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March 1st, 2015

Senior Day Live Diary! UK Hoops vs. South Carolina

(H/T UK Athletics)

(H/T UK Athletics)

It’s senior day here in Memorial Coliseum! The Cats look to end their regular season with a win over second ranked South Carolina, who they lost to earlier this season in Columbia, 68-60.
You may remember that the last time these two teams met is when Janee Thompson went down with her season-ending injury. Matthew Mitchell was ejected from that game as well.
The Cats ended their three game losing skid Thursday against Jimmy Dykes’ Arkansas team, 56-51, holding the Hogs to a season-low 26.8 shooting percentage. Azia Bishop led the Cats in scoring Thursday night with 12, followed by 11 points each from Bria Goss and Jen O’Neill.
The Gamecocks are playing for their second straight out-right SEC regular season title and a perfect in-conference season. South Carolina defeated #11 Mississippi State Thursday 69-50; Tiffany Mitchell led the team with 16 points while A’ja Wilson tallied seven rebounds.
Kentucky just now became a lock for the sixth seed in the SEC tournament with a win for LSU over Texas A&M. The Cats will play the winner of the 11 vs. 14 seed game Thursday night at approximately 9:30 pm. More details will come about that game later on.
Memorial Coliseum is officially sold out this afternoon, so if you don’t already have tickets you’ll want to tune into ESPN2, or you can always hear Neil Price call the action on the UK Sports Network. Tip is set for 5 pm. Austin and I will be here throughout the game bringing you our thoughts on all the action.

 

First Half 9:30: J.C.: Memorial is absolutely rocking today, but neither of these teams have been able to buy a bucket in the last five minutes of play. After the first media timeout, South Carolina went on a six minute scoring drought while Kentucky went four minutes without a point themselves. The drought was ended by a steal and run away layup by Bria Goss at the 12 minute mark, giving Kentucky a 4 point lead over the Gamecocks. But, coming out of a time-out, South Carolina finally ended their own scoring drought with a tipin by A’ja Wilson, cutting the Cats’ lead to two. They took the lead on their next possession with a three pointer by Tiffany Mitchell. Again, South Carolina scored on the next possession when Bianca Cuevas drained a three pointer to extend the lead, 11-7.

 

 

First Half 15:52: Austin: Makayla Epps joined the four seniors on the floor to start the game. We haven’t seen senior Jennifer O’Neill start in a while, as Matthew Mitchell usually likes to use her as an offensive spark off the bench. Kentucky looks to be emphasizing the inside with Azia Bishop taking four shots in the first two and a half minutes. Bishop also has 5 rebounds (2 offensive) and an assist so far. South Carolina has not been outrebounded yet this season, but the Wildcats have five more than the Gamecocks already. Kentucky leads at the first media timeout, 5-3.

 

Five Minutes Until Tip: J.C.: We just finished up the Senior Day ceremony here in Memorial. It’s always neat to watch the players’ reaction when My Old Kentucky Home is played and today was no exception. We can’t even begin to tell you guys what these four seniors have meant to this program. This senior class composed of Azia Bishop, Jen O’Neill, Bria Goss, and Jelleah Sidney have won an SEC Championship, been to the Elite Eight, and Sweet Sixteen. Another tidbit of information is that Matthew Mitchell came out with the players for their pre-game warmups; it’s the first time I have ever seen him do that. I think he really wants to win this game for the seniors. What is usually a casual shoot-around 20 minutes before the game looked like a legit practice. This team looks ready to rumble. Tip is coming up shortly. Follow along with Austin and I on twitter while you wait (@armonnett & @JC_KSR).


Jay Bilas Says UK Does Things “The Right Way”

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Jay Bilas has been one of the biggest proponents of John Calipari and the UK Wildcats, going all the way back to the Bahamas. I have said for some time that I believe he is the best college basketball analyst in the game and his insights, if taken seriously by those in charge, would make him a perfect College Basketball “Commissioner.” Until then, we can use his insight from College Gameday this week on topics such as Kentucky basketball, which he says should be praised off the court as well as on:

Kentucky doesn’t really fit the stereotype, either. We say “the scourge of the one and dones” and “the one and done is ruining college basketball.” You’ve got all these players going to Kentucky, they have sacrificed their minutes, they have sacrificed scoring, and they are winning. They play together, they play hard and they share the ball. How many guys at Kentucky have been suspended? None. How many have been arrested? None. They are doing it the right way. You don’t like it, that’s your business. But I’ll tell you what, those are really good kids that have done a great job. And if they’d done it somewhere else, everybody would be praising the sacrifice and what great kids and all that stuff.

Hear, Hear!!!! Tell em Jay


Doug Gottlieb Says Willie is Player of the Year

Love him or hate him Doug Gottlieb has high praise for our Willie Cauley-Stein. He goes as far as saying his vote for National Player of the Year would be for Cauley-Stein. Gottlieb is incredibly spot on with his analysis of Cauley-Stein because it’s near impossible for a team to come up with a game plan that benefits them on the offensive side of the ball.

Teams like to run high pick-and-rolls, thanks to the influx of NBA-type play at the collegiate level and that just means WCS will switch on a guard. Name another 7-foot center who a team is comfortable with on that switch? A hint for the correct answer is nobody.

The POY will likely go to Jahlil Okafor or Frank Kaminsky, but Gottlieb brings up an interesting topic when it comes to voting. Both Kaminsky and Okafor aren’t strong defenders, but make up for it on the offensive side of the ball. However, their teams aren’t having historical seasons on that end like Kentucky is defensively. If Cauley-Stein would have played 32 minutes a game or more would he be more in the discussion?


Trey Lyles raised some eyebrows during win over Arkansas

(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images North America)

(Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images North America)

When freshman forward Trey Lyles missed three games earlier in the season due to strept throat, it was clear that the Cats were missing something from their play. John Calipari hinted at it, it wasn’t a huge secret, but in Saturday’s big win over Arkansas, the world beyond Big Blue Nation was clued in to just how important Lyles can be.

He’s a difference maker, a game changer, a player that helps a very talented Kentucky team be even better. Cal said it best after the game.

If you’re a team or coach trying to figure out how to stop the Cats, that’s a scary thought. What’s even scarier? Lyles is finally back to feeling 100% after recovering from his illness.

“The couple of games before (last week), I was still trying to get my wind back. Now, I’m 100 percent, back to feeling how I regularly feel — and that’s a good feeling to have.”

Lyles tied his career high with 18 points on 15 of 22 shooting against the Hogs, including the game’s opening two points on a dunk that got the crowd even more fired up than they already were. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9PH3Ccgfhc Look out everyone, Cal has yet another dangerous weapon as the tournament approaches. Of course, there’s a downside to all this.

The likelihood of Lyles leaving isn’t a big surprise, but there’s always hope a player might stick around.


The LA Times profiled Willie Cauley-Stein

Photo © Noah K. Murray

Photo © Noah K. Murray

Willie Cauley-Stein is being projected as a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. While all the huge dunks have certainly helped to get him on the public’s radar, it’s his defense that’s getting attentions from NBA scouts.

Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times profiled Cauley-Stein, discussing both his potential appeal to NBA teams, and his journey from Spearville, Kansas to being a part of what could end up being one of the greatest college basketball teams of all-time.

He’s not polished on offense like presumed top picks Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns but NBA front-office types compare him favorably to defensive stopper Tyson Chandler.

Or as one said, he’s “a 7-foot Dennis Rodman,” only touching the surface of a 21-year-old whose confidence has come slowly, part of a complex makeup traced to his younger years.

Bresnahan also discusses Cauley-Stein’s friendship with  current Nebraska basketball player Shavon Shields, son of former NFL linesman Will Shields. The Kentucky big man played AAU ball with the younger Shields, and lived with the Shields family when he transferred to Olathe Northwest High, near Kansas City.

There’s plenty more to the story, and you can read the entire article here.

 


Update: YAHTZEE! Receiver Dakota Holtzclaw has committed to Kentucky

(via Hudl.com)

(via Hudl.com)

Update:

According to Justin Rowland of RIVALS, the Cats received a commitment from Dakota Holtzclaw following his visit yesterday.

We know there was an offer thanks to Twitter…

…and we know Dakota had fun at the basketball game.

Nothing official yet, and no YAHTZEE from Coach Morrow since Thursday, but the initial signals seem positive.

For now, enjoy some of the tall receiver’s highlights.


Sights and sounds from Rupp Arena ahead of Kentucky’s latest win

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be underneath the big blue tifo that gets rolled out before tip-off at Rupp Arena, this video will give you a look.


It was a mostly quiet Saturday for former UK players in the NBA

Photo © Derick Hingle

Photo © Derick Hingle

The Washington Wizards picked up an important win on Saturday night, defeating the Pistons 99-95. John Wall had a big game, leading the Wizards with 22 points and 6 assists. He also hit two key late free throws to secure the win.

Rajon Rondo returned for the Mavericks after his one-game suspension for the yelling match with Rick Carlisle. He had a fairly quiet night statistically, but did provide a lovely assist for Monta Ellis’ “play of the night” 360 layup.

Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe started together in the backcourt for the Phoenix Suns, but the Spurs were simply too much for Phoenix. Bledsoe finished with 12 points and 6 assists, while Knight managed just a single point and 2 assist in just under 18 minutes. Archie Goodwin had five points off the bench.

Toronto lost their fifth straight game to the Knicks. Patrick Patterson played just under 28 minutes, scoring 10 points and pulling down 5 rebounds.


Sunday Morning Links

via ESPN2

via ESPN2

#3 Gonzaga’s 41-game home winning streak ended late Saturday night at the hands of unranked BYU. This will likely shake up the tournament seedings a little bit. Speaking of tournament seedings, it is finally March and only 14 days until Selection Sunday!

Now, on to the links.

— The Cats blew out #18 Arkansas on Saturday in impressive fashion. Here’s what some of the players had to say after the victory.

–With the blowout of Arkansas, the Cats clinched the programs 46th SEC regular season title. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn says the scary thing is, Kentucky can still get better. 

— Yesterday we saw the absurd article from Rolling Stone Magazine on whether Kentucky is killing college basketball. Well, the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy explains why that is crazy

— John Clay says Andrew Harrison is becoming “a true Calipari point guard”, while Mary Story writes that ascendency of Trey Lyles is pushing Kentucky to even higher levels of play.

— The UK Women’s Basketball teams closes out their home schedule against #2 South Carolina today. The game will include Senior Day ceremonies for Jennifer O’Neill, Jelleah Sidney, Brian Goss and Azia Bishop. The game is also SOLD OUT! Very cool! If you can’t be at Memorial, you can watch on ESPN2.

— Kyle Cody three seven no-hit innings as Kentucky Baseball defeated Nebraska-Omaha 5-1 in the first of two games on Saturday. The bullpen couldn’t complete the combined no-hitter as Bo Wilson allowed a single in the eight inning. The Cats took the second game of the doubleheader 6-5 thanks to an eight inning rally.


February 28th, 2015

Saturday Night News And Views

via ESPN

via ESPN

Kentucky makes Arkansas humble

Arkansas fans talked plenty of trash during the week, but when the game was finally played on Saturday, Kentucky did what any good gentleman would as a response to such nonsense … they smacked the Hogs across the face with a glove.

The Cats won 84-67 behind a huge game from Trey Lyles, who led the wake for Kentucky with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and a block. Willie Cauley-Stein was a MONSTAR, playing with a ton of energy and setting the Internet aflame with this block:

Basically, it was fun. Kentucky never trailed in the game, building a 31-point lead at one point before taking their foot off the gas late.

 SEC Champions again

Kentucky’s win over Arkansas gave the Cats their 46th regular-season conference title. That’s a lot. Here’s a quick reminder of how dominate UK is in SEC men’s basketball.

SEC

The Cats have such a ridiculous lead in conference titles, they could probably even survive the second coming* of Eddie Sutton and still remain the conference’s top champion.

*Correction: Third coming. As a commenter pointed, out Billy Clyde was the second coming.

So can anyone beat this Kentucky team?

Around College Basketball

#11 Wichita St. defeated #10 Northern Iowa 74-60 to win the MVC regular season title for the second straight year.

Louisville went to Florida St. and won easily, 81-59. Might the Cards be better without Chris Jones?

Kansas State got their second straight upset at home, this time over Iowa St. While security was much better prepared, the students did not rush the court.


Speed painter creates UK masterpieces

Every Kentucky fan has a special place in their heart for Willie Cauley-Stein, now you have an excuse to make a special place on your wall for him.

Speed painter, Aaron Kizer, has created some pretty awesome artwork inspired by the Kentucky Wildcats. And he does it in less time than it takes for me to blow-dry my hair.

Just check out this awesome painting of Alex Poythress.

 

These are just some of the paintings Kizer has up for auction at the Roundball Bash at the Lexington Center Bluegrass Ballroom. Coach Calipari and Coach Stoops attended last year’s Bash.

Props to Kizer for his awesome skills and who could blame him for finding this team inspiring. You can view more of his artwork here.

Willie makes a good muse, if you ask me.

 


Seven notes from a slap-scary beatdown

Mark Zerof | US Presswire

(Mark Zerof | US Presswire)

“Be careful,” they said. “This will be a close game,” they said. Well, not so much. Kentucky was out for blood this afternoon, pummeling Arkansas 84-67 to clinch the regular season SEC title. But it wasn’t really that close. Not at all.

Let’s talk about it.

This was personal

In Starkville, Aaron Harrison told Mike Pratt that the Cats wanted revenge. Arkansas swept Kentucky last season and won four of the last five meetings, facts not lost on this team’s veterans. The famous picture of Rod Winkler getting in Aaron Harrison’s face after the Razorbacks beat Kentucky in Fayetteville hangs in the UK locker room, and the team has been circling the wagons around it all week. No wonder they got out to an 11-2 start. I don’t think we’ve seen this team “angry” until today, and man, it was scary.

“We beat them a couple of times. I’m sure they were kind of pissed off about that,” Mike Anderson said afterwards. “They came to play.”

Cal agreed. “I think they were looking forward to this game,” he said, mentioning a practice the team had in Starkville while they were stranded. “We had one of the best practices of the year. The spirit in the gym was unbelievable.” As Alex Poythress tweeted afterwards, when dogs sniff blood…

The normally stoic Harrison Twins showed more emotion this afternoon than I’ve seen from them all season. Andrew admitted this win felt good, but he’s got his eyes on a bigger prize. “You always want to avenge your losses, and that’s what we did today. I’m happy, not satisfied. Two more games to go in SEC play.”

Always focused. Always looking forward. Always a team.

This was big

Add Arkansas to the list of teams Kentucky has made an example of this season. In the first half of the game, I got those Kansas and UCLA feels. The bigger the stage, the bigger the performance from this group. Kentucky has outscored its six ranked opponents this year by an average of 17.2 points per game. Phew. With the stakes rising and history on the line, do you seriously think they’re going to lose? I don’t.

Willie’s face after his block will go down in screencap history

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For someone with such a gentle soul, Willie sure loves to mean mug after blocks and dunks. It’s like he literally can’t understand why someone would attempt to take him on. Or why everyone thought this game would be difficult. Same, Willie. Same.

Oh, you want to run?

One reason a lot of people were worried about this game was Arkansas’ style of play. The Hogs like to run, but today, the Cats dictated the pace. “They’re a great basketball team,” Booby Eyes Bobby Portis said afterwards. “Our team couldn’t speed them up today, unfortunately.”

Cal said his team welcomed the chance to stretch their legs. “We wanted to score 100 points because of how we knew they could play,” Cal said. “There are other games where you have to hold it a little bit, grind it out. But not this game.” In numbers: Kentucky had 8 steals to Arkansas’ 4 and 16 points off turnovers to the Razorbacks’ nine.

The game plan? Take away threes and make them drive the lane. “We’re a pretty good defensive team, it’s hard to beat us off the dribble,” Cal said. “When you do, you run in to 7-footers.” As Bill Raftery said of Kentucky’s defense at one point, “they make you take shots you haven’t taken since grade school.”

Trey Lyles is the piece we didn’t realize we were missing

For most of the season, it’s been pretty easy to forget about Trey Lyles. He didn’t play in the Bahamas, was sidelined with strep for several games and spent most of the season trying to get back to 100%. Now he’s at full speed and is suddenly the piece we didn’t realize was missing. After scoring 18 points against Mississippi State, Trey scored 18 more off 8-10 from the floor this afternoon. He had a few shots today that will end up making him millions–spin move, I’m looking at you–and his silky smooth style is starting to rival his dad’s R&B.

Cal knows. “He’s the X-Factor for us. He the one that makes us go from pretty good to ‘uh oh – what is this I’m watching,'” Cal said. “It gives us that one more guy who can make baskets and rebounds.”

Andrew and Tyler were excellent

Andrew Harrison’s progress over the past month will never be fully appreciated. Andrew has quietly strung together a series of impressive games, and today, even Jeff Goodman had to shut his yapper. Andrew had 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal in 27 minutes, but it was his confidence that was most impressive.

“I thought Andrew was like ridiculous. Andrew just dominated the game. In my mind, he was the best guard on the floor,” Cal said. “I’m telling you what it is. It’s a spirit. It’s a spirit that we all feel when you watch him play. He doesn’t stop on the court. There’s nothing. ‘I’m in attack mode, I’m aggressive. I’m talking to my teammates. I’m running this.'”

Andrew’s performance inspired Tyler Ulis to raise his game too. Ulis scored 14 points, including a circus three that was just laughable. Remember when people tried to pit these two against each other? This afternoon, they combined for 32 points, 6 assists, and 2 turnovers. Ha.

Michael Qualls admitted Kentucky’s guard play was too much for the Hogs to handle. “The guards who were bringing the ball down, they took good care of the ball tonight,” Qualls said of Andrew, Tyler, and Aaron. That quote was almost nice enough to make me forget about the time Qualls talked smack after hitting a three to cut Kentucky’s lead to…17.

11 more

Despite the slowdown in the latter part of the second half, this game belongs with Kansas and UCLA in the echelon of “Whoa My God” this season. When Tyler Ulis hit that three to extend the lead to 31, the Big Blue Nation fell to the floor in a fit of giggles, eyes up, searching for Kentucky’s ceiling. Do they have one? I’m really starting to wonder.

“You got a bunch of guys playing basketball, scoring, they’re sharing. It’s fun to watch,” Cal said. That swag in his smirk tells me he knows. That wiggle in his walk shows me he can’t wait. When he lectured fans about signing basketballs for five minutes during postgame radio, he might as well have been asking for the ladder to cut down the nets.

Are we getting ahead of ourselves? When Bobby Portis, a Player of the Year candidate, was asked if Kentucky is beatable, all he could do was laugh.

Sorry, not sorry, college basketball.

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Listen to Corey Beck’s surprise appearance on the pregame show

@bbnblog

Ryan and I were treated to a special surprise on the KSR pregame show when former Arkansas great Corey Beck approached the table and introduced himself while we were live on air. Beck was a guard on the 1994 Arkansas team that defeated Duke in the title game, so we share the common bond of hating Duke.

Beck chatted with us about his thoughts on Kentucky and then I confessed something I never thought I’d take public. Forgive me, BBN.


Tune in to Matt Jones on the KSR postgame show

Kentucky is 29-0!!!!! So let’s talk it over on tonight’s KSR Postgame Show. You know the drill: 1-800-444-8484 or 502-571-8484.

Listen in on 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP, or stream online.

Discuss the show below.


UK football added a Yahtzee during the basketball game

A brief interruption from the basketball excitement…

Kentucky picked up a football commitment from Jaylin Bannerman, a three-star linebacker from… yup… Ohio. Bannerman is listed at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and he had other offers Illinois, Miami OH and Toledo.

Here he is with soon-to-be first-rounder Bud Dupree…