“Show Me My Opponent” is back once more and for the first time with bowl eligibility →
“Show Me My Opponent” is back once more and for the first time with bowl eligibility in sight. Last week’s somewhat controversial SMMO guided the Wildcats to a win over Mississippi State as six-point underdogs. This one, I hope, will lead them to victory in Columbia for the fourth win in conference play. Let’s go.
UNIVERSITY of MISSOURI
The University of Missouri is a lovely Big 12 school in the Midwestern United States that somehow snuck its way into the Southeastern Conference in 2012.
A public land-grant research university in Columbia, Mo., its research includes studies such as the one that made news just recently, when university researchers purposely blinded and killed six adorable beagle puppies. The university said the killings were necessary to find the effects of topical hyaluronic acid to heal eye damage in dogs.
Aside from first-degree puppy-murdering, the University of Missouri, which is simply known as “Mizzou,” might be kind of racist. Just ask the university president and chancellor, who each resigned last November, following strikes and protests over racism.
More fun Mizzou and Columbia facts:
— The University of Missouri was the first university in Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson’s original tombstone is located on Mizzou’s campus.
— The entire Mizzou campus is maintained as a botanical garden. (A botanical garden is an establishment where plants are grown for display to the public and often for scientific study.)
— Columbia was an early stagecoach stop on the Oregon Trail. It was outside Columbia where Mary died of dysentery and you were snakebitten while hunting buffalo. You should’ve been the doctor!
— It is illegal to dry clothes on a line in Columbia. Antennas are also illegal.
MISSOURI TRADITIONS AND STUFF
— The tradition of homecoming was said to have begun at Missouri. As the story goes, it began in 1911 when former athletic director Chester Brewer called for alumni to “come home” for the annual football game against Kansas. Today it is the university’s most-cherished tradition.
— Truman the Tiger, Mizzou’s beloved mascot, is named after Harry S Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, who was from Independence, Missouri.
— Founded in 1908, Missouri’s School of Journalism was the first of its kind in the United States, and the first in the world behind the Ecole Superieure de Journalisme in Paris, France.
— On campus, students rub a statue of former governor David R. Francis prior to taking a test. It is believed that when a student rubs David R. Francis’ nose they’ll get an A on their next exam. The nose has been replaced several times due to this tradition’s popularity.
— At a staggering nine-feet wide, Mizzou has the biggest bass drum in college football:
NOTABLE MISSOURI PEOPLE
Brad Pitt: Hollywood actor and producer; father to Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh, Pax, Knox and Vivienne Pitt-Jolie; two-time People Magazine‘s “Most Sexiest Man Alive” winner; dropped out of Mizzou and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting career, two weeks before his graduation
Jon Hamm: Don Draper from AMC’s Mad Men; avid St. Louis Cardinals fan; Salon.com‘s “Sexiest Man Living” in 2007; 1993 Mizzou graduate with a bachelor’s in English
Sheryl Crow: She put your picture away; wondered where you’ve been; she can’t look at you, while lyin’ next to him; received a bachelor’s degree in music composition, performance, and education, and later awarded honorary doctorate
Sam Walton: Founder of Wal-Mart; one of Time‘s “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century”; the richest person in the United States from 1982 to 1988; voted “permanent president” of his 1940 Missouri class, whatever that means
Pat Forde: John Calipari hater; Rick Pitino apologist and bestie; major has-been in sports journalism
INSTAGRAM SCOUTING REPORT
Sooooooo… We should go to Missouri, right?
SO WHO’S THE HEAD COACH?
The head coach of the Missouri Tigers football team is…
(Hang on. I need to Google it.)
Barry Odom. It is someone named Barry Odom.
According to his Wikipedia page, Odom is a former Missouri linebacker from 1996-99 and defensive coordinator in 2015. He was also on the Tiger staff in some form from 2003 to 2011, before serving as Memphis’ defensive coordinator from 2012-14.
Odom replaced Gary Pinkel this past offseason after Pinkel retired due to health related issues following 15 seasons in Columbia.
Odom also looks like the Before picture in Bosley Hair Restoration commercials.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
|#30 | MICHAEL SCHERER | LB | Senior (RS)
Suffered torn ACL against Middle Tennessee State — out for the season.
|#79 | TERRY BECKNER JR. | DT | Sophomore
Suffered torn ACL against Middle Tennessee State — out for the season.
|#3 | DREW LOCK | QB | Sophomore
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock currently ranks third in the conference in passing with 1,995 yards through the air, with a second-best 16 touchdowns.
The product of Lee’s Summit, Mo. — which, if you’re ever there and get a sweet tooth, go to Custard’s Last Stand for a concrete — played in all 12 games as a true freshman last season, including starts in the final eight games of the year. #MatyMaukProblems
I completely lost my train of thought thinking about those concretes.
LAST TIME WE MET
Kentucky gots its first conference win over Missouri last season in Commonwealth Stadium. Missouri had won the three previous meetings since joining the SEC’s East Division in 2012.
Patrick Towles threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns against the 25th-ranked Tigers to end Kentucky’s 18-game losing streak to ranked opponents. It was also UK’s first win over a ranked opponent in five years.
Towles’ 22-for-27 night was a follow-up to the worst of his career, against Florida, one week earlier.
Here’s the deal. Missouri is better than its 2-5 overall record states. It has one of the SEC’s top offenses, powered by a good quarterback in Lock and a dangerous young running back in Damarea Crockett.
But Kentucky’s found a way to win ball games, and that’s exactly what will happen Saturday afternoon. Kentucky will win the ball game, as it has done in its last four winnable games, because Alabama does not count. Nick Saban’s team is too good for college football.
So here’s how it’ll go down: Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp and Benny Snell will combine for 250+ yards rushing on the ground, which will keep Kentucky in control of the clock and of the game. Missouri will score some points, but its inability to stop the run will be the difference maker. Stephen Johnson will do just enough at quarterback and he WILL NOT FUMBLE in his fifth victory as the Cats’ QB.
After the game, the handful of Kentucky fans that made the trip for an 11 am local time kickoff will terrorize the streets of Columbia. C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS! will ring out on Broadway, or wherever people go in that town.
Then, those same Kentucky fans who celebrated long into the night on the Tigers’ home turf, will make the seemingly never-ending drive across the empty state of Missouri, back into the Bluegrass. But they’ll do it with a smile, knowing their team is going bowling.
Cats win. Bowl ticket punched (unofficially).
Andrew Eaton joined Nick and Freddie to discuss Saturday’s buzzer-beating win over the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Looking ahead to Missouri, Nick and Freddie did a little role-playing before taking your questions. Some highlights:
— KSR Skull Session:
Lamar Dave Barry Odom vs. Mark Stoops.
— Freddie explains exactly how the RPO works.
— Why does Vegas have Mizzou as the favorite?
— A behind the scenes story about MacGinnis’ game-winning kick.
We got a little carried away in this week’s podcast podcast, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the extra 20 minutes of entertainment. We break down the wild win against Mississippi State and how Kentucky matches up with Mizzou. Highlights include:
— What it was like inside the press box.
— Things aren’t always what the seem in the two-minute drill.
— Wishing Charles Walker a Happy Birthday.
— Franko’s over-the-top Tennessee attire.
— Does anybody wear a shmedium shirts better than Tim Couch?
— A preview of the next 30 for 30: The Cumberland Redskins Harlan County Championship.
— Jared’s scariest moment on a football field.
With only a few days left until the first exhibition, let’s have some fun, shall we?
There’s been a lot of speculation about the starting lineup since Madness — Calipari will likely play all three guards at once, but will he go big with Isaac Humphries and Bam or start Derek Willis to stretch the floor? We won’t know for sure until Sunday, but until then, PICK YOUR STARTING FIVE in the ranker below:
Halloween will be celebrated across the globe this coming weekend, with trick-or-treaters flooding the neighborhood streets and your favorite bars filled with girls in slutty costumes and guys there to buy them drinks.
Unfortunately, we here at KentuckySportsRadio.com are unable to celebrate this weekend, due to the big football game in Columbia on Saturday and the first basketball exhibition of the season to follow on Sunday. But we still got some of our favorite people together for an early celebration of sorts in our first annual KSR Celebrity Halloween Costume Contest.
Here are our favorites…
Matt Jones as Donald Trump
Mark Stoops as Ken Bone
Paul Finebaum as Negan from The Walking Dead
Mitch Barnhart as Colin Kaepernick
Vince Marrow as Jon Snow
Matt Bevin as Harley Quinn
John Calipari as Drake
Ryan Lemond as Eleven from Stranger Things
Katina Powell as Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino as Katina Powell
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 24th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
Yesterday, I wrapped up another mega UK sports weekend by spending the afternoon at Rupp Arena for eighth annual John Calipari Women’s Basketball Clinic. This is probably the fifth Women’s Clinic I’ve covered, and I’ll admit that it had gotten a bit stale. This year, organizers shook things up by moving the clinic to Rupp Arena for the first time, and, because they were expecting a record number of attendees (1,053 was the final count), changing the autograph rules so the whole clinic wouldn’t consist of watching players sign stuff. There was some early grumbling about the changes (NO RAFFERTY’S?!), but by the end, I think everyone will agree it was one of the best yet.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
1. I was worried when I drove up there
I woke up Sunday morning feeling great; the Cats won a game that would normally end in heartbreak and bowl hopes were looking up. Despite the late, late night, I was energized and ready to roll for a fun day of basketball…and then I checked social media. In what has become a tradition, fans were already lined up outside the doors to the women’s clinic hours before it began, and even though the rules for this year’s clinic were emailed to all attendees, there was some loud grumbling in line. Some people were upset that lunch wouldn’t be served as in years past (outside catering isn’t allowed at Rupp), that players could only autograph balls purchased at the clinic, and, because the players had to sign 1,000 or so balls, that interaction with them would be limited. Matters only got worse when the grumbling was reported on a local sports talk show, on which the hosts joked that a mutiny was in order. With all of that in mind, when I climbed in my car in Danville to make the short drive, I was expecting drama. No one wants to mess with hangry ladies!
2. Let them eat cupcakes
On my way to the clinic, I met up with Lorie Blevins, who made a funny cake about UK Football that we featured on the site a few months back. Lorie was nice enough to bake me some cupcakes, which I had planned on taking home with me to Nashville, but after reading tweets from people in line at the clinic complaining about the lack of food at the clinic, I decided to take some of them in with me and only hand them out to people who promised to quit whining. I tweeted about it, but I don’t think anyone took me seriously, so the looks on people’s faces when I handed out the cupcakes were priceless. I could go on a long rant about this, but the whole incident reminded me just how spoiled and entitled the UK Basketball fanbase can be sometimes. Who cares about Rafferty’s when you get to hang out in Rupp?
(By the way, the cupcakes were delicious. If you’d like to try Lorie’s baking for yourself, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
3. Nothing shuts everyone up more than a charity donation
Thankfully, it seemed most of the grumbling was pacified by the perks of the event being in Rupp (touring the locker room, hanging out on the court, etc.) and the crackers and granola bars UK provided in the goodie bags. Most of all, people really shut up when John Calipari announced he was donating the $10,000 UK normally spends on food at the clinic to the Markey Cancer Foundation. Nothing quiets the masses more than a charity donation.
4. Alex Poythress was there
The grumbling about autographs also quieted down when attendees noticed special guest Alex Poythress, who signed autographs for two hours during registration. Alex, who was waived by the Pacers last week but is expected to play for their D-League affiliate, hung out for the duration of the clinic.
5. The Caliparis brought their dogs
Anyone who knows me or follows me on SnapChat (@mrstylerksr) knows I love dogs. So, when I spotted two dogs under the basket near the table where John Calipari was signing stuff, I immediately made my way over there and started playing with them. Turns out they are the Calipari’s dogs, McGruff (left) and Palmer (right). Ellen Calipari said she didn’t want to leave them at home, so her husband suggested bringing them with her. Both were sweet as could be and loved all the attention.
6. Ellen Calipari is an extrovert now
Of all the offseason developments, the one that’s surprised me most is how involved Ellen Calipari has been with the program since her son Brad joined the team. At Media Day, Cal joked that Ellen’s been to more practices this season than she has the whole time he’s been at Kentucky, but her presence and involvement really is remarkable the past few months. In years past, she’s stayed out of the spotlight to let Cal do his thing, but now, she’s a staple at each event, proudly posing in her son’s jersey at Madness, cheering loudly after each shot he takes, and even participating in yesterday’s training drills with Jen Palumbo:
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 23, 2016
You go, Ellen.
7. I was impressed by Isaiah Briscoe
If you’ve heard it once over the past few months, you’ve heard it a million times: Isaiah Briscoe is the leader of this team. I’ll be completely honest: I wasn’t impressed with Briscoe until this weekend. Part of that is due to my odd interaction with him at SEC Basketball Media Day last Wednesday — it’s clear Briscoe dislikes doing media events — however, I saw a totally different side of him on Sunday. Briscoe embraced the crowd from the second he hit the floor, making a point to slap as many fans’ hands as possible and even doling out a few hugs.
Isaiah Briscoe made a point to shake as many fans’ hands as possible pic.twitter.com/Hj8BMiMC39
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 23, 2016
After he scored 39 points in the Blue/White game on Friday, we knew Briscoe’s shot had improved, and on Sunday, I saw why. We got to watch thirty minutes of “practice” (basically, a glorified shootaround), and I kept my eyes on Briscoe throughout. UK split their five minute three-point shooting drill between guards and bigs, but Briscoe continued to shoot after the split. After a cold start, Briscoe warmed up, cheering after each three he made and encouraging the ladies to do the same. If I had to guess, I’d say he hit 65-70% of his threes over five minutes, which may not be as impressive as Derek Willis or Malik Monk’s numbers, but considering how far he’s come, it’s much more important.
Hard to tell much from drills, but here are some other brief observations:
- Isaac Humphries (knee) sat out again
- Bam Adebayo showed off a really nice touch from midrange
- The passing was incredibly crisp and fast
- This team is fast fast fast fast fast fast fast fast
8. Dominique Hawkins seems poised to take over as “team dancer”
With EJ Floreal off pursuing his track and field career, the role of hype man in the huddle is up for grabs. So far, it seems like Dominique Hawkins is poised to take over the role after busting a move at Madness and again yesterday during the clinic’s intros:
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 23, 2016
9. The top secret recruiting video is awesome
Attendees were treated to the coaching staff’s ten minute video they show to recruits on visits, but before it began, we were all given a strict warning NOT to film it. Robic even went as far to give me a death stare and jokingly call out KSR in front of the whole group, drawing big laughs from the crowd. While I didn’t dare film the video, I did take some notes. The first half of it was just a recap of the Calipari era, but the second half included clips of Marcus Camby, Sam Cassell, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, and Karl Towns talking about how much Cal means to them and describing what makes him special as a coach. Anthony’s story about how Calipari yelled at him for the first time during practice was my favorite.
“I just turned around and looked him like, ‘What?’. I’d never been benched in my life, but he doesn’t care who you are,” Davis said.
10. Calipari gave away his shirt and shoes to two lucky fans
One of the sweeter moments of the clinic came at the end, when John Calipari gave away his custom pink UK sneakers to one lucky fan, and after someone yelled, “Give us your shirt,” decided to give that away, too. The winner? One of “Cal’s Gals,” the quartet of super fans who makes shirts for the clinic each year. The look on her face when her name was called was priceless:
Turns out that Cal’s gal, Kay, is a teacher, and one of her former students wrote me on Twitter to say that no one is more deserving of the gift than her, recounting how Kay watched the Cats win the 1978 Championship in Lexington, stayed up all night to welcome the team home, then was in school bright and early the next day to teach. Congrats, Kay.
11. Each attendee got a team photo with the team
Sure, there may not have been lunch, but fans did get to leave with a picture with the team, who posed with groups of fans at the end of the clinic. I love Rafferty’s, but that beats a honey croissant any day.
12. Pandering gets you everywhere
The resilient Kentucky Wildcats outlasted the Mississippi State Bulldogs 40-38 on the heels and toe of kicker Austin MacGinnis’ 51-yard field goal that barely crossed the uprights as the clock turned triple zeroes. It wasn’t pretty; but it sort of was in a strange reversal of karma kind of way. Over the years the BBN has been witness to all too many games of the same nature that did not result in UK’s favor in the Win/Loss column.
QB Stephen Johnson moves to 4-1 as the Wildcat signal caller with Saturday’s win over Mississippi State. The Boom and Benny Show demolished yet another opponent’s rush defense statistical standing.
Let’s take a closer look:
— Eddie Gran dialed up another explosive game as his offense rolled up 554 total yards off 77 plays. The Benny and Boom Show demolished the Miss State rush defense to the tune of 262 yards. The Dogs were allowing 136 per game.
— Miss State was allowing 361 total yards per game; UK finished with 554. If my math is correct, and that’s normally questionable, that’s a surplus of 193 yards.
— Senior center Jon Toth controlled the interior of the line of scrimmage. Elite players play their best football when the game is on the line. Toth was next-level good on Saturday night.
— No way to dance around the subject; QB Stephen Johnson struggled in the first half: 9-22, 101 yards. He regained composure and confidence by finishing the game 17-33, 51.6%, 292 yards, 0 INT, and 2 touchdowns.
— Boom Williams and Benny Snell were significant while taking snaps in the Wildcat formation. Eddie Gran repetitively went back to the Wildcat following explosive plays.
— WR Jeff Badet was brilliant: 7 catches, 139 yards, 2 touchdowns. He also returned 3 kicks for 77 yards (25.6 per). Senior Ryan Timmons contributed with 3 key receptions for 77 yards.
— Stephen Johnson’s fourth quarter fumble resulted in a Mark McLaurin scoop and score. Cats were poised to salt the game up 34-24 deep in MSU territory prior to Johnson’s turnover. McLaurin’s touchdown was the 83rd point off turnover for the season. Stephen Johnson’s ball security, or lack thereof, has plagued the junior throughout his 5 game tenure.
— Other than the abovementioned fumble Stephen Johnson played winning football in the second half: 8-11, 191 yards, 2 touchdowns. He displayed a high level of maturity and resiliency especially for a first year student-athlete who has been a target of voiced criticism. I will say this again; he’s 4-1 as the Kentucky quarterback with his only loss coming on the road at Alabama. Will he win another game? No idea, most likely yes. But as stated many times before; the role of a backup quarterback who is forced into sustained game action is to win winnable games. Stephen Johnson has done just that.
— John Schlarman’s offensive line continues to show progress, develop, and shine. Example; the SEC’s 5th leading tackler, MSU LB Richie Brown, was averaging 8.5 per game prior to Saturday. Brown finished with 4 total tackles. Johnson was only sacked once.
— The game-winning drive was orchestrated and executed as rehearsed in practice. Mark Stoops said in his post-game press conference that his offense practices that same exact series of events that led to MacGinnis’ field goal on a weekly basis. Johnson hit Jeff Badet on a dig route (deep inside over the middle). Through repetition Badet knew to go down in order to save time on the game clock for a field goal attempt. Credit Johnson for completing passes that led up to that play as well as the OL for providing adequate time in the pocket.
- Rushing: 262 yards
- Passing: 292
- Total: 554
- 3rd Down: 6/15
- Red Zone: 2/4
- Time of Possession: 32:53
- Turnovers: 2
Benny Snell: 19 carries, 129 yards, 1 TD
Boom Williams: 14 carries, 102 yards
Jeff Badet: 7 catches, 139 yards, 2 TD’s
Stephen Johnson: 17-33, 292 yards, 2 TD’s
— The secondary played wonderfully. It held QB Nick Fitzgerald to 13-21, 81 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. Miss State’s first half passing numbers: 7-9, 9 yards. Fitzgerald was averaging 211 pass yards per game.
— Safety Marcus McWilson played his best game as a Kentucky Wildcat. His Pick 6 was a major contributor to the final score, but his run support and pass defense were equally as significant.
— Fitzgerald was limited in the passing game but was at times unstoppable on the ground: 16 carries, 107 yards, 2 TD’s and averaged 6.7 yards per rush. Miss State’s Run/Pass/Option attack bothered the Cats especially in the second half. The Dogs finished with 281 yards on the ground.
— All SEC WR Fred Ross scored a 4th quarter touchdown to put the Dogs ahead on the scoreboard but was for the most part held in check: 5 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD.
— NT Naquez Pringle’s play and improvement at NT are to be commended. Much like with Melvin Lewis in 2015, UK is better when Pringle is on the field. He finished with 3 tackles but was active in pursuit and provided an interior line of scrimmage push.
— LB’s were vulnerable vs. the RPO. Fitzgerald naturally applies tremendous pressure on the edge, but the majority of his run yards came straight up the middle of the field. Disengaging blocks in order to make tackles while navigating line of scrimmage traffic is a difficult task.
— That said, Jordan Jones continued to rack up a high number of tackles (11). Jones is arguably one of the SEC’s break-out players of the year.
— Kentucky was an efficient tackling defense in the first half. Miss State scored both of its second quarter touchdowns after benefiting from a shortened field due to a Keith Mixon 45-yard kickoff return and a Stephen Johnson fumble.
— Cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Chris Westry combined for 11 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. CB’s are ultimately judged off their performance against the pass, but both CB’s were physical against the run on Saturday.
— OLB Denzil Ware and several other defensive players battled injuries. Ware contributed 7 tackles and 1 TFL. His running mate Josh Allen won’t jump off the stat sheet but effectively contained MSU’s edge runs.
— Mississippi State was averaging 401 total yards per game. It gained 362 off 60 plays.
- Rushing: Allowed 281 yards
- Passing: 81
- Total: 362
- 3rd Down: 4/12
- Red Zone: 3/3
- Turnovers: 1
Jordan Jones: 6 solo, 5 assisted, 11 total tackles
Marcus McWilson: 3 solo, 5 assisted, 8 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 Pick 6
— Kicker Austin MacGinnis missed an early 28-yard chip shot but was later good from 46, 32, and the game winner from 51 yards.
— Punter Grant McKinniss was not as productive: 3 punts, 34.3 yards per. The true freshman did not strike the football well.
— MSU returned 4 kickoffs for 104 yards (with a long of 45).
— Jeff Badet returned 3 kicks for 77 yards, long of 37.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Simple, UK is 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the SEC. The Wildcat’s 3 SEC wins haven’t come against the conference’s 3 best teams. That really doesn’t matter. The big picture is that Mark Stoops’ Wildcats found a way to overcome adversity and win the football game in the 4th quarter.
By Nick Roush on ©October 23rd, 2016 @ 12:51am
There were only 62 ticks left on the clock when Kentucky got the ball at their own 20 yard line. Trailing by one with three timeouts, Boom Williams told Austin MacGinnis, “We’re going to give you a chance. We believe in you.” Boom was right.
For the first time since 1998, Kentucky won on a field goal as time expired. Kentucky’s hero received redemption after starting the game with a miss off the right upright from 28 yards out. That was one of many what-ifs that almost cost the Cats. To call it unbelievable would not be cliche.
Kentucky was physically imposing their will upon Mississippi State. Up ten with 9:41 to play, Benny Snell was about to give Kentucky a three-score lead and shove a dagger directly through the Bulldogs. Instead, we witnessed “the only thing you can’t do.”
A fumble would have been bad. The scoop and score was catastrophic. Instead of 41-24, it was a three-point game. The air was sucked out of the stadium as fans thought, “not again.” Luckily, the players did not share the same thought.
Boom Williams immediately responded, rushing for 35 yards and 23 yards on consecutive plays down the left sideline to put Kentucky within striking range. But Stephen Johnson had another snafu. Lined up as a wide receiver in the Wildcat formation, his false start on first down put the Cats behind the chains and forced them to settle for a field goal and only a six-point lead with 6:52 to play.
Mississippi State methodically marched down the field by getting yards in bunches on first down, all the while fans worried even more, “this can’t be happening.” Then, it happened. Kentucky forced a third and nine, but Chris Westry’s pass interference gave the Bulldogs another chance. Two plays later on third and six, the blitz was a step too late. Fred Ross’ touchdown took away the Kentucky lead with 1:09 to go, 38-37.
Few believed Kentucky could do it. Doubt grew even more after referees interfered. That’s not a complaint; a referee tripped C.J. Conrad. The following play Johnson was taken to the ground by a horse collar. Stoops immediately lost it and forgot to call a timeout, costing the Cats a play. Johnson took a deep shot, but Dorian Baker couldn’t corral the game-winning touchdown.
Yet some how, some way, Kentucky won the football game. I typed that fact and it’s still hard to believe.
A Tale of Two Halves
Compared to the second half, the first was an uneventful bore. The Cats’ first drive was impressive, until the kick clanked off the upright. Defensively, Kentucky suffocated State, forcing four three-and-outs to start the game. Miss. State’s first first down of the game didn’t occur until the 9:49 mark of the second quarter. The teams combined for only 20 points in the first half; UK scored 21 in the third quarter.
Stephen Johnson’s start was subpar. At the half fans were asking if it was time to pull the trigger on Gunnar Hoak. You couldn’t blame them; through the previous six quarters he was 19/45 for only 150 yards and an interception. To be fair, receivers dropped passes and State only had 9 yards passing, yet Johnson’s misses weren’t close misses.
Stephen turned it around in the second half. He was efficient (8/11 for 191 yards) and hit a few deep balls, connecting with Jeff Badet for scores of 44 and 40 yards. Badet had the best game of his career. Along with the two touchdowns, he had 139 yards on 7 catches. His most important one might have been the last of the game, immediately falling down in the middle of the field to save a few ticks for MacGinnis to hit the game-winner.
Take a sack, Stephen. Seriously, it’s cool. They suck, but not as bad as fumbles. Johnson was stripped twice. The scoop and score was the 83rd point scored off UK turnovers this season. UK’s 19 turnovers are the most in the SEC. Take away one of those and it’s an easy win, but nothing’s easy if you’re a Kentucky football fan.
Many, Many Injuries
Kentucky’s players took a beating in the physical matchup. Jojo Kemp left the game with a hand injury, right when he was finding his rhythm in the Wildcat. OLB Jordan Bonner sprained his knee on a kickoff, limiting the already thin position. Landon Young left the game with a sprained ankle, but there were many others who needed to be attended to on the field: Denzil Ware, Derrick Baity, Naquez Pringle and Jeff Badet.
Things got scary in the third quarter. Miss. State’s lead grew to 17-12, but after Darryl Williams delivered the snap for the field goal, he fell to the ground. Williams spent more than ten minutes on the turf before he was carted off to an ambulance. We’re happy to report Williams has movement in all of his extremities and is being treated at the UK Chandler Medical Center.
McWilson’s Pick Six
Too often Marcus McWilson is remembered for the interception he couldn’t reel in against Louisville. If it wasn’t for the scoop-and-score and the ensuing insanity, people would compare McWilson’s Pick Six to Bud Dupree’s against South Carolina. On the first play of the fourth quarter, McWilson jumped the out route and took it 45 yards to the house.
The fact that Kentucky had to hit a 51 yard field goal to win tonight’s game is incomprehensible.
They never should have needed it. Boom and Benny wore down the Miss. State D in the second half, combining for 227 yards on the ground, 100 more yards than the Bulldogs’ season average. Miss. State was the inferior team, with Nick Fitzgerald as their one bright spot. But we’ve watched Kentucky football before. We should have seen this coming.
What makes the dramatic win even more difficult to process is that it was in fact, a win. Kentucky won the football game. They stared down the barrel of a gun, pulled the trigger and lived to tell the story. They had no business winning the game after repeatedly hurting themselves, yet they persevered.
Mark Stoops’ team has learned to handle adversity. Now, they’re second in the SEC East, the only team in the division with a win over an opponent from the West, and need only two more wins to play postseason football. It’s one hell of a time to be a Kentucky football fan.
Well, that was fun. Tonight, the Blue team beat the White team by a score of 110-94, but I think we can agree that we’re all winners after that spectacular showing of basketball at Rupp Arena. Under Rupp’s new bright lights, the Cats shined, with Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox, and Malik Monk scoring a combined 96 points. Folks, we are good.
Let’s break it down before we move on to football tomorrow.
1. These were the starting lineups
|De’Aaron Fox||Isaiah Briscoe|
|Malik Monk||Mychal Mulder|
|Dominique Hawkins||Brad Calipari|
|Wenyen Gabriel||Derek Willis|
|Bam Adebayo||Sacha Killeya-Jones|
The teams changed throughout the game, especially after Bam and Sacha had to go to the locker room with minor face injuries. Neither Isaac Humprhies nor Tai Wynayrd played due to injury.
2. Malik Monk is a highlight reel
We all knew Monk was good, but tonight, he gave the crowd a glimpse of his genius, throwing down several dunks, most notably this stunner in the second half:
One more time from the Rupp Arena scoreboard:
Shew. Please, Malik, don’t hurt ’em.
3. De’Aaron Fox is FAST
Fox finished with 31 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, and sure looked good running the Blue team. Monk’s dunks may have stolen the show, but Fox showed off his trademark speed on this play towards the end of the first half:
De’Aaron. Fox. Yowza. pic.twitter.com/9BdqkQ4Wxr
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 21, 2016
We don’t make those John Wall comparisons for no reason, guys.
4. Isaiah Briscoe was the leading scorer
Who would have predicted that? Briscoe finished with 39 points off 14-30 shooting and 10 assists. In ways, he was the Briscoe of old, bullying to the basket and catching opponents off guard, but he also displayed a new maturity, coaching his teammates on both sides of the ball. We all know how good Calipari’s teams can be with talented freshmen, but we know how great they can be with veterans to lead. It’s hard to tell from an intramural scrimmage, but Briscoe looked like a leader tonight. The improved shooting didn’t hurt, either.
5. Bam had to leave the first half with an eye injury
Bam disappeared in the first half after taking a shot to the face and reappeared in the second half with a large bandage under his eye. Even a blow to the face didn’t stop the big man from doing his thing. He finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes, and on a few of those plays, looked like he was trying to bring down the rim in Rupp.
6. Dominique Hawkins finished in double figures as well
Dom had 22 points off 7-9 shooting, and looks like he’s ready to pick up where he left off before getting injured last season. Fellow senior Derek Willis did okay, finishing with 13 points off 4-9 from the floor, including 2-5 from behind the arc. Those might not be glamorous numbers, but those two will be crucial for this team to succeed.
7. Sacha Killeya-Jones had approximately 400 fouls
I had to laugh when, at one point in the first half, Sacha Killeya-Jones had 8 points AND 8 fouls. The scorekeepers at Rupp eventually adjusted SKJ’s foul total in his favor, but I’m pretty sure he finished in double digits in fouls to go along with his 15 points, and that’s taking into account the fact that he didn’t play most of the second half after taking a hit to the face. Coming in, we knew Sacha be a project, but I was pleased with how he cleaned up around the rim.
8. Mychal Mulder has hops
Before the game, I asked Drew Franklin for one bold prediction, and he said that Mychal Mulder, would steal the show. At the time, I wrote that off as Drew being loyal to his cousin, Mulder’s former JuCo coach, but man, Mulder looked good tonight. He finished with 18 points, off both jumpers AND drives to the basket. He’ll be behind Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins on the bench, but it was good to see Mulder’s confidence tonight.
“You see a more confident player this year,” Calipari said of Mulder afterwards.
9. The new scoreboard is awesome, but…
All eyes were on the magnificent new scoreboard at Rupp Arena tonight, and while it was great to have a huge display for the many highlights we saw, I think we can add a little variety to the show. I love the Smile Cam, but can we throw in a Kiss Cam or a Simba Cam or a Oblivious Cam (where they focus on people paying no attention to the scoreboard)? The new board is pretty, but let’s shake it up, Rupp.
10. Tonight was the quietest Calipari has been during a Blue/White game
Usually, Calipari is barking at his team throughout the scrimmage, but tonight, he was happy just roving the sidelines and spectating. This is as quiet as I’ve seen him during a Blue/White game in several years, but I have a feeling when he gets home, he’ll do this in the living room:
As will I.
By Drew Franklin on ©October 21st, 2016 @ 1:00pm
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Blue-White games over the years, it’s that, though fun to watch, they can be very misleading. Fans should not take tonight’s game as a sign of what’s to come in 2015-16. Too many times we’ve seen guys explode for a ton of points, only to disappear within the offense during the regular season.
That’s just how it works: the Blue-White game is merely a dress rehearsal to showcase what weapons Calipari has at his disposal for the upcoming run.
And, unfortunately, the game has a history of being a very inaccurate indicator of how individual players will perform when the score matters.
Take a look back with me, if you will.
Last year’s Blue-White game saw the White team snap a 13-year losing streak to the Blue. Starting for that White squad were Tyler Ulis, Mychal Mulder, Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere; and for the Blue we saw Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, Alex Poythress and Isaac Humphries.
Labissiere led both sides with a game-high 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. We never in a million years thought his season would go the way it did, with the hype surrounding him after that first scrimmage.
Alex Poythress, Charles Matthews and Jamal Murray weren’t far behind in scoring with 17 points each, then Isaiah Briscoe with 16, Derek Willis with 14 and Marcus Lee and Tyler Ulis with 10 apiece. It was the most evenly distributed scoring in a Blue-White scrimmage under Calipari.
— Poythress hit 3-of-4 three-pointers.
— Tyler Ulis’ 15 assists gave us a preview of what was to come.
— Attendance of 15,007 was the second-highest in Blue-White history.
Watch the highlights:
The 2014 Blue-White game was, without question, the most competitive of its kind. That one featured the two “platoons” and came after the Cats had already played games against professional teams in the Bahamas. You could say it was one of the toughest games they played all season, and it was against each other.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, said afterward, “It’s just scary to think that the other team is actually part of our team.”
Devin Booker was the leading-scorer with 22 on 9-of-11 shooting, with his only two misses coming on his only two three-point attempts.
— The Harrisons combined for 34 points for the Blue team in the win.
— Dakari Johnson showed off a new, leaner physique. He had 13 points and 14 rebounds playing for both sides, but missed eight of his nine free throw attempts.
— Brian Long went 1-for-1 from outside for his three points.
Watch the highlights:
The Cats opened our eyes in the 2013 edition of the Blue-White game and had several fans (me included) thinking absurd thoughts about what that team was capable of doing. Of course, things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped during the regular season, but the end result was a trip to Dallas for the Final Four.
James Young led all scorers in the 2013 intrasquad scrimmage, tallying 25 points for the Blue squad in a dominant offensive performance. Defensively, he gave us all false hope with several hustle plays and a game-high seven steals.
For the White team, Derek Willis took MVP honors with 21 points and eight rebounds. The Kentucky boy was 5-for-6 from downtown, leading everyone to wonder if Kyle Wiltjer would be missed at all. Willis hit one three-pointer in the regular season.
— Julius Randle matched Willis’ 21-point, eight-rebound outing.
— Aaron Harrison added 19, including 3-of-4 from downtown
— Dakari Johnson recorded a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 11 boards, playing for both the Blue and White teams.
— The Blue team started four freshmen: Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young and Julius Randle, alongside Willie Cauley-Stein.
Watch the highlights:
2012 gave us the UK debuts of Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays, the only Kentucky team to not reach the NCAA tournament under John Calipari. Goodwin was the game’s leading scorer with 32 points, but he needed 22 shots to do it. That selfishness was a taste of what we’d see from Goodwin that season, although he was the only one trying to make something happen at times, as you remember.
— Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel combined for 12 blocks in the game.
— Jon Hood scored 17, exposing the poor defense of a sophomore Kyle Wiltjer.
— Wiltjer scored 28 points with nine rebounds.
— Alex Poythress scored 25, while Ryan Harrow posted 20 and a game-high six assists.
— Goodwin missed a free-throw to send the game to overtime.
Watch the highlights:
Terrence Jones stole the show in 2011, a game that included six future NBA players, by scoring a record 52 points and hauling in 16 rebounds. After the scrimmage, Calipari told reporters, “Terrence Jones right now, I’ll tell you, if there’s a better player in the country, I’ve got to see him. Maybe that guy’s in our gym. I don’t know. But if there is somebody better than Terrence, I’ve got to see it.”
Little did Cal know — or maybe he did — Anthony Davis would soon become the best player in the country and lead Kentucky to the national championship the following spring. Davis scored a quiet 27 points opposite Jones with 13 rebounds and four blocks for the White team.
— Doron Lamb scored 31 points for Jones’ Blue team, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
— For the White, Kyle Wiltjer chipped in 17 with five three-pointers to go with 24 from Darius Miller and 19 from Marquis Teage.
the highlights Jarrod Polson dunk:
One year before Terrence Jones made history for the most points scored, Brandon Knight set the record with 37 points. Knight out-shined the freshman version of Jones in the 2010 Blue-White box score, but Jones still put up big numbers with 29 in the win for Blue while showing off incredible versatility in his game. It was Knight who was the record-setter, but Jones was the talk of the state after their UK debuts.
Lost in the excitement of the new freshmen: Josh Harrellson hauled in 26 rebounds and earned a Twitter suspension a few days later. Jorts tweeted, “Just amazing to me I can’t get a good job or way to go.”
You may remember, the tweet almost sent him home from the Lodge. Cal was very close to kicking him off the team and the 2011 Final Four run never would’ve happened.
— Apparently no one had a YouTube account in 2010.
— Enes Kanter was not free; he sat courtside in an Undertaker t-shirt:
The first Blue-White scrimmage under John Calipari gave us the most shocking individual Blue-White performance of Cal’s era, and maybe ever.
In a game that showcased three current NBA max deal players and five other future leaguers, the leading scorer was none other than one Darnell Dodson. Dodson scored a game-high 26 points, one better than John Wall’s 25 and two better than Patrick Patterson’s 24. He went on to average just under six points per game before transferring to Southern Miss after the season.
— Wall added 11 assists to his 25 points.
— DeMarcus Cousins fell just shy of a double-double with 16 and 9.
— Eric Bledsoe scored 14 with nine assists, splitting time between the two teams.
— A record 14,060 fans showed up for a first glimpse at the new Cats and Cal’s Dribble-Drive offense.
Darnell Dodson, ladies and gentlemen.
By Drew Franklin on ©October 21st, 2016 @ 9:00am
Kentucky’s Blue-White game tips off tonight in Rupp Arena in front of a (hopefully) packed house full of rabid and hungry UK basketball fans. The Cats’ annual intrasquad scrimmage is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip and will be carried live on your television sets by the SEC Network.
For everyone watching at home or in person, here are 10 things to look for in the Cat-on-Cat basketball action…
1. Outside shooting.
One of the major concerns entering this season, at least according to the internet, is the team’s outside shooting. They’re already being compared to the 2009-10 team that was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament due to a lack of a three-point threat, with some saying De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk will be John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, in the fact they’re insanely athletic but can’t shoot.
After seeing Tuesday’s practice, I’m not as concerned with the team’s shooting, although one practice is a very small sample size. It’ll be good to see how the guards shoot the ball in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena tonight.
2. Isaiah Briscoe’s shooting.
Maybe more important than any one Wildcat’s shooting is the improvement of Isaiah Briscoe’s shot. That goes for his three-ball and foul shooting, which have both improved dramatically since last season, if we’re to believe John Calipari.
Back in the offseason, Cal said, “He’s really improved his shooting. I think part of it is going to be if he has the ball a little bit more, he shoots it better probably off the bounce than he does catching it and shooting it because he’s not really played that way before, which probably affected him last year.”
Cal also said, “He was so bad last year, if he shoots 30 percent and 67 percent from the foul line, he’s a lottery pick.”
3. Malik Monk playing under control.
There’s no doubt Malik Monk is a lethal offensive weapon that can be unstoppable at times; however, Calipari will have a hard time keeping him under control. Monk’s decision-making and shot selection have been questioned, but he has been better since the team began practicing full-time earlier this month. Cal still jokes occasionally about some of Monk’s mistakes, and he hopes they will be limited in game action.
So keep an eye on Monk and what he does with the ball once he gets it.
4. De’Aaron Fox running the show.
Poor De’Aaron Fox has been compared to John Wall ever since the day he committed to Kentucky, which is completely unfair to the freshman point guard. Let’s leave those unreasonable expectations in the preseason hype and not actually look for them on the court tonight.
Pay closer attention to how Fox runs the show as Cal’s new PG. How does he run the offense? Can he take it to the rim? Can he hit the open shot? Is he able to get it to Adebayo inside when Adebayo needs it inside? Is he a leader?
We’ll worry about whether or not he can eventually be John Wall some other time in the far distant future.
5. Isaac Humphries playing above the rim, if he plays at all.
Humphries missed several practices over the last two weeks with soreness in one of his knees, and it’s unclear if he’ll run with the team tonight. If he does, he has some new expectations to live up to as the story of the summer for his body transformation and newfound athleticism. To put it simply, Humphries needs to dunk, block and get up for rebounds. Let’s see those new hops, Josh Harrellson 2.0.
6. Wenyen Gabriel’s midrange jumper.
Calipari called Wenyen Gabriel one of the two hardest workers on the team, along with Briscoe, so hustle and effort aren’t a problem for the freshman. What is a problem is his ability to put the ball in the basket.
At Tuesday’s practice, Gabriel got several looks from 10 to 15 feet and most were bricks. When he did hit one, Calipari stopped practice to yell “WENYEN!” with his arms in the air.
Maybe he’ll shoot the ball a little better tonight and eliminate any worries we may have for a little while.
7. Derek Willis active defensively.
Calipari also stopped Tuesday’s practice to praise Derek Willis for his defense after Willis made a couple of deflections in an on-ball defensive drill. Willis’ defense and rebounding will decide just how much he plays this season, and if those aspects of his game are there, he will be the vital fifth piece to a very good puzzle with the four guys who have already solidified their spots. Willis’ play is critical to Kentucky’s success.
8. Bam Adebayo versus Isaac Humphries/Sacha Killeya-Jones.
From what we’ve seen and heard so far, Bam Adebayo cannot be stopped. If he can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, he’ll put up huge numbers in the paint this coming season. Have we mentioned he’s a beast? Well, he’s a beast. You’ll have a hard time believing he’s a freshman.
Watch Sacha Killeya-Jones try to hang with Adebayo tonight, and hopefully Humphries plays so we can see those two bang it out, too.
9. Backcourt match-ups.
Calipari will likely move guards around throughout the scrimmage to pit them against one another. My guess is he’ll start with Fox and Monk versus Briscoe and Mulder/Hawkins, which has been the two backcourts in most practice scrimmages so far. Guard play will carry the team this season, so getting an early glance is exciting, albeit with the Big Three (Fox, Monk, Briscoe) separated for the scrimmage. We’ll still get a taste of how good they are, on both ends of the floor. I may be more excited to see how they defend each other tonight because they’re (reportedly) great defenders.
Lots of dunks. So many dunks.
7 p.m. tonight.
“Show Me My Opponent” is back again after a one-week hiatus during Kentucky’s bye week. This week, our seventh edition this season, we are looking ahead to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the Cats’ next opponent in the Cats’ next must-win game.
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
Deep down in the sweaty, un-wiped asshole of America — known as Starkville, Mississippi on your road maps and atlases — you’ll find Mississippi State University, proudly considered the 14th best university in the Southeastern Conference.
Founded in 1878 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi, today Mississippi State University is best known for producing Dak Prescott, the current starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys; and for the prominent smell of cow manure steaming from the bottoms of boots, the mud-flaps of trucks, and on the used condoms around campus.
More fun Mississippi State University and Starkville facts:
— The Center for the World University Rankings ranks Mississippi State No. 178 among American universities and No. 616 in the world.
— Johnny Cash was arrested for public drunkenness in Starkville and held overnight at the city jail, which was the inspiration for his song “Starkville City Jail.”
— Starkville claims to have invented Tee Ball.
— The school’s unofficial motto is Couldn’t Afford Ole Miss.
MISSISSIPPI STATE TRADITIONS AND STUFF
— Calling Starkville “Starkvegas” is very popular among Mississippi State students. The nickname is a play on Starkville and Las Vegas, because the two cities have so much in common. For instance, it’s unhealthy to spend more than three days in either city, and you’re liable to catch something you can’t get rid of if you have any physical contact with a local.
— Cowbells are the most resounding tradition at Mississippi State and they are a fixture at home football games. The cowbells have been said to be the loudest on sorority bid day, when new sisters are welcomed into their herds by having their ears tagged and bells attached to their collars.
— Did you know Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium has one of the largest video boards in college football? At 5,217 square-feet, the Bulldogs can be seen losing to South Alabama from miles away.
NOTABLE MISSISSIPPI STATE PEOPLE
Machine Gun Kelly: American bank robber, bootlegger and kidnapper; considered one of the most famous gangsters from the Prohibition era; studied agriculture at Mississippi State, then known as Mississippi A&M
John Grisham: Bestselling author; his first novel, A Time To Kill, sold over 275 million copies worldwide; one of only three authors to sell 2 million copies on a first printing, along with Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling
Taylor Corley: Former Mississippi State cheerleader; lost her scholarship when she posed for Playboy under the name Taylor Stone
A bunch of meteorologists: 12 of the top 25 people on Ranker.com’s Famous Mississippi State University Alumni are meteorologists, including Kristen Cornett, who was born in Lexington, at No. 2 on the list.
INSTAGRAM SCOUTING REPORT
THAT TIME SOME GUY ATTEMPTED TO RAP
SO WHO’S THE HEAD COACH?
Mississippi State is coached by the thorn in Kentucky football’s side, Dan Mullen.
Mullen is 11-0 in his career against Kentucky with a current 7-0 record as State’s head coach and another perfect 4-0 record during his time as an assistant at the University of Florida.
A former Urban Meyer understudy, Mullen is a good, offensive-minded football coach with a very lenient policy on player misconduct.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
|#7 | NICK FITZGERALD | QB | Sophomore
Nick Fitzgerald is Mississippi State’s dual-threat quarterback that will be a handful for the Kentucky D.
The sophomore leads the Bulldogs in rushing yards with 431 yards and two games of 100 or more on the ground. Oh, he’s thrown for almost 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns, too.
Fitzgerald ranks fifth nationally in average rush yards per game by a quarterback (78.0) and he is seventh in the SEC in total offense with 238.2 yards per game.
Eric Church is his favorite musician. #HavingARecordYear
|#8 | FRED ROSS | WR | Senior
A Biletnikoff Award candidate and All-SEC recipient, Fred Ross currently ranks third in the SEC in catches per game (5.7), second in the league in receiving touchdowns (5) and is tied for the MSU record in 100-yard receiving games with eight.
For his career, he has hauled in 161 passes (third in MSU history) for 1,997 yards (5th in MSU history) and 15 touchdowns (5th in MSU history). He is just one catch shy of tying his school’s career record for receptions and three receiving yards shy of becoming the fifth Bulldog with 2,000 career receiving yards.
Needless to say, he’s pretty good.
|#47 | A.J. JEFFERSON | DE | Senior
With already one SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week Award on his resume this season, Jefferson is one of the league’s best pass-rushers and run-stoppers. He currently ranks second in the SEC in tackles for loss per game and he is third overall in that category.
Jefferson also ranks 10th nationally in tackles for loss and he has recorded 34.5 career tackles for loss, which is fifth in MSU history and just 0.5 away from tying for third.
Fun fact: He played goalie on his high school’s soccer team.
LAST TIME WE MET
Last year’s game was a blowout down in Starkville as Dak Prescott’s six touchdowns — three passing, three rushing — carried the Bulldogs to a 42-16 win.
State’s offense totaled almost 600 yards, while its defense intercepted three Kentucky passes — two from Patrick Towles and one from Drew Barker.
Kentucky and Mississippi State will kick off under the Commonwealth Stadium lights Saturday night with both teams desperately needing a win, and Kentucky looking for its first in the cross-divisional rivalry since 2008.
It will be a close, hard-fought game, unlike in recent years, but the Cats will prevail in the end, handing Mullen his first career loss to the Blue and White.
All of the Mississippi State fans who came up for Keeneland and the game will make the long, depressing drive back to Starkville, knowing it’ll only get worse as they’ll soon be back to their miserable lives in the worst city in the world.
Meanwhile, Big Blue Nation will celebrate and carry the momentum into Missouri, which we’ll preview here this time next week.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 19th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
I made the long two-mile trek to Bridgestone Arena this morning to cover SEC Tipoff 2017, aka SEC Basketball Media Day. I’ve covered a few SEC Football Media Days before, and man, the two events are about as different as, well, SEC football and SEC basketball. By now, you’ve read most of what John Calipari, Isaiah Briscoe, and Isaac Humphries had to say during Kentucky’s turn on the floor, but throughout the day, I did my best to write down some interesting things about the other SEC teams. It wasn’t always easy.
LSU: No one was saying last year was a disappointment, but last year was a disappointment
LSU failed to make the NCAA Tournament last year despite having the number one pick in the NBA Draft in Ben Simmons, which many pinned on head coach Johnny Jones. Jones accepted criticism for the Tigers not making the Big Dance, but insisted that the season wasn’t a disappointment.
“Not getting to the NCAA Tournament was a disappointment for us, but we don’t consider it a disappointing season,” Jones said, touting the team’s 8-1 record at home, including a win over Kentucky, and the increase in attendance. What went wrong?
“Well, Ben Simmons doesn’t have healing powers,” Jones said, rattling off the team’s multiple injuries throughout the year.
Sure. That was the only problem.
Tennessee: Rick Barnes is in a sling
Barnes had rotator cuff surgery recently and was wearing a very complicated sling, which he took off for his interview with Andy Katz. Katz was nice enough to help him back into it afterwards:
Meanwhile, Tennessee guard Robert Hubbs said last year’s win over Kentucky in Knoxville was a landmark moment for the Vols under Barnes.
“It meant a lot,” Hubbs said of the win. “We knew we had a great fanbase coming to the game, everybody was excited, talking about it. It definitely showed what we’re capable of. That win right there set the standpoint for what Tennessee is going to be about in the future.”
I’m still recovering from that game in Knoxville.
Florida: Mike White is turning to sports psychology to help his team at the free throw line
White seemed really into the sports psychology stuff, which he hopes will cure the Gators’ woes from the charity stripe. Other than the fact he looks young enough to be a team manager, that’s all I got from him.
South Carolina: Frank Martin was so depressed about his frontcourt that he lost 35 lbs. over the summer
The ever-entertaining Martin said he’s slimmed down from 296 lbs. to about 260 this summer. Why? “I was depressed after watching my [frontcourt] play,” he quipped.
Georgia’s Mark Fox said he lost 20 lbs. this summer as well, which I’m interpreting to mean that coaching college basketball makes you fat.
Georgia: Mark Fox made a weird comment about girls in winter coats
A common question today (and every other SEC Basketball Media Day) was how the national media focuses on Kentucky and not the rest of the league. Mark Fox likened the rest of the teams in the SEC to “a pretty girl in a big winter coat,” meaning the media needs to give them more than just a passing glance. (At least I think that’s where he was going with that.)
I walked up right as Jerry Tipton said to Fox, “Pretty girl, why don’t you take that coat off!”
Needless to say, I was confused.
Auburn: Bruce Pearl thinks this Kentucky team could be as good as the 38-1 team
I posted this earlier, but Bruce Pearl was the latest to compare this Kentucky squad to the 2015 team that went 38-1.
“This is another special group. This could be another Karl Towns type group. It could be. Great players, great characters, great work ethic. They could be a really fun team and an exciting team,” Pearl said. “We beat Kentucky last year at Auburn. It was a great win for our program. That was not one of John’s better teams. It just wasn’t. This has got a chance to be one of his better teams.”
Either Bruce truly believes that, or he’s trying to put even loftier expectations on Calipari’s squad in hopes they fail. I’ll let you decide which in the comments.
Missouri: There is nothing interesting about Missouri Basketball
There really isn’t. I sat down and listened to Kim Anderson for about three minutes and almost fell asleep.
Alabama: I got Avery Johnson to talk about John Petty (without talking about John Petty)
Kentucky and Alabama are locked in a two-way battle for five-star shooting guard John Petty, and although coaches can’t discuss recruits by names with the media, I did manage to get Johnson to talk indirectly about Petty by asking him how he feels about his in-state recruiting.
“We feel very strongly about the kids in our state. We want to try to keep the really good players and players that have strong character and we think that could be competitive int he classroom, we want to try to keep those players in our state. And we want Alabama to be a destination for those kids and not necessarily leave our state and go to other programs and be part of championships at other places or NCAA teams. So, we feel we are very competitive.”
I prodded the issue a little further by asking how Avery and his staff compete with schools like Kentucky and Duke for five-star recruits.
“Our pitch, we don’t mention other schools on our recruiting visits. We just talk about Alabama. I talk about my resume. If it’s about NBA, I have a little bit of an idea what that’s all about,” the NBA champion and Coach of the Year said. “We tell them you can come to Alabama and be part of something different. You can be the first to help lead us to the Final Four. That’s our sell.”
Mississippi State: Ben Howland doesn’t like talking about his own team
I sat with him for ten minutes, and all he talked about was how underrated Georgia’s Yante Maten is and how Calipari keeps getting #1 recruiting classes. I guess if I lived in Starkville, I’d want to talk about other stuff too.
Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy compared Sebastian Saiz to a labrador
Kennedy immediately won me over when he turned and saw Jerry Tipton sitting next to him and exclaimed, “Hey, Jerry. Boy, you slipped in there, you sly fox!” It got even better when Kennedy compared Spanish native Sebastian Saiz to a labrador retriever.
“He’s always bouncing and loving and for a while, he couldn’t speak very good English — now his English is pretty good — and when he was freshman or sophomore, we would be in a timeout and we’re in a pretty tenuous situation — I know that’s a shocker at Ole Miss — but we were in kind of a tight game and I looked at him, and he’s just foaming at the mouth like a lab and I’d say whatever I’m going to say, and he’d look at me and say, ‘Coach I want to win!’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, bro, me too, but here’s what you’ve got to do to help us.’ That’s a true story. He said it every game because he only knew that little English. He wanted to win.”
After that story, Jerry jabbed back at Kennedy when he joked, “Did you go to a bar before coming here?” (A pretty ballsy question considering Kennedy was arrested for punching a cabbie while drunk on the way home from a bar a few years ago)
“I was thinking about this Hap & Harry’s,” Kennedy said, pointing to the beer concession stand behind the pool of reporters. “That’s right up your alley.”
“Oh, definitely,” Jerry said drolly.
Arkansas: Mike Anderson didn’t take my bait about Malik Monk
Malik Monk choosing Kentucky was a tough pill to swallow for Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks, and when I asked him if he thought Malik coming to UK would reignite the rivalry even more, he didn’t take the bait.
“I think that our rivalry already has been [taken to another level],” Anderson said. “It’s got nothing to do with any particular recruit. As a matter of fact, when I think of Arkansas, it’s pretty good. Obviously, Kentucky has always been good. I think it’s good for the SEC. I think that’s when the league is at its best.”
Yeah, he’s still mad.
Vanderbilt and Texas A&M: ?
I was too busy trying to transcribe Calipari’s stuff to hang out with the Commodores and the Aggies, so I guess we’ll just have to wait until the season starts to find out.
Finally, you know it’s an SEC Media event when these are the soft drink offerings:
Just water for me, please.
Freddie was joined in studio by a pair of recurring guests. Jay Dortch and Andy Murray played a physical brand of football at Kentucky and that’s exactly what the Wildcats will see this Saturday against Mississippi State. Highlights include:
— What it really means when a coach says “we’re getting back to fundamentals.”
— The good, bad and the fun when facing a running quarterback.
— The many ways depth at offensive line has improved the team.
— What midterms mean to football players.
— Josh Allen and Denzil Ware’s incredible growth.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 19th, 2016 @ 7:40pm
Whether it’s adapting to the time or not, there’s no denying that Duke and Coach K have started copying John Calipari’s every move the past few years. While Calipari has addressed the issue indirectly at times this preseason, today, he took it full on, telling reporters that the one-and-done method only became acceptable once Duke did it.
“When did it become okay to do what I’m doing??” Cal asked, to which Jerry Tipton replied, “When Duke did it.”
Cal nodded. “There you go. Then it was okay. I mean, we could sit here — you all know, you’re smiling. But every one of you could, as soon as Duke did it, it was okay. That’s fine for me because here’s what they proved: even Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, you can be about these kids and it be okay and it’s not going to hurt you as a coach, it’s not going to hurt your program. So, I was happy it happened.”
When Jerry asked why he wasn’t afraid to embrace the one-and-done model back in the day, Cal quipped, “Because I’ve been fired before. What are they going to do, fire me?”
Calipari admitted he did feel some relief when his team won the 2012 National Championship because it got the monkey off his back to allow him to do what he loves doing: helping players reach their dreams.
“Understand this, what if we hadn’t won the 2012 National Title and I was doing this? ‘He doesn’t care, care about the program, he’s just trying to’ — whatever you want to say. That’s why, when we won it, my wife came up and I said, ‘Honey, we don’t have to worry about this anymore.’ That was my comment. We don’t have to worry about winning a national title. It’s done. Let’s do what do for kids and if more of these happen, fine, if they don’t happen, fine. It is what it is.”
Calipari wasn’t done yet, aiming his fire at those critics and fans who will never be okay with his players first/NBA approach.
“If you’re about the kids, you’re not making mistakes. If you’re about the organization and the bureaucracy and all that stuff vs. the kids, you’re wrong, you’re wrong every time. So, let’s just stay focused on what we do. You may agree with it, you may not agree with it. I’m transparent about it. If you want to vote for me, vote for me, if you want to vote for her, vote for her, I’m not trying to be anybody different. This is what it is. Some people are happy, we have some, you know, old timers that will never accept what we’re doing, unless it was their grandson, then they’d do backflips and think it was the greatest thing in the world. This is unbelievable! I thought you hated it! I did when it wasn’t my grandson now it’s my grandson, this is unbelievable!”
::Grabs popcorn, waits to see the comments section::