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October 2010 Archives

Bigger, better bowl hopes likely dashed in loss

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The Kentucky football team learned a harsh, disappointing reality Saturday night in Starkville, Miss., when Mike Hartline's last-ditch throw was intercepted at the goal line on fourth down.

The dream to make it to a bigger, better bowl game in Joker Phillips' first year disappeared at Mississippi State with a 24-17 loss in front of 54,168 fans at Davis Wade Stadium. The defeat dropped UK to 4-5 on the season, 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference.

The chances of making it to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Outback Bowl or whatever bowl one would deem "bigger" or "better" than the Music City Bowl are somewhere between extremely slim and none.

Three straight wins to close the season would put Kentucky at 7-5, but that usually spells Music City, Liberty or Birmingham in terms of bowls. Tennessee made the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year with seven wins, but given the Cats' record in the Southeastern Conference and the crazy shuffle in the SEC East this year, going back to Tennessee seems like a likely destination.

Saturday's loss to MSU was frustrating because it continued a recent string of Jekyll-and-Hyde-like performances. Just when UK's defense put together its first 60-minute effort of the season, the bottom fell out of the offense.

In the second half alone, the Kentucky defense stepped up to force five punts and only one touchdown, including a key stop on third-and-short midway through the fourth quarter.

With an offense that had been slinging the ball around like it was 2007, getting a defensive stop or two seemed to be the only thing stopping this UK team from getting over the hump.
But that's been the story of late for this team. Just when one hole is patched, another hole starts to leak.

Phillips has said he would love to find out what his football team looks like if it would play a complete 60-minute football game, but with the calendar turning to November in a couple of days, he's running out of time to see what that would actually look like.

Hartline had his first mediocre game since the Florida loss, as the senior gunslinger threw three interceptions. A run game without the services of Derrick Locke struggled for the third straight game as UK managed just 89 yards on the ground.

Randall Cobb played spectacular at wide receiver, catching 12 balls for 171 yards and a touchdown, but the reality of the situation is not everybody seems to be on the same page at the same time when they need to be.

That - not the defense, Locke's injury or the turnovers - will likely be the ultimate factor in keeping UK from its bigger, better bowl game.

The players didn't hide their desire to go somewhere outside of Tennessee this year - which they still could in a bowl demotion or no bowl at all - but that might be the only prize left to play for at this point. It's a tough reality, but it's a scenario the players must now embrace.

How they'll respond to it could define this year's team. At this point, defining the year on where the Cats go bowling is no longer in the cards.

Facing a must-win situation against Vanderbilt to advance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Kentucky women's soccer team erupted for a season-high six goals -- the most goals since 2001 -- to defeat Vanderbilt 6-1 on Senior Night.

With 11 goals in the last two games, UK stamped its ticket to Orange Beach, Ala., for the SEC Tournament.

UK got goals from Natalie Horner, Kelsey Hunyadi, Laura Novikoff, Caitlin Landis and Alyssa Telang, including two goals and two assists from Horner.

Check out what head coach Jon Lipsitz, Horner and Novikoff had to say about the biggest win of the season:

Head coach Jon Lipsitz


Junior forward Natalie Horner


Senior defender Laura Novikoff
 

Live blog: UK women's soccer vs. Vanderbilt

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Join us Friday night for the biggest game in the brief Jon Lipsitz era at Kentucky. The stakes simple: Win and UK is in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Tie or lose and the season is over for the Cats. Join us at 6:45 p.m. for a live blog of all the action.

Mathies' talents 'out of this world'

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WBSK 09_10 UK_GA Web 35.jpgThe way Matthew Mitchell describes it, A'dia Mathies at 75 percent is better than most players at 100 percent.

She's that good.

"A'dia Mathies is out of this world," Mitchell said at Thursday's media day. "Yesterday we got in the office after practice and I'm like, 'Man, did you see A'dia Mathies today?' It's just incredible."

For all the deserved praise Victoria Dunlap received last year in taking her game to the next level and winning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors, it may have been the addition of superstar freshman Mathies that helped the program take the giant leap from a .500 team to a Final Four contender.

Mathies signed with UK as the 2009 Kentucky Miss Basketball out of Iroquois High School in Louisville, Ky. Easily the best high school player in the state and the biggest recruiting coup at UK in recent memory, Mathies was expected to come in and contribute right away.

But few people could have anticipated her to step in and average a team-high 32.0 minutes per game, score 13.6 points per game and run away with SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

She was good in high school, but she wasn't that good.

How did Mathies make such a seamless transition to the collegiate game?

"It's hard to say exactly what happened," Mitchell said. "We tried to give her a supportive environment. We tried to make her understand that we believed in her. We tried not to make her totally come out of her comfort zone. She's sort of a quiet, shy kid. We didn't just jump down her throat the first day. We tried to bring her along slowly.

"If any of those things helped, I don't know. I just know that probably more than anything she just got onto a college court and she started playing, and our style of play sort of suited what she wanted to do. We sort of gave her the ball and allowed her the freedom to go make some plays."

She made enough to guide UK to the Elite Eight, spending time at shooting guard, small forward and even point guard when backup Crystal Riley went down with an injury.

With Mathies' versatility and year of experience, there isn't a huge concern as to how UK will replace injured starting point guard Amber Smith or if Kentucky can play four guards at once. Mathies proved in her first year that she's capable of playing anywhere on the court.

"A'dia just knows all the positions on the floor," Mitchell said. "There's some power forward matchups in this league, around the country, where the way we play defense, she could guard a power forward. I don't know how many power forwards could guard her. That's an interesting thing we'll have to see."

Mitchell credits Mathies' basketball IQ as one of the primary reasons for her first-year success.

"I have coached three kids now, with A'dia being the third, who I thought were extremely intelligent and who I thought knew where everybody was on the court and needed to be," Mitchell said this summer. "Those are rare players and A'dia is one of those."

Mitchell even went as far to call Mathies an SEC Player of the Year Candidate and potentially one of the best players in the country.

"I've been here a year so I know what to expect more than I did last year when I would just go out there really just playing," Mathies said. "Knowing I had a good year gave me more confidence that maybe I can do even better this year."

But if you believe in trends, fortune and history, chances are you know of the dreaded sophomore slump. With the success that both Mathies and Kentucky experienced last year, Mathies is fully aware the target will be on her back this season.

Mitchell said he doesn't subscribe to luck and superstition.

"If I am trying to guard against her going into a sophomore slump then I am almost creating an out for her," Mitchell said. "I am not going to talk to her about that and I don't believe in a sophomore slump. Maya Moore didn't have a sophomore slump and Tamika Catchings didn't have a sophomore slump and Chamique Holdsclaw didn't have a sophomore slump. A'dia is that level player in my mind. She is one of the more extremely talented basketball players in this country. If A'dia wants to be and makes the right choices day in and day out, then there will be no sophomore slump."

If Mathies wants to avoid a dip and continue to get better, Mitchell said she will have to push herself to figure out what her limits are.

Based on what she's exhibited in preseason practice thus far, those limits could be endless.
"She's a lot more confident, which I didn't think she could be because she was pretty confident last year," Dunlap said. "She has more confidence in her 3-point shot. She doesn't hesitate anymore. She just has the look in her eye where she is going to score no matter what."

She's that good.

From the Pressbox: Notes from Tom Leach (Oct. 29)

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After three tough games against a pair of top-10 teams and a resurrgent Georgia squad, is there any chance of a letdown for the Kentucky football team as it goes back out on the road?

"I'm not worried about that because this team can win out," senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "But the thing is, we have to know we can't make the same mistakes we made."

= = =

If Kentucky scores at least 30 points Saturday night, it will mark the first time in school history that the Wildcats have hit that mark in five straight Southeastern Conference games.

= = =

Kentucky is looking for its third straight win in Starkville, Miss., this weekend, and once again the stakes are high.

The Cats are hoping a win propels them into a four-game winning streak that would carry them to a bigger bowl game. 

In 2008, Randall Cobb made his first start at quarterback and directed UK to a 14-13 win that clinched bowl eligibility. The Cats would not win again until the Liberty Bowl victory over East Carolina, so without the victory at MSU, the bowl streak would have ended.

In 2006, UK went to MSU off a 49-0 drubbing at LSU that many felt was the last stand of the Rich Brooks regime. Instead, the Cats outgunned State 34-31, and a week later upset Georgia, starting the turnaround in Kentucky's football fortunes that enabled Brooks to leave on his own terms.

State returned the favor with wins at UK in 2007 and 2009, both of which may have cost the Wildcats an opportunity to play in that bigger bowl they are seeking now.

=  = =

Like Stevie Johnson, Aaron Boone and Scott Mitchell before him,  junior-college transfer Chris Matthews has blossomed in his second year at the University of Kentucky.

He notched his seventh touchdown catch of the season in the loss to Georgia and he credits first-year wide receivers coach Tee Martin with helping him elevate his game.

"Tee Martin, personally, I think he is the best in the league right now," Matthews said. "He is a great coach and if anybody really was coached by him, they would up their game tremendously. I know I did. He has taught me a lot from when I first got here until now. Coach Joker (Phillips) did a good job but was still managing the offense. Now that we have a receivers coach that can go with us one on one and show the techniques that we have now, it is just amazing."

Matthews said Martin is a big detail guy.

"From the film room, he wants us to pick out little things," Matthews said. "It is never a moment wasted in there. He wants us to take in things and make it better. It could be something so small as lining up and seeing what is the other guy going to do. We try to bet each other on how many pushups or what coverage it will be, and so doing things like that is opening up our eyes to what is going on."

Matthews isn't the only one playing his best football as a senior. Quarterback Mike Hartline is on top of his game, too.

"Mike is doing a phenomenal job right now," Matthews said. "He is throwing balls that he would never throw last year. He feels more comfortable with us going down the field and throwing into tight coverage."

= = =

Sophomore outside linebacker Ridge Wilson will make the first start of his career in Saturday's game at Mississippi State. Defensive coordinator Steve Brown said Wilson worked his way into that role by what he's done on the practice field.

"We really look at these players' body language," Brown said. "Are they coachable?  Everybody thinks they should be playing but it's earned. And that's what he's done."

Wilson said he didn't fully appreciate Brown harping on the need to read his keys. Wilson said he was playing like he did in high school when he would use his instincts to make a play, but he has come to understand the importance of how studying his position's responsibilities can help from getting burned.

= = =

We get our first look at John Calipari's second Kentucky basketball team (since the games in Canada), when the Cats play an exhibition game against Pikeville on Monday night.

One thing this team has in common with the 35-3 group of last season is how well a buch of newcomers have meshed their personalities. Freshman point guard Brandon Knight is not surprised.

"Not at all," Knight said. "We all talked before we got here. It's not surprising that we clicked.  It's what we expected."

= = =

"Frustration" would probably not begin to describe the feelings of UK recruit Enes Kanter right now as he awaits word on his eligibility from the NCAA.

Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy said this is a test case for the NCAA, because the rules have changed now. Last year, a player at West Virginia was in a similar situation and the rule called for him to miss one game for every game he played with a professional team in Europe. Now, the one-for-one rule is gone.

"The rule has changed," DeCourcy said. "What you have to remember is that you have to start with this foundation -- the European clubs do not want thier players playing in college basketball because A, they are not playing for them, and B, they cannot sell them to the NBA. It was really easy under the old rule, the one-for-one rule. That rule is gone and it was a ridiculous rule (anyway)."

"They got rid of that rule, and now what are the European clubs going to do to keep thier players from coming over here?" DeCourcy said. "That becomes the question: What are they going to do? And that is what we are facing now. How much is Turkey going to do to keep Enes Kanter from playing American basketball?"

Two recent New York Times' articles featuring comments from the general manager of the team for which Kanter played in Turkey would seem to suggest that they are willing to push very hard against Kanter playing here.

Former Cats in action during NBA's opening week

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nba1.jpgThe NBA regular season got started this week, meaning that UK's Draft Cats had their first chances at playing meaningful professional minutes. Here's a look at how they and some other former UK players fared:

John Wall (Washington Wizards) - 14 points, nine assists, three steals

Playing against a very good Orlando Magic squad, Wall struggled a bit with his shot in his debut (6-of-19 from the field) in a 112-83 loss. The Magic effectively eliminated transition play for much of the game, but Wall was able orchestrate a few of his signature breathtaking fast-break layups to give Wizards' fans reason for optimism.

DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) - 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists

Behind DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings won their season opener for the first time since 2003, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-116. Cousins struggled with foul trouble throughou, but was very efficient in his 26 minutes. With star guard Tyreke Evans serving a on- game suspension, the Kings ran their offense through Cousins in crunch time and he rewarded them, making good passes, scoring in the post and converting at the foul line.

Patrick Patterson (Houston Rockets), Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers), and Daniel Orton (Orlando Magic)

Of UK's other three 2009 first rounders, only Eric Bledsoe has seen game action, playing 39 seconds in a Clippers' loss to the Portland Trailblazers and missing one 3-pointer. With a great deal of depth at the power forward spot, the Rockets made Patterson inactive. Daniel Orton is still in the process of strengthening his surgically repaired knee and has only recently returned to practice.

Including the five draftees from last season's team, there were 13 former Wildcats on NBA rosters on opening day. Here are some notable performances from this group:

Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics)

The Celtics have played two games already this season with Rondo posting averages of 11.0 points, 13.0 assists, 4.5 rebound, and 2.5 steals. In the Celtics opening night victory over the Miami Heat, Rondo dished out 17 assists, one shy of a career high are more than they entire Miami Heat team.

Chuck Hayes (Houston Rockets)

The Rockets also have played two games. Hayes had a quiet first game but had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists the next night in a loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons)

Prince remains a fixture in the starting lineup of the Pistons at the small forward spot. In the Pistons' opening loss to the New Jersey Nets, Prince contributed 14 points and two steals.

Nazr Mohammed (Charlotte Bobcats)

Mohammed is playing his 13th NBA season, earning the starting center position for the Bobcats. He had 10 points and four rebounds in his first game.

Thumbnail image for WBSK 09_10 UKatTN Web 16.jpgThe availability of Amber Smith for this year remains uncertain as the Kentucky women's basketball team answered questions at this season's media day.

Without going as far as to say Smith was ahead of schedule, head coach Matthew Mitchell said his starting point guard, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her right knee this summer, has had a "very productive rehabilitation process up to this point."

"She is doing everything she needs to do and doing it better than we would normally expect," Mitchell said. "The doctors are very pleased with her effort at this point."

Smith will begin jogging in a couple of weeks and she's already started running, jumping, swimming and kicking her knee in her hydro workouts. What that means for the status of Smith this season, neither Mitchell nor Smith claims to know.

"We are not even talking about her future even beyond just day to day," Mitchell said. "We're just trying to get the knee as strong as it can be. Amber will be able to make whatever decisions she wants to make as far as trying to finish the season out, as far as coming back. Whatever that looks like, we'll make that decision when the knee's well."

Smith was in good spirits Thursday at media day, even boasting about teaching "The Dougie" to Mitchell for Big Blue Madness, but she declined to give a timetable for her return. Instead, Smith tried to focus on the positives she can still offer her team this year.

"I'm focused on taking it one day at a time," said Smith, who guided the Cats to the Elite Eight last season as the starting point guard. "The future, whatever happens, happens, so I'm just going to work hard every day."

In the meantime, Smith's importance will not be reduced. As an aspiring coach and vocal leader on the team, Smith has been side by side with Mitchell this preseason in coaching up star signee Jennifer O'Neill and junior Crystal Riley. Both will shoulder the point guard duties until Smith returns.

"My goal is to be a leader on this team and be consistent with that because I've had problems with being consistent with my energy," Smith said. "I think this is a point for me to help be a coach. I want to be a coach and this is helping me learn how to do that and see things differently. My goal is to become a better teacher, better person and a better learner."

Smith scored a career-high 9.2 points per game and dished out 161 assists at the one last season. But both Riley and O'Neill, a consensus nation-top 30 player, should be able to make up for a lot of that production.

What remains an uncertainty is how they will duplicate Smith's defensive intensity.

"We're trying to teach a freshman, Jen O'Neill, how to start the defense," Mitchell said. "That all starts with ball pressure. Amber was just relentless. She would pick it up, dog the ball all the way down the floor. She was always in the right position. She was always in denial. She was always talking. She was the catalyst of the defense."

O'Neill described herself as a passionate, physical playmaker that isn't afraid to take over the point guard duties as a freshman. But replacing the fiery attitude that Smith brought to the court on an everyday basis won't be easy.

"I'm trying to work on that (with her)," Smith said. "She's getting there. She'll get it. It's going to be up to her to dig down deep inside and bring it out."

Smith's initial prognosis would have her back sometime between mid-December and mid-February. Conventional wisdom would suggest Smith would consider a return this year if it was closer to the former, but the fewer and fewer games Smith has a chance to play in, the less likely she'll see the floor this season.

In that case, Smith would probably redshirt.

Until then, though, Smith is getting a head start on her coaching career and taking no breaks as the leader of the team.

"Amber has done a fantastic job of staying engaged, being on the floor every day, talking to those two players, being really unselfish, and spending some time and not thinking about her injury and how bad this is for her, feeling sorry for herself," Mitchell said. "I've been very proud with her progress as a leader through all of this."

Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
MSU Notes & Depth Charts Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Oct. 30
7:00 p.m
Coverage TV: ESPNU
Radio: BBSN
Live Stats
Online Audio listen
Location Davis Wade Stadium
Starkville, Miss.
Gameday Information
Mississippi State Bulldogs at a Glance
Head Coach Dan Mullen
Record at School 11-9 (2nd season)
Record 6-2, 2-2 SEC
Ranking No. 23 AP/Coaches
Series Record Kentucky leads 21-16
Last Meeting Mississippi State beat Kentucky 31-24 last season in Lexington, Ky.
2010 Team Stats UK MSU
Rushing Offense 147.6 220.9
Passing Offense 280.9 169.6
Total Offense 428.5 390.5
Scoring Offense 34.8 28.6
Rushing Defense 176.0 118.5
Passing Defense 176.8 217.0
Total Defense 352.9 335.5
Scoring Defense 31.6 17.0
Turnover Margin +0.13 +0.50
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (108 rushes, 574 yds, 7 TDs)
MSU: Vick Ballard (79 rushes, 529 yds, 12 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (184-273, 2144 yds, 17 TDs, 4 INTs)
MSU: Chris Relf (62-112, 802 yds, 5 TDs, 3 INTs)
Receiving UK: Chris Matthews (37 catches, 565 yds, 7 TDs)
MSU: Chad Bumphis (33 catches, 461 yds, 4 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (81 total, 9.0 for loss)
MSU: Chris White (71 total, 12.0 for loss)
Sacks UK: Taylor Wyndham (2.5)
MSU: Chris White (5.0)
Interceptions UK: Winston Guy Jr. (2)
MSU: Corey Broomfield, Maurice Langston (2)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips about his of plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Limit bad turnovers against aggressive defense: "We've got to protect the football. It's been the thing that has been killing us offensively and we have to stay ahead of the count on down-and-distance. We've got to win on first and second down so we can have manageable third downs. We've got to continue to stress it and we've got to get the guys in there that are going to protect the football. We can't put guys in there that are just careless with the ball. For the most part our guys have been taking care of the football. We're probably one of the lowest in the league in turnovers but the problem is where we've turned it over at. We've turned it over with short field. It's hard for a defense to go in there with not a lot of grass behind it. They're an attacking, aggressive defense that has done nothing but dominate the line of scrimmage of every game they've played. They dominated the line of scrimmage against Florida and Auburn, and those are two really physical football teams."

Cat Scratches' take: Phillips called turnovers the deciding factor in his team's success this season, and to this point, he's been exactly right. In UK's four wins this season the Cats have a plus-eight turnover margin. In the four losses, Kentucky has a minus-seven turnover margin. It's simple for the Cats: Win the turnover battle and you have a very good chance to win. Easier said than done against an underrated Mississippi State defense. The Bulldog defensive unit ranks 35th in the nation and, after a slow start to season, has turned into a ball-hawking defense. During Mississippi State's current five-game winning streak, the Bulldogs have forced 10 turnovers.

 

Defensive keys - Stack the box against run-heavy team: "We've got to stop their running game. That's what they've done offensively, not just with their tailback running game but with their quarterback running game. We've got to get this into a game where they have to throw the ball. You can't let them have success on first and second down. You've got to get them into throwing situations. So many times, even on third-and-6, they run the football. You're thinking they're in a passing mode and they run the quarterback right down your throat to keep the clock moving and the chains moving. We've got to get them in some third-and-longs so they can't run the football on third down and convert it. You have to stack the box. You have to get the safeties involved and then you can't miss tackles when your safeties are down in the box because then there's a chance for a big play with nobody behind them."

Cat Scratches' take: Mississippi State hasn't pulled any tricks en route to six wins this season. It's a pretty simple formula for the Bulldog offense: run the ball, chew up clock and convert third downs. MSU has done each exceptionally well this season. The Bulldogs rank first in the Southeastern Conference in time of possession (31:17), second in rushing offense (219.2 yards per game) and second in third-down conversions (47.7 percent). Phillips has mentioned how demoralizing it can be for a team to run all over you, and that's exactly what Mississippi State will try do against a porous UK rush defense, which has given up more yards on the ground this season than any other SEC team. Look for UK safety Winston Guy to step up in run coverage this week.

 

Key matchup - Battle of the lines: "We've got to win the line of scrimmage, especially with our offensive and defensive lines on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a dogfight because these are as aggressive of lines as I've ever seen. We got hit off the ball last week and that's the first time this year we haven't controlled the line of scrimmage. We've got to get back to where we are controlling the line of scrimmage."

Cat Scratches' take: Kentucky's offensive line has played well for most of the season, but over the last two games, UK's big boys up front have allowed six sacks. On the defensive side of things, Kentucky's front four were pushed off the line of scrimmage as Georgia running back Washaun Ealey rushed for 157 yards and five touchdowns, a feat that not even all-time great Herschel Walker did at Georgia. Again, expect UK to stack the box to make up for the physical nature of Mississippi State's offensive line.

 

Joker's additional factor No. 1 - Hostile environment: "It's going to be a different atmosphere this time. I just explained that to my team. You go down to Starkville in a night game - I've seen Thursday night games there and how different they are than when we've been there. And then you add the fact that they're already bowl eligible and those guys are trying to go to the best bowl they can possibly go to. It will be cranking around 6 o'clock Central Time down there." 

Cat Scratches' take: Whether or not Mississippi State's longtime tradition of ringing cowbells in the stands is alive after this season is a moot issue to Phillips (the first-year UK coach said he's never even heard them as offensive coordinator in the press box); what he's concerned about is the atmosphere at night in Starkville, Miss. And he's right - it's a different place at night. While Davis Wade Stadium doesn't sit quite as many as most SEC stadiums, the place has been known to rock on Thursday night and Saturday night games. 

 

Joker's additional factor No. 2 - Turner's Mississippi State background: "He knows their personnel. How much it will help (I don't know). I've never had anybody tell me anything personnel-wise that has helped me win a game. He knows all those kids. All those kids will probably be jacked up and ready to play more with him on the sidelines."

Cat Scratches' take: UK's first-year defensive line coach David Turner spent the previous three seasons as MSU's defensive line coach.

 

Mississippi State players to watch for - Defensive lineman Pernell McPhee, linebacker Chris White, quarterback Chris Relf and wide receiver Chad Bumphis: "The McPhee kid and Chris White are really good. Those two are dynamic players. Offensively we have to watch for their quarterback, and I really like Bumphis."

Cat Scratches' take: McPhee and White have been frequent unwelcomed guests in the backfield of opposing teams. The two have combined for 17 tackles for a loss. Relf has been adequate throwing the ball, but it's on the ground where he's killed teams as he's run the ball 107 times for 428 yards. Bumphis leads the team with 33 receptions for 461 yards and four touchdowns.

 

UK players that must step up - Running back Raymond Sanders: "We'll give both (Sanders and Donald Russell) a chance and see who has the hot hand. Last week Sanders had the hot hand. We started off with Russell. He struggled to see some things and also put the ball on the ground. When we went with Sanders, he went in and was productive, so we stayed with him a little bit longer. I think CoShik Williams has had a good week also. We'll see what he gives us throughout the game. But Raymond Sanders has to have a good game. He's going to have to be really good in protection, really good in seeing his block setup and also he's going to have to catch the ball for us."

Cat Scratches' take: For three quarters last week, the running game appeared to struggle. And then Sanders went off in the fourth quarter. The true freshman, who appears to have taken the lead over Donald Russell for the backup tailback position, had 16 carries for 79 yards and seven receptions for 77 yards and a score. With starter and leading rusher Derrick Locke out for the third straight week with a shoulder stinger, it will be up to the shifty freshman to shoulder the load this week.

 

Final injury report: The aforementioned Locke is out with a shoulder stinger. Despite suffering a scary knee sprain in the second half against Georgia, Phillips saw enough of wide receiver La'Rod King this week to take him to Mississippi State and he is expected to play. Tight end Tyler Robinson is questionable with a shoulder injury and turf toe.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SEC LOGO UK BLUE.jpgRelease from the SEC:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --  The Southeastern Conference unveiled its seventh annual women's basketball preseason All-SEC first and second teams, Thursday, to tip off the 2010-11 season of SEC women's basketball.  In addition, the coaches voted on a predicted order of finish, overall champion and a preseason Player of the Year.
 
Tennessee was predicted to win the Southeastern Conference women's basketball regular season championship with 121 votes.  The Lady Vols returns an intact squad after going 32-3, 15-1 in conference play, and winning both the SEC regular season and tournament championships last year. 
 
Kentucky, LSU, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Auburn round out the top half of the league with South Carolina, Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida, Arkansas and Mississippi State rounding out the lower half.
 
Kentucky senior forward Victoria Dunlap was named SEC Women's Basketball Preseason Player of the Year.  Joining Dunlap, on the All-SEC First Team were teammate A'dia Mathies, Auburn's Alli Smalley, Georgia's Porsha Phillips, LSU's LaSondra Barrett, Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen and Vanderbilt's Jence Rhoads.
 
Second team consists of Alabama's Tierney Jenkins, Arkansas' C'eira Ricketts, Georgia's Jasmine James, LSU's Katherine Graham, South Carolina's Marah Strickland, Tennessee's Kelley Cain and Glory Johnson and Vanderbilt's Hannah Tuomi.
 
Points were compiled on an 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for order of prediction, while each player received two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.  Ties were not broken and coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team or players.
 
The complete listing of all honors follows.
 
SCHOOL                                 POINTS  
1. Tennessee                           121
2. Kentucky                             108
3. LSU                                     93
T4. Georgia                               88
T4. Vanderbilt                            88
6. Auburn                                  59
7. South Carolina                       48
8. Alabama                               43
9. Ole Miss                               42
10. Florida                                39
11. Arkansas                            35
12. Mississippi State                 28
 
ALL-SEC FIRST TEAM           
Alli Smalley, Auburn
Porsha Phillips, Georgia
Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky
A'dia Mathies, Kentucky
LaSondra Barrett, LSU
Angie Bjorklund, Tennessee
Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee
Jence Rhoads, Vanderbilt
 
ALL-SEC SECOND TEAM    
Tierney Jenkins, Alabama
C'eira Ricketts, Arkansas
Jasmine James, Georgia
Katherine Graham, LSU
Marah Strickland, South Carolina
Kelley Cain, Tennessee
Glory Johnson, Tennessee
Hannah Tuomi, Vanderbilt
 
PLAYER OF THE YEAR                         
Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky (8)                
Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee (2)        
Marah Strickland, South Carolina (1)    
Jence Rhoads, Vanderbilt (1)                  

Video: UK Hoops preseason interviews

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Senior forward Victoria Dunlap


Sophomore guard A'dia Mathies


Senior guard Amber Smith


Freshman guard Jennifer O'Neill

UK preseason No. 11 in AP Top 25

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The Kentucky men's basketball team will start the 2010-11 basketball season at No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

Duke, last year's national champion, heads the preseason poll with 55 first-place votes, followed by Michigan State, Kansas State, Ohio State and Pittsburgh.

Kentucky has been ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 in 19 of the last 20 seasons dating back to the 1991-92 season. The 2008-09 season, Billy Gillispie's second and final season at UK, was the lone year Kentucky started out of the polls.

UK will play three ranked opponents (North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee) with the possibility of a fourth (Washington) in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Complete rankings below:

1. Duke
2. Michigan State
3. Kansas State
4. Ohio State
5. Pittsburgh
6. Villanova
7. Kansas
8. North Carolina
9. Florida
10. Syracuse
11. Kentucky
12. Gonzaga
13. Illinois
14. Purdue
15. Missouri
16. Baylor
17. Butler
18. Washington
19. Memphis
20. Georgetown
21. Virginia Tech
22. Temple
23. Tennessee
24. BYU
25. San Diego State

Cats left off preseason coaches' All-SEC first team

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SEC LOGO UK BLUE.jpgHere is a little bit of surprising news for you on a rather slow-moving news day: Not a single Kentucky's men's basketball player made the preseason coaches' All-Southeastern Conference nine-man first team.

Not Enes Kanter. Not Darius Miller. Not DeAndre Liggins. Not even Brandon Knight.

That's a bit of a surprise for a team ranked No. 10 in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 preseason poll and one that is widely considered one of the favorites to win the SEC.

Miller and Knight were voted to the eight-man second team, as voted on by the league's 12 coaches.

Florida led all schools with four selections while Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt had two selections each.

All-SEC first team
Dee Bost, Mississippi State
JaMychal Green, Alabama
Scotty Hopson, Tennessee
Travis Leslie, Georgia
Chandler Parsons, Florida
Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
Trey Thompkins, Georgia
Chris Warren, Ole Miss

All-SEC second team
Kenny Boynton, Florida
Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Ravern Johnson, Mississippi State
Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Darius Miller, Kentucky
Alex Tyus, Florida
Erving Walker, Florida

Video: What's wrong with Derrick Locke?

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Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips expected Derrick Locke to return this weekend for the Mississippi State game, but his availability is once again questionable because of a lingering shoulder stinger.

Locke sat out Wednesday's practice with fatigue in his arm. His status is for Saturday is uncertain.

"I'm not sure (if he will play) at this time," Phillips said.

Locke, who leads UK in rushing with 574 yards and seven touchdowns, suffered the injury to his right shoulder in the loss to Auburn. Shoulder stingers, a nerve injury to the arm that usually causes pain or weakness in the arm, typically doesn't last much longer than a few days.

Some cases last longer, and it appears that Locke has the latter as he is yet to regain full feeling in his arm.

"It's not just a stinger," Phillips said. He hasn't had any feeling back in three weeks, so it's a little bit more than a stinger. I don't have the knowledge to know all the details of it, but it's more than a stinger."

Phillips said there is some minor concern about Locke's long-term health and availability.
"After three weeks, yeah, you've got to be a little bit concerned," Phillips said. "Our medical people don't have much as concern as myself or Derrick, so we've got to trust in those guys."

UK players do not have to speak to the media when they are injured. Locke declined to speak to reporters Wednesday as he tries to get back on the football field.

Phillips has said he won't use Locke until he's regained full use and feeling of his arm.
"If he can't protect himself, we're not going to put him out on the field," Phillips said.

Kentucky went 1-1 without Locke, including an upset of No. 10 South Carolina two weeks ago, but the Cats are certainly better with Locke in the lineup than without him.

"He's one of the few guys in this league that can go 80 yards, we're definitely looking forward to getting him back," Phillips said Monday at his weekly news conference.

Blue-White notes: The real Terrence Jones

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13_Blue-White_07_BM.JPGTerrence Jones was always an intriguing player.

At 6-foot-8, 250 pounds and the ability to play both the post and roam the perimeter, Jones could be perhaps one of the biggest keys to yet another youth-driven Kentucky men's basketball team. On a team thin with size, Jones provides versatility that few can match.

But until Tuesday night, no one knew just how dynamic Jones was. There were the highly touted recruiting rankings, head coach John Calipari's comparison to NBA star Lamar Odom and rumors from practice, but other than a brief appearance in Canada, Jones was a mystery because of an injury during the three-game exhibition trip in Windsor, Ontario.

Now we know that Jones, while not DeMarcus Cousins, is quite the player in his own right.

Jones scored 29 points in the Blue team's 101-74 win over the White team in front of 11,391 fans at this year's Blue-White Scrimmage. Freshman guard Brandon Knight led all scorers with 37 points, but it was Jones' versatility that proved to be the story.

"He's pretty good," Calipari said. "(He) did some good stuff. One of the things you've got to have is you've got to score the ball, and that kid right there can score the ball."

Can he ever? He can score with his back to the basket, he can shoot it from behind the arc, take it on the dribble and even throw down a pretty nasty dunk. It's only one (defensive-absent) scrimmage and the first baby step of a long journey this season, but on the first night of the NBA, Jones demonstrated a game fit for the pros.

"I feel I just played OK," Jones said. "I could have made a lot more shots closer to the rim that I missed. I could have had a lot more rebounds."

Jones was 13 of 26 from the floor and recorded eight rebounds, although just one came on the offensive end. He also took a few unwarranted 3-pointers that drew the ire of his head coach during the game.

"I stopped him a couple of times because he took a couple he didn't need to take," Calipari said. "If the ball is driven in the lane and it's thrown out to him, I'm fine with that. But if the ball is swung and he should be driving the ball and he's just jacking up a 3 because he's not in the mode to attack, you've got to come out.

"What he'll do for us is get to that rim. He is long. Now what he did not do today and what he must do for to us to be any good is he has to offensive rebound.  He had one offensive rebound in that game. We missed 40 shots, so one out of 40 shots you rebounded. Come on now."

Still, it's hard to be upset with 29 points in a player's first real scrimmage in Rupp Arena.
 
One-minute sequence midway through the second half said all one needs to know about Jones. After missing a pull-up 3-pointer, he made it up for it on the next play by running the floor with Doron Lamb for a dunk. On the next defensive possession, Jones stuffed Jon Hood on the perimeter, ran the floor and received a pass for an alley-oop dunk.

"He can rebound the basketball, he can push it, play as a 6-9 point guard, so he's a big help," said Knight, who also pointed out the mismatch Jones creates with his left hand. "There's really no way to defend him. If he has a guy that's the same size of him, he's going to blow right by him. If he has a guy that's smaller than him, he's going to put them in the post. He's a great athlete and he poses mismatches everywhere."

Jones also showed an ability to guard anyone on the floor, matching up with everybody from 6-11 center Eloy Vargas to speedy guard DeAndre Liggins.

"He can guard guards and he can guard bigs,"

What can't he do?

Marathon men: After announcing that former players Wayne Turner, Mark Krebs and Perry Stevenson would play in the Blue-White Scrimmage to provide depth, the NCAA informed UK on Tuesday that the players would not be able to participate because of NCAA rules.

The NCAA told the school that any participation by the former players in a public scrimmage would be considered a contest against outside competition, therefore affecting UK's two scheduled exhibition games against Pikeville and Dillard.

That put Calipari and his team in a particularly tough bind considering he hoped the former players would add some depth to the scrimmage. Without the former players and with Enes Kanter unable to play while his NCAA eligibility is being reviewed, Calipari was left with 10 players for two teams. In other words, Tuesday's scrimmage was five-on-five, no subs.

Calipari decided to go ahead with a typical game format, playing two 20-minute halves. For some of the players, who were noticeably winded in the second half, it was like a full-on conditioning session.

"These people wanted to see us go up and down," Calipari said, "and to be honest with you, we have a day off tomorrow. Then I thought, (this could be) 40 minutes of conditioning, and I told these guys, make this a conditioning day."

But as the game wore on and players got tired, Knight got better.

After scoring just nine points in the first half, Knight picked up where he left off during the Canada trip with a game-high 37 points. Knight shot 14 of 20 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds, dished four assists and committed just two turnovers.

"We still had to play hard, and that's what we tried to do 40 minutes," freshman guard Jarrod Polson said. "Practices are really intense. It's so much different than high school so were used to it, but it's still pretty hard."

Knight did start cramping up at the end and Lamb hit the floor hard earlier in the game. Asked what his backup plan was in the case one of his players got hurt, Calipari said he didn't know.

"I said, what happens if a guy gets hurt? What are we going to play, four and four? Play the zone?' " Calipari said. "No, we had no backup plan. That's why when Doron that hit the floor hard, I said, 'Get up, kid, you've got to finish this one out.' " 

Defining the team, roles: Jones might be the versatile guy to create mismatches, Darius Miller may be the leader and Knight might be the leading scorer, but Calipari still has a lot of questions about his team - and rightfully so with two weeks until the first real game.

"This may be a pick and roll team," Calipari said. "I haven't figured it out yet. It will take time, and it may take time as we go through the season.  We start defining. Look, I was at Memphis, we were 6 3 and I figured out maybe Tyreke Evans should be our point guard. And we won 27 straight.

"That's how dumb I was. We were 6-3 in nine games and dying, and I had the wrong guy at point guard. It took me some time but I figured it out. We have to figure it out."

Asked what he knows his team isn't, he said it's not an interior team like it was last year.

"I know we are not the beast of a team we were inside last year where we had three horses," Calipari said. "We don't have that. So now you play a little different.  ... I think when you look at us, you know we are going to be better against zone.  Because you know, now you put Terrence in the middle of a zone and you put shooters around him, we are a little different team than we were a year ago versus the zone."

In the process of evaluating this year's team, Calipari made sure to reassure that this isn't last year's group.

"We were not a great team early," Calipari said. "We became a great team. This team, we have got to figure them out. (It) doesn't happen overnight."

Harrellson a rebounding machine: Lost in the scoring barrage was Josh Harrellson's 26-rebound performance.

"I don't think he's ever done that in a rebounding drill, like by himself, with a zone," Calipari said.

Calipari doesn't know if it's a product of Harrellson's improvement or his team's inability to rebound. It's yet another question Calipari has to answer as the season starts up.

"If he can go in there and go grab rebounds and do it, either we are the worst offensive rebounding team in America or he's gotten better," Calipari said.

John Calipari

Terrence Jones

Brandon Knight

Darius Miller

Live blog: Blue-White Scrimmage

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We'll get started at approximately 6:40 from Rupp Arena.

Thumbnail image for 47_Madness_2010_17_cw.JPGWaiting in line for men's basketball tickets with the possibility of not actually getting one is now a thing of the past for Kentucky students. With the introduction of UK's news hybrid online/in-person lottery system for the 2010-11 basketball season, the UK Ticket Office has created a more student-friendly, convenient way to get tickets.

Following record turnouts last year at student lotteries, where students traditionally attended a lottery at Memorial Coliseum, received a group number and hoped to have their number called, students will now enroll for the lottery online.

Joe Sharpe, associate athletics director for ticket operations, cited a convenience factor among the main reasons for the change. An overcapacity Memorial Coliseum, a recent student survey that favored the use of an online lottery and success of online lotteries at other benchmark schools were also factors in the change.

"Students wanted a chance to be in the lottery but not have to sit in Memorial Coliseum for three or four hours on a Monday night," Sharpe said. "This gives them the convenience and opportunity to sit in their dorm room and register for the lottery and get a ticket."

Full-time UK students for the semester in which the distribution occurs (12-plus hours for undergraduates, nine-plus hours for graduate students) and have paid their athletics fees, as well as eligible BCTC students, will receive an e-mail reminder from the ticket office on the Monday of the online registration week, the first of which begins Nov. 8. The e-mail will include the student's account ID and password to access the online ticketing system (BCTC students must contact the ticket office in advance to set up the account).

After receiving their respective passwords, students will need to visit www.ukathletics.com/tickets by Wednesday at 5 p.m. to register (step-by-step process of the entire online ticket registration process can be found at the UK Ticket office website).

On Wednesday evening after the online registration deadline, the UK Ticket Office will conduct a random draw to select the winners of the online registration process. Each student who enters will have an equal chance of being selected in the draw.

Winning students will be notified via e-mail from the UK Ticket Office on Thursday morning. Only the winning students will be eligible to attend the Monday night lottery at Memorial Coliseum, meaning all winning students who attend the Monday night lottery will be guaranteed a ticket to each game at the lottery, a change from previous years when students could sit in line for hours without receiving a ticket.

Winning selections are non-transferable, meaning students will not be able to "transfer" their spot in the lottery to another student. On the night of the lottery, only the IDs of the students selected will scan correctly.

On the Monday evening of lottery week, doors at Memorial Coliseum will open at 8 p.m. and the lottery will begin at 9 p.m. Students must have their ID with them. Those that wish to sit together at games may purchase tickets together, but they must go to the same ticket window on the lottery night and seating groups will be limited to 10 students.

The amount of tickets available for the lottery will vary depending on the game - allotment is usually between 3,500 to 4,000 tickets for each game, according to associate ticket manager Cathy Hurst - but each student will have the opportunity to buy one ticket to every designated game in the lottery. Theoretically, if every winning student shows up to the lottery, there should be no more student tickets available at the end of the lottery.

However, in the case that not every student shows up, there will be an opportunity for remaining students to purchase unclaimed tickets the following Tuesday morning.

Any student tickets that are unclaimed from the Monday night lottery will go on sale Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Joe Craft Center ticket office. Tickets, at this point, will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, and students may bring a maximum of two student IDs to purchase tickets.

If there are still tickets unclaimed after Tuesday, they will be sold as guest tickets on Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Joe Craft Center ticket office before being made available to the general public through Ticketmaster on Wednesday evening.

Student Government President Ryan Smith, who helped push the change in the distribution process, said there is a possibility that seniority (credit hours) could factor into the random draw for postseason tickets in the future.

"We'd like to make it as convenient for students as possible and reward the best fans," Smith said.

But for now, the online lottery will remain a random draw.

For a complete step-by-step process of the new student lottery ticket distribution, please visit the UK Ticket Office website.

The first student lottery is scheduled for Nov. 15, followed by lotteries on Dec. 6, Jan. 24 and Feb. 14. The online registration window for each lottery will take place the week prior to the respective lottery.

Lottery 1: Boston (Nov. 30), Indiana (Dec. 11), Mississippi Valley State (Dec. 18), Winthrop (Dec. 22)
Lottery 2: Coppin State (Dec. 28), Penn (Jan. 3), Auburn (Jan. 11), LSU (Jan. 15)
Lottery 3: Georgia (Jan. 29), Tennessee (Feb. 8), Mississippi State (Feb. 15)
Lottery 4: South Carolina (Feb. 19), Florida (Feb. 26), Vanderbilt (March 1)

Soccer teams teetering on postseason play

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Entering the final few games of regular-season play, both the Kentucky men's soccer and Kentucky women's soccer teams sit on the brink of postseason play.

For the women's soccer team, it's pretty simple heading into the last match of the season what the Cats need to do: beat Vanderbilt on Friday at 7 p.m. or go home. That's all there is to it.

A loss or tie to the Commodores (4-4-2 in conference play) would keep Kentucky (3-5-2 in league play) out of the eight-team tournament. A win puts the Cats in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, and UK could finish as high as the fifth seed based on a number of scenarios.

For UK, although Friday is the regular-season finale, it's essentially the start of a single-elimination tournament.

It's not that simple for the men's team given the schedule left.

If the season were to end today, Kentucky, currently sitting in fourth place in the Conference USA standings, would be in the six-team tournament. However, with three games left to play - two of three of which are against ranked opponents - the men have their work cut out for them.

UK enters Wednesday's match with No. 22 Tulsa with eight points in league play. Tulsa and South Carolina are tied for the final two spots of the conference tournament with seven points. UK has to play both, so both matches will play significant factors in the final standings.

Meanwhile, UAB is the first team out of the tournament as of Tuesday with six points. FIU and Memphis round out the conference with three points and one point, respectively, so both figure to be out of the race at this point.

That means it looks like it will be a four-team race for the final three spots in the C-USA Tournament between Kentucky, Tulsa, South Carolina and UAB. This is just strictly a guess, but with three games to play, it looks like it will take 10 or 11 points to get in.

Stay tuned over the next week and a half to see how the races shake out.

Oct. 24 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 24:

Men's soccer: Tyler Beadle

Freshman Tyler Beadle had a great week in leading the Wildcats to a crucial win over conference foe FIU and a tie with No. 16 Indiana. Beadle made four saves in the tie with IU, helping UK to just its third tie in series history with the high-octane Hoosiers. In the win over FIU, Beadle collected his fourth shutout of the season, saving four shots in the game, including two shots in a five-second span in the second half. A native of Douglasville, Ga., Beadle has posted a 1.11 goals-against average in his first 15 collegiate games.

Men's golf: Brian Belden

Brian Belden shot a 1-under-par 71 in the final round, totaling a 54-hole score of 1-under-par 215 to gather his third straight top-20 finish at the UNCG Bridgestone Golf Collegiate. The top-20 finish is the third straight top-20 finish of the year for Belden, who ended the Gary Koch Intercollegiate in 15th and the Philadelphia Big 5 Invitational tied for ninth. Belden's 3-under-par 69 in the second round was one of the lowest rounds of the tournament and the lowest UK score at the event.

Rifle: Heather Greathouse

Sophomore Heather Greathouse posted a match-best 590 in air rifle and added a 581 in smallbore to lead the Kentucky rifle team past Army on Sunday at UK's Barker Hall.

"I am very proud of Heather and her performance this weekend," UK head coach Harry Mullins said. "She worked through diversity like a champion in order to reach her personal goals. She has set some high standards for herself this year, but has also committed to a high level of intensity during training. This focus has brought her expectations to reality. We are all looking forward to watching Heather the rest of the season."

Football: Winston Guy

Recorded eight tackles in the loss to Georgia.

Football: Mike Hartline

Completed 27 of 43 passes for a career-high 353 yards and four touchdowns.

Women's soccer: Laura Novikoff

Laura Novikoff helped UK to a 1-1 record on the weekend by netting three goals, including the game-winner against Mississippi State. Novikoff scored two goals against Mississippi State, including one off a free kick from 45 yards out. Her multi-goal game was the second of her career and the second for UK this season.

Men's tennis: Eric Quigley

Eric Quigley won the singles title of the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Indoor Championships over ITA No. 1 John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee 6-3, 7-6 (5), claiming his second straight singles title at the event. The win marks the second time in his career that Quigley has defeated the No. 1-ranked player in the country. Last year, Quigley took down top-ranked Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State in straight sets 7-5, 6-1 at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships. This is the first time in three chances that Quigley has defeated Smith.

Men's soccer: Tyler Riggs

Freshman Tyler Riggs netted the biggest goal of his short UK career on Sunday, helping UK post a win over league foe FIU. With the game scoreless and just three minutes left in regulation, Riggs hooked up with Charles Pettys for the game-winning goal, lifting UK to the crucial, must-win over FIU. On the year, Riggs, a native of Louisville, Ky., owns a team-best four goals.

Football: Raymond Sanders

Accounted for 156 rushing and receiving yards with one TD in the game against Georgia.

From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Oct. 26

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It is a time for leadership.

That could be Joker Phillips' message to his team in preparation for this Saturday's game at Mississippi State. The Cats are coming off a disappointing outing against Georgia, they're beat up physically and most likely a little down mentally, too. Now more than ever, UK needs its leaders to set the tone this week. 

The Southeastern Conference East dream may be dead, but if Kentucky wins its final four regular-season games, there's a good chance the Cats will be playing in the Chick-fil-a Bowl or somewhere in Florida on New Year's Day.

Derrick Ramsey attended the UK-Georgia game last week and I can't think of a better example of a strong leader than "Ram" was for his teams back in the mid-1970s.

"I think that for any team to be successful, someone has to be a leader and make decisions because there are times where everyone is looking around to see who is going to do what," Ramsey told tomleachky.com. "On the offensive side, that was always my job and I made damn sure that I knew what we were going to do. Once they believed that you're going to make things happen, even when the greatest odds are against you, you have a greater tendency to perform. On the other side was Art (Still) and Jerry (Blanton) and Dallas (Owens) in the secondary. We had a plethora of guys that could make things happen for our team."

Eight games into the 1976 season, a Kentucky team that had upset Penn State earlier that year stood at 5-3 after a dismal showing in a road loss to Maryland. Led by Ramsey and company, that UK team stormed home with three straight wins to win the SEC and earn the school's first bowl bid in 25 years. The next season, the Cats finished 10-1 and ranked sixth nationally at the end of the season.

Years later, when I was doing a Friday night radio show with Ramsey, he was still clearly the leader any time some of his former teammates were in town and joined us for the show.

At 6-foot-5 and somewhere around 230 pounds (sound like a 1970s version of Cameron Newton?), Ramsey was a star athlete in the Florida community where he grew up. But he learned quickly that his family judged success by more than just his accomplishments in athletics.

"In our home, growing up relatively poor, education was always the number one in our home, so our parents told us we had to maintain a minimum 3.0 (grade-point) average to play sports," said Ramsey, now the athletics director at Coppin State University.

One school year, Ramsey had to recite a speech by Julius Caesar and he failed the assignment because he didn't prepare for it. That led to a "D" on his report card but he changed it to a "B." 

"I lived directly across from the school and my original hometown had a population of 800 people so everybody knew everybody," Ramsey said. "Ms. McNeill (his teacher in that class) came to my home and told my mother (about the grade). She said, 'No, you gave him a B,' and Ms. McNeill said, 'No, he may have came home with a B but I gave him a D.' "

Ramsey, a first-team All-SEC player at UK and 10-year NFL veteran, didn't get away with it.

"I was in basketball practice and was bragging to my friends that I was going to take them to a state championship as I had to the football team," Ramsey said. "Then about that time, my mother had burst into the gym. I looked around and my teammates said, 'Hey D, your mom is over there.' She called me to the side and said, 'Coach, Derrick is a dumb guy and you do not want dumb players on your team, so until he gets his grades together he will not be playing basketball. Get your stuff.' For the remainder of that semester, all I could do is go to school, work around the house and I learned a valuable lesson. That is why I am here to today, because I value education."

Ramsey said he passes those kinds of messages along to the athletes he oversees now at CSU, almost all of whom will not play their sport professionally.

"I was very fortunate that all the lights shined on me at the right time and God put his hand on me at the right time," Ramsey said. "What I talk to my athletes about is what happens next. You don't come in here and take a short nap and another nap and then you are done. Another thing I tell them is that now that we have almost 10 percent unemployment. When you and I were coming out, all you needed was a degree (to get a job) and now, even with a degree, it doesn't matter and you have to see if they have a 3.0 or 3.5 or have any other emphasis.

"It is more competitive. The guys that I played (at UK) were serious and were out there working. In Kentucky, we would workout at 3:30 in the afternoon and it's 99 degrees in July and August. While other people were inside in air conditioning, drinking Kool-Aid or pop, we were out there working. If you take the same tenacity and apply it to life, you will be hard to beat. That is the message I try to tell them, to be competitive in the workplace and as citizens."

In regards to Tuesday's men's basketball Blue-White Scrimmage, some of you may have been thinking, "How are they going run a scrimmage without any subs?"

Given that Kentucky only has 10 players that can currently practice or play with Enes Kanter's eligibility up in the air, it's a valid question, one that head coach John Calipari answered Monday by calling on three former players to participate.

Former players Wayne Turner, Perry Stevenson and Mark Krebs will play in Tuesday's scrimmage to give the team more depth, Calipari announced Monday via Twitter.

"The great thing about our program is that once you're a part of it, you're a part of it forever - in every way," Calipari said in a post on coachcal.com Monday. "We are fortunate to have some tremendous former players in the area still and I'm thrilled they will be able to help our current team get better while showing the passion and intensity you must play with every time you put on the UK jersey."

Turner helped guide the program to national championships in 1996 and 1998. A fan favorite at UK, Turner scored 1,170 points in his four-year career, which ranks 41st on Kentucky's all-time scoring list. Turner is currently serving as an undergraduate assistant with the team as he finishes his degree at UK.

Krebs and Stevenson were both a part of last year's 35-3 team that made it to the Elite Eight.

Calipari will announce the rosters for the scrimmage Tuesday.

Tuesday's scrimmage at Rupp Arena is slated to begin at 7 p.m. We'll have a live blog of all the action.

Quigley on pace to become school's top tennis star

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Quigley.jpgThe Kentucky men's tennis program's history of success is rich, especially on the singles level.

Former UK greats like Jesse Witten, Carlos Drada, Cedric Kauffmann and Rich Benson achieved enormous individual success during their time in Lexington. Witten, who many consider the best player in school history, advanced to the 2004 ITA National Indoor Singles championship and the 2002 NCAA Singles Championship finals, and Drada played in the 2000 NCAA Singles Championship finals.

But current Kentucky men's tennis star Eric Quigley is on track to outdo them all following his second consecutive USTA/ITA Regional Indoor Championships title, a 6-3 7-6 (5) win over the nation's top-ranked player, John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee.

"I think he played much better this year than he did last year," men's tennis head coach Dennis Emery said. "This time it's a little sweeter. When you can beat the No. 1 guy in the country, not just the No. 1 guy in the region, it's a big deal."

It's the second time in Quigley's two-plus years at UK he's defeated the No. 1 player in the nation, which got this writer to thinking: Just how good is Quigley?

Currently ranked No. 8 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, Quigley should move up following his victory over the country's top-ranked player. Quigley no doubt wants to earn the nation's No. 1 singles spot before he leaves college, and he should have a pretty good chance to do just that, but he also wants to leave his mark at UK.

Quigley wants to become the best player to ever play for Kentucky. Just a couple of months into his junior season, it's safe to say Quigley is well on his way.

"It's a long way off and he has another year and a half, but he is on track to do a lot of special things," Emery said. "He continues to do some things ahead of some people in the past that have done great things here. He's doing them at a younger age."

Outside an NCAA Championship finals appearance, there isn't much that separates Quigley from the resumes of Witten and Drada. A four-time Kentucky state champion at the high-school level, Quigley already came to UK as one of the most talented players in the country.

The only thing that eluded him at the time was a dominating serve, which Quigley now has based on Monday's match. Smith never broke Quigley's serve, and Emery said Quigley's first-serve percentage was more than 70 percent.

"Today is the best I've seen him serve," Emery said. "His serve has continued to improve, and he understands that for him to play not only at the highest level in college but on the next level, his serve has to continue to improve. He's improved not only the pop on the ball but the location on the ball as well."

In the pros, Emery said players in the top 100 almost always serve 125 miles per hour or faster. Those that don't usually don't make it. Making it to the ATP Tour is certainly on Quigley's radar.

"Guys in the top 100, every single guy, big or small or however they play, they have a big serve," Quigley said. "Holding serve is probably the biggest thing in tennis. Your serve sets up the rest of your game and gives you opportunities and lets you relax a little bit in the return game. It's just huge."

Quigley said he hit around 120 miles per hour when he came to UK, but the big serves came few and far between and were rarely consistent. By the time he hit the third set in tight matches, Quigley said his arm usually got tired and his speed significantly slowed.

Although Monday's match never reached the third set, there were some tense moments when Quigley needed a big serve, especially during the second-set tiebreaker when Quigley closed out the match. Quigley's serves were just as fast at the end of the second set as they were in the first game.

"Everything has gotten better about it - consistency, power-wise and placement," Quigley said. "It just comes with practice. It's not very exciting to practice, but it's something you have to do and it really pays off, like today."

Practice and an even-keeled attitude are what make Quigley so special, Emery said.
"He is without question the most self-motivating player we've ever had," Emery said. "There are times when I come back over here at night and he's in here hitting on his own, working on his serve. The one good thing about Eric is each time he goes to a different level, he hasn't tapped out at those levels."

Building on the expectations of the most decorated high-school tennis career in Kentucky state history hasn't seemed to faze Quigley in the slightest. He just keeps making it to championship after championship, advancing to all three finals in all three tournaments he's played in this fall.

"I think the one thing that sets Eric apart from a lot of the college players is he has a really high emotional intelligence," Emery said. "He has a lot of composure and he understands competition. I think that's what a lot of players struggle with, how to compete. Eric has that down cold."

Playing - and winning - in four straight high school state championships, leading a highly ranked UK team as the No. 1 singles player, and numerous finals appearances, including Monday's title and October's grand slam appearance at the beginning of the month, tends to have that effect on players. Quigley has been in big matches so many times before that nothing rattles him.

"I think it just comes second nature to me," Quigley said. "My trainer (Jay Melton) really worked on it with me in high school. He really got on me if I showed negative emotion and wanted me to show positive emotion all the time."

Quigley has always looked up to tennis legend Roger Federer because of his cool demeanor on the court, and his family has helped him develop a calm attitude.

"I think about how when someone else shows negative emotion how it pumps me up," Quigley said. "I don't want to give that away to my opponents."

Emery said the structure of Quigley's game is there for him to make it to the pros. There are still a few "nuances" Quigley has to hone, Emery said, but there is little doubt in Emery's mind that he can go down as the program's all-time great if he continues in the direction he's headed.

"Hopefully he can lead us to a national championship or a Final Four," Emery said. "Those are the goals. We feel like we're in a position to do that, and part of the reason we're in that position is because we have a lot of confidence in him as a player and a competitor."

Video: Quigley wins Regional Indoor Championships

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UL_UK_BW_02.jpgLeading rusher Derrick Locke will likely play this weekend after missing the last two games with a shoulder stinger.

Head coach Joker Phillips said he's hopeful that his senior tailback gains back full feeling in his arm to play against Mississippi State.

"Should have him on Saturday, hopefully," Phillips said. "Derrick Locke will be hopeful, but he will practice this week in a non-contact role and we'll continue to try to see what type of strength he does get back in his arm."

Without Locke, who leads UK with 574 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 108 carries, Kentucky's ground game has been slow to get going. On the shoulders of backups Donald Russell and Raymond Sanders, Kentucky totaled just 52 yards in a win over South Carolina and 70 yards in Saturday's loss to Georgia, although Sanders picked it up late in the game and finished with 79 yards on 16 rushes.

UK defeated No. 10 South Carolina without the services of Locke, but neither of UK's backups has shown the big-play ability that Locke possesses.

"He's one of the few guys in this league that can go 80 yards, so we're definitely looking forward to getting him back," Phillips said.

Also, Phillips expects to have sophomore wide receiver La'Rod King back for Saturday's game in a limited role after a scary injury against Georgia. King was diagnosed with a knee sprain and should be back at practice Thursday, Phillips said.

King suffered the knee injury when he hauled in an acrobatic 22-yard touchdown pass from Mike Hartline in the second half.

The sophomore wide out finished with two touchdowns and 88 yards on three receptions. Phillips said King could be a big-play, No. 1 receiver type down the road.

"La'Rod is playing really good for us and we need him to get healthy," Phillips said. "We need him to be that third option for us."

Junior wide receiver Matt Roark has been suspended for the Mississippi State game for a violation of team rules. Freshman wide out Brian Adams is expected to see an increased role with King's availability in question and Roark ruled out.

"We expect him to go out and make plays," Phillips said. "He's been playing a little bit more each week with Matt being out. We'll have to give him a bigger role on special teams also with Matt being out."

Video: Cats turn focus to bigger, better bowl game

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Senior quarterback Mike Hartline


Junior offensive tackle Chandler Burden


Sophomore defensive end Taylor Wyndham

Steve Johnson getting loose in the end zone, NFL

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Who would have thought Steve Johnson, after his junior season at Kentucky in 2006, would be the hottest Kentucky football player in the pros right now?

In the midst of his third season in the NFL, Johnson is experiencing a breakthrough year for the Buffalo Bills. Following a career-high eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against the always-stingy Baltimore Ravens defense, Johnson has 25 catches for 372 yards and five scores, all career highs.

Over the last four games alone Johnson has five touchdowns.

Johnson is playing for the winless Bills and he is the No. 3 receiver behind Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish, but if Johnson keeps it up, he's going to either move up the depth chart or become a pretty good free agent in 2012.

Video: Collins, Riggs talk soccer win over FIU

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Kentucky squanders its own opportunity

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Like a swinging door, Kentucky pushed open the door to the Southeastern Conference East title race last week with an upset over No. 10 South Carolina. But just as UK looked back to where it came from, it dropped the ball (literally), the door swung back, and pushed Kentucky right back to where it was two weeks ago - with plenty of questions and not a whole lot of answers with four games left.

That's usually life in the SEC, but the nation's best conference isn't the reason Kentucky finds itself near the bottom of the East and looking up again. No, as head coach Joker Phillips said during his halftime interview, Kentucky beat Kentucky in every way imaginable Saturday night in a 44-31 loss to Georgia in front of a season-high 70,884 fans at Commonwealth Stadium.

UK turned it over four times in the defeat, two in its own territory and another one in the end zone.

"You really can't say you have a real good chance, if any, if you turn over the ball four times," said senior quarterback Mike Hartline, who tossed for career-high 353 yards and four touchdowns but lost a fumble and threw an interception. "Field position was just huge. You turn over the ball, that's one thing, but they were so deep in our territory most of the time. It's tough to come off of that."

The proof is in the stats. Kentucky outgained Georgia 423-290 and tallied nine more first downs. But the Cats turned the ball over four times, turned the ball over on downs at the 38 and allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

(When was the last time a team outgained a team by more than 130 yards and lost by two scores? I don't know, but I would beg to guess that it's happened more recently than a team winning with a minus-four turnover ratio and a kickoff return for a touchdown.)

UK's average starting field position was the Cats' 25-yard line. Georgia's? Try the 50-yard line. That's only half the field to go every time. That's a Hail Mary pass, and a handful of possessions were inside that.

"We need our defense to go out on the field with a long field with a lot of grass behind them," Phillips said.

Not the end zone behind it.

"Once again we shot ourselves in the foot early," Hartline said.

A week after trying to figure out how to get the defense off to a faster start, that side of the ball came to play, giving up just 290 yards for the game, the third lowest of the season. But this time turnovers came into play and the Cats found themselves down 14-3 after the first quarter.

"It almost seems like that's our motto," Hartline said. "We can't do that. We're making it harder on ourselves."

By the six-minute mark of the second quarter the Georgia lead was 28-3, and at halftime the UK deficit was 28-10.

"You come in at halftime and it's like we've been here before," Phillips said.

The Cats may have set the school record for the biggest comeback last week in storming back from 18 down to defeat the Gamecocks, but play with fire too many times and ... well, you get the point.

"That's the No. 1 problem that's been for our football team since I've been here is we always put ourselves in a hole," senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "We have memorable comebacks, but we always have those 'Man, why do we always shoot ourselves in the foot' type games."

Phillips isn't quite sure how to put a finger on the slow starts and his team's inability to get all three units (offense, defense and special teams) on the same page.

Either way, whether it was by Georgia's hand or Kentucky's own bullet, Kentucky finds itself out of the SEC East picture just as fast as it put itself in it. By the looks of things, Georgia has returned to being Georgia since the return of soon-to-be NFL receiver A.J. Green.

"It hurts because we were in prime position again and we didn't get the job done," Lumpkin said.

Now the team's focus has to be back on the season-long goal of getting to a bigger, better bowl game (preferably, as the players have asked, out of the state of Tennessee). At 4-4 on the season, the Volunteer State still looks like a very good possibility, although the Cats have a very manageable schedule most of the way home.

"The season's almost over," Hartline said. "The East is pretty much out of reach. Now we're fighting for our best bowl game. Six is our number, so we've got to fight for that, and then from there take it to the best one from that."

Kentucky has been down this road before. Saturday was no doubt the biggest game of the year to this point because of the position the Cats put themselves in last week. It was a swing game, if you will.

But victory or defeat, whatever way the Cats go from here doesn't have to be dictated by Saturday's result. Does UK bounce back like it did last week against South Carolina and make this a special season, or does the thud of a loss suddenly swing UK right back in the direction it was headed after the Auburn loss?

"We've got a team of fighters, there's no question about that," Phillips said. "That's not hard to determine. I'd like to see what type of football team we truly have.  We'll only see that when we see this team play for four quarters and we have not done that yet."

Joker Phillips

Mike Hartline

Raymond Sanders

Ricky Lumpkin

Live blog: UK football vs. Georgia

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From the Pressbox: Notes from Tom Leach

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Kentucky's Randall Cobb, just a few days after putting the Twitter/fan controversy to rest, said he expects a good crowd for this weekend's Georgia game.

"I think they'll be pretty rowdy," Cobb said. "We can't wait to get out there and play for them."

With a win, the Wildcats' preseason goals of making it to a better bowl game and contending for the Southeastern Conference East title both come into sharper focus.

"We can't keep winning seven or six games," senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said.  "We have to take that next step and get to nine or 10 wins. Our recruiting will get better with the more games we win. You'll see a jump in recruiting and all of a sudden, everything gets better. 

"It happened with Boise State. The next thing you know, they're not preseason unranked -- they're top 10. They're beating the teams they're supposed beat and when they get the opportunity (against big-name opponents), they're winning those games. We get that opportunity week in and week out (in the SEC). Now, we've just got to win those games."

= = =

Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan leads the SEC in tackles and is looking for his fourth consecutive double-figure tackle game. He said former UK linebacker Micah Johnson always set the benchmark for his position at 100 tackles and that's what Trevathan is shooting for (he's at 70 through seven games), but he also tries to avoid looking at the stat sheet.

"I think it impacts me when I think about stuff like that so I try not to think about that," Trevathan said.

Another former standout in UK's linebacker corps, Braxton Kelley, attended last week's game and Trevathan said his former teammate gave him a motivational boost with a short pregame visit.

= = =

Mike Hartline's emergence as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC is getting noticed. Read what ESPN.com's SEC blogger, Chris Low, had to say in a recent interview with tomleachky.com:

"The thing I like the best is that he has kept his head down, played within himself and been a leader," Low said. "I think a lot of times he leads by example. Mike isn't a real flashy guy; never has been and maybe that is part of the reason why he fell out of favor with the fans. As Joker has said, he has never made a whole lot of plays. He was just kind of a guy who ran the offense. That has sort of changed now. Not only is he more confident, but everyone around him is confident with him."

Hartline comes off a career-high 349 passing yards and four touchdowns in the upset of 10th-ranked South Carolina.

= = =

Kentucky now has its first win over Steve Spurrier. It was a sweet achievement for UK fans who despise the Ol' Ball Coach, but head coach Joker Phillips said he really likes Spurrier.

"I got a chance to spend some time with coach Spurrier in Destin, Florida, and I really like the guy," Phillips said. "How can you not like a guy who speaks his mind? When people speak their mind, it's telling you the truth so you never have to wonder what they're thinking."

= = =

The start of a new basketball season inches closer next week with the annual Blue-White game on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

Coach John Calipari said he won't expand his rotation just to get more depth. If it means playing just six players, he'll be fine with that.

In one of our postgame interviews during the exhibition games in Canada, Calipari laid down a challenge to his veterans.

"Some of the returning players, if they're not more competitive, they're not going to get minutes," Calipari said. "We can play seven guys if we need to."

= = =

Kentucky was picked second in the SEC East this week by the media members at the league's annual preseason publicity bash. And ESPN's Jimmy Dykes would not be surprised if the Cats slip even further if Enes Kanter fails to gain his eligibility.

"If Enes Kanter plays, Kentucky is probably the best team in the SEC East," Dykes said. "If he doesn't play, I could see them finishing as low as fifth. He's that much of a difference. He just makes Kentucky a complete team. So many other players are better when a guy like Kanter is on the floor with them. He's going to be an automatic double-double guy and that' s a constant that you really like to have."

What you need to know for Saturday's game (Georgia)

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Time: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET


Location:
Commonwealth Stadium (67,942), Lexington, Ky.

TV coverage: CSS with Matt Stewart, Chris Doering and Allison Williams (TV info for Insight customers in Kentucky)

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 199; Sirius 217 (you must have the "Best of XM" package to hear the game on XM 

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 74 degrees, mostly cloudy, 20 percent chance of precipitation

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates. Directions and traffic into Commonwealth Stadium.

Parking: Parking information can be found on UK's Gameday site

Game-day operations changes: UK event management staff has announced several changes to game-day operations on Saturdays at Commonwealth Stadium this fall. The changes will affect several aspects of game-day operations, including tow-behind trailers, guests' golf cart use, adjustments to parking and tailgating along Cooper Drive, closure of Hospital Drive on game days, and backpacks entry into Commonwealth Stadium. Read about UK's game-day changes.

Cat Walk: The "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Fans wishing to participate in cheering on the Wildcats as they enter the stadium Saturday should be between the corner of Jerry Claiborne Way and College Way outside of Commonwealth Stadium gate one. The team bus will arrive at approximately 5:15 p.m., when the team will unload the bus and walk to the stadium. Guests are asked to line up on each side of the "Cat Walk" to allow for ample space for the team to walk from the buses to Commonwealth Stadium. View a map of the "Cat Walk." Fans are encouraged to participate in the "Heartbeat" clap.

GuestAssist service now available: "GuestAssist" is a communications service that enables one-to-one text messaging between Commonwealth Stadium guests and stadium operations personnel.

Fans can ask questions about game-day information and/or report concerns regarding behavior through the convenience of their cell phones. Stadium operations personnel will monitor and respond to guests' game-day inquiries on a real-time basis and if needed, dispatch support, security, etc. to the guests' location. Fans wishing to utilize the service should text, "CATS, your message and your seat location" to 78247 (CATS must be the first four characters in the message body. Standard text message rates apply).

"GuestAssist" is not intended for emergency use. In the event of an emergency, guests should contact the nearest stadium event staff and/or dial 911.

*All information on Saturday's game with Georgia can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

UK starts year at No. 10 in preseason coaches poll

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for espn_logo.jpgEven with the losses of five first-round draft picks, the nation's coaches believe Kentucky is a top-10 team.

Kentucky has been ranked No. 10 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches poll that was released Thursday thanks to a star-studden freshman class that features Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones along with returning veterans Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins.

It is the second straight season UK has been ranked in the top 10 in the coaches poll to begin the season. Kentucky was tabbed No. 5 to begin last year's Elite Eight run.

After winning the 2010 national title, Duke begins the year ranked No. 1. A total of three Southeastern Conference teams, Florida (No. 11) and Tennessee (No. 20) being the others, were ranked in the preseason poll.

1. Duke
2. Michigan State
3. Kansas State 
4. Pittsburgh
5. Ohio State
6. Villanova
7. Kansas
8. Purdue
9. North Carolina
10. Kentucky
11. Florida
12. Gonzaga
13. Syracuse
14. Baylor
15. Missouri
16. Illinois
17. Washington
18. Butler
19. Memphis
20. Tennessee
21. Georgetown
22. Temple
23. Virginia Tech
24. Wisconsin
25. Texas

The Game Plan: Joker Phillips' keys to the game

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UGA Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UGA Depth Chart
Date & Time Saturday, Oct. 23
7:30 p.m
Coverage TV: CSS
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Online Video via ESPN3
Live Blog
Location Commonwealth Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
Georgia Bulldogs at a Glance
Head Coach Mark Richt
Record at School 93-31 (10th season)
Record 3-4, 2-3 SEC
Ranking NR
Series Record Georgia leads 49-12-2
Last Meeting Kentucky defeated Georgia 34-27 last season in Athens
   
2010 Team Stats UK UGA
Rushing Offense 158.7 150.4
Passing Offense 270.6 244.9
Total Offense 429.3 395.3
Scoring Offense 35.3 29.7
Rushing Defense 176.0 105.3
Passing Defense 185.9 184.9
Total Defense 361.9 290.1
Scoring Defense 29.9 17.4
Turnover Margin +0.57 +0.57
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (108 rushes, 574 yds, 7 TDs)
UGA: Washaun Ealey (77 rushes, 369 yds, 2 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (157-230, 1791 yds, 13 TDs, 3 INTs)
UGA: Aaron Murray (112-181, 1653 yds, 12 TDs, 3 INTs)
Receiving UK: Chris Matthews (33 catches, 482 yds, 6 TDs)
UGA: Kris Durham (22 catches, 453 yds, 2 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (70 total, 9.0 for loss)
UGA: Akeem Dent (62 total, 4.5 for loss)
Sacks UK: Taylor Wyndham (2.5)
UGA: Justin Houston (7.0)
Interceptions UK: Winston Guy Jr. (2)
UGA: Sanders Commings (2)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips about his of plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Clean up the run game: "We've got to run the ball better offensively. We ran the ball just enough to keep them honest last week. We weren't real efficient at running the football. This week we've got to be more efficient running it. ... Teams are preparing for the Wildcat differently. You've got to spend a little bit more time on it, and I think that helps us that teams have to spend a little bit more time on the Wildcat. The time that they're taking to focus on the Wildcat, it's taking from them focusing on our base offense. I like that teams are starting to defend for it. ... Georgia's defense is so athletic. They're long and athletic and they play physical. They give you a lot of different looks defensively, and they can do that when you're based out of a 3-4. They have some variations of (the 3-4), but they run a lot of 4-3 looks with it. The thing that gets difficult is throwing downs when they get in the true 3-4 looks where all the blitzes are coming from everywhere."

Cat Scratches' take: UK played, perhaps, its best offensive game in the air last week, which helped cover up for a pedestrian run game. Without starting tailback Derrick Locke, who will be out again this week with a lingering shoulder stinger, Kentucky ran the ball 33 times for only 52 yards, a 1.6-yard average. For the first time this year, the Wildcat package was actually bottled up, as UK totaled just 19 yards on six Wildcat snaps (for the season, the Cats have amassed 122 yards, five touchdowns and 11 first downs in 26 plays out of the Wildcat). On most weeks that 52 rushing yards won't cut it, especially against an underrated Georgia defense. Though the Bulldogs piled up four straight losses early in the season, UGA has a stout, balanced defense that ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in yards allowed per game (290.1) and 14th nationally. 


Defensive keys - Getting off to a faster start: "We may have to bring out our orange slices and those things to start faster. We've just got to continue to stress playing hard for 60 minutes. We've played great in the second half. I think the thing that has helped us in the last couple of games is, in the last five or six minutes of the second quarter, we've played pretty good and got some momentum on our side. We did the same thing by scoring against Auburn right before the half and got some momentum. This past week we got a huge play by our defense right before the half to keep them at 18 instead of them going up by 25. I think that gave us momentum in the second half."

Cat Scratches' take: In the first half against No. 8 Auburn, UK gave up 31 points and 344 yards of total offense. In the second half, the Cats slowed the Tigers to six points and 177 yards. On Saturday, South Carolina ran over the UK defense for 28 points and 369 yards in the first half. The Cats blanked the Gamecocks in the third and fourth quarters and only surrendered 103 yards. Phillips said they're not doing anything different in terms of schemes and blitzes. He would like to see the first-half tackling improve. Too often opposing ball carriers are running over UK tacklers, which can become demoralizing for a team.


Key matchup - Georgia's freshman quarterback Aaron Murray vs. UK defense: "A guy like him, you better mix up your coverage or else he'll pick you apart because he's so sharp and understanding the coverages. You've got to disguise them, you've got to pressure him and you've got to mix and match some of your coverages in the back end."

Cat Scratches' take: If it wasn't for Georgia's four losses, people might be talking about Murray, not South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, as the top freshman in the nation. Murray is the nation's top-ranked freshman quarterback and 18th overall in the country in passing efficiency with a mark of 157.2 though seven games. Last week against Vanderbilt he connected on 15 of 24 passes for a career-high 287 yards and two touchdowns. The stat that stands out, though, is Murray's game management. Contrary to what most freshmen do, Murray has not turned the ball over much this season, throwing just three picks in his first year, tied with UK quarterback Mike Hartline and Alabama gunslinger Greg McElory for the league low (among starting quarterbacks).


Joker's biggest concern - Georgia receiver A.J. Green: "He's big, fast and athletic. I know we've got a couple of big guys in this league, but he's probably the biggest, most athletic guy in this league. ... This guy has come in and just opened up really a whole new dimension to what they can do. Their running game has increased since he's come back because you've got to account for him by putting a safety over the top of him at times. You can't put as many people in the box. He's done wonders for theme offensively. I think it's opened up things for Tavarres King and (Kris) Durham. I think it's opened up things for the tight end, and it's definitely helped the quarterback. You get down on the goal line and you just throw it up to them. He's in (the same category) with Alshon Jeffery and Julio Jones, and hopefully we can put Chris (Matthews) in that category soon."

Cat Scratches' take: Widely regarded as the nation's top receiver - and maybe the most talented player in college football - Green has proved his value this season. In the four games Green sat out during an NCAA suspension, Georgia went 1-3 and the offense sputtered. Since returning and catching 16 balls for 279 yards and four touchdowns, Georgia's offense has found its rhythm. With Green in the lineup, the Bulldogs have averaged 37.67 points and 452.67 yards per game. Jeffery and Jones are in the same category as Green, but no receiver can boast as many acrobatic, highlight-reel, one-handed catches as Green has accumulated over the years.


South Carolina player to watch for (other than Green) - Linebacker Justin Houston: "Forty-two is a really, really good player for them. He plays the outside linebacker and will also rush. He's their hybrid guy. He's a pass rusher that can put his hand in the ground when then want to go with four down linemen, but he'll he also stand up and be that linebacker when they go with the 3-4 fronts."

Cat Scratches' take: Houston leads the SEC in sacks with 6.5 on the season thanks to three sacks in his last two games. The junior outside linebacker also has 11 tackles for a loss this year, but he does more than just pressure the quarterback. Against South Carolina, Houston exploded for a career-high 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Kentucky's offensive line finally surrendered some sacks last week, giving up three to South Carolina. UK still ranks 16th in the nation in sacks allowed.


Kentucky's strength - quarterback Mike Hartline: "You're able to go in with bigger packages with the way Mike is playing because he understands our offense so well. There have been a couple of times that our guys have seen some things that we hadn't worked on that might work in the game, that we've been able to pull out of our bank. We've been able to pull it up and call it and Mike has been able to execute it because of his experience and ability to understand our offense."

Cat Scratches' take: Few, if any people, can argue that Hartline is now a strength of the team. In earning co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, Hartline threw for a career-high 349 yards and four touchdowns on 32 of 42 passing. Check out Wednesday's story on Hartline.


UK players that must step up - safety Winston Guy: "I think Winston has practiced better this week and hopefully he'll be the difference this week. ... I expect him to make more tackles downhill. He's had two big interceptions, but I expect him to make more tackles downhill, meaning tackles for one- and two-yard gains."

Cat Scratches' take: Without Guy's first-half interception last week, there's a good chance UK doesn't pull an upset. After going his first two-plus years without a pick, Guy now has one in each of the last two games. Guy has been instrumental in the second-half surges of the past two weeks, providing better run support than he has all season. Last week he posted 10 tackles, second most on the team.


Final injury report: Phillips officially ruled out Locke for the second straight week with a shoulder stinger. Despite a nagging ankle and shoulder injury, senior defensive end DeQuin Evans will play this week after sitting out against South Carolina. Freshman linebacker Qua Huzzie is out with an ankle injury.

SEC Basketball Media Day live stream

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I won't be at Thursday's Southeastern Conference Media Day in Hoover, Ala., but fortunately the SEC will have a live stream of all the interviews from start to finish.

Kentucky, which will be represented by women's basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell, women's basketball senior Victoria Dunlap, men's basketball head coach John Calipari and men's basketball junior Darius Miller, is slated to go in the afternoon. Dunlap is scheduled to appear at 3:30 p.m. ET, followed by Calipari at 3:40 p.m., Miller at 4 p.m. and Mitchell at 4:10 p.m.

Check out the SEC's live stream here. 

Coach Cal's final comments on Kanter

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After briefly speaking with ESPN's Jimmy Dykes about Enes Kanter during last week's Big Blue Madness, head coach John Calipari has posted an expanded version of his thoughts on coachcal.com in what the coach writes are his final comments on the matter until it is resolved by the NCAA.

Here is the transcript, which was originally posted on coachcal.com:

First of all everybody has to understand, the NCAA is not working against us or Enes, they're working with us. They very easily could have shut this down and said, 'We're not even looking into it.'

But what they know is he was 14, 15 and 16 when he played for that club team. He's not 22, 23-years-old. He just turned 18. Although each case is unique and is evaluated on its own set of facts, what the NCAA is going to decide is going to affect all foreign players in a similar situation. The current rules make their decision even harder.

An example: A young man in the United States goes to a "prep school" for basketball. His education, tutors and books (computer, phone, etc.) are all paid for the by the school and could cost nearly $50,000 per school year.

In Europe that's not the case; if the club gives a family expense money to educate their son, the NCAA rules - at this time - state that those expenses can not be used because the club has a professional team; the young man's age (14 or 15 years old) doesn't matter.

The question becomes, how does the NCAA judge expenses in each case? A young man living in an expensive city will get significantly more money from the club than one living in a rural area of a poor country. Just like in prep school, these European families have to move their children to the club's city. Some relocate entirely, but some, like in Enes' case split their families and have two households.

I love what the NCAA did with Dee Bost (Mississippi State). Dee Bost decided to put his name in the NBA Draft; stayed in the Draft - meaning he was then a professional and could not come back and be an amateur. Yet, they looked at it and said, wait a minute, common sense says, we're going to let him play, sit him out some games and let him play.

So I think, at the end of the day, the NCAA has been fair. They've been more than fair. They're going to make this decision and we want it to be right because it's going to affect all foreign players in a similar situation from here on in.

Live blog: UK men's soccer vs. Indiana

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One of the standards of collegiate men's soccer will be at the UK Soccer Complex on Wednesday night as Indiana comes to town. Indiana isn't as highly ranked as its used to being at No. 20, but I often like to compare Indiana men's soccer to UK men's basketball. The program has often set the bar in the sport.

Should be a prime opportunity for UK to get itself back into postseason consideration with a win. Join us at 7 p.m.

Success has never tasted so sweet for Hartline

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UK_UL_1stHalf_cw_02.JPGMike Hartline doesn't shake in the huddle like La'Rod King says he used to. The only shaking he does is on the ground as he kicks his legs and swings his arms after a game-winning touchdown pass to upset No. 10 South Carolina.

Hartline used to hear boos and listen to what people said when he entered the huddle. Now he ignores them, calls the play and listens for the cheers after it's over.

The senior quarterback used to show his immaturity, painting his teammates' shortfalls for his inability to succeed. Now he credits them for his success.

Oh, how things have changed for Mike Hartline. Once an embattled, controversial young man that maybe was forced into duty before he was ready, Hartline is now one of the biggest strengths on the team this year.

Far and away enjoying the best season of his career, Hartline is second in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards per game (225.9) with a completion percentage of 68.3 percent and a touchdown-to-interception split of 13 to three.

Has it been sweet redemption for Hartline, who, even after throwing for 762 yards and four touchdowns against Florida, Ole Miss and Auburn, had to put up with the same old criticism and quarterback questions?

You bet it has been.

"It's gratifying because you can share it with all these guys and you can see how hard they've worked, see how hard I've worked," Hartline said. "It is good to finally play so hard and get credit for it and just to be able to share it with everyone else."

Hartline won't take salvation in proving some of his harshest critics wrong, instead pointing to his desire to do well in his final season as his initial drive, but there's no denying that reaching the top of a rollercoaster career at UK has been a huge motivator in his success.

After what many are calling his best game in a UK uniform - a career-high 349 passing yards and four touchdowns in the upset of South Carolina - Hartline hopes to have five more just like it.

"It makes you more humble, it makes you aware of all the crap that can't happen and it makes you not want to go back there," Hartline said. "You've worked as hard as you have to get where you are now and you want to keep it up and you want to continue that thing and you don't want to take a step back."

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders sees a correlation in the success Hartline has experienced on the field with his maturity off it. With every external shot and blow Hartline weathers, it's built an unwavering, mentally-tough confidence that didn't exist two years ago.

"You can't withstand some of the things he's withstood off the field without being a pretty mentally tough guy," Sanders said. "You can't be physically tough until you're mentally tough. I think a lot of that goes along with his maturity."

A player that once called out his teammates for having the quarterback job swept from beneath his feet, Hartline now leads by example. Hartline credits the increased team depth and his wide receivers' athleticism for a lot of his success this year.

Against South Carolina, Hartline knowingly and willing stood in the pocket longer than he should have to deliver balls to his teammates. Really, the hits he took Saturday have been nothing like the shots he's taken off the field throughout his career.

"He's grown up a lot," head coach Joker Phillips said. "His body language never changes, even last week when he was getting hit in the mouth. It never really fazed him."

Truth be told, even when Kentucky was in the midst of the three-game losing streak, Hartline was playing pretty darn well outside a couple of costly interceptions.

"It's gratifying for me to know that he's been mentally tough enough and mature enough not to let all those things affect the way he went about his business," Sanders said. "Mike has played very well for us for a couple of years. It's nice for him to have the weapons around him to reap the benefits of playing as well as he's played."

Fans, especially the ones that have finally - finally! - gotten behind Hartline and recognized his success, would point to Hartline's physical shortcomings (inability to throw the deep ball, lack of a running threat) as holding him back.

But the biggest change in Hartline this year has been between the ears. The criticism, fair or unfair, no longer effects how Hartline reacts and plays.

"He has a short-term memory," King said. "He puts (the criticism) in the back of his head. I'm pretty sure he remembers it, but he deserves what he's going through now. ... I think he knows that the fans have his back now and he knows we have his back."

Hartline has been a part of so many quarterback competitions at UK - three in all - and dealt with more than his fair share of criticism that he's learned to shut out everything, good or bad.

"It's all part of the maturity process as a quarterback, on and off the field," Hartline said. "You can't worry about what you can't control. The only way to get better and to help your confidence and help everyone else in your whole situation is do what you can control, and that's just work hard. Hopefully, it will pay off, and it has."

If Ian Collins had been through a season like this year early in his coaching profession, he's not sure he would still be a soccer coach.

Decimated by injuries, stricken with ineligible players because of transfers, and riddled with a load of youth and inexperience, Collins hasn't been through a coaching season quite like this one he's been faced with in his 17th season at the helm of the Kentucky men's soccer program.

"If I had another year like this I would probably be in a different profession," Collins said.

During most of the last two weeks, 10 players on Collins' preseason roster have sat out with injuries or because of NCAA transfer rules. Players that weren't even on the 30-man roster to begin the year are starting and playing significant minutes, and Collins has had to patch nearly a new, freshman-led lineup just about every game. Entering last week's match with Central Florida, 63 percent of the minutes played by the team this year had come from players in their first seasons of playing at Kentucky.

"It's been really hard," Collins said. "We had a plan before the season. We had a real thought process to where our team was going to be at. Of course, in sports, things change day to day, but things have traumatically changed for us."

The list of the missing is almost too long to believe: midfielders Josh McCrary, C.J. Tappel, Christi Nousiadis and Ryan Costen have all been lost to season-ending injuries. Midfielders Drew Midkiff and Pierre Manga and forwards Cameron Wilder and Alex Clay have all missed time over the last couple of weeks with varying injuries. 

Then there are transfers Marco Bordon and Josh Mulvany, who the coaching staff hoped to have this season. Instead, the NCAA ruled they had to sit out this year due to NCAA transfer rules. Collins said Mulvany could be one of the best players in the nation when he becomes eligible.

"People don't know Mulvany but Mulvany is going to be one of the best players in the country," Collins said. "He's a terrific player. McCrary, a terrific player. C.J. has done great things here. You throw Marco Bordon in there and put those four in the midfield and we've got a different look."

UK received a lift this weekend when Wilder and Midkiff returned (Midkiff suffered a scary injury at Marshall and was feared to be lost for the year), but as luck would have at, two more players, defender David Harrison and forward Brendan Murphy, got hurt just as soon as Wilder and Midfiff came back.

With Harrison now out, all four of UK's seniors have missed time this season. Only one, Midkiff, will play against No. 20 Indiana on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.

"The most difficult things is we've got guys who are very young , and that's one thing, but guys that maybe needed a little time to mature and to really figure it out," Collins said. "We're asking them to play against top-level competition, top-five teams, top-10 teams. It's difficult. To their credit, I think they've done fairly well."

The loss of players, especially leaders, on a team that had to bid farewell to former stars Barry Rice, Jason Griffiths and Dan Williams has been an excruciatingly tough blow to an extremely young team (15 of the 33 players are freshmen).

"If we've got our football team without Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline and Chris Matthews, you're going to find out about some of your other players," Collins said. "We're finding out about some of our other players."

Collins has learned about the fight of his team in an adverse situation. Players like Tyler Beadle, Brad Doliner and Ellis Vienne, who was the 31st player on UK's roster at the beginning of the year, are playing "unreal" and stepping up, Collins said. Freshman Sam Brooks, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound defender, has been forced to play forward and is leading the team in scoring.

The coaches expected freshman Dylan Asher to come in and play right away, but they didn't expect him to lead like he's been forced to.

"He's a quality, quality kid," Collins said. "He plays every minute. He's one of those kids you just love to be around. He's an impact player and should be a Freshman All-American because he's carried a lot of players on his back."

Collins has been very proud of how resilient his team has been this year, but he admitted his players have been mentally and physically pushed to an extreme level.

In addition to dealing with the first-year pressures of going to college, dealing with midterms and papers, and adjusting to the responsibilities of being a student-athlete, the freshmen have had to battle through a school-record eight overtime games this season.

"The young guys have no idea what's hitting them," Collins said. "They're dealing with midterms and they're dealing with things they've never been asked to do. They're being asked to be responsible for teams like UAB (RPI ranking of 42), Central Florida (No. 30), Connecticut (No. 24), Louisville (No. 3), Michigan (No. 43), teams that they're looking at and are just kind of like, 'I'm not quite sure what to do here.' They're starting to understand that and they're starting to understand the accountability."

With a team short of depth, the additional minutes of overtime and the heartbreak of a golden-goal loss can start to pile up.

"I think it's mental," Collins said. "We lost three of our first four overtime games. It was very hard. We went into the Evansville game and you see there was a little bit of fear, a little bit of trepidation on guys' faces because they're thinking 'Here we go again.' "

But the Cats dug out a win at Evansville in overtime and followed it up with a golden-goal victory over Marshall.

Collins said it can become easy for them to feel sorry for themselves with all the injuries they've been through this year, but he and his team are refusing to give in. Collins expects the same out of his 31st player as he does his first, and he expects the Cats to continue to claw for the C-USA Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

"Whether that's fair or unfair, I think that's the standard we have to live to and not let them have excuses and make them understand what we're trying to play for," Collins said.

At 4-6-3 overall, an NCAA Tournament at-large bid is a long shot, but UK is hoping to make the league tournament and make a run from there.

If nothing else, Collins has learned about the depth of his team and built a strong foundation for next year.

"With all due respect to our kids, we've kind of dug to the bottom of the well and the bottom of the well has responded pretty well," Collins said. "They could have just folded and written off the season used all these excuses, but we're never going to go through that. It's been hard, but we're trying to win tomorrow. We're trying to win against Indiana."

Coach Cal's open letter to Big Blue Nation

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MBSK 09_10 UK_Ole Miss Web 09.jpgWith the first four official practices of the 2010-11 season completed over the weekend, UK Coach John Calipari took a few moments on Monday morning to pen a letter to UK fans. Here is that letter:

Dear Big Blue Nation:

First off, thank you for making Big Blue Madness the special evening it was for all our men's and women's players. I know I speak for all of us when I say that you gave us chills throughout the entire evening. And how about that energy and passion carrying over to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night? Well, let's just say that you guys are the greatest fans in all of sports. Thank you for your continued devotion to all of our student-athletes.

My job this year is a real simple one: How do we get this team to be the best it can be? Right now, I have no idea what that means. But that's the question I'm asking my staff and myself: How good can we be?

I want you all to understand that our staff won't be spoiled by the past - be it last year's remarkable season or our unprecedented record over the last five years. I have been blessed and yes, a bit spoiled by these past several years. It's no different than a high school player who is spoiled by his past successes and then gets to college and finds out the competition is stiffer and more daunting. He must rise to that level and figure out how to compete and survive.

With last year's team, after a few days, I said right up front that it would be the most talented team I'd ever coached. But early on it might have been the fifth or sixth best execution team I'd ever coached. Let's face it, early in the season we won on sheer talent and a "will to win" by a few of the players. We simply Refused to Lose. The other teams executed better than we did and as much as I hate to say it, were probably better coached than our team.

But as the season progressed, what that team became was truly a pleasure to watch. They got better every day; became closer every day; and they got mentally and physically tougher every day. They sacrificed for each other and by the end of the year we were best team in country - with some flaws, yes - but in my opinion, still the best. Also, by the end of the year we executed as well as any team.

From Day One - everyone said our Achilles heel was our shooting and as much as I hate to admit it, that was what got us in the end.

As I said on Friday night, we have now turned the page. This year's team will need to have a steady climb - how steep is that climb? I don't know yet. How big is that mountain we're going to climb? I don't know yet. People who are rating us right now be it high or low, they don't really know - they're all guessing. If I don't have any idea where we are, you can be sure no one else does!

That being said I love this team and I love its potential and I love their receptiveness to coaching.

There are many questions to be answered: Will we be tough enough both physically and mentally? Will we have players with the will to win? Will we have a few catalysts that will make plays at big moments? Will we execute well enough early in the season to win some games we should not win? And will we be a long, active defensive team that relies on defense more than anything else?

Right now we may be the worst rebounding team playing basketball today - that has to change. And, as was the case last year, we have some awful "freshmen habits" that need to be changed, some that have be to eliminated and others that have to be added. But I think this team is receptive to that and I really think this team understands what it means to play in a Kentucky uniform and what it means to be ready to play every possession of every game.

Where we stand right now with toughness and rebounding, we probably need to struggle early because only a crisis brings about change. I hate to lose - you all know I hate to lose - but at times it's necessary for a team like this to take its knocks early in order to get them to realize the importance of rebounding and defense.

The same may hold true in league play - we may need to be in some dogfights early during SEC competition to get this team to understand and realize how every possession matters and that it's not for "funsies" any more. You're either into winning or you're into yourself - you can't be into both.

Sometimes, only a loss or two are the kind of crises that brings about change. My hope is we can learn from some close wins like we did a year ago, but I'm just not sure yet that will be the case with this team.

Now, there is one thing in the way that I threw out in front of these young men as an obstacle and it's called "The Schedule" - the toughest non conference schedule in the country and a conference schedule that will see us, in my opinion, face four NCAA tournament teams twice each, along with another NCAA tournament team or two once each. All that while being possibly the youngest team in the country!

Why would I do that to this team? Well, no one's ever accused me of being smart!!

Big Blue Nation, I'll leave you with this: I love this team and I love its potential. We are nowhere close to where we need to be but I'm going to have a ball coaching this team and I want all of you to enjoy the path.

Your coach,

Coach Cal

Cobb back in Heisman discussion

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Cam Newton is far and away your leader for the Heisman Trophy this year, but look who just put himself back into the picture. While Randall Cobb has been busy trying to get himself out of the headlines the last few days for the all the wrong reasons (Twitter), he's quietly inserted himself back into the Heisman discussion.

It's only one fourth-place vote, but Cobb is making his first career appearance on ESPN's Heisman Watch after the junior do-everything caught the game-winning pass against No. 10 South Carolina.

Cobb currently sits in a tie for eighth place on ESPN's Heisman Watch. The third-year UK star is looking up at Auburn's Newton (67 points), Boise State's Kellen Moore (62), Oregon's LaMichael James (49), Stanford's Andrew Luck (21), Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (seven), Michigan's Denard Robinson (six) and Oklahoma's Landry Jones (four).

The Southeastern Conference individual rankings are dotted with Cobb's name. Cobb ranks second in the league in all-purpose yards per game (174.1), third in receptions per game (5.71), fifth in receiving yards per game (66.6), fourth in punt return average (9.8), sixth in points per game (8.3) and 10th in kick return average (23.4).

Cobb moved into sole possession of first place with 33 career touchdowns, breaking Craig Yeast's all-time mark of 32.

Dunlap media's preseason SEC Player of the Year

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for dunlap 2 uk butler.jpgRelease from the Southeastern Conference office:

Birmingham, Ala. -- Tennessee was predicted to win the 2011 Southeastern Conference women's basketball championship in a voting of a select panel of both SEC and national media members.

The Tennessee women's basketball team returns an intact squad after going 32-3 and winning both the 2010 SEC regular season and tournament championships last year.  They earned 15-of-17 first-place votes.

Tennessee tops the order of finish with 202 points, with Kentucky (183), Vanderbilt (157), Georgia (150), LSU (147) and Auburn (120) rounding out the top half of the league.  South Carolina (84), Arkansas (81), Alabama (65), and Ole Miss (47) were next with Mississippi State (45) and Florida (45) tied for last place.

Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap was the overwhelming choice of the media for SEC Women's Basketball Player of the Year with 13 votes, the remaining votes were for Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen.  Dunlap, a senior forward, led Kentucky in almost every statistical category, averaging 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season.  She was named 2010 SEC Player of the Year for her efforts.

Joining Dunlap on the All-SEC First Team are LSU's LaSondra Barrett; Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen; and Vanderbilt's Jence Rhoads.  Second team consists of Alabama's Tierney Jenkins; Auburn's Alli Smalley; Georgia's Porsha Phillips; Kentucky's A'dia Mathies and Tennessee's Kelley Cain.

Points were compiled on a 12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.  Each media member also voted for one team as an overall conference champion and a five-player All-SEC Team.

The 2010-11 SEC Media Preseason Poll tips off SEC Basketball Media Days, October 21 at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.  The SEC Women's Basketball Coaches Poll will be released on Thursday, Oct. 28.
 
Preseason Media Poll
(First-Place Votes in Parentheses)

SEC Champion: Tennessee (15), Kentucky (1), Auburn (1)

Player of the Year: Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky (13), Angie Bjorklund, Tennessee (2), Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee (2)

Order of Finish
1. Tennessee          202
2. Kentucky           183
3. Vanderbilt          157
4. Georgia             150
5. LSU                147
6. Auburn             120
7. South Carolina     84
8. Arkansas           81
9. Alabama            65
10. Ole Miss          47
11. Mississippi State  45
11. Florida            45


First Team
LaSondra Barrett, LSU
Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky
Angie Bjorklund, Tennessee
Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee
Jence Rhoads, Vanderbilt

Second Team
Tierney Jenkins, Alabama
Alli Smalley, Auburn
Porsha Phillips, Georgia
A'dia Mathies, Kentucky
Kelley Cain, Tennessee

Oct. 17 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Oct. 17:

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Freshman Whitney Billings had an outstanding weekend in helping lead the Blue and White to a pair of Southeastern Conference home victories. Billings put together a sensational complete effort for the Wildcats and was exceptional in all phases of the game. Against Alabama, Billings paced the squad with a team-high 14 kills on a .312 hitting percentage, just the fourth time in her career she has eclipsed the .300 mark. She also contributed 12 digs in the victory for her fifth career double-double and the first of her career in conference action. Billings then added eight kills and a team-high 13 digs in a win over Mississippi State. It is the second time in four matches Billings has led the Wildcats in digs for a match. She was targeted 20 times this weekend off of the service line and was perfect with a 1.000 reception percentage. For the weekend, Billings led the team with 3.14 kills per set while ranking second on the squad with 3.57 digs per set. She totaled 3.50 points per stanza to rank second on the squad. Her numbers for the week were all well above her season average, including kills per set, hitting percentage, assists, aces, digs, receptions and points.

Women's tennis: Megan Broderick

Advanced to the round of 16 of the main singles draw at the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships. Teamed up with sophomore Jessica Stiles to advance to the semifinals of the main doubles draw.

Football: Winston Guy

Had 10 tackles and an interception.

Football: Mike Hartline

Completed 32 of 42 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns in upset of South Carolina.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot continues to be a force for the Wildcats from the back line. Klefot picked up 32 digs in seven sets action for an average of 4.57 digs per set in helping lead UK to a pair of SEC victories. With 21 scoops against Alabama, Klefot has now posted six matches this season with 20 or more digs. She has led the Blue and White in digs in 17 matches this season. With 11 digs against Mississippi State, Klefot has charted 10 or more digs in 19 of UK's 20 matches this season. With the 32 scoops this weekend, she surpassed her season total from a year ago.

Football: Chris Matthews

Caught a career-high 12 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown.

Cross country: Luis Orta

Orta has led the men's team in each of its three previous meets of the season and made it a fourth with a strong finish Friday in Boone, N.C. The sophomore navigated the 8,000-meter course in 24:49.30 for his fourth consecutive top-25 finish.

Volleyball: Becky Pavan

Junior Becky Pavan continued her efficient play in helping the Wildcats to a pair of SEC home victories this weekend. Pavan charted 2.86 kills per stanza on a team-high .395 hitting clip in seven sets of action. Against Alabama, Pavan totaled 13 kills for her 20th career match with 10 or more hammers. She totaled the 13 kills on a .500 hitting clip and contributed a team-high four blocks. Against Mississippi State, Pavan turned in the most complete performance of the season. She notched seven kills in the win, but it was her contributions from the service line that paid the most dividends for the Blue and White. UK scored 19 points with its starting middle blocker at the service line in the three set match with the Bulldogs. She had four runs of six or more points while adding a season-high three service aces. With her strong service performance she was forced into action from the back row and came through with a career-high six digs in the match. She also dished out a pair of assists and added two blocks to her line. For the weekend, Pavan led the team with 4.00 points per set, well above her average of 2.47 for the season.

Swimming and diving: Kelcy Perry

  • Kelcy Perry led the Kentucky women's swimming and diving team to a pair of wins over Southern Illinois and Missouri to open the season.
  • Perry, a sophomore from Richmond, Ky., won the 200- and 100-butterfly and was a member of the victorious 200-medley relay.
  • Perry set a personal-best time in the 200-butterfly with a 2:04.93.
  • Perry's previous best was 2:10.17. In the 100-fly, Perry swam to a first place finish with a time of 56.20.
  • Perry combined with Chatham Penrod, Jenna Willis, and Jenna Newsome for Kentucky's victory in the 200-medley relay. Perry swam the third leg in a time of 25.04.

Football: Ryan Tydlacka

Punted for 41.5-yard average and had three punts inside the 20-yard line.

Video: Cobb apologizes for Twitter messages

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Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb


Head coach Joker Phillips

It wasn't as short lived as 140 characters are intended to be, but finally the controversy surrounding Randall Cobb's Twitter rant on Sunday is over after the Kentucky football leader addressed the media and apologized Tuesday for his actions.

"I just want to start off by saying that I made a mistake," Cobb said. "I did, I messed up, and I take blame for everything I said. I know it was wrong. I was wrong for the fact that I took a percentage, a small percentage of our fan base, and I lumped them all as one and made it all whole. That's not how our fans are. That's not how the majority - 99.9 percent of our fans are great fans, and they know that. They've been supporting us throughout the years.

"I just took a small chunk and made it something big, and I can't do that. I made a mistake. I'm a man, I admit my mistake, and I just want to come out and let everybody know that I'm sorry. I hope they can forgive me."

Cobb said he realized two or three minutes after he sent out a series of tweets that he made a mistake and deleted them. He immediately posted a follow-up tweet thanking the fans.

"It was all my decision to take it down," Cobb said. "I knew I was wrong in the beginning. Right after I sent it I had to take it back because I was out of character."

The last few days have served as a valuable learning lesson for Cobb and his teammates as to the power and weight their words carry as leaders and role models.

"I understand that I have an inspiration to other people and I inspire other people and my words can mean a lot, but I didn't realize they meant so much," Cobb said. "I realize that now and it's a lesson learned."

Cobb said the intent of the rant was to show the fans how much they mean and can affect the team.

"What I wanted to get out of it was to let others realize how we can tell what's going on," Cobb said. "We know what's going on. We can hear you. Regardless of whether we respond or not, we can hear you. We know what's being said, and it hurts sometimes. It really does."

Part of Cobb's series of tweets referred to some of the diehard UK men's basketball fans. Cobb said he meant no disrespect to the basketball team.

"They know I have more respect for them than anybody," Cobb said. "I hang out with half those guys. I've been over there and talked to Coach Cal. I have so much respect for that program. I'm trying to make this program similar to that one and have a football-basketball school. That is what my intentions are and what my goals are. It had nothing to do with them."

Despite the much-publicized controversy, head coach Joker Phillips decided not to ban Twitter after a meeting with the players Monday night.

"We're going to allow them to tweet, twit or whatever you call it," Phillips said. "We've just got to be smarter about it. That's it, period."

Wide receiver La'Rod King sent out a tweet Monday night that seemed to indicate Phillips was banning his players from using the social media website and application, but Phillips said it is an important part of the players' lives.

"I tell our kids, 'Hey, don't quit, don't quit, don't quit.' Randall is the guy that I usually go to," Phillips said. "(I tell him), 'Hey, don't let this team quit. Do not let this team quit.' Has anybody known if Randall Cobb has ever quit. Has he? Well, he gets upset if he feels like somebody else might quit on him. That was the gist of (Sunday's message)."

From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Oct. 19

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UK_SC_03_BW.jpgCall it "The New Adventures of Old Kentucky", with Randall Cobb cast in the starring role instead of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It's the saga of young players with great aspirations and older fans with bad memories of days gone by.

It came to head shortly after the dramatic 31-28 upset of 10th-ranked South Carolina when Cobb sent out some tweets in which he vented anger at fans who either didn't show up, left early or lashed out at players with criticism when the Cats dug themselves into a 28-10 hole.

If any player has the equity to have earned a Twitter mulligan, it's Cobb, who has evolved into one of the most popular players ever with the Big Blue Nation. That's why Cobb will probably get plenty of understanding from the fan base, but you can bet coach Joker Phillips will point out the downside to Cobb's heat-of-the-moment reaction. 

Some of the positive buzz from Kentucky's performance has been replaced with the discussion of Cobb's tweets about fans. National media types have picked up on it and you can bet rival recruiters will, too.

Thoughtful consideration of the impact of our comments is an old-school notion at a time when Twitter, Facebook updates, message-board posts and talk-show rants dominate the discussion. It turns out "counting to 10 before acting" might still be a good strategy.

I thought Mark Story made a great point in his column in today's Lexington Herald-Leader -- this is a case of mutual misunderstanding.

Players for whom the concept of "history" means yesterday do not fully appreciate how much heartache longtime Kentucky football fans have suffered through with little return on their investment until the last four years.

But some fans also need to acknowledge that losses like the one to Auburn, with the opening marching down the field on a gut-wrenching drive to snatch away victory at the final horn, are no longer the norm for the Kentucky football program.

It started with the Wildcats coming from behind twice in the fourth quarter to beat Georgia in 2006. In 2007, Kentucky trailed LSU by 13 before rallying for the upset. In 2008, the Cats were left for dead midway through the fourth quarter against Arkansas before wiping out a 20-7 lead in the final few minutes of the game. And later that year, the deficit was 16-3 at halftime in the Liberty Bowl before Big Blue rallied to defeat East Carolina. Last year, there were fourth-quarter comeback wins at Auburn and at Georgia.

After one looks at that list, it's easier to see why a player with Cobb's heart would get frustrated when he perceives his own fans have thrown in the towel and failed to believe in his team from the start.

There will undoubtedly be more games like this year's Auburn loss, but recent history suggests there are more examples like the South Carolina win.

If Kentucky does get to that long-discussed "next level" in the Southeastern Conference, the graph of the improvement will have not been a straight line. It never is. The hope as a team is you take two steps forward for every one step back.

Kentucky lost a game it should have won at Ole Miss but now it won a game it could have lost against South Carolina. It leaves the Wildcats back in control of their own destiny when it comes to reaching that elusive bigger and better bowl south of the state of Tennessee's southern border. And with a little help, UK could even still achieve what many surely felt was impossible -- winning the SEC East.

That's where this team's focus needs to be this week and you can bet Cobb will be working extra hard to keep it there.

Veterans stepping into leadership roles

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Miller shoots western.jpgDarius Miller, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson have had quite a ride in their time at Kentucky. They are entering their third seasons at Kentucky and have seen and been a part of success, failure and a coaching change.

Miller, Liggins and Harrellson are the three remaining members of Billy Gillispie's five-man recruiting class in 2008. In their first season, they were a part of a team that missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly two decades. In their second season, they were members of the supporting cast of John Calipari's first UK team, a squad that returned the Wildcats to glory with a regular-season Southeastern Conference title, an SEC Tournament championship and a berth in the Elite Eight.

Now, with UK having lost five players to the NBA, Miller, Liggins and Harrellson are being asked to do something that had previously been the responsibility of their teammates -- they're being asked to lead. While the three may not be as naturally inclined to lead as John Wall and Patrick Patterson, for example, Calipari is demanding they take a step forward.

"I'm definitely trying to step up into that role and be more of a leader," Miller said. "All of the other veteran guys with experience under Coach Cal are trying to do the same thing."

A leader must be unafraid of demanding the ball and making a big play. Calipari demands that his leaders fill the role of catalyst.

"If you're going to be a catalyst, our team has to know you show up every game," Calipari said. "It doesn't mean you make every shot, it means you have the same kind of mentality every time you play, and you figure it out however you feel."

However, leadership is a delicate balance, particularly under Calipari. That role of catalyst must be accompanied by servant leadership, a willingness of an individual to put the team before himself.

"How about Patrick Patterson?" Calipari said, citing an example. "He scored less than the year before. He rebounds less. He goes from being the guy to one of the guys. And he goes from maybe being the 25th to 28th pick in the draft. By giving it all up, by servant leadership, by giving it up and sacrificing, he goes 14th in the draft."

With Calipari signing the nation's top recruiting class for the second consecutive season, this year's roster is comprised of another group of talented newcomers. For UK to meet expectations, multiple freshmen are going to have to play a major role from day one.  

Miller, Liggins and Harrellson are going to be asked to sacrifice for the benefit of the team as well as play a major role in integrating the newcomers. Fortunately, they have experience from last year when they helped successfully do the same thing.

"We went through it once, so it's easier this time around," Harrellson said. "You have to teach them what needs to be taught. You have to teach them right from wrong and lead by example."

Miller was quick to point out that Calipari helped matters by bringing in a group blessed with character as well as talent.

"He recruited a great bunch of guys, not just players," Miller said. "That makes it a lot easier, too."

While it is wise to avoid individual comparisons with last year's team, there are many lessons to be learned from it.
           
"Will this team come together and share the ball and do the things they have to do to be their brother's keeper?" Calipari asked. "Will you be your brother's keeper? Will we have servant leadership which we had a year ago, where our leaders cared more about the team?"

With experience from last year, the group of veterans understands the humility it takes to exhibit servant leadership. They, particularly Miller and Liggins, are working to develop the confidence it takes to be catalysts.

One factor helping in that endeavor is the fact that Miller, Harrellson, and Liggins are playing for the same coach in consecutive seasons for the first time in their collegiate careers.

"(Playing for Calipari for another season) will help me greatly," Liggins said. "He's a great coach, I fit his system well, and he's a great motivator. I'm more relaxed, more confident, too."

Miller anticipates that the continuity from last season will allow him to focus on what is being asked of him as a leader, rather than learning a new system.

"It means a lot to have that experience and know what to expect going into it," Miller said.  "It's different when you switch coaches with totally different styles of play. Playing for him again, especially the type of coach he is, makes it a lot easier."

No matter how talented a group of freshmen may be, there are going to be inevitable ups and downs. Last season, Patterson provided a consistent veteran presence that helped weather many of those downs. This season, Calipari will turn to Miller, Liggins and Harrellson to do the same.

"I think we'll be a different style, but we'll get just as much done," Miller said.

Phillips on the airwaves

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The win over South Carolina stirred some national attention for Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips.

After appearing on the "Jack and Zakk Show" (Jack Trudeau and Dominic Zaccagnini) Tuesday morning on Fox Sports Radio, Phillips will make two more national radio appearances Tuesday (all times are Eastern):

- 1:03 p.m. on Sirius/XM - the SEC radio show hosted by Jack Arute and Mike Leach

- 1:30 p.m. on the Jim Rome Radio Show

Defense seeking faster start

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FB08_09 UK_GA web 59.jpgThe adage is as old as football itself.

"We've got to play football for 60 minutes," head coach Joker Phillips has said all season long.

As overused as it may be, it couldn't be truer for the Kentucky defense. Over the last four halves of football, there have been two entirely different UK defenses on the field - at least to the eye it's looked like two different units.

In the first half against No. 8 Auburn, UK gave up 31 points and 344 yards of total offense. In the second half, the Cats slowed the Tigers to six points and 177 yards. On Saturday, South Carolina ran over the UK defense for 28 points and 369 yards in the first half. The Cats blanked the Gamecocks in the third and fourth quarters and only surrendered 103 yards.

 "We'll probably just try to convince them (the first half) is the second half," Phillips said jokingly at his weekly news conference Monday. "We don't stretch much in the second half. Maybe we shouldn't stretch. We don't stretch in the second half. We usually eat orange slices (at halftime). Maybe we'll do that at the beginning of the game instead of at halftime."

All kidding aside, it's looked as if a new defense has emerged from the locker room after halftime the last two weeks. To the casual eye, it appeared as if UK was blitzing more in the second half in the last two games, but Phillips said that's not the case.

"We've got to tackle better in the first half," Phillips said. "We're not calling anything different. If you look at our film and say we blitzed more in the second half, no, we didn't."

Phillips said the team just needs to get one stop and get off the field in the first half for the confidence of the players.

"The thing that they did in the second half is once they made a play, their body language did change, in my opinion," Phillips said. "It's like piranhas. Once you smell blood, everybody wants some. Somebody made a play in the second half, a big play, and everybody wanted to make a play."

Linebacker Danny Trevathan has a couple of theories as to why the defense starts so slowly.
"I think we wait for them to attack us first and get us on our heels," Trevathan said. "In that second half, we're getting on our toes and attacking them. We're waiting and seeing what they're bringing to the table."

Instead of letting the other team set the tempo, Trevathan said the defense needs to dictate the pace of the game.

"We've got to go out there and attack them first, show them what we bring to the table," Trevathan said.

Trevathan is probably one of the few defensive players that hasn't missed tackles this season. He leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles (70) and tackles per game (10.0) despite playing with a cast on his left arm.

"Danny is one of those guys that puts his face on people," Phillips said. "That's how he tackles. He puts his face on the ball."

Asked what makes him so good, Phillips said speed.

"He's a guy that's fast enough to get up underneath blocks and people to the spot," Phillips said of the 6-foot-1, 223-pound undersized linebacker. "You have linebackers that are trying to pull that might have leverage on them. They lose their leverage because of how fast he is."

The wild, wild East: One win and just like that, UK is back in the SEC East picture. The Cats are even talking SEC East crown.

At 1-3 in league play, one would think expectations would be tapered just a bit, but that's not the case with this year's SEC.

No team in the SEC East boasts more than two wins, and league favorite Florida has just as many losses as Kentucky. Georgia, who Kentucky plays Saturday, is tied for the division lead in wins despite four regular-season losses.

The SEC East is anybody's game.

"It's always going to go down to the wire who wins it," Phillips said. "It's going to be two or three teams. It just happens to be now at this time in the season it's probably all six of us have a chance. Usually it will always be parity in the East."

Unlike most coaches, Phillips said he's not afraid to openly talk about the SEC championship in the middle of the season. The team has to keep a one-game-at-a-time mentality, but it's important for the players to believe the goal is attainable.

"I want our guys to hear it," Phillips said. "Usually you have coaches who say we don't talk about it. Here in Kentucky, we need to hear it."

Hearing Kentucky and SEC crown in the same sentence is an unlikely pair, but the team is borrowing a similar motto to the one the Boston Red Sox used in the 2004 MLB Playoffs when the team was down 0-3 to the New York Yankees in the American League Championships Series.

"Why not us?" Lumpkin said. "Why can't Kentucky do it?"

The Red Sox came back from a 0-3 deficit to win the American League pennant and the World Series.

Matthews flourishing: A few weeks ago, following a 114-yard, two-touchdown performance, Phillips said senior wide receiver Chris Matthews was playing like he wanted to be pro.

On Saturday he looked like one.

Matthews caught a career-high 12 balls for 177 yards and a touchdown against the Gamecocks. On the year, he's fourth in the SEC in receiving yards per game (68.9) and tied for fourth in receptions (33).

"What's happened to him is he's learning what to do, therefore, he's able to play faster," Phillips said. "He's getting his head around quicker and being able to adjust to some of the balls that last year he probably couldn't have adjusted to."

Phillips credited a change in work ethic to Matthews' success this year.

"He's watching more film, doing those things, the little things," Phillips said. "He's always worked hard on the field, but I think he's doing the little things (like) trying to lead. He's getting in there early in the weight room, doing all the little things that make guys great players."

Though Insight Communications does not carry Comcast Sports, which is broadcasting this weekend's UK-Georgia football game, Insight will make the game available to customers in select markets in Kentucky.

Here is a full rundown of channel assignments in each market:

Louisville
Digital box: channel 503
Without digital box: channel 15

Lexington
Digital box: channel 503
Without digital box: channel 14

Northern Kentucky
Digital box: channel 503 
Without digital box: channel 99

Bowling Green
Digital box: channel 503 
Without digital box: channel 5

Evansville/Henderson
Digital box: channel 503
Without digital box: channel 74

Big Blue Madness videos

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Big Blue Madness intro


Rock Star


Can You Hear Us Now?


Men's basketball intro

Men's basketball picked to finish second in SEC East

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SEC LOGO UK BLUE.jpgKentucky men's basketball won't be the hands-on favorite to win the Southeastern Conference this year.

Florida was predicted to win the 2011 SEC title this year by a select panel of both SEC and national media members. Each SEC school selected media members that cover their team and additional writers from across the nation were selected by the conference office to form the voting panel.

Kentucky, after claiming its 44th SEC regular-season title and 26th SEC Tournament championship last year, was picked to finish second in the SEC East and received two votes as SEC champion.

Georgia's junior Trey Thompkins was the top choice for the SEC Player of the Year with 18 votes. Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight received one vote and joined four other players (Thompkins, Ole Miss' Chris Warren, Georgia's Travis Leslie and Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor)  on the preseason All-SEC first team.

Video: Pre-Georgia player interviews

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Sophomore wide receiver La'Rod King


Junior cornerback Anthony Mosley


Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan


Senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin

UK-USC an SEC 'Instant Classic'

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Still can't get enough of Kentucky football's upset of No. 10 South Carolina? The Southeastern Conference has you covered.

SECsports.com is featuring the UK's win as this week's SEC "Instant Classic." Fans can relive the entire experience as the SEC is featuring the full game on its website for free.

Watch the replay of UK-South Carolina.

UK-Mississippi State at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU

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At the rate we're going, Kentucky football may never have a day game again.

OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but for the seventh time this season, UK will have a primetime football game. The UK-Mississippi State game on Oct. 30 has been picked up by ESPNU for a 7 p.m. ET broadcast.

This week's UK-Georgia game is on CSS at 7:30 p.m.

This week's SEC schedule:

  • Tennessee at South Carolina, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network
  • Florida vs. Georgia, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
  • Auburn at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2
  • Kentucky at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • Vanderbilt at Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net

Live blog: Phillips' weekly news conference (Georgia)

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More preseason polls

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The Sporting News and Gary Parrish of CBS Sports have released their preseason top-25 polls. As you'd expect, Kentucky men's basketball is in both of the preseason polls.

Parrish, with the assumption that Enes Kanter will not be able to play right away, ranks the Cats at No. 1. The Sporting News tabs UK at No. 8.

CBS Sports
1. Duke
2. Michigan State
3. Purdue
4. Ohio State
5. Pittsburgh
6. Kansas State
7. North Carolina
8. Florida
9. Villanova
10. Baylor
11. Memphis
12. Kansas
13. Gonzaga
14. Kentucky
15. Temple
16. Illinois
17. Missouri
18. Washington
19. Butler
20. Syracuse
21. Tennessee
22. San Diego State
23. Wisconsin
24. Georgia
25. BYU

The Sporting News
1. Michigan State
2. Duke
3. Purdue
4. Kansas
5. Ohio State
6. Kansas State
7. Syracuse
8. Kentucky
9. North Carolina
10. Pittsburgh
11. Villanova
12. Memphis
13. Missouri
14. Gonzaga
15. Illinois
16. Baylor
17. Georgetown
18. Wisconsin
19. Butler
20. Florida
21. Virginia Tech
22. Tennessee
23. Washington
24. Wichita State
25. Florida State

Here is what Parrish had to say about UK: 

I'm ranking Kentucky under the idea that freshman Enes Kanter won't be available for a while -- or at all -- because of questions about his amateur status. Otherwise, the Wildcats would be in the top five. Kanter is that good.

Banner weekend in UK Athletics

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Big Blue Madness weekend is always one of the highlights of the athletics year, but wow, what a weekend UK Athletics just had this week. It was easily one of the best weekends the department has had in quite some time.

After officially kickoff of the 2010 men's and women's basketball seasons Friday night, the Kentucky football team notched its biggest regular-season win since knocking off No. 1 LSU in 2007. The Cats upset No. 10 South Carolina and ended the notorious perfect streak of Steve Spurrier.

That alone would have made for a successful weekend, but other UK teams chipped in on the effort as well.

The volleyball team won six of seven sets this weekend in extending the team's Southeastern Conference winning streak to three matches. There is still a ton of volleyball to be played, but a 2-0 weekend definitely has the Cats back in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The women's soccer team continues a great bounce-back year in Jon Lipsitz's second season as head coach. The Cats notched an eye-opening win against SEC West leader Alabama on Friday and followed it up with a 1-1 tie to Auburn.

The men's soccer team didn't record a win this weekend against nationally ranked UCF or Memphis, but it didn't lose either. With all the injuries Ian Collins' team has gone through this year, two ties aren't so bad.

And then there was that other thing. You know, Big Blue Madness. Whether it was Matthew Mitchell doing the Dougie, Josh Harrellson doing the Carlton, Big Tigger or Enes Kanter's Undertaker introduction, it was yet another successful Big Blue Madness.

With a weekend like this past one, there should be a few more smiles Monday morning in Lexington than usual.

Notes: Team growing up in front of Phillips' eyes

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In terms of season-saving wins, the Kentucky football team will be hard pressed to find a bigger win the rest of the year than the one it snatched Saturday night against No. 10 South Carolina.

Had Kentucky bowed out after halftime and fallen to 3-4 on the season, 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference, the chances of achieving something special this year would have been slim-to-none, especially with conference foes Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee still on the schedule.

At 4-3 and 1-3 in the conference, UK is actually back in the SEC East division hunt. No team in the East has more than two wins in the league.

With momentum shifted, how will the Kentucky players handle the swing? Head coach Joker Phillips said he is not worried about his team's ability to handle prosperity.

"Our team is starting to grow right before our eyes," Phillips said on his Sunday teleconference. "They've been great in responding to everything that we've asked them to get up for. After a tough loss to Florida, after a tough loss at Ole Miss, they responded. After a tough loss to Auburn, they responded. I have nothing but respect for them and I know that they will respond to the success that they just had this week."

UK came extremely close to marching itself right out of Saturday's game. The South Carolina offense bludgeoned Kentucky's defense in the first half and ran out to a 28-10 lead before halftime. Had UK not forced a turnover late in the first half - the Cats forced three in the first two quarters - a comeback likely never happens.

"The turnover right before the half (was big)," Phillips said. "It was 28-10 and it looked like they were about to score again. They complete a pass down the middle of the field and Danny (Trevathan) causes a turnover and we get it back. I think that gave us momentum. If they score then, you're down 35-10. I think that was the turning point in my opinion. It gave our kids a chance to win."

Cobb makes youthful mistake on Twitter: The social media world has opened up a new avenue for student-athletes, coaches and fans to express themselves in the modern world, both for the good and bad.

On Sunday, junior Randall Cobb experienced the negative effects of it.

A day after the win over South Carolina, Cobb, one of the team's leaders, took to his Twitter account to voice his frustration over a faction of fans that he felt like were not supporting the team enough. Cobb later deleted the "tweets" and sent a thank you to the fans who have stuck by the program.

"To all the fans that has been true to this program throughout the years. Yall deserved a win like that last night! Let's keep it going!" tweeted Cobb, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass Saturday, moving him into sole possession on UK's all-time touchdown list with 33 scores. 

Phillips said he was aware of what Cobb said and attributed the lapse in judgment to Cobb's youth.

"Everybody knows and understands how passionate of a player he is, of how passionate he is about this team, of how passionate he is about his teammates, of how passionate he is about the University of Kentucky football program," Phillips said. "He's a 19-, 20-year-old kid that doesn't always understand how to deal with people reacting the way that he didn't think that they should react."

Phillips said it's taken most of his life to gain that understanding.

"I'm 47 years old and I'm really just now figuring out how not to react to those things," Phillips said. "Randall is a young, passionate player. The reason why he's so successful is because he is so passionate about what he does. He doesn't always understand why people might criticize him or his players. I know he will be very apologetic because he does care about the people in the locker room and he cares about the people across the state of Kentucky, obviously, with all the things that he does in this community. He loves this place. He will make this home. I really think that he'll make this home one day."

Several college football teams have banned their players from using Twitter this season. North Carolina was the latest to do it as UNC coach Butch Davis banned his players from using Twitter on Oct. 15.

Phillips, who has more than 16,000 followers on Twitter, said he's thought about banning his players from using the social media application but added that he wants his players to be able to express themselves.

"I've thought about banning it," Phillips said. "We'll continue to think about it and we'll try to make a decision. One thing we've got to try to do is get our arms around it for sure. I have thought about banning it, but I also want to give these guys a chance to express themselves, but not express themselves that might harm someone else. I don't want that. We've got to get a little bit smarter in doing it."

Locke's status uncertain for Georgia: One of the most overlooked feats of beating nationally ranked South Carolina was that UK managed to do it without its star running back Derrick Locke.

Locke, the team's leading rusher, missed Saturday's game with a shoulder stinger. In his absence, sophomore Donald Russell, freshman Raymond Sanders and Cobb split carries. UK totaled 52 yards on 33 carries.

Locke's status for Georgia is uncertain.

"He's a lot better today than he was this week and actually a lot better than he was yesterday, but he's still doubtful," Phillips said. "We're hoping that he continues to improve this past week. It's day-to-day. If he continues to improve the way he did this past week, we think we may have a chance to get him back."

Hartline earns awards: Two weeks ago quarterback Mike Hartline was receiving a bit of unfair criticism from people. Now he's receiving awards.

The College Football Performance Awards named Hartline one of three National Performers of the Week after Hartline threw for a career-high 349 yards and four touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing in the win over South Carolina.

Hartline and Phillips also earned praise from ESPN blogger Chris Low, who handed out two of his five "helmet stickers" to the quarterback and head coach.

Here is what Low had to say about both:  

Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline: Making a strong bid as the SEC's most improved player this season, Hartline was also long on courage Saturday night. He stood in there repeatedly against a fierce South Carolina rush and completed 32 of 42 passes for 349 yards, for four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 24-yard scoring pass to Randall Cobb on a fourth-and-7 play was the game-winner for the Wildcats in their 31-28 victory over the Gamecocks. Hartline, who's been through the ringer during his career at Kentucky, threw three of his touchdowns in the second half to rally the Wildcats from a 28-10 halftime deficit.

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips: A lot of teams would have folded their tents after getting down 28-10, especially coming off three straight losses. But there's a toughness and a resilience about the Wildcats that reflects their head coach. Their 31-28 comeback win over South Carolina was Kentucky's first ever over a Steve Spurrier-coached team, and props go out to Phillips for keeping his team in tune mentally and emotionally during a very difficult stretch.
 

Football picks up a vote in AP Top 25

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Oh, how a week can change everything.

Just last week, the mood surrounding the Kentucky football team was rather somber as the Cats suffered their third straight loss of the season to Auburn. Now, with one huge win over No. 10 South Carolina, suddenly the momentum is back.

And so is some respect.

UK picked up a vote in this week's Associated Press Top 25. The Cats, technically speaking, are tied for 37th with the vote.

According to www.pollspeak.com, it was Ryan Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who voted the Cats at No. 25.

Hey, it's only one vote, but it's a start for UK football. Just a week ago, I doubt anyone in the nation would have tabbed Kentucky in the nation's top 50. UK has an even bigger opportunity next weekend to move up the Southeastern Conference ladder with a home game against a suddenly hot Georgia team.

Head coach Joker Phillips has his weekly news conference at 4:30 p.m. I'll post any updates should news come out of it. 

The keys to the upset

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As head coach Joker Phillips said in his postgame news conference, every single one of his players had his back Saturday night in the 31-28 upset win over South Carolina. Obviously, though, there were huge plays, players and moments that led to the win. Let's take a look at some of the highlights.

The catch (part 3): If Steve Johnson owns "the catches," for his legendary game-winning grabs against Louisville and LSU in 2007, call Randall Cobb's 24-yard touchdown reception Saturday night "the catch, part 3."

In thrilling fashion, Cobb caught the game-winning touchdown pass Saturday night with 1:15 left in the game, capping a perfect, methodical 12-play, 68-yard drive that spanned 6:16. Lost in the excitement of the game-winning catch was the fact that Cobb was wide open. There wasn't a South Carolina defender within 10 yards of him.

How in the heck did he get that open?

"We ran a little underneath route," head coach Joker Phillips said. "Everybody's been talking about, 'On third down, why do you run the underneath routes?' I guess we've been hitting the underneath routes enough that the corner jumped it. Mike (Hartline) went through his read.  The corner jumped this time over the top. That's how we got him open."

Cobb was surprised he was by himself.

"Most of the game I was being double covered," Cobb said. "I had two men on me, two men shadowing me. Chris (Matthews) was having an amazing game. That last play, Chris ran a little sit route and I ran a corner and the safety and corner jumped Chris because he had been making plays all night. They just left me wide open."

The workhorse: Of course, the corners never jump the route if Matthews doesn't have a career game.

The 6-foot-4 wide out had his best game in a UK uniform, catching 12 balls for 177 yards and a touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter he caught a pass from Hartline near the sideline, spun out of a tackle and ran it 38 yards for the score.

"Chris, he's a battler," Phillips said. "He has our back. All he did is go out there and make play after play after play, especially on third down."

The star: But what about the guy throwing him the ball? You know, the one that always take the unwarranted criticism.

He only went out and threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns on 32 of 42 attempts. It was yet another spectacular game for Hartline, who continues to have a great senior season (157 of 230 on the year for 1,791 yards and 13 touchdowns).

"He had a phenomenal game," Matthews said. "I give praise to that man because a lot of people here didn't believe in him. They didn't want him on the field. He proved everybody wrong countless times this season."

Both Matthews and Cobb called him the player of the game.

"Coming from a guy like Randall, who is always the player of the game, that's nice of him to say," Hartline said.

The hero: Raise your hands if you thought cornerback Anthony Mosley would be the player to seal Kentucky's biggest regular-season win in three years. Don't raise your hands all at once.

With 11 seconds left in the game and South Carolina threatening to break UK's hearts once again, USC quarterback Stephen Garcia lofted a fade pass from the 20-yard line into the right corner of the end zone. A completion would have won the game for the Gamecocks.

But this time fate smiled on UK. Mosley picked off the pass in the end zone with four seconds left in the game, setting off an all-night celebration in Lexington.

It was Mosley's first career interception and UK's first red-zone stop of the year.

The turnaround: For the second week in a row, Kentucky's defense looked like two different teams.

In the first half, South Carolina gashed UK for 369 yards and 28 points. Marcus Lattimore looked like an all-pro tailback, burning the Cats for 71 rushing yards, 133 passing yards and three total touchdowns before halftime.

It certainly didn't hurt that Lattimore left the game in the third quarter with a sprained ankle, but UK easily played its best defensive half of the season. The Cats held the Gamecocks to 103 second-half yards and didn't allow a single point.

"Yes, (we backed off the blitzes a little bit) in spots," defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "There were certain things that hurt us, when you blitz a linebacker and you're trying to peel on a running back. You would think they would pick up the blitz, but guys were coming free and they were dumping it off. We had to make sure it wouldn't happen anymore."

And though the defense got throttled in the first half, UK would have never been in the game had the defense not forced three first-half turnovers that led to 10 points.

Faith: The perfect ending to a demoralizing streak

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UK_SCarolina_story_11_cw.JPGThere was no way better way to end the type of streak Kentucky football wanted no part of.

So many times before, especially to the Head Ball Coach, Kentucky had found a way to lose a game like Saturday's. So many times before it was the other team on a brilliant 12-play, 68-yard game-winning drive (see Auburn last week). And so many times when Kentucky was behind by double digits, it meant game over.

Not Saturday night. Not with this team. Not with this type of heart.

Kentucky ended one of the notorious streaks that have tarnished the recent success of the program, pulling off a thrilling, almost unbelievable comeback, against the Steve Spurrier-led South Carolina Gamecocks.

UK defeated No. 10 South Carolina 31-28 on Saturday night in front of 67,955 raucous fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The loss ended a 10-game losing streak to South Carolina, and, more importantly, finally put a loss column under Spurrier's previously perfect streak against Kentucky (now 17-1).

"What an effort," head coach Joker Phillips said. "We've given this type of effort every week. We made a lot more plays today, especially in the second half. We challenged our guys at halftime that we were in a street fight.  We're in a street fight.  I'm in a street fight.  I want to see who has my back."

Turns out, even without leading rusher Derrick Locke and defensive end DeQuin Evans; even after giving up 369 yards in the first half; even when fans started to file out of the stadium; even when there was no hope, the Kentucky players never stopped believing.

"Finally," junior Randall Cobb said, "finally we came through. We never lost faith. We never for one second thought that we were going to lose that game."

It turns out every single player had Phillips' back in that street fight in notching UK's biggest regular-season win since the upset of No. 1 LSU in 2007 and easily the biggest win of Phillips' brief head-coaching career.

"All 80 of (the players) had my back," Phillips said.

For the number of huge victories UK has had in its steady rise to football relevancy over the last five years, none may have been sweeter than this. For so long the UK coaches and players talked about the need to end notorious streaks like the one to Spurrier and South Carolina.

Without tearing those streaks down, it would be impossible to make that leap from good to great. Climbing the Southeastern Conference ladder is impossible without beating the teams on the steps above you, former head coach Rich Brooks used to say.

Consider UK's victory over South Carolina, which defeated previously top-ranked Alabama last week, another step.

"Thank god they got a victory because all of that work paid off," defensive coordinator Steve Brown said.

There are so many factors one could point to in the turnaround Saturday night. Quarterback Mike Hartline played another spectacular game (32 of 42 for 349 yards and four touchdowns); wide receiver Chris Matthews had another career night (12 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown); key defensive players stepped up in the second half (Anthony Mosley's game-sealing interception); and the UK defense, after what Brown said were fewer blitzes, allowed just 103 yards in the second half.

All that's great, but the one constant - the key ingredient behind the win - was a collective faith from the players that never wavered.

UK_SCarolina_story_16_cw.JPG"We believe in each other," Matthews said. "Most of all, we believe in our coaches. No matter what happens, we have each other's back."

But still, this team was down 28-10 at halftime - 28-10! This was the same South Carolina team that throttled Alabama last week and the same opposing coach that always escaped Lexington with a win.

"This team doesn't give up," defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "At halftime there were a couple of boos in the stadium, but nobody said anything. We just went in at halftime, didn't really make any adjustments and went back out there and played like we should have in the first half."

It was Cobb who just a couple of weeks ago expressed his disdain for losing and vowed to end the recent skid. It didn't happen last week, but Cobb stayed upbeat and played in practice as, he said, "pissed off."

It would have been easy for him to fold two weeks ago or last week when the same old string of demoralizing streaks and losses started to resurface.

"It's hard," Cobb said. "It's hard not to give up. When times are rough, that's when you pull through. When you can find the strength to pull through when things aren't going right, that's faith. That's what happened tonight."

Finally, the hard work paid off. There's no telling where the psyche of the team may have gone if UK would have suffered another heartbreaking loss to South Carolina. What if Mosley hadn't picked off that pass? What if Cobb wouldn't have sprung free on the 24-yard touchdown catch? What if the drive and game would have ended there on that fourth-down play?

The mind and makeup of a 4-3 team is a lot different than the emotional torture of a four-game losing streak and a 3-4 record.

"It's crazy how things work in the SEC," Matthews said. "A lot of people out there didn't think we would even have a shot. Our stadium wasn't even at full capacity. A lot of people didn't think we could win. We came out there and we proved everybody wrong."

Now the window of opportunity is very much open again. From the gutter to glory, the goals that this team set at the beginning of the season are back in the picture.

"It was a big win," Phillips said. "We've got to get wins ... but (if we get to) 5-3, we'll have a chance.  We'll have a chance.  The only way we can be 5-3 is winning tonight."

The only chance is having faith.

"We've been fighting so hard all season," Cobb said. "We've came up short a few times, but we finally found a way to win. We never lost faith. We never gave up. We kept fighting. We're the comeback Cats."

UK_SCarolina_story_22_cw.JPGSouth Carolina had won 10 in a row against Kentucky. Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was a perfect 17-0 against Kentucky. The Cats entered the game coming off two heartbreaking second- half comebacks that finished just short. And on Saturday night, with the Gamecocks driving deep into Kentucky territory and only 11 seconds left on the clock, the Cats cleaned the slate.

Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips is now 1-0 all-time as head coach against South Carolina and Steve Spurrier, Phillips' biggest win of his short head-coaching career.

"I'm still shaking," Phillips said at the beginning of his news conference after the Cats' come-from-behind 31-28 victory.

He had reason to. The win not only ended a notorious Kentucky streak, it gave validation for the hard work Phillips has put in, in his first year as head coach.

In the midst of a three-game losing streak, Phillips has felt the first adversity of his young career. Though he stayed upbeat and positive during the first losses of his career, he no doubt felt the pressure in recent weeks.

Now, with his first signature win, Phillips can finally settle down and move forward with the program that has meant so much to him throughout out his career as a coach and player.

"Everybody knows what this program means to me," Phillips said. "What it means to me, a small-town Kentucky boy getting a chance to lead the program that he's grown up loving. A lot of people said I wasn't supposed to love this place. But I guess I'm stubborn. I made the decision in '81 that I wanted to come here. Being in this program and seeing those young men in there, living out their dreams, it is a dream come true to me, and I'm living it."

Joker Phillips

Randall Cobb

Mike Hartline

Chris Matthews

Danny Trevathan

Live blog: UK football vs. South Carolina

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Big Blue Madness live blog

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We'll get started some time between 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., live from Rupp Arena. 

Wildcats energized by return to dribble drive

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Knight drives Windsor.jpgWhen John Calipari came to Kentucky last year, he brought with him the Dribble Drive Motion Offense, a scheme known by players and fans alike as a viewer-friendly style of play that allows players a high degree of freedom. There was a great deal of excitement as to how a very talented 2009-10 team would play in the system.

However, it quickly became clear to Calipari that a complete focus on the dribble drive was not the best approach for his team.

"Last year, the dribble drive, we looked and it wasn't the best way to do it 100 percent of the time," Calipari said, "so we didn't."

With two true centers in DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton in the post, as well as another experienced post scorer in Patrick Patterson, Calipari realized his personnel demanded that he prioritize interior touches for his big men. The offense was adjusted accordingly.

While Calipari estimated that last year's team ran the dribble drive about 30 percent of the time, he anticipates this season's edition of the Kentucky Wildcats will place much more of an emphasis on his signature offensive philosophy.

His players couldn't be any happier about it.

"It's what Coach brings to the table," sophomore guard Jon Hood said. "It's an odd, different offense and it's really fun to watch (and) fun to play in."

Said freshman forward Terrence Jones: "It's an offense made for people to make plays. It's an offense where the coach trusts you. You get to decide on what you want to do with the ball.  It's a fun offense."

With fewer pure post players on this team, including big men like Jones who possess diverse skill sets, the dribble drive is a natural fit. The big men who are on the roster will be asked to do different things this season.

"It's going to be like last year but not so much going to the post like they did to DeMarcus," senior forward Josh Harrellson said. "It's going to be better for the big men because we're going to get a lot more rebounds because the basket will be open for us."

The dribble drive is a style that calls on players to play with a level of aggression that is a step beyond what most are accustomed to. Even though last year's team did not play the offense in games nearly as much as this year's team will, learning the offense and its principles was critical to the development of both the team and the individuals comprising it.

"By teaching it, it taught us to be aggressive," Calipari said. "So now John Wall and (Eric) Bledsoe and Darius (Miller) did things that people didn't know they could do, because they were aggressive."

With Big Blue Madness and the official start of practice just around the corner, the team is only in the beginning stages of learning the principles of the offense that Wall and Bledsoe benefitted from.

"It's uncomfortable for us right now since we're just now learning it, but I feel our team will be great in it," Jones said. "It's pretty much just making plays off the dribble, which most of us have done our whole lives."

While learning the offense is a work in progress, freshmen like Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb feature games that figure to translate well.

"Brandon is great for this offense," junior guard DeAndre Liggins said. "Doron is fit for this offense. He has the floater, the jump shot and good basketball IQ. I love his game."

Knight and Lamb are quick to cite the dribble drive as a factor in their decisions to come to Kentucky and look forward to taking the floor.

"It fits me good," Lamb said. "If Brandon drives the middle and they collapse on him, he's going to kick it out to me and I'm just going to shoot it."

Calipari showed last year that he is flexible enough to mold his offense to fit the makeup of his roster. While this season should be a return to the dribble drive for Calipari, it won't happen without a few tweaks, especially for this year's team.

"We probably will go more (in the dribble drive), but we may run something into it," Calipari said. "In other words, we're not going to come down and just start. We may have some motion, some action, some different things, and we enter our spacing and start driving that ball."

Calipari is excited about coaching this year's team, particularly with the renewed focus on the dribble drive, but he made sure to remind fans that results won't come without bumps in the road.

"We've got an all new offense, a totally different way to think about playing," Calipari said. "We're going to start off slow. Do you remember me saying it? We're going to start slow. We're going to lose some games early. There are things you're going to look at, turnovers. We're not going to be what you think, no high expectations. This year I really mean it."

From the Pressbox: Notes from Tom Leach

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There's been much discussion this week around the South Carolina team about the fear of a letdown following the emotional upset of top-ranked Alabama. But that "bounce-back factor" could be a concern for Kentucky, too, given how the Cats played before coming up short against No. 8 Auburn. 

Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb likes what he has seen this week on the practice field.

"I think one of the biggest things is we're getting back to having fun," Cobb told www.tomleachky.com. "Remember what the game's all about. Preparation has been great."

Cobb figures to shoulder a bigger load with the injury that has sidelined Derrick Locke, and that means Cobb's body will likely take even more of a pounding than usual.

"It's rough but that's part of the game, part of the love for the game," Cobb said. "My body goes through a lot and I have to make sure I take care of my body. Ice baths, eating right, trying to drink healthy, it's important to do those little things."

But if the circumstances mean more of the "WildCobb" formation, No. 18 is just fine with that because it gets him back to those memories of playing sandlot football where you make up the plays as you go.

"Just catch the ball and go play," Cobb said of his role in the "WildCobb."

"You don't have to worry about no systems," he said. "You're just out there having fun."

= = =

Donald Russell may get his first start because of the injury to Locke, and the sophomore from West Palm Beach, Fla., admitted that it's a big deal 

"It's a big thing," Russell said. "I'm nervous. It's something I take very seriously, watching film and talking to Locke about some things. I'm not as fast as Locke -- I wish I was -- but I try to go as hard as I can."

= = =
 
One key for Kentucky in the matchup with No. 10 South Carolina might be a fast start.  Since the last time UK beat the Gamecocks in 1999, Kentucky has never led going into the second quarter. And the last touchdown UK scored in the first quarter against USC came in 2000.

= = =

As was the case last year, most of the buzz around the new UK men's basketball team is about the freshmen. But former Cat Marks Krebs said he has seen some significant improvement in the returning players.

"Darius (Miller) looks bigger and with the whole strength coach change, he has been more accepting and done more in the weight room," Krebs said. "I think he needed it and it will show this year with confidence. I have heard good things from Coach Cal about how confident he is. Josh (Harrellson), I saw practice the other day and before I walked away, Josh had a breakaway dunk. 

"DeAndre (Liggins) will be the type of guy to harass the ball. He is going to be, hopefully, more vocal because the team is going to be so young. The freshmen will need to come in and play older than they are. I thought the team was young but this year they are going to be incredibly young."

RBW_0463.jpgTime: Saturday at 6 p.m. ET


Location:
Commonwealth Stadium (67,942), Lexington, Ky.

TV coverage: ESPN2 with Mark Jones and Bob Davie; ESPN3.com

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 198; Sirius 215 (you must have the "Best of XM" package to hear the game on XM 

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 65 degrees, sunny, 0 percent chance of precipitation

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates. Directions and traffic into Commonwealth Stadium.

Parking: Parking information can be found on UK's Gameday site

Game-day operations changes: UK event management staff has announced several changes to game-day operations on Saturdays at Commonwealth Stadium this fall. The changes will affect several aspects of game-day operations, including tow-behind trailers, guests' golf cart use, adjustments to parking and tailgating along Cooper Drive, closure of Hospital Drive on game days, and backpacks entry into Commonwealth Stadium. Read about UK's game-day changes.

Cat Walk: The "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 3:45 p.m. Fans wishing to participate in cheering on the Wildcats as they enter the stadium Saturday should be between the corner of Jerry Claiborne Way and College Way outside of Commonwealth Stadium gate one. The team bus will arrive at approximately 3:45 p.m., when the team will unload the bus and walk to the stadium. Guests are asked to line up on each side of the "Cat Walk" to allow for ample space for the team to walk from the buses to Commonwealth Stadium. View a map of the "Cat Walk." Fans are encouraged to participate in the "Heartbeat" clap.

GuestAssist service now available: "GuestAssist" is a communications service that enables one-to-one text messaging between Commonwealth Stadium guests and stadium operations personnel.

Fans can ask questions about game-day information and/or report concerns regarding behavior through the convenience of their cell phones. Stadium operations personnel will monitor and respond to guests' game-day inquiries on a real-time basis and if needed, dispatch support, security, etc. to the guests' location. Fans wishing to utilize the service should text, "CATS, your message and your seat location" to 78247 (CATS must be the first four characters in the message body. Standard text message rates apply).

"GuestAssist" is not intended for emergency use. In the event of an emergency, guests should contact the nearest stadium event staff and/or dial 911.

*All information on Saturday's game with South Carolina can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

Live chat with Liggins, Dunlap on Friday

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Wanted to get the word out that we will have a live chat Friday at 12:15 p.m. with men's basketball's DeAndre Liggins and women's basketball's Victoria Dunlap.

In gearing up for the 2010-11 basketball season, it will be a great chance for fans to ask the players some questions before Friday night's Big Blue Madness and the upcoming year. We'll have Liggins and Dunlap on for 30-45 minutes.

Fans can send in questions and comments, pending approval of the moderator, by clicking on the live blog application Friday starting at 12:15 p.m. We are expecting a large audience for the live chat, so please be patient if your question does not make it through the first time. We will do our best to get to as many people as possible.

Media day/Big Blue Madness links

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A few links from Thursday's men's basketball media day in anticipation for Friday night's Big Blue Madness:

- Jerry Tipton from the Lexington Herald-Leader writes that waiting is weighing on Enes Kanter

- Tipton's notebook on Big Blue Madness having meaning

- Doron Lamb says he plans on dancing at Big Blue Madness, Aaron Smith of the Kentucky Kernel reports

- Smith also writes that the freshmen are unsure of what to expect Friday night

- The State of the Union will now be given in October, writes Nick Craddock from the Kernel

- Mark Story from the Lexington Herald-Leader says Brandon Knight is getting right on and off the court

- UK football's Randall Cobb and basketball coach John Calipari talk leadership, blogs Brett Dawson from the Courier-Journal

- Will Graves from the Associated Press writes that the freshman class is not starstruck by last year's freshmen

- Find out what Matt May of The Cats' Pause learned at media day

- This time, Calipari says he's telling the truth about potential slow start, reports Larry Vaught from the Danville Advocate-Messenger

Last year's success this year's hurdle

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guard 3.jpgIt's been an offseason priority for head coach John Calipari to differentiate this year's team from last year's squad.

In a roundtable interview with reporters more than a month ago, Calipari described the comparison as unfair.

"The biggest thing is we're not playing last year's team," Calipari said. "We're playing against ourselves. How good can we be? I want them to think about winning every game, and the only way you do that is how you prepare. Create a swagger through hard work, which they are. I also want them to understand, and I've already said it to them, we're not worried about last year. Last year is done."

But no matter what Kentucky does or doesn't do this year and no matter how much Calipari and the coaches try to quiet the comparisons, it comes with the territory of playing in front of the Kentucky fan base.

When one highly touted freshman class follows another freshman class that went 35-3, advanced to the Elite Eight and had five players (including veteran Patrick Patterson) drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft for the first time in NBA history, comparisons are going to happen. It's only natural for fans, media and even the players to compare.

Earlier in the year, Calipari admitted the comparisons might be made.

"Outsides of Kentucky they know there's no way they can be as good as they were a year ago," Calipari said. "They just lost too much. At Kentucky, (fans think) they're going to be better than last year and they're going to win by 30."

It's human nature to compare and contrast upon what people know and have seen.

But at Thursday's media day, Calipari changed his tune a bit and said he hopes the UK fan base doesn't associate the two teams with one another.

"Anybody that's compared to that group of kids, you're going to be on the short end, so I don't think our fans are going to compare," Calipari said. "The great thing about the fans here, I think they just want to see how good these guys can be. How quickly can they come together? It's not fair to anybody to compare one guy."

As Calipari said, for as talented as Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter, Terrence Jones and all the freshmen are, they aren't John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. DeMarcus Cousins isn't walking through that door anymore.

"We have no one that even remotely looks like DeMarcus Cousins in March," Calipari said. "And I'm not talking about DeMarcus in November. (There is) no one remotely like him. We're a different team."

Before this year's team can even think about comparing itself to last year's bunch, Calipari said they will have to learn to come together.

"Last year's team, the biggest thing they did is they sacrificed for each other," Calipari said. "Will this team come together and share the ball and do the things they have to do to be their brother's keeper? Will you be your brother's keeper? Will we have servant leadership which we had a year ago, where our leaders cared more about the team?"

Physically and in terms of style, the two teams should be drastically different. After deciding to play a slowed-down version of the dribble-drive last year, one that featured a post-heavy game with Cousins, Calipari isn't quite sure how they will play this season.

He said he think this year's team will be more dribble-drive heavy, but he hasn't ruled out any possibilities. It will all depend on how the team reacts.

"We are a better shooting team this year," junior guard DeAndre Liggins said. "Last year we shot the ball good at times but not at times when we needed to shoot the ball well. We're not that big. Coach Cal wants us to try to pump fake, cut back door sometimes and more of the dribble-drive this year."

One thing Calipari truly believes this season is that this team will lose early in the year - but for the good.

"This is one of those teams that I look at that needs to get beat up a little bit early so they can figure out that everybody's game is a Super Bowl," Calipari said.

Last year's crop of freshmen came in with a certain type of swagger, as Liggins described it.

"They were like, 'We're read y to do this. Let's go,' " Liggins said. "This year's freshmen are kind of laid back and like 'Wow, this is what I've got to do.' Once they hit the first game, they'll realize how it is and know what they have to do."

But that's when the comparisons to last year's team will really heat up. The first time UK doesn't win by 20 or adversity doesn't roll over smoothly, people will point to how last year's group handled things.

And as 18- and 19-year-old kids, how does Enes Kanter not compare himself to Cousins? How does Knight not try to follow the unmatchable act of Wall (dance, drink and all)?

"I can't focus on John," Knight said. "He was great here. He had a great one year here and he's a great player, but the most I can do is focus on myself and try to get better and try to win games for Kentucky."

That's the type of mentality Calipari hopes all of his players embrace. Calipari wants the players to be themselves, not people they are not capable of becoming.

"I don't need you to be anybody besides Doron (Lamb)," Calipari said. "Now, I need a better version of that, but that's all I need you to be. Be who you are."

Quite frankly, when it comes to the Knight-Wall comparisons, there isn't much to compare.

"He likes to push the ball a lot," Knight said. "I didn't really push the ball a lot in high school. I kind of relied more on my jump shot than he does. He loves getting to the basket, which is something I'm trying to work on. It seems like he's trying to work on his shooting, and I'm trying to work on what he's good at. We're kind of opposite."

Except at the end of games. When the game is on the line, Knight said he wants the ball in his hands.

"Pressure is a good thing," Knight said. "I think it pushes you to be your best and pushes you to do the best you can do. The ball has been in my hands before in high school and I feel like I can do the same thing at this level as long as I continue to work hard, as long as I continue to be comfortable with my surroundings and my teammates, and as long as they can trust me to be in a situation like that."

But as far as Calipari and his team are concerned, that's where the similarities begin and end. This is a new year with new players, new roles and new expectations.

"We'll never be last year's team," Liggins said, "but we're going to be good."

Media day notes: Kanter's eligibility still unknown

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IMG_4555.JPGFor the 75-plus reporters that attended Kentucky men's basketball media day Thursday, most left disappointed to find out there would be no news on the eligibility of freshman forward Enes Kanter.

Kentucky continues to have no comment on the issue while the NCAA explores the eligibility status of the Turkish forward. Reporters were informed that Kanter would not be available for the player portion of the interview session and the media were told head coach John Calipari would not take any questions on Kanter while the NCAA review process continues.

That didn't stop the media from asking anyways as the first question directed Calipari's way was on the importance of Kanter to the 2010-11 season.

"They're all important," Calipari said. "Every kid you have on your team has an importance. It's one of the reasons I spend time with players who aren't playing much. You want them to know they're important. You want them to know that the success of our team is about everybody on it, so they're all important."

Two more questions were fired at Calipari regarding Kanter before Calipari said, "I thought we weren't talking about" Kanter.

But the players were. Multiple players were asked what Kanter meant to the team and their opinions about his eligibility. Junior guard Darius Miller said he was optimistic about Kanter joining the team this year.

"I'm pretty sure we're always going to be optimistic," Miller said. "We're just taking it day by day and trying to get better. We're just hoping for the best."

Miller admitted UK is a different team with Kanter. Asked what would be the hardest part about replacing Kanter, should he miss some or all of the season, Miller said "just how dominant a player he would be."

"He's strong," Miller said. "He has extremely good post moves. He's a great teammate. He can pass the ball. He can pretty much do anything. He's a really good player. A lot of people haven't got the chance to see him play, but when they do I'm sure they'll be shocked."

Dodson no longer with team: Although media day came and went without news of Kanter's status with the team, there was finally some closure on guard Darnell Dodson.

Calipari informed reporters that the shooting guard was "no longer with the team." Calipari said Dodson was granted a full release and can move on to another school.

Jones at 100 percent: Kentucky fans didn't get to see a ton of freshman forward Terrence Jones during the three-game exhibition in Canada because of a rib and ankle injury, but fans will finally get the chance to see what Jones can do on the court during Big Blue Madness.

Calipari deemed the Portland, Ore., native healthy and ready to go for the start of the season, saying he's back to 100 percent.

"He's been fine," Calipari said. "As a matter of fact, we practiced yesterday for an hour and a half and he made a jump shot. So I stopped practice right there.  I said, 'That's it, he finally made a jump shot. Now I know he can shoot. Let me have that mental picture before Friday.' "

Calipari high on the SEC, Georgia: Calipari doesn't know if UK will be an NCAA Tournament team this year - remember, this is the same coach that continually undersold his team last year - but he's confident the Southeastern Conference will be as strong, if not stronger, than it has been in years.

Calipari believes the SEC is capable of getting six teams into the tournament, which would be the most the league has had since sending six teams to the Big Dance in 2008.

"The problem is four of them are in our division," Calipari said. "In the SEC it's gotten better. Guys got guys back. Florida will be outstanding. Tennessee will be outstanding."

The one team Calipari is really high on is Georgia.

"Georgia has two of the best players (Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie) in our league coming back," Calipari said. "Mark Fox is a terrific coach."

A look back at the first year: This time last year, the Bluegrass State was still in the middle of its honeymoon with Calipari and the state was buzzing over the possibilities of the Calipari-UK marriage.

At the end of the season, fans realized their dreams could very well become a reality as UK marched to the Elite Eight and a 35-3 record.

Asked to look back on his first year, Calipari said he knew the Kentucky fan base was crazy for basketball - just not this crazy.

"I went to a nursing home in Winchester and ... a lady says, 'Coach Cal, Coach Cal, can you come over here?' " Calipari said. "And I walk over, and as she was sitting she says, 'Are you working on free-throw shooting?' 'Yeah.' 'What drills do you do on free-throw shooting? Coach, do you understand the difference between winning and losing games? In most cases it's free throws.'

"I said, 'Ma'am, how old are you?' 'Ninety-six.'

It gets crazier.

"I asked the ladies there, 'How many of you watched the games in Canada?' " Calipari said. "(Let me remind you) I'm in a nursing home. They all watched. 'How many of you tape the games?' Half of them raise their hands. They watch tapes more than I watch the tapes. That's Kentucky basketball."

Calipari said he's learned it's a 24/7 job, but he wouldn't have taken the gig if he thought it was too much.

"When you're coaching, it's what you strive for," he said.

The Game Plan: Joker Phillips' keys to the game

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
USC Notes Get Acrobat Reader | USC Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Oct. 16
6:00 p.m
Coverage TV: ESPN2
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Online Video via ESPN3
Live Blog
Location Commonwealth Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
South Carolina Gamecocks at a Glance
Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Record at School 39-29 (Sixth season)
Record 4-1, 2-1 SEC
Ranking No. 10 AP/No. 12 Coaches
Series Record South Carolina leads 14-6-1
Last Meeting South Carolina defeated Kentucky 28-26 in Columbia, S.C. last season
2010 Team Stats UK USC
Rushing Offense 176.5 156.8
Passing Offense 257.5 217.6
Total Offense 434.0 374.4
Scoring Offense 36.0 31.6
Rushing Defense 190.3 109.8
Passing Defense 153.2 255.2
Total Defense 343.5 365.0
Scoring Defense 30.2 18.8
Turnover Margin 0.00 -0.20
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (108 rushes, 574 yds, 7 TDs)
USC: Marcus Lattimore (107 rushes, 459 yds, 8 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (125-188, 1442 yds, 9 TDs, 3 INTs)
USC: Stephen Garcia (73-101, 944 yds, 8 TDs, 3 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (32 catches, 403 yds, 4 TDs)
USC: Alshon Jeffery (34 catches, 625 yds, 4 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (59 total, 8 for loss)
USC: DeVonte Holloman (32 total, 1 for loss)
Sacks UK: Mark Crawford, Luke McDermott (2.0)
USC: Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor (3.5)
Interceptions UK: Four with (1)
UA: Three with (1)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips about his of plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Continue to run the ball, even without Derrick Locke: "We need to establish some kind of running game. We need to get positive yards. We cannot have negative yards. We have to protect the football. We have to try to keep the same game plan that was working with Derrick in there. We also have to do a little bit more Wildcat to try to manufacture some type of run game and then throw the football. We have guys outside making plays for us. These guys will load up the box and try to stop the run. They held Alabama to 36 yards rushing, so there should be some one-on-one matchups and we need to throw the football some. It works when guys can scramble around and run for 41 yards when they think they have them in the backfield, but we will have to get in it and see what they are giving us. If they are giving us the throw we will throw it and if they are giving us the run we have to try to call it. We need the ball in (Randall Cobb's) hands because he can create things that many can't."

Cat Scratches' take: Phillips informed reporters Thursday that Locke is "probably" out for Saturday's game. As UK's leading rusher with 574 yards and seven touchdowns, the loss will obviously hurt the Cats. Having said that, UK must march on without him in the same fashion it did in the second half against Auburn. Even when Locke went down, UK continued to emphasize the run, rushing the ball 17 times in the second half for 66 yards. The stats weren't fantastic, but the running game helped UK get back into the game and kept the Auburn offense honest.

Defensive keys - Attack on first and second down: "We have to be sound in our gaps. You cannot get out of the gaps and try to do other people's jobs. You also need to wrap up and tackle their big running back (Marcus Lattimore). He is a load and you have to wrap him up. We have to get them into third-and-longs. They have been in third-and-mediums and third-and-shorts and that is how you come to be 55 percent successful on third downs. We need to get them to some third-and-longs and make sure that they do not have success on first and second downs."

Cat Scratches' take: South Carolina's bread and butter this year has been third- down conversions. The Gamecocks rank first in the Southeastern Conference and third in the nation with a 55 percent third-down-conversion rate. Behind a downhill running game and Lattimore, the Gamecocks have picked up huge chunks on first and second down, allowing for manageable third-down situations for quarterback Stephen Garcia. Say what you want about big plays, but the game of football comes down to moving the chains. Kentucky's defense has only allowed 37.8 percent of opponents' third downs to be converted into first downs.

Key matchup - UK's offensive line vs. the USC front four: "I love the matchups there. We play a team every week that has just had a big sack week (the week before). We played Florida and they got one and Auburn had one in the Wildcat formation. We will be fine up front and we like the matchup with the offensive line as long as we communicate and play with good technique. (Our young running backs) understand our blocking schemes and when they play with good technique, they can hold up. Like anybody else, if they don't play with good technique, they will struggle. They just need to be patient and allow the defenders to come to them and not be in attack mode."

Cat Scratches' take: The line battle might be the best line battle fans will see all season. South Carolina's front four beat up Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy last week to a tune of seven sacks. Alabama had only been sacked 10 times prior to the game. What does that mean for a UK offensive line that has given up just three sacks all season? We'll have to find out Saturday. But this will clearly be the Cats' toughest test to date. Keep an eye on how backup tailbacks perform in picking up blocks. Fullback Moncell Allen could also be a big factor.

Joker's biggest concern- Tackling Lattimore: "In every game we have been giving up a lot of rushing yards. We have to stop the run, period. Give up the passing yards if needed, but we have to stop the run. (Lattimore) is one of those guys that gets stronger as the game wears on. In the Georgia game he carried the ball something like 40-something times. We have to limit his touches by holding them to minus plays. I think when you keep stopping the run early, people tend to get away from it quicker than with the pass, so we need to make sure we stop the run and limit his touches. Every week tackling is important, but it is even more important with a guy like him who can get into your secondary and create problems."

Cat Scratches' take: Not to say Lattimore's style is similar to future NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis, but the way he finishes games can be comparable. Because of Lattimore's bruising, run-you-over style, he gets better as the game goes on. Lattimore has been called the best freshman running back since Adrian Peterson by some national pundits, and if he keeps pin-balling off runners like he has in South Carolina's first five games, he might prove them right. Lattimore has rushed for 459 yards on 107 carries through five games. Against Georgia, he carried the ball 37 times in his second collegiate game. His running style will certainly concern a team that is still trying to improve on tackling.

South Carolina player to watch for (other than Lattimore) - Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery: "He's very impressive. We've got to mix up our coverages. We'll have to play some man-to-man on him with some help over the top. Alshon is one of the best receivers in the league as a true sophomore. He's a big-time talent. The taller you are, you don't have to be as fast. Alshon is not a blazer, but he's fast enough and he's got a big body and understands how to post up."

Cat Scratches' take: Jeffery has inserted himself into the discussion as being one of the nation's top receivers by leading the SEC in catches (34), receiving yards (625) and receiving touchdowns (four). Even more impressive is he has four 100-yard receiving games in his five games this season. If you can remember back to last year, it was Jeffery who torched UK for three touchdowns in his freshman coming-out party. Jeffery, standing at 6-foot-4, will have a decisive height advantage over Kentucky's starting cornerbacks, Randall Burden (6-0) and Martavius Neloms (6-1). Look for consistent help from UK's safeties to make sure Jeffery doesn't have a repeat performance this year. Kentucky's secondary deserves credit this season for giving up the fewest passing yards per game in the SEC.

UK players that must step up - Backup tailbacks Donald Russell and Raymond Sanders: "We need one of our young running backs to step up. I feel confident in Donald Russell and Raymond Sanders to do the job that we ask them to do. We'll probably do a little bit more of the Wildcat and see what we can do out of that. We've got to find a way to manufacture a run game, and we expect those guys to go in there and do the job for us."

Cat Scratches' take: Without Locke, it will be on the shoulders of Russell, a sophomore, and Sanders, a freshman, to carry the load. Both are "bracketed" on the depth chart, so expect the two to split carries for most of the game. Russell has carried the ball 27 times for 124 yards while Sanders has 88 yards and three touchdowns on 18 rushes.

Final injury report: In addition to Locke, defensive end DeQuin Evans is also "probably" out for Saturday's game. Evans has been battling an ankle injury for the last few weeks. Freshman linebacker Qua Huzzie will also be limited as he continues to recover from a thumb and ankle injury.

Video interviews at men's basketball media day

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Junior guard Darius Miller


Junior guard DeAndre Liggins


Freshman guard Brandon Knight


Freshman forward Terrence Jones

Video: Cats prepare for USC without Locke, Evans

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Kentucky will "probably" be without starting running back Derrick Locke and defensive end DeQuin Evans for Saturday's game with South Carolina, head coach Joker Phillips said after Thursday's practice.

Locke, who is hampered by a shoulder stinger, will probably not stay in the team hotel Friday night. Evans struggled through Thursday's practice with an ankle injury.

"I feel confident in Donald Russell and Raymond Sanders to do the job that we ask them to do," Phillips said. "We'll probably do a little bit more of the Wildcat and see what we can do out of that. We've got a way to manufacture a run game, and we expect those guys to go in there and do the job for us."

More on the loss of Locke and Evans in the above video. For more check out the The Game Plan weekly post with Joker Phillips, which I will post later Thursday after men's basketball media day.

Cal's growing coaching tree

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Kind of a cool nugget we came across the other day that I wanted to share with Kentucky men's basketball fans.

Arizona State's website, thesundevils.com, has a release on Herb Sendek, Arizona State's basketball coach, and his success of helping former assistants get head-coaching jobs. Of course, if you're going to mention coaching trees, UK's very own, head coach John Calipari, has to be mentioned on the list.

Sure enough, Calipari ties for second most in the nation in producing current head coaches with six. According to the release, six former Calipari assistants have gone on to take head-coaching jobs at other schools, tying him with Rice's Ben Braun and Louisville's Rick Pitino. Sendek ranks No. 1 with eight coaches.

Check out the list below to see who Calipari has helped land a head-coaching gig. And don't be surprised if you see one of Cal's current assistants end up somewhere else in the next couple of years.

BEN BRAUN, RICE (6): Keith Dambrot, Akron; Billy Kennedy, Murray State; George Nessman, San Jose State; Joe Pasternack, New Orleans; Charles E. Ramsey, Eastern Michigan; Gary Waters, Cleveland State

JOHN CALIPARI, KENTUCKY (6): Tony Barbee, UTEP; Bruiser Flint, Drexel; Derek Kellogg, UMASS; Chuck Martin, Marist; Josh Pastner, Memphis; Steve Roccaforte, Lamar

RICK PITINO, LOUISVILLE (6): Mick Cronin, Cincinnati; Billy Donovan, Florida; Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State; Herb Sendek, Arizona State; Tubby Smith, Minnesota; Kevin Willard, Seton Hall

JIM CALHOUN, UCONN (5): Howie Dickenman, Central Connecticut State; Karl Hobbs, George Washington; Tom Moore, Quinnipiac; Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook; Ted Woodward, Maine

TOM IZZO, MICHIGAN STATE (5): Jim Boylen, Utah; Tom Crean, Indiana; Brian Gregory, Dayton; Stan Heath, South Florida; Doug Wojcik, Tulsa

MIKE MONTGOMERY, CALIFORNIA (5): Jeff Jackson, Furman; Trent Johnson, LSU; Stew Morill, Utah State; Eric Reveno, Portland; Blaine Taylor, Old Dominion

TRENT JOHNSON, LSU (4): David Carter, Nevada; Mark Fox, Georgia; Eric Reveno, Portland; Keith Richard, Louisiana-Monroe

STEW MORRILL, UTAH STATE (4): Jeff Jackson, Furman; Randy Rahe, Weber State; Blaine Taylor, Old Dominion; Don Verlin, Idaho

Live blog: John Calipari's media day news conference

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Live blog: UK men's soccer vs. No. 23 UCF

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Big game for the Kentucky men's soccer team Wednesday night as the Cats try to not only get back in the Conference USA picture but the NCAA Tournament discussion as well. I'll be there live to detail all the action at the UK Soccer Complex starting at 6:50 p.m.

Men's basketball ranked 15th in FOX preseason poll

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It's that time of the year again.

Magazine and yearbooks are starting to hit newstands at local stores, meaning this year's men's basketball preseason polls are starting to hit the World Wide Web.

Jeff Goodman of FOX Sports turned in his preseason rankings Wednesday, tabbing the Kentucky men's basketball team at No. 15 to begin the year. Not bad for a team that lost five NBA first-round draft picks.

Here is what Goodman had to say about UK:

Talk about a drastic change in personnel. The Wildcats lost five guys to the first round of the NBA draft, but UK has reloaded by adding another terrific freshman class led by Knight - one of the most talented guards in the country. The key, however, will be Kanter - a 6-foot-9 Turkish kid who could be a force in the paint as long as he is cleared by the NCAA.

Goodman's top 25:

1. Duke
2. Purdue
3. Michigan State
4. Ohio State
5. Kansas State
6. Pittsburgh
7. Villanova
8. Washington
9. Missouri
10. Florida
11. Kansas
12. Illinois
13. North Carolina
14. Memphis
15. Kentucky
16. Gonzaga
17. Baylor
18. Florida State
19. Minnesota
20. Syracuse
21. Temple
22. San Diego State
23. Tennessee
24. Butler
25. BYU

NewtonAuburn.jpgThere is not a football coach in America who would say the turnover department is not a priority for his team. So often games are won or lost based on which team more effectively forces its opponent into fumbles and interceptions.

Coming off of a three-game losing streak in which Kentucky has managed just two interceptions and no fumble recoveries, the importance of turnovers has never been more apparent, and last week's second half against Auburn was the perfect illustration.

Kentucky played one of its better halves of defense, allowing just six points and 177 yards against the NCAA's 10th-ranked offense after giving up 31 points and 344 yards in the first half. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, turnovers were the difference between a good defensive half and a great one and also between a loss and a win.

There is no magic formula for getting turnovers, but forcing one frequently requires a combination of playmaking, technique and sometimes just a lucky bounce. Against Auburn, playmaking was not the problem. 

With the clock ticking down under five minutes in the fourth quarter and Auburn driving at its own 30-yard line, linebacker Danny Trevathan made a play, forcing a Terrell Zachary fumble. The ball squirted toward the sideline and cornerback Randall Burden pounced on the ball just before it went out of bounds.

However, it was ruled on the field that Burden did not gain complete control of the football before going out of bounds. The play was extremely close and the game was stopped to further review the call on the field. Ultimately, there was not enough video evidence to overturn the call and it was determined that Auburn would hold on to the football.

"I thought I had it secure when I landed on top of it," Burden said.  "I guess they said I didn't have possession of it when I landed out of bounds."

As it turns out, Auburn would drive all the way down the field for a game-winning field goal as the clock expired, leaving the UK players and coaches left wondering what could have been had they gained possession. 

Burden's would-be fumble recovery wasn't the only bounce that didn't quite go Kentucky's way. Auburn committed four fumbles in the game, including a near lost fumble on the kickoff of the final drive, but the Wildcats were unable to recover a single one.

"They try a reverse and we tipped the ball -- actually tipped, get a fingernail on the ball -- and it kicks right back to them," UK head coach Joker Phillips said of Auburn's fumble on the kickoff. "If we get just a pinky on it, it probably kicks away from them. We got just a fingernail on it (and) it kicks right back to them."

In spite of the missed opportunities, UK has cause for optimism based on its performance last week. Turnovers, fumbles in particular, progress naturally from sound tackling in Kentucky's defensive scheme. It is no coincidence that UK showed improvement in their tackling the same week Auburn put the ball on the ground four times.

"Being physical, being aggressive and having guys get to the ball (are the keys to forcing turnovers)," defensive coordinator Steve Brown said.  "The first (tackler) wraps up and the second and third try to strip the ball out. We did a pretty good job of that last week; we just didn't get the bounces."

For a team that has struggled badly to create turnovers after causing four in the first two games of the season (Kentucky is tied for last in the league with six turnovers forced), allowing opportunities in the form of unrecovered fumbles to pass by is particularly painful.

"It's very frustrating because you take all the effort just to force (the fumbles)," Burden said.  "Then there were the two we got on top of but we didn't quite get them."

While it will be essential for the Wildcats to continue to try to make plays that result in turnovers, UK must not let the frustration of missed turnovers opportunities turn into the kind of aggressiveness that leads to missed assignments.

"You don't want to go in there too aggressive because you can miss tackles," Burden said.  "You want the first person to always go in there and wrap up, then the second can go for the strip."

UK heads into a matchup this weekend against a South Carolina team that is similarly experienced in the importance of turnovers. In fact, the Gamecocks, like the Wildcats, can lament an opportunity missed against Auburn because of turnovers. South Carolina entered the fourth quarter of their game against the Tigers with a 27-21 lead. In that quarter, South Carolina threw two interceptions and fumbled twice en route to a 35-27 defeat, the team's only loss of the season.

"South Carolina is probably undefeated in the league if they don't turn the ball over four times in the fourth quarter against Auburn," Phillips said.

In South Carolina's next game against top-ranked Alabama, the Gamecocks focused on taking care of the ball and committed only one turnover, paving the way for a major upset. 

Kentucky's task will be to force mistakes like the ones South Carolina made against Alabama and limit its own. The Cats will need some of the defensive playmaking they had against Auburn that resulted in four fumbles, and if the bounces go the Wildcats' way this time around, UK could be the team pulling the upset.

"That's what wins, especially the big games -- creating turnovers and not turning it over," Phillips said. "I think that's the common denominator of the teams that win and lose."

Video update: Locke a game-time decision

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From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Oct. 13

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UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Leach offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography.

With Enes Kanter awaiting an NCAA ruling on his eligibility, that makes it hard to predict what might happen for the University of Kentucky in the men's basketball season that is about to tip off.

But assuming the Turkish big man is able to play for the Wildcats, veteran college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes this UK team has the potential to get as far -- or farther -- than Calipari's first Kentucky team. However, he thinks this will be a much different team.

"They will have to be much more disruptive defensivley between the midcourt and the foul line than last year's team was," DeCourcy told www.tomleachky.com. "Certainly John Wall could control a point guard but that wasn't the most important element of what they did because once (opponents) got below the foul line, you had to contend with (Patrick) Patterson, (DeMarcus) Cousins, and (Daniel) Orton, and really get beaten up and see shots blocked and (them) grab most of the misses.

"I think that this Kentucky team will have to be better at turning over its opponents. They will have to be a physical team in turning turnovers into points. You are so lean on the frontline and don't have a lot of physical power, so it will be a much different team and I would say that it is almost no comparison, and that includes the holdovers."

Kentucky got a head start on preparing for the upcoming season with 10 days of practice and three exhibition games in Canada during August. DeCourcy said he saw improvement in the players that returned from last season's 35-3 team.

"(Deandre Liggins and Darius Miller) are greatly improved players than over a year ago," DeCourcy said. "One of the problems last year's team faced was that the veteran players didn't beleive in themselves when they needed to and that was in the West Virginia game. I think that the key to this team being successful is those two players that I talked about and believing that they could impact a game, because you can't just rise up as a freshman when you are not as physically dominant as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were."

DeCourcy believes the lack of confidence he observed was a product of the dip in Kentucky's roundball fortunes that preceded Coach Calipari's arrival.

"I think part of it was that they had never been successful," DeCourcy said. "Those guys had not been a part of something that worked and now they have. I think they now realize they don't want to be that guy anymore and I think that is one of the reasons why you see such physical improvment of DeAndre and Darius. 

"They really take the challenge of being veteran players. Now, physically, they are there, and confidence-wise, they were there in Canada. That has to continue as they go through the regular season and hit a few bumps and see how they respond. To me, that is the most important element to see where this team goes, other than Enes' eligibility. I think special players embrace that and I think they both can be impact players."

Freshmen Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb made a big impact in the games UK played in Canada, but we only saw Terrence Jones for a half before he was sidelined by an injury.  DeCourcy said Jones is a dynamic talent that could give the Cats an element that few other teams have.

"I think that what he does is gives you one of the most versatile power forwards in the country," DeCourcy said. "He can handle it and is a terriffic passer. He can handle it from the power-forward spot, which is very rare. He is a very good shooter, not a dead-eye shooter, but can give you about what Patrick Patterson gave you from 3-point range last year. He is going to have to be tough physically, but on offense he will give a dimension that very few teams in the country have in the four spot."

Preseason video interviews with Liggins, Lamb

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Junior guard DeAndre Liggins


Freshman guard Doron Lamb

Q and A with Matthew Mitchell -- part 4

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WBSK 09_10 UK_OleMiss 40.jpgQuestion: We know what A'dia (Mathies) gave you talent wise last year but does she have to become more of a leader this year? Is that something she needs to work on?
Mitchell: I think for her personal development as a person, we always need to be pushing ourselves. I had a really engaging personality and met people easily but had to work on my organizational skills and my self-discipline on different things. The part that came naturally for me doesn't come naturally for A'dia and some of the things that she does really well didn't come naturally to me. I just try to tell her that all of us have areas in our life that we personally need to grow. It would be important for our basketball team and for A'dia as young women to be more assertive and more vocal at times when she doesn't want to be because I think that anytime we get out of our comfort zone we are growing. For many reasons she needs to be a more vocal leader. I have coached three kids now, with A'dia being the third, who I thought were extremely intelligent and who I thought knew where everybody was on the court and needed to be. Those are rare players and A'dia is one of those.

Question: Is there such a thing as a sophomore slump and is that a worry for someone who had such an amazing freshman year?
Mitchell: I am sure that there is such a thing because I guess there are some sophomores who don't do that well. I don't subscribe to luck and all those things. I think that you are just trying to create something if you buy into that. If I am trying to guard against her going into a sophomore slump then I am almost creating an out for her. I am not going to talk to her about that and I don't believe in a sophomore slump. Maya Moore didn't have a sophomore slump and Tamika Catchings didn't have a sophomore slump and Chamique Holdsclaw didn't have a sophomore slump. A'dia is that level player in my mind. She is one of the more extremely talented basketball players in this country. If A'dia wants to be and makes the right choices day in and day out, then there will be no sophomore slump. If there is a slump, it won't be because she is a sophomore but because there are certain actions that she needs to engage in every day.

Question: Is there a returning player that will surprise us when the season starts as to how much she will grow or improve?
Mitchell: I don't know that yet. That is a hard question for me to answer. I found that the more I do these preseason things the less information that I try to give because I go back and read some of my predictions. My first year here I was just really confident that some things were going to happen. I don't know. I think that there are players that have improved. I think that Carly Morrow has looked phenomenal in preseason. Will she look good in five-on-five, I don't know. She is shooting the ball better than she ever has. Keyla (Snowden) looks like she is moving better. There is a lot of competition there. Keyla and Carly will have to fight for minutes to get on the court. Those are some returning players. I think that Brittany Henderson has a chance to be a really good player for us in the role that we have her in. I don't know if that will surprise people or not. I am not for sure if I have a good handle on which returning player will surprise us.

Question: You have talked about the externals that you can't control. What are the things that you can do to not make that stuff go to their heads?
Mitchell: I think that it's incumbent upon me to make sure that the environment is right. If you will come to our practice today, it will be a very difficult situation to be in. If A'dia or Victoria think that they are going to roll in and say, 'Hey I am SEC Player of the Year,' they are going to be humbled today. It is going to be extremely difficult. My goal today is for today to be the hardest practice that these kids have ever been through. That is the mindset. We are going to run up and down that court today. I am trying to develop a culture of leadership. If the leaders don't know what is coming then it is hard to get the troops prepared. It is going down to the lieutenants and they know what is happening and know what the orders are going to be. We play this style so there are certain things that you have to have ingrained as habit. That helps them that they do know what is coming. They know that we are going to do layups every single day and you are going to have to run your tail off until you can make layups. You can't go on to the next thing. If you want to play fast and up-tempo then you better be able to run, pass, and catch and lay the ball in the basket. Last Friday, that drill went for about 10 minutes and it is a drill that needs to go about two minutes, but it went 10 because everybody needs to make their layups. They know it is coming today.

Question: Last year you were able to surprise and sneak up on so many people. How does that change this season?
Mitchell: I don't know. I just don't have any feedback on people on how much sneaking up helped. I don't know if that helped at all. Everybody says it did but I don't think that we were sneaking up on people in the league. When we played Georgia down there in overtime and we beat Vanderbilt the first weekend and had seen what we did in the preseason, I think that people were pretty clear that we were for real. Did that help us early on? You know, we were down 10 points to Chattanooga. If we lose that game, does that affect us? I don't know. These are questions that I think about and are valid questions, but I don't have the answer. There are things that I use to think were really clear like all these clichés. The more I go, the more I find that they don't have a whole lot to do with much if I do my job the right way. Today's focus is that I want them to achieve excellence and there is some ways to measure that. There is some really special ways to measure that as far as championships, but there are some other things. We had remarkable games last year and we could play that way this year, but they could just go the other way. That doesn't mean we are a bad team. I think that those questions can maybe be answered after the season, but I don't know if we are going to sneak up on anybody. I think that we will be able to answer that if the thing just doesn't work this year. Then we can go back and say that we were just surprising everybody. If it works then maybe it is because the fundamentals are really good."

Question: Do you think that there is a chance that last year was a fluke?
Mitchell: No, what that team accomplished wasn't a fluke because they put the work in. What I am saying is that I don't have any idea that what the team accomplished is because they surprised people.

Question: Who is the fastest player on the team?
Mitchell: Oh, man, we have a lot of fast ones. It just depends on what you are doing. (Maegan) Conwright is really fast. A'dia is really fast but Conwright is really fast. Riley is really fast. We have a lot of fast players. That is a fun question for me to thank about.

Question: Who eats the most?
Mitchell: Oh, I don't know. We have been talking to them about how nutrition is a big, big step for us right now. We need to take a big step forward as a program in fueling up right.

Q and A with John Calipari -- part 6

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MBSK 09_10 UK_ARK Web 18.jpgPart 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Question: If there is anything such as getting used to this, getting pulled in every direction, how much better equipped are you at handling this now?
John Calipari: If you're not fired once and you're like 35 and think you poop ice cream and you get this job, I want to stay in town just to watch it. First of all, you've got to be willing to say no, and I'm not good at that anyway. At my age I'm not good at it. You've got to say no. There are people that are going to be mad that you're saying no because their thing is the only thing in the universe that matters and you're not doing it, you're not speaking at it. You've got to be able to say no and walk and not have any effect. You can't be into the websites, the chat rooms, the talk radio; ignore the papers. Just don't deal with it. The issue becomes, you'll hear sometimes, and you've got to get better at even telling people, 'Don't even talk about it because then you're making me have to deal with it.' You just have to walk. This thing never leaves you, where if you're at another school and they're in another season, they're not worried (about you). It's never that way here. This is 24/7. They're telling me the other guys that coached here would get out of town. The season ends and they'd go for months. I'm starting to see why they did. I can see why a guy would say, 'I'm out of here. You will see me in a month,' because this is one of those things. The flipside, I'm enjoying the crap out of it. It doesn't bother me. I'm loving it. If you don't have fun with this, you can't do this. I know we're not going to be as good. I joke (that) I need good neighbors this year because when we lose our first couple, someone is going to have to take those "for sale" signs out of my front yard. They do it before I get home. Everybody is going to have the answers and you've got the old ladies watching the third game tape again and telling you that you should be doing this, this and this. I'll probably laugh about it and say the same thing I said a year ago: Enjoy the ride. Forget about the day-to-day stuff. That's what I deal with. Just enjoy the scope of this ride of what you're going to see this year. It's going to be different than last year. That should be the fun part of it. But again, here it's a little different than that. If a team is getting better and better and better, and you see it, you've got to get enjoyment. I think, and we'll see if I'm wrong, I think we're talking about a small minority. When I call people crazy, there's a difference between being crazy and nuts. The people that are crazy are just crazy in love and have so much affection for this program and the players. The nuts think you should win every game, have no idea that there are other programs and they're just nuts. I won't ever deal with them. They'll call, 'Bye, I've got to go. Bye, next caller.' I'm not dealing with that. That's how I deal with that. Think about it, if I was 35 trying to do this thing where I had never been fired, never had stuff come at me, never had a bad article written about me and I got this job. This is the greatest thing about what you guys do: You guys will kill me in some way or say something on the radio and do something, and somebody will say, 'Oh, it isn't that bad. Just don't worry about it.' And I'll say, 'Put your name in there instead of mine and then tell me what you think of it now.' 'Oh, that's just awful.' It's OK if it's me.

Question: What has Rock Oliver meant since he's been here?
Calipari: For all the weight program, what he's done is he takes no crap. See, as a coach, what you want is you want stuff taken off your plate. If you're adding things to my plate as my assistant in some way or somewhere around me, you've got to go here because I don't have time. Our academic piece with Mike Stone and those guys, unbelievable. The job that DeWayne (Peevy) and John (Hayden) do, especially DeWayne because DeWayne is shoulder-to-shoulder (with me). I've never been around a guy as good as him at what he does, because you know what he does? He takes it off me. I don't have to deal with it. He deals with it. And he knows that's his job. So with Ray, part of weights is you've got to get mean with them and you've got to get nasty with them sometimes. I can't be that guy and be him and be the academic guy. I've done that when I was at UMass and probably when I was at Memphis. I had to do everything. You can't do that here - or you die. They'll say, 'Oh, my god, look at him. What's wrong with him? He's sick. Look at him.' You can't do it. So Ray, he is with Joker. He oversees everything. But there will be times that needs something needs shaken up a little bit, get him over here; someone misses something or didn't do something. He pins them against the wall and I say, 'Hey, you have a good day?' I don't have to do it. It has to be done, but it's not for me.

Question: When you look at what Brandon Knight's decision to sign a financial aid agreement and not a letter of intent, do you think that's something that more kids will do that?
Calipari: I think I've had other players do it, or we had players that were like, 'Cal, if you get hit by a bus? What is something happens? We want to be there playing for you.' What we did was, if something happened to me, they were no longer bound by the national letter of intent. It's exactly the same thing. Well, we won't even sign it, so if something happens, I'm not coming. That may aggravate the ivory tower, 'Well, that's not how this is supposed to be,' but is that how it is? It's the way it is. What he did, would I suggest it at this point? Yeah. Tyreke Evans, if Derrick Rose came back, Tyreke was not coming. He told me. He said, 'Coach, I'm not going to come if he's there. He's so good and I'm going to be compared to him? No. And he'll be there with me? No. If he's gone, I'm coming.' That's how they do it. ... I think (Knight) did the smart thing. His dad said it from day one and I said, 'I'm fine with that. I trust you.' Now, if I didn't trust him, I would say no. And the reality of it is I probably wouldn't go that far to recruit him if I didn't trust him. The kids that I've done it with, they've all followed through. They said they were coming.
 

Volleyball aims to keep NCAA tourney streak alive

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RBW_6808.jpgThe Kentucky volleyball team finds itself in unfamiliar territory.

After five straight seasons of advancing to the NCAA Tournament, a school record, UK sits at 9-9 overall and 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference. The NCAA Tournament, at this point, is far from a sure thing.

Head coach Craig Skinner admitted his team is dealing with adversity it didn't have to in years past, things like youth, inexperience and coping with losses.

"I thought we would be further along," Skinner said. "Part of it is nagging injury-type stuff, part of it is development. It's hard to tell, but I think we're getting better at the rate that I thought we would."

While the hopes of competing for an SEC title have been reined in a bit this year because of Florida's return to the top - the Gators took over the No. 1 ranking in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 - Skinner said his team has started to click in recent weeks.

"I thought this team had more room to improve than any team that we've had here and I think that's still true," Skinner said. "I think we've improved more in the last two weeks than we have all season."

Two weeks ago, the consequences of playing arguably the nation's toughest non-conference schedule -UK has played current top-25 opponents Nebraska, Iowa State, Florida State, Cincinnati, LSU and Tennessee - and opening league play with Florida looked like it had finally caught up with the team. The Cats looked worn down and demoralized in three straight sweeps to Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU.

For the first time in Skinner's tenure at Kentucky, it looked as if his team was going to go quietly into the night.

But that's the great thing about youth - it has the ability to bounce back and forget.

UK put together arguably its best match of the season Sunday with a 3-1 win over Arkansas. Junior middle blocker Becky Pavan struck for a career-high 19 kills on a near-perfect .792 hitting percentage and sophomore setter Christine Hartmann had a career-best 50 assists in leading UK to a season-high .379 attacking clip.

With the conference schedule expected to ease up in the second half of league play, marquee wins over Ohio State and Kansas State, and an RPI of 45, a 9-9 record doesn't seem so discouraging anymore. The possibility of going to the NCAA Tournament is still very much alive.

"We had a meeting about that and where we are," Skinner said. "No, it's not where we want to be, but there is certainly a lot of volleyball left. A lot can happen between now and the end of November."

Like reaching the team's ultimate potential. When Skinner faced the reality that this year's team would be bare of mainstays like Sarah Rumely, Sarah Mendoza and BriAnne Sauer, he realized there would be bumps. But he didn't panic.

Pointing to the team's potential - he said this year's team had as much talent and maybe more than last year's - Skinner said there would be a point where the youth and inexperience of his team would fall by the wayside and talent would start to take over.

Was Sunday's match the beginning of the team's transformation? Does this UK team start to make a run now?

"I really like this group," Skinner said. "They have not stopped wanting to get better. I don't think they quite know how to get better at times but they want to get better. Learning how to win with a new group is sometimes a challenge, but they've made a lot of progress.

"It may be the best chemistry team I've ever had. They want each other to succeed, they encourage each other and they're excited for each other when they do well. As far as that, I don't think I could ask for a better group. I think they're very competitive. I think for us to make this type of improvement that we have the past couple of weeks is a tribute to them."

Watching practice Tuesday, it's clear this year's team is still mastering the basics and learning how to play as a team. The talent is there, but Skinner said he's had to do more hands-on teaching than he has in the last few seasons.

"I probably have done a little bit more breaking down things a little bit," Skinner said. "We've probably gone away from that the last couple years. As a coach, it's something you're about. You have to break down the fundamentals and you have to break down the basics. This team probably needs it a little bit more than others."

One thing going for the team as it moves into the second half of its season is Skinner appears to have settled on a lineup. With so many news faces and integral parts of the team, Skinner has tried to tweak the lineup to find the right chemistry.

Seniors Blaire Hiler and Lauren Rapp have settled into their roles as veteran leaders, Skinner said, but sophomore libero Stephanie Klefot and Hartmann also have emerged as vocal leaders.

Hartmann and freshman standout Elizabeth Koberstein  have shared time at setter for part of the season, but Hartmann started both matches last weekend and has taken control of the position, Skinner said. 

"For our team to hit .380 in a conference match on a Sunday, that's pretty high level," Skinner said. "A lot of that has to do with setting. She's pretty confident right now and I think our hitters are really trusting the location she's putting up there for them. I think that will allow us to get in better rhythm."

With a schedule like the one UK has played and with an RPI below 50, it's tough to gauge how many wins Kentucky would need over its final 12 regular-season matches to get into the NCAA Tournament for a sixth consecutive year.

Either way, Skinner doesn't allow himself or his team to put a number on it.

"As a coach, I still try and do the same thing I ask our players to do and that is to think about today," Skinner said. "Like Chip Kelly, the Oregon football coach, he talks about winning each day, whether you're undefeated or have nine losses. That's the only thing you can control."

And right now, though it's only based off one weekend set of matches, UK appears to finally be clicking. If the momentum can carry over to the second half of the season, it won't have to worry about the NCAA Tournament for very long.

"Six of the eight sets we played this weekend we played at an extremely high level," Skinner said. "It wouldn't matter who was across the net; I thought we would be competitive enough to win each of those sets."

Oct. 10 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 10:

Men's soccer: Sam Brooks

UK junior Sam Brooks posted his second career game-winning goal in Kentucky's 2-1 overtime win over Marshall on Wednesday night ... Brooks' goal came just 51 seconds into overtime, lifting UK to a crucial conference-opening win ... The game was the second career goal for the junior college transfer, as his first career goal came as the golden goal in double overtime at Evansville on Sept. 26 ... In UK's game at No. 29 UAB, Brooks led UK with two shots ... A native of Solihull, England, Brooks has five points on the year, also adding an assist and firing 15 shots ... A 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, Brooks has played in 10 of 11 games on the season.

Football: Randall Cobb

Accounted for 207 yards and all four of Kentucky's touchdowns (two rushing, one passing, one receiving) vs. Auburn.

Football: Mike Hartline

Completed 23 of 28 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown vs. Auburn.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot's tremendous performance from the back row helped the Wildcats snap a three-match losing streak and defeat Arkansas 3-1 on Sunday. It marked the seventh straight victory for UK in the series, and Klefot had a big-part in the win. Klefot matched a career-high with 22 digs from the back row while also contributing three assists. Klefot also picked up a pair of kills when two of her digs were too hot to handle dropping on the other side of the net. Against LSU, Klefot racked up 11 digs. The sophomore has now posted 17 matches this season with 10 or more digs and five with 20 or more scoops. Klefot has picked up 10 or more digs in seven-straight SEC matches.

Volleyball: Becky Pavan

Junior Becky Pavan had the most remarkable individual performance of the season for UK and in her career in a victory over Arkansas on Sunday. Pavan was literally unstoppable for the Wildcats with a career-high 19 kills in helping UK snap a three-match losing streak while posting its seventh-straight win over Arkansas in the series. Even more impressively than the career high kills number is the fact that the junior did not commit a single error in her 24 attempts while charting a near-perfect .792 hitting percentage, the best this season by any UK player. It's the second-best hitting clip of any player in the SEC this season, but it ranks as the best performance against a league foe. Pavan totaled 3.14 kills per frame this week, far higher than her 1.64 kills per set average for the season. She led the squad with 4.07 points per stanza, an increase by nearly two points above her season average of 2.30. In addition to her 19 kills against the Razorbacks, Pavan totaled a season-best three aces while also contributing three blocks in the win.

Men's tennis: Eric Quigley

  • University of Kentucky men's tennis star Eric Quigley made history at the 2010 D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships, becoming only the sixth UK player in school history to play in the finals of a collegiate tennis grand slam tournament. Quigley fell in the championship match to the country's top-ranked freshman, Alex Domijan of Virginia, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla., on Sunday.
  • Quigley joins former UK greats Jesse Witten, Carlos Drada, Cedric Kauffmann, Greg Van Emburgh and Rich Benson as the only players in Kentucky's rich history of tennis to play in one of the four collegiate grand slam tournaments.
  • Quigley's run to the championship was a tough one as the junior had to post five wins over a top-45 ranked player in the tournament, defeating No. 13, No. 28, No. 31, No. 44 and No. 45.

Football: Danny Trevathan

Had a career-high 17 tackles vs. Auburn.

Video: Collins preps for No. 23 UCF

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Q and A with John Calipari -- part 5

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MBSK 09_10 UK_USC Web 05.jpgPart 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Question: How big of an impact will Enes Kanter have on this year's team?
John Calipari: Big. He's not what DeMarcus was. People don't realize how good DeMarcus is. When you talk about nimble, when you talk about skilled with the ball, (he's got it). Let me say this, here is how I would judge a big guy: If he is 6-5, how good is he now? DeMarcus at 6-5 would have been really good. It didn't matter that he was 6-11. You're 6-11 and now I say you're 6-5, how good are you now? 'Oh, he stinks.' Again, to judge (Kanter) against DeMarcus isn't fair. I met with the Maloof brothers out in Vegas for two hours and I'm telling you they're going crazy about DeMarcus. 'How did we get him? He should have been a No. 1 pick?' They've got him on the side of their building. He's going to be fine. What we have, we've got good players. They're young, they're inexperienced. Our experienced players, Darius and DeAndre, have really improved. Larry Brown called me yesterday and said, 'How is DeAndre?' because that's who he likes on my team. I said, 'Wow, has he gotten better.' It's a kid last year that everybody told me to get rid of. I told everybody that in this style of play you're going to see a different guy. We're not going to be last year's team. Can we win that many games? The schedule is tougher, too. I don't know. I have no idea.

Question: So what does Kanter do for this team?
Calipari: He's another big guy. We've got a guy with size who can rebound. The one thing he does do is he rebounds with two hands. That's something I usually have to teach. I don't have to with him. He gets his paws on it.

Question: Is he more polished than the big kid at West Virginia?
Calipari: That big is good, too, but he's more like a four than a five.

Question: So how good are his skills around the basket?
Calipari: Good, good. In the 17 days, the only time I saw him go like, 'Wow,' is when he played against Nazr Mohammed. Whether he was challenged, whether Josh (Harrellson) has him joking around, I don't know. When he went against Nazr, he went to work. I went, 'Wow, maybe he's better than I think.' So, I don't know. Until I coach these guys (I don't know). The one thing I was able to get with Brandon is that the kid is a warrior. He's got a fire in his belly. If you don't have a fire in your belly with me, you're not playing. Either develop it or understand it. It's hard for me to play you (if you don't have it) because we're going to be an attacking offense, an attacking defense and every game we play is someone's Super Bowl. It's been that way when I was at UMass, Memphis and now it's even worse here. We were a Super Bowl in Canada. What's that thing in Canada? The Grey Cup. It was like the Grey Cup. Our fans up there were great. It was great for them to be able to drive up there. Doron, the first game, was so bad. It was great. He didn't warm up the right way. You are able to sit him down and say, 'Now do you understand what we talk about warming up?' This guy was playing for his life. It's a game that he'll take and keep for the rest of his life. 'You want to go play like give me a hamburger before the game and it's an AAU game, so you got your head handed to you. Wait until we're in the SEC. Wait until we have to go on the road.' So the next game he came out with a fire and a focus and he did it."

Question: Does Darius have that same mentality?
Calipari: He played better up there. He showed me some good stuff. Moving from supporting roles to starring roles, you just never know. It's like moving those 12 inches from an assistant coach to a head coach. Moving from support to starring, whew. You make the game winner. You make that play, draw that foul. You make those fouls. You make the scoring play that helps win the game. They all have to play into that. Part of what we do in our drills is that. John Wall wanted to win every game that we did in practice. Everything we do in practice is scored, so one team wins and one team loses - every drill. Why do you that? Because I want to see who wants to make the winning basket. If they're making it all the time, they'll go into the game thinking I'll make it. John Wall never made a winning goal, and he admitted it. I watched him in high school, I watched him in AAU, (he) never made a big-game basket. Here (first game). And he made many after that, seven or eight. That Stanford game, he wanted it. That's what we teach. Last year, the guys that were trying to make the game winners were John, Eric, DeMarcus, and that's who did it in the games. Now, this year, who is making those plays? It will develop in practice. And whoever makes them then, you want to see can you carry that over now.

Question: So is it a big deal that Brandon has made those kinds of shots in high school and All-Star games?
Calipari: Oh, yeah. But it's different here. What he did, what was so great, this kid worked so hard that if you're on the team with him at times, it will tick you off. 'Who gets up in the morning? Who is he trying to impress? He's trying to kiss coach's (butt).' That's natural. I don't know if that's being said, but I'll bet you it was. And if it wasn't said, it was thought. So when he went up that first game and performed like he did, I'm looking, 'I don't ever want to hear a word.' I'm yelling it down the bench. 'Anybody talking?' 'Whose talking? Is anybody talking?' It proves that - it's like DeAndre said, 'I see him work, it's getting me to work more. I spend more time. I stay after.' That's why I brought him here. Here's a kid that's going to have one year under his belt as he starts class this year. So after one year he'll be at two years. And if he goes this summer, he'll have another nine credits, eight credits. That's what you want. You also want a guy that's going to work. It's what your culture becomes. To survive here, you've got to go like he goes.

Question: Have you ever heard a great player come in with great academic honors like Brandon's bringing in?
Calipari: No, but this is so unusual that I've never heard of it before. I've heard of kids coming in with a couple of classes but not here. But again, I'm going to tell you, of all the kids I've coached, I've had kids that have anxiety like he has, which is Derrick Rose, Tyreke, John Wall - they're scared to death. What those kids do is they get in the gym, they're so scared and have so much anxiety about 'Maybe I'm not good as everybody says' that they take it out in there. He is exactly the same. Now, he's not as big as John, he's not as fast as Derrick, he's not as strong as Tyreke. He is who he is. He's different. Every one of those guys is different. Eric Bledsoe is different."

Question: Can you envision a four-guard lineup during the regular season?
Calipari: If you're playing Darius as a four, and even if he and Terrence are on the court together, that's four guards. This offense, what you want to do is get the four guards. There's a kid who is 6-10, he was a guard a year ago. Now he's a big guard. Now he's a real big guard. That's what you want. You want guys with size who can play like guards. That's what we'll have, so it's fine. Now you're going against a guy that's got a plodding player on the court who is 6-7. Well, we're 6-7, but he's a guard, Darius. So it's basically where do you put them on the court to make them most effective? The bigger the better, the longer the better, as long as they're skilled that way or we can teach them the skills that they need to play the spots that they're playing.

UK a big game for South Carolina

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South Carolina earned the nation's respect and attention when it beat top-ranked Alabama last week. Now it's seeking validation against Kentucky.

After one of the biggest wins in school history, the Gamecocks are seeking to put a stamp on the legitimacy that they can contend for a Southeastern Conference title. Kentucky has the unenviable task of being the next opponent.

"This is probably one of the biggest games in school history," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said, according Travis Haney from the Charleston Post and Courier. "It really is."

South Carolina has become the media darling of the week after shocking the nation, but Spurrier is doing his best to make sure his team doesn't fall for the hype.

"We haven't won enough to be considered anything yet," Spurrier said. "We had one game when fortune smiled on us."

Maybe so, but this is still a very good top-10 team on its way to Lexington.

Teams that have played Alabama are just 1-3 the week after playing the Crimson Tide. Can UK hope for a South Carolina letdown this week?

"They're a team that's very capable of beating us," Spurrier said of Kentucky. "They probably should've beat us last year."

Losing's tough, but Cats remain confident

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Thumbnail image for Phillips.jpgThe window of opportunity is still open for the Kentucky football team, but as head coach Joker Phillips said Monday, the window is getting smaller and smaller with each loss.

In the midst of a three-game losing streak, UK's head coach and players said they remain confident they can rebound from a brutal stretch that will continue with No. 10 South Carolina on Saturday at 6 p.m.

"I think this team definitely has confidence," Phillips said. "They can play with anybody in this league. Going toe to toe with the No. 8 team in the country and having a chance to win definitely has to help our confidence."

But any loss, especially a heartbreaking loss like the one Saturday, can be tough for a team to rebound from. Phillips acknowledged as much at his news conference Monday.

How a team can come back after putting out so much emotionally and physically will be up to the team's leaders, Phillips said.

"You got to call on your leaders, that's for sure," Phillips said. "You guys had a bunch of our leaders in here today. You guys tell me, how did they sound? We haven't lost those guys."

So how about it, UK leaders - what's the psyche of the team like after three straight losses and South Carolina, a team Kentucky hasn't beaten since 1999, headed to town?

"We're upbeat," sophomore defensive end Collins Ukwu said. "(Auburn was) No. 8 in the nation."

If there's a positive to take out of a third-straight loss, it's that the players may have discovered a mentality that might lead to future wins. When Kentucky played angry and fought with emotion, it played remarkably better.

It showed both during the week of practice when Randall Cobb said the players had to practice like they were angry and during the second half when UK fell behind by two touchdowns.

"It's hard losing," Cobb said. "It's tough losing, especially when you've got competitors like we've got on our team. When you lose games (at Ole Miss) on the road and you come up so close (to Auburn), that just makes you get fired up and makes you get ready for practice more the next week."

UK can ill-afford to spot South Carolina an early lead, though, as the Gamecocks stomped on the pedal early and never let up against previously unbeaten Alabama.

South Carolina's front four sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy seven times Saturday, but it was the way the South Carolina offense punished a vaunted Crimson Tide defense that has to worry UK.

In completing 17 of 20 passes Saturday, quarterback Stephen Garcia upped his SEC-best completion rate to 72.3 percent. Alshon Jeffery has been a big reason behind Garcia's success. In a league with NFL talents the likes of A.J. Green and Julio Jones, it's Jeffery that's beginning to emerge as the Southeastern Conference's best wide receiver.

Jeffery, whose breakout game came against the Cats last year as a freshman, leads the SEC with 34 catches for 625 yards and four touchdowns, including a ridiculous one-handed catch against Alabama with a cornerback blanketed all over him.

"He did it against probably the best coverage team in the country," Phillips said. "(He is) not blessed with great speed but he's blessed with great athleticism and strong hands. Just a physical guy at the line of scrimmage; a great rebounder."

But wait, there's more.

If UK decides to try to key on Jeffery and take away the passing game, it could be in for a huge mistake. South Carolina features one of the nation's top runnerms and arguably the best freshman in the nation, in tailback Marcus Lattimore.

A 6-foot, 218-pound bruising back, Lattimore has taken the SEC by storm, rushing for 459 yards and eight touchdowns through five games.

"(Lattimore is) big, physical, patient," Phillips said. "He is faster than he looks, similar to (Cameron Newton) we just saw last week. That guy is a lot faster than he looks. Because they're so big, they don't look as fast as a guy like that."

Phillips said South Carolina's ability to run the ball has led to a high third-down conversion rate (55.2 percent) and opened up the passing game.

"One of the things that people always put with Steve Spurrier is he's always throwing the ball well, but when Steve Spurrier has won and won big, they are running the football," Phillips said.

Of course, Spurrier has beaten UK throwing, running, kicking, you name it. Kentucky has still yet to defeat a Spurrier-coached team.

That streak does nothing to alter the still strong confidence of the UK football team.

"I've tried not to mention things like that because we've got to play," Phillips said. "This is a different team, obviously, and we've just got to go play to win."

UK Hoops preps for Big Blue Madness, season

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The first celebrated practice of the season isn't until Friday at Big Blue Madness, but for the UK women's basketball team, practice began last week.

A new NCAA rule, bylaw 17.3.2.2, allows for women's basketball teams to being practicing 40 days before the institution's first regular-season contest. The team is not allowed more than 30 days of "countable athletically related activities before its first regular-season contest."

UK's first game is Nov. 12 against Morehead State.

With UK now in its second week of practice, head coach Matthew Mitchell provided a short video update on his team:

Locke, Evans doubtful for South Carolina

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The prospect of two of Kentucky's most important leaders, Derrick Locke and DeQuin Evans, of playing against South Carolina does not look good heading into Saturday.

Head coach Joker Phillips listed Locke, UK's leading rusher, and Evans, one of UK's defensive captains, as doubtful for the game.  Locke is battling a shoulder stinger he suffered in the third quarter against Auburn, and Evans aggravated a ligament in his ankle.

Both would be huge losses as Kentucky prepares to play No. 10 South Carolina, which upset top-ranked Alabama over the weekend.

Without Locke, Phillips said they could look to the "Wildcat" formation more this week to keep the running game going. UK used Randall Cobb in the package this week more than it has at any other time this year.

"We'll have to continue doing the things that we're doing because that's what we know," Phillips said. "We also have to use more of the Wildcat, possibly."

Phillips said they used the Wildcat last week with the intention of opening up the passing game. But when Locke went down in the third quarter and the running game continued to open up, Phillips stayed with the package.

"The Wildcat package is funny," Phillips said. "We got in the Wildcat package to throw the football this week. You line up in the Wildcat package and lo and behold, there is the run because we hadn't been getting it."

Bottom line, Phillips said, is Cobb has to be involved like he was Saturday for UK to break its current skid. Cobb became the first player since Shane Boyd in 2003 to throw, catch and rush for a touchdown against Auburn.

"We've got to get the ball in his hands," Phillips said. "Obviously, he is a guy that makes not only plays but huge plays for us regardless if you are dropping back and throwing it, which he did last week by scrambling around and making a play or if you are running it."

Backup tailbacks Donald Russell and Raymond Sanders will also be instrumental in the run game should Locke not play.

Russell, a sophomore, has run the ball 27 times for 124 yards this season, and Sanders, a freshman, has 96 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

Although Russell was technically demoted on the depth chart before the Auburn game - Phillips said he was "bracketed" with Sanders but was listed third behind Sanders - Russell got nine carries for 32 yards.

"I'm proud of Donald, how he handled things," Phillips said. "We put Sanders in first Saturday night and he missed a few runs, so we wanted to go with Donald. Donald went in there and was seeing well, made some people miss in the secondary (and) did some good things in picking up the blitzes."

Video: Cats remain upbeat amid 3-game losing streak

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Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb


Sophomore defensive end Collins Ukwu


Junior cornerback Randall Burden


Head coach Joker Phillips

Another primetime UK football game

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Kentucky football will be under the lights for a third straight week when it takes on Georgia on Oct. 23.

A day after UK learned that this week's UK-South Carolina game will be on ESPN2 at 6 p.m., the Southeastern Conference announced that the UK-Georgia game has been picked up by CSS for a 7:30 p.m. broadcast.

The primetime game will be UK's fifth at home and sixth overall this season.

TV schedule for Oct. 23:

SEC Network   12:21 ET  Ole Miss at Arkansas

CBS        3:30 ET  LSU at Auburn
       
ESPN       7:00 ET  Alabama at Tennessee

ESPNU     7:00 ET  UAB at Miss. State

FSN       7:00 ET  South Carolina at Vanderbilt
        
CSS       7:30 ET  Georgia at Kentucky 

Q and A with John Calipari -- part 4

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Question: Talk about the future of Rupp Arena and your thoughts on a new arena.
John Calipari: I think they'll do a new arena. I think they will, and I think within the next four or five years that will be a reality, mainly because of the pride and it's needed. How old is the arena? You're talking 30-something years.

Question: How important are corporate suites?
Calipari: The only thing I said when they talked to me is I think you need, if you can understand what I'm saying, dugouts. So in other words, you're not sitting in the suite watching the game. The dugout on the baseline is behind your seats. That's where your suite is, and if you want to come out, you come out and sit in your seat to watch the game. Why is that? Because it doesn't raise our upper deck through the roof. How many suites can this area (fill)? You want to have football suites and baseball suites and basketball suites? Can this area absorb 400 suites? Because obviously this is us right here. There may be Cincinnati and some other areas (that help). So now you're looking at dugout suites. How many suites that is, I have no idea. You just don't want the upper deck. What makes Rupp what it is, is the upper deck isn't 17 miles away. Those people that have those seats between the in-lines in the first four rows in the upper decks have great seats. You don't want those seats to be bad seats. I think they're taking that into consideration as they're doing it. The first things I've seen, the drawings, were with dugouts on the baseline.

Question: Is that something maybe like Pitt has?
Calipari: Yeah, but theirs are different. They're back there, but the seats are separated. They've only got 12,000 seats. Here they're going to ask for 30,000. So what happens is, that's the door to their suite and then the seats are way up here. They're talking about these seats are right here, down the suite, you walk back in it and it's behind.

Question: So basically you're sitting on top of your suite?
Calipari: Yeah. You've got 25,000 seats. It's a different deal. FedEx Forum is an unbelievable building. I told everybody upstairs it's a great seat - and then I went up there. When I looked at people on the floor, they were that (small). When I looked at those people, (they were that small). And I want to tell you the scoreboard is below. So you're sitting with the scoreboard below you. You add those boxes and it rises. This building, the aura of the building is that people from Eastern Kentucky who drive three hours to come sit in those seats, you've got to make it even better for them.

Question: You've mentioned pride as one of the reasons there will be one eventually. They're getting one down the road. Do you think that will move things faster?
Calipari: That will move people, but we're competing against ourselves. We're not competing against Louisville or anybody else, I don't believe. Maybe I'm being arrogant there. I just think that this program, how do you make this better? One of the statements I had, I want every high school player in the country saying, 'I want to play at Kentucky,' as a sophomore and ninth graders. We have kids right now in the top of this class that we are not offering scholarships to and they say we are. They're calling and they're saying, 'Can I come to Midnight Madness?' No, you don't even have a scholarship here. And they're top 10, they're top five. We have who we want, and it's what you want. To play at Kentucky is something special.

Question: How much did last year have to do with that?
Calipari: That's why I said it (was a special year at the NBA Draft). And everybody got crazy and wanted to make statements about what I said. When you look at the next five years, the impact that that will have on this program, you can't even gauge it. You can't gauge it.

Video interviews with Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Jon Hood | Video interviews with Enes Kanter, Stacey Poole and Jarrod Polson

Junior guard Darius Miller


Senior forward Josh Harrellson


Junior forward Eloy Vargas

Locke questionable for South Carolina

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FB 09_10 UK_Bama WEB 27.jpgKentucky football could be without its top running back and leading rusher, Derrick Locke, for Saturday's South Carolina game.

A day after leaving the Auburn game in the third quarter with a shoulder stinger, head coach Joker Phillips listed the senior tailback as questionable for next week.

"If we had to play today, looking at it you would say probably not," Phillips said of Locke's current availability.

Diminutive in stature, Locke isn't afraid to lower his shoulder and take a hit. Against Ole Miss, he left the game briefly after a punishing hit near the sideline but returned to the game. After a 3-yard gain Saturday, Locke did not return.

Phillips said Locke suffered a shoulder stinger in one shoulder against Ole Miss and endured another one in the other shoulder against Auburn. In addition to the shoulder injuries, Locke is also dealing with a bruised elbow.

"He's a little banged up," Phillips said. "We've got to try to get him healthy, and if not, we'll have to call on one of the two young guys (Raymond Sanders and Donald Russell)."

Locke leads UK with 574 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. After rushing for four straight 100-yard games to open the season, Locke has been held in check in the last two contests, including a 31-yard performance against the Tigers on just five rushes.

In Locke's absence, Randall Cobb, Russell and Sanders combined for 80 rushing yards against Auburn.

UK-South Carolina on ESPN2: Saturday's UK football game with South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium has been picked up by ESPN2 for a 6 p.m. broadcast.

The game will mark UK's fourth primetime game of the season and third at home.

South Carolina will visit the Bluegrass State fresh off an upset of No. 1 and defending national champion Alabama. The Gamecocks moved up to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press rankings.

Next week's SEC schedule:

Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-1) at Georgia (2-4, 1-3), 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Arkansas (4-1, 1-1) at Auburn (6-0, 3-0), 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports
South Carolina (4-1, 2-1) at Kentucky (3-3, 0-3), 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2) at Florida (4-2, 2-2), 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
McNeese State (2-3) at LSU (6-0, 4-0), 7 p.m. ET, FSN
Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1) at Alabama (5-1, 2-1), 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

UK_Auburn_1.jpgThe Kentucky football team found its heart Saturday night in a heartbreaking loss to Auburn. It may - may - have found some type of a defensive identity as well.

UK put together a furious second-half comeback against No. 8 Auburn at Commonwealth Stadium, rallying from a 31-17 halftime deficit to tie the game at 34-34. A Kentucky defense that was gashed and gave up the lead ultimately rallied the Cats back into the game, but a game-winning field goal by Auburn as time expired spoiled what would have been UK's biggest win of the season.

Auburn won 37-34, adding misery to a long and documented past of devastating losses.

"My heart aches for these guys," head coach Joker Phillips said. "They played their hearts out. We asked them to come in and prepare like champions on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and we got that. We prepared like a big-time football team's supposed to prepare. Our guys were into it, played hard, played inspired, played with emotions and made plays when we needed to have them made. (We) just came up a little short."

It's hard to judge where this UK team will go after such an emotional loss.

In one aspect, the Cats had the No. 8 team on the ropes. A Heisman Trophy candidate, Cameron Newton, who was unstoppable all season long, was at least contained in the second half.

And yet, in the glass-half-empty outlook, UK falls to 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference, finds itself in the midst of a three-game looming streak and the Head Ball Coach, whose South Carolina team knocked off Alabama on Saturday, is coming to town next week.

What do we make of Saturday?

"I always knew what this team was about," Phillips said. "This team will fight you until there are zeros on the clock.  This team has heart, there's no question about that.  I hope everybody else recognizes that."

The heart of two individual performances by Randall Cobb and Mike Hartline nearly willed UK to victory.

Cobb, in typical spectacular fashion, was a one-man offensive machine. Cobb became the first player since Shane Boyd in 2003 to throw a touchdown, catch a touchdown and run for a touchdown. His three touchdowns Saturday tied Craig Yeast's career mark of 32 scores.

"This guy's the best football player I've ever been around," Phillips said.  "(He) just makes plays. From the time he's got the ball in his hands, something exciting is going to happen."

Meanwhile, quarterback Mike Hartline just continues to go about his business. While people  continue to call for Morgan Newton to get a shot at QB, Hartline just keeps plugging along as one of the best quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference.

On Saturday, Hartline finished 23 of 28 for 220 yards and a touchdown. Two of his incompletions were just flat out drops. 

"Hartline's playing his tail off for us," Phillips said. "Please, you've got to recognize that. You have got to recognize that Mike Hartline's playing like an SEC quarterback's supposed to play. He hasn't taken sacks.  He didn't turn the ball over at all tonight. He made some big-time throws. The slant throw to Randall, that is a big-time throw.  That is an SEC quarterback."

If Hartline hasn't won those few dissenters over by now, he may never, because there's not much else he can do. He's one of UK's best strengths on the team. Other than put a helmet on and help out the defense, what do people expect?

The difference Saturday night was the defense - both good and bad.

In the first half, Newton shredded a Kentucky "D" that has struggled all season, allowing a score on every single Auburn possession. Newton strolled, walked, cruised - whatever you want to call it - to four first-half touchdowns, totaling 261 yards of total offense.

The defense, the game and the future of the season looked hopeless as the SEC's hottest quarterback did whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to.

And then, as if Micah Johnson, Corey Peters, Trevard Lindley and some of the UK defensive stalwarts of last year gained another year of eligibility and reappeared on defense, Kentucky turned everything around.

Players that couldn't tackle tackled. A defense that didn't contain stayed in its gaps. And a team that appeared lifeless and left for dead in the first half came back to life and played with more emotion than it has all season long.

"We made a couple plays and got them stopped, and therefore you start playing with a little bit more excitement, a little bit more energy, a little bit more juice," Phillips said. "After the first interception, it got the defense going and the stops started coming after that."

After playing as if he was the second-coming of Tim Tebow in the first half - you know, that guy they called "Superman" down in Gainesville, Fla. - Newton looked human in the second half.

"We started containing No. 2," said linebacker Ronnie Sneed, who finished with five stops and a tackle for a loss. "In that first half, he was running wild. Once we got a lockdown on that, it balanced it out and they weren't moving the ball as effectively. We ran some different fronts and changed our alignment on some plays to try to take away a lot of those outside plays."

The 6-foot-6, 250-pounds quarterback still racked up 149 yards of offense in the second half, but compared to what the rest of the country has done against him, those numbers seemed pedestrian.

The only number that counted, anyway, was UK's ability to hold Auburn to just three points in the second half - until a back-breaking, 19-play, game-winning, field-goal drive to end the game.

"The way we finished in the second half, if we played like that in the first half we would have won this game," said Winston Guy, who picked off Newton in the third quarter for his first career pick.

Speed, not a change in schemes, defensive coordinator Steve Brown said, was the difference in his unit's effort in the second half. A team that looked like it was running in sand in the first half flew to the ball in the third and fourth quarters.

"We had a lot of guys that had never been in that fast-pace-type deal before," Brown said. "Those guys had to catch their breath. All we said at halftime was, 'You got it now? Reach your keys, attack and play hard.' In the second half, they did a (heck) of a job. A break here or there and who knows what would have happened." (UK nearly caught one on the final drive on an Auburn fumble out of bounds. Randall Burden recovered the ball, but, after a reviewing the play, the refs ruled he didn't have possession of the ball in bounds.)

UK is now six games into the season, though. As Phillips alluded to earlier in the week, nobody on this team is young anymore; everybody should be used to playing Division I, SEC football at this point. If the UK defensive players weren't used to the speed, they have to be now.

This league and these teams UK will face the rest of the way are about speed and physicality. Maybe UK discovered that in the Saturday night. Maybe it didn't.

But if this team wants to win in the second half of the season, it will have to mirror the second-half defensive effort everybody had been waiting for until Saturday night.

Head coach Joker Phillips

Senior safety Winston Guy

Senior quarterback Mike Hartline

 

Live blog: UK football vs. No. 8 Auburn

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Q and A with Matthew Mitchell -- part 3

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WBSK 09_10 UK_Vandy Web 42.jpgPart 1 | Part 2

Question: Victoria was sometimes was your only frontcourt player last year. Now you've brought in size with Sarah Beth Barnette and Samantha Drake. Do you want Vic to play more on the perimeter this year?
Matthew Mitchell: How we are going to play offensively this year is that we are going to have someone running to the rim and have somebody trailing there at the high post, so it really won't matter to me which one she ends up doing. It will just depend on who gets the rebound and who is the last one down the court. She is shooting the ball very effectively from 17 feet and in. She still is not quite as proficient from 19 feet as I'd like her to be, but it is better. I still wouldn't say that is going to be a bread and butter part of her game the way it will be with Sarah Beth. Vic is not that kind of shooter, but she is getting better. I think that clearly if Vic can hit the 17-footer and she can make people honor that, she really opens the floor up for her perimeter game to go by people and finish at the rim. I would love to see her develop and expand her perimeter game more.

Question: Have you worked on Vic's dunking? Is this the year she's going to do it?
Mitchell: We haven't got around to that yet. We will just have to see. You never know. I don't think that she has worked very hard on dunking this summer, but maybe she has. I know that she has been working very hard in the weight room and done all that stuff. That is something that is very low down on my list on things to do.

Question: What are your goals this season and do you want to win an SEC title? Are those reasonable?
Mitchell: Oh, yes. I don't know how reasonable they are, but what we want to do in our program is we want our kids to strive for excellence at all times and in all parts of their life. We want them to be great people. A huge part of their life here is what they do on the basketball court, and I want them to be excellent. I think it's important that they believe, so you will have to ask them. I definitely believe that they can do something special. I definitely believe they can challenge for an SEC crown and they can challenge for an SEC Tournament title. They can be an NCAA Tournament team and that gives you a chance to go to the Final Four if you can squeeze into that field somehow. I think that they can do all of those things. I have told them so many times that they are still not at a point where we can just show up and walk on the court and things are going to happen for us. There is a lot of work that has to go into that happening. I definitely think that it is a possibility, and more importantly, their belief has to be there. I get the sense that they aren't just talking when they say that they want to do those things. It is our job to make sure that they have an environment where they are pushed to have a chance to realize it.

Question: One of the things that made last year such a good team was chemistry and their togetherness on and off the court. Are you seeing that develop already for this team?
Mitchell: I will have to be around them a little more on a daily basis as a team. I am only around them in groups of four at a time right now, or like today it is only once a week. That is something that I am talking to them about all the time. To me, that is our No. 1 goal. If we'll do that, then all these other things that we are talking about will fall into place if they will become a team. We had some very selfless players last year that were happy to do whatever it took to win. I think that we have a little more talent this year but I am not sure how much that is worth if they don't become a team. I am anxious as anybody to see how it turns out. That to me is the most important thing for this group is to become a team, and I keep referring to them as a group because I don't know if they are a team or not. That will show itself off at some point, whether we are or not. No matter what we have, we have to continue to work towards that. I did think that we arrived at a point last season where I was not concerned about them playing for each other. I have talked to them about that extensively, and everything that I am trying to do with the way I construct practice to any conversations I have with them as a team or individually is all geared to them doing that.

Question: Anything that you have done to create team-building exercises. I know the dribbling on campus last year was one of the methods. Any other things this year?
Mitchell: What we are trying to do while we are developing our culture, is everything that I try to do at practice, I need to be thinking of as a team-building exercise. We have had some team-building exercises where you have to engage each other and talk to each other, so there are some off-the-court things that we have done. The traditional approach was to bring in a consultant and have like a workshop or something. What I have found out is that is really a dynamic on-going process all the time and you better be thinking about it every single day if you want it to happen at the level that we need it to happen. We need to be the tightest and closest team in the country if we want to do any of these things that people (think we can do). I saw something the other day that has us ninth in the country in one poll. We better really love each other, care for each other and fight for each other if we are going to be anywhere close to something like that. That is something that we will have to do. Team building for us won't be able to be a weekend seminar. It better be a daily process. I am in charge of that, going back to the environment that we need to create for them.

Question: You didn't lose a bunch of players last year but the ones you did lose were those selfless players you were talking about in Amani Franklin and Lydia Watkins. Are you concerned with who can fill those roles?
Mitchell: Very, very concerned about that, and not concerned like worried, but just interested to see. You are asking a sophomore that played some (Brittany Henderson), who didn't play as many minutes as some of those other kids, to expand her role. You are asking two freshmen to come in and replace seniors. I don't know if concerned sounds like I'm doubting their ability because I don't, but it is a difficult situation to put them in. I am keenly aware that those players have to develop if we are going off the theory of trying to gage ourselves on last year that they would have to replace seniors. I think that is where it is important for us to stay focused on doing what the group is going to be good at doing. Maybe Samantha and Sarah can't do exactly what Amani and Lydia could do but maybe they have other strengths and we have to tweak things. As it relates to your question, those are big shoes to fill in my book.

From the Pressbox -- notes from Tom Leach

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CBS college football analyst Tony Barnhart knows Kentucky doesn't get as much national pub as some of its Southeastern Conference brethren, but you can most definitely count him as a fan of UK's big-play guys.

"When you talk about Randall Cobb, you talk about a guy who is as good an all-purpose player as there is in this country," Barnhart said. "I have talked to a lot of people and they ask me about Randall Cobb and say 'Look what he has done. He can run it, he can catch it, he can throw it.' He does all kinds of things, and when you have a player like that, the defense has got to respect it."

Cobb isn't the only player that has impressed Barnhart. 

"I think Derrick Locke gives them such a stable-force back there with his ability to run the football," Barnhart said. "You need to have that in the SEC. Randall Cobb cannot be as good as he is unless he has Derrick Locke back there as a legitimate running threat. You put them together and have a smart and efficient quarterback and I think Kentucky's skill players are as good as anybody's."

= = =

"I think this is going to be a really close game. Totally winnable game for Kentucky. I think there will be a lot of points in this game."

So says ESPN2 college football analyst Bob Davie, who will be working the game with Mark Jones Saturday night.

"I think Kentucky is good," Davie said. "Joker has always done a really good job with the scheme. They give you a lot of different looks; little more of a pro-style offense and then you've got two of the most exciting guys in the SEC in Cobb and Locke. Defensively, they're playing better than what the statistics (say)." 

In an interview on "The Leach Report" on WKJK radio in Louisville, I asked Davie what game plan he would draw up to defend Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton, who leads the SEC's top run game and is second in the country in pass efficiency.

"You have to be ready for the up-tempo (game), so you have to keep it simple and get lined up very quickly," Davie said. "They make a lot of plays because of the chaos they create.  The second thing, even though I know (Newton) can throw it, I'm going to get a bunch of people up around that line of scrimmage. I think you have to attack them. You can't sit there and let them know exactly where you are. You have to blitz them."

On the other side, Davie had complimentary things to say about Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline.

"I've always been a fan of his," the former Notre Dame and Texas A&M coach said. "He's a cerebral guy (and) does a lot of good things at the line of scrimmage. (He is) more experienced, more confident. I don't think he's looking over his shoulder at Morgan Newton."

= = =

Randall Cobb is a happy guy most of the time, but smiles have been few and far between this week. 

After two straight losses, Cobb's eyes have had laser-like focus through all of his interviews this week. He and other UK football leaders are hoping to send the message that the play of the last two weeks is unacceptable, and Cobb liked what he saw on the practice field Thursday. 

"It was a really good practice, everybody taking care of their assignments," Cobb said. "We wanted to make sure we prepared to win on Thursday, unlike the last two weeks. This gives us an idea of what we're going to play like on Saturday."

= = =

If you're into looking for omens, consider this one: The last time Kentucky beat Auburn at home was 1966. That 17-7 win came on the heels of a road loss -- to Ole Miss.

Passion for job key to Weber's run, All-Americans

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Thumbnail image for weber.jpgTrack and field head coach Don Weber knows a thing or two about longevity. After all, he's been coaching longer than all but one Southeastern Conference track coach and coached through six different presidents. 

In a day and age in college athletics where instability and coaching changes are the norm, Weber is a rare breed. Despite coaching the northern-most school in the nation's toughest league, Weber has put together a career rich of gaudy statistics and almost unbelievable numbers as he enters his 27th season at UK.

In total, Weber has guided seven Wildcats to 11 NCAA individual national championships, coached 109 SEC individual champions, one cross country national team championship and seven SEC team titles in cross country. The most eye-popping number is 215, the number of All-Americans that have passed through UK's doors under the watch of Weber.

To put that number in perspective, there have been 75 All-American's all time in the history of UK basketball and football, combined. Although it's easier to be granted All-America status in track and cross country (top eight American-born finishers at nationals are tabbed All-Americans), it is still a testament to Weber's sustained success.

"Over the years and being exposed to more kids, most of what I know and believe about what we do, training and competing, to a great degree, I've learned from the kids that I've coached," Weber said. "I've had some great teachers."

Weber might not take full credit for his athlete's success over the years, but there's something to be said about a coach who has stayed at a school for as long as Weber has and to have produced as many All-Americans.

The fuel behind the numbers, the longevity and the success has been an unwavering passion. Weber wants to be the UK track and field and cross country coach at his alma mater just as much as he did two-and-a-half decades ago.

"Every day I would check the Courier-journal hoping, wishing to read in the paper that the UK track coach retired or resigned because that's where I wanted to coach," Weber said. "Over a period of time of waiting and looking, it happened. I was very fortunate that the guy who got the job when that coach quit was an assistant coach here when I was an athlete. He coached here from 1978 to 1984 and then I got elevated. There was never any other place that I was interested in coaching."

Ever since becoming the head coach in 1984, Weber has coached his athletes to believe in his model, a system that starts and ends with the athlete themselves.

"It has to be personal," Weber said. "You have to want to do this for really good reasons, not just because there is a status connected to athletes. There have been a lot of athletes that I've known that really enjoy the process of improvement. You want to foster an environment where you tell the athlete that this is their thing, this is your skill and we want to assist you to do that, rather than them thinking that they work for us and that this is their job." 

Weber has achieved success despite what UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has admitted to be below-average facilities. After years of an aging outdoor track facility, UK has agreed to build a new outdoor track, the initial phases of which are expected to begin shortly.
A pleased Weber said the future facility will only help build on the number of All-Americans the program has produced and improve recruiting.

"I think it's huge," Weber said. "It will be another indication that track and field is important at the University of Kentucky. Facilities, regardless of the sport, are significant to high school kids. It just leaves the impression of that's something that I want to be a part of."

Even with current facility's state, Weber's teams have continued to roll right along.

The women's cross country team have gotten off to a fast start to the 2010 season, led by sophomore Chelsea Oswald. The Cats have posted three straight top-10 finishes to begin the season, including a team championship at the Iona College Meet of Champions.

In Oswald's two meets this year, she captured the individual championship at Iona College Meet of Champions and placed second in the San Francisco Invitational. When Oswald didn't race last week in the Great Louisville Invitational, the team finished in ninth.

"She's one of our key runners," Weber said. "Not only is she a talented, gifted runner but the thing that distinguishes her is the thing that distinguishes every other accomplished athlete we've ever had - how motivated she is, how interested she is in maximizing her talents. And yet, we've got other runners that might not be as gifted but their accomplishment, motivation and success and how that's going contribute to their best performance and how that's going contribute to if their three, four or five for us is just as appreciated and important."

The men's cross country team hasn't fared quite as well, dropping out of the Southeast Region rankings this past week, but the Cats did win the San Francisco Invitational. The men's team is paced by Luis Orta, who won the individual championship in San Francisco and followed it up with a fifth-place posting at the Iona meet.

Important meets dot the future schedule, including the SEC Cross Country Championships on Nov. 1 and the NCAA Southeast Regionals on Nov. 13. In leading up to those two meets, Weber said the next few weeks will be about handling their own business.

"When I think about the SEC meet that is coming up and every SEC meet and every championship meet we've ever been to, I've never drawn out the meet and compared what other teams are doing from week to week," Weber said. "I've always just thought that our job responsibility is to be as good as we can be on race day. If we do that, most of the time, we'll be pretty satisfied with the end result."

First 5,000 students to receive Big Blue Rag

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BigBlueRag.jpgWarm up those arms, students. Team Wildcat is asking you to join the effort Saturday and wave The Big Blue Rag as the Kentucky football team tries to upset No. 8 Auburn at Commonwealth Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Team Wildcat, the student spirit organization at UK, will be handing out The Big Blue Rag to the first 5,000 student at Saturday's game. The rags resemble the original Big Blue Rag from head coach Joker Phillips' senior season in 1984.

Students who receive the rags will be encouraged to wave them to support the Cats.

Q and A with John Calipari -- part 3

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MBSK 09_10 Uk_Morehead Web 81.jpgPart 1 | Part 2

Question: If you go to the baseball rule, you have a lot of kids that want to come here because Calipari gets me to the league quicker than anybody. Would that not follow then that you guys might be more adversely affected by that rule than anybody?
Calipari: Here is how we would be adversely affected: They would have to figure out when does that kid decide. You have to get together with the players association and the NCAA and say, 'When are you going to let that kid say he is going or staying? You're going to let him do it in June? How can you let him do it in June? Where will a lot of those kids want to go?' Now a reason they will have a remedy for that, because it's not going to just be Kentucky - it will be Duke, North Carolina, Kansas. It won't just be us. If it was just us, they could care less. Let them decide in July. But it isn't going to be just us. It's going to be everybody. Now, when do you let those kids decide? Do you tell them in February? By the middle of February you've got to let us know if you're going pro, and if you say you're going pro, you're gone - you're going to the D-League, you're going overseas, you're going to the NBA. If you're not, after that February 15 deadline, you must go to college and stay two years. But the issue becomes, when are you going to let them decide? It happened to me at Memphis with Amare Stoudemire - made a good decision - Kendrick Perkins, Qyntel Woods. Do you honestly think I recruited these kids and they told me they were thinking about going pro? What do you think they told me? 'I'm coming. I want you to prepare me. I'm not ready. I'm telling you.' Now it's February: 'We're all good, coach.' It's March: 'I'm telling you.' And then in June, what? 'Coach, I'm going pro.' And you're standing there. That's the issue that's going to help us. Can you imagine us having that team for two years, that team we just had?

Question: But would you have that team for two years?
Calipari: If the rules change you would have no choice.

Quesiton: But don't you think John might have gone right out of high school? And maybe DeMarcus Cousins?
Calipari: Maybe, maybe. No, no, not DeMarcus. But how about if it were the old days, 20 years ago. If it were the old days, we would have had this team three years ago. Now, let me say this about our recruiting: Our recruiting would be different. To say that we have had highly touted recruiting classes three and four years in a row, we had no choice. Back then it was every other year. I plug in and then something happens. Maybe you have a big year. That next year, boom. That's how I did it at UMass. We didn't have a great (class). We had them when we needed to have them. It was easy. Kids would say they know who is there and who is not there.

Question: You talked about how this year's team isn't last year's team, but for these freshmen, that's a lot to live up to. They're 18-year-old kids. Don't you think Brandon is going to come in and try to be as good as John is and don't you think Enes (Kanter) will think 'I've got to be as good as DeMarcus was?
Calipari: The biggest thing is we're not playing last year's team. We're playing against ourselves. How good can we be? I want them to think about winning every game, and the only way you do that is how you prepare. Create a swagger through hard work, which they are. I also want them to understand, and I've already said it to them, we're not worried about last year. Last year is done. The question is how good can this team be? Every kid I recruit I say the same thing whether it's Brandon or Doron (Lamb). 'I don't need you to be anybody besides Doron. Now, I need a better version of that, but that's all I need you to be. Be who you are.' That's the challenges of all coaches. You've got other teams coming back where they've won the national title - Duke - and the attitude. Well, there's a pressure there of we're supposed to win every game now. Are we going to win every single game now? If they don't it's a disappointment. Outside of Kentucky, they know there's no way they can be as good as they were a year ago. They just lost too much. At Kentucky, they're going to be better than last year and they're going to win by 30.

Question: What are we all going to write about? We'll all write how these freshmen are going to measure up to last year's class.
Calipari: Well, they won't. You might as well write that right now. They can't. It's not possible. You're talking about something that had never been done before in the history of our sport, and that was five players drafted in the first round, four of them after one year. I'm going to tell you right now, if it ever happens again, I'll be stunned. And if it does, it will happen here - if it does, and I can't see it happening again.

What you need to know for Saturday's game (Auburn)

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RBW_0069.jpgTime: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET


Location:
Commonwealth Stadium (67,942), Lexington, Ky.

TV coverage: ESPN2 with Mark Jones and Bob Davie; ESPN3.com

Radio coverage: Big Blue Sports Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel (630 WLAP-AM in Lexington); Check for an affiliate in your area 

Satellite radio: XM 201; Sirius 218 (you must have the "Best of XM" package to hear the game on XM 

Digital coverage: Cat Scratches' live in-game blog; Gametracker; Twitter updates

Game-time weather: 75 degrees, sunny, 0 percent chance of precipitation

Arrive early: Fans are highly encouraged to arrive at the stadium early to avoid parking delays and also to enter the stadium early to avoid long entry lines at the stadium gates. Directions and traffic into Commonwealth Stadium.

Parking: Parking information can be found on UK's Gameday site

Game-day operations changes: UK event management staff has announced several changes to game-day operations on Saturdays at Commonwealth Stadium this fall. The changes will affect several aspects of game-day operations, including tow-behind trailers, guests' golf cart use, adjustments to parking and tailgating along Cooper Drive, closure of Hospital Drive on game days, and backpacks entry into Commonwealth Stadium. Read about UK's game-day changes.

Cat Walk: The "Cat Walk" will resume Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Fans wishing to participate in cheering on the Wildcats as they enter the stadium Saturday should be between the corner of Jerry Claiborne Way and College Way outside of Commonwealth Stadium gate one. The team bus will arrive at approximately 5:15 p.m., when the team will unload the bus and walk to the stadium. Guests are asked to line up on each side of the "Cat Walk" to allow for ample space for the team to walk from the buses to Commonwealth Stadium. View a map of the "Cat Walk." Fans are encouraged to participate in the "Heartbeat" clap.

GuestAssist service now available: "GuestAssist" is a communications service that enables one-to-one text messaging between Commonwealth Stadium guests and stadium operations personnel.

Fans can ask questions about game-day information and/or report concerns regarding behavior through the convenience of their cell phones. Stadium operations personnel will monitor and respond to guests' game-day inquiries on a real-time basis and if needed, dispatch support, security, etc. to the guests' location. Fans wishing to utilize the service should text, "CATS, your message and your seat location" to 78247 (CATS must be the first four characters in the message body. Standard text message rates apply).

"GuestAssist" is not intended for emergency use. In the event of an emergency, guests should contact the nearest stadium event staff and/or dial 911.

*All information on Saturday's game with Auburn can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

The Game Plan: Joker Phillips' keys to the game

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UA Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Oct. 9
7:30 p.m
Coverage TV: ESPN2
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio listen
Online Video via ESPN3
Live Blog
Location Commonwealth Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
Auburn Tigers at a Glance
Head Coach Gene Chizik
Record at School 13-5 (Second Season)
Record 5-0, 2-0 SEC
Ranking No. 8 AP/Coaches
Series Record Auburn leads 24-6-1
Last Meeting Kentucky defeated Auburn 21-14 in Auburn last season
2010 Team Stats UK UA
Rushing Offense 189.8 269.0
Passing Offense 263.8 206.4
Total Offense 453.6 475.4
Scoring Offense 36.4 36.6
Rushing Defense 166.2 92.8
Passing Defense 141.8 243.2
Total Defense 308.0 336.0
Scoring Defense 28.8 18.8
Turnover Margin 0.00 +0.20
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (103 rushes, 543 yds, 7 TDs)
UA: Cam Newton (76 rushes, 474 yds, 5 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (102-160, 1222 yds, 8 TDs, 3 INTs)
UA: Cam Newton (57-87, 928 yds, 12 TDs, 4 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (25 catches, 335 yds, 3 TDs)
UA: Darvin Adams (16 catches, 284 yds, 2 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (42 total, 8 for loss)
UA: Josh Bynes (31 total, 3.5 for loss)
Sacks UK: Mark Crawford, Luke McDermott (2.0)
UA: Nick Fairley (5.0)
Interceptions UK: Three with (1)
UA: Four with (1)

Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips about his of plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.

Offensive keys - Get back to mistake-free, clean football: "It is crucial that we do not turn the ball over. We have turned the ball over five times (in the last two games). Most of them have turned into points for our opponents. The week befoer, we had an interception that went for a touchdown, and also we turned a ball over that was a potential touchdown for us. We have not turned the ball over a lot, just five times in the season. We still have the least amount of turnovers in the conference, but those five times have cost us points. You have to play smart. They have to understand the importance of not turning the football over. The quarterback has to understand that and go through the proper reads, and the running backs and receivers have to understand the same thing. The running backs have done a great job of securing the football. That's unusual for a team to have five turnovers and none of those coming from the running back. It has been a huge emphasis throughout the year, and we have been really good. The thing is you have one or two games where the touchdown cost you and then that looks bad. We have moved the ball well. We have scored on our first drive in all but one game. We have a lot of yardage, but the thing is we haven't always sustained the drives. There have been turnovers, and penalties, which is something you can't have in big games."

Cat Scratches' take: The formula is rather simple. In three wins, UK turned the ball over zero times and had a turnover margin of plus-four. In Kentucky's two losses, the Cats have turned the ball over five times and had a turnover margin of minus-four. The problem with the turnovers is they have cost the Cats dearly. Only one of five UK's turnovers this season has not resulted in a touchdown (one interception against Florida was run back for a touchdown, and all three against Ole Miss came in UK territory), and that one was a costly pick thrown in the other's team end zone. UK's offense, for all the unwarranted grief it has received, has actually moved the ball pretty well this season, ranking 25th in the nation with 453.6 yards per game. The key this week is avoiding drive killers: turnovers and penalties.


Defensive keys - Containing, tackling Cameron Newton: "We have to stop Cam Newton. He is the head of the body there at Auburn. If you stop him, everything else will take care of itself. ... You've got to get under him and he's a real athletic guy that plays behind his pads, but you've got to get up underneath him and stop his feet, and we have to gang tackle."

Cat Scratches' take: Slowing Newton will be the single most important key to the game. Auburn is solid up and down its roster - you don't get to the nation's No. 8 ranking without having a great team overall - but Newton is clearly the lifeblood of the Auburn team. Some of the statistics are almost too good to believe, especially for a guy in his first year in the offense. Newton is fourth in the SEC in rushing (94.8 yards per game), second in total offense (280.4 ypg), and first in passing efficiency (191.4). His passer rating is second in the entire country.


Key matchup - Deciding how to attack Newton: "He hasn't thrown it a ton, but he is completing 65 percent of his passes. That's the thing with this offense is that if you get people playing downhill they will run right past you. Last week they did that and the play action set up a 94-yard touchdown. You have to play so close to the box. ... You've got to be gap sound. You can't chase. Your eyes have to be where they're supposed to be. You can't chase because there is a lot of misdirection, a lot of deceiving. They'll bring a back across, fake it to him and make you think he's got it and Newton is right down in your gap. We've got to play sound and stay square because as soon as you turn your shoulders a guy like him will out-leverage you in a hurry. And then you've got to wrap him up and knock him back because if he falls forward it could be three yards."

Cat Scratches' take: UK will have to pick its poison with Newton. If the Cats try to blitz Newton and put pressure on him early, he has the potential to burn UK deep. Newton is averaging a nation-best 10.67 yards per pass attempts, and his ability to make big plays in the passing game is backed up by his touchdown percentage. Every time he throws the ball, 13.79 percent of the time it results in a touchdown, tops in the country. Fortunately for UK, the Cats boast the nation's eighth-stingiest pass defense. Now the really bad news: Newton is at his best on the run. A player Phillips called an "animal" earlier in the week, Newton is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, which is bigger, weight wise, than eight of the 11 UK defensive starters from last week. That's troubling news for a team that has struggled with tackling this year. To blitz or not to be blitz? Slowing down, is really the only manageable answer.


Joker's biggest concern (other than Newton) - Red-zone defense: "We just have to play better. If you are in man-to-man coverage, your eyes can't go to the backfield. We have given up way too many touchdowns, and that has been our problem. We want to hold teams to field goals when they enter the red zone. Thirteen of 16 times we have allowed a touchdown, and that can't happen."

Cat Scratches' take: Phillips' stat says it all. Every time a team has entered UK's red zone this year it has scored. Only three times in 16 tries have the Cats limited the opposition to a field goal. Auburn, meanwhile, usually makes teams pay when it gets inside the 20. Of the Tigers' 23 red-zone opportunities, 19 have ended in scores.


Auburn player to watch for (other than Newton) - Defensive tackle Nick Fairley: "We have to be aware of Nick Fairley. He is playing unbelievable. Kind of like his defensive line coach, Tracy Rocker, used to play back in the day. He is playing great. He is leading the league in sack and tackles for loss. ... It will be a good challenge for our offensive line. We have played solid. I really like how those guys are battling and fighting and they are going to have to bring it this week."

Cat Scratches' take: Fairley's five sacks are tied for sixth most in the country and his 11.5 tackles for loss are tied for third most. Fairley has at least 1.5 tackles for loss in every game this season and he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Mississippi State. He'll test arguably UK's best position group, the offensive line. Kentucky's front five has only surrendered two sacks all season, tied for seventh best in the nation.


UK  players that have to step up - Safeties, Chris Matthews and Mike Hartline: "On defense, both of our safeties have to play well for us to win. And then offensively, we need Chris Matthews to continue to play well. You know, Randall Cobb is who he is, but we need Chris to go out there and make some plays for us on offense. I think Mike is also playing well."

Cat Scratches' take: UK's safeties, particularly Winston Guy and Mychal Bailey, could be in for a workout Saturday. They'll have to help in run defense against Newton but be aware of the long ball should Newton fake the option, drop back and throw it. Matthews had a career game against Florida with six catches for 114 yards and two scores. He followed up that up against Ole Miss with another six catches and a touchdown, but he was unable to stretch the field against the Rebels. Hartline has unfairly been the team's piñata in its two losses. The starting quarterback has played very well this season, ranking 16th in the country in the NCAA's QB Positive Impact Factor list and 37th in pass efficiency. Hartline needs to continue to shut out the noise and throw the ball down the field.


Final injury report: Freshman linebacker Qua Huzzie remains questionable after having surgery Tuesday to repair a ligament in his right thumb. Huzzie will be a game-time decision, depending on how much pain he can tolerate. He will dress for the game. If he can't go, freshman linebacker Avery Williamson will see increased time.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Twitter1.pngFor many Kentucky coaches, players, journalists and fans, Twitter has become a part of their everyday lives. With that in mind, Cat Scratches will select a handful of topics every other week from around the world of Kentucky sports and highlight some of the best of what those coaches, players, journalists and fans are communicating to their followers on Twitter.

UK football vs. Auburn
On Saturday at 7:30, UK plays host to the unbeaten and eighth-ranked Auburn Tigers. UK is looking to put an end to a two-game losing streak. Both defeats came on the road and the Cats are looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd in Commonwealth. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and tickets are running out.

The Official Twitter of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews) - "Attention fans: Less than 500 tickets are left for Saturday's football game against No. 8 Auburn. Tickets cost $46 and are available online at UKathletics.com, in-person at the UK Ticket Office or by calling 800-928-2287."

Matt May, Cats Pause (@TCPMAY) - "Danny Trevathan and Craig McIntosh named game captains for UK's game against Auburn this Saturday."

Randall Cobb, wide receiver (rcobb18) - "Back to the drawing boards"

ESPN's Erin Andrews appears at UK Women's Clinic
Erin Andrews of ESPN was a special guest this week at UK's annual women's Ccinic along with John Calipari and this year's Kentucky team at Memorial Coliseum. Those in attendance got a crash course in the dribble-drive offense and a tour of UK's basketball facilities.

Erin Andrews (@ErinAndrews) - "Had a great time talking to the BBN @ UK's Women's clinic..a great honor to speak to such well educated ladies! Thx @UKCoachCalipari"

John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) - "@ErinAndrews has been great. So kind to give her time. A true professional and we are lucky to have her here at our Women's Clinic."

Jon Hood (@jdhood4) - "Yes everyone, @erinandrews did ask me to show off my dance moves in front of the women's clinic...and yes...I declined. Sorry Erin!"

Victoria Dunlap on Wooden Award watch list
Women's basketball senior Victoria Dunlap has been named one of the top 30 preseason candidates for the Wooden Award, the honor given to the top player in country. Dunlap was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 2009-10, leading the Wildcats to a berth in the Elite Eight. She averaged 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a season ago. T

The official Twitter of UK Hoops (@UKHoopCats) - "UK Hoops senior forward Victoria Dunlap has been named one of the top 30 preseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award."

Larry Vaught, Danville Advocate-Messenger (@vaughtsviews) - "Congrats to UK's Victoria Dunlap, who is on preseason Wooden Award watch list -- and should be"

UK women's soccer earns points in road games against Tennessee, Georgia
UK's women's soccer faced two tough road games last week against No. 17 Georgia and Tennessee, but head coach Jon Lipsitz and his improving team were able to put up impressive showings in both games. They earned a 1-1 tie in Athens, Ga., and a 1-0 win against the Volunteers. Freshman forward Caitlin Landis scored both of the Wildcats' goals and was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts. UK is on the road again this weekend, playing in Baton Rouge, La., against the LSU Tigers.

Jon Lipsitz (@UKCoachLipsitz) - "One of the best feelings in the world: A bus ride with music blaring and the whole team singing, celebrating a huge win! GO BIG BLUE! Proud of this team. Started SIX Frosh today on the road. Great leadership and youth come together for a big win at Tennessee."

The official Twitter of UK Athletics @UKAthleticsNews - "Women's soccer freshman forward Caitlin Landis has been named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week: http://bit.ly/bDUOpi"

Former UK great Kercheval dies at 98

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kerchevalralph (3).jpgRalph Kercheval, a former Kentucky football star and the oldest living former professional football player, died Wednesday in Lexington after a long illness. Kercheval was 98.

Kercheval, who played at Kentucky from 1931-33, is Kentucky's first recorded first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection. Kercheval, a running back and kicker, was named to the All-SEC first team in 1933 by the Associated Press.

His family passed along the following obituary to UK Athletics:

Ralph Godfrey Kercheval, 98, husband of Blanche Griffin Kercheval, died in Lexington on October 6, 2010 after a long illness. He was known to be the oldest living player in the NFL.  Born on December 1, 1911 in Salt Lick, Kentucky; he was the son of the late Ernest LaRue  and Elizabeth Shouse Kercheval. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Carl and Forrest, and his sister, Ernestine (Murray).

Ralph, who was educated in Lexington, began to exhibit his athletic prowess while in grade school, winning five out of seven track and field events at the 1924 Rotary Club Field Day. After being an outstanding student at Henry Clay High School, he was graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Animal Husbandry. While at UK, he excelled at football, basketball and track; and was a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. He was All-SEC in football, holding many kicking records for decades. He then played seven years in the NFL for the old Brooklyn Dodgers.  During the off season he was able to work with mares and foals at C.V. Whitney's farm in Lexington, nurturing his remarkable career with horses.  His longest punt was 91 yards in the air against the Chicago Bears, not including roll as they do nowadays.

After football, he entered the U.S. Army as required by his ROTC commission and was assigned to the Remount Depot at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, where  he and his young family were assigned for the duration of the war. World War II then broke out, and Ralph and his young family stayed for the duration of the war. At war's end he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was commanding officer of Fort Robinson.

Ralph was able to continue his outstanding career in the Thoroughbred industry, training horses for Maine Chance Farm and others before becoming general manager of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt's Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland. At Sagamore, he bred several outstanding horses, including the great Native Dancer. In 1958, he was able to move back to Lexington, being a managing partner and training horses for Idle Hour Farm. He then trained horses and became bloodstock manager for famed New York investment banker Robert Lehman.

In 1969, he leased Gallaher Farm where he, Blanche and son Hal bred, sold and raced their own horses. He later turned the operation of Gallaher over to Hal when he assumed the duties and vice presidency of Mereworth Farm. Ralph bred and raced the exceptional turf mare Fleet Victress under his colors of turquoise and scarlet. In 1981, he became one of the original directors of Kirk Horse Insurance. He spent his remaining years enjoying time with his family here and in Delray Beach, Florida, and getting in a good game of golf as well.

Besides his beloved wife of 74 years, he is survived by his three sons: Ralph Jr. (Joanne), Hal, and Ronald (Monica); his niece Norma Murray Ayers, and several great nieces and great nephews. He also leaves behind his beloved and cherished caregiver and friend, Tara Daugherty.

Mr. Kercheval was a member of Central Christian Church, Lexington. He was also a member of Idle Hour Country Club, Keeneland Club, and the Thoroughbred Club of America where he was past president; and director emeritus of Kirk Horse Insurance. He is enshrined in the Henry Clay High School Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, and the UK Athletics Hall of Fame.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to: Hospice of the Bluegrass, 2312 Alexandria Dr., Lexington, KY  40504; or Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (designated for Alzheimer's research only, please), 101 Sanders Brown Building, 800 S. Limestone St., Lexington, KY  40536.  Milward-Broadway, 159 North Broadway, Lexington, Ky.  40507,  is in charge of arrangements. 
www.milwardfuneral.com

Q and A with Matthew Mitchell -- part 2

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WBSK 09_10 UK_USC Web 14.jpgPart 1 with Matthew Mitchell

Question: Do you see more confidence this year after a season like last year?
Mitchell: I don't have a good answer to that. I won't know until we get maybe a month into it. That's just a hard question to answer. But no, I have not noticed anything. The thing we're trying to make sure of is it's not like we've done this 10 years in a row. I've been more guarded than looking for people that have built on the success. I'm trying to stay humble and stay hungry. We've had some challenges as we're growing into this. It's all uncharted territory for us, so I'm just trying to figure it all out.

Question: How do you keep them humble and hungry?
Mitchell: Just talk to them about it. Make sure that as a coach, what I'm in charge of is creating an environment for them where they can learn. I'm the teacher, so I think that if you're challenged daily and you're shown daily that's there still more to do, that there's more work to do, there's still something new to learn, I think that keeps you humble in everyday life. As we get older, you get a little more perspective, you get a little more wisdom. I think that's one of my big jobs is to make sure that the environment is such that humility is valued in our program, that our three buzz words - humility, hard work and discipline - are valued. When a kid comes here and she's conscientious about doing the little things and how she treats people and her teammates, those things are rewarded in the program. I think it's the job of coach to create an environment where humility and selflessness and sacrifice and all those things are valued. When you're rewarded for a certain action, you'll want to do it more. So I think that's my job.

Question: Who keeps you humble?
Mitchell: Jenna is the No. 1 person. If I ever get any notion of not being humble. I've had great training. I've had great people, mentors around me, that taught the value of that. My parents taught me the value of that and just some people in my life that I respect for that have accomplished so much more than I have in this point in time, so it's not hard. It's not hard at all.

Question: Where do you want to see Victoria Dunlap improve leadership wise?
Mitchell: I want her to continue to try to push out of comfort zones. I don't want her to totally depart from her personality.  She doesn't need to walk around and jump down people's throats because that's not genuine, that's not her. I do want her to, when she sees things not going well, it's much more powerful for Victoria to recognize that and say something than it is for me. I want her to stay who she is but maybe push out of some of her comfort zones she can get in and lead by example. I just want her to be more vocal. She's always a very hard worker in practice, but sometimes things need to be said. Amber (Smith) does a good job with that, but Vic struggles with that a little. So that's an area that Victoria and A'dia (Mathies), for instance, would be more comfortable leading by example. There are just some times when they just need to say things. I've been real proud of A'dia. (She) has tried to be vocal and Victoria has tried to be vocal, and that's probably the area where were still pushing those players from a leadership perspective.

Question: How do you replace the vocal leadership of Amber Smith?
Mitchell: The physical part is not going to be easy to replace, but as far as the mindset, I'm pretty clear how we're going to do that until she gets back, and that's Crystal Riley and that's Jennifer O'Neill. (They're) going to have the opportunity to be our two point guards. I think they are both built to be point guards and so those are positions that they will be comfortable in. We have a real luxury with A'dia Mathies that if either one of those players wasn't particularly comfortable with the ball in crunch time - I think they will be, but let's just say they weren't -- A'dia Mathies backed up Amber in the NCAA Tournament at a very high level. We have other guards on the team that are dynamic and can handle the ball. I don't think we'll have trouble physically getting the kids on the court and filling the minutes. The bigger challenge is the experience and the leadership. Crystal is further along from that standpoint clearly as a junior, but Jen is extremely mature for a freshman (and) has probably the same kind of passion for the game than Amber has, maybe more, I don't know. She loves basketball, she's a gym rat, she's in here all the time (and) it seems like her hobby. Another thing Jen has working for her is she's extremely talented, so that helps you fit into that role. Players respect kids with talent. I'm very concerned with how we will miss Amber while she's gone, and I've challenged Amber.  Amber cannot run and hide now. She cannot go in the training room and isolate herself. Amber has to be out on the court. Amber wants to coach in college and I've told her this is great on-the-job training, because as soon as she's able I'm going to have her on the court by me as much as possible at practice and be in the point guards' ears. She has to stay engaged because she's so important to this team.

Question: Describe Jennifer O'Neil's game. ...
Mitchell: She's extremely explosive, fast, has all the dribble moves, has all the ball-handling skills, can get by people, can make all the open-court plays. (She's a) surprisingly good 3-point shooter; just makes a ton of 3s, or has up to this point. I hope I'm not jinxing her, but she is a very good shooter, good scorer, still working on her defense. She will be as dynamic as anybody we've signed here at that position. Amber makes some plays that will make your jaw drops sometimes, makes some finds that only she can see. Jen is in that mold. Jen is just a great passer, someone who will be able to keep the pressure on. From an offensive standpoint, she'll be able to push the ball with anybody.

Video: Brooks, Collins Discuss Men's Soccer Win

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Following the 2-1 overtime win by the Kentucky men's soccer team over Marshall, Kentucky head coach Ian Collins and junior college transfer Sam Brooks talked about the contest. UK fell behind 1-0 on an own goal but bounced back with goals from Brooks and Tyler Riggs, with Brooks' goal coming 51 seconds into overtime as the golden goal on Wednesday night.

Afternoon notes: Tamme interview, women's clinic

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Just a couple of quick notes before I head off to watch my Cincinnati Reds play in the 2010 MLB Playoffs ...

- As many of you all know, the UK men's basketball team will be hosting the second annual women's clinic at the Joe Craft Center on Wednesday. The women's clinic, designed for women with all levels of basketball knowledge, is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET. Attendees will learn the Dribble Drive Motion offense, get a tour of the Cats' state-of-the-art practice facility and coaches' offices. There will also be scheduled presentations that include behind-the-scenes looks at UK video, strength and conditioning and sports injury/rehabilitation lectures, as well as a Q and A with head coach Calipari, staff and current players. ESPN reporter Erin Andrews is the scheduled guest Wednesday night. The event was a huge success last year and a huge crowd is expected for Wednesday night. Read what one fan had to say about last year's experience and a cool story about Calipari at the Tailgate Review.

- The revamped SECsports.com has a one-on-one interview with former UK football player and current Indianapolis Colt Jacob Tamme. In the series titled, "My Town," Tamme talks about his favorite moments at UK, his favorite game and more. Check out the story at SECsports.com.

- Tickets have been selling briskly for Saturday's UK football game with Auburn and less than 500 remain. Tickets cost $46 and are available online at www.UKathletics.com, in-person at the UK Ticket Office in the Joe Craft Center or by calling 800-928-2287.

Video interviews with Knight, Jones and Hood

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Video interviews with Enes Kanter, Stacey Poole and Jarrod Polson

Freshman guard Brandon Knight


Freshman forward Terrence Jones


Sophomore guard Jon Hood

For all the slack Kentucky received for its non-conference schedule (and the backlash I received from a certain ESPN.com blogger for writing about it), it turns out it's not such a bad non-conference slate after all.

In fact, it's pretty darn good if you ask Luke Winn of SI.com.

Winn rated Kentucky's non-conference schedule the second toughest among all schools in Division I basketball. The Sports Illustrated writer lists only Georgetown as having a tough non-conference schedule than UK.

Among the marquee games on UK's schedule this year are road dates with Portland, Louisville and North Carolina, a neutral-site game with Notre Dame and the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Read who Winn thinks have the nation's top 10 toughest non-conference schedules.

From the Pressbox: Oct. 6

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Krebs_Mark 07_08 2x3.jpgUK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 13 years and 10 years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography.

A dream come true.

That's the best way to describe the Mark Krebs' story at the University of Kentucky.

He grew up in Northern Kentucky fantasizing about wearing the blue and white Kentucky uniform, as so many youngsters in this state do. Out of Newport Central Catholic High School, he opted to attend college at Thomas More to be close to his family because his mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The dream kept tugging at him so he approached then-UK coach Tubby Smith and got the opportunity to join the Wildcats as a walk-on player. And Krebs kept his spot through two coaching changes, all the while dealing with his mom's battle with cancer, which she ulmiately lost this past spring.

The whole story is chronicled in Krebs' new book, "Beyond a Dream." 

It's available now in local bookstores and via beyondadreambook.com and coach John Calipari has written the foreword. Part of the proceeds go to benefit the Terri Krebs Dream Foundation.

Krebs said he's proud of how the book turned out and the process of writing was somewhat cathartic.

"It helped me to write about it and see a different perspective about things because when I was a kid, my mom had breast cancer and everything she went through," Krebs said. "Just to be a part of Kentucky basketball and look back on the things I did with Kentucky basketball and just reflect was therapuetic for all that was going on over summer. I always took notes. I am the type of guy that no one ever knew. When something crazy happened or something important happened that I would want to remember, I would write it in a journal and my family would write good notes during my mom's battle. Through that, I learned a lot and it helped all the way with writing the book."

When his mom passed away, Krebs said one of the first calls came from Calipari.  He also heard from ex-Wildcat Billy Gillispie ("he told me the story of what my background meant to him and I didn't know that he knew as much as he did"), among others.

Terri Krebs, Mark's mother, was given a terminal diagnosis when Mark was a freshman in high school. That's why this past season's Senior Night was one of the most emotional ever, as Krebs was able to enjoy the ceremony with his mom and the rest of his family at his side.

"I didn't know that much then (when I was in high school) but I realize that she was sick 98 percent of the time and she went through 395 chemo treatments and did it all for the sake of family," Krebs said. "It was the little moments that people take for granted that made her live the nine years instead of nine months (of her diagnosis), and it is because of family. Never once did she suffer. She found joy in living and it was something special and she saw her kids through adulthood and did it with a smile on her face, and I love her for it."

Krebs was also involved in another memorable moment later last season, when he stroked a 3-point shot for his only career NCAA Tournament basket during the Wildcats' second-round rout of Wake Forest.

"First of all , I think it was set up because the game before when I shot an air ball I got a lot (of teasing) for it," Krebs said. "Patrick was like 'Man, you need to get in there and make one.' When I went in there, everyone was like 'You've got to make one,' and Coach Cal made a remark as I went by and I was like, 'I am going to knock one down.' "

Krebs said he missed one that he thought was going in and then had another shot swatted back in his face. But finally, the moment came -- catch, fade, shoot, swish.
 
"Going back down the court, looking at all my teammates, it was special because they all understood that I was in it for the team," Krebs said. "Coach Cal sat me down early and said we need a senior leader that can help the team and be a practice player. If we need you in the games, be ready, and being a leader on the team, it was nice to hit one."

Coach Calipari recently told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala., that he thought his players might have been looking ahead to a possible matchup with Duke when the Cats faced off against West Virginia. Krebs says he did not sense that.

"I didn't," Krebs said. "Obviously when you are in that position in the Elite Eight, your heart is beating and it is an amazing feeling going up and down the court. We thought that we were the best left and that was our goal to win it.  And I think once we  got behind (things changed). We were down four and it felt like 100.
 
"It was because we were not making shots and then the rim was getting smaller and smaller and the way they played, it didn't seem like we were getting enough shots. Once they got up seven, we thought we were done. All that considered, we had a great run and I will not sugarcoat it. Maybe we were looking forward but I don't know."

Wall, Cousins shine in NBA preseason debuts

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The NBA preseason got underway Tuesday night for the new teams of each Kentucky player drafted in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft. Here is how they fared:

John Wall (Washington Wizards) - 21 points, nine assists, two turnovers, four steals
You can't really ask for much more out of a point guard than what Wall gave the Wizards in his preseason debut. He distributed the ball effectively, kept the turnovers to a minimum and got the free-throw line at will (11 times to be exact). When he left game with just over five minutes left, Washington held a 92-79 lead over the Dallas Mavericks. The Wizards held on for a 97-94 win. Here is one of Wall's nine assists, an alley-oop from nearly half court to Javale McGee.


DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) - 16 points, 16 rebounds, one block, one steal Cousins' line last night looked a lot like his score lines last year at UK and this summer in the Vegas Summer League. With his 16 rebounds, Cousins led the way to a 47-36 on the boards over the Suns in a 109-95 Kings victory. Cousins played four- and five-minute spurts throughout the game, totaling up to 28 for the game. He made eigh of his 13 field-goal attempts and served notice again that he will be a double-double threat every night out.

Patrick Patterson (Houston Rockets) - zero points, four rebounds
The Rockets spread out minutes among 16 players and Patterson did not crack the rotation until the fourth quarter. He logged just seven minutes in a 97-88 loss to the Orlando Magic.

Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers) - nine points, three rebounds, one assist
It was a rough night for the Clippers. The Portland Trail Blazers grabbed an early lead en route to a 115-86 blowout. Bledsoe came off the bench but played 30 minutes.

Daniel Orton (Orlando Magic) - Did not play 
Orton is currently in the process of strengthening his right knee which was surgically reconstructed two years ago. He will not play in the pre-season.

McIntosh's success truly an underdog story

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uk_akron_1st half_bm_28.jpgFormer coach Rich Brooks used to have nightmares about who would replace former Kentucky punter and current NFL player Tim Masthay on kickoffs.

Brooks, his staff and his future successor, Joker Phillips, realized the need to get a big-time kicker to boost the special-teams game, and they did so by heavily recruiting and eventually signing one of the top kickers in the nation in Joe Mansour.

But in the meantime, before Mansour or any other kicker could get to campus, Brooks and the coaching staff didn't have much of an option in covering up a glaring and potentially dangerous weakness. That was until an unlikely prize in the form of Craig McIntosh showed up on Kentucky's doorstep.

McIntosh's father was at one of Brooks' annual preseason speaking stops at the Lexington Rotary Club in the summer of 2009 when he heard about a possible opportunity for his son.

"One of the questions at the Rotary that day was, 'What keeps you awake at night?' " McIntosh said his father recalled Brooks saying. "Coach Brooks said, 'Not having Tim Masthay there to kick the ball into the end zone.' He said there was no one on campus that could do that. My dad and other people encouraged me to take the challenge and work at it for the few weeks prior to that open tryout that I knew was the first day of classes."

A few weeks later, despite a year off from football and just one season of playing experience during his senior year at Lexington Christian Academy, McIntosh decided to come out for open tryouts on the first day of school last year. Previously, McIntosh had no goals or expectations of ever playing college ball. His only reason for even trying it in high school was so he wouldn't have any regrets.

McIntosh showed up at tryouts a few weeks later, "kicked the day of his life," and won a spot on the team (remember, open tryouts usually don't result in any roster players if any).

Even so, no one, not even McIntosh, could have predicted that he would ever see the field much less have a significant impact.

"I was just excited to be on the team last year," McIntosh said. "I didn't expect to play at all."

The next thing McIntosh knew, he found himself dressing for home games before being called into duty against Alabama. McIntosh did so well that he was the team's starting kickoff specialist at South Carolina the following week.

Brooks was so impressed with McIntosh's ability to get the ball into the end zone that he was named the kickoff specialist for the remainder of the season. Even though he got off to a late start, McIntosh finished the year ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 11 touchbacks.

"It's been a great honor and a privilege to be out there to be given the shot and opportunity that I have," McIntosh said. "I just want to make the most of it and do the best that I can on every kick."

McIntosh's ability to seize his opportunity has parlayed into an even bigger role this year. With big-footed Mansour trying to fight through some freshman inconsistencies and sophomore Ryan Tydlacka unable to make the transition from punter to placekicker, McIntosh was given the opportunity in week three to kick field goals.

He followed through by nailing his first career attempt against Akron. He's now 4-of-6 on the season, including a gutsy and career-long field goal of 50 yards to end the first half Saturday against Ole Miss.

"I was nervous to some extent, but the wind was at my back," a modest McIntosh said of the 50-yarder. "I had hit it multiple times in warm-ups. I knew that I could. It was right before the half so it was kind of just like get out there and give it a shot, and I just happened to knock it through the pipes."

Now placekicker is McIntosh's job to lose for the rest of the year.

"If he keeps looking like he did last Saturday then we'll get more and more confidence every day," special teams coach Greg Nord said. "He continues to improve every day. He's showed us out on the practice field that he's ready to be our kicker. Now he's just got to go out there and just perform consistently."

McIntosh, a redshirt sophomore, nearly came through during UK's frantic fourth-quarter comeback against the Rebels. For the onside-kick attempt, instead of going with Mansour, who, with the help of his strong leg, has replaced McIntosh on kickoffs this year, Phillips elected to give McIntosh the chance.

Once again, the walk-on came through with a flawlessly executed kick that bounced a couple of times and the sprung high into the air. The ball landed perfectly in linebacker Danny Trevathan's hands but he was unable to hold on to the ball. 

"That execution was done as well as it could be done at any level of football," Nord said. "If you drew up a clinic tape on how the techniques look, that was it."

McIntosh credits his high-school experience as a two-time all-state honoree in soccer and his time with UK's Army ROTC with helping him succeed as a kicker, but not any soccer player or soldier can kick field goals. It's taken McIntosh time, technique and hard work to become a starting SEC kicker.

"I've done hundreds of onside kicks just practicing for it, and never has it been that perfect," McIntosh said. "I couldn't ask for a better one. We gave it the best shot we could to get that ball back and get the momentum we had, but it just didn't work out this time. Hopefully I can do it if I'm put in that situation again."

Having earned the placekicker position, McIntosh will be faced with more pressure-packed kicks in hostile SEC environments like he was Saturday. McIntosh said all he can do is prepare for them and take them kick by kick, and his coaches have the confidence in him that he can continue to execute.

"Never has his character been questioned," Nord said. "He's a very strong-minded person. I promise you, I coach those guys hard because I feel like they have to have the pressure on them during the course of the week in order to go out there on Saturdays and kick it."

No matter what the future holds for McIntosh and the kicking position, McIntosh's ascension from a one-year kicker, to trying out for the team, serving as the team's kickoff specialists, to Saturday's two long field goals, has been an unlikely journey.

"He grew up Saturday," Phillips said.

Mansour trying to fight through inconsistencies: With McIntosh flourishing as the team's kicker, the question now becomes, what about highly touted recruit Mansour?

Phillips and Nord have continually reiterated that Mansour will be a "big-time player" for the Cats down the road if he can fight through some inconsistencies. Although fans have been clamoring for Mansour to get a shot - the kicker has become somewhat of a legend after kicking six field goals over 50 yards during high school - the kid is just a freshman.

"We've got to get him using the same stroke every time," Nord said.

Because of his powerful leg, Mansour has served as the team's kickoff specialist this year over McIntosh, but Phillips would like to see improvements in Mansour, offering an interesting comparison for his first-year kicker.

"We've got John Daly kicking off for us," Phillips said. "(Mansour's) got a strong leg, (but) you don't know where it's going to go.  It's got to be inbounds, but some day he'll be Greg Norman. He'll be a guy that can hit it a long way and keep it in play."

Nord said it would be a great asset if they knew Mansour could kick it through the end zone every time, but since nobody's foolproof, they have to place the kicks in the right spot as well.

UK currently ranks 110th in the nation in kickoff defense.

"What happens to you if you just let a guy get up there and just take off and hit it wherever they want, where do the guys start their coverage?" Nord said. "It's like running a race. You've got to have a direction of where you're going to start to and you change courses it you have to detour."

 

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nba1.jpgJust a couple of quick items from around Big Blue Nation:

- This time a year ago, men's basketballs stars John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton were preparing for their college debuts. Now, just a year later, they're preparing for their professional debuts. Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Orton and Patrick Patterson are all set to play Tuesday night in their first NBA preseason action. Wall's Washington Wizards will kick things off at 8:30 p.m. against the Dallas Mavericks, followed by Eric Bledsoe's Los Angeles Clippers against the Portland Trailblazers and Cousins' Sacramento Kings versus the Phoenix Suns at 10 p.m. Orton and Patterson will go head-to-head at 8:30 p.m. in the Orland Magic-Houston Rockets game.

- In light of the beginning of the NBA season, Patterson has begun blogging about his NBA experience. Check it out on Patterson's website at patrickpatterson.com.

- UK has announced a partnership with Coca-Cola Enterprises to increase recycling awareness. Coca-Cola Enterprises will provide 100 large Coca-Cola syrup barrels that have been repurposed as recycling receptacles and will locally recycle 100 percent of the bottles and cans collected in the receptacles at UK home football games. Once collected the materials will be transported to the recycling center and eventually turned into new bottles, bags or apparel. Those attending the UK/Auburn football game will also get to interact with the mobile recycling activation trailer on Saturday. The trailer is a self-contained vehicle equipped with video screens, interactive displays and games, all designed to educate consumers about the benefits of recycling. 

- Kentucky women's basketball forward Victoria Dunlap is one of 30 candidates on the 2010-11 John R. Wooden Award preseason top-30 list. Dunlap joins the list with the likes of Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund, Baylor's Brittney Griner, and Connecticut's and last year's Wooden Award winner Maya Moore. According to a news release, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball.  It is bestowed upon the nation's best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA.  Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird ('79), Michael Jordan ('84), Tim Duncan ('97), Candace Parker ('07 and '08) and Maya Moore of Connecticut ('09). Ohio State's Evan Turner and Connecticut's Tina Charles won the Award in 2010. The 35th annual Wooden Award winner will be announced at a ceremony on the weekend of April 8-10, 2011. Full list is below:

Name

Height

Class

Position

University

Conference

 

 

Danielle Adams

6-1

Sr.

F/C

Texas A&M

Big 12

Kachine Alexander

5-9

Sr.

G

Iowa

Big Ten

Angie Bjorklund

6-0

Sr.

G/F

Tennessee

SEC

Jessica Breland

6-3

Sr.

F

North Carolina

ACC

Elena Delle Donne

6-5