good is really good, so we’ll have to live with the times he is frustrating.

Rebounding must improve.

The Cats were out-rebounded once again. Outside of Wenyen Gabriel, who had 13, all of the big guys have to do better. Nick Richards, P.J. Washington and Sacha Killeya-Jones combined for eight in the game. Those guys are capable of getting eight on their own.

Quade Green did not start, nor did he play well when he was in.

What happened to Quade Green? Where was he? Green was the star of the three exhibition games as the steady hand leading the Kentucky offense. In those games, he hit outside shots, found open guys, didn’t turn the ball over, and was a pest defensively. Where did all of those things go against Utah Valley? He had only one assist in the game, and zero points until hitting four free throws in the final seconds. Hopefully it was just a bad night and nothing to worry about moving forward. He looked too good in the preseason.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a player.

The overlooked member of the star-studded recruiting class looks to be one of its best and most versatile players. He, again, had another one of those games where he did a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor, while running second in scoring in the game. No one projected him to be this good this early, yet here we are, and it’s awesome. What a pleasant surprise.

What’s next?

Kentucky can’t open Sunday’s game the way it did Friday night. Vermont is a much better team, and Vermont will be more likely to hold a big lead, should it get one early in the game. Sunday will be another good test for Cal’s young bunch on a quick, two-day turnaround between games. Then we know what’s coming up after that on Tuesday.

Go Cats.

Calipari: “The zone got us going”

Calipari: “The zone got us going”

For the past few months, John Calipari has warned fans about this team’s youth, so he wasn’t surprised when they stumbled early vs. Utah Valley. After watching Calipari for eight seasons, what was surprising is that the Cats clawed their way out of the hole with a 2-3 zone, which spurred an 18-0 run.

“The start was kind of expected,” Cal said. “We shot 21 percent in the first half and at halftime, I said, this is good for us. Let’s see who we are. Let’s see who is willing to fight. We went zone and it kind of got us going. And that’s what we should use the zone for.”

Of course, that wasn’t the only question Calipari got about the zone. When asked, Cal admitted he doesn’t like to use the zone because it doesn’t prepare guys well for the next level, but he’ll use it this season because he’ll have to.

“I probably am, but let me say this: I’ve had seasons where we’ve not played one bit of zone or we’ve played one team zone. The issue becomes, I have a responsibility to teach these kids how to play pick and roll defense, how to stay in front of people man to man. From here on, there is no more zone. They’re going to have to learn.

“But I also have a responsibility to win. So, I’ll play as much as I have to to win a game. I’m not — what happened was, we have a group of five we’ve been working with in the zone. But when I subbed, we weren’t as good in the zone. So, basically, you have five guys, and then it’s okay, how many minutes can you play with five guys in the zone. Can you get through two timeouts and play six, seven minutes? If we played seven minutes today in the zone, would you say that’s more than we played all of last year?”

Like it or not, it clearly worked tonight.

Relive Tonight’s Victory With KY Wildcats TV Highlights

Tonight’s win wasn’t the prettiest, but there were still some beautiful moments. Relive all of the good and none of the ugly, courtesy of our friends at KY Wildcats TV.

LIVE: John Calipari’s postgame remarks

John Calipari is ready to address reporters about his team’s season-opening win over Utah Valley. Tune in via the live stream below, courtesy of KyWildcatsTV:

Kentucky survives sloppy first half, beats Utah Valley 73-63

Kentucky survives sloppy first half, beats Utah Valley 73-63

After an atrocious first half, Kentucky got it together and put away Utah Valley 73-63 to start the season 1-0.

Like John Calipari, a lot of us had both feet on the panic button after the Cats trailed by nine at half thanks to 22% shooting, but an 18-0 run regained momentum, spurred by the 2-3 zone. Hamidou Diallo led the way with 18 points, 13 in the second half, followed by Shai Alexander with 13 and Kevin Knox with 12. In the second half, Kentucky found its shot, connecting on almost 60% from the floor.

In short, tonight, we learned that Calipari wasn’t exaggerating when he said this team has a LONG ways to go; however, more often than not, their talent and athleticism will carry them through. That being said, Vermont and Kansas scare me.

More coming from Cal in just a moment…


HALF: Kentucky is losing to Utah Valley 34-25

HALF: Kentucky is losing to Utah Valley 34-25

John Calipari tried to brace us for growing pains, but I don’t think anyone expected this. After 20 minutes of play, Kentucky is losing to Utah Valley 34-25. No, that is not a typo.

So far, Kentucky is hitting only 22% of its shots and is being outrebounded 25-16. Nick Richards leads the way with 8 points and 2 rebounds, followed by Hamidou Diallo and Shai Alexander with 5 points each.

In short, one of the worst halves of the Calipari era. He wasn’t kidding when he said we have a really, really long ways to go.

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