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February 18th, 2018

SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Things Fall Apart

(USA Today)

The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines from a crazy week of college basketball in the conference.

1. The Gators Take a Dive

In the SEC’s weekly competition to see which talented team has the worst week, the Gators have emerged victorious.

Mike White’s team somehow found a way to lose to both Vanderbilt and Georgia this week who happen to be two of the worst squads in the conference. It doesn’t get much more disappointing than that.

Every week I mention the Gators just because they consistently find new ways to surprise me. Last week they were surprisingly good, this week surprisingly bad. Its been like this all season and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What does make sense, however, is that Florida’s success is largely dependent on the play of junior guard Jalen Hudson. He is the leading scorer on the year for the Gators, but he failed to score a single point against Georgia and he only had 10 against Vanderbilt.

If Hudson turns things around then maybe Florida will be more consistent, but at this rate any prediction made about the Gators is sure to be a wrong one.

2. No Place Like Home

You have probably heard that home court advantage matters in college basketball. In fact, the saying has become a bit overused in today’s sports world. However, this week the SEC proved there is really no place like home.

Out of 14 SEC games, the road team was victorious just twice. Overall, that speaks to the parity of the conference. All season the SEC has been one of the best conferences in the country from top to bottom.

Good teams defend their home court. However, an argument can obviously be made that great teams find ways to win on the road and the SEC doesn’t have a great team this year.

I find that to be very true. There isn’t a great SEC team this season, but the same goes for every conference in college basketball. Villanova and Virginia are good, but even they have fallen victim to huge upsets this year.

This is the season of parity in college basketball, and the SEC standings are the brightest example of that.

3. Arkansas Wins the Week 

The Razorbacks are 19-8 on the year and have shot up to third place in the SEC after winning four straight conference games. They proved their worth this week as they were one of the two teams who won on the road after winning at Ole Miss.

Arkansas followed that up with an absolute thrashing of a depleted Texas A&M team on Saturday. Senior guard Jaylen Bradford has led the Razorbacks in scoring all season long and he showed up in a big way against the Aggies by posting 21 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds.

When you have one of the conferences best players in Bradford playing well, it’s easy to see why Arkansas has enjoyed this much success. But the real credit should go to Head Coach Mike Anderson.

Anderson has always been an underrated coach, but this is the perfect season for his team to breakthrough and win the SEC Tournament. With the Razorbacks playing like this, an SEC Championship doesn’t seem out of reach.

4. Texas A&M is Heading for the NIT 

Just last week I said that the Aggies looked like the team most likely to win the SEC Tournament. Well fast forward to this week and I don’t look very smart.

In my defense, I made that prediction before two of  A&M’s players went down due to injury so it makes sense why they are walking out of this week with two losses.

Billy Kennedy’s team is now sitting at ninth place in the SEC with a 17-10 overall record. Add that with the fact that multiple players are down with serious injuries and you have a recipe for a good NIT team.

Tuesday’s game against a much improved Mississippi State team is a must win for Texas A&M. If they drop what will be a big resume-building game, expect the Aggies to miss the big dance. For a multitude of reasons, it just has not been Texas A&M’s year.

5. A Glimmer of Hope for Kentucky

Guess what everyone??? Kentucky won a basketball game in February!!!!

For the past two weeks, the Wildcats struggled….and struggled….and struggled some more. After the first four-game losing streak under John Calipari’s tenure at UK, it was obvious that these young Cats hit the freshman wall hard.

However, Kentucky figured out how to win basketball games once again and they defeated a good Alabama team in Rupp Arena on Saturday. While the Wildcat’s offense was still painful to watch, they found a new way to get a victory: through real team basketball.

A total of 5 players were in double figures for UK, and even more impressively the Wildcats had a ridiculous 44-27 rebounding advantage over the Crimson Tide on the boards.

This may not be a championship team, but its still an immensely talented one that is still healthy. If they keep rebounding well and playing more as a team on offense, then the Wildcats could find their way to the second weekend of the big dance.

Tuesday’s game at Arkansas will be the perfect test for UK. A win sends a statement that Kentucky can still conjure up a special run in the postseason. A loss will hand UK its 10th of the season, and with three regular season games left the Wildcats could still collapse and miss the NCAA tournament.

There is hope for the young Wildcats, but as Texas A&M would tell you, things can fall apart in a hurry in the SEC.


Anthony Davis wears DeMarcus Cousins jersey in All-Star Game

DeMarcus Cousins may not be able to play in the All-Star Game after suffering a torn Achilles, but his teammate made sure to include him in the action.

At tipoff, Anthony Davis wore Cousins’ jersey, and kept it on for the entire first half.

And it didn’t take long for him to make some highlight plays in Boogie’s honor.

According to CLNS Media’s Clevis Murray, Davis planned on wearing the jersey all along, but was told he wasn’t allowed to.

#LaFamilia don’t follow no stinkin’ rules.

Nothing beats the BBN.


$1,804,068.77 Raised For The Kids at Dance Blue 2018

This post was contributed by Alex Holder and Brent Wainscott

Easily the best thing the University of Kentucky does, in my opinion, is their annual dance marathon to raise money for UK children’s hospital, Dance Blue. This year was the 13th year of Dance Blue and each year is better than the last. As someone who has had a family member involved in the Children’s clinic at UK, this event is truly astonishing and proves how much these students really care about the health of our future, along with the kids themselves.

At Dance Blue, UK students are on their feet 24 hours dancing for one cause and that’s to help raise money for the UK children’s hematology/oncology and all the proceeds to help children fighting cancer. It helped to build the current facility they’re in and the state of the art equipment for the future.

On Saturday night, the marathon is primarily for the students to get acquainted with the line dance they do at the top of every hour and some years some of the athletes, mascots, or coaches will come join the students in the marathon. On Sunday, Dance Blue invites the families who have helped with Dance Blue or has had Dance Blue help them to come watch the event along with the children’s talent show, the celebration of life hour, and of course the big reveal.  It’s truly a great event.

Each year Dance Blue raises money and each year the end of marathon total increases, which is an amazing feat alone, but the total has now reached over 13 million dollars in 13 years after $1,804,068.77 was raised today.

Keynote speaker, Jennifer Mynear, said never in a million years did we think Dance blue would turn into what it is today…If we bottled up what dance Blue embodies and spread it this world would have fewer problems.

Alpha Chi Omega sophomore Margret Dolan participated for the first time this year and said participating in a cause that truly made a difference was inspiring.

“Being on the dance floor for the first time in dance blue was by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Dolan said. “Seeing 1,000 students come together and being on their feet (and in a good mood) for 24 hours was unbelievable. The best part about it all was the kids, every dance and every second on our feet was for them. Knowing we’re making a difference in Kentucky with pediatric cancer is an empowering feeling.”

The AXO sorority raised over 11,000 for the event.

UK Delta Gamma sophomore is Katy Kerwin also participated in the great cause.

“Although DanceBlue is a long and tiring 24-hours, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the families faces light up during the donation reveal,” Kerwin said. “Often times people feel there is nothing for them to do to help a child who is fighting such a horrible disease, but DanceBlue has drastically changed my opinion on that. DanceBlue opens the minds and hearts and souls of every single person that even knows the word DanceBlue.”

Delta Gamma had a goal to raise $31,000 but ended up raising over $33,000.

Michael Danahy graduated from UK in 2015 and is now currently part of the Golden Matrix Fund Advisory Council, a group of alumni that are stewards to raise all of the funds for DB.

He said standing for 24 hours isn’t easy, but the end result makes it all worth it.

“Being on your feet for 24 hours is a tough task,” Danahy stated. “But the reason so many students do it and so many alumni come back to cheer them on is because it’s the least we can do to support the families of the DanceBlue Clinic.”

What better way to show the kids that they are not alone than to dance for them for 24 hours

Well done, University of Kentucky students. Well done.

@alex_holder_KSR @BrentW_KSR


Anthony Davis serves as guinea pig for groundbreaking virtual reality technology in the NBA

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to have superstar basketball abilities and a multi-million dollar unibrow, your time may be coming.

Former Wildcat and NBA All-Star Anthony Davis recently demoed a new virtual reality technology presented by Verizon, featuring an outer camera to virtually build the world around you. For Davis, the basketball court he was standing on was created in his headset, and he was able to shoot free throws and jumpers completely in virtual reality.

So why would anyone want to virtually be in the place they are physically in already?

The new technology allows for a fan experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Fans will eventually be able to “join the court” with NBA stars and participate in the same drills and games as their idols. Just by putting on a headset, you will be able to talk to and interact with individuals you likely would have never had the opportunity to. With countless former Kentucky stars blossoming into young NBA studs, the Big Blue Nation has a lot to look forward to.

And according to SB Nation’s Paul Flanner, it’s right around the corner.

The headset is made by Verizon and offers a glimpse into the world of 5G technology, which is still in the development stage. 5G is the future and it will be here sooner rather than later. The company says it will begin offering residential service in Sacramento by the latter half of the year.

Verizon says that 5G will be 100 times faster than 4G, which addresses one of the key issues in virtual reality technology: latency. That’s a measure of how quickly information is processed and presented back to you.

In Davis’ eyes, this technology is a game changer for the sports world.

“I saw everything that I would see with my real eyes,” Davis said. “Lot of crazy, crazy things going on in this world. Everything was showing up in real time, so that was pretty dope.”

Former Gator and current Washington Wizard Bradley Beal also tried out the technology, saying it reminded him of something you’d see in RoboCop.

“When you first put them on, it’s a black screen. Then all of a sudden the camera turns on and it’s not your eyesight; it’s the cameraman. It’s kind of weird to experience, but the signal is so fast it’s like your eyes are actually working. I kind of felt like RoboCop,” said Beal.

Before long, you’ll be able to meet your former Wildcat idols in a way fans were only able to dream of until Verizon made it a reality.

Pretty nuts.

In other news, Davis spent yesterday afternoon at the Food Bank in Los Angeles giving back to the community. Here’s a quick clip he shared from his experience:

On Valentine’s Day, the former Wildcat big man unleashed his inner Dr. Phil and gave relationship advice as the “Master of Rejection.”

Take a look:

The Brow stays busy.


Baseball Notebook: The BatCats Start 4-0

Kentucky Athletics (SEC Sports)

Ask any coach, the first weekend of the season rarely has an effect on where a team will finish in June. But Nick Mingione and Kentucky will obviously be a lot happier with this year’s start over last year’s. One year after starting 0-4, the BatCats began 2018 4-0 with an opening weekend sweep in South Carolina. The sweep included wins over Wofford, USC Upstate, and Evansville in a round-robin style series. The BatCats got big outings on the mound from Sean Hjelle, Justin Lewis, and Daniel Harper. The strong pitching performances helped UK to outscore their opponents 30-14 this weekend. The undefeated weekend was UK’s first 4-0 start since 2012.

Game Recaps

Kentucky 6 Wofford 1

Nick Mingione won his first season opener with a fundamentally sound victory over Wofford on Friday. Sean Hjelle threw six shutout innings while the offense scored runs in four consecutive innings. In the first four innings, Luke Heyer, Tristan Pompey, and Luke Becker all hit their first home runs of 2018. Carson Coleman and Alec Maley combined for eight strikeouts in three innings to close out the final three innings of a season-opening win. The 6-1 win was UK’s first opening day win since 2015.

Kentucky 6 USC Upstate 5

Before UK could blink, they were down 5-0 against USCU. The dreary Saturday afternoon weather in Spartanburg might have played a factor in a sluggish start for Zack Thompson and UK. Thompson was pulled after allowing five runs thru 2.2 innings on Saturday. Luckily for Thompson, his bullpen and offense picked him up over the next 7.1 innings. After picking up a pair of unearned runs in the sixth, UK trailed by three when Ben Aklinski ripped a solo home run to get the Cats within two in the 7th. While the bullpen kept the Spartans quiet, UK’s offense completed the comeback. T.J Collett and Kole Cottam drove in runs to tie the game in the 8th. After a scoreless 9th, the game headed to extras. Luke Becker led off the tenth with a double and Kole Cottam singled him home to give UK a 6-5 lead. Chris Machamer finished off the Spartans with a scoreless bottom of the tenth.

Chris Machamer came out of the bullpen to shut down USC Upstate on Saturday. (UK Athletics)

Kentucky 10 USC Upstate 3

Life was a beach and Kentucky was just playing in the sand on Saturday night. 35 minutes removed from an extra-inning win over the Spartans, the Cats started game two of the doubleheader. Justin Lewis was electric in six innings of shutout baseball. After turning down the Tampa Bay Rays offer, Lewis returned to UK for 2018. The redshirt junior struck out nine Spartans and allowed only two baserunners in his season debut. Lewis left the game with seven runs of support from his offense. The Cats scored two in the second and four in the sixth before the middle of their lineup started pushing balls over the fence in the 8th. Luke Becker and T.J Collett hit home runs in the three-run eighth as UK polished off a 10-3 win.

Kentucky 8 Evansville 4

Regardless of your opponent, making your collegiate debut is difficult. Freshman pitcher Daniel Harper made his inaugural start look easy in Sunday’s win over Evansville. The Kansas-native allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out eight in four innings against the Aces. Harper wiggled out of a couple early jams as Evansville went 0/4 with runners in scoring position against Harper. While the Aces struggled to bring runners in, UK was lighting up the scoreboard. Tristan Pompey went 4/4 with three runs and Ryan Johnson collected three RBIs on a bases-clearing double in the third. The Cats led 8-2 after six before Evansville attempted a late comeback in the eight. The Aces scored two runs and looked ready for more, but Maley slammed the door by recording two outs on three pitches. Evansville could not rally in the 9th and UK wrapped up their first 4-0 start since 2012.

 

Storylines

Kentucky’s Bullpen Answers Questions

No Logan Salow or Zach Pop? No problem. UK’s bullpen showed that they have a bevy of talent in 2018 to replace Salow and Pop. The Cats got 11.1 consecutive innings of shutout work from their pen to open their season. The biggest performance came on Saturday afternoon when the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings of scoreless to pick up Zack Thompson who was chased early. Brad Schaenzer, Jimmy Ramsey, and Chris Machamer combined to allow five hits and to strike out seven as their offense crawled back from a 5-0 deficit to win. It remains to be seen which guys will be consistent throughout 2018, but the opening weekend showed that Jimmy Belanger’s bullpen will still have guys that can finish games.

UK Athletics

Tristan Pompey is an OBP Machine

The “Lav Sav” has picked up where he left off in 2017. After reaching base in every game this weekend, Pompey has reached base in 41 straight games dating back to last season. Pompey went 4/4 on Sunday and is already hitting .470 with three doubles and six runs scored. It has been a lot of fun watching Pompey grow into what he is today. This weekend showed that there has been no dropoff since 2017. He had great plate appearances and reached base 11 times (four extra-base hits) at the leadoff position this weekend.

Luke Heyer and Ben Aklinski Make Loud 2018 Debuts

There has been so much attention on Pompey (for good reason), that centerfielder Ben Aklinski flew under the radar in the preseason. The speedy, athletic JUCO transfer hit .411 in four games this weekend. Aklinski collected his first career home run this weekend from the three spot in the lineup, and he also stole a base and scored three runs. Luke Heyer showed promise off the bench last season, but he has taken over as the starting third baseman in 2018. Yet another JUCO transfer from the class of 2016, Heyer hit two home runs this weekend and drove in six runs in four games in South Carolina.

The Week Ahead

Kentucky will have two days off to start the week before their home opener on Wednesday. Defending Big East Champions Xavier will come into Lexington for a 4 ET first pitch at the Cliff. The Musketeers are once again near the top in the Big East, so this game will be a good test for the young Cats. Next weekend, UK will host Oakland for a three-game series in Lexington.

 


FINAL HOURS: 20% off at the KSR Shop!

Kentucky’s big win against Alabama means the Big Blue Buckets sale is running all day at Kentucky Branded and the KSR Shop. Head to ShopKSR.com to receive 20% off all your favorite KSR and UK items.

Now is the perfect time to check out the KSR sweatshirts, jackets, UK fleece pullovers, t-shirts, hats, and more. Hurry, sale ends at midnight. Tell your family and friends. Go Cats!

[BIG BLUE BUCKETS: 20% off at the KSR Shop]


Happy Birthday, Erin Calipari!

@UKCoachCalipari

Ending the 4-game losing streak might’ve just been Cal’s early birthday gift for his daughter Erin, who turns 31 years old today.

If the skid was just a plot by Cal so that he didn’t have to buy a birthday gift… well played, sir.

Happy birthday, Erin! Hopefully the Vanderbilt mail staff doesn’t steal your brownies.

@JayWinkKSR


UK Hoops falls to South Carolina 81-63

(Via @KentuckyWBB)

It was another tough loss for Kentucky today as they fell to South Carolina 81-63. UK Hoops started off the game 6-of-13 from the field. An early three from No. 4 Maci Morris helped Kentucky come out strong in the first period. The score at the end of the first period was 19-18, with South Carolina holding a slight lead over the Cats.

The second period found UK Hoops lacking in their offense. Kentucky started off the period 0-4 from the field, with five turnovers. The Gamecocks were able to score their biggest lead of the game on a 13-0 run. The Cats only scored 2-of-11 from the field and had eight turnovers in the second period. The score at halftime was 38-26.

South Carolina scored 29 points in the third period, including 11 from the free throw line. Kentucky just wasn’t able to stop the Gamecocks, who were scoring 54% from the field and had hit 5 threes by the end of the third period. The score at the end of the third period was 67-44.

In the fourth period, UK Hoops hit a season high of 18 turnovers. The Cats were shooting 36%, their worst field goal percentage in a game since their game on January 15 against Vanderbilt. But, it wasn’t all bad news for Kentucky: Morris hit a career-high 35 points. The final score was 81-63.

“Great game for South Carolina today,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said in the post-game press conference. “They out-hustled us today.” As for Morrison’s career-high 35 point, Coach Mitchell had this to say: “She has worked really hard and we executed. Her teammates helped her get open with some good screens but she really gave it a great effort. Tough kid.”

UK Hoops will play the University of Mississippi at Mississippi on Thursday, February 22, at 8:30 pm. Kentucky will be back at Memorial Coliseum to take on Mississippi State University on Sunday, February 25 at noon.


Kentucky swimmer Asia Seidt claims SEC Title

Photo: UKathletics

While you were watching some basketball game last night, one Kentucky swimmer was earning a gold medal at the SEC Championships. Sophomore Asia Seidt brought home a first place finish for UK in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing with a new school record-breaking time of 50.86 seconds. She out-touched a Missouri swimmer, who finished second by just five-hundredths of a second.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” said Seidt. “I got third last year at SECs and I just wanted to come in and see what I could do. [Coach] Lars [Jorgensen] and I talked at the beginning of the year, and we really wanted to focus on being able to take it out in the 100 back and then bring it back even faster. That was something I was able to do tonight and I was really excited about it.”

Fellow sophomore Madison Winstead also made her way onto a podium last night, finishing third in the 100-yard breaststroke. The Lexington native also got her name in the Kentucky record books, posting a school-best time of 59.38.

More Cats will hit the deck today for the final day of competition. The meet will air live on SEC Network at 7 p.m., with events including the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, women’s platform diving and the 400 freestyle relay. 

Cats by 90!


@MaggieDavisKSR


Adam Silver “not rushing” through one-and-done rule change

Photo: Getty Images

Those wanting the end of the one-and-done era may have to wait just a bit longer.

During an All-Star Weekend press conference, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about a potential one-and-done rule change, and said the league won’t be “rushing” to a major decision anytime soon. He did acknowledge, however, discussions would need to start sooner rather than later.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest,” said Silver. “We’re outside of our cycle of collective bargaining right now, which is when we generally address an issue like that… There is no reason we shouldn’t at least be discussing it right now.”

The debate has to do with the eventual quality of league play. Silver says there is no debate that some 18-year-olds are able to play out of high school, but seeing them play against elite competition in college allows for greater success in the NBA Draft. He also adds that a rule change would likely help the G-League become more competitive and provide quality minutes for those not quite ready for the league.

The rule change would likely take the minimum age requirement from 19 to 18 if players wanted to enter the draft out of high school, with a two-year rule being implemented if you play college basketball.

Check out Silver’s remarks in their entirety:

 

If the rule were to be changed, we’d likely see the top ten prospects or so enter the draft each year, and the rest of college basketball would have to fight for the next-best tier athletes.

They’d just get two years to work with them.

Thoughts?


WATCH: KYWildcatsTV gives you highlights from Kentucky’s 81-71 victory over Alabama

Kentucky ended the worst losing streak of the Calipari era yesterday afternoon, and it felt pretty darn good to get that monkey off their back.

Everyone on the team carried their own weight, the energy was up, they rebounded well, and shots were falling in crunch time.

The voice the Wildcats, Tom Leach, was just about as excited to get back on the right track as you can imagine.

Check out the highlights synced with Leach’s call of the game:

Let’s start a new streak of our own.


The Optimists of #BBN Have Reemerged

It had been a borderline depressing couple of weeks for UK fans leading into yesterday’s clash with the Crimson Tide. Genuine frustration coupled with the understanding that this year’s team is full of potential made the 4-game losing skid almost intolerable.

And yet, like a light switch, the Cats turned on, and with the win came a swath of fans ready to realign their expectations for the remainder of the 2018 season.

There were, of course, those who viewed this W as a classic turning point.

Others saw the first in a potential string of victories.

And where do the most extreme glass-half-full folks come down?

All in all, it’s positive vibes like these that keep the fans’ morale afloat. But let’s also acknowledge that Rupp Arena was abnormally audible yesterday, and the Cats have to immediately turn around and head to Bud Walton Arena to face Arkansas on Tuesday.

If Saturday really was the day this team galvanized and started their March campaign, then the Razorbacks shouldn’t pose much of an threat. But if the Bama win was an outlier…

Baby steps, folks.

@JayWinkKSR


PREVIEW: UK Hoops travels to Columbia to take on No. 8 South Carolina

After a dominate 78-57  victory over Arkansas Thursday, the Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to stay in the win column this afternoon. The team is back on the road to play No. 8 South Carolina inside Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks have won seven straight games against Kentucky, including their 81-64 defeat over the Wildcats earlier this season.

The Cats fell to the then-No. 10 South Carolina inside Rupp Arena back in January. Junior Maci Morris scored 19 points and Taylor Murray added 17, but the duo was not enough to overcome South Carolina’s 60 percent field-goal shooting.

In order to compete with the Gamecocks today, Kentucky will need to recreate their balanced offense from last Thursday. Against Arkansas, the Cats had five players score in double figures: Morris joined Alyssa Rice, Keke McKinney, Tatyana Wyatt and Dorie Harrison. UK had the 32-7 advantage in bench points and a 38-12 edge in points in the paint. 

On the defensive end, the Wildcats will have their hands full with the reining SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, who is averaging 22.5 points per game and adding an average of 11.6 rebounds. On the season, she’s shooting 54.9 percent from the field. Wilson is currently on the watchlist for National Player of the Year – she needs just 36 more points to hit 1,000 points in SEC regular-season games.

Coach Matthew Mitchell knows the road ahead is a tough one.

“Victories right now are important there is no doubt about that, but we have a very difficult final three games,” Mitchell said. “Two out of the three are against top ranked teams that are at the top of our conference and then another road game. So it is a difficult stretch.”

Luckily, the Cats found some mojo during their shoot around this morning:

The game is USC’s annual Pink Game for breast cancer survivors. Tip is set for 3 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC network. Check back in following the game for more UK Hoops coverage!


@MaggieDavisKSR


Calipari defends playing Hamidou Diallo, and if he keeps working, he will continue to do so

After averaging only 6.6 points and nearly two turnovers per contest over Kentucky’s last ten games, Hamidou Diallo has not been a fan favorite as of late. His arguing with teammates and coaches have only made it worse.

He made comments earlier in the week about how bad it hurt to struggle the way he has and how hard he’s going to work to get out of his rut. He wanted to earn some faith back from the Big Blue Nation.

Last night against Alabama, Diallo again struggled shooting the ball, finishing with eight points on 3-9 from the field. But the effort and intensity were there, and the Rupp Arena crowd appreciated him for that. It looked like a step in the right direction.

After the game, John Calipari was asked about Diallo’s slump, how he was balancing nurturing him and getting the team back on the right track, and if his performance against the Crimson Tide was a step in the right direction.

For Coach Cal, Diallo is someone’s son, and if he’s willing to put in the extra time and effort, there’s zero chance he’ll leave him behind.

“Let’s think about that, it’s your son, and he’s struggling. It’s your son now, not somebody else’s son, your son. Would you want me to just bench him and say, we’ll worry about it next year? That’s what you’d want me to do with your son?”

The Kentucky head coach said his starting shooting guard has bad habits to break, but he’s in the gym late at night to fix them.

“I’m with Hami,” said Calipari. “He’s trying. He’s working. He’s got some habits that are so bad, and they are habits; that they pop out sometimes at the wrong time. My job is to make sure he’s not hurting the team — ready for this — or himself, and to keep working with him. But when I go in my office at 10 o’clock at night or 11, I’d better see him in there every once in a while, and you know what, I am.

Calipari then took ownership of the team’s struggles and told the audience it was okay to be mad at him, but said he’s going to continue to put the players first, even if it costs the team some games.

“Don’t be mad at the kids. Be mad at me. I recruited them. I’m coaching them. I’m the one that’s buying time for guys which may be costing us some games, but I’m going to continue to do it. I told you when I walked in the door, this is going to be about the players first, and I’m trying to stay that course.”


Do the Cats have trust issues?

Following yesterday’s win, Coach Calipari alluded to the fact that, despite the end of the season quickly approaching, some of his players still do not trust him. Yes, really.

At the beginning of this season, it was obvious this team did not trust each other. And back in October and November, that was fine  – they’re all freshmen, they’re playing together for the first time, they’re just learning how to play alongside equal talent. But through playing for UK and for Coach Cal, this would all resolve itself. Right?

Up until yesterday’s game, the answer was questionable at best. For the majority of the season, there has been a low percentage of assists and a high percentage of unsuccessful “hero ball,” especially in close games. While yesterday’s game showed improvement through a (less) selfish UK team, Coach Calipari believes there are still trust issues on the team.

“Why don’t they trust me? I’ve got a couple guys in here that do not trust me right now,” Coach Cal said after the game.

He used former players, like visitors Willie Cauley-Stein and Bam Adebayo, to show this team why they need to trust him and each other.

“I asked [Cauley-Stein and Adebayo], in front of my team: ‘why did you trust me? Why, Willie, did you trust me?’ You know what he did? He pointed to all of the NBA players on the wall [and said] ‘That’s why I trusted you.'”

Calipari then faced the back of the media room, where Bam had snuck in to watch the post-game press conference.

“Bam, you never got the ball, and you trusted me. And Miami thinks they got the best player in the draft.”

So what does this team have to do to trust each other? The answer probably won’t surprise you. Like most things, it simply comes with time and experience, something this team obviously has a disadvantage in at this point.

But, according to Cal, at least one player has it figured out: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

“He is one… like he trusts. He’s totally bought into: ‘what do you want me to do?,'” Calipari said. “He’s still, at the end of games, got to make better decisions, but that’s us helping him.”

Jarred Vanderbilt recognizes the team did struggle to have faith in one another earlier in the season, but he doesn’t see that problem anymore.

“I feel like we did at a point [struggle with trust].  But we’re starting to get better,” Vanderbilt said. “Each game, you can see the trust is getting there. Like today… the guys came together, we trusted each other. We even trusted Coach. We came together and got the win.”

And while Vanderbilt may believe the problem is solved, the Cats still struggle with one critical aspect of their game: assists. Kentucky has failed to dish out ten or more assists in five of their last six games. In other words, since the West Virginia game, UK has only hit double-digit assists once. Until that number improves, I think it’s fair to say, yes, the Cats still struggle with their trust issues.


@MaggieDavisKSR