DISH agreed to a long-term distribution agreement with ESPN on Monday that will make the SEC Network available to its subscribers when the new network launches in August. The channel will be available in DISH's Top 120+ and higher packages across the country.
"Few fan bases rival the passion and loyalty of the SEC, and DISH is proud to be the first nationwide television provider of the SEC Network," said Dave Shull, DISH executive vice president and chief commercial officer. "We strive to give our customers and consumers what they want, and there's no better place for the college sports fan than with DISH."
The channel number will be announced at a later date.
"This is an important day for the SEC Network," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. "We are pleased to welcome DISH to the SEC family. More than five months ahead of the network launch, it's exciting to have a national distributor and our first satellite provider onboard. Now SEC fans from across the country have another way to show their conference pride and sign up to get the SEC Network."
Fans played an important role in making the deal happen by showing DISH and other providers how much they want access to the SEC Network. UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart reminded everyone in that fact soon after the announcement.
Remember, visit http://t.co/FkQ5M7J7xO if your provider hasn't signed on to carry the network and demand they do.-- Mitch Barnhart (@UKMitchBarnhart) March 4, 2014
- The Kentucky baseball team ran its winning streak to seven games while opening its home schedule with a midweek win over Wright State (7-1) and a series sweep over Eastern Michigan (8-2, 9-5, 13-2), a team that beat No. 13 Clemson on opening day.
- The Wildcats - ranked last week No. 30 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and No. 25 by Perfect Game - will return to action with a doubleheader with Cincinnati on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will then host Mid-American Conference power Ball State for the final three-game non-conference series before Southeastern Conference play begins, starting on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
- UK's numbers during the four-game week saw UK hit .353 as a team, drawing 23 walks, getting hit by six pitches, stealing 12 bases and striking out just 14 times. On the mound, UK owned a 0.75 ERA in 36 innings, holding opponents to a .188 average.
- Julius Randle captured his 16th double-double of the season in the loss to South Carolina with 10 points and 15 rebounds. He is now eighth in the single season UK record books for double-doubles on the year.
- Randle also moved into fourth place in UK freshman record books with 303 rebounds on the season. That's 18 more than UK's freshman single-season record holder, Anthony Davis, had through the same number of games.
- UK has hauled in 15 or more offensive rebounds in 18 different games this season. UK has charted consecutive games with 20 or more offensive rebounds for the first time since the 2012 Championship season when that team pulled down 20 in consecutive games on Dec. 31, 2011 (Louisville) and Jan. 3, 2012 (Arkansas Little-Rock).
- Kentucky went 2-0 on the week with thrilling wins over Mississippi State in overtime, 81-74 and a 65-63 win over Vanderbilt at home on Senior Day.
- In the Mississippi State game, junior Bria Goss netted 20 points, including eight in overtime, while senior forward DeNesha Stallworth posted All-American type numbers with 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds to go along with a season-high four blocks and two steals. She became just the sixth player in UK history to grab 20 or more rebounds in a game. All eleven players that saw action contributed to the win by scoring at least two points.
- In UK's regular season home finale and Senior Day for Kastine Evans, Bernisha Pinkett, Stallworth and Samarie Walker, Kentucky escaped Memorial Coliseum with a hard-fought win over Vanderbilt. The Wildcats led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but an 18-2 Vanderbilt run got the Commodores back in the game. Once again, Stallworth stole the show as she scored a team-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. Goss added 12 points, including hitting five of six critical free throws in the final 38 seconds to seal UK's seventh straight win over Vandy. The senior class tied the school record for the winningest class in school history with 105 wins.
- With the victories, UK earned a No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament and is set to face the winner of Florida (No. 5 seed) vs. either Missouri (No. 12 seed) or Mississippi State (No. 13 seed) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports South. UK has now earned a bye in the SEC Tournament in six out Matthew Mitchell's seven seasons at the helm.
- The No. 24 UK gymnastics team recorded the fifth-highest team score in program history to upset No. 11 Auburn Friday, 196.275-194.825. The Wildcats' program-record 49.650 on floor was one of three season-best team scores, all which resulted in event titles for UK. Kentucky's team score was also the second-best at home in its history.
- Kentucky's floor score also was the third-highest in the country this year as the Wildcats improved to 5-1 against Auburn in the past three seasons, all under head coach Tim Garrison. Along with a school-record 49.650 on floor, UK posted a 49.175 on uneven bars, tied for the seventh-best in team history. Kentucky's vault score of 49.200 to open the meet is tied for the 15th best in UK history.
- The Wildcats added 12 season or career bests in the win as Kentucky gymnasts won four events. Individually, Kentucky tallied the top five scores on floor, all with a 9.925 or higher and all career-highs. Senior Audrey Harrison scored a career-best 9.950, while redshirt junior Kayla Hartley, juniors Shelby Hilton and Kenzie Hedges and freshman Taylor Puryear all scored a 9.925. UK posted the top two scores on balance beam, led by Harrison's 9.925. Junior Shannon Mitchell tied for the vault title with a career-high-tying 9.900, and Hartley's 9.900 tied for the uneven bars title.
- UK hosts No. 19 California and Centenary on March 7 on senior day in its home finale. Kentucky will honor three seniors, Holly Cunningham, Audrey Harrison and Kayla Sienkowski, before the 7 p.m. ET contest.
- The Kentucky rifle team placed second at the Great America Rifle Conference with an aggregate of 4672, while winning the conference air rifle title with a 2364.
- GARC Shooter of the Year Emily Holsopple finished second individually in air rifle, shooting a 592, followed by a 204.7 in the final.
- Sophomore Connor Davis shot a team-high 597 in air rifle and after the final placed fourth individually.
- Seven Wildcats were honored over the weekend as members of all-conference teams, with Emily Holsopple winning Shooter of the Year and Senior of the Year, while Sonya May walked away with Rookie of the Year.
- The Kentucky softball team won all three games of its home tournament over the weekend, taking down Butler, Pittsburgh and EKU to continue its best start to a season in school history.
- The Wildcats used come-from-behind efforts to earn two of the three wins. After a 9-7 victory over Butler on Friday night in its home opener, Kentucky posted one-run wins via walk-off hits over Pittsburgh and EKU on Saturday. Sophomore infielder Ansley Smith was the hero against Pittsburgh with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, before senior outfielder Emily Gaines blasted her first career home run in walk-off fashion against EKU to propel Kentucky to a 2-1 win.
- Freshman pitcher Meagan Prince was the star in the circle, coming off the bench to pick up wins in all three games. The native of Martin, Tenn., threw 8.2 innings on the weekend, allowing five runs - only two earned - on five hits with 13 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .156 against Prince in the three games. Senior Lauren Cumbess threw six strong inning against Pittsburgh, allowing just two runs, while freshman Shannon Smith went 4.2 innings against EKU with only one run allowed.
Swimming and diving
- Seven UK swimmers competed at the NCAA Last Chance Qualifier in Athens, Ga., Saturday and Sunday in an effort to improve their season-best times to earn an NCAA A or B qualifying time. Every Wildcat that competed placed in the top six in each race.
- Freshman Kendra Crew set a new UK record in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:13.01 to finish fourth in the A Final. The school-record time is the eighth UK record broken during the 2013-14 season by Kentucky swimmers.
- Freshman Kelly Berger placed second overall in the 1,650 yard freestyle in 16:22.01, the third-fastest time in school history. Fellow freshman Kendal Casey touched the wall in in 16:29.80, just behind Berger in third.
- Junior George Greenhalgh, who posted the top time in the prelims of the 100 yard breaststroke, placed second in the A Final with a 53.77 after a 53.66 in the prelims. Senior Lucas Gerotto finished third in the A Final of the 100 yard backstroke with a time of 47.52. He also finished third in the prelims with a 47.40.
- Kyle Higgins, also a freshman, added a fourth-place finish in 200 butterfly A Final with a time of 1:46.59. Senior Maclin Simpson was third in prelims of the same race and finished in 1:46.73 but did not race in the finals.
- The No. 25 UK men's tennis team moved to the top of the SEC after the first weekend of conference play, sweeping LSU and Arkansas, both on the road, to begin conference action. On Friday, Kentucky took a 5-2 decision from LSU, before recording a 6-1 win over Arkansas on Sunday afternoon.
- Freshman Jerry Lopez clinched both matches on the weekend with singles wins on court four, the first clinches in his career. Lopez won Friday's match with a 4-6, 6-4,. 6-2 win over Tam Trinh of LSU and a 6-4, 6-4 win over Jovan Parlic on Sunday.
- Senior Tom Jomby continued his blistering start to the season, as he defeated Mike Nott and No. 109 Chris Simpson. The wins for Jomby were the 78th 79th of his career. He is now 12-1 on the season and at a career-high singles ranking of No. 14.
- UK returns home for the first time in four weeks, as the Wildcats take on top-10 ranked Texas A&M on Friday at 5 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center.
- The No. 31 UK women's tennis team (12-2, 2-0 SEC) went 2-0 to begin SEC play with wins over LSU, 4-1, and Arkansas, 4-0, this weekend and are now for the season.
- Caitlin McGraw and CeCe Witten won both their doubles matches at the No. 1 position beating both LSU and Arkansas, 8-4. McGraw and Witten are undefeated on court 1.
- Nadia Ravita and Aldila Sutjiadi are also undefeated in doubles play. Playing at the No. 2 slot, they started off conference play with two wins over LSU, 8-4, and Arkansas, 8-5. The pair is ranked 57th nationally by the ITA.
- No. 51 Ravita had two all-star performance this weekend at the No. 1 singles spot. Against LSU, Ravita came back from a 6-2 loss in the first set to win 7-5 in the second set, forcing a tiebreak. She won the third set, 6-0, and clinched the match for Kentucky. Arkansas' Yang Pang provided a rematch for Ravita, who dropped a match against Pang last season. Ravita came out with the 6-1, 6-2 win.
- Sutjiadi and Kelsey Dieters both had huge weekends. Both went 2-0 at the No. 2 and No. 3 singles positions, respectively. Sutjiadi knocked off No. 87 Scott and Dieters clinched the match for Kentucky over Arkansas with a comeback win against Kimberley-Ann Surin, 7-5, 6-2.
- Kentucky will travel to College Station, Texas. and Columbia, Mo. to take on No. 9 Texas A&M and Missouri, March 7 and March 9.
Track and field
- The Kentucky track and field teams turned in their best SEC Championships performances in a generation last weekend. The No. 6 UK women finished fourth with 72 points, and the men fifth with 69.33. They both placed in the top five at the SEC Championships for the first time since 1988.
- The UK women's team earned its best points total since 2008, when it scored 84.5, and earned its highest team finish since placing fourth in 1989. The men's team earned its best finish since placing third in 1996.
- Matt Hillenbrand won both the mile and 3,000-meter championship, while Kendra Harrison (60m hurdles), Dezerea Bryant (60m), Keffri Neal (800m) and Bradley Szypka (shot put) all earned individual gold medals.
- Hillenbrand won his second consecutive SEC mile title, doing so in a time of 4:03.80, after winning the men's 3,000-meter run on Saturday. He is the first athlete to win the men's mile and 3K in the same year since Florida's Dumisani Hlaselo accomplished the feat in 2011. Hillenbrand tied Florida's Arman Hall for the men's Cliff Harper Trophy, awarded to the meet's high-points scorer, each tallying 20 points.
- Kendra Harrison became the first athlete in school history to win a women's indoor 60-meter hurdles title, doing so in a meet-record time of 7.94. Harrison moved into a tie for seventh-place all-time in NCAA history.
- Dezerea Bryant became the first person in school history to win a women's indoor 60-meter dash crown, tying her own collegiate-leading time of 7.16.
- Bryant placed second in the 200m, and it took a world-leading time 22.5 by Texas A&M's to beat her 22.75, No. 2 in the world this year. They weren't in the same heat at SECs, but if the qualified 1-2 at NCAA's they would be.
- Keffri Neal took home the men's 800-meter run title in a time of 1:48.94, making him the first Wildcat to claim an indoor SEC title in that event since Brian Maslyar in 1987. -Oh and he's Canadian-
- Brad Szypka took home the Wildcats' first men's shot put championship since 2004, throwing a winning toss of 19.47m/63-10.50.
Monday, March 3
Men's Golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate - All Day (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico)
Tuesday, March 4
Men's Basketball vs. Alabama - 9 p.m.
Men's Golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate - All Day (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico)
Wednesday, March 5
Baseball vs. Cincinnati - 1 p.m. (DH)
Friday, March 7
Women's Basketball at SEC Championship - 2:30 p.m. (Duluth, Ga.)
Baseball vs. Ball State - 4 p.m.
Men's Tennis vs. Texas A&M - 5 p.m.
Women's Tennis at Texas A&M - 5 p.m.
Gymnastics vs. California, Centenary - 7 p.m.
Softball at Mississippi State - 7 p.m.
Women's Golf at Darius Rucker Intercollegiate - All Day (Hilton Head, S.C.)
Saturday, March 8
Men's Basketball at Florida - 12 p.m.
Women's Basketball at SEC Championship - 12 p.m. (Duluth, Ga.)
Baseball vs. Ball State - 2 p.m.
Softball at Mississippi State - 4 p.m.
Women's Golf at Darius Rucker Intercollegiate - All Day (Hilton Head, S.C.)
Sunday, March 9
Women's Tennis at Missouri - 10 a.m.
Baseball vs. Ball State - 1 p.m.
Softball at Mississippi State - 2 p.m.
Women's Basketball at SEC Championship - 3:30 p.m. (Duluth, Ga.)
Women's Golf at Darius Rucker Intercollegiate - All Day (Hilton Head, S.C.)
Nonetheless, their decisions to ultimately become Wildcats were very different.
Leading West Jessamine High School to the Sweet Sixteen, Polson played his way into a walk-on offer from John Calipari. Following in his father's footsteps as a lifelong UK fan, Polson didn't hesitate for a moment in bypassing a scholarship to play at Liberty.
"I knew that if I ever got the opportunity to play for Kentucky that I would always take it," Polson said.
Hood, on the other hand, was a blue-chip prospect from Madisonville, Ky., who drew interest from the likes of Florida, Duke and Tennessee. Kentucky was always on his list, but Hood was no lock to choose his home-state school.
"Once I started getting recruited it just became another school," Hood said. "And then Kentucky turned out to be the best fit for me, my family and where I should go. Now I'm here."
Not for much longer though.
On Tuesday, Polson and Hood will celebrate Senior Night before No. 25/24 UK (21-8, 11-5 Southeastern Conference) hosts Alabama (12-17, 6-10 SEC) in its home finale. Coach Cal confirmed on Monday the two fan favorites will start.
For Hood, it will be his first start in a UK uniform. Holding court for his pre-Senior Night press conference, Hood was asked whether he questions his decision to stick it out at Kentucky rather than transferring elsewhere to play a featured role. Hood was quick to say he has "no regrets at all."
"I wouldn't trade this for anything," Hood said. "My experience and my five years here have been the best time in my life. I don't know, I guess it's kind of hitting me right now that it's coming to an end."
Both Hood and Polson are the last men standing from their respective incoming classes. Most of their freshman classmates have all gone on to the NBA, which makes the combined nine years the two have spent Lexington seem like an eternity to those who follow the program.
Polson can relate in some ways, but another part of him feels like the summer of 2010 really wasn't that long ago.
"It does in a way (feel like he's been at UK for a long time)," Polson said. "At the same time it feels like it's flown by. I can remember freshman year, getting here, and it seems like forever ago that that was the case."
Hood is even further removed from his own arrival in Lexington. In the summer before what would have been his junior year, the 6-foot-7 guard suffered a torn ACL and missed the entire 2011-12 season. It cost him a chance to play on a national-championship team, but the injury has also become a blessing in disguise.
"It made me look at things in a different way, look at the relationships I had with people, helped me develop my sense for basketball, love for basketball in a different way and a new light," Hood said. "It just made me respect the game a lot more."
The lessons Hood learned through his injury and recovery from reconstructive surgery color his perspective on his UK career as it approaches its conclusion. The national title remains his favorite team memory, but his favorite individual moments don't have anything to do with the times he's gotten opportunities for extended playing time.
What Hood will remember are the bonds he has built.
"That's what'll mean the most to me after this," Hood said. "Just the relationships I've had with people and the connections."
Hood has played with an unprecedented parade of talent during his UK career. Beginning with classmates John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, Hood has called 17 NBA Draft picks and 13 first rounders teammates with players from this current team likely to join that group.
"It definitely means the world to me being able to call those guys up, chit-chat, talk, whatever," Hood said. "Need something basketball wise or just talk to them how they're playing, how they're doing even outside of basketball. Guys that I've met around here -- media guys, different people around the program -- it's good to connect with people and I don't think that the fans understand that part of it."
The other thing Hood and Polson both said fans don't understand about playing at UK is the work involved.
"I guess people a lot of times see the glamour of it and how everyone's a pop star and all that stuff," Polson said. "And that's really cool and being able to be a role model for kids is really cool. But a lot of hard work goes into it, and we like that. We call it the grind."
For Polson, that grind has resulted in a regular role each of the last two seasons. He averaged 13.8 minutes per game as a junior -- with his breakout game coming in a 10-point performance in a season-opening win over Maryland -- and 9.4 minutes per game this season.
Confident in his ability, Polson always believed playing time to be a possibility, though he concedes others thought otherwise.
"I mean, me personally, just being a competitor, I always thought that maybe down the road I would get significant minutes and be able to compete with Division I opponents," Polson said. "I don't know if a lot of people thought that -- even people close to me would ever think that -- just because Kentucky is on such a high level."
What the future holds for Polson and Hood is unclear. The pair expressed interest in going overseas to play professionally before the season, but the fact that they already have their degrees means they have options.
Hood hasn't ruled out coaching as a possibility. If he chooses that route, he already has a solid foundation having observed Coach Cal for so long.
"Well I know the Dribble-Drive offense in and out, so that's one thing," Hood said. "I know how to motivate players, how to make it a players' program and he's a good coach. He knows what he's doing. I would take everything from Cal."
But first, Polson and Hood want to finish their careers the right way. They believe it's up to them and their teammates to make that happen.
"No matter how he's coaching, we have to respond to that in a good way," Polson said. "We've had a lot of talks with him personally and us as a team, so I think we're in a good spot. No matter what happens, we know that, at the end of the day, we have to go out and perform. It's not anyone else; it's us as players have to perform."
After UK raked in a record six McDonald's All-Americans, collected what some hinted as the best recruiting class of all time and started the year with a preseason No. 1 national ranking, there was talk of a 40-0 season.
Regardless of where the undefeated chatter originated and whether or not the Wildcats did (or didn't do) themselves any favors by failing to temper expectations, the season is what it is now. UK is 21-8, just barely hanging on to a top-25 ranking in both polls, and slip-sliding its way down to an NCAA Tournament seed no one thought was possible when the year began with such visions of grandeur.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since Saturday's loss to 11-18 South Carolina - John Calipari did not attend the postgame press conference because he was doing his radio show at the same time - Coach Cal said if you're looking for someone to blame for the way things have gone so far, look no further than him.
"I don't know if it was my arrogance or the team's arrogance, but at the end of the day, whatever's going on with this team comes back to me," Calipari said.
On a number of occasions during Monday's Southeastern Conference teleconference and his pregame session with local reporters, Coach Cal took responsibility for UK's recent fall, which includes losses in two straight games and in three of the last five.
"It's on me," Calipari said. "I don't put this on 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids. They don't know. You think they know why they're going through that they're going through? In most cases they don't. It's our job and my job as the head coach to figure out what we have to do, how we have to do it to get them to play as well as they can possibly play."
If that means coaching a style more in line with his age and not like the 35-year-old he has been of late - jumping up and down with every call, pleading with his players to play harder - he said he will. If that means his players need more positive reinforcement - a "cheerleader," as he called it - and less of a general, he will do it.
"I will be whoever I have to be because this isn't about me; it's about this team," Calipari said. "And I've got to get them more confident and figure out what do they need me to be. A cheerleader? What do they need me to be at this point? And that's how I've always coached and it's never changed. If I have to be tough, I'm tough. If I have to be easy, I'm easy."
Calipari may have wanted to coach this group a certain way - he said he wanted them to hold each other accountable - but he admitted that these 18- and 19-year-olds "obviously ... weren't ready."
So he's ready to change.
Calipari said this situation is no different than some of his past teams that he's adjusted to. He noted that he's never been labeled as a my-way-or-the-highway type coach.
"Throughout my career, there's not been one way that I've done things," Coach Cal said. "There's not been one offense or zone defense or press. It's whatever the team needs from me. And that's what I do, and I at the end of the day I take responsibility."
With only two regular-season games left - Alabama at Rupp Arena on Tuesday at 9 p.m. and at Florida on Saturday - it may seem like it's too late to make major adjustments in approach, but the Cats are ignoring the fact that Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away.
"I don't think we've given up on the season at all," said Jarrod Polson, who will be honored alongside Jon Hood before Tuesday's game for Senior Night. "I think we're just trying to improve and work harder than we ever have before. We really don't think the season is over and we think we can write our own story, and that's exactly what we're trying to do."
For all the blame Coach Cal tried taking for failing to meet preseason expectations, Polson and Hood directed the responsibility their way.
"Honestly, it's not anything that he can do," Hood said. "It's the way we take it, the way we take the messages and the way that we play. He's not out there playing for us. He's not in between the lines. He can only do so much."
Regardless of whose fault it is - the responsibility probably lays somewhere in between - the key is collectively figuring to the solution to the problem. Calipari said that starts one little thing at a time.
The fifth-year UK coach said he just has to keep coaching them, noting that just two weeks ago, after good showings against top-ranked Florida and a blowout victory at Ole Miss, his team looked like it had everything "figured out."
"Part of it is, you got to work your way through it," Calipari said. "Part of it is, when adversity hits, will you come together?"
Getting their confidence back on the offensive end would be a good place, tactically, to start.
UK has made a combined 34.9 percent of its shots over its last three games and failed to shoot better than 40 percent in three of its last six. Against South Carolina, the Cats looked so discouraged in their inability to hit jump shots that they started driving the ball into a crowd of defenders with reckless abandon. The result was the worst shooting percentage (.269) of the Calipari era.
Calipari said his team is missing too many shots at point-blank range.
"We're not getting enough free baskets," Calipari said. "We've been working hard on running and getting it out and going. The other thing I think, again, getting the ball in the basket with contact. You've got to get it in. You can't have an excuse. You've got to get the ball in, so we've been working on that some with the kids. We're trying to do stuff to let them know, 'What you need to do, you're capable of doing. Now you have to get out there and do it.' "
While all can appear lost when you hit a rough patch at Kentucky, a senior like Polson knows the season isn't over. He said the players have had a lot of meetings of late, both with Calipari and without, and they've decided to focus on putting the past in the past and focusing on what they can control, which is their future.
"We're starting 0-0," Polson said. We're starting fresh. I think our spirits are better than what people think they are."
The Cats realize their backs are against the wall after their most recent adversity, but they're all taking responsibility to change the ending.
"Everyone in the nation doesn't think we have a shot," Polson said. "They think we're done for. ... It's us against the world and we're going to prove everyone wrong."
Philosophy isn't the problem
Coach Cal's ownership of the disappointing season thus far spanned the spectrum of his responsibilities.
"I'm responsible to get them to play right, to get them in the right frame of mind," Calipari said. "If they're not in that frame of mind, that's back to me. This team is young because we recruited a young team. So all of it comes back to me."
If you think that means Coach Cal is going to change his recruiting philosophy of recruiting the nation's best talent, not so fast.
Though Calipari has said youth has been a big part of UK's problems all year long, he's not going to start recruiting kids who lack talent just to get them to stay a few more years. He's not going to encourage players to stay longer than they should out of self-interest either.
"Look, I'd like to have guys stay for me but if the opportunity arises for them, I'm not going to hold guys back," Calipari said. "I'm recruiting good players. Some of them people think would go; others think they wouldn't go, and you don't know until the year's out. You just don't know. The environment we're in, you can either convince guys to stay that should leave or recruit players that aren't quite good enough to be here and compete. 'Well recruit a top-50 (player).' He thinks he's one-and-done, too."
Though Calipari gets labeled as a supporter of the "one-and-done" rule because of how many one-year college players he has sent to the NBA, he's actually long been an opponent of it.
There is recent speculation that the NBA may change its entry requirements, perhaps to a two-and-done rule, but Coach Cal reiterated that college coaches play no factor in the current NBA rules.
"It'll be between the NBA and the Players Association," Calipari said. "Has nothing to do with us. My hope is they come to terms with it and they know it's best for everybody involved, including the players.
Lock it up
Kentucky, technically, isn't even a lock for the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament or for the double bye.
If UK were to lose its final two games and both Georgia and Arkansas won their final two, the Cats would fall back to the No. 5 seed and play on Thursday of the SEC Tournament instead of Friday.
On this week's matchups ...
"Both teams are playing well. Alabama just had a great win against Auburn, their in-state rival. Played probably as well as they've played all year and Florida just keeps moving right along. I mean, everybody talks about the close games and this and this. Well, they could also beat you by 25. They're that good. So they deserve their ranking and we've got two great challenges for our team."
On how frustrating the first 30 minutes of the South Carolina loss were in hindsight ...
"Well, I wish I would have watched the last 10 minutes because I heard it was pretty good. But I will tell you that, you know, we're a team, like every other team out there, if--again, there's a lot of teams trying to figure out, OK, how do we do this? We went from playing Florida and Mississippi on the road thinking we have this figured out. I don't know if it was my arrogance or the team's arrogance, but at the end of the day whatever's going on with this team comes back to me. It's really funny: It was about a month ago that I said, 'Looks like I gotta coach this team like I'm 35 again.' And for a while, to get them to play harder, to get them to focus more, to get them to execute more, to let them know what was acceptable and not acceptable, that's what I talked about. But let me say this: I will be whoever I have to be because this isn't about me; it's about this team. And I've gotta get them more confident and figure out what do they need me to be? A cheerleader? What do they need me to be at this point? And that's how I've always coached and it's never changed. If I have to be tough, I'm tough. If I have to be easy, I'm easy. But, again, it was only a few weeks ago that's what we talked about. So as we go forward, the whole point of us: How do we get our defensive confidence? How do we get our offensive confidence? Well, we just had it 10 days ago, two weeks ago. How did that change? What did we do different? How did we think different? That's what we're going through now."
On players still losing focus at this point in the season ...
"They're 18 years old. They're 18 and 19 and they're not machines. I've been through this. I've been, you know--and again, you've seen a little bit of everything and every team I've coached, it's a process and they're not one step up, the next step up. You know, I can remember in 2011, no one ever thought we'd win a game and we couldn't win a road game and all of a sudden we figured it out late and that's what's we're hoping with this team. And that would be our plan. My whole thing right now: Let's get this defensive confidence back. Let's get this offensive confidence back. What do we have to do in practice to build that? What do we have to do during the games to build that?"
On the importance of experience in college basketball ...
"Well, there's no question the teams that are winning right now at the highest level all have some veteran guys. They've got seniors, a lot of them who were backups at one point in their career. And to play with all young guys like we are right now is really difficult. And what's difficult about it is, like I said, it was only two weeks ago we had played Florida and we'd have played at Mississippi and played as well as we had played all year and we're looking like we've got this thing figured out. But they're 18 and 19. You don't know what shoves them in another direction. Again, I was coaching hard for a while. Now you're trying to figure out what's the next thing. How do I have to do this? How do we have to practice to get them right? With a veteran team, as a coach you already know how they're going to respond. You have an idea. And they know how you're going to respond. So they know your response to not executing or, 'If I don't play hard, I know how he's going to respond.' Or, 'If I get physically pushed around, I know what's going to happen.' Well, we're all growing right now. And again, look, my team, we're talented enough to do what we want. We could beat anybody in the country. But we've also proven we can lose to anybody in the country. And so it is on us right now and basically it's on me. I don't put this on 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids. They don't know. You think they know why they're going through that they're going through? In most cases they don't. It's our job and my job as the head coach to figure out what we have to do, how we have to do it to get them to play as well as they can possibly play."
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant
On Alabama's upcoming matchups this week ...
"Obviously our first game against Kentucky on the season. Watching them play, obviously extremely impressive. I know they're coming off two tough losses here in the last couple of games, but as talented of a team as we've faced all year. Senior Night in their building and coming off a road loss, I'm sure they'll be at their best. We'll have to get prepared for what we'll face against them tomorrow night. ..."
On what has gotten Levi Randolph going ...
"I think he's playing really well. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence. Our team, I think, is feeding off of that of late, so we just need to have him keep with that mindset and stay aggressive and continue to step up and provide what our team needs."
On what gets a guy going like that late in the year ...
"I think you see that all over the country. Sometimes, for whatever reason, guys will respond to certain messages or to certain things that happen over the course of a season. For Levi, obviously, the last four, five ballgames, I think he's really taken his game up another level and I think it's just a credit to him. He's worked extremely hard. He's a good player and I think we all feel like he's capable of doing what he's done for us. So, it's good to see him be able to step up and produce the way he is."
On if Trevor Releford should be a candidate for SEC Player of the Year ...
"I think if you look at his numbers, you look at what he's been able to do night in and night out for a basketball team -- especially a year in SEC play when, from a scouting standpoint, teams obviously are aware of what he's capable and game plan to try to limit his opportunities - he's consistently been able to produce for our team. To me, obviously this is a one-year award, but over the course of his career he just continues to get better and improve and add things to his game. I think you look at the importance of him to our team in terms of being able to go out there and affect the game in a multitude of ways -- whether it be scoring points or getting his teammates opportunities to score points or making plays on the defensive end of the floor, getting a steal - I think he's been a guy that has affected the game in a lot of ways. Certainly he would have my vote, so I think he's had an outstanding year and I think he's very deserving of every consideration."
Overall Record: 9-2
Record Last Week: 4-0
Tuesday, Feb. 25 - won vs. Wright State, 7-1
Friday, Feb. 28 - won vs. Eastern Michigan, 8-2
Saturday, March 1 - won vs. Eastern Michigan, 9-5
Saturday, March 1 - won vs. Eastern Michigan, 13-2
Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern)
Tuesday, March 4 - at Cincinnati - 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 5 - vs. Cincinnati - 4 p.m.
Friday, March 7 - vs. Ball State - 4 p.m.
Saturday, March 8 - vs. Ball State - 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 9 - vs. Ball State - 1 p.m.
Player of the Week nominee
5-10 - Jr. - CF - Dublin, Ohio (Dublin Coffman)
Week Stats: .500 (9-for-18), 7 R, 3 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, 2 HBP, 3-3 SB, .550 OB%, .778 SLG%
Notes: Junior centerfielder Austin Cousino helped spark Kentucky to a four-game sweep of its opening week at Cliff Hagan Stadium ... Cousino hit .500 (9-for-18), with three doubles, one triple, four RBI and three steals ... He came to the plate 20 times during the four-game week, reaching base safely 11 times with a .550 on-base percentage ... In UK's home opener vs. Wright State on Tuesday, Cousino went 3-for-4 with a double and two steals ... In a series-opening win over Eastern Michigan, Cousino collected one hit, before going for two hits and a steal in the second game of the set with EMU ... In the series finale, Cousino extended his hitting streak to six games with a 3-for-5 outing, with two doubles, one triple and three RBI, scoring three runs ... On the year, Cousino - a member of the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List - has hit .438, with six doubles, three triples, one homer and eight RBI, stealing six bases ... In his career, Cousino has hit .302 (156-for-517) in 128 games, with 38 doubles, four triples, 16 homers and 76 RBI, stealing 35-of-37 bases.
The Kentucky baseball team ran its winning streak to seven games while opening its home schedule with a midweek win over Wright State (7-1) and a series sweep over Eastern Michigan (8-2, 9-5, 13-2), a team that beat No. 13 Clemson on opening day.
The Wildcats - ranked last week No. 30 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and No. 25 by Perfect Game - will return to action with a two-game series with Cincinnati, traveling to the Queen City on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, before hosting the Bearcats on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will then host Mid-American Conference power Ball State for the final three-game non-conference series before Southeastern Conference play begins, starting on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (9-2) extended its winning streak to seven games with its four-game week to open the home schedule. UK wrapped up its season-opening, season-long, seven-game road swing with a three-game sweep at the Old Dominion Tournament, before opening its home schedule with a 7-1 win over Wright State on Tuesday. The Wildcats then posted an 8-2 win over EMU to open the series on Friday, with the teams playing a doubleheader on Saturday to avoid inclement weather on Sunday. UK swept its first twinbill test of 2014, with a 9-5 win in the opener and a 13-2 result in the nightcap.
UK's numbers during the four-game week saw UK hit .353 as a team, drawing 23 walks, getting hit by six pitches, stealing 12 bases and striking out just 14 times. On the mound, UK owned a 0.75 ERA in 36 innings, holding opponents to a .188 average.
On the year, Kentucky has hit .326 with a .439 on-base percentage, slugging 28 doubles, two triples and nine homers in 11 games, stealing 27 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.77 team ERA, with 36 walks and 68 strikeouts in 97.1 innings, with UK fielding .965 with 12 double plays turned and five steals allowed defensively.
Individually, junior A.J. Reed is off to a blistering pace to the season, batting .429 (18-for-42) with four doubles, seven homers and 20 RBI, also owning a 3-0 record and a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings on the mound. Junior centerfielder Austin Cousino - who hit .500 over the week - has a team-high .438 average (21-for-48), with six doubles, one triple, one homer and eight RBI, stealing six bases. Junior third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .347 (17-for-49) with four doubles and 10 RBI, with fifth-year senior catcher Micheal Thomas hitting .345 (10-for-29) with three doubles and seven RBI, owning a .500 on-base mark. Rightfielder Kyle Barrett has hit .340 (16-for-47) with a homer, 11 RBI and six steals, with leftfielder Ka'ai Tom hitting .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles, five RBI and four steals, drawing four walks without striking out to open his NCAA career. Senior shortstop Matt Reida has hit .250 (10-for-40) with nine RBI and a .388 on-base percentage.
On the mound, UK's weekend rotation of Reed, Chandler Shepherd (2-0, 3.32 ERA) and Kyle Cody (2-0, 1.35 ERA) has combined in nine games for a 7-0 record, a 1.97 ERA and a .210 opponent average. In the bullpen, junior Spencer Jack (0-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in a team-high five games with eight innings, with freshman Logan Salow (1-0, 0.00 ERA) working in four games with nine strikeouts in six innings. Sophomore Zach Strecker (0-1, 0.00 ERA), sophomore Ryne Combs (1-0, 2.16 ERA), junior Andrew Nelson (0-0, 2.70 ERA), freshman Zack Brown (0-0, 3.00 ERA), sophomore Matt Snyder (0-0, 6.75 ERA) and sophomore Taylor Martin (0-0, 9.82 ERA) have each appeared in three games in relief.
Facing a smaller Vanderbilt team, Mitchell called for the Wildcats to throw the ball into the post early and often.
"Coach pretty much told the guards in practice -- even during the game -- that we have an advantage on the inside," Stallworth said. "So that was really our big emphasis and the high-low was very important."
Capitalizing on her opportunities, Stallworth scored a game-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting as No. 12/15 UK withstood Vandy in a 65-63 victory in Memorial Coliseum.
Walker, meanwhile, had just two points to go with her eight rebounds, but had four assists in often serving as the passer in UK's high-low attack against the Commodore zone. Three of those assists resulted in Stallworth baskets.
"I think me and Samarie, we play well together for the most part," Stallworth said. "So we were trying to take advantage of our size and get the ball inside."
UK (22-7, 10-6 Southeastern Conference) used that approached to build a first-half lead of as many as 17 points, but Vanderbilt (18-11, 7-9 SEC) rallied when the two post players went to the bench with fouls. Walker picked up her second with 9:51 left and Stallworth did the same a little more than six minutes later.
"I thought when DeNesha (Stallworth) and Samarie (Walker) went to the bench that we just didn't have much inside presence, and that's where our advantage was," Mitchell said. "You really needed to get tough in there and make some decisions and get some reads against their 2-3 zone."
Vandy went on an 18-2 run and eventually trailed just 36-33 at the break. It would be a back-and-forth battle from that point on, with neither team leading by five until the final minute.
At that point, the Commodores made one final push. Vandy used a 3 by Christina Foggie, a steal and two Foggie free throws throws to close to within one with less than 15 seconds to go. Bria Goss (12 points) then hit one-of-two free throws before UK used solid defense to force a Jasmine Jenkins miss in the closing seconds.
"I'm going to tell you, this team worked so hard to get ready for today's game," Mitchell said. "I thought we had a few terrific moments and really made it tough on Vanderbilt, but at the end of the day, to be able to walk off that floor with a victory on Senior Day, there are not many better feelings than that."
The victory gives UK five in its last six games, an impressive feat considering the Cats' position at the start of that stretch. Kentucky then sat at 5-5 in conference play having lost five of nine games and facing a crisis of confidence. Now, UK will head to the SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga., with a double bye as the No. 4 seed and a renewed sense of self-assurance entering its opener on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
"Four Sundays ago we were 5-5 and here we are still a No. 4 seed and I think that takes a lot of toughness and encouragement and support," Goss said. "I think that we really buckled down and got it together."
To Stallworth, togetherness is the most important word.
"I think us staying together was most important because it just would have been easy for everybody to go their separate ways and just say, 'You know, forget this,' " she said. "But I think we did a great job of just staying positive and just knowing that we have more opportunities ahead of us and we've just come together. That's why we're winning these games."
By closing with a win, UK sends off Stallworth, Walker, Kastine Evans and Bernisha Pinkett with a win in their final regular-season home game, which was Mitchell's goal more than postseason positioning.
"Our focus and our sense of purpose came from trying to make sure we won for the seniors today," Mitchell said. "That was our focus today. We didn't really worry about seeding in the SEC Tournament."
A year from now, it will be Goss embracing her family before her final home game. That thought struck her as she watched her teammates do the same and she intends to carry it forward into what's ahead for UK.
"I just learned I'm a junior and next year I'm going to be a senior and how fast these seasons are going," Goss said. "I just want to send these seniors out right and go down to Duluth and just put on a show and just fight for them and leave it all on the court."