#9 Kentucky escapes #11 Washington 74-67

November 24, 2010 1:36 am

Kentucky came out again in the first half tonight and put on a clinic going on an 18-2 run early in the first half. The Cats managed foul trouble and a poor shooting night to pick up a hard earned early season win. Washington is going to hang around the top 15 all year and this win is the first of what I expect to be many that will make up a solid tournament resume come March. Kentucky will now tip it up with UConn who took down the 2nd ranked Spartans of Michigan State earlier tonight for the 2010 EA Sports Maui Invitational Championship. It’s late and I have to be up early so here are few quick notes:

  • Kentucky dominated the glass tonight winning the battle 44-33. This team was expected to be weak on the boards but with the effort of Harrellson and Jones this team may make rebounding a strength.
  • T-3 was once again a man tonight. He struggled shooting from the field (4-13) all night but still managed to end up with 16 points to accompany his 17 boards. What a night for #3!
  • Brandon Knight lit up the scoreboard leading all scorers with 24 points. The part of his game that struggled tonight were his turnovers. 0/8 was his assists to turnover numbers tonight, that won’t get it done but he still managed to run the offense well as he was desperately missed when he sat the last 9 minutes of the first half with 2 fouls.
  • Josh Harrellson had a very solid night. Yes he had a few plays were he just couldn’t seem to get control of the ball but overall his hustle plays which resulted in timely rebounds is what may have been the difference tonight.

Kentucky will now go for their 2nd Maui title tomorrow night, but win or lose this has been a successful tournament and we are really getting to see this team develop into the type of team that Coach Calipari would like to put on the floor every night. Of course we want this win though. Go Big Blue!

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#9 Cats Roll Sooners 76-64

November 23, 2010 1:20 am

The boys in blue came out once again firing on all cylinders scoring 21 points in the first 5:00 minutes of action leaving no doubt who the more superior team was. Oklahoma played tough and cut the UK lead numerous times to single digits but it never got closer than 6. Kentucky shot the ball well from the floor again and looked good getting to the rim at will against their most athletic opponent to date. A few quick individual notes:

  • Terrence Jones once again looked dominant. The 6’9 wing/forward took over in the second half scoring 17 of his 29 in the second frame. He also grabbed 13 boards which is his second “20,10” game of the season. T-3 really was a man-child out on the floor tonight and it’s performances like this that the Cats will need without Enes Kanter eligible to play.
  • DeAndre Liggins aka Mr Do Everything once again filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 12 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, and 3 stl. A solid line for DeAndre who injured his right shoulder late in the ball game but said afterwords that it was sore but he definitely expects to play Tuesday night.
  • Brandon Knight didn’t have his best game in a Kentucky uniform but luckily it wasn’t needed on this night. Knight had 5 turnovers to go along with 3 assists. The Dribble Drive Motion Offense keys off of the point guard putting it in to motion and Knight did a fairly decent job of doing that tonight, he just needs to stay under control in certain situations but in the key moments he did what was needed. Knight will always be compared to John Wall but the one aspect of Wall’s game that was underestimated I think was Wall’s ability to seal wins by hitting his free throws down the stretch of ball games. Knight was 1-4 from the charity stripe in that situation tonight. He is a good free throw shooter so hopefully this was an abnormality rather than a trend.

Kentucky improved to 3-0 tonight and will move on to the semi-finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational to face the winner of Washington/Virginia at approximately 9:30 on ESPN. Overall a good night for the Cats and we’ll get to see them in the winners bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Go Big Blue!

The Oklahoma Sooners: 5:30 ESPN2

November 22, 2010 2:02 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cats roll into Maui today for game 1 of the EA Sports Maui Invitational after a smothering defensive performance against Portland. Up first for the Big Blue will be the Sooners of Oklahoma University. Jeff Capel, now in his 5th season with the Sooners will lead Oklahoma into Monday’s contest with a record of 3-0. This undoubtedly will be the easiest game of the tournament for the Cats as Oklahoma only returns 3 players from 13-18 (4-12) 2009-2010 campaign which was the first losing season in Norman since 1981. Statistically speaking, this Oklahoma team does not come into this game looking very impressive. The Sooners currently rank 110th nationally in rebounds per game and 126th in field goal percentage. Another thing to keep in mind is that with all the talk centering once again around the youth and inexperience for Kentucky, this is an Oklahoma team that has only one senior on the roster. Rest assured, this is not Blake Griffin’s Oklahoma team from 2 seasons ago. With that, here will be Oklahoma’s players to keep an eye on:

#2 Steven Pledger- After a solid freshman season for the Sooners, Steven Pledger has emerged as the leading scorer through 3 games for Oklahoma. At 6’4, Pledger playing in the lead guard roll has done a nice job putting the ball on the deck and getting to the free throw line. He is a much more athletic player than UK has seen so far this season and I once again would expect Kentucky’s best defender, DeAndre Liggins, to step up and slow Pledger down. He is also not shy about launching the 3-point ball as he attempted 10 shots from downtown in his last outing against Texas Southern.

#34 Cade Davis- The lone senior on the Oklahoma roster also represents the best 3-point threat for the Sooners. Davis comes into this game shooting 42% from behind the arch. Davis is also a very solid free throw shooter so keeping him from making frequent trips to the charity stripe should help keep the Sooners from scoring over 65.

This shouldn’t be too much of a contest for the Cats considering that Oklahoma represents one of the 6 major conferences. It may also give Coach Calipari some time to play with his new hybrid-zone defense that he has been working on. I have no idea what it will look like but it should be interesting to see if and  how well it works.

Prediction: Cats by 22

 

The Portland Pilots: 10:30 ESPNU

November 18, 2010 11:54 pm

After blowing out East Tennessee State, the Cats will take to the floor in the first of a four game west coast tour when the meet the Pilots of The University of Portland in the Rose Garden. Kentucky came out last Friday night firing on all cylinders showing what the Dribble Drive Motion Offense is supposed to look like. ETSU sat back in a 2-3 zone most of the night allowing plenty of looks from behind the arc and Kentucky took advantage of that shooting 10-17 from downtown in the first half. Shooting the ball was a problem that plagued last years team and one could make the argument that it eventually doomed them in the Elite 8 against West Virginia. That same problem shouldn’t follow this Kentucky team this year with the addition of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. I’m not predicting that the Cats will shoot 50% from the 3-point line all season, but I think it will only take a few trips down the floor this season before Kentucky can shoot teams out of a zone defense allowing the Dribble Drive to really get going. It wasn’t a perfect night though as the interior defense continues to look very weak. It will be up Josh Harrellson, Eloy Vargas, as well as Terrence Jones to control the paint as well as the glass on the defensive side of the ball if this team is going to make any noise in March. Luckily we have 115 days till Selection Sunday.

Now on to game 2 and the 3-0 Portland Pilots. The Pilots were picked preseason #2 in the West Coast Conference only behind #12 Gonzaga. Last season the Pilots were 21-11 (10-4) which included a trip to the College Insider.com Postseason Tournament (Yes, that’s an actual postseason tournament). Portland has also had a little success in the past few seasons upsetting some BCS Conference schools as they knocked off Washington in 2008 and #16 Minnesota as well as Oregon in 2009. This year the Pilots have an average margin of victory at 16 ppg over their 3 opponents which include Milwaukee Wisconsin, UC Davis, and Florida Atlantic. Who to keep an eye on:

#20 Jared Stohl- The 6’1 senior sharpshooter is not only the leading scorer for the Pilots, he is also the most prolific shooter in college basketball. He led the nation in 3-point percentage last season at 48% from behind the arc and is lighting it up at an even higher rate this season pouring it in at 57%. It will be imperative for Kentucky to not let Stohl find a rhythm. I believe they will do this with a combination of defenders probably starting off with DeAndre Liggins.

#43 Luke Sikma- Sikma leads the Pilots in both minutes played as well as rebounds pulling down 13 a game so far this season. The 6’8 senior is also very efficient shooting from the floor dropping it in at 56%. Attacking the rim offensively will be the first option for the Cats and if Sikma can defend the lane effectively without getting into foul trouble he may help Portland stay in this ball game.

This is the final tune-up before the EA Sports Maui Invitational when Kentucky will tip it up in round 1 against Oklahoma. Portland is an experienced team, playing in arguably their biggest game of the season. They have shooters and some effective post players that could cause problems for a young Kentucky team, but UK has the talent and athleticism.

Prediction: Cats by 16

One Last Look Back

November 12, 2010 6:30 pm

As the 2010-2011 edition of the Kentucky Wildcats is just minutes away from officially starting, here is one last look back at what was one of the most fun teams we have had at UK.

The East Tennessee State Buccaneers: 7:00 BBSN

November 11, 2010 5:20 pm

 

2009-2010:  20-14 (13-7) A-Sun Champions, NCAA Tournament 1st Round (L 100-71 #1 Kentucky)

The East Tennessee State Buccaneers will make their way up from Johnson City, Tennessee to take on the 10th ranked Wildcats in the home opener for John Calipari’s second campaign at UK. The Buccaneers will be looking for their 3rd strait A-Sun Conference Title as well as their 3rd strait trip to the Big Dance. With 4 returning starters, it appears head coach Murry Bartow’s team has a solid chance at achieving those goals. This will be the 4th match-up between the Cats and the Bucs with the last coming in last season’s NCAA Tournament 1st Round.

#33 Tommy Hubbard- The 6’4 senior led the Buccaneers in points and rebounds last season but due to knee surgery over the offseason he will not suit it up for the ETSU.

#30 Micah Williams- Another 6’4 senior who will look to pressure Kentucky early on trying to force the inexperience of the UK freshmen into careless turnovers. Williams shot the ball with pretty good efficiency last season going 47% from the field and 36% behind the 3-point stripe.

#3 Justin Tubbs- Tubbs a transfer from Alabama has spent some time playing against SEC caliber players. He is the 3rd returning starter from last season’s 20 win team that averaged double figures in scoring. At 6’3, Stubbs will be part of an undersized lineup looking to force the tempo and once again force turnovers against an inexperienced team. Stubbs is not afraid to pull the trigger from downtown as 67% of his 344 shots came from 3-point range last season.

This is a team that will play a small line-up with a lot of guards looking to force Kentucky into turnovers tomorrow night. Last season in the NCAA Tournament, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe were able to handle the pressure easily and allowed the massive size advantage that UK had take control of the paint. This year both Wall and Bledsoe are gone as well as the size advantage making this a much closer game than I think people will anticipate it being.

Prediction: Cats by 14

 

 

 

 

(9) Florida-48 Kentucky-14

September 27, 2010 12:10 am

It was not a good night in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the Cats as Florida gained 466 yards off offense as they won going away 48-14. The game plan was poor, the defensive play was below average, and the offense turned the ball over at critical points of the game allowing the final score to show a Florida blow-out win. For all but the last 2 weeks we all assumed that this would go down as a loss for the Cats, it did, and now its time to move on to Ole Miss on Saturday. We could try and nitpick here but in reality the better team, on their home field, won. So it’s now time to bring on the Rebels in a must win game if Kentucky has any aspirations of playing on New Years Day. Go Big Blue!

The Florida Gators: Offense 7:00 ESPNU

September 22, 2010 8:04 am

Randall Cobb and the rest of the Cats travel to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a Saturday night match-up against the #9 Florida Gators. It hasn’t been a silky smooth start to the season that Gator fans have been accustomed to over the past few years, but the Gators do find themselves sitting at 3-0 (1-0) in year 1 A.T. (After Tebow). Florida has a few things going for them though, UK has not beaten the Gators since 10-3 win in 1986 and they haven’t won at the Swamp since 1979. Add in all the 4 and 5-star talent that Urban Meyer has assembled in Gainesville and it’s a tall order to expect Coach Phillips to return back to Lexington with his first SEC road win. Kentucky will go into Saturday night’s match-up with a legitimate chance to shock some people and walk out with a win and here’s why. Florida has struggled to manufacture points all season. Take away the stellar defensive play by this Gator team and the legitimately could be staring down the barrel of a 1-2 start. Their defense has forced teams into coughing up the football as the lead the NCAA in INTS (10) and rank 2nd in turnover margin at 2.33 a game. How do these stats give the Cats a chance? Through 3 games, there is 1 team out of 120 in Div 1-A that has not turned the ball over once, Kentucky. 0 turnovers through 12 quarters of play. I’m not predicting that Kentucky won’t cough it up once or maybe twice, but if we take care of the ball, and consistently force John Brantley and the Gator Offense to drive 70+ yards to score, it will be a ball game in the 4th quarter. Now to get you familiar with the Gator Offense:

Quarterback- The argument can be made that over the last 10 years, no one in college football has had bigger shoes to fill than John Brantley. 3 games into his first campaign as a starter, Brantley has yet to throw for more than 172 yards and has a completion percentage rating in the low 60’s, not quite the Tebowesque numbers Gator fans are used to. And where Tebow moved the ball on the ground, Brantley is falling well short in that category as well rushing for -16 yards on the year. This is certainly not the start anyone expected out of Brantley and if his play continues like it has, expect Florida to end the year with a curvy number in the loss column for the first time since ’07.

Backs- Jeff Demps has been the one bright spot on the Florida offense this year. Behind a solid and experienced offensive line Demps has been able to rush for 103.3 yds per game. He’s a speedy track star and keeping him from getting to the edge will be a priority for this Kentucky Defensive unit. Mike Gillislee seems to have played his way into the goal line back spot as he leads the team in rushing TD’s scoring on 3 of his 18 carries this season. He, like every other Gator that will touch the ball, posses great speed and is extremely dangerous in the open field. Emmanuel Moody is the other Gator that is sure to get some carries, and he’s sure to end up disappointing Gator fans.

O-Line- A veteran and experienced group that returns 4 starters from last season’s 13-1 squad has once again been a strength this season. There has been one glaring weakness and that has been senior Mike Pouncey and his shot gun snaps. Florida currently ranks 120th of 120 in fumbles (14) and 110th in fumbles lost (5) through 3 games. Most have come from the center to quarterback exchange and after assuring everyone the problem had been corrected they had another botched snap on the opening drive at Tennessee last week.

Receivers- Florida has managed to complete just over 16 passes a game this year. Their longest pass of the season was a 25 yard TD to Chris Rainey, who as of now is still off the team. The biggest threat coming off the edge is Deonte Thompson who leads the team in both catches and yards. Brantley has done a good job spreading the ball around but it will be Thompson and Carl Moore who will be the big threats as well as TE Omarius Hines.

Kentucky-42 Akron-10

September 19, 2010 8:33 am

The final game of UK’s “preseason” portion of the schedule has come to an end and with the exception of Moncell Allan, everyone appears to be healthy. Kentucky (3-0, 0-0) will begin the SEC schedule next week at Florida and we will then start to see what, if any, are Kentucky’s chances of possibly winning the east and making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Now to last night’s game.

The Good:

  • Mike Hartline continued his solid play tonight converting on 21 of his 29 attempts for 250 yards and 2 scores. Hartline also extended his streak to  3 straight games without a turnover. That will be a key point in next weeks game at Florida, being able to hang on to the football.
  • Derrick Locke had a record breaking night on a couple of different levels. He becomes only the 6th Wildcat in history to rush for 2,000 yards and he did this on the same night where he set a personal best of 166 yards on the ground. Locke also found the endzone twice.
  • Defensively the Cats did tonight what they couldn’t seem to do last week against Western Kentucky and that’s to shut down the run. The Zips gained only 67 yards on 38 carries for 1.8 yards per carry. A much better performance from the defensive unit.

The Bad:

  • The first quarter was absolutely horrendous. The team came out like you hope you never see from a team no matter who the opponent was as they slept walked through the opening frame. They weren’t sharp at all and looked completely out of sync. They got their act together and dominated the 2nd and 3rd quarters of play like you would expect, but starting next Saturday at 7, there can’t be any slow starts like we saw against Akron.
  • As good as the defensive front 7 looked against the run, the secondary looked that bad against the pass. Luckily, Akron’s QB Patrick Nicely couldn’t connect with any of the 4 wide open receivers he saw streaking down the field or else Akron could have stayed in this ball for much longer than they actually did. A blown assignment against the Gators mean 6 points.

Joker Phillips became the first coach in the history of UK Football to start 3-0, getting to 4-0 will prove to be much tougher next week as it would involve getting out of the “swamp” with a W. The Cats are where we expected them to be as we are now 1/4 of the way through this season and the next for weeks will determine if they are SEC contenders. Go Big Blue!

Kentucky-63 Western Kentucky-28

September 12, 2010 6:58 am

The Cats cruised tonight to a 35 point win tonight in Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky didn’t fire on all cylinders tonight but were able to win comfortably. The win moves the Cats to 2-0 on the season and next Saturday will feature the final “tune-up” before the SEC portion of the schedule gets kicked off. In a year where we have already seen a few upsets to BCS schools, it was good to see UK respond quickly after falling behind 7-0. Kentucky reeled off 35 unanswered points to make sure everyone in the stadium knew who would be walking out with the W.

The Good:

  • Joker Phillips becomes the first coach at Kentucky to start out his career 2-0 since Bear Bryant did it in 1946
  • Offensively the Cats looked very solid again tonight. We have now played 2 games and the offensive unit has turned the ball over 0 times.
  • The offensive unit also is featuring great balance right now. Tonight the Cats threw for 276 yards and rushed for 206. Those are good numbers to see and show that UK can move the ball on the ground or through the air.
  • 3rd down efficiency was excellent tonight. Kentucky converted on 8-12 (75%) attempts. Any number over 60% is a very solid number and the Cats continued to keep drives going tonight on 3rd down. This number also reflects solid gains on 1st and 2nd down setting up 3rd and short.

The Bad:

  • Defensively it was not the finest night for Kentucky. 1 score came off of a kick return so we won’t count that. Another came off of a run of 59 yards that was a result of a poor angle taken by SS Mychal Bailey. The big concern was the fact that Western Kentucky drove the ball for scores twice in the 2nd half. The defensive line really was pushed around at times by a Sun-Belt Conference team. This is a weakness right now and you can guarantee that it will be exposed once SEC play starts.
  • The kicking game continues to struggle. Plain and simple. Joe Mansour, the highly touted freshman, was yanked from the kickoff team tonight and seems to be 3rd on the depth chart for place kicking duties. Ryan Tydlacka failed to connect on his only field goal attempt from 35 yards out. Those have to be made consistently and were the difference in allowing Louisville back into last weeks game. Points are at a premium in the SEC and this issue needs to be corrected within the next to weeks.

All in all a pretty good night for Kentucky. There is still plenty to work on but as of now the Cats sit as 1 of 32 teams in BCS Conferences that are currently 2-0. We’ll get you ready this week for the Akron Zips who will roll into Commonwealth Stadium next Saturday. Go Big Blue!!!!