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January 21st, 2017

RECAP: De’Aaron Fox went down with an injury, but Kentucky still beat the nation’s number one defense by 16

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The final score doesn’t reflect it, but there were times in this game that it seemed Kentucky was in serious danger. De’Aaron Fox turned his ankle about eight minutes in and had to go to the locker room, only to return in a boot and crutches. Without Fox at the helm, Kentucky had a bit of a go to pieces, letting South Carolina narrow the lead to three. Thankfully, a host of role players stepped up and propelled Kentucky to an 85-69 win over the Gamecocks, which is pretty encouraging when you consider the Cats played without their star point guard for 32 minutes and still beat the most efficient defense in the country by 16.

Let’s break it down, starting with De’Aaron Fox’s injury…

How long will Fox be out?

At first, it didn’t seem like Fox’s injury was too bad. He turned his ankle and went to the bench to switch to high tops, and after coming back in for a moment, went to the locker room. He returned later on crutches wearing a boot, but seemed in good spirits. How long will he be out?

“I think it might’ve been a stinger, I don’t know. But something hit his ankle,” Cal said after the game. “He is in a boot but they said there is no swelling, so I don’t know.”

Hopefully, Fox is back by the Kansas game, because without him, Kentucky looked a bit rudderless. After Briscoe struggled at point, Calipari turned to Dominique Hawkins, who filled in ably, scoring five points and dishing out a game-high seven assists to only two turnovers. With Mychal Mulder also out due to an illness, Dominique more than answered the call.

“Dom was terrific,” Cal said. “Kenny Payne just said, ‘Put Dom at point’ because Dom plays point every day in practice against De’Aaron Fox. Every day. So Dom looked fine. Again, Dom had seven assist and only two turn(overs) and one was late when none of the other guys could get open for him, so he did fine.”

Simply put, Dom was stellar, and if Fox is going to be out for multiple games, Kentucky will need more of that because…

Isaiah Briscoe had zero points

The most surprising stat line of the night belonged to Isaiah Briscoe, who had zero points, SEVEN turnovers, and only four assists. Calipari and Briscoe yelled at each other throughout the game, and when South Carolina narrowed the lead to five at the start of the second half, Calipari called a timeout to yap at Briscoe some more.

“I just told him, ‘You’ve got one minute to get it going or you’re out and I’ll go without you because you’re not doing this.’ ‘I’m okay, I’m okay.’ ‘Alright you’ve got one minute if you’re okay to play then I’m going without you.’ Then I put Dom at point guard and he played like he didn’t have every second on his shoulder. And he started making plays and coming up with balls.”

Cal was clearly frustrated with Briscoe, and came back to his performance later on.

“He had no points today. Come on. He backs into points. He had nothing today. That’s okay. We still won and he was happy as heck in there, but there’s a concern for him. Now it’s like, come on, I know I’m better than this. The kid had seven turnovers. What? Seven turnovers. And he’s not the kind of kid that does that. Not the kind of player.”

Frank Martin agreed that Briscoe running the point made Kentucky more vulnerable.

“With Briscoe, I think what hurt him too was he moved to point guard in the second half and he wasn’t off the ball, where he’s more in attack mode, but he made plays for them,” Martin said. “Seems to me he’s the backbone of that basketball team. He’s the guy that makes everyone go.”

Derek had the dunk of the night

Shoutout to the seniors for their leadership tonight. Like Dom, Derek Willis also stepped up, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds; those may not sound like flashy numbers, but Derek made some crucial plays tonight, including a huge three when South Carolina cut the lead to three in the first half and a massive dunk in the second half that got everyone in the arena on their feet.

Can we get a replay of the bench’s reaction, please?

Same, Sacha. Same.

Wenyen Gabriel turned in his third straight impressive performance

For the third game in a row, Wenyen looked like a different player, putting up 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, a block, a steal, and no turnovers in 27 minutes. Wenyen was 3-8 from the three-point line, and although his shot fell off in the second half and he had a few “freshmen moments,” he did all the stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet as well. With he and Derek playing this well, the four spot suddenly went from Kentucky’s weakest position to a pretty sound one. Cal agreed.

“I thought that Derek and Wenyen, again, they’re just giving us so much now. 23 points, 12 rebounds at that position. Making threes, making open shots. Rebounding balls. They had 23 points combined, 12 rebounds out of that position.”

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Malik and Bam led the team in scoring

It says a lot about Malik Monk that he scored 27 points and I’m just now getting to him in the recap. He and Bam led the team in scoring with 27 and 18 a piece, and Calipari implied that he wants Bam to be more demanding in the post to get more touches from his guards.

“I told Bam after the game, you’re too nice. I said I would strangle a couple of these guys that aren’t throwing you the ball. If I was you, I would. You’re so nice, you don’t say anything. And we’re throwing him the ball, but it’s like it’s forced. It shouldn’t be forced, he’s that good. I even said, is he selfish? They said, no, he’s not selfish. Well, then throw him the ball. And if he’s double teamed he gives it back to you.”

When Bam’s 5-6 from the floor, it’s hard to argue with that.

How about that prediction, Seth Davis?

I don’t like to shove crow down people’s throats, but we have to give Seth Davis a little grief tonight. Yesterday, Davis predicted that Kentucky would lose to South Carolina and only score 61 points. Predictably, Kentucky surpassed that mark with almost thirteen minutes left in the game. Granted, South Carolina wasn’t firing on cylinders. Not only were they without starting guard PJ Dozier, the flu bug apparently was going around, making the nation’s number one defense look even weaker. Yet, it’s also worth pointing out that Kentucky was without De’Aaron Fox for 32 minutes, Mychal Mulder the entire game, got zero points from Briscoe, and still beat the second best team in the league by sixteen. Not a bad night in the least.

Finally, congrats to Mitch Barnhart on the birth of his new grandson

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UK’s athletic director welcomed a new grandson into his family tonight, Reece Mitchell Willoughby. This is the second child for Mitch’s daughter Kirby and her husband McKenzie, and big brother Cooper looks especially proud in this picture. In a true sign that he’s a Kentucky fan, Reece was considerate enough to wait until halftime to come into the world. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s the beginning stages of a three goggle.


Watch all of the highlights from the big win

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Relive all of the excitement from today’s big win over South Carolina. As always, thank you to the good people at Kentucky Wildcats TV for the highlight reel. They’re the best in the business.


De’Aaron Fox in walking boot, status TBD

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Kentucky lost De’Aaron Fox to a right ankle injury in the first half and his absence was very noticeable on the offensive end.

After the game, John Calipari said the extent of the injury and Fox’s longterm status are still uncertain.

“He is in a boot but they said there is no swelling, so I don’t know,” were Cal’s exact words.

Say the injury is a significant one (and Lord please don’t let that be the case), don’t get too excited for a Hamidou Diallo sighting. Diallo has impressed in the handful of practices he has been a part of, Cal said, but, “he is not in the mix.”

Get better, De’Aaron — preferably before January 28.


Watch Derek Willis absolutely posterize a defender

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I don’t know what that South Carolina player said about Bullitt County, but he learned his lesson the hard way.

Rest in peace.


LIVE: John Calipari’s postgame comments

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Watch John Calipari’s postgame press conference below:

 


Kentucky wins and keeps first place in the SEC

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South Carolina came into Rupp Arena on Saturday with first place in the SEC on the line, only to be given a 16-point loss by your University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Kentucky was without De’Aaron Fox for most of the game, but the offense still managed to score 85 points on KenPom’s No. 1 defense. Malik Monk led the way with 27, followed by Bam Adebayo’s 18.

Fox’s status is TBD.

 

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De’Aaron Fox out for game with ankle injury

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Well, crap.


Halftime: Kentucky 47, South Carolina 38

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Kentucky jumped out to an early start in the game but the Gamecocks came crawling back once De’Aaron Fox left with an ankle injury. The Cats lead, 47-38.

Fox’s status for the second half is TBD.

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UK vs. South Carolina LIVE BLOG

Live Blog UK vs. South Carolina LIVE BLOG
 


Both teams will be down one player today

Some unfortunate late breaking news for both squads: Mychal Mulder is sitting today’s game out with an illness, while South Carolina guard PJ Dozier is unable to play because of back spasms. Obviously, Dozier being out is a much bigger deal; the sophomore guard averages 14.6 points and 2.0 assists per game. Meanwhile, Kentucky will need a strong game from Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel to compensate for not having Mulder as a backup at the four spot.

Thirty minutes ’til tip…


Three Keys to a Victory Over South Carolina

Jan 14, 2017; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Edrice Bam Adebayo (3) dunks the ball against Auburn Tigers guard Mustapha Heron (5) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Auburn 92-72. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

1. Inside Out

Bam Adebayo couldn’t get anything going against Mississippi State because of foul trouble.  South Carolina doesn’t have a soul that can guard Bam.  The best way to get the Kentucky offense going early is to let it all go through Bam.  After a couple of easy dunks, their perimeter defenders will be forced to dig into the post to help, opening up three-point shooters.  My preferred method for breaking down a good defense is through penetration, but Bam will be the answer today.

2. Hands Up

The Cats can’t play defense with their hands.  The refs will put them on the bench before they can even ask, “What foul?”  Frank Martin’s teams play a physical brand of basketball.  The Cats can’t out-physical them with their hands, they have to do it with their lower body.

3. Stop the Drive

The Cocks have three players shooting over 40 percent from behind the three-point line (Thornwell, Dozier and Rakym Felder), but this team isn’t scary from deep.  Only 28 percent of their points come from behind the three-point line.  They create offense off the dribble and let Thornwell and Dozier light it up from deep.  Eliminate straight-line drives, play hands up defense, contain either Thornwell or Dozier and the Cats should cruise.


KSR’s 2016-17 Sneaker Beat: Vol. 1

All photos in this post via UK Athletics

All photos in this post via UK Athletics

For the first time all season, I present to you the KSR Sneaker Beat.  For those who aren’t shoe fanatics, this will serve as a guide to the heat on the players’ feet.  Before we get to the crazy kicks, appreciate this year’s Kentucky Kobes above, with each color sported by Mychal Mulder.

I’ll begin with Isaiah Briscoe, who probably changes his shoes more than anyone.  He has a different pair of Kobes almost every game.  I’ll start with the craziest of them all, the Venice Kobe 8.

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Pictured above alongside Briscoe’s are De’Aaron Fox’s Kobe 9 High (tops).

The Venice Kobe’s might not be my favorite shoes from Briscoe.  The outcome wasn’t my favorite, but the Jordan Retro XIII Low Hornets are as sharp as they come.

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Malik Monk is also quite the shoe aficionado.  Against UofL he wore the KD 6 in a Kentucky blue.

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For the 47-point performance against North Carolina, Monk wore the Kobe 5 Fade to Black.  Also pictured is Briscoe in a Kobe AD.

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You’ve seen Monk’s most-prized possession over the last week: the all-white Kyrie 2.

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A closer look:

I’ll finish with Hamidou Diallo.  In his first game dressed in Kentucky blue, he rocked a pair of Jordan Retro IIIs.

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Listen to the KSR Pregame Show

Jayson Ayer | Columbia Metro

Jayson Ayer | Columbia Metro

The SEC’s last two undefeated teams are two and a half hours away from facing off in Rupp Arena.  Ryan Lemond in the KSR crew have everything you need to be prepared for the matchup between South Carolina’s No. 1 defense and Kentucky’s No. 2 offense.

Turn your radio dial to 630 WLAP or LISTEN HERE.


Pregame Scouting: South Carolina Gamecocks

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Since John Calipari took over at the University of Kentucky, the Wildcats are 9-2 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Calipari added to the history of the match up, so that the overall series record now has UK up 50 to 11. And it isn’t just that the Cats have been dominant record-wise since Coach Cal came to Lexington, more impressive is the winning margin. They’ve won by more than 30 multiple times and the average margin of victory in those 9 wins is over 23 points.

On the reverse side, this is South Carolina head coach Frank Martin’s fifth year calling the plays for the Gamecocks. Martin has done a tremendous job of attempting to turn around a struggling South Carolina program. He had the Gamecocks ranked as high as 15th in the country last season. In their game against the Cats, Coach Cal got ejected within the first three minutes, which lit a fire under the Wildcats who blew out the Gamecocks by the score of 89-62 behind scoring outputs of 27 and 26 from Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray respectively.

This season, the #24 Gamecocks bring a 15-3 record to Rupp Arena, along with one of the best defenses in the country. While the Wildcats may be averaging over 93 points per game, good for 3rd best in the country, the Gamecocks’ defense is equally as stout. Then Cocks are giving up less than 60 points per game, a mark that makes them the fifth best defensive team in the nation. Let’s take a look at the starting lineup that Frank Martin should throw the Cats’ way tonight.


#0 Sindarius Thornwell, Senior Guard, 6’5″

Most certainly the most important player for the Gamecocks this season is Sindarius Thornwell. On top of starting every game of college career before this season, Thornwell is the most talented player on the squad and it isn’t even close. Thornwell was suspended for 6 games midway through this season. During those 6 games, South Carolina went 3-3. In the other 12 games this season, the Cocks are 12-0.

Thornwell is leading the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists, averaging 18.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. On top of the three main statistical categories, Thornwell also leads the team in steals with 2.5 per which leads the SEC as well, free throw shooting at 80.5%, and is second in blocks at 1.1 per, and 3-point shooting at 40.9%. So, I’d say he’s probably the main focus of the Wildcat defense tonight.

Last season, Thornwell had 7 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in the Gamecocks’ loss to the Cats. This year, he will be much more of a focal point of the Cock offense. Most likely, he will be guarded by Isaiah Briscoe; however, this is where the Gamecocks present a matchup dilemma for the Cats. The second-leading scorer for the Cocks is 6’6″, and Briscoe can’t guard both at the same time. Look for Monk and Briscoe to split the two throughout the game.

#15 PJ Dozier, Sophomore Guard, 6’6″

PJ Dozier was a top-20 prospect coming out of high school two years ago. In his first season with the Gamecocks, he started 28 of 34 games on the year. Last year, he started against the Cats, but was a non-factor in the game, finishing with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 4 turnovers.

The sophomore is the second-leading scorer for the Gamecocks this season. He’s putting up per game numbers of 14.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. In the six games than Thornwell was suspended, Dozier saw his stats jump to 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. His stats without the team’s best player show just how good he can be when he’s the main component of the offense.

As I mentioned earlier, the combination of Dozier and Thornwell create a bit of a defensive issue for the Cats. Usually, Briscoe would just defend the opposing team’s best scoring and biggest guard/small forward. However, the Cocks bring in two guys that are both bigger than all three starting guards for the Cats. My prediction is that Briscoe matches up with Thornwell, while Monk takes Dozier from the start. Would not be surprised to see Fox pick up either one along the way though.

#30 Chris Silva, Sophomore Forward, 6’9″

A second sophomore starter for Frank Martin, Chris Silva was a top-100 prospect coming out of high school, rated as the number 6 player out of the state of New Jersey. He was high school teammates at Roselle Catholic with the top prospect out of New Jersey in that class, Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe.

Starting just 6 games last season, Silva has become an every-game starter this season. He’s averaging 9.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He leads the team and is the fifth best shot blocker in the conference at 1.9 blocks per contest. The issue for Silva is staying out of foul trouble. He’s averaging over 3.7 fouls per game and has had at least 4 fouls in 12 of 18 games this season, including fouling out four times.

At 6’9″ and 223 pounds, he matches up with Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis for the Cats. If you read my these posts every game, you know I’ve been really unforgiving on the duo at the four spot for the Cats. However, lately they’ve both been playing a ton better, especially Gabriel’s recent surge on the offensive end. It will be interesting to see how the two do against a very sound defensive player like Silva.

#10 Duane Notice, Senior Guard, 6’2″

Duane Notice was the SEC 6th Man of the Year last season. I think Notice showed great character in not quitting on his team after losing his starting spot. He was a two-year starter going into his junior year, lost his spot, but still played with  a ton of confidence.

Notice is averaging 9.4 points, 2.3 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per game in 18 starts this season. On top of being a vocal leader on the floor for the Gamecocks, he has the second-most game experience on the team, which can be a calming presence in a game in Rupp Arena. Last year against the Cats he scored 10 points off the bench to be the second-leading scorer on the day for the Cocks.

The senior measures in at 6’2″, but 225 pounds, making him one of the heavier guards that the Cats have faced this season. His physical nature for the guard position may be something that De’Aaron Fox is not accustomed to with his slender frame. The advantage for UK here, I think, is how the speed of Kentucky’s guards will force Notice into defensive lapses.

#21 Maik Kotsar, Freshman Forward, 6’10”

The lone freshman in the starting lineup for Frank Martin, Maik Kotsar is a native of Tallin, Estonia. He wasn’t as hyped out of high school as most freshmen starters across the country. He was rated as a 3-star prospect by 247sports though.

Kotsar has been a really steady performer for the Gamecocks, giving them 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. However, where there are positives for Kotsar’s game, there are definite weaknesses at this point for the freshman. Kotsar is not a great rim defender, with only 9 blocks in 18 games this season. Also, you would think his size could lead to drawn fouls, but that is something the Gamecocks avoid, as Kotsar is only shooting 44% from the charity stripe this year.

Kotsar will be matched up with fellow freshman Bam Adebayo. In a game that could be dictated by the defensive pressure of South Carolina’s guards, the offensive game could flow through Bam a lot more than it has in the past. If Bam can stay out of foul trouble, which has been an issue for him, I think he could have a really big game against Kotsar, who assuredly has never defended a player of his physical stature and athleticism.


I’ve mentioned it a couple times in this post, but I really think that having Sindarius Thornwell is huge for the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks’ only three losses on the year came when the senior was out serving his suspension. On top of having their best player back and being at full strength, the defensive prowess of this South Carolina team will be something that these UK freshmen have not experienced this season or probably even for most of their young careers. How Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox handle the pressure in the backcourt could be huge for the Cats. I think the Cats rely on Isaiah Briscoe a lot tonight to be the stable presence of the offense.

Go Cats. Beat Cocks.

@BrettBibbinsKSR


Kentucky’s Stretch Fours Know Their Role

Photos via AP

Photos via AP

In Tuesday’s road trip to Starkville, Malik Monk struggled to find his jump shot, while the rest of the team struggled to stay on the floor as they fought foul trouble.  UK’s stretch fours were there to save the day.

Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel combined for 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting.  It prompted me to ask, “Where’s this been all year?”  Turns out, it’s been there all along.

Willis struggled to find consistency in his three-point shot early in the season, but the position as a whole has been more productive than you might think.  Calipari has alternated Willis and Gabriel in the starting lineup, recently adding Mychal Mulder as the third option at the four-position.  Between the three of them, they’re averaging 20 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Game-by-Game Production of UK's Stretch Four

GameMargin of VictoryPointsRebounds
Average21.12012.1
Stephen F. Austin23437
Canisius2485
Michigan State2188
Duquesne342613
Cleveland State313017
UT-Martin35299
Arizona State 462716
UCLA-51312
Valpo242417
Hofstra231617
North Carolina377
Louisville-31416
Ole Miss231212
Texas A&M 42159
Arkansas 262410
Vanderbilt6810
Auburn202019
Miss. State72614

The Cats have three elite guards and Bam Adebayo in the post.  The playmakers don’t need a ton of offense from the stretch fours.  What the playmakers need need is space to operate.  They’re getting plenty of space because Gabriel, Mulder and Willis are shooting a combined 38.2 percent from behind the three-point line.

When they’re at their best, the three can combine for 30 points and 20 rebounds.  When they’re at their worst (vs. UNC) they miss shots, don’t rebound and don’t play defense.

Calipari has, and will continue to preach defense and rebounding to Willis, Gabriel and Mulder.  Already excelling on the offensive end, if the finishers continue to improve defensively, they’ll play the perfect role to help Kentucky make a deep run.