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Views from the Cat Walk at Tennessee

Views from the Cat Walk at Tennessee

Kentucky fans flocked to Neyland Stadium to welcome the Wildcats to Knoxville.  Jack Pilgrim and I were on the scenes to capture the best moments from the cramped quarters beneath Neyland.

 


Kentucky-Tennessee: Numbers You Need to Know

Kentucky-Tennessee: Numbers You Need to Know

1 — Offensive touchdowns Tennessee scored against Charlotte.  The Vols only rushed for 20 yards last week.

2 — Interceptions thrown by Jarrett Guarantano by this season.  Tua is the only SEC starting quarterback with fewer interceptions.

3 — Points Kentucky beat Tennessee by last year at Kroger Field after Stephen Johnson’s late diving touchdown was followed by an incredible two-point play.

4 — Kentucky could become just the fourth team since 1987 to win in Knoxville and Gainesville in the same season.

14Where Tennessee ranks in many SEC offensive categories.

41 — Each team converts 41 percent of their third downs.

49.3 — Penalties yards a game by Tennessee, the second-fewest in the SEC. UK is second in the SEC (18th nationally) in penalty yards committed by opponents.

109 — Tennessee’s national sack rate ranking.  That means the Vols are terrible at protecting Guarantano.  It also means that Josh Allen, the SEC’s leader in quarterback pressures, is going to have a field day.


Paul Finebaum picks Tennessee to Beat Kentucky

Paul Finebaum picks Tennessee to Beat Kentucky

Paul Finebaum has put the Cats on upset alert against the Vols. In fact, he outright picked Tennesee to pick Kentucky.

Kentucky hasn’t won in Neyland Stadium since 1984, which may be a reason why Finebaum picked the 4-5 Volunteers to upset Kentucky in Knoxville. Finebaum believes, Kentucky will suffer from the hangover effect from last week.

“Kentucky, for those of you who like to go back in history, hasn’t won in Neyland Stadium since 1984,” Finebaum said this morning on SportsCenter. “While they have the better team and they’ve had the better season, Tennessee has proven it can do some things. It’s going to be a tough game for Tennessee to win, but I think Kentucky may still be hung over after that beatdown last week in Lexington.” This is the second straight week Finebaum has picked against the 7-2 Cats.

Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears picked Kentucky to pick up their first win in Knoxville in 34 years.

College Gameday excluded any mention of Kentucky this week.


SEC Storylines of Week 11: The More Things Change…

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 10 as Kentucky takes on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

1. Georgia’s Last Regular Season Test

In the biggest SEC game of the week eleven the No. 24 Auburn Tigers will take on the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs in Athens.

Georgia is of course coming off their most impressive victory of the season after easily defeating Kentucky on the road thus clinching the SEC East and a sport in the Conference Title Game. Despite some drama in the East, the SEC Title Game will again be Alabama vs. Georgia.

However, there is still very much at stake for the Bulldogs. At No. 5 in the committee’s polls they are the SEC’s last best chance to have two teams in the playoff (I don’t think LSU stands much of a chance unless some luck falls their way).

Their matchup against Auburn is their last true test until they face off with Alabama in Atlanta. No offense to Massachusetts or Georgia Tech, but the Bulldogs should handle those teams with ease.

A loss to Auburn will all but eliminate Georgia from making the playoff so today’s contest in Athens is incredibly meaningful. Don’t forget, the Tigers have looked pretty good since their disastrous back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Now they are coming off a huge victory over then-ranked Texas A&M. Even more impressive is that Jarrett Stidham finally looked like himself as completed 18 or 29 passes for 239 yards, 2 TD’s, and no picks.

I like going with quarterbacks who are on a hot streak, and while it is true that Jake Fromm is also playing well Auburn is out for revenge after losing last year’s SEC Title game to the Bulldogs, thus missing out on the playoffs.

Georgia is good, and they are playing at home. However, the current 14.5 spread for them is entirely too high especially considering it’s a rivalry game. I expect a game that will be closer than two touchdowns and Auburn will cover the spread. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Tigers throw a wrench into the playoff picture and even defeat Georgia on Saturday.

2. Florida Tries to Bounce Back….

This Florida team is officially the weirdest team in the SEC. How can they be good enough to beat LSU and Mississippi State but turn around and get throttled by Missouri at home??

Last week’s crushing 38-17 defeat was one of the stranger scores that I’ve seen in the SEC this season. Now the Gators sit at 6-3 on the season and 4-3 in conference play. Their contest against South Carolina this week will decide which team will finish third in the SEC East.

Not too bad for a team that finished 4-7 last season, eh? Dan Mullen’s first season has been a mostly positive one. With Idaho and Florida State still on the schedule it seems like the Gators will win eight regular season games, and if they defeat the Gamecocks this weekend the total will be up to nine.

Feleipe Franks hasn’t been totally terrible at quarterback this season and running backs Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett have formed a nice duo at that position as well.

The future is bright in Gainesville, and if the Gators capture a third-place finish in the East this weekend then they will have a nice amount of momentum heading into bowl season.

3. …And So Does Kenutucky

After being just one game away from the SEC Title Game, the Wildcats have crashed back down to Earth after Georgia issued them a beatdown last week. At the end of the day, the Bulldogs just have a more talented roster and that’s okay. Kentucky may get there in the coming years.

In the meantime, the Wildcats are playing for respect and a nice bowl game. They have sealed second place in the SEC East and with three games left in the season they can still finish 10-2.

This week presents a tough challenge for UK. First, they will be coming off a demoralizing defeat and those aren’t always easy to come back from. Second, they will be playing in Knoxville which is never an easy task.

Of course, the Volunteers aren’t necessarily a good team, but they have talent on defense and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is no slouch.

Luckily for the Wildcats Terry Wilson seems to be playing a bit more comfortable in the pocket as he had a pretty good game against Georgia. He now sits at No. 11 in quarterback rating in the SEC out of 14 quarterbacks, so he is improving.

I’m expecting Josh Allen to be one of the key players in this matchup as he should wreak havoc on a bad Tennessee offensive line today. There are zero excuses for Kentucky to lose this game so I’m calling for them to win and cover the spread.

4. Keep an Eye on Mississippi State vs. Alabama

This is actually the second ranked matchup in the SEC today, but there is pretty much zero hype behind this game. The reason being that the Bulldogs are playing on the road against what might just be the best college football team in history.

Last year Mississippi State gave the Crimson Tide one of their biggest challenges of the season. However, despite a perfect game plan and home field advantage, Alabama was still victorious.

Considering how much better Nick Saban’s team is this just season, I just do not see how the Bulldogs can win this game in Tuscaloosa.

However, this is college football and stranger things have happened. After coming off such a huge victory over LSU, Alabama could come out flat in the first half and give Mississippi State a chance to be in this game through the second half.

Also, if any team in the SEC is going to stop the Crimson Tide’s offense it will be the Bulldogs. They have the best defense in the conference as they only give up 278 yards per game (6th in the country). If Mississippi State can create pressure on Tua Tagovailoa often, then this could be close in the fourth quarter.

However, as long as the quarterback matchup is Nick Fitzgerald against Tua, Alabama will win this game. This is literally a matchup between the best passing quarterback in the SEC and the worst and I expect that to show today.

5. Quarterbacks Start to Find Their Stride

 A few weeks ago, I wrote in this weekly column that the quarterback play in the SEC has been extremely disappointing outside of Tua.

However, the play of just about every quarterback in this conference has improved since then. The biggest improvement belongs to that of Drew Lock who now sits at No. 5 in quarterback rating in the SEC.

South Carolina’s Jake Bentley is also starting to live up to his preseason hype as he sits right behind Lock at No. 6 in quarterback rating. This is thanks in part to a huge performance last week against Ole Miss in which he passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns.

Speaking of Ole Miss, Jordan Ta’amu now leads the SEC in overall passing yardage with 3,001 yards. That is good for fifth overall in the nation. Of course, fellow Hawaiian Tagovailoa is having a Heisman Trophy candidate season himself.

Even Jarrett Stidham has managed to turn things around a bit as previously mentioned. Overall, this group of quarterbacks has taken a noticeable step forward over the past few weeks. This is a very important storyline to follow as we near bowl season. The play of these quarterbacks will most likely determine just how many bowl games the SEC will win this season.


Check Out what the Cats will wear against Tennessee

Check Out what the Cats will wear against Tennessee

When Kentucky takes on Tennesee today in Knoxville, they will wear a never before seen uniform combination.

The Cats will be rocking a blue helmet with the blue facemask and no stripe, only worn against Mississipi State, and all-white the rest of the way.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm ET on the SEC Network.

#BeatTennessee


What I Hate about Tennessee

What I Hate about Tennessee

A wise man once said, “If you have hate in your heart, let it out.”  Before Kentucky takes on the Tennessee Volunteers, I had to get out all of the hate I have for Tennessee.  The list is lengthy, but not long enough.

Tennessee Orange — The color orange is not objectively hideous.  It goes great as a trim, a la Auburn, but the Pantone Tennessee chose to use is absolutely disgusting.  It burns pupils.  Like a hunter’s garb, it’s used to stand out from the crowd, except in Tennessee’s case it’s to tell every outsider, “I cheer for a women’s basketball school.”

The Fulmer Cup — So many Tennessee players used to have run-ins with the law that there’s now an unofficial award given to the college football program with the lengthiest criminal records.  Rutgers leads the current standings.

Erik Ainge — The Tennessee quarterback was generous with the football, mostly to opposing defenses.  He threw three interceptions against Kentucky in 2007, but that all was outweighed by seven touchdowns.  That’s right, SEVEN touchdowns. I learned to hate Tennessee after the 52-50 loss in quadruple overtime at Commonwealth, one that could’ve ended with a UK win in the second overtime.  If only Lones Seiber’s potential game-winning kick wasn’t blocked by Dan Williams.

Tyler Bray —  You can’t really hate Tyler Bray — after all, he did lose to UK —  unless you owned the car he pelted beer bottles with from his apartment balcony.

Peyton Manning — He once tea-bagged a trainer. People forget that.

Derek Dooley’s Pants — I can’t decide what’s uglier, Dooley’s pants or Pearl’s orange jacket?

Entitlement — Tennessee fans believe they are God’s gift to football.  They were good when Phil Fulmer was calling the shots.  He won a National Championship and had nine ten-win seasons.  Since he was forced out ten years ago, Tennessee has not finished in the top 15 or won ten games in a season.  A ten-win season isn’t happening anytime soon.

Smoky — Of all the cool dog mascots in the SEC, Smoky is the worst.

Champions of Life — I hate that Tennessee fired Butch Jones, the SEC’s Champion of Life.  However, I will thank them for hiring him after the UK search committee decided he couldn’t cut it at Kentucky.

They Low-Down.

They Dirty.

They Some Snitches.

Third Down for What — Lil Jon isn’t even from Tennessee, yet he created an obnoxious third down anthem that rang throughout Neyland Stadium.

Eric Berry — “Third Down for What” isn’t even the worst Tennessee football song.  That title belongs to the Eric Berry Halle Berry remix.

Rocky Top — I take it back.  Rocky Top is the worst Tennessee song.  It’s not just the worst Tennessee song, it’s the worst song ever.  When the unending anthem is punctuated by a “WOO!” an angel loses its wings.


(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

BBNBA: Kings Win Again, Wolves Drop Fifth Straight

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Good morning, folks. The Minnesota Timberwolves players may or may not still be in the most awkward situation ever. Let’s talk NBA.

RECAP

Hornets – 132 @ 76ers – 133 (OT)

  • The Charlotte Hornets were down by 21 at one point but came all the way the back to take the lead with just over a minute left. Unfortunately, Joel Embiid was wayyyy too much for the Hornets (he poured in 42..), but it was a thriller down the stretch. Malik Monk had a huge and-one in overtime. He also shot 19 times and only connected on four of them *shrugging emoji*. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 12 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

Nets – 112 @ Nuggets – 110

  • Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles couldn’t muster up enough offense late in the game to pull this one out for Denver. It was an expectedly exhilarating game from start to finish and ended with a Caris LeVert game-winner, but the Nuggets now get knocked to 9-3 on the season. Murray had 16 points (5-14 from the field) and five assists while Lyles brought in 10 points of his own, shooting 3-7 and executing this fantastic reverse layup.

  • Also, the fan who caught Murray’s ball when Kyrie Irving launched it into oblivion after being definitely not mad about Murray going for 50 points the other night, brought the ball back.

Timberwolves – 110 @ Kings – 121

  • De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein did the damn thing again. This time taking down those poor, poor Timberpups. Fox was outstanding. Outside of a couple rushed plays in the fourth quarter, he played an excellent game. He contributed 16 points, 10 assists, and two impressive blocks on Derrick Rose.
  • WCS was hitting from everywhere. He hit a pull-up three with zero hesitation that surprised the hell out of everyone in the arena, including me. If he wanted to get to the rim, he had no issue doing so. His defense against Towns was spotty, but Cauley-Stein’s 25 points on 11-16 shooting plus – and most importantly – the win, is something he’ll live with.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns woke up for this game – and Jimmy Butler even played, too! Towns went for 39 points on 15-27 shooting to go along with 19 rebounds. He was attacking the paint, receiving the ball in the post, he didn’t settle for nearly as many jumpers, and just looked generally interested in everything that was happening around him. His efforts fell short, though, and the Wolves have now dropped five straight. Who’s that guy they should trade again?
  • Skal Labissiere has been completely wiped out of the Kings’ rotation. He’s appeared in only five games so far and has yet to register more than 10 minutes. His DNP against the Wolves was his second straight and with a rough schedule ahead of them, he might not see the court unless the Kings are down 20-plus (which is still a possibility).

Other notes

  • John Wall had 19 points, seven rebounds, and 12 assists. His Wizards also lost to the Orlando Magic and it wasn’t particularly close until the closing minutes of the game. Whatever is happening in D.C. is tragic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team with as much talent as the Wizards play so poorly. I’m tired of talking about it at this point. Just move the franchise to the Dakotas or something so I don’t have to hear about it anymore. But, since it’s John Wall, we still get beautiful moves such as this one.

  • Bam Adebayo played in only seven minutes against the Indiana Pacers. Adebayo is fighting for minutes against Hassan Whiteside/Kelly Olynyk and he’s currently losing. Luckily, it’s a long season.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)110-121 L @ SAC2915-27 (2-5)191014-539
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)121-110 W vs. MIN2511-16 (1-1)51001028
John Wall (WAS)108-117 L @ ORL199-21 (0-3)712213+342
Jamal Murray (DEN)110-112 L vs. BKN165-14 (0-1)25102-640
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)121-110 W vs. MIN163-7 (1-1)410120+1333
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA)132-133 OT L @ PHI123-8 (0-0)122000+526
Malik Monk (CHA)132-133 OT L @ PHI124-19 (2-10)34000+127
Trey Lyles (DEN)110-112 L vs. BKN103-7 (0-0)32010-121
Alex Poythress (ATL)109-124 L vs. DET31-3 (1-2)20000+610
Bam Adebayo (MIA)102-110 L vs. IND31-1 (0-0)10001+27
Skal Labissiere (SAC)121-110 W vs. MINDNP-CD----------------
Isaiah Briscoe (ORL)117-108 W vs. WASDNP-CD----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)110-112 L vs. BKNDNP-Foot----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

3:00: Knicks (Kanter, Knox) @ Raptors

3:30: Bucks (Bledsoe, Meeks-suspended) @ Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander)

7:00: Suns (Booker) @ Pelicans (Davis, Miller, Randle)

8:00: Wizards (Wall) @ Heat (Adebayo)

8:00: Cavaliers (An. Harrison) @ Bulls

8:00: 76ers @ Grizzlies

8:30 (NBATV): Rockets (Knight-out) @ Spurs

8:30: Nets @ Warriors (Cousins-out)

9:00: Thunder (Diallo, Noel, Patterson) @ Mavericks

10:00 Lakers (Rondo) @ Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Labissiere)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


GAMEDAY, Presented by Liquor Barn: Beat Tennessee

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Kentucky ends SEC play with history on the line in a road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Cats have not won in Neyland Stadium in 34 years.  Their 17-12 victory over the Vols gave UK an 8-3 record in 1984, the last time a Kentucky team won eight regular season games.  After ending the losing streak to Florida, it’s time for two more streaks to die.

Unlike previous meetings, Kentucky is a six-point favorite against the 4-5 Vols, whose only SEC victory came against Auburn.  Needing two more wins for a bowl berth, Jeremy Pruitt could use a win over a top 25 team to get over the hump and gain the seal of approval from the fans.

The game sets up to be a low-scoring affair.  Tennessee’s offense is ranked at the bottom of the SEC in three of the four major statical categories.  After their worst performance of the season against Georgia, UK’s elite defense will rediscover their mojo in Knoxville.

To completely rid the filth from the Georgia loss, Kentucky’s offense needs to get its groove back.  Since the Bye Week, the offense has not completely clicked.  There have been games where the passing game led the way, while the rushing attack struggled and vice versa.  As the Cats head into the final leg of the season, the UK offense needs to find offensive momentum in Knoxville.  Against one of the worst defenses they’ll see all season, the opportunity is there for the taking.

Kentucky could finish with its best SEC record since 1977.  We’ll find out if the Cats can take care of business when the ball is kicked off at 3:30 on the SEC Network.

Get Hyped

It’s been a rough week for the BBN.  Let KY Wildcats TV take away all the pain to get you prepared for the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Schedule

  • 12:30 — The KSR Pregame Show Begins on 630 WLAP
  • 1:15 — The Cat Walk at Gate 7
  • 1:30 — Countdown to Kickoff w/Christi Thomas, Jeremy Jarmon and Dusty Bonner
  • 3:30 — Kickoff on the SEC Network

How to Watch and Listen

Taylor Zarzour, John Congemi and Kris Budden are on the call for the SEC Network. If you’re stuck on the road and can’t watch, there are multiple ways to listen to The Voice of the Wildcats.

  • AM: 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP
  • FM: 98.1 WBUL
  • Satellite: XM-192 and Sirius-119
  • Online: iHeart Radio

No Darius West

Bunchy Stallings will not be sidelined after his ejection vs. Georgia.  The Cats will be missing safety Darius West for the first half after the senior was flagged for targeting in the second half of last week’s game.  Davonte Robinson will start in West’s absence.  UK’s Defensive MVP from the Georgia game, don’t expect any drop-off with Robinson on the field.

Two Potential Milestones

A pair of seniors could enter the UK record books this afternoon.  Mike Edwards is seven tackles away from joining Kentucky’s 300-tackle club.  He would be just the second defensive back to reach the milestone.  Josh Allen could stand alone atop the record books.  He needs three tackles for loss and two sacks to break each UK career record.

Tailgate with UK Alumni

The UK Alumni Association is hosting a pregame party tomorrow afternoon.  The festivities begin at 12:30 in Knoxville’s Market Square at Scruffy City Hall.  There will be food and drink specials, and a $10 shuttle service to Neyland Stadium.

Cats Win

It was ugly, but Kentucky got their first win of the season last night at Rupp Arena.  It’s easier to forget all of the times they dropped the basketball after you watch the highlights from the 71-59 win.

An Elite Official Visitor

John Calipari has a special guest on campus this weekend.  After Coach Cal made a few trips to the West Coast, Jaden McDaniels traveled east for an official visit in Lexington, Kentucky.  The 2019 power forward is considered the No. 4 player in America.

Louisville Lost

What’s new? Bobby Petrino probably won’t last much longer after the Cards’ 54-23 loss to Syracuse. It’s not just that they got blown out.  Petrino played three quarterbacks, including a walk-on, in the first half.   Louisville ended four-straight possessions with turnovers and committed 17 total penalties for 125 yards.  The implosion is hilarious, but unfortunately, I fear we won’t get to give Petrino a proper sendoff on the final weekend of the college football season.

Today’s College Football Schedule

  • Noon: Ole Miss at Texas A&M on CBS
  • Noon: Wisconsin #20 Penn State on ABC
  • Noon: #10 Ohio State at #18 Michigan State on Fox
  • Noon: South Carolina at #15 Florida on ESPN
  • Noon: TCU at #9 West Virginia on FS1
  • Noon: Vanderbilt at Missouri on the SEC Network
  • 3:30: Oklahoma State at #6 Oklahoma on Fox
  • 3:30: #8 Washington State at Colorado on ESPN
  • 7:00: #25 Auburn at #5 Georgia on ESPN
  • 7:00: Miami at Georgia Tech on ESPN2
  • 7:30: Florida State at #3 Notre Dame on NBC
  • 7:30: #19 Texas at Texas Tech on Fox
  • 8:00: #2 Clemson at #17 Boston College on ABC
  • 10:30: Cal at USC on ESPN

KHSAA Playoff Football Scores

The Regional Finals are set after Friday night’s football games.

  • Scott County 28, Frederick Douglass 27
  • Moore 26, Mercer County 2
  • Ballard 34, McCracken County 18
  • Conner 20, Cooper 19
  • St. X 35, Butler 20
  • Madison Central 13, Tates Creek 10
  • Williamsburg 45, Hazard 27
  • DeSales 21, Newport Central Catholic 14 OT
  • Belfry 55, Lex Cath 51
  • Elizabethtown 27, Paducah Tilghman 21
  • Franklin County 27, Wayne County 21
  • Knox Central 20, Shelby County 14

Big Blue Buckets: 20% off at the KSR Shop!

Big Blue Buckets: 20% off at the KSR Shop!

The Big Blue Buckets sale is back! When the men’s basketball team wins, you get 20% off the day after the game. Head to ShopKSR.com to pick out some new KSR gear, UK sweatshirts, great gift ideas, and more. As a bonus, the 50% off sweatshirt and tee sale is still going on as well. Big Blue Buckets sale ends at midnight!

[KSR Shop]


WATCH: Players react to UK’s 71-59 win over SIU

WATCH: Players react to UK’s 71-59 win over SIU

Here to relive Kentucky’s victory over Southern Illinois? Perfect. Here’s a look at what some of the players – Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley – had to say after the game.

Nick Richards:

EJ Montgomery:

Immanuel Quickley:


@MaggieDavisKSR


Quade Green, EJ Montgomery come alive to secure Cats’ win

Quade Green, EJ Montgomery come alive to secure Cats’ win

Let’s be honest: Kentucky did not play well in the first half. Their shot selection was poor, their defense had serious lapses and their offense just couldn’t quite get shots to fall. UK’s leading scorers at the half were Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley, who both had just seven points apiece.

But something changed in the second half. Sure, the outing was still far from perfect, but the Cats were able to secure some defensive shots, cut down on turnovers and improve their shooting from 41 percent to nearly 47 percent. A lot of players improved their quality of play after halftime, but two stood out above the rest: Quade Green and EJ Montgomery.

Green has been at the victim of some harsh criticisms recently, largely thanks to his poor performance against Duke and a lackluster first half against Southern Illinois. Is he contributing like the BBN thought he would as a returning sophomore? Has he earned playing time on this roster? There are still doubts.

But in the second half, he finally looked like the Quade Green this team needs: a decisive leader in the backcourt, a solid shooter and a mature presence on the floor. There were still mistakes (like the three-point attempt in the second half that barely hit the rim), but his efforts helped the entire team improve their play. During the post-game press conference, Calipari even complimented some of Green’s specific decisions that resulted in points for the Wildcats.

“I’ll tell you what a great play was: the play where Quade went under the basket to help Nick [Richards], so they couldn’t throw it over the top and still stole the skip pass and threw it ahead and we dunked. Basically that was the game… That was a veteran move.”

Green finished with 14 points, three assists, one steal and two turnovers in 25 minutes of action.

Then there’s EJ Montgomery. After sitting out due to back issues during most of the Bahamas trip, the big man has been relatively quiet so far this season. Not last night. After seeing just nine minutes of action in the first half, Montgomery earned his playing time in the second. He finished with ten points, seven rebounds, two blocks and just one turnover.

Again, Calipari referenced Montgomery’s performance, specifically referencing Tuesday’s disastrous loss to Duke. After the Blue Devils made layup after layup, Coach Cal says he knew the team needed players with stronger shot-blocking abilities on the court. Against Southern Illinois, they got that from a combination of Montgomery and Nick Richards.

Quade Green and EJ Montgomery may play two drastically different styles of basketball on the court, but they have at least one thing in common: they both helped carry Kentucky to a win.


@MaggieDavisKSR


So, maybe Kentucky isn’t so great after all

Looking back, Kentucky’s four wins in the Bahamas did more harm than good. John Calipari said so earlier this week. “It may have hurt us more than helped us,” he said of the August trip. “Did we get arrogant, all of us, me included?”

Through two real games in the regular season — not exhibition games against uninterested (and some hungover) players in paradise — it is safe to say, yes, the Bahamas games were a little misleading. Kentucky looked like a team that was ready to dominate college basketball right out of the gate, a team far ahead of where John Calipari’s young teams usually are in the early season. It helped the Cats earn a No. 2 preseason ranking and planted national championship thoughts into fans’ heads, more so than usual. I can’t speak for what it did to the players’ confidence, but I imagine they got a little full of themselves too.

Then came the Duke game earlier this week. You don’t need me to tell you how that went.

And when Kentucky was given the opportunity to bounce back against Southern Illinois, it didn’t look so good through most of the game.

The Cats turned the ball over 12 times in the first 12 minutes and fell behind by as many as eight points in the first half. The Southern Illinois offense was scoring at will while the Kentucky offense was out of sync and passing the ball to people sitting at the scorers table and in the third row of Rupp Arena. If not for a late first half run, the visiting Salukis (tall, slender dogs) would’ve taken a lead into the break. Kentucky was lucky to be up by three, thanks to the play of Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards.  They had over half of their team’s points and Richards had 12 rebounds at halftime.

Then came the second half and Southern Illinois regained its lead. The lead got as high as seven points with around 14 minutes left in the game, and the unthinkable thought of an 0-2 start to UK’s season crept into fans’ heads. Is this really happening?

But the group of Immanuel Quickley, Quade Green, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards got things back on track and proved to be the winning lineup Kentucky needed, at least on this given night. It’s not the five anyone expected to change UK’s fate in the game, but they were the five to flip the script and put the Cats on the right side of the scoreboard. Green was great in setting up teammates and hitting some big shots, Richards kept grabbing every rebound in sight, and EJ Montgomery made a strong case for taking some of PJ Washington’s minutes.

In the end, it was Kentucky on top, 71-59, but the victory did little to prove UK is a good team. It will be a good team in time, but it’s not a good team right now and it’s far from the national contender we thought it was only a few weeks ago. Some of the players we thought would be stars aren’t anywhere near stars, and the team as a whole sometimes looks like they’ve never met each other. The cohesiveness and competitiveness will improve with experience, but it’s going to be a long couple of months until Calipari has them rolling — and I have no doubt he will.

Moving forward, defense should be an immediate point of emphasis because Kentucky is giving up straight-line drives and completely falling apart against the pick-and-roll. Protecting the ball should also be near the top of the to-do list after turning the ball over 19 times in this one. Finding the right shot is also a problem.

They’ll be fine, though.

Coach Cal said so after the game. “Let’s get this together. Let’s enjoy the process,” he told fans.

Until then, the ride is going to be a little bumpy.