It’s a new week in the Bluegrass, and it feels like we know a lot more about this Kentucky Basketball team than we did on Friday. The Cats went to Auburn with a big opportunity but not a lot of pressure. A loss to the Tigers would have been understandable; they’re a top 15 team and that arena was rocking. Yet, with the measuring stick on the wall, the Cats stood tall.
After some choice words from Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson broke out of his funk, turning in his best game in a month. Tyler Herro came through in the clutch, hitting threes and free throws to help the Cats hang on. Reid Travis and PJ Washington both played well, owning the post in the absence of Auburn’s Austin Wiley. Ashton Hagans only had six points, snapping his streak of double-figure games, but managed the game well, holding his teammates accountable and grabbing a career-high seven rebounds. Once again, Hagans was credited with additional steals once the game was over, taking his total to three. He’s now had three or more steals in seven straight games, the most by a major-conference freshman since Wake Forest’s Chris Paul did it in 10 consecutive games in the 2003-04 season.
The game didn’t come without its fair share of drama. After leading by 17 early in the second half, the Cats let the Tigers crawl back in; however, I’d argue that makes the fact that Kentucky still won even more impressive. At one point, it felt like Auburn — particularly Bryce Brown — couldn’t miss, and I’m pretty the crowd’s roar registered on the Richter Scale. Most teams, particularly those led by freshmen, would roll over; in fact, this team did roll over in almost the same scenario a few weeks ago at Alabama. But these Cats refused to lose, and I found Bruce Pearl’s quote about Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro very telling.
“There’s some character there. There’s a real will to win there. They would rather win and score less than maybe just put up their numbers. Those kids are built really like champions.”
The win was big, but with No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 7 Kansas coming to town this week, Kentucky can’t afford a letdown. Lots to do before then, so let’s get to it on this fine Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Where will Kentucky end up in the polls?
Kentucky’s currently No. 12 in the AP Poll, but after Saturday’s big win and seven teams ahead of them losing last week, they will certainly move up:
1. Duke: Lost to Syracuse
2. Michigan: Lost to Wisconsin
4. Virginia: Lost to No. 1 Duke
7. Kansas: Lost to West Virginia
8. Texas Tech: Lost to Iowa State and Baylor
9. Virginia Tech: Lost to No. 4 Virginia
11. Florida State: Lost to Pittsburgh and Boston College
Tennessee will likely be the new No. 1 team in the country, and although the Vols fully deserve it, it’s still going to feel a little weird.
Which Wildcat will win SEC Freshman of the Week?
Last week, Ashton Hagans brought the award home for the second time and then had a career game vs. Georgia. Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro have also won SEC Freshman of the Week this season, but both made very good cases for themselves vs. Auburn. I’d give it to Tyler for this answer alone:
As if Kentucky fans needed another reason to love Tyler Herro. “I just like hitting big shots on the road against people who don’t like us. If they don’t like us we don’t like them.” pic.twitter.com/v5OjZEJMkJ
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) January 20, 2019
Which assistant will preview Mississippi State?
Either Kenny Payne, Tony Barbee, or Joel Justus will handle today’s pre-Mississippi State press conference. Who will it be??? Check the site around 2 p.m. to find out and hear their take on the Cats and Ben Howland’s Bulldogs.
You’ll hear from Calipari on the radio show
Don’t worry; you’ll still hear from John Calipari today. After moving to Wednesday last week, Cal’s radio show returns to its normal Monday night slot. Tune in to 630 WLAP or UKAthletics.com at 6 p.m. to hear what Cal has to say after Saturday’s big win. Or, just check the site tonight. We’ll have you covered.
Do you think Cal knows how awesome his wife’s Instagram account is? Yesterday, Ellen gave us two more quality posts, more than I strive for in a month.
UK Cheerleading did it again
For the fourth straight year and the 24th time in program history, Jomo Thompson’s squad is bringing home the national championship. As John Calipari tweeted afterwards, they are the gold standard. Both the cheerleaders and the dance team will be honored during Saturday’s game vs. Kansas. The dance team was entered in three categories over the weekend, placing fifth (Game Day competition), sixth (Hip-Hop) and 12th (Pom).
Shoutout to The Hound in Auburn
This weekend’s trip to the state of Alabama went much, much better than the one I made a few weeks ago thanks to Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, but also to a favorite new SEC eatery. If you ever find yourself in Auburn, I recommend The Hound, a cozy restaurant downtown with great food, beer, and bourbon. The keg of my favorite IPA, Good People from Birmingham, was out, but the Monday Night Dust Bunny was perfect for toasting the Cats’ victory.
The Super Bowl is set
It’ll be the Patriots vs. the Rams in Super Bowl LIII after two thrilling overtime games yesterday. If you haven’t been online in the last 24 hours, the Saints got screwed when this obvious pass interference penalty wasn’t called on 3rd and 10 with 1:45 in the game and the score tied at 20:
No PI? pic.twitter.com/VFvwGUemTO
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) January 20, 2019
If you’re a Saints fan, my heart goes out to you this morning. That’s rough.
Ready to talk about You?
The Lifetime/Netflix hit will be a major topic of today’s show, which means I can finally stop watching it and move on to better shows like Grace & Frankie, Schitt’s Creek, and Below Deck. Don’t judge me; I’m rewatching Game of Thrones, too.