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The Kentucky Rifle Team is the best in America.
Today in Charleston, South Carolina the Wildcats won the program’s second National Championship. The Cats posted their best score of the season to knock off West Virginia, the five-time defending champions. On top of the team title, Henrik Larsen was an individual title in the air rifle after posting a score of 506.
Head coach Harry Mullins took Kentucky back to the top seven years after UK’s first title. His celebration was fit for a two-time National Champion.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 08th, 2018 @ 6:30pm
Another future-Cat has been added to the Jordan Brand Classic roster. Five-star guard Rhyne Howard joins 23 other women from across the nation in the “showcase of the greatest male and female high school basketball players in the game today.” The girls game will tipoff April 8 at 3:30, followed by the boys game – which features Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro – at 5:30.
The news comes just one day after Howard was named Tennessee’s Class AAA Miss Basketball. The title was an obvious choice – Howard is leading Bradley Central High School to a 33-0 record while averaging 22.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 4.1 assists per game. She’s hitting 54 percent from the field this season.
In addition to her Miss Basketball title and her Jordan Brand Classic recognition, Howard was also named a McDonald’s All-America Game nominee and was on the Naismith Trophy Preseason and Midseason Watch Lists. The All-Star Girls Report ranks Howard as the No. 8 player in the 2018 class. Combined with Harlan-native Blair Green, the Report ranks Kentucky’s 2018 recruiting class No. 18 in the nation.
What a season it’s been for Matthew Mitchell and the Kentucky women’s basketball team. The No. 9 Cats upset No. 8 Alabama in the first round of the SEC Tournament Thursday, but the good fortune didn’t last. The Wildcats were eliminated from the SEC Tournament Friday, falling to an undefeated Mississippi State (31-0) 81-58. The Cats’ 14-16 season record marks the first time in Mitchell’s tenure the team has finished under .500. Now, for the first time in eight years, UK Hoops will not make the NCAA tournament. What went wrong? What went right? Here are the three takeaways from a tough season.
1. Matthew Mitchell’s future
Let’s start with the obvious. Despite the mass exodus of 2015, in which the program had more scholarship players transfer or decommit (seven) than return (six), Kentucky was able to hold on last season and even advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament thanks to then-seniors Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator. But this season, the turnover caught up to the Cats, and Kentucky was exponentially less successful after the departure of two of last season’s three leading scorers.
This year was tagged as the “recovery year” even back in 2015, but now the real question emerges: how will Kentucky move forward from here? The future is bright with two highly-touted 2018 recruits: Blair Green and Rhyne Howard both signed with the Cats last November. Green is a four-star prospect and the ninth best wing in the 2018 class, according to ESPN; Howard is a five-star prospect, the 10th best guard and 31st best overall player in the 2018 class. Both ladies are favorites to win the title “Miss Basketball” in their respective states, Kentucky for Green and Tennessee for Howard.
Mitchell’s ability to sign two highly-rated recruits shows he’s “still got it.” But if he fails to develop these players, it will not only hurt the team for another year, but it will also further hurt recruiting for the program. Mitchell’s contract was extended last December through 2022 for $825,000 annually with a five percent increase every year.
2. Consistency is key
While the Cats struggled on both sides of the ball this season, their inconsistent offense caused them the most issues. Take the Cats’ most recent loss, for instance. UK came out firing, hitting 66.7 percent from the field, and Kentucky actually led Mississippi State 23-22 at the end of the first quarter. But then the wheels started to come off, as UK Hoops has seen all season. In the next ten minutes, the Cats couldn’t buy a basket, and the Bulldogs went on a 19-2 run, including five consecutive three-pointers. Over the next two quarters, the Cats couldn’t get their offense back on track and were outscored 46-21.
After seven straight 20-point games, junior Maci Morris struggled offensively against the Bulldogs. She finished with 13 points – five of which came from free throws – plus three rebounds and three turnovers.
Moving forward, the Cats have to become a more consistent threat on the offensive side of the ball. There cannot be anymore sub-20 percent shooting quarters if Kentucky wants to find itself back in the NCAA tournament next season.
3. Morris-Murray Combo
The bright spot of this year’s team boils down to Kentucky’s two top-producing scorers: Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Combined, the two averaged just under 29 points per game. Luckily for the Cats, the duo will be returning for their senior years next season. And they’re not the only ones returning: Kentucky returns the majority of its offense, losing only Jessica Hardin (1.2 ppg) and Alyssa Rice (6.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg).
Kentucky’s freshmen this season showed promise. Dorie Harrison and Tatyana Wyatt each averaged over six points per game; Keke McKinney and Amanda Paschal both averaged 4.7. With added minutes plus another year of experience, these ladies have the potential to develop into key players for Kentucky in the coming seasons.
Left without a bid for the NCAA Tournament, what’s next for the Kentucky women’s team? Click here to find out.
The Oscars are officially here, where the year’s best movies will be celebrated and honored on the big stage.
With football season over, postseason play starting in basketball, and several other fall sports coming to a close, it’s time to present the season victories for Kentucky athletics.
And the award goes to…
Winner: Kentucky vs. Tennessee (Football)
The Wildcat football team certainly had “prettier” wins (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Missouri), but their victory over the Tennessee Volunteers had everything you look for in the Best Picture.
The perfect antagonist, the poor start from the protagonist, the crushing injury, the resilient comeback story, and the gut-wrenching finale.
With the clock winding down, we saw Stephen Johnson’s epic go-ahead Superman touchdown dive with 33 seconds remaining, followed by the double-reverse touchdown throw to Benny Snell for the two-point conversion.
To put the icing on the cake, we saw one final punch from the villain, with the Jarrett Guarantano hail mary completion coming just two yards short of the end zone.
The Cats knocked out the vile orange creatures from Knoxville, and the world was better for it.
Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Benny Snell (Football)
Johnson was the team’s quarterback, but the bulk of the load went to star running back Benny Snell.
And he embraced it flawlessly, filled with heart and passion for the game.
In the lead role this season, Snell earned AP first-team All-SEC honors, led the SEC in rushing touchdowns (18) and total rushing yards (1318).
For team records, the sophomore back broke nearly all of them, setting the school record for most rushing yards by a sophomore, total rushing touchdowns (31), rushing touchdowns in a season (18), and most points in a season (110.)
Oh, and we get him for another season.
Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Maci Morris (Women’s Basketball)
The women’s basketball season certainly didn’t go as planned, but junior guard Maci Morris took over as the team’s star and ran with it.
In the regular season, Morris averaged 17.2 points per game, good for seventh in the SEC. She shot 47% (69 of 147) from beyond the arc and 83.7% at the free throw line, and also managed 3.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.2 steals a game. In her game against South Carolina, she scored 35 points, just the third player in Kentucky history to reach that mark in an SEC game.
She also dealt with a nagging knee injury, but still led the team in scoring 19 teams during the regular season.
Morris came in her freshman year as a local fan-favorite from Bell County, and has slowly become one of the most impressive shooters in the SEC.
The Cats needed a go-to player, and they found one.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Basketball)
To start the year, point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was expected to be a solid role player off the Kentucky bench. There were whispers that he was impressing in preseason practices, but no one truly thought he would be a star contributor this season.
Heading into postseason play, the freshman guard has been the team’s most consistent player, averaging 13 points, five assists, and four rebounds per contest, single-handedly willing his team to victory on several occasions.
Quade Green and Hamidou Diallo were expected to be the dominant one-two punch at the guard position this season, but Gilgeous-Alexander was able to overtake each of them by the start of conference play.
His shooting has been impressive, his length on defense has bothered opposing offenses, and his relentless work ethic has been admirable, to say the least.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Sydney McLaughlin (Track and Field)
McLaughlin turned heads in the Summer Olympics in 2016, and surprised the Big Blue Nation by signing with Kentucky out of high school.
Ever since she got here, she has been an absolute rockstar, breaking national and world records for the Cats. The Track and Field team has been one of the best in the SEC, both men and women, but McLaughlin has taken the girls to a whole new level.
Just last month, McLaughlin won the women’s 400-meter event with a final time of 50.52 seconds, good for first in SEC history, second in NCAA history, and is also considered the junior record.
She dominates in both relays and single events, and will almost certainly be the face of the Olympics in 2020.
And she’s a Wildcat.
Animated Feature Film
Winner: Kentucky Volleyball
If there is one team on campus that got fans fired up this year, it’s Craig Skinner’s bunch.
The best volleyball team in school history made an epic run to the Elite Eight this season, broke attendance records time and time again, and even took down No. 1 Florida back in October.
They finished the year with a school-record 29 victories, including a 14-game winning streak in the middle of the season and a 17-1 record in conference play.
Fans couldn’t help but gravitate toward this dominant squad, and momentum around the program will certainly continue going into next year.
Winner: Nick Mingione (Baseball)
When Nick Mingione arrived in Lexington back in June of 2016, a rebuild was expected for the baseball program. He set a goal to head to Omaha in his debut season, but many fans scoffed at the idea of any major postseason run this early.
Just one year into his head coaching career, Mingione was only two games away from the College World Series, as the Cats made it to the school’s first-ever Super Regional.
Last March, he helped break ground on a state-of-the-art $49 million baseball stadium set to open this fall.
This season, the baseball team is off to an incredible start, kicking off the year with an 11-1 record as a consensus top-10 team in the nation. The high hopes for a College World Series Mingione hoped for last season are well in reach, if not likely at this point.
Thanks to Mingione, Kentucky now has an elite baseball program set to dominate for years to come.
The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship game will be played this afternoon, while the semifinals were played Saturday night. For the first time in eight years, the Kentucky’s women’s basketball team did not make an appearance in the semifinal round. The quarterfinal loss also means the Cats will break their eight-year streak of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Before the SEC Tournament departure, Coach Matthew Mitchell remained confident in his team’s right to play in the post season.
“You look at some teams that are going to the NCAA tournament, we’re right there with them, very competitive in games,” Mitchell said. “If you’re getting just completely blown out and the team looks like it kind of on its last leg, then you think about not playing. I would say our team has worked really hard.”
But no matter how hard the team worked, they weren’t quite able to deliver in the SEC Tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their 6-10 conference record also means the Wildcats will not play in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament – the SEC’s automatic bid will go to Alabama. It’s worth noting Kentucky beat Alabama twice this season (79-54 at home back in January and 71-64 in the first round of the SEC Tournament last Thursday afternoon). Unfortunately for the Cats, the Tide finished the season just one SEC win ahead of UK, therefore guaranteeing them a spot in the WNIT.
So what’s next for UK Hoops? Their most likely remaining option is the Women’s Basketball Invitational. The WBI is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament with games played on the home court of the team with the higher ranking. Kentucky would be the first SEC team to compete in the WBI since the tournament’s birth in 2010. Still, Mitchell just wants his players to have a chance to compete.
“We will definitely look for opportunities to play,” Mitchell said last weekend. “In my mind, as long as the team keeps coming with great energy at practice, and working hard, I would love for them to have an opportunity to play.”
Selections for the WBI will be announced alongside NCAA and WNIT brackets on Selection Monday. The first round will be played the following Wednesday and Thursday.
It was a slow start for UK Hoops when they took on Alabama for their opening game in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday. The Cats started 0-of-4 from the field, but after turning up their defense, they were able to tie the game at 8-8 with five minutes left in the first quarter. Alabama answered with a 10-0 run to regain the lead. The score at the end of the first quarter was 18-8. Kentucky was 3-for-16 in the first quarter, while Alabama was 8-for-17.
UK Hoops scored the first six points in the second quarter, cutting Alabama’s lead to 14. The Cats were able to grab the lead for a quick moment, at 21-20, but a 4-0 run from Alabama put them back on top by the end of the half. Kentucky was able to outscore Alabama 15-7 in the second quarter, making up for lost points in the first period. The score at halftime was 25-23.
Kentucky scored another small lead in the third quarter, but three straight three-pointers from Alabama helped give the Tide a six-point lead. The score was 41-35 with five minutes left in the quarter. An 8-0 run from the Cats helped tie the game at 46-46 with 48.2 left in the quarter. The score at the end of the third quarter was 50-48, with UK Hoops in the lead.
With 8:20 left in the fourth quarter, UK Hoops had their biggest lead of the game at 54-50. No. 4 Maci Morris secured her seventh 20-point scoring game to put the Cats up 67-62 with 1:23 left. Morris also scored two big threes in the fourth quarter, helping Kentucky secure a win. The final score was 71-64.
“We have to rise up and play with a maximum Kentucky Wildcat effort tomorrow because we need this win. We need it,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said in the post-game press conference.
UK Hoops will take on Mississippi State tomorrow, Friday, March 2, in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
This morning the SEC announced postseason women’s basketball awards and a trio of Kentucky women’s basketball players made the cut.
Maci Morris was named Second Team All-SEC, Taylor Murray made All-Defensive Team and Alyssa Rice was one of three players tabbed as the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
It’s the third straight year Morris has been named to the SEC’s first or second team. The sharp-shooter from Pineville is scoring 18.3 points per game in SEC play and has posted more than 20 points in six straight games.
Murray is second on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, but more importantly, she’s top five in the conference in assists and steals per game. Rice is just the second player in program history to be named SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
The trio will lead the Wildcats to Nashville for the first round of the SEC Tournament this Thursday at 1:00 against Alabama on the SEC Network.
At her first appearance in the SEC Indoor Championships, Sydney McLaughlin broke records.
The freshman track star ran the 400m in 50.52 to set a new World Junior record, NCAA Freshman record, SEC and UK record. Her gold medal performance was the second-fastest 400m in NCAA History. McLaughlin also picked up a bronze medal as a member of UK’s 4×400 relay team.
McLaughlin wasn’t the only big winner this weekend. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn won her fourth-straight gold medal in the 60m hurdles and Olivia Gruver won gold in pole the vault with the second-highest jump in NCAA history.
The Kentucky women’s team placed third and the men finished sixth at the SEC Indoor Championships.
Read more here.
Thamel Loves his Sources
After dropping a source bomb on Friday, Pete Thamel could not resist the temptation to report another salacious NCAA story. Except this story on LSU’s Will Wade, really wasn’t a story.
Unrelated to the FBI investigation into college basketball, Thamel reported the NCAA is “looking into the recruiting tactics of Will Wade.” What does that mean? Absolutely nothing. To save you a click, here’s the clunky meat and potatoes from the report that should’ve never been reported.
The NCAA’s scrutiny of Wade began not long after his hire at LSU in March, but the inquiry has stalled because of a lack of on-the-record specifics about Wade’s recruiting, according to a source. The NCAA’s information gathering has covered part of his time as head coach at VCU, according to a source. Wade’s early recruiting activity at LSU prompted the NCAA enforcement interest, according to a source.
The NCAA interest appears to be in its exploratory and information-gathering stages, according to sources.
LSU got good recruits, so the NCAA is seeing if he did anything illegal. So far they’ve found nothing. Was that worth a “SOURCES” report? Probably not.
Another 20-Win Season
Kentucky’s victory over Missouri was the 20th win of the 2017-18 season. John Calipari has reached at least 20 wins in all nine seasons at UK, a milestone he’s surpassed for 24 straight years, the longest streak in the nation. A few other impressive notes from the Mizzou win:
- Kentucky made 10-of-16 threes (62.5%) their best three-point shooting performance of the season.
- Kentucky had 17 assists, the most since the Monmouth game in December.
- Six players scored in double figures; it was the third straight game at least five players reached double digits.
- Quade Green has scored exactly 12 points in each game of Kentucky’s three-game win streak.
- The Cats scored 87 in consecutive games, the highest point total of the SEC season.
John Calipari will talk about it all on tonight’s call-in show at 6:00 on the UK Sports Network. Until then, you can get your Kentucky basketball fix by watching Inside the Madness and this new video from KY Wildcats TV.
The Journey has all been building towards the end of the season where we hoped to be playing our best basketball. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close. #EmbraceTheJourney pic.twitter.com/lBAg0iOsX2
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 25, 2018
Happy Birthday Benny!
Young Benjamin Snell Jr. is celebrating a birthday. You can send your best wishes to Kentucky’s future all-time leading rusher (yeah, I said it) by Tweeting him @Benny_Snell. #SnellYeah
Get Out the Brooms
The Kentucky baseball team swept Oakland this weekend by a combined score of 42-13. They wrapped up the series with a 15-6 Sunday win. They’ll return to action tomorrow night at The Cliff vs. WKU.
College Basketball on TV
|7:00||#5 Duke at Virginia Tech||ESPN|
|7:00||Marquette at Georgetown||FS1|
|9:00||#6 Texas Tech at #21 West Virginia||ESPN2|
|9:00||Texas at #8 Kansas||ESPN|
The Kentucky women’s basketball team will begin SEC Tournament play this Thursday in Nashville against Alabama at Noon CT. Matthew Mitchell’s 14-16 team is the tournament’s No. 9 seed.
Kentucky won the only match-up against Alabama this year, a 79-54 victory at Memorial Coliseum. If they can beat the Crimson Tide again, they’ll face the undefeated No. 1 seed, Mississippi State. UK lost by an average of 20.5 points to State in two meetings this year.
Take a look at the complete SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament bracket:
By Eli Mitchell on ©February 25th, 2018 @ 5:30pm
The Kentucky Baseball team is red hot to start the season as they scored 42 runs in 3 games to sweep the weekend series against Oakland.
TJ Collett led the way by hitting a home run in each of the three games against Oakland extending his streak to 4 straight games with a homer.
Collett, a sophomore out of North Vigo High School in Indiana, had an outstanding week by hitting .412 with 12 RBI’s and 4 HRs.
The sweep helped improve the Cats overall record to 6-1 with their only loss coming in extra innings against Xavier last Tuesday.
Trey will have a full rundown of the big weekend for the Kentucky baseball team later on today.