Friday, February 28, 2014

Kentucky vs. South Carolina Pre-View

With the disappointing loss to Arkansas Thursday night, Kentucky had very little time to recover having to travel to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks tomorrow evening.

I'm not going to write about how damaging Thursday's loss was because if you're a Kentucky fan, you're well aware of that. But I will say that tomorrow night's game just became the most "must win" game of the season because a loss in Columbia would spell DISASTER for the Cats.

The Gamecocks come into the game with a 10-18 (3-12 SEC) record and are currently on a three game losing streak with those losses coming at the hands of Arkansas, Georgia and Auburn so it's needless to say that tomorrow night will be another "T-shirt game". It will be another hostile environment as every other road game has been so far this year. 

Here's some stats on the Gamecocks so you can see what the Cats will be facing down in Columbia...


Once again, Kentucky will have to guard the three as there are a couple of guys (Brenton Williams & Tyrone Johnson) who can shoot it from deep.  Rebounding and turnovers will also be something the Cats will have to take care of as well, especially on the road as scoring opportunities will not come easy. 

Calipari said in his interview after the Arkansas game that there was a couple of guys "who didn't show up", that is something that will need to be fixed and quickly as there is only two games left in the regular season (not counting tomorrows game) and one of those is a date with Florida in Gainesville.  Kentucky's tournament resume is average at best and that's being generous. The only quality win is over Louisville and with that win coming at Rupp, it's not as impressive as it seems. 

If the Cats can manage to go 2-1 (winning at Florida is possible, but not very likely) over the course of the next three games (South Carolina, Alabama and Florida) and win one or two in the SEC Tournament, they could possibly stay within the 5-7 seed range in the NCAA Tournament. If Kentucky loses at Florida and drops one of the other two, they may need to make the championship game of the SEC Tournament to try and avoid a possible 10 seed in the Big Dance. 

It will be interesting to see how Kentucky responds to the loss Thursday night with only one day to get things ironed out.  Will they come out with a sense of urgency and beat USC as they should? Or will they come out flat and allow the Gamecocks gain early momentum and spend the rest of the game fighting for their post-season lives? I guess we'll know the answer around this time tomorrow night...

                                                         GAME INFO:

The game is set to tip at 6:00pm tomorrow night on ESPN.

Cal's Message To BBN After Arkansas loss

Calipari took to Facebook today and posted the following message...

"#BBN, last night was not what I expected, but it does not change how I feel about this team. I love this team. We have a bunch of good kids who want to do well, but nobody said this was going to be easy. My job is to continue to paint a picture of how they need to play. It's not so much about what I don't want them to do; it's about what I want them to do. There were seven minutes in the second half last night where we played exactly how we needed to play. They didn't make every shot but they played with the energy, the chemistry and the will to win we are looking for. But it was only seven minutes. We just have to refocus and get back on that positive path."

Randle Named Semifinalist for Naismith Trophy

The Atlanta Tipoff Club today has selected Kentucky freshman Julius Randle as one of 10 national semifinalists for the 2014 Men’s Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T.

For the season, Randle has hauled in 288 rebounds which stand as the fifth most in UK freshman history. He has also poured in a team-high 439 points on the year. The 439 points are 12th among UK freshman in the record books.

The forward's 15 double-doubles is the 20th most in a single-season in NCAA history for a freshman. He now ranks 10th among any UK player in program history and third among all 

UK freshman behind DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis who both notched 20 during their freshman campaigns.

The Dallas, Texas, native is currently leading the Wildcats with 15.7 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per outing.

From March 3-17 the voting academy will select four finalists from this group.  Those finalists will be announced March 23.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

UK vs. Arkansas Game Notes

Arkansas at Kentucky -- UK Post-Game Notes
Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky., February 27, 2014
Attendance: 23.908

FINAL SCORE: Arkansas 71, Kentucky 67 (overtime)

Team Records, Notes
Kentucky is 21-7 overall, 11-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas is 19-9 overall, 8-7 in league play.
Kentucky leads the series 25-11, including 12-3 in Lexington. Arkansas won the earlier meeting this season, an 87-85 decision in Fayetteville.
Kentucky has a quick turnaround, playing Saturday at South Carolina. Game time is 6 p.m. and it will be televised by ESPN.

First-Half Facts
Kentucky started Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson for the eighth-consecutive game. It’s the 12th time this season UK has opened with an all-freshman lineup and UK is 10-2 in those games.
Arkansas scored on its first three possessions in building a 7-2 lead.
Kentucky came back with a 9-0 run to go ahead 11-7.
Trailing 13-11, Arkansas went on a 15-2 run for a 26-15 Razorback advantage.
The Hogs led by as many as 12 on two occasions and went to halftime up 37-30. 

Second-Half Story   
Trailing 50-43, UK went on a 14-2 run. The 57-52 lead was UK’s largest of the game.
Arkansas rallied back to tie the back at 60 on a pair of foul shots by Rashad Madden with 29 seconds remaining.
The score remained tied at 60 as Andrew Harrison’s short jumper was blocked by Coty Clarke and Arkansas’ Alandise Harris missed a 3-point heave at the buzzer.

Overtime Observances
Clarke got the first score of overtime on a 3-pointer at 3:28 and Arkansas led the rest of the way.

Team Notes
The last time Kentucky played back-to-back overtime games was Dec. 9 and 16, 1978 when the Wildcats beat Kansas at home, 67-66, then lost at Indiana, 68-67.
The last time Kentucky played two overtime games against the same opponent in the same season was in 2010 when the Wildcats defeated Mississippi State twice, 81-75 at Starkville and 75-74 at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.
Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle each had a double-double tonight. The last time two Cats had double-doubles in the same game was against Texas-Arlington on Nov. 19.
Kentucky was strong around the basket today.
UK won the rebounding 47-38, including a season-high 26 offensive rebounds.
UK won points in the paint 42-20 and second-chance points 19-11.


Individual Notes
Willie Cauley-Stein totaled 16 points and 13 rebounds, his third double-double of the season and seventh of his career.
The 13 rebounds tied his career high set earlier this season vs. Robert Morris.
Julius Randle got 14 points and 10 rebounds, his 15th double-double of the season.

James Young tallied 11 points, the 10th time in last 11 games he has scored in double figures. 


Hogs SWEEP Cats with a 71-67 win in RUPP

(click to enlarge)

After such a promising win against LSU, one in which many thought was the turning point for this team, old habits showed up once again as Kentucky dropped one at home to Arkansas 71-67.  This marks the first time the Hogs have won in Rupp since the 1994 season and it also marks the first time that Kentucky has lost to the same team twice in SEC play since John Calipari arrived at Kentucky.

The box-score will indicate that this game was lost in overtime when in fact it was lost in the first half as the Cats allowed Arkansas to maintain a 10 point margin for much of the half. The second half saw Kentucky show a little bit of fight, just enough to force overtime. But, in the extra stanza we saw what this team is rapidly getting to be known for, lack of hustle and mental brake downs (offensive and defensive). 

The real reason the Cats lost this one can be summed up in two simple words, turnovers (18) and free-throws (12-22). With stats like that, you're not going to win any game I don't care who you're playing. Just to give a comparison, yes Arkansas had 20 turnovers, but they did shoot 100% from the charity-stripe (16-16) and that's what won them the game; very simple.


Arkansas had an RIP of 70 and losing to them at Rupp is more than devastating to the Cats' post season resume which only has one quality win in Louisville; something to think about... 

Free Posters Before Tonights Arkansas Game

The University of Kentucky will unveil the third of a four-part men’s basketball poster series tonight at the Kentucky-Arkansas game at Rupp Arena.

The four-poster series features current Wildcats on the men’s basketball roster throughout the remainder of the home schedule.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early. Doors open 90 minutes prior to tip-off.

The first 7,000 fans in attendance at tonight’s game will be able to pick up the poster in the Rupp Arena lobby upon entry.

Randle a FINALIST For Oscar Robertson National Player of The Year Trophy

The United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) has selected Kentucky freshman Julius Randle as one of 15 finalists for its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Trophy and one of six finalists for the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award.

For the season, Randle has hauled in 278 rebounds which stand as the fourth most in UK freshman history. He has also poured in a team-high 425 points on the year. The 425 tallies are 12th among UK freshman in the record books.

The forward's 14 double-double efforts ranks sixth nationally and is a mark good for the 13th most in a single season for any UK player in program history.
The Dallas, Texas, native is currently leading the Wildcats with 15.7 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per outing.

Members of the association's board of directors chose the finalists and the entire 975-member USBWA will vote on the awards as well as the annual All-America and All-District teams.

Most recently Randle was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week, Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week and the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Week after he led the Wildcats to a pair of victories last week. Randle averaged 16.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in wins over Ole Miss and LSU.
The Oscar Robertson Trophy recipient will be announced on Friday, April 4, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at a press conference in conjunction with the NCAA Men's Final Four. Prior to that, on Mon., March 17, the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award winner will be announced

Since the 1958-59 season, the USBWA has named a National Player of the Year. In 1998, the award was named in honor of the University of Cincinnati Hall of Famer and two-time USBWA Player of the Year Oscar Robertson. It is the nation's oldest award and the only one named in honor of a former player. Michigan's Trey Burke won the award a year ago.
The USBWA has chosen a national freshman of the year since the 1988-89 season when LSU's Chris Jackson was the recipient. Last season, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart became the third winner of the Wayman Tisdale Award.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

UK Pre Arkansas Press Conference QUOTES (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

         Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua

On the importance of the players having fun …
“It’s very important, especially towards the end of the year. You want them to have fun. They have been through the trials and tribulations of the season, they’ve put in a lot of hard work, and you want them to go out there and enjoy their rewards for working that hard.”

On the players hitting a wall mentally …
“I don’t know if it’s hitting a wall. These guys are playing so much basketball throughout the year that I don’t know if you could say it’s a wall. It’s just a matter of if it clicks and they are enjoying the fact that they are competing together, working together, and seeing results. To see that pure joy for one another is what the coaching staff has been working to try and get them to.”

On the coaches putting a picture on the wall to constantly remind players of that joy …
“Absolutely. I think that is part of, as coaches, we want them to understand. That that’s what it feels like. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.”

On what they need to do differently against Arkansas this time around …
“Rebound. I think we need to take care of the ball a little bit better. I think we had 17 turnovers that game, but we competed and played hard. Arkansas comes out and plays really hard. Coach Anderson does a great job of getting those guys to play the way they want to play and speeding up the game. I think we handled it pretty good. Just a couple mistakes in closing out the game and that obviously happened to be rebounding and making a couple free throws.”

On what he has seen out of Alex Poythress recently …
“Alex has continued to work and that’s the only way. Willie (Cauley-Stein) got himself out of his couple game rut by working through it. Now, Alex is doing the same. We hope that he will continue to put that work in and that he’ll see the results of the work that he previously had done and he was having success with. So it’s a little bit up and down, and the season is that way. You just have to kind of manage those. You can’t be too high and you can’t be too low, you just have to keep working through the process in between.” 

On the importance of instilling confidence in the players …
“I think we are doing a lot of it, but we’re identifying what they’re putting in and what they’re doing. That’s really what we are doing. Those guys are putting in a lot of extra time and a lot of extra work and we are identifying that they are doing it and having success. Keep doing that, because as you get better, the team gets better. It allows us to be at the right side of the column at the end of the day.” 

On the players slapping the floor on defense …
“I think it’s a byproduct of that. I think they know that they can ignite each other in that way. You can see one does it and it leads to someone else doing it and clapping and getting engaged. For a staff, that’s fun. For the fans, it’s fun because you know they are out there competing. That’s what we are asking of them, is to give us that kind of effort, that kind of focus. It gets them out of themselves and into each other. When you have that kind of passion and energy, it sparks each other.”

On the importance of the post season being so close …
“I don’t know if they are looking into it that far ahead. I think they are really enjoying the moment and playing the game the way that we have asked them to play for one another. They are seeing results of that and I think they are getting enjoyment from that. I don’t know if they are looking down the stretch.”

On where the passion on the court comes from …
“You pull it from working and knowing that you have invested time in your craft, in yourself, and you know your teammates are doing the same thing. The game is a lot of up and down. The team that manages the load better is usually the team that comes out on top. We are playing teams that are really talented, that have veteran guys on the team that have been in situations. The way that you can overcome some of that is with passion and energy and communicating. They are doing a much better job of that.”

On players working things out by themselves on the court …
“That’s what it’s about. Those guys are on the court and as coaches, all we try to do is put them in the best position to go out there and compete and win. When they get to the point when they are empowered that way and they communicate to one another, that’s where we try to get them. When Coach Calipari is talking about this being their team, those are moments that it becomes their team and not a coach driven team.”

On if a guy has four fouls and wants to make decisions…
“Well then that becomes a judgment call on the staff. It depends on the timing of the four fouls.”

On keeping an eye on Coach Calipari during games…
“I don’t think that is something that is conversed or talked about. Cal is very passionate and he is coaching like he is 35, which is great. At the same time, as a staff we have to help him at times if that’s the case. Like making sure he is staying in the coaching box, which is hard.”

On if they have reviewed film of the last play against Arkansas from the last meeting …
“We look at all the film. We view how we played them first, the things that they did against us, things that we did well, things that we need to correct.  So we have seen that a couple times.”

On what he sees on that last play in the last meeting …
“You see a phenomenal athlete make a great play. I also see that we are a much different team than we were in January. We’ve grown. We have matured, we’ve grown, and we’re focused on every possession a lot better than we were early on. Even though that was one of the better games that we played, there were still things that we could improve on and we have.”

On if that last play was a block out play…
“It was a block out play. Shot goes up and the tendency is to watch the ball instead of find a body. If you find a body, then he doesn’t have the opportunity to go up and go get that ball.”

On how much better Arkansas is now …
“They’re better. They are right in the middle of the pack with the rest of the teams in the conference and we know that they are going to come out and compete, play hard, and we are excited about the challenge.” 

Kentucky Players

#00, Marcus Lee, F, Fr.
On the Arkansas game being different this time … “This time we will box out. This time, I guess, we’re just coming out with more fire because last time they came out with more intensity. They were just more ready for the game. We were just kind of nonchalant.”
On preparing for the start of games better … “I think we’re definitely preparing for the game and the start of the game better than we have in the beginning of the year.”
On if it’s important to be ready from the start against a team like Arkansas … “Just going throughout the end of the season, that’s just something we needed to learn and get better because that’s one of our strong points.”
On why they haven’t exploited some of their strong points more … “We just haven’t really thought about it, I guess. We were just trying to figure out how to get all our players together. Once we got that together, we could finally start figuring out strong points.”
On how much the group needed a moment like the end of the LSU game … “I think it was severely needed. We really needed that moment where we all just came together and needed that moment of passion. That’s the only thing I really talk about with you guys is passion and energy. So that was a real big main point of the hump we needed to get over.”
On why the passion was lacking early in the season … “It was just the fact that—where to grab it from. We didn’t really know where to grab all this passion and how to use it as a team.”
On much that moment of having fun helps during this time of the year when everything is a grind … “Oh yeah. Having fun helps everything out no matter what you’re doing, so finally seeing that fun sight in everybody’s face and eyes really helps.”
On if they are doing anything in practice and games to manufacture fun … “It just has to come out of people. It’s starting to come out a lot more in practice. We’re starting to have a lot more fun. Just seeing it in practice is really good.”
On if it’s been hard to have fun this season … “No, it’s just trying to figure out where to pull it, where to bring it in from, where to have fun and where to be serious is the things that we’ve lacked at, and that’s the things we’re learning real fast.”
On how much the scrutiny affects their ability to have fun … “I guess at first it’s kind of hard, but once you’re used to it you kind of forget about it, you kind of just start having fun.”
On how much he pays attention to the scrutiny … “For me, not so much anymore. I’m not really on Twitter anymore because we don’t really have time to look at all that stuff.”
On knocking the Arkansas player to the floor in the first meeting … “That was a total accident. It was the way I box out.”
On if he looked at the replay of that play … “I watched it while they were reviewing it at that time. It was up on the big screen so we were all just watching it. I was just as surprised as everybody else when they called it on me. It didn’t matter.”

#30, Julius Randle, F, Fr.
On the first game against Arkansas … “At Arkansas? Fast-paced game, really physical game. It was a tough environment to play, but I do remember that being kind of a little bit of a breakout game for us. It was learning how to fight, not stopping, just playing hard.”

On whether the coaches have shown the final play on tape … “No, they haven’t. They haven’t.”

On how they have improved since that game … “We’re just a better team overall. Just little things. We’ve watched film of how we played at the end and the difference between then and now, it’s a tremendous difference. We play harder. We play more as a team. We care about each other more. It’s little things we do on defense. We’ve made adjustments since that game. We’ve gotten better each game.”

On whether the LSU win was an emotional breakthrough …

“Uh, you could say so. We needed to win one of those games. Everybody did their job, contributed and we just needed to be in a dogfight. LSU, despite what their record is, is a really good team, has a lot of talent and we just needed a dogfight game like that. Keep fighting, keep fighting, things don’t go our way, keep fighting, eventually break through and we ended up winning.”

On where they are finding passion … “For one, we’re all getting better individually. We see we’re getting better as a team and once you see the results things start to become more fun. You may not see the results for a while but you gotta stick with, stick with it, stick with it and just keep fighting, keep getting better. We see that we’re getting better. This is the fun part, the last couple games. We’ve got tournament play and it’s what we’ve been working on all year.”

On needing an emotional moment like LSU … “Sure, I guess. I’ve never played in a tournament-type game but it can’t be too much crazier than that.”

On Calipari putting the picture of the celebration up … “He didn’t tell us anything. It’s just right there, a big picture. I walked in and it was pretty cool. I’ve taken visits here. You see all the guys that have come through, to see them on the wall and you’ve got a picture of all us on the wall, it’s a pretty cool thing.”

On asking to guard Johnny O’Bryant … “Yeah, it was true. He was just making a couple tough baskets in the overtime period and I wanted to win. So I wanted to do whatever I could to help my team. On offense, every time I caught the ball they were crowding me, trapping and stuff like that so the biggest thing Coach has really been getting on me about is affecting the game in different ways. It’s not about scoring and that’s how I wanted to affect the game.”

On whether he went to Calipari about it …

“No, it was during the game. I was just trying to tell them, ‘Let me switch.’ That’s how it happened.”

On slapping the floor on defense and whether that’s done by design … “Heat of the moment. Just having fun. It’s all it really is.”

On how much of a difference things like that can make … “It’s just energy. Energy. We’re feeding off each other’s energy. It makes chemistry within the team. The biggest thing is just energy. You see a teammate slap the floor, you know he’s ready to go. You have no choice but to be ready to go.”

Kentucky vs. Arkansas Pre-View

Tomorrow night, Kentucky has another chance at payback when Arkansas comes to Rupp Arena. In the first meeting, the Cats looked as bad as they have all season long, losing 87-85 in overtime when the Hogs scored on a put-back dunk to end the game in Bud Walton Arena.

Just to give you an example of how bad the Cats played that night, here's their box score...

(Click To Enlarge)

Upon first glance, you'll say "We had four guys in double figures; they didn't play that bad", but if you look past the scoring column and dig a little deeper into the stats of the game, you begin to see why I say they played horrible..

The Cats had 17 turnovers in that game, most of which were completely unforced and came towards the end of the game. Then you look at the 26-40 from the free-throw line and then you can see why they lost. The stat at the free-through line alone was enough for them to lose the game even without the turnovers. The whole night was a game Kentucky fans and the team would rather just act like never took place. So, let's move along and talk about the game tomorrow night...

This past Saturday, Kentucky finally fought, clawed  and out hustled LSU to get a 77-76 win in overtime on a put-back basket by Julius Randle. The whole game, the Cats seemed to have a different attitude, an attitude that they hadn't shown a whole lot of this season. It looked as if they actually had the "will and the want" to win instead of hanging their heads when things got tough. Instead, they came together as a team, made plays down the stretch and came away with a W.  Was the win over LSU the turning point for this team like some have said it could be? We'll find out tomorrow night.

Until then, here's some info on how Arkansas has been doing since beating the Cats back in January.  The Hogs are 6-5 since the last meeting with wins over Auburn, Alabama, Vandy, LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Their losses have come at the hands of Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri (TWICE) and LSU. Despite the record of 6-5 the Hogs are currently riding a three game winning streak (South Carolina, LSU and Miss St.) coming into Thursday night and carrying the confidence that comes with it. This will be another tough outing for the Cats and one they absolutely CANNOT drop at home.

Here's some Hog stats for ya...

Now you know what the Cats will be facing tomorrow night.  They will have to get out on the shooters as there are several that can flat-out shoot the ball. Turnovers, they will have to value the ball and not have so many unforced errors. With Arkansas averaging 9 steals per game, they don't need Kentucky's help when it comes to forcing turnovers. And lastly, REBOUND. Kentucky has done a great job of rebounding the ball and limiting second chance point opportunities and they will have to continue that tomorrow night. If they can manage all of these things, the Cats should be able to get a good win and continue building their post season resume.

We'll see ya after the game with all of the post game stuff you like to read...

Arkansas' Mike Anderson talks Wildcats

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Randle is Oscar Robertson National Player of The Week and MORE

 Kentucky freshman Julius Randle has been honored by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) as its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week and its Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week it was announced on Tuesday. It is the first time this season one player has been honored with both awards by the association during the same week.

Randle was named the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Week after he led the Wildcats to a pair of victories this week. Randle averaged 16.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in wins over Ole Miss and LSU.

As the SEC’s Player of the Week, Randle was nominated for the weekly award, which was chosen by a representative of the USBWA board of directors from a list of Division I conference players of the week.

Randle is the second Wildcat freshman to earn Wayman Tisdale weekly honors this season. James Young also captured the honor on Dec. 31 following his 18-point, 10-rebound performance in helping UK down then ranked No. 6 Louisville.

This is the fifth season that the USBWA has selected a national player of the week. The weekly Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week will be considered for the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list.

Randle began the week by notching his 14th double-double of the season with 25 points and 13 rebounds at Ole Miss. He now ranks 13th in program history with 14 double-doubles in a single year. The 6-9 forward ranks third among freshmen for double-doubles in a single season as both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis tallied 20 during their freshman campaigns. It marked the seventh 20-10 game of his career.

Randle shot 13-14 from the free throw line against the Rebels and scored six of UK’s final 11 points to help preserve the victory. The 13 made free throws matches a career best tally for the freshman and is the most in a single game by any player in the John Calipari era. For the season he has totaled 148 made free throws which are a mark that ranks fourth among all UK freshmen in program history.

UK’s starting forward helped lead the Cats in dramatic fashion at home against LSU. He hit the game-winning put back with 3.9 second remaining in overtime en route to an eight-point, 15-rebound performance against the Tigers. The 15 boards was just one shy of matching a career high.

For the season, Randle has hauled in 278 rebounds which stand as the fourth most in UK freshman history. He has also poured in a team-high 425 points on the year. The 425 tallies are 12th among UK freshman in the record books.
Since the 1958-59 season, the USBWA has named a National Player of the Year. In 1998, the award was named in honor of the University of Cincinnati Hall of Famer and two-time USBWA Player of the Year Oscar Robertson. It is the nation's oldest award and the only one named after a former player.

Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 27 at home as UK welcomes Arkansas to Rupp Arena. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the game will air live on ESPN.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Randle Named SEC Player of The Week

Kentucky freshman Julius Randle was named the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Week after he led the Wildcats to a pair of victories this week. Randle averaged 16.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in wins over Ole Miss and LSU.

Randle began the week by notching his 14th double-double of the season with 25 points and 13 rebounds at Ole Miss. He now ranks 13th in program history with 14 double-doubles in a single year. The 6-9 forward ranks third among freshmen for double-doubles in a single season as both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis tallied 20 during their freshman campaigns. It marked the seventh 20-10 game of his career.

Randle shot 13-14 from the free throw line against the Rebels and scored six of UK’s final 11 points to help preserve the victory. The 13 made free throws matches a career best tally for the freshman and is the most in a single game by any player in the John Calipari era. For the season he has totaled 148 made free throws which are a mark that ranks fourth among all UK freshmen in program history.

UK’s starting forward helped lead the Cats in dramatic fashion at home against LSU. He hit the game-winning put back with 3.9 second remaining in overtime en route to an eight-point, 15-rebound performance against the Tigers. The 15 boards was just one shy of matching a career high.

For the season, Randle has hauled in 278 rebounds which stand as the fourth most in UK freshman history. He has also poured in a team-high 425 points on the year. The 425 tallies are 12th among UK freshman in the record books.

The honor is the second Player of the Week nod of his career. He’s also earned SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. Four different Wildcats have been honored this season a total of seven times.

Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 27 at home as UK welcomes Arkansas to Rupp Arena. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the game will air live on ESPN.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Post LSU Game NOTES....

LSU at Kentucky -- UK Post-Game Notes
Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky., February 22, 2014
Attendance: 24,244

FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 77, LSU 76 (overtime)

Team Records, Notes
Kentucky is 21-6 overall, 11-3 in the Southeastern Conference.  LSU is 16-10 overall, 7-7 in league play.
Kentucky leads the series 84-25, including 42-5 in Lexington. LSU won the earlier meeting this season, 87-82 in Baton Rouge.
Kentucky completes the two-game homestand Thursday against Arkansas.  Game time is 7 p.m. and it will be televised on ESPN.

First-Half Facts
Kentucky started Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson for the seventh-consecutive game. It’s the 11th time this season UK has opened with an all-freshman lineup and UK is 10-1 in those games.
LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant scored the first six points of the game, prompting a UK timeout at the 17:37 mark.
UK returned from the timeout and held LSU scoreless for the next four minutes. Meanwhile, the Wildcats scored on six straight possessions for a 13-0 run. 
LSU rallied to tie at 15, then UK got a 3-point shot from Young (UK’s only 3-pointer of the day) and a 3-point play from Aaron Harrison to make it 21-15.
UK led by as many as eight points at 34-26 before LSU closed to within 35-32 at halftime.

Second-Half Story   
LSU got the first eight points of the second half, capping a 14-1 run for a 40-35 lead.  
Kentucky responded with six straight points and the teams battled evenly after that.
Anthony Hickey’s 3-pointer with 1:45 to play put LSU ahead 64-63.
After an Andre Stringer foul shot with 20 seconds remaining, Aaron Harrison sent it to overtime with a pair of foul shots with 10 seconds left.

Overtime Observations   
LSU’s Hickey broke a 69-69 tie with a 3-pointer with 2:48 on the clock.  Hickey scored on the Tigers’ next possession to keep them ahead 74-71.
UK went ahead 75-74 with two foul shots each from Julius Randle and James Young.
LSU reclaimed a 76-75 advantage on a Stringer drive with 10 seconds to go.
Julius Randle got a loose ball in the lane and put in the game-winner just in front of the basket with four seconds to go.
LSU was unable to get off a final shot as Young came up with a steal at midcourt at the buzzer.

Team Notes
Kentucky is now 1-1 in overtime games this season.
Kentucky was strong around the basket today.
UK won points in the paint 50-28.
UK got 17 offensive rebounds, leading to a 24-9 edge in second-chance points.
UK made 20 of 26 free throws, 76.9 percent.  
Over the last 11 games, UK has made 73.3 percent at the charity stripe.
Aaron Harrison had 21 points and James Young had 20.  The last time UK had two 20-point scorers was Feb. 1 when those players scored those same amounts in the win at Missouri.

Individual Notes
Aaron Harrison had a game-high 21 points, his sixth 20-point game of the season.
His 7-of-7 performance at the foul line featured the two tying shots with 10 seconds in regulation.
Played a career-high 43 minutes.

Andrew Harrison had nine points, six rebounds and four assists while playing a career-high 39 minutes. He also had a career-high two blocked shots, including a key block of O’Bryant in the final 30 seconds of overtime that set up two foul shots by Young.

Marcus Lee saw his first game action since Feb. 4 and contributed a basket in two minutes of play.
Julius Randle had eight points, including the game-winner with four seconds to go.  He also muscled his way to 15 rebounds, one shy of his career high set in the season opener.

James Young finished with 20 points, his seventh 20-point game of the season. He made UK’s only 3-point shot of the game and played a career-high 41 minutes. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cats Finally Show Some Emotion in Win Over LSU

Cats win 77-76 on Julius Randle's put back with 3.2 seconds to go in overtime. I guess that's what it took for this team to learn how to show emotion and enjoy playing the game, good to see it fellas.... FINALLY!!!


Cats squeak past LSU in OT 77-76

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Damn.... After an impressive game against Ole Miss, Kentucky has to win a squeaker in OT against LSU. Both teams were needed a win for their post season resumes and you could tell by how they played.

It was a battle from the very tip with LSU rushing out to a 6-0 from three straight buckets by big man Johnny O'Bryant who finished the game 20pts and 12rebs. Kentucky native Anthony Hickey was also a thorn in the Cats' side as he finished the night with 20pts 8ast and lucky for the Cats, Hickey fouled out in the overtime period.

For Kentucky, it was good to see them finally win this type of game after losing so many during the course of the season. They fought, scrapped and showed a will to win something that has been developing the last couple of games.

It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but one they COULD NOT afford to lose at home.

Now, go and enjoy the rest of your weekend....

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kentucky vs. LSU Pre-view

Kentucky finally had somewhat of an impressive win this week when they traveled to Oxford, MS to take on Ole Miss. Going in, it was well known that the Cats couldn't afford a loss and they played like they knew it as well. With a 22 point lead in the second half, Kentucky allowed the Rebels to cut it to six with 3:00 to go in the game, but Kentucky fought and showed a will to win in crunch time, something they haven't done all season long. Now, they have a chance at redemption Saturday when LSU comes to Rupp Arena.

In the first match-up with LSU back in January, Kentucky played it's worst game of the season. They were outworked, out hustled and were pretty much schooled in every single aspect of the game from start to finish. The Cats done nothing in that game to give Kentucky fans any hope for the rest of the season.

The man in the picture (Johnny O'Bryant III) above sure enjoyed the first match-up going for 29pts on 12-20 shooting and completely abused UK's post players in the process. After the game, O'Bryant said "I really tried to attack them, I knew that they were young guys and I had an advantage in experience and body-wise. I was going at them all night."  I hope those words echoed in the minds of these guys ever since that game, because if that doesn't get them motivated for a rematch, then nothing will.

Here's a look at the box score from that game just to give you an idea of how ugly things got.

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Everything that happened in the last meeting CANNOT happen in this one if Kentucky wants to get a win.  Julius Randle has got to show up, scoring 6 points for the game is what got Kentucky beat last time. There is NO ONE on this LSU team who can contain Randle and he needs to make show them.  

Another thing that cannot happen is a no-show by Willie Cauley-Stein.  The Cats need Willie to guard the rim because their ability to stop dribble penetration is simply abysmal at best.  Time and time again, we see smaller quicker point guards get to the rim with easy lay-ups or lobs for easy dunks when Willie isn't playing his best. On the flip side, when he is playing to his ability, NO ONE can get to the rim and if they do, they more than likely see their shot or lob attempt rejected.  

The Cats must set the tone early in this game. They cannot give this LSU team any momentum by falling behind early which they have been known to do on more the one occasion this season.  They've got to start solid and they have to finish strong, none of this letting up stuff just because you have somewhat of a lead, that will get ya beat.

If the Cats bring anywhere near the effort they had against Ole Miss, they should have similar results.  Anything less and things get interesting at a time when Kentucky can least afford it.

PRE-LSU News Conference Quotes (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Head Coach John Calipari

On Julius Randle saying that the team was embarrassed by their play at LSU … 
“I would imagine LSU is really motivated to play this one again, too. You know they outplayed us. Johnny O’Bryant was really good, but he wasn’t the only guy that outplayed us. They out-rebounded us. They outcoached us. They outran us. They got us in transition defense. They got us every which way to lose. The only reason the game wasn’t 20 (points) was because we made three 3s. Bankers – or it would have been a 20-point game. I’m anxious to see how we’ll play against them, but it’s not like they got worse. LSU got better. It’s going to be a hard game.”

On how much better UK is than the first time they played LSU … 
“We’ll see. Let’s throw it up tomorrow and we’ll find out.”

On if there has been a focus or fight problem since the LSU game … 
“It was just a trip with the weather. Are we going to play or are we not going to play? And then we came out against an inspired team. How their fans found the arena, I have no idea. I thought there would be 200 people at the game. It ends up being a rowdy crowd. And look, give them credit. They played. LSU is a really good team. It’s like I’ve said about Tennessee and LSU and other teams in our league – Missouri – It amazes me when people beat each other in other leagues it shows how strong their league is. When we beat each other in our league, then the league is not very good. What? I mean, I don’t get it, but we will see. They’re very good.”

On what Julius Randle is doing to be more effective … 
“He’s playing less minutes and he’s passing more.”

On James Young saying that he wants to play hard against LSU … 
“Play the game. Throw the ball up. We’re going to find out where we are. They had a good day yesterday. Let’s have a good practice today. Our chemistry, our will to win for each other and for the team is what we’re focused on. Being more player-driven is what we’re focused on versus being coach-driven. We’re on that a lot. But, the guys are on that. They’re doing pretty good.”

On the talk of payback and motivation … 
“Well, the whole thing for me and the hardest thing when you’re dealing with young players is you have to get them to think different. Their inner dialogue has to be for us and not themselves. That they stay in a positive light. When they go to the foul line – ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna miss this. I don’t think -.’ Well, believe it or not, you’re going to miss that. Or ‘I can do this. I can’t wait to shoot these. Foul me.’ And young guys, especially when they’re thrown in this mix, you can get that inner-dialogue knocked out. Some of that is mixed in because you’ve never had dialogue mixed in with your own game, and now that’s got to begin to change. These guys have done good. They’re making the strides we want. But, this is a hard game for us. This is going to be a tough one.”

On what he saw looking at the first half of the Ole Miss game … 
“A team that ran really fast and a team that passed the ball to each other early. (A team) that played so fast that we turned it over some, yet, were really aggressive, communicated defensively. That start and even the beginning of the second half, there were three, four minutes when we backed up and had mental breakdowns, but short of that, we played. Even at the end of the game, the last minute and a half.”

On if he will live with turnovers if they can play fast … 
“Yeah. Again, there are good turnovers and there are some bad turnovers. We had some bad ones. We have some players that aren’t great at handling the ball or passing and you hope they don’t pass much. But if they do, they’re going to turn it over some. But each of them, they came to each other; the locker room had energy after the game. I said you had fun because you played fast, you played aggressive, and you were into each other. But it’s hard to sacrifice and give up. Are you going to give up as much as I’m going to give up? Or am I the only one giving up (anything)? It becomes that inner-dialogue and that fight from within to get them to all lay it out there for each other. You’re going to find out. Julius (Randle) is playing less minutes, taking less shots, passing more, and his numbers are up. Really? How can that be? It’s a dogfight to get him to get that. And it’s not just him. All of them. But, they’re getting it.”

On if the better free throw shooting is throughout the whole team or just a couple guys …
“Well, Willie is shooting better, really confident in him. Julius is shooting better. Just can’t have terrific shooters go 1-for-2, 1-for-2, 1-for-2, front-end one-and-one when the other team is going make, make, make, make, make, make, make because you’re going to get beat, especially against good teams.”

On what he was saying to Julius when he made the strange face …
“I think he was telling me, ‘Coach, I really love you.’ And I went ‘What?’ I think that’s what it was. I’ve been wrong before. ’78 – 1978.”

On if he’s seen the video of himself with the taco going into his mouth …
“I don’t look at that stuff, come on.”

On how he feels about the zone at this point …
“They made four baskets in a row. It’s funny, people that want us to play zone it’s kind of like coaching a kid and being positive 80 percent of the time and he only remembers that you get on him. So the zone people out there see every stop and don’t realize that Mississippi was getting back in the game because they made four straight baskets in a row vs. the (zone). But, I’m getting better at teaching it; I’m getting better at understanding it. I was just with a player – former player of mine from UMass – and he said, ‘I can’t believe you’re playing zone.’ He said, ‘we never worked against zone. I don’t know how we scored against zone because we couldn’t even put a zone in.’ I told them stand around and put your arms up. And if someone goes by you, kind of switch. So, you know, this is a good – I’ll tell you who is the best zone player I’ve seen is Aaron (Harrison). He’s like; I’m calling him ‘The Cat’ now. The team is laughing their butt – I show them on the tape, man, he’s like a cat. And he goes out with his arm but then you watch his brother and he’s not a cat. And I said, you won’t believe this, Andrew, your arm is as long as his arm. You can do the same so, you know, we – I’ll tell you who else is good in a zone is Jarrod, is good in zone. It’s helped us. I’m not arguing the point but I do know this, Tony Barbee said this to me, ‘you’re good in zone, coach but when you switch everything, it’s a one-on-one game. There is nothing else we can do.’ When you play zone, you know they’re always going to be able to get off a 3 at any point, now if they’re making them, you lose. Well, what if it’s a deep – it could be a deep 3 that they’re making but when you’re playing man and switching it means they’re taking a contested shot. But it’s a good changeup, it’s a good defense for us, it’s been good and we’ve worked on it every day which, you know, it’s not something I’ve done in the past but we’re working at it and trying to give these guys the best opportunity they can to win.”

On if using this much zone is a bit apocalyptic for him …
“No, I would love to be a zone coach. I’m telling you – tell me why? How much do you really have to prepare for it? Not against zone. How many things can you really do against zone? Screen the ball, high-low, three-out, four-out for all you ‘Basketball Bennies’ that have no idea what I’m talking about. There is not a whole lot you do against zone and everybody does the same thing. Five or six things you can do. You can’t put a sixth guy out, you can’t put guys standing – I mean there are five or six things. I would love to be a guy that could do that, that’s just not me. But, we’re using it, it’s been effective, if there was a game where I thought we’d have to play the whole game, play zone to win the game I’d do it.”

On if he had his best players for two years if he’d play more zone …
“They’re talking about it going to two and I’ve called to see if we could have that, you know, immediately.”

On if there is anyone he has relied on to try to learn the zone defense more …
“Well, Rob (Murphy) at Eastern Michigan was the one who came in and really, you know, gave me the breakdowns and the drill work because you can’t just do – you’ve got to break it down, you’ve got to do it, you’ve gotta give them an idea what they have to do and then I would call them. Jim Boeheim and I talked and I said, you know I played your zone? He said, ‘I watch it.’ He said, ‘you should play more zone.’ And he says, ‘every time your team gives up a 3, you go back man-to-man.’ And he said, ‘but if the other team makes three 3s in your man, you don’t go zone.’ He said, you know – I’ve studied it and put it in and you know, to be a good zone offensive team, to be honest with you, you’ve got to have a good zone in defensively so you can work and we’re probably better vs. zone than we are man. But, we will see.”

Kentucky Players

#30, Julius Randle, F, Fr.
On how much he watches other teams on TV …
“I don’t watch much TV. If it’s a game I see—like I watched a little bit of the Duke-North Carolina game. I watched a couple minutes of the second half. But I don’t watch too much college basketball or the NBA really.”
On whether he believes they can play with anyone in the country …
“Yep, I truly believe that.”
On if he’s always believed that or if he’s starting to believe it more now …
“I’ve always believed. This is like Coach says: It’s a process. This whole season has just been a process, but I always believed it because I always knew we had the talent. But the chemistry now, it’s getting better.”
On what has changed about the chemistry …
“It’s just us trusting each other more, connection on defense, talking more, encouraging each other more and just the little things that we see is helping us a lot.”
On how far the guards on this team have come …
“Amazing. Coach is doing a good job with staying patient with all of us, keep encouraging us and leading us. It’s kind of become, like Coach says, a coach-driven team to a player-driven team. Guards have done a big job of helping us improve.”
On how much he’s looked forward to playing this game after what happened at LSU …
“Looking forward to it, of course. Everybody gives us their biggest shot so it’s another challenge, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
On what he remembers about that game and what LSU did to slow them down …
“It was a blur. Just the intensity and the fight just wasn’t there. It was embarrassing, but that’s why we get another chance to play.”
On whether he’s noticed more scrutiny because he’s at Kentucky …
“It is what is. I don’t care about that. It may or may not be true, but I’m playing basketball. I didn’t come here to be liked. I came here to win a championship.”
On how the year has been to him …
“It’s been a process, but when you look back on a lot of it, it’s gone by extremely fast. It seems like I just got here the other day on campus, and now we have like, what, five games left for the season, so every day I just want to cherish, cherish every moment.”
On if he likes playing three teams down the stretch that have beaten them …
“I do.”
On why he likes that …
“I don’t like losing. If somebody beats us, I want to see if you can beat us again.”
On how impressed he was by LSU the first game …
“It was a good team. They play hard, they have some pretty good players on their team, but at the end of the day our fight and intensity just wasn’t there that game. But we learned from it.”
On how that happens when they don’t have fight …
“Maybe just focus. I couldn’t tell you too much else other than focus and a lack of attention to detail. I don’t think you come into a game wanting to say, ‘I’m not going to fight, I’m not going to have intensity.’ But it just happened that day. Got to move on from there and learn from it and improve.”
On the chance to prove they learned that lesson …
“I don’t even know if it matters if it’s them. In general, whoever we play, how we bounce back from a game like that says a lot about our team.”
On this game being payback …
“Yeah, I mean, it is payback. I don’t like to do too much talking. We’ll see what happens once we get on the court.”

#1, James Young, G/F, Fr.

On memories of LSU …
“It was pretty bad. We didn’t come out to play as well as we should have when we went there and we took them lightly. That’s something we’re going to give them a lot of payback when they get here.”

On why they took LSU lightly …
“I just heard from a couple guys that played here before that said they’re not good and stuff like that. So I just came out there and didn’t really take them like they were going to come out there and play hard. They did. When they come here, we’re just on payback.”

On whether they looked at LSU tape …
“We really didn’t. We just focused on us; see what we had to do to improve and what we did last game probably to stop (Johnny O’Bryant). We gotta stop him more than anything. That’s about it.”

On how to contain O’Bryant …
“Probably just double-team him a lot more. Just straight traps as soon as he gets the ball and make him go baseline.”

On how he accounts for UK making more shots in the final minutes against LSU …
“I feel like we know when we’re about to lose or it’s coming close to losing, we just get that extra energy burst and we don’t want to lose. So everybody’s confidence and focus, I guess, gets an extra boost and everybody concentrates a lot more.”

On whether he was settling too much for outside shots …
“Yeah, definitely. I was just taking contested 3s. He (Calipari) just told me to give a little up fake and try to get the hole as much as I can and attack.”

On whether he is thinking less in those situations now …
“Uh, yes. I feel like if I have a 3 I’ll just take it, but I usually just don’t as much. So now I’m kind of aware of what I should do now and just attack the defense because they usually just go by my up fakes and my pump fakes, so I can just do that a lot more now.”

On Julius Randle saying this season has been a process …
“Definitely. We came a long way. In the beginning we were just 16 individuals playing on a team, but now we’re coming closer together like one big team.”

On whether he expected it to be like this …
“Not at all. It was kind of hard for us to get to know each other and know each other’s (personality), but like the process was, we know each other now.”

On what it’s like watching film with Calipari one-on-one …
“He tells you—we call it medicine. He feeds you all the bad things and you know you’re not going to like it but you gotta get it anyway. Just learn from it. It’s nice because you see everything you do wrong and he points it out to you. You just gotta fix it.”