Basketball Season Coverage
Former Kentucky star Walter McCarty is back on the Rupp Arena floor, this time as a coach.
This morning, McCarty – the head coach of the Evansville Purple Aces – led his team in its morning shootaround prior to their matchup against Kentucky this evening.
McCarty joined Ryan Lemond and Drew Franklin this morning on Kentucky Sports Radio, where he discussed how excited he was to be back in Rupp Arena.
“This is awesome to come back here in this fashion,” McCarty said on KSR. “I never would have dreamt it. Being at Rupp playing the No. 1 team in the country is a great opportunity for our program.”
McCarty, who played at Kentucky from 1993-96, won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1996. Over three years in Lexington, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 9.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
Back in March of 2018, McCarty was hired as the head men’s basketball coach at Evansville, the former Wildcat’s hometown.
Evansville, led by former Kentucky Wildcat Walter McCarty, comes to Rupp Arena off a 79-75 season-opening victory over Ball State. McCarty returns several key contributors from last season, including 2018-2019 MVC Most Improved Team member K.J. Riley. The Purple Aces also added star recruit DeAndre Williams who was ruled ineligible last season, plus Kansas transfer Sam Cunliffe and Coastal Carolina transfer Artur Labinowicz to their already veteran group. Evansville features a free-flowing offense and streaky 3-point shooting that allowed them to defeat each of the top 3 teams in the Missouri Valley last season despite only winning 11 games overall. This group went 3-0 on their European trip over the summer and the 3 newcomers, Williams, Cunliffe, and Labinowicz, have been then keys to what appears to be a vastly improved UE team this season.
#33 K.J. Riley: 6’5” 180 lbs, Senior Point Guard
13.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.0 apg
Point Guard. Scored 14 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists against Evansville. He is a DRIVER!!! Uses his size and strength to get around the rim and finish. No right hand drives. Closeout short to take away the drive. Wants to get to the free throw line. 420 FT attempts over the last 2 seasons. Play without fouling. Can really be in help off of him when he doesn’t have the ball, but don’t lose sight of him and allow him a head of steam to drive it. Pushes it hard in transition; have to get the ball stopped as a team. No layups!!! Get your hands up as he drives it and make him score it over you. Stay between him and the basket.
#3 Jawaun Newton: 6’3” 170 lbs, Sophomore Guard
3.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Athletic guard. Willing 3-point shooter. 44 of 80 shots were 3’s last season, but he only made 10 of those attempts. Has missed all 4 of his attempts between their exhibition and first game. Closeout short to him until he makes a couple and guard against the right hand drive. Just throw a hand up to contest it when he shoots. Quick. Will look to attack if they throw it ahead to him in transition. No right hand drives. Can go help on drives and dig on the post when he doesn’t have the ball until he makes a couple from outside.
#30 Noah Federking: 6’4” 210 lbs, Junior Guard
6.3 ppg, 41/108 3pt
Shooter!!! Take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. NO 3’s!!! 108 of 157 shots were from 3 last season. Quick release, looking for opportunities to squeeze them off. Have to be there to take it away. Find him in transition. Doesn’t want to have to do anything besides catch and shoot. If he isn’t dribbling then you aren’t close enough to him. Do not help off of him!
#13 DeAndre Williams: 6’9” 190 lbs, Sophomore Forward
Ineligible Last Season
Best player. Very talented face-up forward. Long and athletic. Likes to play out of the trail spot (top of the key). Will drive it from there or immediately dribble into a handoff and roll to the post. Wants to face up in the post. Take away his right hand. Capable 3-point shooter. Has made 4 of 5 attempts from 3 so far this season including making 3 against Ball State on his way to 26 points. He has an extremely slow release so you should be able to play a step or two off of him and still give a strong contest. Wants to use his athleticism to beat you off the dribble. No right hand drives!!! Will jump stop or spin to comeback and finish with his right hand. Crashes the offensive glass. BOX OUT!!!
#35 John Hall: 6’7” 215 lbs, Redshirt Junior Forward
9.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg
Versatile forward. Good 3-point shooter. 112 of 244 shots were from 3 last season and shot over 35%. Have to be there to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. Looking for opportunities to pick and pop. Can switch when he ballscreens as anyone can guard him for a possession. Can put it on the floor and drive it right as well. No right hand drives. Strong. Will be physical at the end of his drives. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Undersized. Make him score over you in the post. Box him out!
#20 Sam Cunliffe: 6’6” 200 lbs, Redshirt Junior Forward
Transfer from Kansas: 1.9 ppg in 15 games
Aggressive offensive player. 17 points on 13 shots in 25 minutes of action against Ball State. Very good shooter. No 3’s!!! Be there to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. He is looking to squeeze them off. Wants to shoot jump shots. Have to find him in transition. Will drive it all the way to the basket going right, but likes to shoot the jumper bouncing it to his left. Uses his size to get a lot of shots off. Good player. Have to try and play him straight up, but error on the side of taking away his 3’s. Contest everything! Don’t help off him. Definitely could start instead of #3 or #30. Very good offensive player.
#2 Artur Labinowicz: 6’4” 190 lbs, Redshirt Junior Guard
Transfer from Coastal Carolina: 10.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg
Strong, physical guard. Good 3-point shooter. 148 of 265 shots were from 3 as a Sophomore at Coastal Carolina. Shooting 36% from 3 in college. No catch-and-shoot 3’s. Once you take away the catch-and-shoot 3 take away the right hand drive. Have to find him in transition. Good driver and will try to use his strength and physicality to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. He is a better free throw shooter than he is a finisher so do not bail him out. Make him score over you without fouling. Not helping off of him. Another guy who could start instead of #3 or #30. Good player; play him as straight up as you can but error on the side of taking away the 3.
#5 Shamar Givance: 5’10” 155 lbs, Sophomore Guard
4.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.4 apg
Backup Point Guard. Will push it hard in transition. Very quick with the ball. Do not over help when he drives it as he is a bad finisher. Driving it more to pass than he is to try and finish around the basket. Much better free throw shooter than finisher so do not bail him out with a foul. Stay between him and the basket! Just throw a hand up to contest if he shoots it from the perimeter.
#10 Evan Kuhlman: 6’8″ 220lbs, Junior Forward
SHOOTER!!! No 3’s!!! 108 of 183 shots were from 3 last season. Have to stay tight on him. Do not help off of him. No catch-and-shoot 3’s. All he wants to do is catch-and-shoot. If he isn’t dribbling you aren’t close enough.
Free flowing Motion that will be 4-around-1 or 5-out at different times. Most possessions will begin with passing it to, or handing off to, the Forward in the trail spot as they come down the court. This will get them into their Ballscreen/Dribble Handoff Offense. Generally it will be #13 Williams in the trail spot. When he gets the initial handoff he will look to make a play right away, but then will dribble towards the wing and either pass to the corner and follow it into a ballscreen or just hand it off to that guard. After the Ballscreen/Handoff Williams will roll to the basket. There will be 2 guards on the weak side, so as the guard with the ball dribbles that way normally the other post guy (who started on the block) will lift up and get a catch. The guard on the wing will back cut and fill through to the backside as the post dribbles that way and then they are into another Ballscreen/Handoff with the guard coming out of the corner. This is a typical Ballscreen/Handoff Continuity. Possessions can also start with the forward who was the rim run coming up to set a downscreen for the guard to run into the initial handoff. Check out a clip below that led to a Williams dunk. This play worked so well because the Ball St. player guarding #10 had to stay tight on him because he is a shooter and couldn’t provide as much help on the roll.
A lot of their set plays are just entries into their Ballscreen/Handoff Continuity, but here are a few of their other favorite actions.
- #33 Riley handoffs to the trail spot and receives a back screen from the other post guy who has worked his way up to the elbow. Will look to throw it to Riley so he can use his size around the basket. Hit the forward at the elbow after the back screen and now they are into a 2-man game with the guard on the ball side. Ran this early against Ball State and the guard back cut for a layup.
- Will set a lot of doubles to get a guard coming out of the corner off of 2 screens. Generally will then clear out the ball side and Iso (especially for #33 Riley because he isn’t a threat to shoot it off the double).
- Begin with a guy on the elbow and same side block. PG dribbles over and the guard on the block “gut cuts” up to the top of the key off a little screen from the elbow. The forward on the elbow then turns and ballscreens for the guard after he gets a catch. Good place to throw it back to the ball screener, especially if it is #13 Williams. Here is a clip of that action below. Also a good example of how they crash the glass.
Half court man-to-man defense. One thing they will do some is “Ice” side ballscreens on the wing. This means they will try to keep the ball on that side by having the guard jumping out to the top side of the ballscreen so as to force the guard to reject the screen. The guy guarding the screener will then drop back and keep the guard in front of him until the on-ball defender can recover. Otherwise they will switch a lot of screens because their players are pretty interchangeable. Below is an example of them icing the ballscreen and it actually turns into a switch (this is similar to how Texas Tech guards ballscreens). See how #2 jumps out force the ball handler to the baseline and then switches on #12 when he tries to pick and pop. If the ball handler had kept it longer #2 would have tried to recover as #35 stayed in front before sending him back out to the screener.
Keys to the Game
- Contain #13 Williams. More shots than points for him. Contain the right hand drives. Switch when he ballscreens if you need to so we keep a defender on him at all times. More important to have a guy on a guy than to maintain the match ups. Box him out too.
- No 3’s for #2, #10, #20, or #30. These guys all want to catch-and-shoot. Closeout to them to take away the 3’s. Contest everything!
- No layups for #33 Riley. He is NOT a threat to shoot it. Have to stay between him and the basket. Closeout short. He is also a guy you can really help off of when he doesn’t have it on the perimeter.
- Crash the Offensive glass and dominate the paint. Evansville is very undersized and don’t play a traditional post player. Kentucky should be able to have their way around the basket and control the glass on both ends of the floor.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 12th, 2019 @ 11:30am
In Kentucky’s exhibition opener against Georgetown College, freshman wing Kahlil Whitney finished with zero points (0-5 shooting), zero rebounds, and zero assists in 22 minutes of action.
Against Kentucky State in the team’s second and final exhibition matchup, Whitney followed it up with a 15-point (7-13 shooting), 5-rebound, 3-assist, and 3-block performance in 27 minutes.
The back-and-forth offensive performances continued into the regular season, putting up four points (1-3 FG) against Michigan State, followed by 11 points (5-8) in the home-opener against Eastern Kentucky.
Whitney struggled to get anything going on either end of the floor against Georgetown, but since then, one thing has remained consistent for the 6-foot-7 forward: defensive intensity.
“He was unbelievable [defensively over the last two games],” John Calipari said during his pre-Evansville press conference on Monday afternoon. “People that watched him in high school couldn’t believe it was the same guy.”
The Chicago, IL native has knocked down difficult shots and showed off his elite athleticism on put-back dunk attempts, but his biggest contributions have come on the opposite end of the floor as a defender. With a 7-foot-1 wingspan and lateral quickness, Whitney has been a nuisance on the perimeter, altering shots and making life difficult for opposing playmakers.
The effort is there, a major difference from his time in high school.
“Ever since I got to college, [defense] has been pretty much everything,” Whitney said. “In high school I really didn’t take it that seriously. I mean, it was high school, so I was going through the motions out there sometimes. But now that I’m here, defense is everything. You can’t teach defense, it has to be something you want. It has to be something you take pride in. The way for us to win is getting stops.”
Calipari appreciates the brutal honesty about Whitney’s lack of defensive effort at the high school level.
“That’s very true,” the Kentucky head coach said. “How about this? How about not being delusional? Like self-evaluating at his age. Wow! They don’t. And the people around them are telling them they’re the best, and you’re this, and its everybody else, and enabling, It’s not happening there. When I talked to him about what I’m looking for and he and I have a conversation, I walk out of the room and I go, ‘Wow, really smart kid. Really smart.”’
The biggest reason for this newfound success? The Kentucky coaching staff is demanding it out of him.
They don’t need Whitney to lead the team in scoring, they need him to use his elite athleticism and length to be a difference-maker on the other end of the floor and on the glass.
“If you demand a lot, you get a lot. If you accept mediocrity, you will get it every time,” Calipari said. “We are very demanding, and they’re demanding of each other and all of the sudden you’re seeing this guy that defensively –and again, the great thing for him is when you guard that way, even if the offense isn’t going you can leave that guy on the court because he’s may not—he may not score a basket, he might turn it over every once in a while, but if he guards and rebounds. When he’s doing both, he becomes one of the best.”
Whitney feels if he can become a consistent threat on defense, it will translate to success on the offensive end of the floor. He’s already confident in his mid-range shot, but the 6-foot-7 forward believes defensive success will lead to easy buckets in transition.
“My competitive spirit, my energy [separates my game],” the former five-star signee said. “Coming in, I had a struggle going offensively, but now I just find it easier the defensive end and things will work out on the offensive end. … I’m very versatile. I’m a defensive-minded guy, so I try to get stops and try to make it easier for the offense. I can shoot the ball pretty well, shoot the mid-range, block shots, get to the rim and finish. I’m very athletic. My athleticism is a pretty big part of my game, so I try to use it as much as possible.”
At the end of the day, defense wins championships, and that’s the mentality the entire team is taking.
“That’s what it takes to win,” Whitney said. “We’re so close, and we talk about winning every day. The rankings came out, we’re the No. 1 team in the country, and we want to hold that spot all year and win a national championship.”
What do you need to know about Walter McCarty and the Evansville Purple Aces? Ryan Lemond, Drew Franklin, and Shannon the Dude are here to help.
This morning, the KSR crew is here to break down Kentucky’s matchup against Evansville this evening, along with the other wackiness going on around the state.
Join in on the fun by calling (502) 571-1080 or send a text to the KSR Texting Machine at (772) 774-5254.
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By Nick Roush on ©November 12th, 2019 @ 9:00am
The last time Walter McCarty was on the Rupp Arena hardwood, he was celebrating a National Championship. Twenty three years later he returns to play the No. 1 team in America as the head coach of the Evansville Purple Aces.
The former Kentucky Wildcat averaged 11.6 points a game for Rick Pitino’s 1996 Championship squad. You may recall that time he knocked down a corner three-pointer to complete Kentucky’s Mardi Gras Miracle vs. LSU. Following the 96 season, the 6’10” stretch-four was taken with the 19th overall pick by the New York Knicks. He spent most of his ten-year career as a Boston Celtic, the same team where he spent five years as an assistant coach.
McCarty parlayed his position with the Celtics to a head coaching gig in his hometown of Evansville. In his first season at the helm, the Purple Aces’ rebuild got off to a sluggish start, finishing 11-21 and finishing Missouri Valley play with only five wins. They didn’t win a bunch of games, but they did bring back their infamous sleeved jerseys.
McCarty isn’t the only familiar name on Evansville’s sideline. SGA’s little brother, Thomasi Gilgeous-Alexander, is a reserve freshman guard. The Aces are led by DeAndre Williams, their star forward who had 26 points and nine rebounds in the 75-71 season-opening victory over Ball State.
You can learn more about Walter McCarty’s team later today in Brandon Ramsey’s scouting report, but let’s be honest, tonight is all about the Wildcats.
Who Will Step Up?
The season-opener belonged to Tyrese Maxey. Nick Richards starred with a 21-10 double-double against EKU. Who will be the player everyone is talking about on Wednesday? My money is on Keion Brooks. We saw his motor pump out 11 and 8 against the Colonels and I think he’s only scratched the surface.
TV, Radio, Vegas
Kentucky opened as 25-point favorites with a game total of 137.5. Paul Sunderland and Andy Kennedy are on the call for the 7 p.m. ET SEC Network tip-off. If you can’t watch, there are multiple ways to listen to The Voice of the Wildcats and Mike Pratt.
- AM: 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP
- FM: 98.1 WBUL
- Satellite: XM-190 and Sirius-134
- Online: iHeart Radio
E.J Montgomery is Doubtful
We don’t know much about Mr. Montgomery’s injury. John Calipari has kept the details of his absence limited ever since UK revealed just before tip-off Friday night that he would not play after suffering an ankle injury in the Champions Classic. Yesterday Calipari simply said E.J. is doubtful with the ‘day-to-day’ injury.
“One guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity, but still, we are not as good a team without [EJ], obviously, he’s one of our better players but you want him healthy,” Cal said. “You don’t want guys — their body is their castle and you try to tell them at an early stage, you have to listen to your body and if it tells you to stop, you stop. In this case the doctors and everyone else — it’s day to day, they’re making sure, keeping an eye on it.”
Tonight’s Tale of the Tape
It’s hard to read too much into stats this early in the year, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share them.
Will Wiseman Play?
The Memphis Tigers were initially defiant, playing their top-ranked center Friday night against UIC after the NCAA ruled him ineligible. That was just UIC. Tonight the Tigers have one of their toughest games of the season when they travel to Portland to play No. 14 Oregon. Penny Hardaway appears to be sticking to his guns and playing Wiseman regardless. We’ll find out how it all goes down as soon as Kentucky’s game ends, with tip-off set for 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Leah Edmond Named SEC Player of the Week
Tyrese Maxey grabbed the headlines as the SEC Basketball Freshman of the Week, but Leah Edmond was the only Wildcat to take home the big weekly award. UK volleyball’s all-time leader in kills tied a school record with 22 in a three-set victory over Georgia. That victory, along with another three-set win over Auburn on Sunday, helped the Cats secure a spot in second place of the SEC.
Football Stuff and Things
Mark Stoops spent more than an hour and a half talking to the media at his press conference and to fans on the coach’s show. Stoops provided a few injury updates, shared plenty of recruiting optimism and dug into the details behind the decision to stick with Lynn Bowden over Sawyer Smith against Tennessee. To wrap up the eventful day, the KSR Football Podcast vented some frustrations from the Tennessee loss as our own personal therapeutic outlet. We have a feeling after you listen that you will feel better too.
A New Matt Jones Podcast
KSR’s Fearless Leader is off the air , but he can’t stay away from the microphone for long. Back in the Bluegrass, this morning he’ll talk to his buddy Steve Romines about his wild week. Subscribe to The Matt Jones Podcast feed on iTunes to get it on your phone first when the audio goes live this afternoon.
The Jeopardy Tournament of Champions is extra special this year. Tonight ‘Jeopardy James’ Holzhauer will play for a chance to get revenge on the librarian who ended his streak. Before Emma Boetcher picked up the win, there was a touching moment during Final Jeopardy from Brown University student Dhruv Gaur.
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 12, 2019
The Debut of Disney+
The streaming service from the Mouse House has received hype on every conceivable Disney platform. Now you can watch all of the animated classics, Marvel movies and The Mandalorian under one roof. In the midst of a new streaming service explosion, this one is a must-have. I just recommend holding out a little longer until football slows down. Right now there are just too many sports to watch and not enough time.
By Nick Roush on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
The Kentucky Wildcats return to action Tuesday night against the Evansville Purple Aces. A day after they were officially crowned as the top-ranked team in the country, the fine folks from Las Vegas believe the Cats will win handily.
The opening spread for Walter McCarty’s return trip to Rupp Arena is Kentucky -25. If you like betting over-unders, the total is 137.5.
In Kentucky’s first two contests the under hit and the Cats covered. The closing line against EKU was 28.5 and Kentucky made it look easy, winning by 42. Evansville won their season-opener, defeating Ball State by four to cover the 1.5-point spread.
As always, wager responsibly and good luck.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
On if the approach is any different Evansville’s head Walter McCarty, a former player …
“I’ve known Walter for a long time, so it won’t change how I play the game but I’m happy for him. Watching his team, he’s doing some good stuff. I’m always happy when we can bring guys back here. Bringing them coaching teams, we’ve done it before. I think it’s a great thing. You just want them to know, in Walter’s case, you won a national title here. You’re a part of the history of this program. And I think our fans, he’ll feel that coming back.”
On if remembers trying to match up with him in the 1996 Final Four …
“I don’t, but Tony Delk was upstairs and I said to Tony, ‘We’re a little short in practice. We may need you. He said, ‘I can stand in that corner. I said, ‘No, I’ve seen that one.’ I said, ‘How many did you make in that game? Six? He goes, ‘Seven.’ He still knows exactly how many he made. It’s good that those guys are back. They’re good guys. They have always been kind to me. This program is a part of their family.”
On if the guys have bought in earlier to defense than his other teams …
“Well, it’s not that it’s earlier. What you had is, the teams that I’ve had have had a bunch of veterans come back and understand, drag other people along. When you don’t have that, it’s the coaches dragging that along, and that becomes a longer process. It also will take away from your offense because you’re playing so hard that you’ll back up and it takes more time. But I would say having Nate (Sestina) talk, and our guard play defensively is so good I said that from day one. When you can guard the ball and you have some shot blockers behind, you’ve got a chance to be good.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
John Calipari met with reporters earlier to talk about Kentucky’s new No. 1 ranking and tomorrow’s game vs. Evansville. We’ve already shared EJ Montgomery’s status and Calipari’s comments on the James Wiseman situation, but here are the eight other things he said that stood out the most to me.
He’s excited to welcome Walter McCarty back to Rupp Arena
Walter McCarty is in his second season as head coach of the Evansville Aces, and tomorrow, will bring his squad to his old stomping grounds of Rupp Arena. The Aces were 12-21 in Walter’s first season, attempting a program-high 776 threes, and beat Ball State 79-75 on Saturday night. Kentucky has a long tradition of scheduling games vs. teams coached by former players, which Calipari is excited to continue.
“I’ve known Walter for a long time so it won’t change how I play the game but I’m happy for him. Watching his team, he’s doing some good stuff and I’m always happy when we can bring guys back here. We’ve done it before and I think it’s a great thing. You just want them to know, and in Walter’s case, he won a national title here. You’re part of the history of this program and I think our fans, he’ll feel that coming back.”
He tried to recruit Tony Delk to join the practice squad
Down yet another player due to EJ Montgomery’s ankle sprain, Cal joked that he tried to recruit Tony Delk to the practice squad, mentioning the former Cat’s NCAA Championship game record of seven three-pointers.
“I said to Tony, ‘We’re a little short in practice. We may need you. He said, ‘I can stand in that corner. I said, ‘No, I’ve seen that one.’ I said, ‘How many did you make in that game? Six? He goes, ‘Seven.’ He still knows exactly how many he made. It’s good that those guys are back. They’re good guys. They have always been kind to me. This program is a part of their family.”
He still wants more from Nick Richards
We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season for Nick Richards. The junior is averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks through two games, all while battling a sprained ankle. He had only the second double-double of his career vs. Eastern Kentucky with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but John Calipari still wants more.
“He’s getting better,” Cal said of Richards’ maturity. “I still want more. Somebody said, well, if he plays that way, well, he could have played better. There were more baskets, there were more rebounds, a couple more defensive things that he kind of backed up on, but what it is is he’s showing confidence based on competence and conditioning.”
He credits the veterans for Kentucky’s strong defensive play
Kentucky’s defense has been the story of the season so far. Through two games, the Cats are holding their opponents to 31.7% from the field, 22% from behind the arc. The young guys are buying in on defense way ahead of the curve, which Calipari said is a credit to his veterans.
“The teams that I’ve had have had a bunch of veterans come back and understand, drag other people along. When you don’t have that, it’s the coaches dragging that along, and that becomes a longer process. It also will take away from your offense because you’re playing so hard that you’ll back up and it takes more time. But I would say having Nate (Sestina) talk, and our guard play defensively is so good I said that from day one. When you can guard the ball and you have some shot blockers behind, you’ve got a chance to be good.”
Still looking for an offensive identity
We know what this group can do on defense; Calipari is much more concerned with what their identity is going to be on offense. In fact, he said he’s more worried about that than how his team handles their new No. 1 ranking.
“What I’ve seen, after the start of last game and how we played, if you guard and you contest shots and you rebound, you’ll have a chance to win every game. The issues we’re coming back to is how do we play offensively and how do we keep all of these guys engaged when you’re playing random?”
In other words, get ready to see a ton of different lineups over the next month.
After running through EKU’s press, the team wants to play fast
Kentucky easily handled Eastern Kentucky’s press, which the players enjoyed so much that they told Calipari they want to play that way every game. His response: not so fast.
“Four of the guys came in and said, ‘Coach we’d really like to play that way.’ And I said, ‘I’ve gotta make a call. I’m going to call Eastern Kentucky and see if we can play them 30 times’ because unless the defense plays that way, what if they play pack-line defense? What if they play a zone? And that’s why we play all kind of different teams. We want to feel a zone, we want to feel a press, we want to feel a pack-line, we want to feel a team that is trying to shoot a ball in 25 seconds on the shot clock. How do we play? It is important for these guys to feel all of that.”
He couldn’t help but coach Brad a little bit after his game
Yesterday, the Caliparis traveled to Raleigh to watch Brad’s Detroit Mercy take on NC State. Cal was happy to cheer his son on from the crowd, but admitted he couldn’t help but do a little coaching after the game was over.
“He did good. He played like 14, 15 minutes. He took a charge. He lunged and took a charge on a guy. He smashed their big guy in the back to make sure we could get a rebound. He tipped a ball free. He ran hard. He looked good. He missed some shots. I told him, ‘There’s some guys that if they defend they stay in. There are other guys that if they make shots they stay in longer. You just didn’t make any. You missed a couple. If you made one or two, you probably would have played more. Not to be pressured, but just understand that is the situation you are in.’ They were down 14 with two minutes to go. I was screaming. I was so high. I was on the second level in a box. No one even really knew I was there, except I screamed at the officials a little bit. The one guy, I saw him look up like, ‘I have heard that voice.’ [Laughter.]”
Tyrese Maxey is the new Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
We’re only two games into the season, but Calipari once again said that Tyrese Maxey’s attitude reminds him of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team, even if it means coming off the bench.
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) November 11, 2019
Not surprisingly, Cal said a lot more about his former players in the NBA, which we’ll share a little later on.
By Drew Franklin on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 3:33pm
John Calipari fought hard for a commitment from James Wiseman, the No. 1 player in America in last year’s high school recruiting class. Calipari was on Wiseman early and often, only to lose him in the end to new hire Penny Hardaway at Memphis.
Now Wiseman and Hardaway are in hot water for improper benefits Hardaway extended to Wiseman’s family prior to the two linking up at Memphis. It has been alleged (and Penny has not argued) that Hardaway paid for Wiseman’s family to move (an $11,000 move) to Memphis from Nashville; and though Hardaway wasn’t the head coach at Memphis at the time, the NCAA considers him to be a booster for the university and its basketball program.
On Monday, John Calipari was asked about his former five-star target and the ineligibility ruling, to which he said, “I don’t really have an idea of any of the insides of it, but I hope the kid can play because he’s a great kid. I hope they work through it.”
For what it’s worth, Hardaway has said Wiseman will continue to play for the Tigers.
For more on the Wiseman saga, click right here to read our story on it from earlier today.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 3:05pm
EJ Montgomery sat out Friday night’s game with an ankle injury he suffered vs. Michigan State. Montgomery was spotted in a walking boot at the Joe Craft Center today, and John Calipari told reporters he doubts the big man will play tomorrow vs. Evansville.
“I doubt it. It’s day-to-day, but I would say doubtful,” Cal said.
More opportunity for Junior Nick Richards, right?
“One guy’s misery is another guy’s opportunity, but still, we are not as good a team without [EJ], obviously, he’s one of our better players but you want him healthy. You don’t want guys — their body is their castle and you try to tell them at an early stage, you have to listen to your body and if it tells you to stop, you stop. In this case the doctors and everyone else — it’s day to day, they’re making sure, keeping an eye on it.”
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Kentucky received 64 of the 65 first-place votes in the latest AP poll. One voter had Louisville, not Kentucky, atop his ballot: Dave Borges, the UConn beat writer for the New Haven Register.
Little does Dave know he did John Calipari a huge favor. During the postgame show following Kentucky’s 91-49 rout of Eastern Kentucky, Calipari (correctly) predicted his team wouldn’t get every first-place vote, even betting dinner for fans in the audience on it.
“I know we beat No. 1 on a neutral court, did this. We will not get every vote. I promise you. I’ll take you all to dinner if we get every vote.”
Kentucky received 64 of 65 #1 votes in this week’s poll.
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) November 11, 2019
Not only did Borges not give Kentucky a first-place vote, he had the Cats fourth on his ballot behind Louisville, Duke, and North Carolina. In a column yesterday, he braced himself for the blowback.
“In fact, it’s a job not everybody wants,” Borges says of being an AP voter. “Every writer’s ballot is available each Monday afternoon on the Associated Press’s website, as well as on a site called collegepolltracker.com. And, of course, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, who apparently has submitted nothing but perfect ballots his entire life, likes to publicly ridicule at least one voter each week with a column called Poll Attacks. It often leads to an avalanche of criticism for that voter on Twitter or other social media outlets. But Parrish feels the need to embarrass voters in a very public way. Perhaps because his daily Top 25 And-1 poll has no significance on the actual AP poll.”
BURN! I am all here for this Dave Borges/Gary Parrish feud.
While the BBN may be miffed at Kentucky not being the unanimous No. 1 team in the country, I know one famously frugal coach that is not.
By Aaron Torres on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
College basketball has no shortage of salacious and shocking recruiting stories over the last few years, but there are few which have topped what came out Friday night.
By now you know the basic details: Memphis freshman James Wiseman, the No. 1 player in the high school class of 2019, potential No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and long-time Kentucky recruit was deemed ineligible by the NCAA late Friday. It was a shocking piece of news, that led many to wonder if Wiseman would ever play another minute of college basketball.
At least until an hour or so later, when we found out that the school and player had gotten an injunction against the NCAA, which will allow him to play for the time being. He took the court hours after the news broke and played well, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.
Still, even after Wiseman played, it remains the biggest story in college basketball – and will be the biggest story until 1) The NCAA rules Wiseman eligible or 2) Memphis decides to sit him.
And it doesn’t appear as either of those things will happen any time soon.
So with so much information out there, what is fact from fiction? What could happen next and why did this come out now?
I spent most of the night Friday working the phones for details (sorry for those of you who are mad I didn’t pay more attention to Kentucky’s butt-whipping of Eastern Kentucky) and below is what I found out.
(Also, for those who want more details, I spent a ton of time discussing it on today’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, including some insider stuff you won’t hear anywhere else. You can hear my thoughts right around the 40-minute mark)
What are the nuts and bolts facts of the case?
Most of the facts of this case come from Wiseman’s recruitment, therefore it all should be somewhat familiar to those reading here.
It all starts in the summer of 2017, when Wiseman had emerged as one of the top high school players in the class and spent the summer playing for Penny Hardaway’s AAU team. Following the summer, Wiseman – who is originally from Nashville – elected to move to Memphis to play for Hardaway, who at the time, was a high school coach in Memphis.
Wiseman played for Hardaway during the 2017-2018 high school season (his junior year), before Hardaway eventually took the Memphis head coaching job in the spring of 2018. Even after Hardaway left the high school ranks, Wiseman decided to stay at the same high school in Memphis and eventually committed to play for Hardaway at Memphis last fall.
Where the issue lies is this: When Wiseman elected to move across Tennessee to play for Penny Hardaway, his family took money from Hardaway to help moving expenses. In total, it was over $11,000 (a heck of a move, I must admit).
To be clear, Hardaway has never disputed giving the money to the family. His argument is pretty simple: At the time, he was just a high school coach trying to help a family. He could have never imagined that he would end up as the Memphis head coach when he gave the money away.
So in a weird twist, the issue isn’t really that Hardaway is the Memphis head coach, and that the Memphis head coach gave his best player money. Instead, the issue is this: Hardaway is considered a “booster” in the NCAA’s eyes after donating to the school previously. And as we all know, boosters can’t give money to recruits.
Ultimately in the NCAA’s eyes, Hardaway giving Wiseman’s family money to move is no different than an Alabama booster giving the top quarterback in the country money to move to Tuscaloosa to play for the Tide.
Whether you love NCAA rules or hate them, this is a pretty straightforward booster case. And a pretty clear NCAA violation.
Why Did Wiseman Continue to Play Over the Weekend and Will He Keep Playing Going Forward?
Put simply, Wiseman and his team of lawyers (one of whom is named “Leslie Ballin” – really) got a court injunction which allowed him to play on Friday. And based on the fact that Wiseman traveled with Memphis over the weekend for the Tigers next game on Tuesday against Oregon, it appears as though he will keep on playing.
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) November 10, 2019
Now in terms of what the injunction actually means, well that’s way over my head in terms of what legal rights it does and doesn’t protect (this would be a great topic for #FreeMattJones, honestly).
As best I can tell, all the injunction really does is basically allow Wiseman to “technically” be eligible while the process of this investigation plays out. In theory, I guess the injunction could drag out this case long enough to get through the season, which would allow Wiseman to play.
Still, at some point the injunction will be over. And at that point, if Wiseman was deemed to be an ineligible player, it won’t stop the NCAA from vacating all the games he played in.
Could Wiseman Eventually Be Ruled Eligible? What Would His Argument Even Be?
Obviously while the injunction is ongoing, Memphis will continue to fight this case with the NCAA.
And I actually think that they have a reasonably strong argument to eventually get Wiseman eligible.
That argument is pretty straightforward: Yes, Hardaway gave Wiseman money when Wiseman was in high school. But again, he was just trying to help the family. And he had no idea that he would ever become Memphis basketball’s head coach.
As I explain on my podcast, I’m actually not totally sold on the notion that Hardaway had “no idea” he’d become the Memphis coach, since people in basketball will tell you that he was politically angling for the Memphis job years before he got it.
But at the same time, that’s all conjecture and back-channel hearsay. And I actually think it is a pretty strong argument for Hardaway and Memphis.
So if we take out the salacious fact that Hardaway is now the head coach at Memphis, and just look at it as the simple fact of “a booster paying a recruit” that’s where it gets interesting. There are plenty of examples of a booster giving money to a recruit, and the recruit eventually being ruled eligible. It would probably involve a suspension of some sort and Wiseman’s family paying back the money they received to charity.
Just as an example, Jeff Goodman tweeted about the case of a BYU player named Nick Emery, who a couple years ago accepted $12,000 from a booster. Emery was forced to pay back the money and was suspended for nine games.
Different situation than James Wiseman, but BYU’s Nick Emery was hit with a 9-game suspension by NCAA a year or so ago after taking a similar amount of money ($12,000) in impermissible benefits from boosters. Here are the other penalties imposed in that case. pic.twitter.com/rlq1vHZyNI
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) November 9, 2019
So could we see a similar situation with Wiseman, where he paid the money to charity and was eventually reinstated?
Yeah, I could actually totally see that.
What Are the Risks of Playing Wiseman?
Well, as you know, that’s pretty straightforward also. Wiseman has already been ruled ineligible. Which means that unless the NCAA completely reverses course and makes him eligible, it means that any game he plays prior to being ruled eligible has to be vacated, and will count as a loss in the record books.
Considering that Wiseman has already played in two games since he was ruled ineligible (the ruling technically came out before Memphis’s opener against South Carolina State, even if it didn’t become public until Friday) it means that those two could count as losses when they’re actually wins.
Now admittedly, maybe Memphis is simply hoping that the injunction holds up throughout the season, that Wiseman plays in all of its games and that they make a deep tournament run. Do that, and who cares if they eventually have to vacate those wins, right? Screw the NCAA, right?
Except here’s the thing, while everyone in the media is praising Memphis for giving a middle finger to the NCAA, it’s actually a pretty stupid philosophy.
Let me explain why.
Let’s say James Wiseman plays in five games before the NCAA decides on his eligibility, and they decide to say suspend him another nine games (like in the BYU case). And let’s say that Memphis accepts that punishment (which is questionable if they will at this point) and the Tigers finish the regular season with a 27-5 overall record.
Except, because they played Wiseman while he was ineligible, it could also mean that when the NCAA selection committee looks at Memphis, they won’t look at them as a 27-5 team, but instead 22-10, because they had to vacate the five wins to start the season that Wiseman played.
It could cost Memphis NCAA Tournament seeding, or possibly a berth altogether.
Again, I know so many who are anti-NCAA think it’s super “cool” that Memphis is giving the NCAA the middle finger, but it actually could cost them long-term.
Could the NCAA Also Bring Down the Hammer on Penny Hardaway?
Full-disclosure, when the news first broke I did a Periscope discussing the news, and I said that I thought that Wiseman would never play at Memphis and Hardaway’s days as the coach were numbered. Admittedly, that happened before the injunction, but also before we had a full grasp of the facts of the case.
At the time I was thinking of “Penny Hardaway, Memphis Basketball Coach” as the guy who paid Wiseman’s family. Not “Penny Hardaway, High School Coach.”
That is a big difference though.
Therefore, while I think in theory that Hardaway could face some kind of suspension, I don’t think he will end up losing his job over all this, that is, assuming he wants to stay at Memphis to fight this. Penny of course is in a unique situation because he doesn’t need the Memphis job after making over $100 million during his NBA career.
So maybe he ends up fighting this. Or maybe he ends up saying “screw it” and moving on to the next part of his life.
My guess though is that this isn’t something he’ll be fired over if he does want to stay as the Tigers basketball coach.
Why Did This Come Out Now?
There is one final, little twist in this story that I wanted to share here, because at the very least I think it’s interesting. It also came from more than one person who I spoke to over the phone this weekend.
The question: Why did this information come out now?
The answer: It’s way more complicated than you think.
Because here is a little fact that has been kind of glossed over by the national media: The NCAA originally ruled James Wiseman was eligible in May. The NCAA went through all the records, and found nothing suspicious about Wiseman’s recruitment, his decision to move to Memphis to play high school basketball or to attend the University of Memphis.
Then, at some point since then, they got enough information to suspend Wiseman.
So what happened between May and now? Well most likely, someone was unhappy with Memphis and leaked information to the NCAA.
The question is, who?
I discussed this at length on my podcast today (and again, seriously encourage you to download it) but the one thing that is undeniable, is that Penny Hardaway has made a lot of enemies since coming to college basketball a little over a year ago. Not only did he essentially get Tubby Smith pushed out at Memphis, but his recruiting has obviously been the talk of the sport. In addition to adding Wiseman to his roster, he has players on his roster who originally committed to Duke (Boogie Ellis), Kentucky (DJ Jeffries) and Wichita State (Alex Lomax). All eventually decommitted and ended up at Memphis. Precious Achiuwa also signed with the program, when for a good chunk of last spring it appeared as though he was leaning towards North Carolina.
To be clear, I’m not saying that Memphis broke rules to get any of those players. And I’m not saying that Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or anyone else was the one who turned him in.
At the same time, those are a lot of powerful programs to piss off in a short amount of time. And again, the one thing that is undeniable is that Penny Hardaway has made a lot of enemies in his short time at Memphis.
Because this situation is so unique, it’s a question that is honestly impossible to answer at this point.
It seems as though Memphis plans to keep playing Wiseman, as the facts of this case are resolved behind the scenes.
Whether they get resolved soon or not remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen just how many wins Memphis is forced to vacate from this season, and what the futures of both Wiseman and Hardaway are at Memphis.
In the meantime though, all I can say is this: Keep paying attention to this story.
It remains one of the most fascinating cases we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Congratulations to Tyrese Maxey, who has been named SEC Freshman of the Week following his huge performance vs. Michigan State. Arkansas’ Mason Jones took home SEC Player of the Week honors following his career-high 32 points vs. Rice.
Maxey came off the bench to score 26 points vs. the then-No. 1 Spartans, the most by a freshman in a debut in program history and the most points of any UK player against an Associated Press No. 1 ranked team since Jamal Mashburn scored 28 in an overtime loss to Duke in 1992. He was 7-12 from the field and had three ridiculously long threes, the final putting the Cats up by five with a minute left. On Friday vs. Eastern Kentucky, Maxey came off the bench again to score nine points and grab three rebounds.
This is the first SEC Freshman of the Week honor for Maxey, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 11th, 2019 @ 12:13pm
As expected, Kentucky is the new No. 1 team in the country. The Cats took over the top spot from Michigan State following Tuesday’s 69-62 win in the Champions Classic and Friday night’s rout of Eastern Kentucky. Duke, Michigan State, Louisville, and Kansas round out the top five.
Kentucky received 64 first-place votes, with the only other one going to…the Cards. December 28 is going to a lot of fun. (UPDATE: If you’re curious, the person that voted for Louisville to be No. 1 is Dave Borges, the UConn beat writer for the New Haven Register.)
|3||Michigan State||Big Ten||1-1||1,451|
|11||Texas Tech||Big 12||2-0||888|
|12||Seton Hall||Big East||2-0||869|
|13||Memphis||American Athletic Conference (AAC)||2-0||828|
|16||Ohio State||Big Ten||2-0||544|
|17||Utah State||Mountain West||2-0||507|
|18||Saint Mary’s (Cal)||West Coast||1-0||438|
Others receiving votes: VCU 137, Florida St. 112, Texas 95, Marquette 67, Tennessee 49, Providence 23, Purdue 21, Houston 18, Utah 14, Missouri 13, Arkansas 11, Mississippi St. 9, Georgetown 4, Liberty 3, San Diego St. 2, Creighton 1, Dayton 1, Northeastern 1, Vermont 1.
Today we honor the many men and women who have served and continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces. We thank them today, and everyday, for fighting for our freedoms. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The Kentucky football team did that thing it does every single year where it loses to Tennessee. I believe it is now 32 losses in the last 34 years, if my memory hasn’t suffered too much damage from the rivalry to keep an accurate count.
This time Kentucky dominated the time of possession (41:37 to 18:23) and rushed for over 300 yards, yet still lost the game, as is tradition.
After the game, Lynn Bowden pulled up his favorite app to call out the fans.
To the fans that are true blue I thank and love y’all but to the ones that down talk a bunch of college kids but claim to be our fans go be a fan at another school
— Lynn Bowden Jr (@LynnBowden_1) November 10, 2019
But the majority of the fans’ frustration, if not all of it, is directed toward the adults in the locker room who are getting paid millions of dollars, not the “college kids.”
Eastern Kentucky brought its fast-paced style of basketball to Lexington on Friday, only to get run out of the arena, 91-49, by your soon-to-be No. 1 Wildcats. It took seven minutes before the Colonels scored their first points in the game, but a late first-half run filled up the scoreboard to keep it somewhat respectable at halftime.
Nick Richards was the star of the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds, his second career double-double; although the real MVP was UK’s defense, again, as Kentucky allowed only 25 percent shooting from the field, its best mark since holding Georgia to 22 percent back in 2016.
Watch KSR’s video recap of the night:
— Josh Allen had the weekend off from his responsibilities with the Jacksonville Jaguars so he was able to attend the UK game in Lexington. We caught up with him on the Cat Walk prior to the game:
— In Pittsburgh, Benny Snell did not play in the Steelers’ win over the Rams. He is out with a knee injury. His UK teammate, Bud Dupree, had four tackles in the victory.
— Randall Cobb had a big game on Sunday Night Football with six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. However, it was in a losing effort against the Vikings in Dallas.
— Are the Titans back?
Gambling (But not in Kentucky, of course)
The line on Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt opened up with the Cats giving up eight and a half points to the Commodores. The total on the game is 44.
Kentucky is 5-3-1 against the spread this season, according to VegasInsider.com. The total has gone under in six straight games.
Could you do this one?
I just finished this puzzle that doesn't have a picture pic.twitter.com/724fmp0CSr
— Whoa Interesting (@WhoaInteresting) November 8, 2019
— Coming up at noon, Mark Stoops will hold his usual Monday press conference to look back on Saturday’s game and ahead to the next challenge on the schedule. This week Stoops will be explaining some of his decisions in the deflating loss to Tennessee while previewing the upcoming trip to Nashville to potentially get back in the win column against struggling Vanderbilt.
— Stoops isn’t the only coach answering questions today. John Calipari will also hold a press conference to preview his team’s game against Evansville tomorrow night. Cal is expected to begin his presser around 2 p.m. today. We will have the live stream here on KSR.
— You will get a new KSR Football Podcast tonight. We’re recording it a little earlier than usual so you should get it around dinner time.
— The first rankings of the college basketball season will come out around noon today and Kentucky will almost certainly take over the No. 1 spot from Michigan State in both polls. It’s a spot the Cats should hold for a long time with no real threats on the schedule until late December.
— Tune in to KSR at 10 a.m.!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 09th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
In Kentucky’s exhibition opener against Georgetown College on Oct. 27, the Wildcats cruised to an impressive 80-53 victory over the Tigers. While there were plenty of positive takeaways on UK’s side of things – four players in double figures, Immanuel Quickley with a team-high 16 points, Ashton Hagans with a double-double, etc. – the top reason for optimism for Georgetown came from one individual in particular.
Jake Ohmer, who transferred from WKU to Georgetown in September, finished with a team-high 25 points on 8-16 shooting to go with seven rebounds and one assist.
But it wasn’t the Taylor Mill native’s first star performance at Rupp Arena.
Ohmer, a Scott High School standout, led his Eagles squad to the Sweet 16 semifinals in Rupp back in March of 2017. In three games, the 6-foot-1 guard scored 106 total points in just three games, the 13th-most points scored in a single Kentucky state tournament.
“He picked up where he left off in the state tournament,” Georgetown head coach Chris Briggs said during his postgame press conference last week. “We were practicing in here [on Saturday] and I am running up and down and getting a little exercise in here before we start and I said, ‘Jake, how many did you score in here? About 100?’ and he looked at me and said, ‘106, Coach.’ He knew and he got 25 tonight. Proud of him and the way he competes and the way that he battles.”
“I just came in here with the mindset that we just had to run the floor and be confident with ourselves,” Ohmer said of his performance. “We obviously didn’t do what we wanted. We didn’t run as much, but we rebounded well. I just thought that our team could’ve been a little more unselfish, but besides that I think we did fine.”
And on Friday, former Scott County High School forward and Sweet 16 star Michael Moreno put forth a standout performance of his own.
Despite coming off back-to-back foot injuries, the 6-foot-6 forward out of Georgetown, KY finished the game with 14 points on 4-9 shooting (4-9 from three, 2-2 FT) and five rebounds in 20 minutes. In a 42-point loss, he was also only a -17 overall.
“The last time I walked out of here, I went out sad. It really wasn’t the greatest memory, it was great playing here, but it is kind of special to some extent to be a Kentucky kid and score my first points at Rupp,” Moreno said during the postgame press conference on Friday. “I just caught and let it go, that’s all I really knew to do. Coach told me if I catch it and I’m open, just shoot.”
At Scott County, Moreno helped lead legendary head coach Billy Hicks and the Cardinals to three consecutive 11th Region titles from 2017-19 and the KHSAA state title game in each of the past two seasons.
In the title game defeat to Trinity this past year, Moreno finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds in his impressive farewell performance.
While he found success at Rupp Arena during the Sweet 16 over the last several years, the 6-foot-6 forward was quick to add that this experience was quite different from his time in the historic building before.
“It’s a completely new environment,” Moreno said. “Kentucky has fans that are really unmatched anywhere else. It’s their home opener, so there ready to get going too. It’s a totally different level of basketball but being here before prior to this in the state tournament it wasn’t like a shell shock to play at Rupp Arena.”
EKU head coach A.W. Hamilton said that after easing him back from injury, he was thrilled with what he saw out of the Scott County star against the Wildcats.
“Michael was really good tonight, that was a huge bright spot for us,” Hamilton said of Moreno. “Again we have been on a time restriction on how long we can play him because he is coming off, he’s broken his foot twice, so as we keep going he will continue to get more and more minutes. He’s going to be a really big player for us, he’s only practiced for two weeks, didn’t practice all summer wasn’t in practice pre-season.”
Moreno, who was a three-time first-team all-state selection and a 2019 Kentucky Mr. Basketball finalist, finished his career with 2,383 varsity points, 1,317 career rebounds, 270 assists, 267 blocks, and 211 steals.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 09th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Just about everything went right for Kentucky in its impressive 91-49 victory over Eastern Kentucky, and the numbers certainly back it up.
Across the board, the Wildcats shot and defended well, played with energy, and saw several standout individual performances.
But what were the numbers that stood out?
Here are the ten most impressive stats from Kentucky’s home debut victory on Friday evening:
Eastern Kentucky didn’t score a single point for seven minutes
After a missed Nate Sestina three-pointer from the right corner, freshman wing Kahlil Whitney followed it up with a massive put-back slam at the 18:58 mark in the first half.
From there, the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run to open the game against the Colonels, with EKU turning the ball over on its first five possessions and failing to score during their first 15 possessions.
The Colonels eventually ended their cold streak with a Darius Hicks and-one layup at the 12:57 mark.
Kentucky held EKU to 25% shooting, the lowest since 2016
To close out the victory, Kentucky held Eastern Kentucky to just 25% shooting overall – the team’s best mark since holding Georgia to 22% on Feb. 9, 2016 – and 24.2% from three.
Elsewhere defensively, Kentucky forced 21 total turnovers, managed eight steals, and blocked six shots.
Kentucky is now 189-16 under John Calipari when holding its opponent to 40% or less shooting, 175-7 when limiting the opposition to 63 points or less, and a ridiculous 75-0 under Calipari when limiting the opposition to 55 points or less.
Nick Richards managed his second double-double of his career
Individually, junior center Nick Richards was the star for the Wildcats, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, and an assist.
Richards notched just the second double-double and second 20-point performance of his Kentucky career. The 7-foot-0 accomplished both in a single game in Kentucky’s victory over Fort Wayne on Nov. 22, 2017, finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
Kentucky is 3-0 in his career when Richards finishes in double-figures scoring and 3-0 when he has double-figures in rebounding.
Kentucky is undefeated when Immanuel Quickley finishes in double figures
Following Immanuel Quickley’s career-high 16 points and five assists, the Wildcats are now 7-0 in his young Kentucky career when he finishes in double figures.
UK is also 3-0 when he has at least four assists.
Nate Sestina was a +49 on the night
While a 12-point, 10-rebound performance is impressive for Kentucky forward Nate Sestina, his plus/minus is absolutely absurd.
The Bucknell graduate transfer finished the evening with a team-high +49 overall.
Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley were both +39 overall, while Nick Richards was a +35.
UK has a 97.7% win percentage with a 10-point lead
During John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are 262-6 when leading by at least 10 points.
After taking a 10-point lead just two minutes and 50 seconds into the game, UK never looked back, spreading the deficit to 21 points at halftime and 42 to close out the victory.
Seven players have 10-plus shots through two games
As pointed out by Chris Fisher of 247Sports, seven players on the UK roster have at least 10 shots through two regular season games.
Tyrese Maxey, Nick Richards, and Ashton Hagans lead the Wildcats with 18 shots apiece, followed by Immanuel Quickley with 16, Kahlil Whitney with 11, and Nate Sestina and Keion Brooks Jr. both with 10.
EJ Montgomery (6) – who missed the EKU game with an ankle injury – and Johnny Juzang (4) are the only rotation players with fewer than ten shot attempts on the year.
Kentucky broke the 90-point mark for the first time since last November
With 91 points in the team’s victory over EKU, it was the first time the Wildcats had broken the 90-point mark since Nov. 28, 2018 against Monmouth.
It was also the most points for the Wildcats since they scored 92 against VMI on Nov. 18, 2018.
After breaking the 90-point barrier three times in their first seven games last season, Kentucky failed to reach that mark the rest of the season.
The Wildcats out-rebounded the Colonels by 29
After tying Michigan State on the glass 30-30 on Tuesday night, Kentucky responded by absolutely destroying Eastern Kentucky in their Rupp Arena debut.
To end the game, the Wildcats out-rebounded the Colonels 54-25, a 29-rebound deficit.
They also had two players with double-doubles, with Nick Richards finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Nate Sestina finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Wildcats also had two players with double-doubles in the NCAA Tournament this past season against Auburn.
Kentucky remains undefeated against EKU
Following its 42-point blowout victory on Friday evening, Kentucky is now 13-0 all-time against Eastern Kentucky.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©November 09th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
Following Kentucky’s blowout victory over the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels on Friday night, EKU coach A.W. Hamilton was quick to praise the junior version of Nick Richards.
Hamilton said that if Richards can play like that every night – 21 points and 10 rebounds on 10-11 shooting to go with four blocks – Kentucky is “probably going to win the National Championship”.
After seeing JNR dominate with my own two eyes, it’s hard to disagree with the head coach from EKU.
In the postgame interviews, sitting down with reporters, Richards was asked by The Athletic‘s Kyle Tucker what that praise meant to him.
“Appreciate that from the coach,” Richards said. “But all the credit goes to my teammates tonight… My teammates, they try to get me involved from the jump; throwing me lobs, throwing me balls in the post, trying to get me easy baskets.”
It’s hard to argue against Kentucky’s National Championship odds right now, especially if Richards can continue to play as he did on Friday. It took him two years in Lexington to understand what is needed from him. Even before he came to Kentucky, he entered the college basketball scene with little knowledge of how to play the sport.
Now in his third year as a Wildcat after two incredibly up-and-down seasons that saw more downs than ups, Richards says the game is beginning to ‘slow down for him’. As a basketball fan, that’s the first thing you want to hear out of a player attempting to take a leap in production. Once the game “slows down” for a particular player, they can see what is about to happen before it even does.
Richards is entering that frame of mind.
“For everybody, basketball just gets easier and easier the longer you play… Well, not easier… It just slows down for you,” Richards said. “It’s just slowing down for me. I’m seeing stuff come before it even happens.”
— Jackie Watson (@JcWatson810) November 9, 2019
While EKU was a clearly overmatched opponent against the soon-to-be No. 1 team in the country, the game against Michigan State – with Richards coming off a minor injury – was another reason to believe he’s turned a corner. Richards added just seven points and four rebounds but played with a confidence that was nonexistent the last two seasons.
Against the Colonels, Richards was calling for the ball in the post, defending at a high-level, and he even unleashed a beautiful hook shot from about seven feet out that had the Live Blog in a tizzy. This is what the Big Blue Nation fantasized Richards would play like the minute he stepped on campus. It’s taken a bit longer than expected, but he’s officially arrived in a big way.
“Nick, so much better than a year ago,” John Calipari said after the win over EKU. “Then you say, well, you must be really pumping him up, saying great things. No. He’s in the greatest shape he’s ever been in and he’s built his own confidence now. Doesn’t matter what I say now… If you’re not in great shape, you’re not going to have confidence. He still has a ways to go but he’s way better.”
Calipari brought up an interesting conversation in the postgame press conference he had with a friend (who Cal said played in the NBA and is in the Hall of Fame) of his about Richards. Calipari’s’ friend told him that if Richards can master these two things, he can be one of the best players in the nation:
Outrunning the ball on offense and defense and then expecting every shot that he takes will be a miss.
“If you outrun the ball on defense, you’ll be back there to block shots and rebound and do stuff,” Calipari said. “If you outrun the ball on offense you’re going to get some easy baskets and post up with a wide-open floor. That’s pretty simple stuff. Then he said, every shot that’s taken he should expect it to be a miss. Now you think if we can get Nick doing those two things, forget about everything else, just do those two things.”
Richards is a great enough athlete that running up and down the floor all night should be no problem. Add on top that he has three premier guards who want to run and are more than willing to feed him the ball and you’ve got a recipe for success. And if that hook shot is for real… Look out…
When asked if his play feels more instinctual now than it did in the past, Richards confidently gave a one-word response:
It’s been two years in the making, but the junior version of Nick Richards is ready to lead this team to a ninth NCAA Championship.
Rupp Arena opened its doors to the Big Blue Nation for the first regular season game of the 2019 Kentucky basketball season. See the best moments from UK’s 91-49 victory over EKU through the lens of the incomparable Bradley “B-Roll” McKee. Come for the Nick Richards oop, stay for the postgame celebration.