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Kentucky superstar cheerleader Josh Marsh believes he tore his Achilles

Kentucky superstar cheerleader Josh Marsh believes he tore his Achilles

Over the course of the last four years, one of the best student-athletes at the University of Kentucky has been UK superstar cheerleader Josh Marsh. It’s a consensus.

In most games, Marsh’s mind-boggling, gravity-defying flips spark the loudest roars from the Rupp Arena faithful.

He even went viral for an impressive run in the end zone at Kroger Field.

While celebrating Senior Day in his final home basketball game at Kentucky last night, Marsh went through his impressive routine, but came up limping on his final run.

After going through some early tests and evaluations with UK team doctors, the early diagnosis isn’t good for the senior athlete.

“I got checked by the doctors at the game and they said more than likely my Achilles is torn,” Marsh told KSR.

In his time in Lexington, Marsh helped lead the UK cheerleading team to four consecutive national championships, adding to the school’s record-setting list of 24 total.

With a gravity-defying human like Marsh leading the way, it’s no surprise the Cats were able to continue their historic streak in his time on campus.

The KSR family extends our prayers and well-wishes to Marsh during his (hopefully speedy) recovery.


The team voted… And the Cats will spend spring break in the gym

The team voted… And the Cats will spend spring break in the gym

Classes for University of Kentucky students will not resume until next Monday, March 18. Throughout the next week, campus will feel a bit deserted, with the majority of students heading home or, if they’re lucky, heading somewhere warm. But, in this regard, the Kentucky basketball team can’t be considered “lucky,” because they’ve chosen to stay in Lexington to get to work.

Following Saturday’s win over Florida, Calipari told media members he planned to give his players the next few days off, saying his staff considered giving the team Saturday, Sunday and Monday off to go home, like they do at Christmas.

“When I do that, my teams go and smash people after that because they’re fresh, they’re alive. Problem is Reid [Travis] didn’t want to do it, PJ [Washington] didn’t want to do it, Tyler [Herro] didn’t want to do it,” Calipari said. “They didn’t want to go back. They said, give us [time] off, and if we want to do work with the individual coaches, we’ll do it.”

Washington enthusiastically stood by his decision.

“We feel like we’re not done yet, so nobody wants to go home yet. We definitely want to get in the gym and work to get back where we need to be and just focus on our end goal.”

That gym-rat mentality dates all the way back to the Bahamas, when reports surfaced of individual players cutting through the hotel to get back to the court late at night. Months later, that mentality is stronger than ever.

“It’s a different group. This is a group, because of their mentalities, that picked the right school… We live here, we train here and we go to class over here,” Calipari said. “These guys are gym rats and love being in the gym. They are curious and want to get better. Really, that attitude has dragged a couple players that normally wouldn’t be that way, to be that way and now their skill set is [improving].”

When asked if he was one of the players who voted to stay on campus, Keldon Johnson just laughed before admitting he just “wanted to go see my mom.” Luckily, Johnson’s mom (and several other families) were able to make the trip to Lexington.

“I told them to stay at the hotels with their families, and they’re having meals with their families. This is, again, it’s a young team and it’s been a long season. It’s been a fast season, but it’s a long season,” Calipari said. “I need their energy, I need them to be fresh mentally and physically, not tired. We try not to overwhelm them with video; we try not to overwhelm them with long practices. But we’ve got to have energy.”

Tyler Herro’s family is one of the ones able to come visit with their son over break. He said they’ll spend Saturday night hanging out, catching up, eating dinner and (maybe) watching the Duke-North Carolina game. He, like Washington, remains confident in his decision to remain in Lexington.

“We just wanted to stay here. We know that over the next month, we’re going to be fighting for our lives. Continuing to get better, keep working out, we’ll have a day off but a lot of guys will be in the gym.”

Utilizing the break may also help the players get in the gym during, apparently, their favorite time of the day: late at night. Calipari said his team often says they’re heading to get shots up around 11 p.m., but “well, you can’t. There’s volleyball in there.” The solution?

“Well, you can go in at two in the morning if you want,” Calipari offered. “Take managers and go in – they will rebound for you.”

It’s great the players are staying in Lexington this week, and it’s even better it was decided by the players themselves. Getting that extra time in the gym before the start of the SEC Tournament and, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament could be huge in the coming weeks. But let’s all say a quick prayer for the managers heading to the Joe Craft Center at 2:00 in the morning. That can’t be ideal.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Ryan “Scoop” Lemond reporting Reid Travis will not play today

There has been much speculation about Kentucky forward Reid Travis’ availability today on Senior Day, and now, we might have a little more clarity on the matter.

Ryan “Scoop” Lemond is reporting that Travis will NOT be playing against Florida this afternoon.

In Kenny Payne’s press conference yesterday, the associate head coach still considered Travis day-to-day, but hoped the Wildcat senior could suit up this afternoon. “But we’ll see,” he said.

“We’re not in the business of forcing kids to [play].  He knows what his body is, he’ll let us know and we’ll go from there with it,” Payne said.

This morning, the Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account posted a picture of Travis’ jersey hanging in the Rupp Arena locker room one final time.

While he’ll likely suit up and certainly participate in Senior Day festivities, it’s looking like we’ll have to wait till next week before Travis takes the floor again.


Scouting Report: Florida Gators

Scouting Report: Florida Gators

Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Senior day has arrived and UK will look to end a very successful season on a high note. After defeating Ole Miss earlier in the week to finish 8-2 in true road games this season, the Wildcats will now be hosting the Florida Gators to end the season. A team they are all too familiar with in playing on senior days whether at The O’Dome or Rupp Arena.

The Gators appear to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament despite their 17-13 overall record.  Thanks to a weak bubble and three Quadrant 1 wins, Mike White will have UF playing in the big show for the second time in three seasons.

The status of Reid Travis is still up in the air and the Wildcats are still ironing out the kinks without their senior big in the lineup. Today, UK will battle the early wave of emotions from senior day to attempt to collect their fourth Quadrant 2 victory of the season.

Nuts and Bolts

With his third season coming to a close, Mike White is now 84-50 overall at Florida with a 41-28 mark in SEC play. After winning 27 games and reaching an Elite Eight in year two, the Gators have recorded at least 13 losses in each of the last two seasons. Despite a fair amount of winning, the book is still out on the former Ole Miss point guard.

The fact of the matter is that White was charged with replacing a man that turned Florida, essentially overnight, into a perennial contender. Billy Donovan brought home two national championships and six SEC titles to Gainesville. Those are some big shoes for a young head coach to replace. However, the future appears to be pretty bright for this program.

Three of Florida’s top five scorers are all freshmen and are currently not projected to be draft picks. You add that in with five-star guard Scottie Lewis arriving on campus next season and, on paper, Florida will be competing for an SEC title once again next year. In the big picture, White is doing just fine in Gainesville.

Florida is a team built on defense and three-point shooting. Early in his tenure, White has made it blatantly obvious that this will be a defense first program and the numbers prove that. The Gators are 13th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom and under White they’ve never finished outside of the top 25. On defense, Florida will use a zone press in addition to a ball pressure halfcourt man-to-man defense that has switchability at nearly every position. Where they struggle is on the offensive end.

Under Mike White, the Gators only have one top 25 offensive efficiency finish and this season they currently sit at 71st. Florida is middle of the road in the SEC and this appears to be the biggest thing holding the program back. The Gators run a spread offense that is heavily dependent on their point guard creating plays off of ball screen actions. Florida has some solid three-point shooters and when they are on they can play with anyone. It’s when they are off when the struggles come. In the low post, Florida has close to no offense and that really stings when they go cold from the outside.

This will be the 142nd meeting between the two SEC programs with Kentucky owning a 101-40 series lead. After being swept last season, UK will be looking to return the favor this afternoon. Mike White is one of only five current SEC head coaches that owns a win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Overall, White is 3-4 against UK while John Calipari is 15-8 against Florida.

Out in the desert, Kentucky is a 10.5 point favorite with a total of 128.5 That’s a projected final score of 69.5-59. On the year, UK is 15-14-1 against the spread while Florida is 12-18. The Gators have been a dog 10 times this season and are 3-7 against the spread in those games. After covering seven in a row, UK is just 2-5-1 against the number in its last eight games. The under is 8-2 in the last 1o games for both Florida and Kentucky.

Backcourt Breakdown

Speaking of young freshmen, the Gators have two in the backcourt that are playing a big role. Florida is heavily dependent on point guard Andrew Nembhard and sharpshooter Noah Locke. Both have been excellent for most of the season and are a big reason why this basketball team will be playing into March.

Nembhard is a 6-foot-5 point guard who ranks third in the SEC in assist rate and has become a much more efficient offensive player in SEC play. The Canadian point guard has played at least 32 minutes in the last six games and plays a huge role for this team. Florida really has no other point guard on the roster and Mike White asks this freshman to do a lot.

Next to Nembhard is Noah Locke and the newcomer has been a pleasant surprise for the Gators. The Maryland native was a bench piece in the non-conference before turning into one of Florida’s most important offensive players. The 6-foot-3 off guard is shooting 36.9 percent from three in league games on 122 attempts. The three-point specialist has only attempted 75 two-point field goals this season and Florida hunts three-point attempts for the young shooter.

There’s more than just youth in the Gator backcourt, however. KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson both entered their senior seasons with All-SEC expectations, but each is coming up a bit short in their final year in college. The duo is only putting up 20.8 points per game this year after chipping in 26.5 per game last season.

Allen, the former high school rival of Malik Monk and second-team All-SEC member in 2017, leads the team in scoring but the Gators still need more. The Arkansas native is putting up 12.2 points per outing and is shooting 33.1 percent from three. The two-guard is in a very big shooting slump as he is 4-for-25 in his last three games. This cold spell was the biggest culprit in consecutive home losses to Georgia and LSU.

Speaking of slumps, wing Jalen Hudson went through some big time sluggish runs this season. The former Virginia Tech transfer put up over 15 points and hit 78 threes in his first season in Gainesville. This season he is putting up just 8.6 points and is shooting just 27 percent from three-point range.

Hudson was a player many considered a borderline NBA prospect before the season and that stock appears to have now gone down the drain. The senior has been woefully inefficient despite accounting for 29 percent of the team’s shot attempts. However, he has turned the corner as of late and has had double-digit scoring efforts in the last five games. In the recent loss to LSU, Hudson put up a season-high 33 points.

The Gators have a nice blend of youth and experience, but there’s no denying that it’s been a weird mix this season. It’s a major reason why this team has been so inconsistent all year.

Frontcourt Breakdown

Down low, the Gators have also dealt with some disappointment but it was largely do to injury. Four-man Keith Stone was lost for the season at the beginning of SEC play due to a torn ACL and Florida has really missed his versatility on the offensive end. The junior was a competent floor spacer who was shooting 40.5 percent from three when he was knocked out of the lineup. Without him, the Gators have had to lean heavily on another rookie.

Keyontae Johnson has exceeded expectations in his first season playing college ball and the undersized forward is going to have the chance to develop into an all-conference level performer. The 6-foot-7 forward has shown the ability to hit jumpers in addition to being able to get buckets in the paint. He’s been a quality rebounder and overall solid defender. He’s the glue guy for this team.

Next to Johnson in the post is senior five-man Kevarrius Hayes and Mike White could not ask for much more from the rim protector. Hayes is very limited offensively. He is out there to set screens, rebound, and anchor the defense. The senior ranks seventh in the SEC in block percentage, ninth in steal percentage, and fourth in offensive rebound percentage. He’s an excellent role player and is easily this team’s best paint player.

Keys to Victory

  • With any senior day, you have to worry about slow starts. The pregame will be totally different due to the senior day ceremonies and UK will be using a new starting lineup for the first time this season. The Gators are heavily dependent on the three-point shot and they could put Kentucky in a very early hole if they are on early. Kentucky’s defense must be ready to go from the jump to give the offense time to establish some rhythm.
  • KeVaughn Allen is this team’s top scorer and has scored over 1,600 points in his collegiate career. The senior torched Kentucky for 24 points in Rupp Arena a couple seasons ago. The Arkansas native has been cold as ice the last couple games and is due for a breakthrough. UK needs to make sure it doesn’t happen this afternoon. If Allen is on, the Gators become a much more dangerous team on the offensive end.
  • On Tuesday, the rebounding numbers were embarrassing for UK and they’ll be facing a similar offense in Florida. The Gators can’t spread the floor five-wide like Ole Miss, but most of the time they use spacing in ball screens to create lanes for dribble drive actions. When UK gets defensive stops they must be able to end the possession with a rebound and not an extra shot. It will be important for UK to team rebound and get a body of Keyontae Johnson and Kevarrius Hayes whenever a shot goes up.
  • It’s been a rough go for Ashton Hagans, but the freshman made some nice offensive plays downhill in the second half against Ole Miss before a couple of iffy decisions in crunch time. In the last meeting against Florida, Hagans had just an average game. Against an excellent defensive team, this is a great spot for the rookie point guard to build some confidence going int0 postseason play. Expect the Gators to ball pressure Hagans a ton and if he can start to figure out some solutions that will be a great sign for UK’s offense.

 


Jonny David is ready to embrace the Big Blue Nation one final time Saturday afternoon

He may not have played a whole lot of minutes or scored many points over the course of his four-year career, but Kentucky walk-on guard Jonny David has made an impact on the team that extends well beyond the box score each night.

Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne said this afternoon that without David’s positive influence in the locker room and guidance as a role model in the UK facilities every day, this program simply wouldn’t be what it is right now without him.

“Jonny David is one of the kids that has been here that’s made a major impact through practice, through being a positive influence on his teammates,” Payne said. “He gets along with everybody. He’s supportive of everybody. He doesn’t get the credit which none of these kids do when you’re in a role like he’s in. But, the day-to-day stuff that he brings to the table keeping guys positive on the bench, working out in practices, playing every position on the floor.”

Used as a human victory formation over the course of his four seasons in Lexington, David has accumulated a total of seven points, one rebound, and four shot attempts (1-4 overall, 1-3 from three) in 30 career games.

And Saturday, David will go through Senior Day facilities and start in his final game as a Kentucky player at Rupp Arena.

“I really didn’t hit me until today,” David said. “A lot of stuff was coming out. Obviously, I’ve thought about, yeah, it’s my last time at Rupp and everything. But it kind of hit me today, it’s the last time, I got a little sad for a second. But it’s more about celebrating it and celebrating the four years and I’m looking forward to it.”

During Kentucky games, it has become a tradition for the Big Blue Nation to erupt when David tosses away the warmups and jogs over to the scorer’s table.

When he steps onto the Rupp Arena floor, though, it’s the deafening “SHOOOOOT” chants that mean the world to the senior guard.

And tomorrow, you better believe he’ll make the most of those chants if the opportunity presents itself. If not, just coming away with a victory will more than make up for it.

“I’m not going to unnecessarily force anything up, but I won’t pass up a shot, I’ll tell you that,” David said. “I just hope as a team, we get better, we get the win. That’s really what it’s all about. I’m a team guy, not a selfish person at all. If anything else happens, that’s a bonus.”

What will David remember most about his time in Lexington? A few specific things stand out.

“Just everything. The program in general. It’s the top in the country. The people, especially all of the behind the scenes people that I’ve become close with over four years. The coaches, the town. The relationships that I’ve built are definitely going to last a lifetime, but those are things I will definitely miss.”

Will he get emotional?

“I don’t know, that’s going to be an in the moment thing. I think I’ll be more happy,” he said. “It’s more about us celebrating four years being here. It’s going to be an in the moment kind of thing.”

When asked about his best memory at Kentucky, he reminisced about his freshman season when he got to go heads-up with his brother when the Cats took on South Florida in 2015.

“It’s still probably my freshman year, down in Miami, we played USF and I got to play against my brother, score my first points,” he said. “He still brings that up when Isaac (Humphries) swatted him when he drove. That’s probably still one of my best memories.”

The Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account sent out a video this afternoon highlighting David’s time in Lexington.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari also had one final message for his senior guard before his big day.

Here was David’s entire media appearance Friday afternoon:

One final hoorah. Go get ‘em, Jonny.


Kentucky’s mindset is different now that it’s March

Believe it or not, Saturday afternoon marks Kentucky’s final regular-season game of the year. Then, it’s tournament time – first, the SEC Tournament in Nashville, followed by, of course, the Big Dance. But if you feel like this college basketball season has flown by, you’re not alone.

“It’s gone by, like right out the window,” PJ Washington said during a media opportunity Friday afternoon. “I can remember the Bahamas like it was yesterday. I can remember having so much fun throughout the season, and it’s just fun to look back and see how much we’ve grown so far.”

This season has been fun for the Wildcats, and there’s still (hopefully) plenty of fun to come throughout the next few weeks. However, flipping the calendar to March also means it’s crunch time.

“You come to Kentucky to play basketball,” Assistant Coach Kenny Payne emphasized. “November, December, January, February is great. But this is it; the time is now. There’s an urgency among all of these kids to play their best basketball now – starting now.”

That urgency has created a shift in the team’s mindset, according to Washington.

“I think it’s really switched. It’s switched ever since we started losing early in the season, honestly,” Washington said of the team’s outlook heading into post-season play. “We’re just out to win every game and be focused in practice and walkthroughs… Just to focus on every opponent and not take anybody lightly. We’ve been doing that and we know everybody’s going to give us their best game of the season.”

Realizing the importance of each game while recognizing you’re done getting “easy” wins is huge for every Kentucky team come this time of the season. Florida is coming into Rupp Arena as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, and a win over the No. 6 Wildcats would greatly improve their resume and significantly improve their chances of making the “bubble IN” list, rather than the “bubble OUT” one.

The SEC Tournament isn’t the end-all, be-all for a team like Kentucky, especially the final game on Sunday, but a bad showing early in the week could hurt Kentucky’s seeding, in terms of opponents and location. And a slip-up in the NCAA Tournament… Well, that’ll send you packing. But, according to Coach Payne, that’s what this team is prepared for by March.

“It’s different when you’re not playing for something when you’re playing Kentucky. Well, when everybody’s playing for something, it’s a little different. There’s a different pressure to it,” Payne said. “That’s why we play all of the non-conference games that we play, so we get used to playing in big games where it means something.”

Starting this Saturday, every game the Cats play will mean something. But that’s what March is all about, right?


@MaggieDavisKSR


BREAKING: CJ Conrad will not be able to participate at UK Pro Day

Former Kentucky tight end CJ Conrad will have to wait even longer to learn about his future in football.

After missing the NFL Combine this past weekend after medical testing revealed a heart issue, Conrad tells KSR that he will also not be able to participate at UK Pro Day on March 22.

The former Wildcat sent out the following tweet on Friday when he heard the first set of news.

Conrad says that he will undergo more testing and should learn the results in two weeks or so. At that point, we’ll know more about where his future as a professional football player stands.

In four years at Kentucky, Conrad managed 80 total receptions for 1015 yards and 12 touchdowns.


This is the basketball mistake driving John Calipari insane

John Calipari has brought plenty of new words and phrases into Kentuckians’ vocabulary over the past decade. From “tweak” to “everyone’s Super Bowl” and from “brother’s keeper” to “you people are crazy,” the Wildcats’ head coach has given fans plenty of Calipari Catchphrases over the years.

But it wasn’t until last season Calipari honed in on a new phrase. This one doesn’t rhyme and it’s not even necessarily very “catchy,” but it has been used quite a bit in the last year and a half: one-handed rebounds.

It started with Nick Richards last season, and although he’s obviously not the first basketball player to struggle with pulling in boards, the 2017-18 season marked the first time Calipari spent a significant amount of time harping on it. And Coach Cal hasn’t stopped this season. But now, Richards isn’t the only one under the single-handed microscope: Tyler Herro is guilty as well.

“There are certain things we do, and we drill how we are going to play. Those are the things that drive me nuts. Everything we do is with two hands [in practice]. So if a guy goes to grab the ball with one hand, I lose my mind,” Calipari admitted after the Ole Miss game Tuesday night. “For five months, that’s all we’ve talked about. Every drill in everything. We are not losing the game because you are going to go after the ball or a rebound with one hand – we are not. We may lose in other ways, but it is not going to be that.”

The call-out comes one game after the camera caught Calipari having a rather… intense conversation with Herro. But, according to Cal, Herro had made several consecutive mistakes at that point and, after the fourth or fifth reminder, Calipari had seen enough. After the Ole Miss game, Coach Cal revisited the mentality he has during those heated moments.

“We are coaching them. If we’re asking you to do something and you don’t do it, you’re going to hear about it and we’re going to hold you accountable,” Calipari said. “We’re also going to tell you how much we love you and how proud of you we are and all of that stuff. But we’re going to hold you accountable. And that’s why I said you’ve got to grow up coming here. This is one where it’s not easy.”

After struggling in Knoxville, Herro came out battling in Oxford. He spent a good portion of the first half perfect from the floor. Even though Herro finished with 20 points on an efficient 8-of-12 shooting against Ole Miss, Calipari said the guard still made some simple mistakes, and those mistakes showed a “slippage [that] goes back to high school.”

“By trying to steal and not getting it, you gave them a three and a chance to beat us,” Calipari said of Herro’s decision during one of the final plays of the game. “Why did you do that? That is a high school move. You aren’t trying to steal it, we are just going to stay in front and make him take a tough shot. Those are all things that I talk about after the game and we show on tape.”

Despite the mistakes, including those one-handed rebounds, Calipari seems content with the progress his team is making, saying “I have great kids. Every one of them, from top to bottom.”

You could even say… “I like my team.”


@MaggieDavisKSR