By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 2:15pm
Kentucky’s dominant 86-69 victory over No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday helped the basketball program well beyond the on-court success for this season.
After visiting Lexington for the massive win last night, sources have confirmed to KSR that 2019 five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr. has cancelled his trip to Michigan State originally scheduled for this afternoon.
2019 five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr. will not make the trip to Michigan State today following his unofficial visit to Kentucky. Final decision could come as soon as next week.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) February 17, 2019
Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs.com was the first to break the news.
Sources tell KSR a decision could come as early as next week, with a target deadline being the end of February.
I’ll dive more into the specifics tomorrow in the Monday Insider Notes, but this is major news for Kentucky and its pursuit of the elite 6-foot-8 talent out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the meantime, take a look at his most recent highlight reel here:
By Brent Wainscott on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Folks, Keldon Johnson is BACK and in a big way.
After averaging 11.4 points in his last nine games, and shooting 39% since the Kansas game, Keldon Johnson was due for a big game. Did he ever.
Last night, Johnson went for 19 points and four assists. Kentucky saw that “dawg” in him that was talked about so much during the offseason, and for my money, the best moment in the game was his Tayshaun Prince-esque run in the first half when he scored 11 consecutive points.
The game was still in its “feeling-out” process and Kentucky had a 12-9 lead when Johnson decided to go unconscious. His first made bucket was a two with his foot just barely on he line, set up by an assist from Hagans. Then Keldon went bananas, making three of his next four shots, all behind the arc. It sent the BBN into a frenzy.
Johnson was on fire, and at that point, he just had to keep shooting.
“I was just lost in the game,” Johnson said. “I just happened to be hitting shots, and I just kept shooting. My teammates told me to keep shooting, so that’s what I did.”
After the game, Tyler Herro said Keldon’s burst was nothing new to the team. “We see that a lot from Keldon in practice,” said Herro. “He locks in mentally, he as locked in and that’s what he does.” If Keldon can lock in mentally like that in these six final regular season games into March…
It was definitely a special moment for Keldon Johnson, and it’s a stretch that should be remembered for some time amongst the BBN.
Following a few weeks of lackluster play, Kentucky got their point guard back against Tennessee. After a bit of a jittery start, Ashton Hagans settled in for a great game against the No. 1 Vols. He set the pace, limited Tennessee point guard Jordan Bone (who had a good game, but was especially limited in transition, where the Volunteers scored just two baskets) and was able to feed Kentucky’s big men in the post. By the end of the game, he recorded nine points, seven assists, two steals, two rebounds and just one turnover in 36 minutes.
“Ashton today played like he had been playing,” John Calipari said after the game. “For two games, he went downhill and it affected us last game. And in this game, he came back.”
Referencing two “downhill” games may even be a bit conservative. In fact, before the Tennessee matchup, Calipari called out Hagans’ performances over the past three games.
“Ashton, the last three games, has not played well. As a matter of fact, he’s not played well at all,” Calipari said Friday before the game. “So [Tennessee] is a game where we’re going to need him to get back where he was 10 days ago, 12 days ago; where everybody was talking about him being the best on-ball defender in the country. A difference-maker; a creator.”
Saturday night, he was just that – a difference maker, especially on the defensive end.
“We need him on the defensive end. He’s the best part of our defense – he starts it,” PJ Washington said of Hagans. “Without him, we’re not really good on the defensive end. For him to pick up the opposing guards like that is crazy.”
For him to play his best, Calipari had to light a fire under Hagans. He did so by showing the team a compilation of the North Carolina game, specifically nine clips of Ashton Hagans’ best work. The clips included the possession where Hagans was “diving, tipping, fell into the stands, the bench and then came down and stole the ball,” according to Calipari.
“And what I basically said is… We don’t have this guy anymore. I don’t know where this guy went, but if we ever got him back we would be really good,” Cal said. “That’s who you were, now you chose to change. We don’t know why, but you chose to be somebody different.”
Against UNC, Hagans finished with eight steals, four rebounds, three assists and one block, while hitting two baskets and going 3-4 from the free-throw line for seven points. North Carolina may have been his breakout game of the season, but he hit his stride during his three-game stretch against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Georgia, when he scored 18, 15 and 23 points, respectively. But after his homecoming trip to Athens, he started to slip. Against Tennessee, he was back to his mid-season self.
“We just know Ashton is such an important piece for our team,” Keldon Johnson said of his point guard after the win. “When he’s at the top of his game, we’re a very good team. We feed off his defense – when he’s disruptive, everybody is disruptive… He was playing like we know he can play, and he’s amazing.”
But playing to his potential didn’t come easy for the Wildcat. Calipari said Hagans was one of two players who were really cramping up during the game (the other was PJ Washington), a sign of going “harder than he’s gone all year.”
“That’s why you cramp up – you went harder now,” Calipari said. “Like Kenny Payne was saying, we probably need to get seven percent more conditioning to bump this up so that we can play in a bunch of games. When you have back-to-back like this on a Thursday/Saturday or a Friday/Sunday, and you have this kind of game and you’ve got to follow it up with another one. Whew, I’m not sure we have that right now.”
Calipari, always the optimist. Regardless, welcome back, Ashton Hagans. The BBN is happy to have you.
By Maggie Davis on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
Can’t get enough? Relive last night’s fun by listening to a few of the players’ reactions immediately following the game.
PJ Washington discussed shutting down the No. 1 team in the country, his “viciousness” against Grant Williams, the Rupp Arena atmosphere and if he’s the best player in the SEC.
Keldon Johnson talked about how physical the matchup was for both teams, his stretch of three-pointers and how the team fought back from Tennessee’s attempt at a run in the second half.
Tyler Herro discussed what the win does for the team going forward, the mindset for the rest of the season and his first missed free throw since December.
By Brent Wainscott on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Heading into the season ranked 13th in the nation, the lady Cats on the diamond have stumbled out of the gate a bit to start the 2019 season. After losing three of their five games in the Houston Invitational, all by just one run, the Cats were derailed by third-ranked Oklahoma on Thursday. But, this weekend the Cats have had a better go of things, with Rachel Lawson picking up her 400th win on Friday against Utah, The Cats looked to put two more in the win column yesterday against Texas and Oregon. After dropping the first game to Texas, the Wildcats were ready to get some revenge on the Ducks.
Oregon has ended Kentucky’s season in the super-regionals the last two seasons. Last year Kentucky was just one game from Oklahoma City and the College World Series until the Ducks rallied and won the next two games to send Kentucky home. But, yesterday was a different story as the Cats run-rules Oregon ending the game in just five innings 12-3.
Madisonville native Mallory Peyton had a big day, as she hit a two-run home run to end things in just five innings. On the weekend Peyton has four home runs, 10 RBIs, and six extra-base hits. Katie Reed and Abby Cheek had home-runs as well that helped Kentucky’s blowout efforts, but one of the biggest plays came from Kelsee Henson when the senior from Paducah was called on to pinch-hit in the bottom of the third to extend UK’s lead to 5-0. Jenny Schaper had a good day at the plate as well, as she ended with two hits, two RBIs, and she scored a run.
Kentucky will wrap up the Elite Invitational in Clearwater, Flordia tomorrow against James Madison. It will be Kentucky’s fourth game against a ranked opponent in as many days. First pitch is set for 1:00 PM and you can catch the game on the ESPN app.
Check out highlights from today’s big victory over No. 22 Oregon here:
— Kentucky Softball (@UKsoftball) February 17, 2019
By Maggie Davis on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 11:30am
Kentucky fans should have felt confident about the Cats’ chances against Tennessee because the game started in the best possible way: Marlana VanHoose singing the National Anthem. As per usual, she absolutely crushed it.
VanHoose’s performance earned her massive applause inside Rupp Arena, and by the end of the song, the crowd was even singing along with her. She’s a fan favorite for the BBN, and last night, she outdid herself.
Drew knew all along:
She’s here. Cats by a hundred. pic.twitter.com/pDxmFt6Gfr
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) February 17, 2019
For more on VanHoose and to read her inspiring story, check out her website here.
WATCH: Kentucky Players huddle around after Beating Tennessee to watch Hami in the Slam Dunk Contest
By Brent Wainscott on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 11:00am
Last night was one of the best days to be a Wildcat, maybe ever. From starting the morning off with College Gameday and having Mckinley Webb sink a half-court shot for 19 thousand dollars, to Kentucky baseball and Softball both winning in the afternoon, which led into one of the best Kentucky performances under Cal, and all of it was capped off by Hamidou Diallo winning the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest.
But, one of the coolest moments came directly after Kentucky’s victory over Tennesee. After dominating the number one team in the nation, what was the first thing the Cats did? They rushed back to the locker room to watch Hami win the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest.
— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) February 17, 2019
What a cool moment that further shows that Kentucky basketball is a family and a brotherhood that lasts a lifetime.
By Maggie Davis on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 10:30am
If you missed last night’s post-game show (hey, an 8 p.m. tip is pretty late!), don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Matt’s KSR Postgame Show is now available on podcast. Listen here to get all of the reactions from Kentucky’s big win over No. 1 Tennessee, including your calls.
Cats by 17.
By Sam Gormley on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 10:00am
Wow. Quite possibly the only word I can use to describe last night’s performance. Kentucky opened up the second half on a 14-0 en route to an 86-69 win over #1 Tennessee. Now for the stories to start your Sunday morning:
PJ Washington continues to roll
As Jay Bilas said during the second half, PJ Washington has flipped a switch over the last ten or so games and has been playing better than anyone in the country.
The UK sophomore finished with 23 points on 9/11 shooting while also pulling down 5 rebounds. Washington paced the Cats in the first few minutes of the game by scoring their first 7 points. Much of this team’s success over the past month and a half has been due to the emergence of the player that we all thought Washington could be.
If he keeps this up, and helps lead Kentucky to a deep run in March, he very easily could be looking at getting himself in to being a lottery pick; something that he desperately wants and it shows.
Herro on the Glass
One of the more surprising stats from the victory was Tyler Herro’s rebounding total. The Wisconsin native finished the game with a career high 13 rebounds which was 5 higher than the next highest total on either team.
While this is not something he will need to do every game, just showing that he has the ability to do so is something that should scare teams across the nation.
The stat was also impressive for this point:
Tyler Herro now has the most rebounds by a Kentucky freshman against an opponent ranked #1 in the AP Poll (12)
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) February 17, 2019
And it gets better:
Tyler Herro is the first Kentucky player to have at least 15 points and 13 rebounds against an opponent ranked #1 in the AP Poll
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) February 17, 2019
Ashton Hagans returns to form
For about the last five or so games, Ashton Hagans has not been the same player that he was since the Utah game. Last night, he got back on the right track with an excellent performance. Although only having two steals, Hagans finished with 9 points and 7 assists and more importantly only 1 turnover.
Everyone of Cal’s elite teams have had good point guards. When the point guard struggles, the team usually will as well. Hagans is extremely important to the success of this team come March and if he turns in similar performances to last night, we could be in for a fun ride.
Student becomes Legend after hitting half court shot on Gameday
One of the more popular College Gameday segments is when they give a student a chance to hit a half court shot for a chance to win X amount of money.
Kentucky has never had a student hit the shot… until yesterday.
“LETS F***ING GO!!!” pic.twitter.com/aRC94xGX3s
— KY Clips™? (@KY_Clips) February 16, 2019
Yeah, the language is maybe a little NSFW, but hey, if I just won $19,000 I’d probably act the same way and I am sure you would too.
Multiple Former Cats return to Rupp
With it being the NBA All Star break, multiple former Cats made their way to Rupp Arena to take in the big game. Players like Alex Poythress, Isaac Humphries, Kevin Knox, and Wenyen Gabriel all were in attendance and served as the honorary “Y.”
Knox was interviewed during the game and spoke about how Cal “put him out of his comfort zone,” which in turn helped make him a top 10 pick.
Hamidou Diallo wins NBA Slam Dunk Contest
One player that was not in Lexington for last night’s game was Hamidou Diallo. The former Cat was competing in the popular NBA Slam Dunk contest that saw him take home the top prize!
The dunk that everyone is talking about is this one… it still leaves me speechless.
Hami did THAT ? pic.twitter.com/69t49M061y
— KY Clips™? (@KY_Clips) February 17, 2019
Here is the champ:
Your 2019 Slam Dunk Contest Champ ?pic.twitter.com/hytXrfO7oZ
— KY Clips™? (@KY_Clips) February 17, 2019
Hope you enjoy your Sunday. It is definitely a GREAT day to be Wildcat!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 12:00am
There are wins and then there are WINS. We knew No. 1 Tennessee coming to town would inspire Kentucky’s best effort and an electric atmosphere at Rupp Arena, but I’m not sure any of us expected a 17-point thumping. On the taped up shoulders of PJ Washington, Kentucky soared to an 86-69 win over Tennessee tonight, the biggest win over a No. 1 ranked team in program history.
The victory not only proved that Kentucky is a legitimate national title contender, it reestablished a pecking order in the SEC that had gone a bit awry. That “Orange is the new Blue” narrative ESPN’s been pushing? PJ Washington swatted it to the rafters along with Tennessee’s 19-game winning streak.
Let’s talk about it because, if you’re a Kentucky fan, there’s nothing more you’d rather do.
PJ Washington led the way
We knew from the first half of last year’s game in Knoxville that PJ Washington was capable of shutting down Grant Williams. Cramps robbed PJ of the second half of that game, but tonight, he was a machine, scoring 23 points off 9-12 from the floor and anchoring Kentucky’s offense. Last year, Williams admitted that PJ got into his head, and PJ did it again tonight, having his way with Tennessee’s bigs. When the ball was in his hands, PJ could not be stopped, and spurred his teammates to do the same.
One more thing PJ swatted to the rafters: the narrative that Kentucky players who aren’t one-and-dones are failures. PJ was projected to be a first-round pick last year, but by returning to school and working on his game, he’s inching into lottery territory. As Calipari constantly says, when PJ plays like this, he’s among the best in the country.
Reid did what he came here to do
Last year, Calipari complained that Tennessee’s players pushed his guys around, but tonight, the roles were reversed. The Cats owned the middle with 36 points in the paint to Tennessee’s 20 and winning the rebounding battle 39 to 26 in large part because of Reid Travis. Reid finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds, a stat line that doesn’t begin to describe his impact on the game. This is the game Reid was brought here for, and because of him, Kentucky was the most physical team on the floor. After the game, Cal said Reid battled so hard he had to get an IV in the locker room.
“The difference maker in the game for us was Travis,” Calipari said. “Now his numbers, 11 and 8, and you can say what you want, but he was a beast against another beast. Like it negated that. You’re not going to dominate us.”
Ashton Hagans bounced back
Kentucky’s dominance in the post was crucial tonight, but the matchup of the game was Jordan Bone vs. Ashton Hagans. The freshman busted out of his slump in a big way, finishing with nine points, seven assists, and only one turnover in 36 minutes. January Ashton is back, and as a result, the Cats fired on all cylinders, moving the ball crisply and controlling the tempo while holding the Vols to 28 percent from three.
“Ashton today played like he had been playing,” Cal said, telling reporters how he had the team look at tape of Hagans’ performance vs. North Carolina to remind them how great he can be. “For two games he went downhill and then it affected us the last game. And in this game he came back.”
Tyler Herro was fantastic
If you had to guess which player finished tonight’s game with a double-double, would you guess Tyler Herro? Probably not, but Herro was fantastic tonight, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Herro’s still struggling a bit with his shot at Rupp, hitting only 3-11 from the floor, but continues to do all the other things to help his team win, such as skying for rebounds and diving after balls. He played so well I’ll forgive his first missed free throw since the North Carolina game.
Welcome back, Keldon Johnson
For Kentucky to beat Tennessee, they needed a huge game from Keldon Johnson; the freshman delivered in thrilling fashion, doing his best Tayshaun Prince impression with three big threes in the first half. It hasn’t been an easy month for Keldon, but he proved he’s worthy of the spotlight, finishing with 19 points. Build on that, Keldon.
Nothing motivates like a loss
Did Kentucky overlook LSU? That seems like a crazy thing to say about the No. 19 team in the country, but with No. 1 Tennessee coming in, John Calipari said a loss to the Tigers was exactly what his team needed to refocus.
“I hit them right after the game with LSU and just said, hey, that was a tough loss, but you know what, we needed it. Because our team is changing, we’re not the defensive team that we have been. We have individuals changing how they were playing when they were successful. We need to get it back. We need to go back to what we were, and you know what, sometimes you got to get knocked in the head to know that. So the loss to LSU probably helped us win this game.”
If you had to choose between wins over LSU or Tennessee, which would you pick? Thought so.
All is right in the world again
It’s not every day that Kentucky hosts the No. 1 team in the country. The last time it happened was 2007, an 86-77 loss to North Carolina. The Cats’ last win over a No. 1 team? 2011 vs. Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament. So, today was big. From College GameDay in Memorial Coliseum to a late tip in Rupp, the lead up to the top five showdown with Tennessee was exhilarating, but exhausting.
That’s why it was so great that the Cats came out and stomped the Vols, the exclamation mark the fan base has been begging for. On nights like tonight, Kentucky Basketball can’t be beat, a stroke of reassurance as we head into the final stretch of the season.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©February 16th, 2019 @ 11:45pm
Kentucky head coach John Calipari is about to make history.
With a blowout victory over Tennessee this evening, Calipari is now just one win away from tying legendary UK head coach Joe B. Hall in the record book.
Sitting at 21-4 on the year, Calipari is now 296-68 over the course of his Kentucky career, meaning a victory over Missouri on Tuesday would tie him with Hall (UK career record of 297-100) for No. 2 on the all-time wins list.
Former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp holds the school record with 876 career victories.
Overall, the Kentucky head coach now possesses a 741-208 on-court record all-time as a head coach, moving him to No. 40 (tied) in college basketball history in terms of total wins.
Oddly enough, the coach he has tied at 741 wins is former Temple head coach John Chaney, the individual who once threatened to kill Calipari at a press conference in 1994.
To take it a step further, Wednesday was actually the 25-year anniversary of the Chaney-Calipari fight. Funny how things work out.
In other Calipari coaching statistics:
- Kentucky is now 57-28 against AP ranked competition under Calipari
- Calipari is 5-4 in his career vs. the No. 1 team, 2-2 while at Kentucky.
- UK is 48-12 in bounce-back games under Calipari, including 4-0 this season.
The Kentucky head coach has a major opportunity to tie the big record on Tuesday and then break it at home against Auburn next Saturday.
By Maggie Davis on ©February 16th, 2019 @ 11:35pm
What a night for Tyler Herro. The freshman guard was solid from start to finish and was steady across the board. Yes, he finished with 15 points, but his biggest contribution came from the sheer energy he brought to the court. His defense was consistently strong throughout his 32 minutes of action.
While “hustle” typically can’t be fully represented on a stat line, it can definitely be seen in a player’s rebounding numbers. Herro finished with an astonishing 13 rebounds, good for a career-high for Herro and a game-high for the team.
“I’m happy for Tyler – this is a big game for Tyler,” Calipari said after the game. “Forget about baskets made and all that – it was a big game. He got 13 rebounds.”
That magic number 13 was Herro’s best performance of the season by far. His previous record was nine boards, which came against Duke way back in November. On the season, Herro’s averaging around four rebounds per game, but Coach Cal said effort made the difference Saturday night.
“If you don’t attempt to rebound, you’re not going to get the rebound,” Calipari said. “How about that? We’re charting attempts to get guys to go make an effort to go get them.”
According to Calipari, the Kentucky staff keeps track of how many rebounds (offensive and defensive) each player attempts, in addition to how many they actually pull in per game. Sometimes in the past, they’ve seen players’ attempts go down as their point totals go up, specifically citing PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson. But Calipari seemed happy with Herro’s “attempt percentage” tonight.
“He was fighting for balls. It was a good effort.”
The best part? It looked like Herro was having an absolute ball. Notorious for embracing the villain role on the road, Herro found a way to be himself inside Rupp Arena. He only drained one three-point bucket, but, as per usual, it came at a big moment. He was trash talking the other team, clapping in their faces and diving on the floor. He finished 8-9 from the free-throw line, his first miss since the North Carolina game on Dec. 22, and he was genuinely upset about it after the game. After making 30 straight free throws, that one will bug him. But it didn’t take away from the joy of this win.
At one point in the game, he literally skipped to the bench. By the end of the game, he was having so much fun, he basically ran to the free-throw line with a big grin plastered on his face. He beat the rest of the court there by several seconds, just waiting for his chance to clinch his first double-double as a Wildcat.
Beating the No. 1 team in the nation is incredibly fun, and Tyler Herro showed it.
With Kentucky up big on Tennessee late in the game, the eRupption Zone broke out into an “Over-Rated” chant directed toward the top-ranked Vols. The taunt did not last long, though, because John Calipari was quick to shut everyone up. He immediately turned toward the crowd and yelled, “NO!” and it faded away almost instantly.
Here’s a clip:
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) February 17, 2019
After the game, Cal raved about Tennessee, saying the Vols are deserving of the No. 1 ranking, but couldn’t make shots Saturday night. He said, “I know how good Tennessee is and that’s why I told our fans, enough of the ‘they’re overrated.’ They’re not overrated. Probably underrated.”
By Nick Roush on ©February 16th, 2019 @ 11:15pm
Kentucky’s victory over Tennessee was incredible. Relive the glorious 86-69 beatdown with highlights from KyWildcatsTV.