By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 06th, 2019 @ 1:00am
After getting run out of the gym against Tennessee on Saturday afternoon, the Kentucky Wildcats decided to respond by ruining Ole Miss’ senior night, defeating the Rebels by a final score of 80-76.
In a back-and-forth battle most of the way, the Wildcats were able to pull away late in the second half to pull off the impressive road victory. And by “pull away,” I mean grind out a close victory in an incredibly hard-fought battle where either team probably could have wound up on top to end the game.
From start to finish, the largest lead for Kentucky was eight points, while Ole Miss never led by more than six. In the second half, no team led by more than seven. For the first eight minutes and 39 seconds in the second half, the lead never spread to more than four, including a one-possession game there for us with just six seconds remaining.
In team stats, Kentucky shot 55.4 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three, and 70 percent from the free throw line. As for Ole Miss, the Rebels managed just 40.7 percent overall, 32 percent from three, and 91 percent from the free throw line. Beyond pure shooting numbers, Ole Miss actually outrebounded the Cats by a final tally of 37-29, managed the same number of assists (14), and the same number of steals (4). On Kentucky’s side, the Wildcats finished with more blocks (7-3), fewer turnovers (7-9), and fewer fouls (18-20) in the victory.
On the surface level, four Wildcats in the starting lineup finished in double figures, while all eight total active Kentucky players found themselves in the scoring column by the end of the game. For Ole Miss, four Rebels also managed to finish in double figures on the night, with two of those players finishing with 20 points or more (Terence Davis and Breein Tyree) in the loss.
Let’s look at the main takeaways.
Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro responded with a bang
In Kentucky’s disappointing loss against Tennessee on Saturday, Kentucky freshmen Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro combined for a total of 13 points (4-20 shooting) and eight turnovers. When the Cats needed momentum swung their way, it seemed like the two Wildcat perimeter players were more focused on making plays for themselves than doing what it took to win the game. Calipari said as much during his postgame press conference on Saturday afternoon.
Against the Rebels, Johnson and Herro completely flipped the script, combining for a total of 42 points on 57 percent shooting, 12 rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Herro started the game shooting 6-6 from the field, while it seemed Johnson was finishing every single tough shot attempt he put up inside the paint. Both players were phenomenal with the ball in their hands this evening.
Outside of offensive play, both Johnson and Herro were making an impact on defense, jumping for loose balls, playing the passing lanes, and limiting easy drives on the perimeter. Both players were all over the floor to prove that this past weekend’s performance was more of a fluke than the reality.
PJ Washington put the team on his back in the second half
In the first half, Kentucky star forward PJ Washington failed to make a single basket and struggled immensely with foul trouble.
In the second, the Wildcat sophomore finished with 13 points on 6-11 shooting, also adding one rebound, four assists, and two blocks in 26 minutes. In one stretch, he utilized both his right and his left hands to score impressive baskets over Rebel defenders, temporarily taking the game over. This allowed for a momentum shift in Kentucky’s favor, which they rode out the rest of the way.
Washington is in the midst of a bit of a cold stretch, averaging just 11.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game over the last three games. He started slow against Ole Miss, but the Kentucky sophomore finally found his groove and played a massive part in UK’s victory this evening.
It might’ve taken 20 minutes, but the PJ we’ve come to love over the last several weeks was back.
Ashton Hagans had yet another up and down performance
If you were to just look at the boxscore, you’d think Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans had a pretty solid all-around performance in the team’s victory. He finished with 10 points on 3-3 shooting and 4-5 from the free throw line, two rebounds, and two assists in 30 minutes of action.
By watching the game, however, you’d know that Hagans’ rough spell continued for the most part, specifically on defense and as a playmaker for the Kentucky offense.
The Wildcat freshman got beat on the perimeter, gave up some easy buckets, and had two costly turnovers down the stretch when the Cats were trying to push their lead. Sure, he converted on all of his field goal attempts and nearly all of his free throw attempts on the night, but for Kentucky to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, Hagans has to avoid these small mistakes in crunch time.
Clean up the negative and build off of the positive.
EJ Montgomery had huge moments down the stretch
One of the most underrated aspects of the game had to do with Kentucky freshman EJ Montgomery and his impressive stretch late in the game.
With 8:55 remaining, Montgomery had an impressive block on Ole Miss guard Terence Davis to build a bit of confidence. Then, the Wildcat forward entered the game again with 2:06 remaining and followed up his first block with two more at 1:30 and 1:19, immediately grabbing a tough defensive rebound to give the ball back to the Wildcats.
During this stretch, Kentucky led by just four points and Ole Miss was making an effort to cut it down to a one-possession game. Instead, Montgomery made an effort to crush any and all momentum they had, which allowed for the Wildcats to maintain their lead, and ultimately, close out the victory.
He finished the day with two points (1-4 shooting), six rebounds, and four blocks in the victory, a fine stat line for the freshman forward. Given the timing of it all, it makes the performance even more impressive.
Sophomore Nick Richards was back
Finishing with six points (2-3 shooting), four rebounds, and a block in just 18 minutes of action, Kentucky sophomore forward Nick Richards had another quiet, yet fairly impressive performance this evening.
He got off to a slow start and made minor mistakes from time to time, but the Wildcat sophomore came back strong to make the plays when they mattered most, something we’ve been waiting for for quite some time… consistency.
He fouled out with 2:36 remaining, but in the time he did have out there on the floor, Richards played pretty well and provided positive minutes for the Wildcats. It wasn’t a world-beating performance, but with forward Reid Travis out for yet another game, SNR did more than enough to make up for his absence.
With the victory, Kentucky moves to 25-5 on the year and 14-3 in the SEC. Ole Miss, on the other hand, sits at 19-11 overall and 9-8 in conference play.
If Kentucky defeats Florida and Tennessee loses to Auburn this weekend, the Cats are a No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament. If either doesn’t happen, Kentucky heads to Nashville as a No. 3 seed.
We’ll find out our fate on Saturday afternoon.
The Kentucky Wildcats scratched and clawed to earn a hard-fought 80-76 victory on Senior Night in Oxford, Mississippi.
A physical affair, for the third straight game P.J. Washington struggled with foul trouble. Sidelined with two fouls for the final 12:58 in the first half, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson kept the Cats afloat by combining to score 27 first half points.
It took Washington some time to get back into a groove in the second half, but he figured out things at the right time. With the game tied near the 13-minute mark, Washington’s post play and Ashton Hagans’ offensive aggressiveness sparked a 9-2 run to give the Cats some much needed breathing room. Down the stretch the Rebels were able to cut the UK lead to two, but their two most credible threats were thwarted at the rim by E.J. Montgomery and clutch UK free throw shooting.
Kentucky could not beat Ole Miss on the glass, however, the Cats consistently carved up Kermit Davis’ 1-3-1 zone. UK made 55 percent of their shots and turned it over only seven times. Washington scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Johnson led all scorers with 22 points and Herro finished with 20 points.
After struggling at home against Arkansas and falling flat at Tennessee, this win at Ole Miss was exactly what John Calipari’s team needed heading into the final game of the regular season against Florida.
The Cats are fresh off a bludgeoning delivered by Tennessee and they’ll be heading out on the road for the final time this season. Awaiting them is a team that should be NCAA Tournament bound and could potentially be UK’s Friday opponent next week at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.
Under first year head coach Kermit Davis, the Rebels have easily exceeded expectations. Ole Miss is set to record a 20-win season and just their ninth NCAA Tournament bid in program history. The guard oriented lineup will present some unique challenges for a Kentucky team that will likely be playing without Reid Travis for the fourth consecutive game.
Nuts and Bolts
Kermit Davis played point guard at Mississippi State in the early 80s before getting his start in coaching. After a successful run at Idaho that included 50 wins and two NCAA Tournament appearances, Davis would take a job at Texas A&M. There he found himself in some hot water.
After going just 8-21 in his first season there in 1990-1991, Davis got caught committing rules violations that placed the Aggies on probation for two seasons and gave Davis a two-year show cause. Davis would have a long rocky road to become a head coach at a power conference school.
After a short run in junior college, Davis was an assistant at Utah State before taking the Idaho head coaching job for one season. From Moscow he took an assistant role at LSU to work under John Brady from 1997-2002. From there he would be hired to run the program at Middle Tennessee.
Davis would spend 16 seasons in Murfreesboro. There he collected 332 wins, 5 conference titles, and 3 NCAA Tournament bids. At the age of 58 he would finally get the chance to run a power conference program.
After a 12-year stint by Andy Kennedy in Oxford that recorded 245 wins, 2 NCAA Tournament appearances, and an SEC Tournament title it was time for a change. Athletic director Ross Bjork decided to bring Kermit Davis back to The Magnolia State. So far it’s looking like an excellent decision.
The seasoned head coach has invigorated this program and had the Rebels in the top 25 for two weeks in January. Ole Miss is set to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after the media picked them to finish in last place in the conference during the preseason. You could easily make the case that Davis deserves to be the SEC coach of the year.
Under Davis, the Rebels a have a perimeter oriented offense. Ole Miss wants to spread the court and attack opposing defenses with multiple ball screen actions. They thrive off the dribble drive and have two guards who really make stuff happen off the bounce. On the other end, the Rebels primarily play man but Davis loves to use a 1-3-1 zone. They put length up top and then look for traps on the sidelines. This will be a defense UK has not seen since Louisville ran it back in December.
Out in the desert, Kentucky is a 5-point favorite with a total of 140.5. That’s a projected final score around 73-68. The Wildcats are 15-13-1 against the spread while the Rebels are a very robust 21-8. Ole Miss has been one of the biggest overachievers this season and that was present in their 14-1 record against the number to start the season. In their last eight games, the under is 7-1 when Ole Miss takes the floor. In their last nine games, the under is 8-1 when Kentucky takes the floor.
Kermit Davis inherited a nice one-two punch on the perimeter from Andy Kennedy and the two upperclassmen guards have been very, very good for the Rebels this season. Ole Miss doesn’t have much size, but they make up for it with a nice blend of playmaking and shot making ability.
After putting up 10.8 points per game on a 39.4 percent shooting clip, Breein Tyree’s efficiency has taken a large step forward in the new system. The junior combo guard from New Jersey leads the Rebs in scoring at 18.5 points per game and is shooting over 48 percent from the field.
The 6-foot-2 guard has made 64 threes on a 40 percent shooting clip in addition to getting to the line 137 times. He’s a score first point guard.
Joining Tyree in the back is senior Terence Davis who has some crazy athleticism in a 6-foot-4 frame.
Oh, yeah. Terence Davis had one of the best dunks this year and now the entire city of Knoxville is his. Rules are rules. pic.twitter.com/5KIXQ388Xk
— Bobby Reagan (@BarstoolReags) February 28, 2019
The headband wearing combo guard led the team in scoring last season and has also seen his offensive inefficiency improve under Kermit Davis. The Southaven, Mississippi native is putting up 15.5 points per game and is shooting 37.8 percent from three on a high volume of attempts. He’s the team’s top assist man, leads the squad in rebounds, and is very solid on the defensive end.
The third starter in the backcourt is sophomore Devontate Shuler who is a combo guard just like Davis and Tyree. The South Carolina native is shooting over 38 percent from three and is averaging just under 10 points per game.
All three of these players play over 3o minutes per game and in a lot of ways are interchangeable. Each can run the offense or step away from the ball and play as a spot up shooter. They can all make plays off the bounce and Ole Miss will constantly be putting them in ball screen actions. This is an offense that thrives off of the dribble drive and their guards making things happen.
Ole Miss plays four players in the frontcourt for at least 19 minutes per game and each one plays an important role. Kermit Davis asks his bigs to do a lot of dirty work, but each of the pieces is given some freedom on offense. In this group, the Rebels have two freshmen who are going to have the chance to be excellent college basketball players.
Blake Hinson was a top-150 recruit in the class of 2018 and the Florida native has started 27 of 28 games for the Rebels. The 6-foot-7 wing plays mainly at the four for Ole Miss and he provides a perimeter shooting element. Fellow freshman KJ Buffen comes off the bench and the Georgia native plays an important defensive role. The 6-foot-7 forward has great length and he is excellent as the team’s top defender in their 1-3-1 zone.
At the five spot, senior Bruce Stevens starts for the Rebels and the former junior college player can also step away from the basket and has great size (6-foot-8, 252 pounds) to battle in the paint. Dominik Olejniczak comes off the bench for the Rebs and the 7-footer from Poland is very limited offensively. The five-man has had a lot of trouble in guarding without fouling.
Rebounding has been a major weakness for this group with the four frontcourt players averaging a combined 14.7 boards per game. That, obviously, is not good and should be something UK can take advantage of.
Keys to Victory
- Fresh off the humbling loss to Tennessee in Knoxville, the Wildcats are back on the road facing another challenge. Against an Ole Miss squad that doesn’t have much size on the interior this appears to be a good matchup for UK to get right. The Rebels are one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference on both sides of the floor while UK is one of the league’s best. UK’s size inside and ability to get paint points should be a big advantage for the Wildcats.
- After a really down game, Kentucky needs a bounce back performance from Ashton Hagans. The freshman guard is facing another tough challenge against a talented trio of combo guards. Kentucky needs Hagans to snap out of this funk that he’s in and make aggressive plays on offense. Against a similar opponent in Auburn, Hagans played two of his better games of the season.
- Kentucky has not seen a 1-3-1 zone since the road win in Louisville, but tonight they’re going to get a heavy dose of it. Against the zone, UK will need to attack the gaps and take advantage of the corner jumpers they will get. Good passes will be key and it’s a great opportunity for Nick Richards. The 1-3-1 wants you to throw lobs and the big sophomore could have a career day if UK is able to execute. Ole Miss also has the worst three-point shooting defense in the SEC and some of this has to do with the open looks they’re willing to give up in the zone.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 05th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
On Sunday afternoon, 2019 five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr. announced that he would be making his final decision on March 15 at 8:00 p.m., certainly huge news for not only the college basketball recruiting scene, but also the Kentucky Wildcats.
As we’ve discussed regularly on KSR over the last several weeks, Kentucky is one of the main contenders in this recruitment, and they’ll have a major shot to win out in the end.
Today, we will be diving deep into the Brooks’ decision by looking at it from the perspective of all the main parties involved, breaking down the rumors, separating the truth from the speculation, and more.
Let’s take a look.
Keion Brooks Jr.
Forward | 6-8 | 185 lbs.
Fort Wayne, IN | North Side
AAU: Spiece Indy Heat
|ESPN||No. 30 | 9 PF||Top247||No. 16 | 5 SF|
|Rivals||No. 35 | 13 PF||247 Comp.||No. 22 | 6 SF|
Sources told KSR last week that Brooks would sit down with his family to talk through recruiting and take the final steps toward making a decision during his Spring Break. Coming off his unofficial visit to Kentucky, there was talk that he could pull the trigger later that week, but most people I talked to felt he would want to have some time to clear his head and think things through before making an emotional decision.
With his Spring Break starting this past weekend, he got the chance within the first day or two to sit down and talk things over with his family and closest friends, and they ended up deciding on March 15 to give him just enough time to be 100 percent certain with everything. While he may have a solid idea of where he’s leaning, I can confirm he has not made up his mind and wants to use the time between now and then to weigh all the options and make a decision he’s happy with.
As far as the decision date is concerned, I have been told that everything was set prior to all of the college basketball games being played this past weekend. So for those wondering, no, Brooks did not watch Indiana defeat Michigan State and Kentucky get smothered by Tennessee and let it impact his decision in the slightest. I wouldn’t read anything into that.
It is also my understanding that Brooks will not be making any other visits prior to his announcement (especially no rescheduled visit to Michigan State), though there is a possibility that all of the coaches involved will make trips to Fort Wayne in the ten days or so leading up to the big day.
I will add that former KSR writer TJ Walker said on his radio show yesterday that he heard from a source this weekend that Kentucky was ready to “seal the deal” on a recruit, and not long after, Brooks announced his decision date. Put two and two together, and that seems to be solid news for Kentucky.
While I can’t confirm whether or not the Kentucky staff has already visited Brooks over the last few days, I have been told that they do plan on seeing him before the announcement date.
That should cover most of the date-specific stuff.
As far as the location of the announcement is concerned, Brooks said that it will take place at his middle school of St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Fort Wayne.
— Keion Brooks Jr. (@KeionB_12) March 4, 2019
In an interview with Brian Snow of 247 Sports, Brooks said that he’s excited to have his “family and teammates” there.
“It means a lot to me that I will have a chance to have my family and teammates there,” said Brooks. “All of them have been instrumental in getting me to this point, and have helped me a lot along the way. I would be doing a major disservice to them if they weren’t around, so I am excited to have them there supporting me.”
While it is a public church, and thus, the announcement will technically be open to the public, I do find it interesting that they are not actively inviting the Indiana locals to come out. We’ve seen the public school announcements where all family, friends, students, and fans are encouraged to attend, similar to what we saw with Romeo Langford just last year. Usually those announcements favor the home school, but with this, we haven’t seen anything like that. Make of that what you will.
Keion Brooks Sr. also tweeted out “Time to be selfish!” in response to his son’s announcement on Sunday, a phrase that has been dissected and investigated thoroughly from the moment it was posted.
Time to be selfish! https://t.co/vCTtlzeylG
— Keion Brooks (@keion_brooks) March 4, 2019
He also tweeted, “Only one person has walked your shoes through this journey it’s your time to shine!
#allaboutyou #SCHOLARSHIPSOVERCHAMPIONSHIPS” in another post.
What decision would be “selfish,” exactly?
As far as the “Scholarships over championships” line is concerned, it’s a common phrase throughout Indiana high school and AAU basketball and has no significance in terms of specific school choice. Brooks Sr. has tweeted that phrase in reference to Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State, and North Carolina in the past. Don’t read anything into that.
Now onto the actual schools involved.
The general consensus right now amongst several sources both on Kentucky and Indiana’s side is that Brooks favors the Hoosiers ever-so-slightly, but it’s not enough to sway his decision either way. Disregard the “hometown hero” pitch, he simply would enjoy playing in front of his friends and family every night and represent his state. That’s the extent of it.
Oddly enough, after months of hearing about his closest friends and family pulling at his heartstrings to stay home, I have actually been told that the script has flipped a bit on that. There are actually several people inside Brooks’ circle that favor Kentucky, saying they’ll make the trip to see him in Lexington each game, too. To take it a step further, I’ve been told that while they won’t make this decision about them in the slightest (as we’ve seen with several other elite prospects in the past), they actually favor Kentucky over Indiana in terms of believing in Coach Cal and the UK coaching staff pushing him to reach his maximum potential.
While he gives the (very) slight edge to IU, I’m told he strongly values the opinions of his loved ones (they are a really tight-knit group), and that’s why Kentucky is the perceived favorite to land the five-star prospect right now.
Brooks loves Kentucky, he loves John Calipari, he loves the facilities, he loves the fans, he loves his potential teammates, and he loves the idea of playing one or two years in Lexington before making the jump to the NBA. Based on everything I’ve been told, Kentucky’s pitch was just about as perfect as you can get and the UK coaching staff deserves a ton of credit just to be in the position they’re in right now.
With how poorly Indiana has played this season and the idea that they will likely have to replace two of their top scorers, one being Romeo Langford, next season, that’s weighing heavily on him. He has always favored Indiana and it’s always been his dream to represent his home state by playing in Bloomington, that dream might not align with what’s best for his future right now.
It’s why most of the best national recruiting writers are picking Kentucky. And it’s why I’m still sticking to my prediction of Kentucky.
From a school perspective, both main contenders in Kentucky and Indiana are really confident, so it’s tough to make much of anything from either side. Coaching staffs tend to be more confident than what might be reality in some instances. I heard one rumor that the Michigan State coaching staff genuinely believes they’re getting Brooks, though everyone else I’ve talked to indicates the Spartans are extremely off base with this.
Combine everything together, and I’d probably put the percentages at:
5% Michigan State
0% North Carolina (or anyone else)
The week leading up to the announcement is when we usually hear of leaks and more context to past rumors, so next week’s insider notes will almost certainly be jam-packed with information on Brooks as we prepare for his big decision.
I’ll see you then.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 05th, 2019 @ 11:30am
After Kentucky flexed their muscles against Tennessee in their blowout victory two weeks ago, the Volunteers made sure to return the favor when the Cats took their trip down to Knoxville this past weekend.
They oozed confidence and swagger in the Lexington matchup, but the minute they arrived at Thompson-Boling Arena, the nerves kicked in. They played scared, and it resulted in Kentucky’s worst loss since the Duke game to open the season in November.
After the 71-52 beatdown, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said one of the main reasons (among many) his team struggled was that they reverted back to some of the selfish play we saw to start the year. Instead of playing for the name on the front of their jerseys, they played for the name on the back.
“It was the first game in a while that we didn’t play for each other. Every man for himself,” he said. “Well, this is what you’re going to have. With my team, everybody needs each other.”
On Monday afternoon, Kentucky forward Keldon Johnson was the first to admit Calipari was right. He said as a team, they weren’t making the extra effort necessary to come out on top in a high-profile game like that.
“You could just see (the selfishness) throughout the game,” he said. “We really weren’t making extra passes, things like that. You could tell, we really need each other out there for us to be successful. You could tell and it really opened up our eyes.”
On defense, they didn’t play with intensity and focus, allowing for easy baskets for the Tennessee offense.
“It was pretty bad,” Johnson continued. “We were getting blown by a lot and we weren’t—I’d say most of the time it was blow-bys on the wings which caused 3-pointers out there and easy lanes to the basket.”
Freshman guard Immanuel Quickley said that while their play was selfish, he doesn’t feel that’s who they are as players and people. In his eyes, that’s a positive going forward, as it’s something everyone can fix right away.
“I don’t think we have selfish players,” he said. “Just sometimes, we don’t know. Some of us are freshmen, so we’re still learning. Covering for each other, rotating, helping the helper, things like that are ways that we, quote-unquote, are selfish.”
Going forward, Johnson said Kentucky has to get back to playing with the passion for the game they’ve had during the majority of conference play. Once they go back to doing that, everything else will fall into place.
“You just gotta lock in, pay attention to detail,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s hard. It’s just all on how you want to take it and how you want to display it. I just think that if you come in and lock in and play for your teammates, you’ll be good on defense.”
“We learned we’ve got to fight every game. Each game is tough, especially against a veteran team and a good team like Tennessee. We’ve got to know that we’ve got to come out with a little bit more sense of urgency and we’ve got to fight a little bit more.”
Against Ole Miss tonight, Johnson plans on making a defensive stop every time down the floor. If he and his Kentucky teammates can compete on every possession, he likes the team’s chances.
“Do what we usually do, I would say,” he said. “Just go out there and compete and get the job done. Go out there looking to go ‘kill’ (defensive stop) from the jump. That’s’ the plan.”
If not, Quickley said they’ll get beat by the Rebels on the road. Plain and simple.
“It’s vital (to be sharp against the Rebels),” Quickley said. “Ole Miss is a really good team. And if we don’t come out against Ole Miss, we’re going to get beat. We know that, so we’ve got to come out with a high sense of urgency and we’ve got to come out with fight.”
Shortly after Kentucky finished a ten-win season with a Citrus Bowl victory, the University of Georgia sought out the services of Eddie Gran. UK’s offensive coordinator was courted by the Bulldogs, but ultimately decided to remain with the Kentucky football team. For the first time, he explained why he stayed at UK.
“They offered the job,” he said after UK’s second spring practice. “It came down down to, I love this community. I love this administration, Dr. Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart. The guy that I work for is fantastic and I’ve become a part of this community. I love it. I think we’re doing some things that are special. Those all had a part in the decision when I decided to stay.”
After they were denied, a few folks on the Georgia side contested whether or not Gran was actually offered the job, a fact Gran disputes. Regardless, he’s happy to be back in Lexington for another season with the same offensive staff. The continuity should pay dividends this fall.
“I think it’s huge,” said Gran. “I think it’s huge in recruiting and the relationships you build. For everybody being on the same page, you can go faster, and then if you have to add, you can add and it’s not so strenuous on everybody else. When you’re not teaching somebody a new offense, you can go pretty quick.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 04th, 2019 @ 10:50pm
Last week, Kentucky forward Keldon Johnson went viral, and it had nothing to do with his on-court basketball abilities.
Late in the second half of the Arkansas game on Tuesday night, Johnson was seen winking, sticking his tongue out, and mouthing the words “I love you” to someone across the floor during a free throw.
— David Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) February 27, 2019
With Instagram model Brittany Renner becoming a regular at Rupp Arena, most jumped the gun on the assumption that Johnson was attempting to flirt with her from the floor. If not Jenner, it had to have been another female that caught his attention in the crowd.
On Thursday, the ESPN show ‘Jalen & Jacoby’ aired a segment on the topic, with former NBA star Jalen Rose giving his advice on how Johnson should have gone about the situation.
This afternoon, Johnson finally broke his silence on the matter and told reporters who he was actually talking to.
It wasn’t Brittany Renner. It wasn’t another female in the stands.
He was actually talking to his Kentucky teammate.
“I was talking to PJ (Washington),” he said during his media availability today. “For everybody out there that thought I was talking to some girl… I was talking to my teammate.”
When asked why he was saying “I love you” to his teammate at that specific time, Johnson said he was simply trying to lift Washington’s spirits during a difficult game.
“Because, I mean, it was a tough game,” he said. “Of course, we were just coming back. I felt like he was a little down, and I was just letting him know we have his back. I was just telling him I love him regardless of the situation that’s going on.”
By Nick Roush on ©March 04th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
I am back in the Bluegrass after a weekend in Indy. Sorry to bring the cold weather with me, just when you thought spring had sprung. Along with cold weather, I have a few numbers and stories to share. First, the numbers.
3 Cone Drill
C.J. Conrad’s abrupt dismissal and Mike Edwards’ injury induced absence shrunk the field of former Wildcats. Each should be fine in time to be tested at UK’s Pro Day later this month. The only answer I do not have is why Baity did not participate in the 40-yard dash.
This week analysts will decide who were the “winners and losers” from the NFL Combine. Kentucky Wildcats will not be featured in either category. Upon first glance, Benny Snell’s numbers were disappointing, until you realize that nobody expected Snell to post great numbers. He’s best at breaking tackles, not showing off breakaway speed.
Three Wildcats earned some money in Indy, even though they weren’t exactly chart toppers. Darius West and Jordan Jones may have been fringe draft picks before they posted above average Combine numbers. Lonnie Johnson was looking to jump into the first round. His 4.52 wasn’t one of the best times, but it should be fast enough for a player his size.
Determining what exactly each player did for their draft stock this week is difficult because we did not see the most important part of the Combine. The weekend isn’t about the Underwear Olympics; it’s about meeting face-to-face with NFL front offices. A long process, how each player performed behind closed doors will take them farther than any padless drill.
Josh Allen Sports Science
The NFL Network analysts were not always overly complimentary of the Kentucky Wildcats, but they did take the time to make sure Josh Allen got the love he deserved with a featured Sports Science segment. The most impressive number: Allen had a sack in 2.5 seconds last season, faster than the average NFL quarterback’s release time.
— Shawn Burkett (@ttekrubs) March 3, 2019
Highlight of the Week
Some rules are meant to be broken. “No Photos or Videos” be damned, I needed this picture of Rob Ryan and Wade Phillips in my life.
I expected it to be a who’s who of odd encounters with NFL coaches and general managers. Unfortunately, they kept the media as far away from the action as possible. The only drill we were permitted to attend was the bench press, an event that was open to the public. I guess I’ll have to wait until UK’s Pro Day to bust Jon Gruden’s chops.
Numbers for New Players
Before I share a few of the more interesting tidbits from Mark Stoops’ first spring practice press conference, we now know the numbers of the nine new Wildcats that joined the team in January.
6 — Jared Casey
11 — Moses Douglass
21 — Quandre Mosely
26 — Brandin Echols
30 — Taj Dodson
48 — Tra Wilkins
75 — Eli Cox
86 — DeMarcus Harris
96 — Isaiah Gibson
The only player that did not receive a number is Marquez Bembry. The JUCO outside linebacker underwent knee surgery upon arriving to campus and will miss the entire spring. Bembry is the only significant absence to report (although Stoops did say Ahmad Wagner has a hamstring injury that will sideline him for the first week of practice). You can find a complete spring roster here.
Stoops’ Expectations for New Staff
For the first time since he promoted Brad White and hired Jon Sumrall, Stoops broke down what the changes mean for his defense. Even though White has never made calls or coordinated a defense, Stoops believes the transition will be smooth.
“For me, just because he hasn’t done it, we know what we want to do, and we have a lot of confidence in him.” Stoops added, “and I’m there. It’s not anything we do that I’m not tuned into, for the past two years, with building the defense.”
There will likely be a few bumps in the road once the games arrive, but for now, the players are happy to have him on board.
“Our players have so much respect for Brad (White) and what he’s done and the way he can coach and how detailed he is. It’s a lot of fun.”
As for Sumrall, Stoops believes the players will quickly buy into his style.
“He brings a lot to the table. Again, he’s a guy that can relate to anybody and you can see that. He has high energy and works exceptionally hard to it. He’ll bring us a very experienced, good recruiter.”
What will happen in the Secondary?
With five starters departing, the primary task of the spring is finding their replacements. Stoops is taking his time to share who that could potentially be.
“It’s not worth discussing or telling you who starts. It doesn’t matter, you know there’s going to be a lot of work to do between now and then. They have a lot of work to do, so there are some guys who have had some experience.”
Jordan Griffin and Tyrell Ajian have some experience at safety and Davonte Robinson will surely play significant snaps. Stoops also mentioned Cedrick Dort and Yusuf Corker as a few experienced players, but Moe Douglass, Taj Dodson, Brandin Echols and Quandre Mosely will play a role. What that specifically is will take shape over the next six weeks.
Weekly Alliance Update
As you’ve already heard, Austin MacGinnis was incredible in his AAF debut. The former Wildcat’s clutch performance carried the Memphis Express to their first win. You’ll enjoy this story on MacGinnis by former Depth Chart Podcast guest Jason Munz. If for some strange reason you don’t like it, you’ll love this trick play in the snow from the Old Ball Coach.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) March 3, 2019
UK Football Commit is Blowing Up
Before I depart for the day, one recruiting nugget. Offensive tackle Richie Leonard has received plenty of attention since he became the Wildcats’ first commitment in the 2020 class. After earning offensive line MVP honors at a regional Nike camp, Leonard picked up offers from Miami and Florida State. Tennessee and West Virginia also offered last month.
UK was wise to go all in on Leonard early in the process. It’s almost like they have a good eye for talent or something.
I’ll be back at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility tomorrow morning for updates from the offense following practice No. 2. March Madness has a different meaning on South Campus.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 04th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
Need a football fix? Josh Allen and CJ Conrad came on today’s show to discuss the NFL Draft Combine, their time at Kentucky, and what lies ahead. It’s well worth a half hour of your time, but a few highlights:
— On Friday, CJ was sent home from the Combine because of a heart issue discovered during his physical. CJ’s appointment to get a second opinion is this afternoon, and during the show, he sounded determined to play football again. Cross your fingers for good news.
— Allen still believes he should be the No. 1 pick because of his game on the field and his character off it. “My game speaks for itself,” he said. “I’m just a great person.”
— The most surprising thing about Mark Stoops? He cooks an ugly, but delicious steak.
“The steaks don’t look the part, but they taste so good,” Allen said.
— Allen loves the people of Corbin (who doesn’t?)
Apparently the podcast is having some technical difficulties on the iTunes feed, but you can listen below via iHeart Radio:
If you’d like to meet Josh and CJ, they’re about to embark on their signing tour across the state, which kicks off at KSBar on Wednesday:
Starting today, you can come by KSBar to get a ticket to reserve your spot in line, so get to it.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 04th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
It wasn’t a great week for Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament resume, but it could have been a lot worse. The Cats avoided disaster with a narrow win over Arkansas and, while depressing, the loss in Knoxville didn’t hurt them too much; however, Kentucky can’t afford another slip-up if they hope to stay in contention for a No. 1 seed. With two games left until the SEC Tournament, let’s look at the Cats’ team sheet.
If you’re not familiar with team sheets, they’re what the Selection Committee uses to pick and seed teams in the NCAA Tournament. Wins are sorted into four quadrants using the opponent’s NET ranking:
- Quadrant 1: Home Game 1-30; Neutral Site 1-50; Away Game 1-75
- Quadrant 2: Home Game 31-75; Neutral Site 51-100; Away Game 76-135
- Quadrant 3: Home Game 76-160; Neutral Site 101-200; Away Game 136-240
- Quadrant 4: Home Game 161-plus; Neutral Site 201-plus; Away Game 241-plus
On the team sheet, the opponent’s NET ranking is listed on the left, followed by the site of the game (home/neutral/away), the name of the opponent, and the result. Quadrant 1 is obviously the most important, but losses in Quadrants 2-4 can be resume killers.
Recently, the NCAA started making the team sheets even more specific, breaking Quadrants 1 and 2 into two parts to better organize games. As you can see, this shows how much more important away and neutral site wins are than home wins, and the opposite for losses.
Here’s Kentucky’s team sheet through yesterday’s games:
Let’s talk about it.
— Kentucky stayed at No. 5 after last week’s games, while Tennessee moved up from No. 7 to No. 4. North Carolina, LSU, Kansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State also moved up from their spots a week ago. With both the Cats and the Vols owning a blowout over the other, you have to think a rematch in the SEC Tournament would serve as the verdict for who gets the higher seed.
— On the table this week: a Quadrant 1 game at Ole Miss and a Quadrant 2 game vs. Florida. The Gators host LSU on Wednesday and could jump into Quadrant 1 with a win, which would make Saturday’s game even bigger. Go Gators!
— The top ten of the NET Rankings: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Virginia, 3. Duke, 4. Tennessee, 5. Kentucky, 6. Houston, 7. North Carolina, 8. Michigan State, 9. Michigan, 10. Texas Tech.
— Kansas and Michigan State are now tied for the most Quadrant 1 wins with ten, followed by Kentucky, Virginia, LSU, and Marquette all with nine.
— Vanderbilt’s latest losses dropped Kentucky’s win in Nashville from Quadrant 2 to Quadrant 3. That doesn’t really matter, but man, the ‘Dores are bad. With games vs. Arkansas and at LSU left, they’re probably going to finish the year with an 0-18 conference record. Ouch.
Easily the best thing the University of Kentucky does is their annual dance marathon to raise money for UK children’s hospital, Dance Blue. This year was the 14th year of Dance Blue and each year is better than the last. With the end of marathon donation total increasing every year, this year was no different. This year, Dance Blue raised $1,880,954.88 FOR THE KIDS!!!! The total has now reached over 15 million dollars in 14 years.
As someone who has had a family member involved in the Children’s clinic at UK, this event is truly astonishing and proves how much these students really care about the health of our future, along with the kids themselves.
At Dance Blue, UK students are on their feet 24 hours dancing for one cause, and that’s to help raise money for the UK children’s hematology/oncology and all the proceeds to help children fighting cancer. It helped to build the current facility they’re in and the state of the art equipment for the future.
On Saturday night, the marathon is primarily for the students to get acquainted with the line dance they do at the top of every hour. Some years some of the athletes, mascots, or coaches will join the students in the marathon. On Sunday, Dance Blue invites the families who have helped with Dance Blue or has had Dance Blue help them to come watch the event along with the children’s talent show, the celebration of life hour, and of course the big reveal. It’s truly a great event.
UK students here dancing for 24 hours straight to raise money for children battling cancer. Last year the DanceBlue event raised more than $1.8 million for the Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic. pic.twitter.com/ym44OyGe7p
— Chelsea Jones (@ChelseaWkyt) March 3, 2019
— DanceBlue (@UKDanceBlue) March 3, 2019
Madison Little, a student at Kentucky, participated for her second time this year. According to little, she found great purpose in participating in the 24-hour Marathon. “During the marathon last year I had been scanning my mind on what I can do to help,” Little told KSR. “During the memorial video last year, I had tears streaming down my face, seeing all these families being affected by pediatric cancer. Seeing these random faces on the screen, up popped a familiar face. Seeing someone who had passed away that I was close to, hit close to home and it made me want to do it again. If these children can go through what they do day-to-day, I can totally do this for 24 hours.”
Little said she recommends participating to all UK students and she will undoubtedly be participating in the next two years.
One of the founders of Dance Blue, Jennifer Mynear, said Dance Blue had changed the landscape of UK in itself. “Initially the impact of Dance Blue was we were told at one point by one of the university administrators and told the students ‘you have changed the culture of philanthropy at UK,’” said Mynear. ” It has changed the heart of UK. The students who participate every year, give everything and not just dollars, but their hearts, their time and their love.”
Mynear continued with her high praise for the insane amount of students who contribute to Dance Blue. “They have completely transformed pediatric hematology-oncology care here at UK children’s hospital. They have changed; literally, I don’t use this lightly, the level of care. We went from being a good small pediatric oncology, to top five in the country. That’s all the students.”
To the students at UK, job well done. It’s a fantastic event that I hope to see continue every year until we finally find the cure! Thank you to the donors, the students, the staff, and the doctors. You have truly changed lives.
By Adam Luckett on ©March 03rd, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Following a historic 2018 season, the 2019 UK football squad will be taking the practice fields for the first time this week for the seventh spring session under Mark Stoops. The Wildcats must replace a lot of star power of last year’s club, but the current roster remains mostly balanced. However, there are a few spots that will be worth keeping a close eye on during the spring session. Add that in with a new defensive coordinator and there are plenty of things to follow entering a favorable schedule that includes eight games at Kroger Field.
When the depth chart is released the tomorrow, the first place everyone’s eyes should look is the defensive back and wide receiver spots. Outside of Davonte Robinson on defense and Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps on offense, the Wildcats have no proven upperclassmen on the roster. On the offensive side, the Wildcats will be breaking in a ton of young faces while the secondary will need two junior college transfers to take control of the outside corner spots. These two position groups will be the main focus of the offseason.
Who plays with Davonte Robinson?
Last season the Wildcats had one of the best secondaries in college football. Behind three senior starters and another senior corner that played a lot of snaps off the bench, the Wildcats had the 19th best pass defense in the country per S&P+. UK appeared to have no weaknesses on the backend to go along with a lot of length that proved to be matchup nightmares for opposing wide receivers.
This year the Wildcats, under newly promoted defensive coordinator Brad White, will have a proven front seven that has a chance to be in the top half of the SEC. If the defense is able to keep up the excellent play it will be because of the development in the secondary.
Davonte Robinson was the only returning player who received a ton of playing time in the secondary last season. The safety will enter his redshirt junior season as a starter and is very likely to be the team’s nickel corner on subpackages. The Henry Clay alum recorded 42 tackles last season to go along with four pass break-ups. He’ll be the star of the unit.
Around Robinson is where cornerbacks coach Steve Clinkscale and safety coach Dean Hood will need to find some answers. Let’s start with the safety position next to Robinson.
Last year, UK used two redshirt freshmen in a limited role at safety. Both Tyrell Ajian and Yusuf Corker were top-350 recruits in the class of 2017. They’ll be competing for the starting spot at free safety to replace Darius West. The duo combined for just 18 tackles last season. Ajian recorded three pass break-ups and an interception in the upset victory over Mississippi State. One to watch for will be true freshman Moses Douglass. The blue-chip recruit has enrolled early and he’ll have a great chance for playing time at either safety spot.
At corner, Kentucky is totally rebuilding. The Wildcats lost years of starting experience with Derrick Baity, Lonnie Johnson, and Chris Westry all moving on to the NFL. To help stem the tide, Mark Stoops and his staff brought in two junior college transfers to help ease the transition in 2019.
UK landed Brandin Echols from Northwest Mississippi Community College and the three-star prospect recorded six interceptions and 12 pass break-ups last season. At 6-foot tall and 180 pounds, he seems to be a likely candidate to replace Derrick Baity at UK’s field corner (wide side of the field) spot.
On the early signing day in December, Kentucky picked up a surprising commitment and signature from junior college defensive back Quandre Mosely. The Georgia native has some great size (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) and what seems like some great length on his highlight tape. The Eastern Arizona Community College product figures to play UK’s boundary corner spot (weak side of the field) which Lonnie Johnson and Chris Westry owned last season. Mosely recorded over 50 tackles last year playing safety, but it feels like UK likes him better at corner.
The Wildcats also have a ton of young players who could break into the rotation. Both Jamari Brown and Stanley Garner redshirted last season. Garner was one of the most heralded recruits in the 2018 class. After playing primarily in a special teams role his true freshman season, Cedrick Dort Jr. also took a redshirt last year. There have also been rumors that slot receiver Clevan Thomas, Jr. has switched to the defensive side of the ball. The redshirt sophomore has the size (5-foot-11, 207 pounds) of a safety/slot corner.
A wildcard to watch in this entire race is senior Jordan Griffin. The former top-400 recruit out of Jonesboro High School in Georgia has had a strange career. Griffin has played every spot in the secondary, but still has been unable to find a permanent home. The seasoned veteran has 41 career tackles and could be used as a filler to play any spot that the staff feels they need help in.
If you’re looking for a freshman to make an impact, keep an eye on rookie Taj Dodson. The top-600 recruit played mainly safety in high school, but it appears that UK will be letting him try out corner. The early enrollee has a chance to get early playing time due to the current state of the position. If he plays well this spring, he could take on a career trajectory similar to Derrick Baity. Playing a little bit as a freshman before becoming a sophomore starter and an impact player as an upperclassmen.
Finding Contributors at Wideout
Kentucky enters the season with one proven playmaker at wide receiver. Everyone reading this knows what Lynn Bowden, Jr. can do on the football field. The spring is not going to be about him. It’s going to be about finding alternative answers.
The Wildcats lost four of their top five pass catchers from last season and it is clear that quarterback Terry Wilson needs some help. Kentucky returns two juniors in Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps. It’s time for both players to take a step forward and become an impact player. If neither is able to it could be time to turn to an underclassmen.
It’s a vital spring for senior Ahmad Wagner following a transition year to college football. The former Iowa hooper did some positive things on the field, but it’s pretty clear he has a long way to go to make an impact. Hearing how he develops over the 15 practices will likely say a lot about what the expectations should be for him this fall.
As fas as the youngsters go, Kentucky has a lot of options. Allen Dailey, Jr. played primarily in a special teams role last year, but he was the only freshman that did not redshirt. B.J. Alexander and Bryce Oliver, along with Dailey, will all be thrown into the mix and given playing time looks. True freshman Demarcus Harris is in for the spring. Each one of these players is going to get a long, hard look at playing time.
Michael Smith is entering his second season coaching the wideouts at Kentucky and the Kansas State alum has his work cut out for him. The UK offense desperately needs this group outside of Bowden to make a big stride forward this upcoming year for the offense to reach its potential.
What about Terry?
After starting 13 games and collecting 10 wins, Terry Wilson is back behind center for his junior season and most are expecting improved play from the dual-threat quarterback. After completing 67.2 percent of his passes and averaging a respectable 7.0 yards per attempt, Kentucky needs Wilson to go from game manager to playmaker in 2019.
The athletic quarterback was effective on the ground (over 700 rushing yards on non-sack carries) in addition to being very accurate. The only problem was that the young quarterback took way too many sacks which took away from his rushing effectiveness in addition to the lion’s share of his passes not traveling very far past the line of scrimmage.
In 2019, Wilson must grow in a lot of areas. In the pocket, the young quarterback needs to improve his footwork and short area mobility to extend plays. In the passing game, he must start to build a rapport with the young receivers. Outside of Bowden, Wilson will have no safety blanket with the loss of C.J. Conrad. How Wilson plays with the young receivers will say a lot about who will receive playing time when Toledo rolls into town on the last Saturday in August.
In all, Kentucky has some very strong things to lean on entering the spring. The offensive line has a chance to be very good and Mark Stoops should feel very confident in his defensive front seven. There are a few things that need to be ironed out, but the program is in good shape if they can answer a couple of big questions this spring.
Kentucky’s Josh Allen competed in the 40-yard dash Sunday afternoon at the NFL Combine. When the dust settled, the future top five pick finished the drill in 4.63 seconds.
Allen is @MoveTheSticks' #3 overall prospect.
— NFL (@NFL) March 3, 2019
The time was .07 faster than his first attempt. Allen was tied for 19th among all linebackers, and just .01 behind his teammate, Jordan Jones.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) March 3, 2019
Allen’s time did not pop off the page, like Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, who burned through the drill in 4.41 seconds. However, Allen did surpass Nick Bosa, his top competition for the No. 1 overall spot, who posted a time of 4.79.
While players competed in drills on the field, NFL Network analysts didn’t jump at the opportunity to praise Allen’s performance from his time at Kentucky.
“A lot of you guys probably didn’t watch him last year because he was at Kentucky,” Jack Pilgrim transcribed. “I think his best football is ahead of him, once he gets better coaching.”
Fortunately, the talking heads do not determine Allen’s draft stock. His early numbers solidified his status near the top of draft boards. If the Cardinals, 49ers or Jets check his tape from Kentucky, they’ll see why he was the best defensive player in college football last season. More tape on the Wildcats from their time at the Combine:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) March 3, 2019
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) March 3, 2019
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 02nd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Coming in to today’s game, the big question was whether or not Kentucky could beat Tennessee without Reid Travis. After a 71-52 shellacking, the answer is obviously no, but having Reid on the floor wouldn’t have prevented that massacre. From start to finish, Tennessee was the hungrier, faster, and more sound squad, doing to Kentucky what Kentucky did to them two weeks ago in Rupp. Unable to hit a shot, the Cats never really had a chance, taking their fourth straight loss in Knoxville right on the chin.
I guess we have to talk about it, so let’s do it.
More turnover than field goals
There are a lot of depressing stats from the game. Kentucky scored only 52 points, the fewest since the loss to Vanderbilt in the 2013 SEC Tournament. They shot a season-low 31.8 percent from the floor and made only 14 field goals, tying the fewest in one game since the South Carolina game in Columbia five years ago. In fact, Kentucky had more turnovers (17) than field goals (14), the most abhorrent stat of all.
For whatever reason, the Cats just couldn’t get a ball in the bucket, making a comeback impossible. Credit Tennessee for great defense, but a lot of Kentucky’s woes on offense were due to horrible passing, questionable shot selection, and the lid that magically appeared on the rim at key points in the game.
Reid Travis being out is not an excuse
It’s easy to say Kentucky lost because they didn’t have Reid Travis, who so ably handled Grant Williams in Lexington, but Calipari refused to use Reid’s absence as an excuse.
“It wasn’t that,” Cal said. “For us to win here without Reid was going to have to be our best game in ten years.”
Nick Richards started the game in Reid’s place instead of EJ Montgomery and actually played okay, finishing with eight points (1-4 FG, 6-9 FT) and seven rebounds, but foul trouble plagued Kentucky’s entire frontcourt. Nick and EJ both had three fouls in the first half and PJ two, which prevented any kind of offensive flow. When PJ went to the bench with his second foul at the 8:23 mark, Kentucky was only down 20-18. At halftime, the Vols were up 37-24. If you were one of those clamoring for Cal to gamble and put PJ back in, you were not alone.
Jordan Bone owned Ashton Hagans
About a month ago, you could have made a case for Ashton Hagans, Jordan Bone, and Tremont Waters being neck and neck in the race for best point guard in the SEC. Not anymore. Bone absolutely owned Ashton today, scoring a career-high 27 points off 11-15 from the floor and 5-5 from three. On the flip side, Ashton had five points off 2-6 from the floor, five rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers. That stat line doesn’t begin to describe how poorly Ashton played. It was by far one of his worst games since taking over as starting point guard.
The rest of the backcourt didn’t look much better. Tyler Herro tried to do too much and, after if not for Keldon Johnson sticking his tongue out at the Tennessee crowd on his way out of the tunnel, I would have thought he just stayed in the locker room. The only guard that really helped the team today was Immanuel Quickley, who had eight points and four rebounds. Well done, IQ.
Tyler Herro was not a bucket
Fresh off his “I’m a bucket” clutch performance vs. Arkansas, it looked like Tyler Herro was poised to have a big day, scoring four straight points to put Kentucky ahead 14-13 with about 13 minutes to go in the first half. From there, he only scored two more points. With Reid out and PJ in foul trouble, it felt like everyone else on the team was trying to do too much, and Herro was the biggest offender. At one point, Cal lit into him on the sidelines, telling reporters the rant was a long time coming after Herro ignored his instructions four or five times prior.
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) March 2, 2019
Not a great look, road warrior.
Reality check? Check.
If you’re like me, you had talked yourself into this being a really special March, especially after that new hype video from KyWildcatsTV. Today’s outcome doesn’t mean it won’t be, but Kentucky must use it as a reality check. We knew this game was going to be a war — hilariously, the players have the camo bucket hats to prove it — but a 19-point loss in March, regardless of the opponent, is a big ole piece of humble pie for a team that clearly needs it.
Afterwards, Calipari said that for the first time in a while, his guys played selfishly, and now they’ve got the result to prove it. The same thing happened to Tennessee in Rupp, and look how they responded. Hopefully we can look back at this game as the reality check Kentucky needed to regroup and make a run.
Round three in Nashville
Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like Kentucky will be the three-seed in the SEC Tournament and Tennessee the two, meaning a rematch in the semifinals is all but certain. The fact that round three will come on Saturday instead of Sunday means the Selection Committee is more likely to factor in the result, which could have huge ramifications on Kentucky’s seeding, good or bad.
The stakes will be huge. The crowd will be nuts. The Cats better be ready, because they definitely weren’t today.