Basketball Season Coverage
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 10:00am
With the Sweet 16 field set, ESPN’s Myron Medcalf reseeded teams based on their performances in the first weekend of the tournament. Not surprisingly, the uncertainty surrounding PJ Washington’s status has caused Kentucky’s stock to fall, with Medcalf changing their seed from a two to a three and ranking them as the 11th best team left.
“PJ Washington’s ongoing absence due to injury is a real concern for a Kentucky squad that beat Wofford just 62-56 in the second round. It was a close game despite Terriers star Fletcher Magee’s missing all 12 of his 3-point attempts. Tyler Herro finished 2-for-11. The team’s 3-for-13 clip from the 3-point line didn’t help, either. Yet, the Wildcats, who got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Reid Travis, prevailed without their best player — and after Herro went cold — by playing great defense. Wofford entered the game ranked second in 3-point shooting but recorded a sub-30 percent mark against Kentucky. The Wildcats will advance, but we’re not sure if Washington will play in the next round. That’s why the Wildcats are ranked this low. The Wildcats without Washington still own a talented fleet, but they’re not the same imposing collective.”
I don’t think any of us can argue with that. Mecalf ranked the three other teams in the Midwest Region ahead of Kentucky: 3. North Carolina; 8. Houston; 9. Auburn. To read more, head on over to the Worldwide Leader.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 11:08pm
It’s official: No. 2 Kentucky will face No. 3 Houston for their Sweet 16 Matchup in Kansas City, Missouri. The No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes put up a good fight, but the Houston Cougars came away with the 74-59 win. It’ll be a late one for the BBN – the game is set to tip at 10 p.m. ET Friday night. It’ll be shown on TBS and will be called by Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel.
We’ll have plenty of pre-game coverage as the matchup approaches.
Cats > Cougars
By Nick Wheatley on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
We all know the Kentucky Wildcats held off the Wofford Terriers on Saturday to move on the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Also, we all know that Fletcher Magee has made the most three-pointers in NCAA history.
Well, the Cats weren’t about to let one of the most prolific shooters in Division-I college basketball history beat them. They forced Magee into a ton of bad shots and didn’t give him a sliver of breathing room. If Wofford was going to upset Kentucky, it was going to have to be through someone else.
Despite setting the record mentioned above just days earlier on Thursday night, Tyler Herro and the Kentucky Wildcats helped Magee achieve another three-point shooting record. After going 0-12 from downtown, Magee set the record for the most three-point attempts without a make in NCAA Tournament history.
This was due in large part to the defense of Tyler Herro and Co. Of the 12 three-pointers Magee attempted, 11 of them were contested. But that didn’t impress him – he didn’t see any difference between the Cats’ defense and the defenses he’s been playing all year.
“I’ve shot the shots I got tonight against every team in the [Southern Conference], every other team I’ve played. They were no harder,” Magee said. “I just didn’t shoot it well. Some of them felt good and were short, some of them felt good and were long, and some of them were just off. It’s just what happens.”
Sure, sometimes it just happens. But, for some context, his previous worst career game without a successful three came earlier this season against Kansas, when he went 0-9 from deep. Saturday was the fourth time in his four-year career with Wofford where he failed to make a three.
However, it seems Magee just struggles when he faces better opponents. In four games this season against KenPom top-50 defenses, Magee only shot 16 percent from behind the arc. Meanwhile, his average was exponentially higher when he competed against the lower-level teams. He shot over 45 percent against KenPom defenses rated outside the top 100 and a whooping 58 percent against non-Division 1 teams.
Magee should probably look to give credit where it’s due. I’m sure a KenPom top-10 defense like Kentucky’s was a bit more difficult to maneuver than the Citadel’s or Mercer’s. And maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the length and athleticism of UK’s elite defense, especially that of Tyler Herro.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
Reid Travis has waited five years for the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. Based on his two outings so far, it’s been worth the wait. The best part? His coach couldn’t be prouder.
“He trained his whole life for this,” John Calipari said Saturday. “Before the last game, I just told him, you’ve been waiting for this your whole life. [Thursday] he was unbelievable, had eight of nine or whatever he did, 18 points, and [Saturday] he did well again.”
He finished as Kentucky’s leading scorer against Wofford Saturday afternoon, recording a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) while committing zero turnovers. Against Abilene Christian, his stat line was equally impressive: 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, nine rebounds and one assist. Calipari said Travis was so effective against Wofford, they wanted the ball in his hands “every time we needed a basket.”
His improvements and his success starts in practice, where Calipari says Travis is always “totally engaged.” When “outsiders” come in to watch a Kentucky basketball practice, they comment on Travis’ attentiveness, saying he never takes his eyes off of his coach. Calipari says he does have to get on him, but never for the same reason he gets on the team’s younger players.
“I’m on him like I am these young kids,” Cal said. “I just don’t have to as much because his is never effort – theirs is always effort. His is never effort.”
The compliments for Kentucky’s hardworking senior didn’t stop there.
“Let me say this, what a pleasure it’s been to coach him. He is truly professional in how he deals with everything, from training to weight training to keeping his body right to being where he’s supposed to on time,” Calipari said. “But it’s been – I’ve loved it… He’s helped us, but he’s helped himself in this. He’s really put himself in a great position.”
Travis’ reaction to Calipari’s praise was awesome.
“I think that is one of the kindest things Coach has ever said about me. It makes the work I do every day really mean something to hear him say something like that,” Travis said. “It’s kind of touching. It took a lot for me to come to Kentucky and decide to play another year of college basketball. [The reason] was nothing more than I wanted to play in games like this, and bring it every day and try to be my best.”
Without PJ Washington on the floor for the Tournament’s first two rounds, Reid Travis bounced back from an injury of his own in a big way. He’s repeatedly demonstrated how important of a role he plays for this team, but his performances in the post-season have only reinforced that idea. Now it’s time to get Travis back to his hometown, Minneapolis, for the Final Four – he’s been waiting forever.
For only the third time in history, four teams from the Southeastern Conference have qualified for the Sweet 16. Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn and LSU have all punched their tickets for the NCAA Tournament’s next round. The Conference also sent four teams to the second weekend back in 1986 and 1996.
The expectations surrounding Kentucky and the tournament are, obviously, much higher than they tend to be for the other SEC teams. Regardless, it’s been a pretty strong season for the nation’s “football conference.” John Calipari has brought the Cats to the second weekend of March in eight of his ten seasons with Kentucky, but the other qualifiers aren’t quite as familiar with the Sweet 16.
LSU was the first team to punch their ticket, qualifying in dramatic fashion over No. 6 Maryland. They’re going for the first time since 2006. It’s been even longer for Auburn – the Tigers advanced for the first time since 2003. Tennessee qualified for the first time since 2014 and for the seventh time in school history.
Of the SEC’s 14 teams, seven qualified for the Big Dance. Now, four remain. Come next weekend, a quarter of the bracket will belong to SEC teams.
Too busy celebrating Kentucky’s win over Wofford to catch Matt Jones and Ryan Lemond on the radio? No worries – you can listen to the postgame show here! The KSR duo discusses the Cats’ win, which players had the biggest impact and Coach Cal’s Sweet 16 record.
They’ll be back on the air Monday from 10:00-noon.
By Brent Wainscott on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
With the eyes of the country centered on the backcourt matchup in Kentucky’s 62-56 victory over Wofford, Ashton Hagans seemed to have reverted to his midseason form and was a huge key to the win against the Terriers.
Ashton Hagans, along with the rest of the guards, smothering the NCAA’s record holder for threes, Fletcher Magee, was obviously one of the biggest takeaways from the game. Hagans and the guards held Magee to zero threes. Not only did Ashton Hagans make an impact on the defensive end, but Hagans was also a reliable playmaker at the most opportune times.
Hagans started the game struggling a bit, going 0-4 from the field and not getting a point until late in the first half. He was settling for bad, contested shots and seemed to be forcing things a bit. But, once he settled in Hagans had one of the best performances of the day. Hagans had 12 points, four assists, five rebounds, and a steal in the victory.
Hagans was a catalyst for Kentucky to jump out to their first lead of the game, that changed the momentum the rest of the way. Kentucky was staring at their largest deficit of the day, down 24-18 with under four minutes to go in the second half. After a great sequence by Reid Travis and Jermarl Baker to cut the Wofford lead, Ashton Hagans came up with a huge steal that led to the basket to tie the game.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 23, 2019
On the next possession, he would give Kentucky their first lead of the game on a jumper.
In the second half, Hagans made a significant adjustment. Hagans went from settling for jump shots in the first half to attack the rim on his primary defender who was four inches smaller than Hagans which was a huge difference. As you could see, Storm Murphy just couldn’t stop Hagans from getting to the rim in the second half.
Ashton Hagans continues to eat getting to the cup. pic.twitter.com/w3EwEKRl1S
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
After the game, Ashton Hagans said, “If it was there take it. The lane was wide open, so coach was telling me to get to the lane so that’s what I did.”
That in-turn also got Hagans to the line a lot more in the second half. Hagans shot zero free throws in the first half, but in the second, Hagans got to the line for five free throw shots.
Ashton Hagans spinning and-1 flex. pic.twitter.com/TwmvHWh9kZ
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Oh yeah, and he took poor Storm Murphy’s ankles.
OMG. Ashton Hagans just collected a pair of ankles. pic.twitter.com/hJSFsJJ0Wu
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Not only was Hagans getting to the rim significant for Kentucky, but in a game that felt like could go either way the whole 40 minutes, hustle and effort plays were huge, and Hagans came up with them at the right time.
When they mattered most, Hagans gathered four rebounds in the second half.
A key rebound came when Kentucky was down by three in the second half, Tyler Herro missed a lay-up, and Ashton Hagans was there to clean up the miss. Hagans would then kick it out to Herro who would make the extra pass for a wide open Jermarl Baker to tie the game once again in what was a huge offensive sequence.
In a game without PJ Washington and Tyler Herro struggling on offense, Kentucky needed Ashton Hagans to deliver, and he did just that. Hagans contributed 33 minutes of suffocating defense and was a consistent playmaker in the second half for Kentucky. Without Ashton Hagans performing well, Kentucky may be out of the tournament right now. After the game, Coach Cal told ESPN that Hagans will to win was unbelievable.
Hagans winning the guard battle yesterday was vital in Kentucky’s win. If Hagans can produce like this the rest of the way, book your flight to Minnesota.
By Brent Wainscott on ©March 24th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Jonny David’s All Access episodes have been a great addition to this Kentucky basketball season along with the journey series. Nick Richards caught a lot of flack from his teammates for his comments on Friday when he said Kentucky’s bigs were better and more athletic than Wofford’s.
Richards, however, was right, but that didn’t stop Jonny David and the rest of the Wildcats from giving Richards a hard time after the 62-56 victory over Wofford.
Check out David’s All-Access:
Here is the All-Access BBN! The preview happened at the very end so I don’t think I can let Keldon touch the mic ever again?????????? pic.twitter.com/6zgZ80zYmy
— Jonny David (@JonnyDavid) March 24, 2019
At least Nick backed it up, guys.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 11:00pm
They were exactly what we thought they were.
The Wofford Terriers were feisty, incredibly skilled on the perimeter, and had several opportunities to come up with a victory.
But when push came to shove, Kentucky was able to capitalize on their talent, length, strength, and pure athleticism, ultimately forcing just enough separation at the end to pull out the 62-56 victory.
Let’s look at the key takeaways from UK’s gritty Round of 32 performance.
Credit where credit is due
Before we get into the specifics on Kentucky’s end, we have to give credit to what.
To start the game, Wofford made Kentucky incredible uncomfortable, especially on offense. The Wildcats were unable to get anything going with the ball in their hands for the majority of the first half, settling for contested jump shots and making questionable decisions over and over again.
With 4:23 remaining in the first half, the Terriers found themselves up by six points, which felt like 20 considering how hard points were to come by at that point. The Wildcats fought back and retook the lead before halftime, but the Cats still only managed 28 points before intermission. Again, the Terriers forced the Wildcats to play their way, not the other way around.
In the second half, Wofford clawed back to take a three-point lead with 17:02 remaining, but Kentucky’s sheer talent and strength was too much to handle. The Cats took back the lead one final lead and never lost it the rest of the way.
If it weren’t for Wofford star guard Fletcher Magee missing everything he threw at the rim, though, the Terriers absolutely could have pulled off the upset.
Now that we got that out of the way…
Jemarl Baker was the game MVP
When Kentucky needed a spark, it wasn’t one of the usual suspects saving the day. This afternoon, that person proved to be redshirt freshman Jemarl Baker Jr.
In the first half, Baker was one of the main reasons the Cats were able to come back, finishing with five points (1-2 shooting, 3-3 from the free throw line) and a +/- of +10. He followed it up with an even better all-around performance in the second, finishing with eight points, two rebounds, one steal, and a +/- total of +19.
On defense, the Wildcat shooting guard had a pretty impressive day, specifically off the ball. He absolutely made his impact known on both ends of the floor.
Baker finished with a career-high seven points against Abilene Christian on Thursday, and he followed it up with another career outing in the victory today.
Reid Travis was unstoppable… when he wanted to be
To start the game, the senior forward was incredibly frustrating. Despite being the strongest and most dominant player on the floor, Travis never demanded the ball. And when he finally got it, he relied on unnecessary jumpers and gave the ball up to some of the other Wildcats struggling with their shots (Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans).
Even when Wofford’s best frontcourt player, Cameron Jackson, got in foul trouble early, Kentucky wouldn’t force the issue and capitalize with Travis in the paint. They needed points, yet still didn’t utilize their most consistent option to make that happen. After starting the game with just two points in the first 17 minutes, he finally managed four points in the final three minutes of the half to help
In the second half, however, the Travis we expected to see coming into the game finally arrived.
Almost immediately, the senior forward demanded the ball in the post, and the abuse followed. He would work to create space down low, hit the Wofford defenders with a variety of post moves, and score with ease. He proved to be unstoppable.
Travis finished the day with a team-high 14 points, 11 rebounds, and one steal in 37 minutes of action. With star forward PJ Washington out, they needed the senior big man to come up big in crunch time, and he managed to do just that.
Ashton Hagans was a force on both ends
Like Travis, Hagans settled for several frustrating jumpers and failed to find his groove on offense to start the game.
Once he realized he was more athletic than the opposition and could get to the rim at will, it was like a switch flipped with the freshman point guard. He attacked on the perimeter and worked his way to the paint time and time again. If he wasn’t scoring, he was getting fouled and going to the line. Sometimes he did both.
He also did this, which was pretty freaking ridiculous.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 23, 2019
On defense, Hagans wreaked havoc in the second half, contesting Wofford jumpers and making the Terrier backcourt uncomfortable. He slipped up several times in the first half in leaving shooters open on the perimeter, but he cleaned things up and really found his footing after intermission.
He finished the day with 12 points (4-11 shooting), five rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 33 minutes.
We saw a new side of Tyler Herro
For star shooting guard Tyler Herro, while his shot was cold (nine points on 2-11 shooting, 1-6 from three), his impact on the defensive end was second-to-none and one of the key reasons Kentucky was able to pull off the victory.
Matched up with Wofford star guard Fletcher Magee, Herro allowed almost zero easy shots on the perimeter. In fact, the only real mishap the Wildcat guard had was on a backdoor cut in the second half. He looked exhausted at various points, but it was justified, as he chased the Terrier sharpshooter all across the floor from start to finish.
The major storyline of this game was Magee’s horrendous performance from three, and Herro is a major reason for that.
The scoring is fun and we certainly appreciate it, but him stepping up on defense was much more important today.
Kentucky needs PJ Washington back on the floor
They didn’t need him against Abilene Christian, and they were able to win without him this afternoon against Wofford, but the Wildcats can’t afford another NCAA Tournament game without star forward PJ Washington.
When Kentucky needs a basket, Washington has been the player to do that throughout the season. When they need a big stop or a momentum shift, he has been that guy time and time again. As the overall level of competition improves each round, the significance of those moments increases.
They got by today, but there are certainly no promises that remains the case moving forward.
Kentucky needs PJ Washington back out on the floor.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 10:00pm
With a 62-56 victory over Wofford, the Kentucky Wildcats are headed to the Sweet 16.
As we celebrate the big victory and look forward to Kansas City, check out just a few photos KSR took down in Jacksonville this afternoon:
Here is the entire gallery, filled with almost 70 of the best images you’ll find from the victory:
By Drew Franklin on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 7:00pm
You might’ve noticed that Reid Travis ditched his knee brace midway through the game. If he hadn’t, he doesn’t think he would’ve been able to finish.
“I was just cramping way too much,” said Travis, when Kyle Tucker asked why he removed his knee brace. “I wanted to keep it on, but I didn’t think I could finish the game, as far as my leg. It’s tough having it on there, it’s heavier, it kind of cuts off my circulation. I knew if I kept it on I was probably going to cramp down the stretch and I wasn’t going to finish the game, so I kind of just made that call on my way own.”
Travis felt that his rehab and training paid off, which is why he was able to play so hard on that right knee down the stretch. He plans to continue on without it (without the brace, not the knee), but he will see how the it holds up in practice next week before making a final decision.
Calipari also spoke about Travis’ training on a much broader level, in how Travis was ready for his first NCAA Tournament.
“He trained his whole life for this,” said Calipari. “Before the last game, I just told him, you’ve been waiting for this your whole life, and yesterday he was unbelievable, had eight of nine or whatever he did, 18 points, and today he did well again, and every time we needed a basket to separate, we were throwing it to him.
“He is truly professional in how he deals with everything, from training to weight training to keeping his body right to being where he’s supposed to on time. People that have come in my gym and watched us coach said that kid never takes his eyes off you. He is totally engaged with what you’re saying. And I get on him, now. Like I’m on him like I am these young kids. I just don’t have to as much because his is never effort. Theirs is always effort. His is never effort. It’s like some other things he may do, and basically it’s revert back some.”
Now enjoy this funny moment from the locker room when Reid Travis and WHAS’s Kent Spencer couldn’t get on the same page.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 23rd, 2019 @ 6:50pm
THE MODERATOR: Coach, some opening thoughts about this fantastic basketball game today.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, you know, I’ve got to give Wofford — they’ve just played, and they knew they were going to run down that shot clock and they knew we had a bunch of freshmen and one of them would break down, which is what happened at the beginning of the game. Every last five seconds, one guy broke down. Hard for young kids to do that and play this way.
We got it going at half, and then they never went away. I thought there were chances, we got up eight, we just couldn’t get the lead any more. The way they shoot threes, they’re just dangerous, and they change how you have to play defensively. And I thought our bigs did a great job. I thought Nick was unbelievable in what he did today. And even EJ did well, where we really helped those guards and played the way we had to.
Q. Ashton, the job you and Tyler did on Fletcher Magee, can you talk about the challenge he presented and how well you played on him?
ASHTON HAGANS: We knew coming into this game he was a great shooter, so the game plan was just make him make a basketball play, put it on the floor. That’s what we was trying to do. Tyler did a great job of talking to me when he wanted to switch, but you know, for us to be at our best, we’ve just got to talk and be for one another.
Q. Ashton, down the stretch you put the ball on the floor and penetrated and made some big finishes. Talk about that and your poise down the stretch.
ASHTON HAGANS: You know, when I was driving in the lane, they wasn’t collapsing on me, so I just had a wide-open lane, so I took that. But even if they was, I would just kick it out and give my teammates the ball, and if I was getting to the line I was knocking down some big time free throws. EJ did the same, as well, and Jemarl make some big-time baskets and we just came out with the win.
Q. Just the defense on Fletcher —
JOHN CALIPARI: First of all, let me talk, you guys haven’t asked Jemarl Baker a question, but let me just tell you, I said it after the game, we coach every kid like they’re a starter. That’s how they’re trained, every one of these kids. And I keep saying, we don’t know who’s going to be a star. What he did today defensively, he made a basket or two and we needed them. What he did defensively meant he was prepared for this moment. Immanuel didn’t play as well and he had been playing really well, but you know what, this happens. Today Keldon didn’t play as well so we had to go and say, are you ready, and he’s like, I’m ready. And so I’m proud of that, and it’s hard.
I mean, these kids, I told you before, what they go through, what they hear, what’s thrown at them, and staying the course, I just appreciate the kind of kids we have and the kind of families they come from.
I don’t know what you asked me, but go ahead.
Q. Defense on Fletcher Magee.
JOHN CALIPARI: What we did was we were never going to go under any screen. The bigs were going to help as long as they had to. We hoped our length would bother them. But we also knew we were just as afraid of Hoover, and he goes 6 for 9, 4 for 5 from the three. We talked about one, but we said the other one is an assassin, too. He just throws darts out there.
Again, but it was the effort and energy, and my hope is they got a little worn down because these guys did not stop. They just chased, and they knew they couldn’t let up in this game or they were going to score baskets because it’s how they play.
Jemarl Baker played the best game of his career in Kentucky’s win over Wofford in the second game of the NCAA Tournament. Without Baker, it is hard to imagine Kentucky escaping the upset. He made two big shots, three important free throws, and his defense on Wofford’s shooters was key in saving the game.
John Calipari stole the mic during the postgame press conference to say, “First of all, let me talk, you guys haven’t asked Jemarl Baker a question, but let me just tell you, I said it after the game, we coach every kid like they’re a starter. That’s how they’re trained, every one of these kids. And I keep saying, we don’t know who’s going to be a star. What he did today defensively, he made a basket or two and we needed them. What he did defensively meant he was prepared for this moment.”
Baker chatted about his performance in the locker room, telling reporters, “I’ve just pictured it like this the whole time, just being able to come in and get on the floor and make an impact. I’ve been working hard my whole life to be able to perform in moments like this, and I just want to continue to get better and continue to be aggressive and get back to myself.”
Hear all of his comments: