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Five takeaways from today’s women’s basketball victory

Via @SECNetwork

Via @SECNetwork

In case you missed it, the UK Hoops team, a 4-seed, defeated Alabama, a 12-seed, 65-55 earlier this afternoon. For some more specific information, check out Haley’s game recap here. Today’s victory advanced Kentucky to the SEC Tournament Semifinals for the 8th consecutive year, which is the longest active streak in the SEC. As we look ahead to the Cats’ next game, let’s reflect with five leftovers from today’s victory.

1. Let’s start with the highlights

Check out the top plays of the game here, courtesy of our friends at KY Wildcats TV.

2. Alyssa Rice made the difference

Although Rice has been one of the team’s starters for most of the season, today’s game definitely stands out as one of her strongest. For the third time this season, the junior hit double-digit scoring, ending with a career-high 11 points and five rebounds.

“We were just looking to be aggressive and duck-in on their post players,” Rice said after the game. “We were just trying to be poised and patient.”

3. Speaking of poise…

If you’ve been following along all season, you know “poise” has been Coach Matthew Mitchell’s word of choice from the very beginning. Today was no different. After the Tide scored a quick five points to open the game, the Cats rallied to lead 17-14 at the end of the first quarter. However, Kentucky shot just 6-of-16 from the field in this quarter. From here, the Cats remained – you guessed it – poised, and therefore maintained their lead throughout the rest of the game.

“Coach Mitchell always tells us to be poised when we have the ball, and we tried to do that today,” said senior Evelyn Akhator.

4. Akhator did her thing

For the 9th time this season, the senior forward scored 20 points or more, ending the game with 23 points and nine rebounds, just shy of what would have been ­her ­­16th double-double of the season.

Maci Morris channeled another basketball player with a double-M named (cough cough, Malik Monk) and came alive in the second half. In the first, the sophomore was 0-6 from the floor. With 7:09 left in the third quarter, Morris hit her first three of the game, pushing Kentucky’s lead back up to ten after a 7-0 run. She ended the night with 11 points – nine of which came from the second half – and three rebounds.

Taylor Murray added 8 points and dished out a team-high five assists before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter after a collision.

“She doesn’t feel great right now but it’s too early to tell what happened,” Mitchell said immediately following the game. “It was a legal play, just a bad collision.”

5. Next up… South Carolina

UK Hoops will be back in action Saturday at 5 p.m. to take on the No. 1 seed, South Carolina. The Gamecocks have defeated the Wildcats twice this season, but you know what they say about beating a team three times in one year… Tune into ESPNU tomorrow to cheer on the Cats, and make sure you’re following @HaleySimpKSR for real-time updates, as she’s in Greenville, South Carolina to cover the game.


BONUS: Check out this adorable video of Coach Mitchell and his kids celebrating after the victory.


Photo by UK Athletics

Hjelle Dominates In Game One Win Over #23 UCSB

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Sean Hjelle allowed one run in 7.1 innings to boost Kentucky (5-5) to a 2-1 win over #23 UC Santa Barbara. The BatCats gave Hjelle two runs early and they were enough to give the sophomore righty his first win of the season.

Recap

Santa Barbara’s Noah Davis spun scoreless frames through the first couple innings before UK got to him in the third. Luke Becker and Connor Heady singled to put runners at the corners with one away for the hot hitting Marcus Carson. The centerfielder delivered with his ninth RBI of the season on a single to right field. Heady would come into score on a wild pitch to give UK a 2-0 lead through three.

UCSB responded in the top of the fourth. The Gauchos used small ball to get Colton Burns in to cut the Cats’ lead to one. Hjelle was dominant following the run-scoring fourth inning. The sophomore went 7.1 innings and allowed only one run on six hits and a walk while striking out eight.

Both teams struggled to reach base following the fourth inning. Davis was excellent for UCSB after allowing two early runs. The freshman of the year in the Big West last season threw a complete game and allowed only five hits. Davis never hit over 90 on the radar gun, but he had excellent movement on his fastball and curveball to shut down the Cats’ lineup for his last five innings.

Hjelle and Davis battled against each other until the eighth when Colton Cleary came on in relief for UK. With runners at first and second, Cleary used a strike-’em-out throw-’em-out to end the threat in the eighth. The Cincinnati-transfer stayed on for the ninth and retired the meat of the Gaucho lineup in order to wrap up a 2-1 win for UK.

Notes

Cats win in a pitcher’s duel- Early in the season, UK struggled to win close games. The offense had put up 29 runs in their last two games, but Davis shut down UK for the most part. It was the first time that UK had pulled away in a one-run game and finished it off late.

Hjelle had his first great start of the year- Hjelle entered Friday with an ERA over 11. The sophomore was phenomenal in the win. He utilized his curveball very well and got nine ground ball outs.

The bottom of the order picked up the slack- Evan White, Zach Reks, and Kole Cottam all did not collect hits in today’s win. Luke Becker went 2/3 with a run and Heady, Mahan, and Carson all had hits.

UK will look to win the series tomorrow at 1 ET. It should be a warmer day tomorrow at the Cliff, so come out and see Zach Logue and the BatCats take on UCSB. The game will also be available on SECN+. 

 


Photo by UK Athletics

Akhator and Rice lift No. 4 Cats over No. 12 Alabama

 

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

The Tide couldn’t roll over Kentucky’s bigs today.

When Kentucky and Alabama met in January, the Tide had no answer for the Cats post game.

Today, Alabama lived and died by the three. Kentucky, on the other hand, used their advantage in the paint in the 65-55 win to advance to the SEC Tournament semi-finals tomorrow in Greenville, SC.

Alabama got off to a hot start with a 5-0 to begin the game, but the Cats would answer by hitting four of their next five while stopping the Tide. Kentucky then went cold, hitting only two of their next eight to end the quarter. However, they were able to stay in the game by hitting four of five free throws. Senior forward Evelyn Akhator’s eight points in the first period were huge in Kentucky’s 17-14 lead to the end first.

Both teams struggled offensively in the second, but the only thing that kept Kentucky moving was Akhator and junior center Rice working the paint. With six minutes left in the half, Rice had eight well needed points. The two bigs were working seamlessly together, recognizing when the other was open and being patient.

“We were just looking to be aggressive and dunk in on their post players because a lot of times they were playing behind. Just playing with poise. We worked on that a lot in our practice. Even when they sent the double-teams, looking for our opposite post player or guard, just being poised and patient,” Rice said.

The two were responsible for boosting the Cats lead in the first half and helping maintain it in the second half. Alabama went on a 6-0 run in 48 seconds to cut it to three with eight minutes left in the third period. Akhator finished with 23 points and nine rebounds while Rice finished with a career-hight 11 points and five rebounds.

“Alyssa is just blossoming in front of our eyes right here. Every day she gets a little bit better. Those were not poor players she was scoring against. Those are really good, tough post players in our league,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said after the game.

Kentucky dominated in the paint, outscoring Alabama 24-16 and out rebounded them 39-33. The Cats also took advantage of the Tide’s 18 turnovers, scoring 16 points off of them.

Out of Alabama’s 72 shots, 21 of those were three-pointers, an attempt to beat Kentucky outside rather than inside. Of those 21, Alabama made just eight while making 20 of 51 field-goal attempts.

Senior guard Makayla Epps had a quiet 12 points and five rebounds. Freshman guard Taylor Murray had just eight points before exiting the game with about 12 seconds left after she ran full speed into an Alabama pick. Murray walked off the court on her own power and went straight to the team doctors.

“Taylor was hustling, and it is a bad break for us if it is anything that lingers. We don’t know right now. Doc is checking her out,” Mitchell said.

This win advances Kentucky to the semi-finals against No. 1 South Carolina who defeated No. 8 Georgia handily today, 72-48. Tomorrow will be the third time the Cats have played the Gamecocks this season. The first time in Lexington where South Carolina beat Kentucky 75-63. The Cats hung on a little closer the second time on Sunday in Columbia, losing just 95-87.

Tomorrow’s matchup will be a challenge but Alania Coates, South Carolina’s main big, did not play in the win against Georgia today and rode into the arena on a scooter on one leg. However, the Cats are taking it in stride.

“It will be a big, big test for us. We came down here with our goal to win the tournament. I think you have to go through the champion, whether it’s tomorrow or Sunday, you’re going to have to beat them to have a chance in it,” Mitchell said.

The game will be at 5 p.m. tomorrow inside Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC on ESPNU. Tune in and cheer on your Cats.


UK Hoops beats Alabama, advances to play South Carolina in the semis

UK Hoops beats Alabama, advances to play South Carolina in the semis

@KentuckyWBB

@KentuckyWBB

Congrats to UK Hoops, who just beat Alabama to advance to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, where they’ll meet 1-seed South Carolina tomorrow at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. The Gamecocks have beaten Kentucky twice this season, but as they say, it’s always hard to beat a team three times, right?

Evelyn Akhator led the way with 23 points and 9 rebounds, followed by Makayla Epps with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Haley Simpson will be by in a bit with a full recap.

Bravo, ladies!

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Photo: @KentuckyWBB on Twitter

Recapping Day One in Greenville at the Women’s SEC Tournament

Photo: @KentuckyWBB on Twitter

Photo: @KentuckyWBB on Twitter

Because I’m devoted to bringing y’all top notch UK Women’s Basketball coverage, our old-friend Kindsey Bernhard and I made the trek from Lexington to Greenville, South Carolina last night for the Women’s SEC Tournament. Based off our short time here, I can already tell Greenville is one of the best cities in the South. The parks are gorgeous, food is delicious, the people are incredibly friendly and I’m excited for three more days here. If you ever find yourself wanting a nice weekend trip, I 10/10 recommend Greenville.

Anyways, on to the reason we’re here. Earlier today, the team went to North East Street Academy, a local elementary school who’s students the players have been pen pals with. The team hung out with the students, played some ball, danced and led them in the Cats cheer.

The Cats are a four seed in the tournament, earning them a two-game bye. They’ll take the floor for the first time tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. against No. 12 Alabama. Kentucky visited Tuscaloosa back in January and handled the Tide easily in a 71-54 win. Evelyn Akhator completely destroyed them in the paint, scoring 29 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. So it’s sufficient to say that the Cats will try to win using that technique once again, but the Tide will also probably try to shut her down.

In order to get to the quarterfinals, Alabama defeated No. 13 Vanderbilt on Tuesday and pulled out an upset against No. 5 Tennessee earlier today. Kentucky lost its last game to the Volunteers in Knoxville, so Alabama is a far easier matchup for the Cats.

If Kentucky comes out against Alabama tomorrow, they’ll face the winner of No. 8 Georgia or No. 1 South Carolina who play the first game tomorrow at noon. Kentucky has won both their games against Georgia this season 82-61 and 66-56. However, the Cats have lost both times they’ve played the Gamecocks albeit a close one on Sunday in Columbia.

Tomorrow’s game can be found on the SEC Network so tune in and avoid your work with some mid-day basketball. Also, follow me on Twitter.com at @haleysimpKSR for all of your Women’s Basketball needs but I’ll also have updates here.

P.S. if you have any Greenville recommendations, feel free to send them my way.


Photo by UK Athletics

UK broke ground on the new baseball stadium today

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Today was a big day for the UK Baseball team, which broke ground on the construction of a new baseball stadium. UK President Eli Capilouto, University Athletics Board Chairman Dr. C.B. Akins Sr., Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and head coach Nick Mingione met with the media to discuss the new stadium, which is expected to be finished in 18-20 months, in time for the 2019 season.

“We’re excited,” Mingione said. “I do believe this: We’ll by far have the best college baseball facility in the state of Kentucky and it will be one of the premiere college baseball facilities in all of our country. Will it be the biggest? No, it won’t be the biggest, but it’ll be the right one.”

The state-of-the-art stadium is expected to cost $49 million and will be located off Alumni Drive between the new Kentucky Football Training Facility and the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex, adding to the cluster of UK Athletics facilities in the area.

“We’ve created a little bit of village on this side of campus for our student-athletes,” Barnhart said. “It’s a really, really special place for us. It gives us a chance to be our best version of who we want to be.”

The stadium will feature permanent seating for nearly 2,500 fans with additional space on grass berms to accommodate a total of more than 4,000 fans for regular-season games. Beyond the outfield wall, temporary bleachers can be installed for NCAA Tournament games to bring the seating capacity to more than 7,000. Fan amenities also will include suites and a new club area.

Check out a rendering of the stadium below:

Want more baseball talk? Listen to KSR’s new baseball podcast (yes, really!) featuring Trey Hunstman and former UK Baseball coach Keith Madison. It’s good stuff.


UK Hoops will face Alabama tomorrow

UK Hoops will face Alabama tomorrow

@KentuckyWBB

@KentuckyWBB

It looks like the basketball gods are smiling on Matthew Mitchell’s squad today at the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament. Twelve seed Alabama upset 5-seed Tennessee to advance to the quarterfinals, where they’ll play Kentucky at 2:30 PM ET tomorrow afternoon. Why are we happy about this? The Vols beat the Cats 72-65 in their meeting earlier this year, whereas the Cats beat the Crimson Tide 71-54 in Tuscaloosa in January.

Here’s a look at the updated bracket:

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.50.26 PM

Our own Haley Simpson is at the tournament, and will be by a little later on with her thoughts on her first day in Greenville, South Carolina.


The KSR Baseball Podcast: Episode 1

KSR baseball writer Trey Huntsman is joined by the winningest coach in Kentucky baseball history, Keith Madison, in the first addition of the KSR Baseball Podcast. The 45-minute show will be a weekly discussion of all things baseball, from UK to the Major Leagues.  Here’s a little of what you’ll hear in the debut episode…

—  Kentucky has the best defensive first baseman Madison has ever seen in the SEC.

—  What Madison believes will make Mingione a great coach.

—  How the Cats fared in the first two weeks of the season and a look at the SEC.

—  Spring Training and a look ahead at the Reds’ season.

—  Madison ends the episode with a “Mound Visit” to all of the listeners.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes, streaming on Podbayor via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


UK Athletics

Epps, Akhator are All-SEC First Team

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

Kentucky’s senior stars were named First Team All-SEC by the league’s coaches today.  Makayla Epps became just the second player in program history to receive first team honors three times, joining Leslie Nichols.  It’s Evelyn Akhator’s second All-SEC honor; last year she was a second team selection.

In her second season at Kentucky, Akhator averages 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.  She is ranked second in the conference and 11th nationally with 15 double-doubles this season.  Akhator is nationally ranked in the Top 25 of four statistical categories: defensive rebounds per game, field-goal percentage, total rebounds and rebounds per game.

Epps leads UK in scoring with 16.9 points per game.  The Kentucky native is the only player ranked top 10 in the league in points, field goal percentage and assists.  She will finish her career at UK as the only player in school history to finish in the top five in scoring and top eight in assists.

South Carolina is the only other team with more than one player on the All-SEC’s First Team.  That’s impressive, but not as impressive as their Senior Night performances at Memorial Coliseum.

Kentucky begins postseason play Friday at 2:00 p.m. as the four-seed in the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.


UK’s DanceBlue event raises $1.785 million to fight pediatric cancer

UK’s DanceBlue event raises $1.785 million to fight pediatric cancer

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The numbers are officially in! University of Kentucky’s annual DanceBlue event brought in a whopping $1,785,286.96 to fight pediatric cancer!

The 24-hour dance marathon began yesterday at 8:00 p.m., and finished in dramatic fashion when the final total came through.

DanceBlue is the largest philanthropy event at UK, where hundreds of students gathered at Memorial Coliseum and danced the day and night away for an unbelievable cause.

Check out some moments from the event:

Thank you to all who participated and/or donated to the cause. Your efforts are more appreciated than you realize.

#FTK (x1,785,286.96)


UK Athletics

The Call To The Bullpen, February 26th

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

It was an up and down weekend for the BatCats (2-5) as they picked up their first two wins of the season behind some brilliant offensive performances. Kentucky outscored their opponents by 22 runs over the road trip, but still went 2-2. There were plenty of positives to look at over the weekend. Here’s a refresher on the four games in Virginia and much more in our first Call to the Bullpen of 2017.

(more…)


Photo By UK Athletics

UK Hoops Falls to South Carolina

Photo By UK Athletics

Photo By UK Athletics

UK Hoops played a hard game today in Colonial Life Arena but ultimately, the Gamecocks won 95-87.

South Carolina got off to a quick start, going 7-for-7 from the field in the first quarter. Taylor Murray also got off to a quick start with seven points in the first alone. She ended with a career high 29 points. Murray was able to get something going and help the Cats go on an 8-0 run at the end of the half cutting the score to 48-40.

Despite Murray’s amazing game, foul trouble and great shooting from South Carolina cost the Cats the game. Morris, Akhator, Murray, Rice and Cann each had four fouls and for the first time in her career at UK, Makayla Epps fouled out. The bench depth has been somewhat of a concern for the Cats all season and this afternoon, it showed. While Matthew Mitchell struggled to get some players in the game, the Gamecocks lit up the boards – shooting 62%.

UK Hoops finishes the regular season 20-9, and 11-5 in the SEC. As far as the SEC tournament goes; UK is looking at either a three or a four seed.


Leftovers from a Busy Day in the Big Blue Nation

Leftovers from a Busy Day in the Big Blue Nation

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The basketball game was one of the most satisfying experiences for Kentucky fans in the past calendar year.  It stole the spotlight, so allow me to shed some light on other things happening around Wildcat country.

—  So. Many. Recruits.  The header photo is what my Twitter timeline looked like for most of the day.  We already knew a number of recruits that planned to visit, but Twitter revealed many more.  Ayodele Adeoye (bottom right corner) might be the most pleasant surprise.  Adeoye is a 4-star Top 300 inside linebacker from St. Louis.  There was a large in-state contingency too, but I’d go gray in the hair mentioning every name that crossed my timeline today.

—  Nick Richards is Back.  Drew Franklin didn’t catch him at his best, fresh off a suspension.  Tonight the future Wildcat had 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead The Patrick School to their fourth Union County title in five years.

Meanwhile, 2018 UK recruit Zion Williamson is still busy doing dunk contest-stuff in the middle of games.

If you’d like to see more highlights from future Cats, this link will do the trick.

—  The 100th Sweet 16 is Coming Together.  Believe it or not, postseason basketball is upon us.  Today the brackets were drawn for (almost) every region in the state.  See when and where your favorite team plays here.

—  Boogie and The Brow aren’t Fair.  In their second game together they’re getting more creative.  Tonight, a pick-and-roll finished with a lob.

Oh, and Cousins dunked on Nerlens (albeit after the whistle).

—  THE JET STOLE HOME!  The young UK baseball season hasn’t had too many highlights, but they’re starting to figure things out.  During today’s win over Old Dominion, the Cats pulled a triple-steal with a 2-1 count.  You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy Marcus Carson’s base-running.

—  All Gold Everything (in Track and Field).  Everything the UK women’s track and field team touches turns to gold.  At the SEC Indoor Championships Jasamine Camacho-Quinn took home gold in 60m hurdles, her second career gold, and Sha’Keela Saunders got the gold medal in the long jump with the sixth-longest jump in indoor collegiate history.

The women’s overall score was 71 points, good for the third-place bronze medal, tying the best finish in school history from 1989.


UK Athletics

Love Baseball? The Baseball Podcast is Coming to KSR!

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

As part of our new baseball coverage, KSR will bring a stand alone baseball podcast next week. We are amping our coverage for Kentucky Baseball and the sport as a whole in 2017 with a weekly Baseball Notebook post, more game coverage, and the baseball podcast. 

The KSR Baseball Podcast will focus on UK Baseball, SEC Baseball, and the pros. The show will be hosted by yours truly and former Kentucky Baseball Coach Keith Madison. Coach Madison led the Wildcats for 25 years, winning the most games in UK history. Before coaching, he played in the minor league systems of the Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds after signing out of Brownsville. Coach Madison is one of the most knowledgeable baseball experts in the country and we are excited to have him join the podcast network.

The Baseball Notebook post will be once a week and will cover the week ahead, former Cats in the pros, SEC baseball, and much more. As for the podcast, it will available on the KSR iTunes feed next week.

We look forward to bringing you the best coverage for Kentucky Baseball and all other levels in 2017. For up to the minute coverage, follow @TreyHuntsmanKSR and @KeithMadison32 on Twitter. 

 


UK Athletics

Kentucky Gets First Win Of The Nick Mingione Era

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

It took a boatload of runs and an early comeback, but Nick Mingione and Kentucky picked up their first run of 2017. The BatCats used a seven run fourth inning to lead the way to a 16-9 win over St. Joseph’s on Friday afternoon. Luke Becker drove in four runs in support of Zach Pop in relief. Pop shutout the Hawks in 3.2 innings of relief to pick up the win.

Recap

Much like the first four games of the season, UK fell behind early. Peter Sitaras blasted a grand slam off Sean Hjelle in the second and Dominic Couci followed with a solo blast in the third. Already down by a crooked number, the Cats clawed back starting in the third. Zach Reks scored Tyler Marshall on a sac fly and Connor Heady scored the first of his three runs on an RBI groundout by Riley Mahan.

The offense backed up Hjelle in a big way in the fourth inning. Trailing by three, the Cats reached base nine times in the top of the fourth and tallied seven runs off SJU’s Pat Vanderslice. Marcus Carson and Kole Cottam both reached base twice in inning as Kentucky used six singles and three walks to break the game open. 

The Hawks were able to answer back in the fifth. Couci homered for the second time, this time a three run shot to cut the lead to one. Matt Maul singled in another run to tie the game and chase Sean Hjelle in the fifth.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

The Cats had enough of the back and forth nonsense following St. Joe’s rally in the fifth. Pop entered the game and shut down the Hawks over 3.2 innings in relief. After Pop entered in the fifth, St. Joe’s looked despondent. The sophomore struck out four and allowed two hits in relief.

Kentucky used some big two-out hitting to regain the lead in the sixth. Luke Heyer took a bases loaded walk to make the score 10-9 before Luke Becker brought everybody home with a double off the leftfield wall. The Cats used more outstanding two out hitting in the 7th as their lead grew to 16-9 when Marcus Carson tripled down the line to score Mahan.

The first two weeks have been about new guys making their debuts for UK. Chris Machamer made his debut in style today when he struck out the final batter of the game to give Kentucky their first win of the season.

Notes

Kentucky’s offense showed out. It was a group effort today as four different players had multiple RBIs, including Marcus Carson’s three and Luke Becker’s four. UK had incredible plate discipline today as they reached base ten times on walks to go with their fourteen hits. All of this was without Evan White, who is still out with a groin injury.

Pop continues to be impressive. It is understandable why so many people see Pop going in the first few rounds of the MLB Draft. He has a high ceiling with a fastball in the high 90s and a couple of other plus pitches. He is yet to allow a run in 5.2 innings this season. If he pitches like this against SEC opponents, look for Pop to make a push into the rotation.

Congrats to Coach Mingione on his first win. The first win of the season is always the hardest in baseball. Mingione got his first win as a head coach today in Norfolk. The first few losses were by a close five runs, but Mingione and the Cats are now in the right direction.

Catch the Cats tomorrow at 4 ET against Old Dominion on 98.5 with Dick Gabriel. Zach Logue will look for his first win of the season on the mound.