Welcome back. It was a pleasantly long weekend in terms of high fives and fun times in the world of Kentucky basketball as the Cats polished off Darrin Horn’s team for a second time and the NBA took a trip to Los Angeles and gave Kobe Bryant a reason to act like he was wearing #8 again. In typical Kobe fashion, he made himself the star of the show, scoring 37 points and grabbing 14 rebounds as his West team and their 1972 USSR uniforms held off a furious finish from LeBron James. Bryant earned MVP honors, giving him one more than Michael Jordan, and guaranteeing you that all of those ESPN talking heads shows will pepper you with the ludicrious debate of whether or not he’s better than Jordan. Spoiler: He’s not. But, on this evening, Kobe did ok, I guess. So, for that, we’ll salute him here.
Now onto a few UK notes…
– Saturday’s game with South Carolina bordered on the miserably uninteresting side for the vast majority of the contest and I mean that as an absolute compliment. South Carolina offered very little in the way of competition for the Cats on paper and Kentucky handled their business in exactly the manner they wanted. They raced out to a fast start and continued to push through the half. Even after South Carolina opened the second on an 11-3 run, the Cats came out of a timeout and put the Gamecocks away again. The top-six players all produced on a level you’d like to see every night and the team defense looked outstanding only one game after it looked atrocious. Coach Cal had reasons to nitpick, but the game seemed to give the most ideal result possible. It was a very complete game.
– If there was an interesting twist to the game, it was DeAndre Liggins coming off of the bench. Coach Cal said that he just wanted to try different stuff and that he could continue to bring him off of the bench. After Doron Lamb played so well against Mississippi State after starting in the place of an injured Darius Miller, having him in the starting lineup again was not a surprise. Bringing Liggins off the bench insted of Miller, though he played his worst game of the season against the Bulldogs was a bit curious. There’s no question that the team’s offense flows better with Lamb in the starting lineup and his improved defense makes him even more valuable as a starter, so you can expect him to remain in the starting lineup. Personally, I think Miller offers more as the first guy off the bench, but Coach Cal seems to know what he’s doing. I guess I’ll let him keep doing it without complaining.
– The South Carolina game and the 40-minute beatdown provided the most emphatic notice yet that the bench will not be a factor going forward. If there was ever a time for the Vargas-Poole-Polson-Hood quartet to get extended time, it was during the UK blowout Saturday. Yet, no one besides Eloy got any minutes until the very end of the game. It’s clear that Cal is no longer interested in letting those guys play through their mistakes and that he’s focused on getting the top-six in a rhythm heading into the SEC and NCAA Tournament.
– Despite only having one former Cat in the actual All-Star Game, the All-Star Weekend again displayed what will continue to be part of the allure of the UK program going forward. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins stole the show at the Rookie-Sophomore game Friday night (Eric Bledsoe was there too) and Wall took his no smiles into the Skills Challenge Saturday night. People, including Cal, often talk about how 1996 and 1998 don’t mean much to recruits anymore, but things like the All-Star game register big with the kids they’re targeting. Next year’s Rookie-Sophomore Game could feature 5-7 former Cats, Wall in the Skills Challenge and maybe even Wall or Cousins (tough to break through at PF in the West though) in the actual All-Star game, along with Derrick Rose. That’s a beautiful luxury.
– With Patrick Patterson, Jodie Meeks and Anthony Davis in the house, it couldn’t have been a better environment for Trevor Lacey to visit Saturday. The four-star shooting guard sat behind the bench, along with Davis, and witnessed the Cats torch the Gamecocks behind a torrid assault from downtown. After the game, Lacey seemed impressed (as they always do), though he will not likely make a decision anytime soon.
– Twitter gave us another little recruiting tidbit late Sunday as junior college big man Stan Simpson said UK will visit him next week. The 6’10” former Illinois commit said that Kentucky coaches told him that he is high on their list and they would like him to visit as well. As noted last week in the discussion about Braeden Anderson, Kentucky needs to find a couple of guys to throw into their recruiting classes that they can count on being around for a few seasons and to fill a role. The biggest area where that is needed is inside. Simpson could fill that void nicely. Kentucky coaches will visit him either Monday or Tuesday of next week.
– Another UK target, Shabazz Muhammad, will visit Louisville February 27 for the Cards’ game with Pitt. He’s going to be bummed when he realizes that’s not where the University of Kentucky is located.
– On a sad note, former Louisville Cardinal Troy Jackson passed away this weekend at the age of 35. The world knows Jackson as “Escalade” from the And 1 Mixtape Tour. He’s the younger brother of former NBA point guard Mark Jackson and the uncle of current Card Mark Jackson, Jr.
– Good news for those of you who have been long awaiting the return of Mark Paul Gosselar. It turns out TNT is debuting a series called Franklin and Bash in June and Gosselar will be a womanizing lawyer. Awesome. Kind of. Maybe not. Actually, I’m not that excited.
That’s it for now. Stick around throughout the day as we get you all excited about the Cats’ trip to Fayetteville and Matt and Zach recap the weekend at 10am on Talk Radio 1080. It might be the greatest day in the history of Kentucky Sports Radio. Or, it might just be another day. You won’t really know, though, unless you check it out. In the meantime, did you see this pass John Wall made to Blake Griffin?
See you in a few…