**Before he took the solemn vows of initiation at The Brown Tweed Society, Evan Hilbert and I enjoyed some good times at WildcatBlitz.com and here at Kentucky Sports Radio. I liked the way he laughed, his firm embrace and, mostly, his preview of the starting lineups of opposing basketball teams. So, just like the bat signal, I’ll be posting these each game, hoping that it brings Evan home.
champagne NCAA approved beverage is barely dry on the Rupp Arena locker room floor following John Wall’s game-winning jumper against Miami on Monday and John Calipari and his troops are asked to enter yet another contest – this time against a sneaky Sam Houston State Bearkat basketball team. Say that ten times fast. For the Cats, the focus will be on the….well, focus.While Miami surely got s–thouse lucky on a number of their baskets in a first half that saw UK down 18, there is no question that Cal’s team needs to tighten things up on offense and work quite a bit on their transition defense. Despite Wall’s heroics, it was not a flawless performance for the superstar freshman as both he and Eric Bledsoe somewhere along the line mistook the Dribble-Drive offense for the Drive-Drive-Drive-Oh-Crap-Nowhere-To-Go-I’ll-Just-Throw-It-Up-Between-Three-Guys-Or-Force-A-Pass offense. I’d expect a more focused effort tonight from both youngsters on playing to their strengths without overdoing it. However, the burden of maintaining John Calipari’s place as the only undefeated coach in Kentucky’s storied history surely must be taking it’s toll. As “The Streak” has worn on, the team has seem to play a little less under control. You have to wonder if the pressure of that lofty record is starting to weigh on them.
For the Bearkats (notice the “k”? They’re sassy.), it’s all about the opportunity to make a statement. They enter the year as the runaway favorite to win the West Division in the Southland and are favored by many to win the overall title. In 11 seasons under former David Hobbs and Dana Altman assistant Bob Marlin, Sam Houston State has enjoyed its fair share of success. Since Marlin took the head coaching job in beautiful Huntsville, the Bearkats have had only one losing season and, not counting the Texas Longhorns, have more wins than any other college program in Texas. In hopes of finishing with a winning record for the sixth consecutive season, Marlin’s squad will count heavily on their veteran guard play, which carried them on a 12-3 finish to last year’s season. Both Ashton Mitchell and Corey Allmond and their nearly 30 points per game return, giving the Bearkats high hopes for an NCAA berth. The struggle, though, will be to replace the rebounding they lost in All-Southland honorable mention Barkley Falkner and DeLuis Ramirez, who provided a strong inside presence. But, to this point, SHSU has looked downright nasty in the paint and on the defensive end, out-rebounding the only teachier hornier than Bruce Pearl and Texas College by 13 per game and by holding them to 27% from the field. And, while the talent will be a little different in tonight’s Coaches vs. Cancun Classic, don’t expect the Bearkats to come out intimidated. Under Marlin, they’ve knocked off Texas Tech, Baylor and Missouri, in addition to a slew of other high-major D-1 schools and, with senior leadership in the backcourt, they won’t be short on confidence.
Now, without further ado, let’s meet the starters!
#1 Ashton Mitchell, 5-11, G, Senior
2009-10 stats: 10 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.5 spg, 61% from field, 25% from three
Wee little Ashton Mitchell leads the charge for the the Bearkats again after finishing sixth in the nation in assists with 6.8 per game. While he does not pose a major threat to knock down a three, he will attack the basket mercilessly and look to draw a foul. Mitchell shot 79% on his team-leading 170 free throws last year, which amounted to nearly double center Barkley Falkner’s second-place total. Factor this in with him being “the most athletic point guard” head coach Bob Marlin says he’s coached in 28 years, and this means one thing. Look for him to try to shake loose from John Wall and go right at DeMarcus Cousins early in an effort to put the big man in foul trouble again.
#10 Corey Allmond, 6-1, G, Senior
2009-10 stats: 14 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3 apg, 48% from field, 33% from three
With Mitchell attacking the paint and rim hard, his roommate Corey Allmond fits in nicely on the perimeter as the Bearkat sharpshooter. Last year, in his first season after transferring from Howard, Allmond led the team with 15.3 points per game, aided by a school record 99 three pointers on 43.6% shooting. This earned him the highly prestigious distinction of being a First Team All-Southland choice. However, despite his solid assist to turnover ratio of 3:1, judgement could be an issue, as he named “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” as his favorite movie.
#11 Josten Crow, F, 6-4, Junior
2009-10 stats: 5.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6 apg, 2.5 spg
After reading about Josten Crow for over an hour now, I could not find any player on the planet less interesting. Crow scored 17 in the last game of the season last year against the AJ Stewart-less Texas State Bobcats and has enjoyed a larger role this year. He does a little bit of everything for the Bearkats, so you’ll likely hear his name a lot tonight. But, since he doesn’t really do anything exceptionally well, you won’t really remember what he did. I do think, though, that if you put his name in on UrbanDictionary.com or said it to a drunk frat guy, it would fit in to conversation seamlessly.
“Bro, what’d you do last night?”
“You know me. I was just Josten Crow over at the ADPi house.”
I don’t know what that means.
#14 Gilberto Clavell, 6-6, F, Junior
2009-10 stats: 15 ppg, 4 rpg, 67% from the field
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Bryan the Intern. You stop right there with your joke about Gilberto Clavell returning home for the Coaches vs. Cancun Classic. Clavell is actually a native of Puerto Rico, which I think makes him an American citizen. Maybe. Regardless, Clavell enters the season with a lot of hype after averaging 12 ppg for Puerto Rico in the FIBA U19 tournament conquested by Darius Miller and being named MVP of a JuCo All-Star game. To this point, he has not disappointed, but tonight could be a different story. If Sam Houston State is giving the Cats all they can handle, expect Clavell to be heavily involved.
#41 Preston Brown, 6-6, F, Senior
2009-10 stats: 11 ppg, 7 rpg
Brown will not play after suffering an injury when he allowed Ashton Mitchell to ski on his forehead. He will be replaced by 6’9″ Zambian Arthur Zulu, who has his tuition paid through royalties from Civilization. Saves a scholarship.
Notes: The Cats are being out-dunked this year by a 4-3 margin….UK has scored first in both games….John Calipari has never faced Sam Houston State, but he’s 1-0 against Samford ad 17-3 against Houston….UK now has 1,990 wins, which is the year Darius Miller was born. Think about that….Patrick Patterson has 23 double-doubles, one short of being in the top 10….DeMarcus Cousins has one, 23 shy of the top 10….Sam Houston State is 0-11 all-time against the SEC…they last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2003, losing by 30 to Florida….anyone ready for a live blog?….if Tobias Harris knew how much of a pain it is to write this, he’d push back his announcement….this gets posted over in 5, 4, 3,….