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November 2010 Archives

Nov. 28 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, Nov. 28:

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Freshman Whitney Billings had an outstanding performance against No. 21 Tennessee with a match-high 12 kills on .233 hitting. Billings charted the best hitting clip of any UK player in the match while having the highest number of attempts. Billings also posted a pair of blocks and added six digs in her overall performance. Billings took on six service attempts and was perfect in her reception attempts. With 12 kills against the Lady Vols, Billings has now topped 10 or more kills in a match on 17 occasions this season. She has led the Blue and White in kills 12 times for the season.

Women's basketball: Kastine Evans

  • Freshman Kastine Evans was named to the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic All-Tournament team after averaging 10.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in the two-game event.
  • Came off the bench to post career-high numbers against Murray State in the first game with a career-high 11 points and eight rebounds in just 22 minutes of play.
  • Contributed 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench against Southern Miss., in the championship game, helping the Wildcats improve to 5-0 and when their 28th all-time regular-season tournament title.

Men's basketball: Terrence Jones

Named to the EA Sports Maui Invitational All-Tournament team ... 29 points against Oklahoma tied for second most points in a game by a UK freshman in school history ... 17 rebounds against No. 11 Washington was third most rebounds by a freshman in school history ... Scored in double digits in all three games in Hawaii, while posting double-doubles in two of the three games, including his second 20-10 game of the season against Oklahoma ... Set career highs in points against Oklahoma (29), rebounds against Washington (17), 3-pointers made against UConn (4) and blocks against Oklahoma and Washington (4)

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot had another terrific performance for the Blue and White with 18 digs in a three set match against 21st-ranked Tennessee on Wednesday. Her six digs per set is well above her average of 4.65 digs per frame in conference play. With 18 scoops, Klefot has now charted 511 for the season which is the fifth highest single-season total in school history. She also becomes just the fifth player in school allure to chart 500 digs in a single season. With 344 digs for the conference season, she leads the league with an average of 4.65 and has posted nine more digs than the next highest player. Klefot has led the Wildcats in digs on 26 occasions this season and has charted 10 or more scoops in 27 contests.

Women's basketball: A'dia Mathies

  • Sophomore A'dia Mathies was named the Most Valuable Player of the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic after averaging 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals in the two-game event.
  • Registered her first collegiate double-double, scoring a game-high 26 points and grabbing a career-high 10 rebounds against Murray State in the opening round.
  • It marked her first 20-plus point game of the season and eighth of her career.
  • Led UK to its 28th all-time tournament title and a 5-0 record with a team-high 14 points in the championship game against Southern Miss.
  • Added a season-high six steals against the Lady Eagles, just one away from her career high.
  • Jumped to UK's leader in overall scoring this season, averaging 16.0 points per game.
  • Has now scored in double figures 30 times in 41 career games, including four of five this season.

Lamb.jpegFor all the mind-numbing problems youth can evoke, it has its redeeming qualities as well.

Take for instance Tuesday night. Not even a week after being called "selfish" by their head coach, Kentucky played unselfish, made the extra pass and reaped the benefits from behind the arc. The Cats hit 10-of-16 3-pointers, including 8-of-10 in the second half, in a 91-57 rout of Boston.

Maybe the young minds of Kentucky soaked up their head coach's not-so-raving review after the Connecticut game. Whatever the case was, there's little coincidence that the extra pass Tuesday night led to easy buckets.

"All the 3s that we took I thought were all good shots," said UK assistant coach John Robic, who filled in for head coach John Calipari at the postgame news conference. "We think that we have a pretty good shooting team, and the right players took the right shots. They were open shots. When we have them, we want our guys to take them. And more times than not they were off of penetration and a kick-out, both against the zone and man to man. We got good looks, and fortunately they went down."

Kentucky shot 59.3 percent from the floor overall and 21 of the Cats' 32 buckets were assisted.

During the game-defining 28-5 run to start the second half, eight of UK's first 10 field goals came off an assist, including four from freshman guard Doron Lamb. Of Kentucky's 17 field goals in the second half, 13 of them were assisted.

"That was a big thing today, making the extra pass," said Lamb, who finished with five assists. "In Maui he said we were selfish because we were trying to lay the ball up with 23 people (around) and people open in the corner. Today we just wanted to come out and be unselfish and pass the ball to the open man."

Freshman guard Brandon Knight, minus a few sluggish opening minutes, made the biggest progress. Just a few days after sitting down for a role-defining talk with Calipari, Knight dished out a career-high six assists.

"He just told me what I need to be doing really, and that's getting other people shots," said Knight, whose scoring (23 points) didn't suffer. "That should be my main focus. Open shots will come for me. I don't have to press a lot or anything because I know that I have a green light, so it's basically getting guys involved and making sure they're playing to the best of their abilities and getting them involved."

Although Knight scored in bunches in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, he struggled distributing the ball. The first-year guard finished the three-day tourney with 18 turnovers in the tournament and just eight assists.

Calipari, who has guided three straight point guards to the NBA, didn't show Knight video of John Wall or Derrick Rose. Rather he told him to let score within the flow of the game.

"Brandon is a scorer ... so it's a whole new learning experience for him," Robic said. "He got a little bit better, but he was proud of the number of assists he had tonight, which is a different mentality for him. If he continues to do that, it's just going to make our team better because he's going to score within the flow of the game. He doesn't have to force the action.

"His job is to get the other guys involved, and if he can get them involved, that will just make us an entirely different team."

The Cats' distribution benefited everyone as four Cats (Knight with 23, Terrence Jones with 18, Lamb with 13 and Josh Harrellson with 12) reached double figures. DeAndre Liggins (nine points) and Darius Miller (eight) nearly joined them.

Liggins' final stat line wasn't pretty, but the junior guard ignited the early passing. After missing several early passes, Liggins started to kick out and find the open man.

"A lot of it was just guys getting into the paint," Knight said. "I'm pretty sure other teams are scouting us. They're seeing that when we're getting into the paint we're shooting it, so guys are going to be open from now on. We're learning to make that extra pass."

Of course, the pass-happy Cats didn't get off to an overly rousing start. During a slow-to-get-going first half, Kentucky looked like it was still feeling the jet-lag effects of an all-day flight from Hawaii last week.

Eventually the Cats snapped out of it.

"That must have been some halftime speech," Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers said.

Chambers' players might be the ones to blame for the Cats' second-half run.

"While we were talking about the second half, we heard the other team yelling and screaming and getting excited because they were down seven," Lamb said. "We wanted to come out at the beginning of the second half and be more aggressive than we were in the first half. They were so loud that we heard them."

And they heard their coach's plea to pass the ball.

Knight was asked after the game if the Cats took Calipari's "selfish" comments personally.

"You don't try to take anything coach says personal," Knight said. "You try to learn from it and whatever he says you take that adjustment and try to make it."

For one night at least, the young Cats learned their lesson. Maybe youth isn't so bad after all.

Video: Robic, players talk UK win over Boston

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Assistant coach John Robic

Freshman guard Brandon Knight

Freshman guard Doron Lamb

Freshman forward Terrence Jones

Senior forward Josh Harrellson

Live blog: UK men's basketball vs. Boston

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UK Hoops moves up to No. 8 in AP Top 25

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The UK women's basketball team moved up a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 and stayed put at No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll after winning the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic.

AP Top 25

1. Connecticut (40)
2. Baylor
3. Stanford
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Ohio St.
7. Texas A&M
8. Kentucky
9. Tennessee
10. West Virginia
11. Oklahoma
12. Georgetown
13. UCLA
14. North Carolina
15. Florida St.
16. Notre Dame
17. Texas
18. Iowa
19. Iowa St.
20. St. John's
21. Georgia
22. Maryland
23. Vanderbilt
24. Nebraska
25. Michigan St.

USA Today/ESPN
1. Connecticut (31)
2. Stanford
3. Baylor
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Ohio St.
7. Texas A&M
8. Tennessee
9. Kentucky
10. West Virginia
11. Oklahoma
12. UCLA
13. Georgetown
14. Florida St.
15. North Carolina
16. Notre Dame
17. Iowa St.
18. Iowa
19. Nebraska
20. Texas
21. Wis. Green Bay
22. Georgia
23. Vanderbilt
24. St. John's
25. Michigan St.

The UK volleyball team, fresh off making a school-record sixth straight NCAA Tournament, will face Purdue on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind.

MBSK 09_10 UK_UNC Web  28.jpgMost teams have one rival on their schedule each season, but not the University of Kentucky. There's Louisville, there's Indiana, there's Tennessee and any other Southeastern Conference program that tries to challenge UK's supremacy (LSU in the 80s and early 90s and Florida in the past decade).

And then there's North Carolina, the team the Wildcats will face in Chapel Hill, N.C., this Saturday.

UK and UNC are college basketball's two winningest programs, but rather than going back and forth with each other, the head-to-head series has featured several streaks. Kentucky won last year to end a five-year run of UNC victories and that followed four straight wins by the Cats, which followed six consecutive UNC triumphs.

As we eagerly await the latest renewal in this matchup that became an annual event starting in the 2000-01 season, let's take a look back at the five most memorable Wildcat wins in this series. UNC leads the all-time series 21-11:

No. 1 | December 1974 | UK 90, UNC 78

These rankings are strictly subjective and I chose this one because of its significance to the Kentucky season in 1974-75.

Jimmy Dan Conner, Kevin Grevey, etc. had been undefeated as freshmen (only sophomores and above could play for the varsity at that time), but that group had not been able to realize the potential the Big Blue fan base felt they had. And when Indiana drilled the Cats and then North Carolina built a big early lead in a game at Freedom Hall, it looked like the season was going south in a hurry.

Coach Joe B. Hall benched his starters and then challenged them to show him something when they returned to the game. Did they ever. Conner had arguably his best game as a Wildcat (15-of-21 field goals and 35 points) as UK stormed back to win 90-78. It proved to be a defining moment for that team which finished as the national runner-up come March.

No. 2 | December 2001 | UK 79, UNC 59

This was a Kentucky team that failed to realize its potential and it was a down year for the Tar Heels, but what makes this game memorable is how it started.

Tayshaun Prince hit five consecutive 3-pointers for UK in the first two minutes on his way to a 31-point day. I don't know that I've ever heard Rupp Arena louder than when he swished the fifth one from 30-plus feet. It remains one of the top moments in Rupp's history.

No. 3 | December 1969 | UK 94, UNC 87

Kentucky was ranked No. 2 in the nation even after losing star guard Mike Casey to a season-ending broken leg. The Dan Issel-Mike Pratt combo would lead the Wildcats to the top ranking going into the NCAA Tournament and this early season win over the Charlie Scott-led Tar Heels in Charlotte, N.C., sent an early message to the rest of the country by ending a streak of four straight losses by UK in the series.

Issel poured in 41 points and Pratt added 27 and both had double figures in rebounds.

No. 4 | December 2009 | UK 68, UNC 66

John Wall keyed a 28-2 explosion early in the game as the Wildcats built a 43-28 halftime lead, but when Wall started to cramp up the Tar Heels rallied. Clutch free-throw shooting by Wall and Eric Bledsoe enabled the Cats to hold UNC at bay.

To me, the significance of this game was that it more or less announced to the college basketball world that Kentucky was back among the nation's elite.

No. 5 | January 2004 | UK 61, UNC 56

Arguably the best game of the past decade as Kentucky won its fourth game in a row over the Heels.

Carolina built a 10-point second-half lead but UK rallied with a spark off the bench from Ravi Moss and Bernard Cote, setting the stage for Gerald Fitch's late-game heroics.

Fitch was a great clutch shooter, and with a half minute left to play and only 11 seconds on the shot clock for an out-of-bounds play, Tubby Smith drew up a play to send Fitch off a screen for a jumper off the wing. Sean May challenged the shot, but Fitch stepped back and coolly drained the 3 to clinch the victory for UK.

Only one of the five games on our list took place in the state of North Carolina, so perhaps the Wildcats can add to that total this Saturday at the Dean Dome.

Cats trying to get past 'selfish' tendencies

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2M7V3034.jpgOne of the most defining and immeasurable characteristics about last year's Elite Eight men's basketball team was the bond the players formed as the season wore on.

Despite the countless accolades, the larger-than-life personalities and the NBA potential, last year's players put their talents and ambitions aside for the betterment of the team. As head coach John Calipari said last year, each individual player was his "brother's keeper." The 2009-10 Cats were marked by unselfishness.

Entering this season, with a team that was once again loaded with preseason accolades, Calipari cited the team's ability (or inability) to come together as one of the year's biggest factors. A 4-1 record and a top-25 win over Washington would seem to indicate the team is already meshing, but following an 84-67 wakeup call to Connecticut in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Calipari said his team is still working through its "selfish" tendencies.

"We were a selfish team," Calipari said after Kentucky's loss to UConn. "I don't have any idea how or why we got that selfish. Maybe it started against Washington, because when you play them and they're trying to steal every ball you have to drive it and you're not going to have a lot of assists. We started the game and no one would pass."

Kentucky's youth showed up when Kemba Walker and UConn got hot in the first half against the Cats. During the Huskies' 21-2 run to close out the first half, the Cats forced drives, threw up unwarranted shots in the lane and didn't pass.

"I think as they made their run at us, everybody felt like I'm going to try to do my own thing," junior guard DeAndre Liggins said. "That's not team basketball and that's not winning basketball at all."

Part of it was youth and part of it was running into a buzz-saw like Walker. Freshman guard Brandon Knight played well at times, but 18 turnovers and only eight assists in three games was reflective of a player who, while extremely talented, has much to learn.

However, Liggins was quick to take the blame for some of the selfish play.

"It wasn't only the young guys; it was me, too," Liggins said. "It was me, I admit it. I've got to learn and keep moving forward."

Playing in an offense that stresses the drive and ability to play one-on-one can sometimes blur the line between selfish and unselfish play.

"It's very hard for me because I'm an attacking player," Liggins said. "I've just got to recognize what I've got. If the defense collapses, I've got a man wide open."

Finding the right balance between who can get to the lane and kick it out, who can shoot it, and who can be a low post presence is still a part of the learning process for this young UK team.

"We definitely need drivers. That's the whole reason the dribble-drive motion works," senior forward Josh Harrellson said. "You've got to have at least two or three good drivers on the floor just to get into the lane, penetrate and find the open players for shots."

Kentucky potentially has a hoard of third and fourth scoring options in players like Liggins, Doron Lamb and Jon Hood, but UK's offense frequently sputtered when some combination of the Knight/Darius Miller/Terrence Jones trio was out of the game.

Manufacturing offense when those players are in foul trouble or need a rest will be a huge key as the season goes on for a thin UK bench.

"That's definitely a tough situation," Harrellson said. "We've got to keep them out of foul trouble every game. When one of our two best players goes down, somebody has to step up and be an offensive threat whether that is DeAndre or Darius or even Jon Hood stepping up and making a few 3s."

But the problems didn't just pertain to offense. Liggins and Harrellson said Calipari, who was unavailable Monday because of his mother's death, got on the team for its defensive effort against the Huskies.

"We gave up a lot of easy baskets without helping each other out," Harrellson said. "(We were) primarily focusing on our own guy when we're supposed to be helping everybody."

Communication, or a lack thereof, was the central reason behind the Cats' selfish ways, Liggins and Harrellson agreed.

Before leaving for paradise nearly halfway across the globe, the players pointed to the Maui trip as an early learning test. Through five games, we've learned Kentucky is stacked with talent but plagued with youth and a lack of depth.

Minus the depth, it's a similar situation last year's bunch was in. Last year's group wasn't graced with a loss to learn about until late January. Will an early season "L" help bring this year's team together as it gets ready to face America East preseason favorite Boston on Tuesday?

"We want to get our losses out of the way," Harrellson said. "We want to learn from our mistakes right now instead of it happening in March and our season being over."

In lieu of flowers for the death of John Calipari's mother, Donna, the Calipari family is asking that donations be sent in memory of Donna Calipari to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

Donations can be addressed to the Tribute Program at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, P.O. Box 100, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN, 38148, or by calling 1-800-822-6344. Donors are asked to use Tribute No. 26909623 when making a donation.

The Calipari family is scheduled to hold a private memorial service to honor Mrs. Donna Calipari on Sunday.

Calipari is expected to coach Tuesday against Boston despite the death of his mother. Calipari was unavailable for media interviews and missed the start of Tuesday's practice because he was returning from Charlotte, N.C., where his mother died Sunday at 74 after a battle with cancer.

Assistant coach John Robic is expected to fill in for Calipari on his weekly radio show.

Liggins, Harrellson wrap up Maui, preview Boston

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Junior guard DeAndre Liggins


Senior forward Josh Harrellson

Men's basketball drops two spots in AP Top 25

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The Kentucky men's basketball team dropped two spots in the Associated Press Top 25 after a 2-1 week at the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The Cats defeated Oklahoma and then-No. 13 Washington before losing to Connecticut. The Huskies went from unranked to No. 7 in the nation.

The ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll is not available yet. I will post as soon as it comes out.

AP Top 25
1. Duke (65); 6-0; 1,625; 1
2. Ohio St.; 5-0; 1,530; 3
3. Pittsburgh; 7-0; 1,488; 5
4. Kansas; 6-0; 1,402; 6
5. Kansas St.; 5-1; 1,263; 4
6. Michigan St.; 5-1; 1,250; 2
7. Connecticut; 5-0; 1,188; --
8. Syracuse; 6-0; 1,085; 9
9. Missouri; 5-0; 984; 11
10. Kentucky; 4-1; 890; 8
11. Baylor; 4-0; 844; 12
12. Villanova; 5-1; 807; 7
13. Tennessee; 5-0; 779; 24
14. Memphis; 5-0; 758; 14
15. Minnesota; 6-0; 754; 15
16. Georgetown; 6-0; 701; 16
17. San Diego St.; 5-0; 594; 18
18. Florida; 5-1; 553; 16
19. Texas; 5-1; 484; 20
20. Illinois; 6-1; 435; 19
21. BYU; 6-0; 369; 23
22. Purdue; 5-1; 318; 10
23. Washington; 2-2; 270; 13
24. UNLV; 6-0; 255;--
25. Notre Dame; 7-0; 126; --

ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
1. Duke (31)  6-0 775
2. Ohio State 5-0 728
3. Pittsburgh 7-0 712
4. Kansas 6-0 683
5. Kansas State 5-1 588
6. Michigan State 5-1 583
7. Syracuse 6-0 571
8. Missouri 5-0 464
9. Connecticut 5-0 428
10. Baylor 4-0 405
11. Kentucky 4-1 403
12. Villanova 5-1 377
13. Minnesota 6-0 372
14. Georgetown 6-0 351
15. Memphis 5-0 318
16. Florida 5-1 316
17. Tennessee 5-0 314
18. Purdue 5-1 252
19. San Diego State 6-0 229
20. Texas 5-1 216
21. Illinois 6-1 203
22. Washington 3-2 195
23. UNLV 6-0 122
24. Gonzaga 3-2 110
25. Brigham Young 6-0 103

Cal's mother passes away after battle with cancer

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Please keep John Calipari and his family in your thoughts and prayers this week. Calipari's mother, Donna, died Sunday after battling cancer for several months. She was 74.

From everyone at UK Athletics, our condolences go out to Coach Cal and his family and friends.

"Our prayers go out to John and his family after losing his mother during her battle with cancer," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "We ask that the Big Blue Nation keep the Calipari family in their thoughts and prayers and respect their privacy during this time of grief."

Coach Cal sent out a few messages on his Twitter account Monday on the passing of his mother:

As most of you know, my mom, Donna, has been battling cancer for several months. On Sunday, she lost her brave fight.

On behalf of my dad, my two sisters, Ellen & all of our family...

...we want to thank the Big Blue Nation for all their prayers, cards, letters & support shared w/my mom during these days.

Your warmth uplifted her and all of us.

We hope you will all respect our privacy during this period & know that we are grateful for being part of the Big Blue family.

Bowl projections point to Compass Bowl in Birmingham

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With the regular season nearly complete, the bowl projections are starting to roll in. Nothing is for sure at this point with championship games still to be played, but a lot of these projections will turn out to be accurate.

Every projection I've looked at has the Cats in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 8 against a Big East team. Kentucky is not planned to announce its bowl selection until Sunday.

UK's projections are below with links to the respective website's full projections:

ESPN's Mark SchlabachCompass Bowl - Kentucky vs. Connecticut
ESPN's Andrea Adelson: Compass Bowl - Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh
ESPN's Chris Low: Compass Bowl - Kentucky vs. Big East team
Sports Illustrated: Compass Bowl - Kentucky vs. South Florida
CBS Sports: Compass Bowl - Kentucky vs. South Florida
Rivals: Compass Bowl - Kentucky vs. Pittsburgh

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 NCAAenhancedlogo.jpgAt first glance, a 17-13 record would seem to indicate the Kentucky volleyball team would miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Craig Skinner's six-year tenure.

On second look, a 17-13 mark may paint Skinner's best coaching job at UK yet.

Despite losing three centerpieces from last year's team, former All-Southeastern Conference setter Sarah Rumely, libero BriAnne Sauer and outside hitter Sarah Mendoza, the Kentucky volleyball team has made the NCAA Tournament for a school-record sixth straight season.

UK will play Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., on Friday. Should the Cats win, they would play the winner of the Middle Tennessee State-Louisville match on Saturday.

But at 17-13 and without the pieces that helped build UK's current NCAA Tournament streak, how did the Cats do it?

A strong schedule and late surge are likely the two biggest factors.

Despite a youth-laden squad (Kentucky did return key pieces in Lauren Rapp, Blaire Hiler, Becky Pavan and Stephanie Klefot), Skinner put together his toughest schedule at UK. The Cats faced the likes of Nebraska (No. 2 overall seed), Iowa State, Florida State, Ohio State, Louisville and Cincinnati. All five are NCAA Tournament teams, and all that was in addition to Kentucky's rigorous Southeastern Conference schedule, which included No. 1 overall seed Florida.

Overall, UK faced 11 teams in this year's NCAA Tournament field and seven squads in the RPI top 25, boosting Kentucky's final RPI standing to 46th.

Although the Cats struggled early against the nation's toughest competition, Skinner said the early tests would pay off. He pointed to the potential of the young players and predicted that his team would be playing its best at the end of the year.

Well, Skinner was exactly right. Down the stretch, Kentucky played its best volleyball of the season. After losing four out of five matches midway through the year, UK went on to win nine of its final 13, including a key win over 13th overall seed LSU.

Skinner said that if his team could find a way to make the NCAA Tournament, it would have as good of a chance as any team.

With the inclusion into the NCAA Tournament, that 17-13 slate just got wiped clean.

UK football beating itself in rivalry, this season

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22_UK_TN_008_BM.JPGKNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Throughout its 26 years of rivalry futility, Kentucky has found countless ways to lose to Tennessee.

In a way, Saturday's 24-14 loss to the Volunteers was no different from a lot of the other defeats, at least recently. Kentucky had control of the game at one point, put itself in position to win and then let the game slip right through its fingers.

"It's probably one of the biggest letdowns we've had this year," Hartline said. "On both sides of the ball we felt like we had a great game plan against them. There were a lot of things we did exploit against them. I can tell you that I don't think we're the worst team here. I just think we didn't execute. They played better."

Losing to teams the Cats think they should beat has been a common theme this year. Another has been head coach Joker Phillips' mantra of "Kentucky doesn't beat Kentucky."

Quite frankly, both sum up the season and the story of the recent so-called rivalry with Tennessee.

When the Cats have had a chance to take a game this year, they've shot themselves in the foot. When they've had the opportunity to end the notorious losing streak to Tennessee, they've bumbled, stumbled and crumbled when it matters the most.

Saturday was certainly no different.

"I've never been in a game where you felt as if you had as much control of a game, had a chance to go up 14 and have things change so quickly," a somber Phillips said after the game. "We've got to learn that when you get guys down, you've got to keep them down."

A killer instinct hasn't been the problem this season - getting off to a fast start similar to Saturday's has - but winning games in reach has certainly been an issue. Just think of what could have been had the Cats taken care of business against a hapless Ole Miss team, finished off rallies against Auburn or Mississippi State, or beaten a Tennessee team that appeared to finally be overmatched.

Could'ves, would'ves and should'ves usually spell disappointment, though.

"I would say it was a season of missed opportunities," Phillips said. "We were a football team that made mistakes, shot ourselves in the foot."

Against Tennessee, the Cats were knocking on the door of history early in the first quarter. After dodging an early bullet when UT kicker Daniel Lincoln missed a 28-yard chip shot, UK took complete control of the first quarter, outgaining Tennessee 156-28.

The Cats ran the ball down the Volunteers' throats, churning out two long, statement-making drives. The first was a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a 17-yard touchdown run from Derrick Locke. The second was a 16-play, run-heavy march that was heading for at least a 10-0 UK lead, if not a 14-0 command.

But then, holding form to the rivalry's true nature, the tables quickly turned. Locke, who up until that point had bludgeoned the Tennessee run defense, fumbled the handoff from Hartline at the 1-yard line and the Vols recovered in the end zone.

"Momentum, it definitely hurt," said Hartline, who finished the game 31-of-44 for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception. "We definitely needed those points. That's one thing you can't do down there. Obviously it was just a little miscue by Derrick. He went a little wide, but I've got realize that and make something out of nothing and pull the ball away; take a loss instead of a turnover."

What followed was the stuff of legends. Or at least UK made it look that way.

The Cats' secondary made true freshman Tyler Bray look like an NFL Pro Bowl quarterback in the second frame as Bray carved up the defensive backfield for three passes of 44 yards or more to Denarius Moore on three straight drives.

By halftime, UK felt fortunate just to be trailing 14-7 with the way Bray was throwing the ball. The four-time starter finished the game 20-of-38 for 354 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"You've got to go up (on those long passes) and at least knock them out or go up and intercept it because we had a couple of guys in position to intercept them," Phillips said. "We've got to make the adjustment and make the play."

Kentucky came out in the second half and made another strong statement with an 11-play, 76-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14, but when the Cats got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, they went four-and-out.

Later, when Bray made one of the few mistakes he made all game and tossed an interception in UK's end zone, the Cats could do nothing with the ball and squandered the opportunity.

Then, in the fourth quarter when UK had the ball at the UT 37 on fourth-and-2 with a chance to tie the game, Phillips elected to punt the ball away. Ryan Tydlacka's punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback, resulting in a  net 17-yard gain. Tennessee went on to kick a field goal.

After more than a quarter of a century of ineffectiveness against the Vols, one has to wonder how much of a mental advantage Tennessee holds over at Kentucky at this point.

"This has been happening to us all season, not just with them, turning the ball over in critical times and not executing," junior wide receiver Randall Cobb said, who may have played his final regular-season game in a UK uniform (link will be added). "That's what it comes down to."

The loss makes Kentucky's bowl picture look bleak. Whatever chance there was of going to an out-of-Tennessee bowl like the Gator Bowl or the Chick-fil-A Bowl is completely dashed. Now Kentucky looks destined for the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., or even an at-large bowl completely out of the conference's bowl tie ins.

At this point, returning to Tennessee suddenly seems like paradise. An AutoZone Liberty Bowl representative stood in the press room during Phillips' postgame news conference and seemed to express his desire to have UK back for the second time in three years.

Phillips and UK would be wise to push for a return trip to Memphis, Tenn.

 "It's never bitter when you get bowl eligible, but the thing we would have liked to have done is finish strong," Phillips said. "We had a chance to be 3-0 to finish the season, which we hadn't done around here in a long time. We missed an opportunity."

They have no one but themselves to blame for that. 

Video: Cats discuss another heartbreaking loss to UT

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Head coach Joker Phillips


Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders


Senior quarterback Mike Hartline

Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb

Still winless against UT, Cobb left to ponder future

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UK_WKU_14_cw.JPGKNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- With Kentucky's 26th straight loss to Tennessee in the books, junior Randall Cobb now has to decide if he wants to return next year for one more shot at Tennessee.

The Alcoa, Tenn., native is 0-3 against his hometown Volunteers, including Saturday's 24-14 loss. Following Saturday's game, Cobb was asked if he wanted one more shot at Tennessee.

"I would. Who wouldn't?" Cobb said. "I haven't beat them yet. That's something I'm going to be thinking about over the next few weeks."

Cobb's answer wasn't a definitive yes or no.

"Now that this game is over I'm going to go back and do my research and try to do all the homework I can to see what's best for me," Cobb said. "I've got to be a little selfish now and make a decision that's best for me, but my heart is always going to be in blue."

Cobb said he has until January 15 to make a decision on the pros. Asked what he will consider over the next month and a half and into the bowl season, Cobb cited his family, future opportunities and the potential for an NFL lockout.

"I'm going to do what's best for me," Cobb said. "If that's coming back, I would love playing another year here."

Cobb had one of his best career games as a wide receiver against Tennessee, catching a career-high 13 passes for 116 yards. The junior also ran the ball five times for 25 yards.

Live blog: UK football vs. Tennessee

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From the Pressbox: Notes with Tom Leach (Nov. 26)

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Five games into a new season, it looks like John Calipari's winning streak with freshman point guards is going to continue.

About the only negative so far for Brandon Knight is a higher-than-the-coach-can-live-with turnover count, but that figures to change as Knight matures in the position. In high school, Knight was the primary scorer for his team, but Calipari is now asking him to lead his team by also getting others involved.

"It's a tough position to play in this (Dribble Drive Motion) offense," Calipari said on a recent Big Blue Sports Network pregame show. "It's like being a quarterback in the West Coast Offense and you've got five reads and you're used to just going back and winging it. But he's playing well. I would like him to lead the nation in assists and yet still score."

"For an 18-year-old kid, he's doing great."

= = =

If Kentucky wins at Tennessee tomorrow, chances are the script will include a big game from Derrick Locke, given that UK's rare wins in Knoxville, Tenn., have included a 100-yard rushing game for a UK back.

And if Locke can do that, he'll move closer to his long-shot goal of reaching 1,000 yards despite missing almost five full games.

"If you want to be a top back, you've got to have numbers," said Locke, who enters the Tennessee game with 719 yards and nine touchdowns on 130 carries. "Even though I've been out almost five games, I don't want to use that as an excuse. It's something I'm definitely shooting for."

Locke was well short of being in top shape when he returned against Vandy two weeks ago but he figures he can get to "90 or 95 percent" for the UT game.

As for that 25-game losing streak to Tennessee, Locke said part of the obstacle Kentucky must clear is a mental challenge.

"I just feel like when it comes time to win, they've known how to win better than we do," Locke said. "We've just got to want it more than them. This has got to be like a national championship game (for us)."

Locke said a win over Tennessee would go a long way in determining how the season is judged.

"It's not going to erase the disappointment (of some closes losses this season) but it'll give us a better season," Locke said. "(Going) 6-6 might get you a bowl but I don't want to take that chance."

Players like senior offensive tackle Brad Durham are just tired of hearing about The Streak.

"We hear it every day," Durham said. "It's annoying. Everything we do up until game time, it's in our minds. It's going to happen this year and hopefully years after."

= = =

Randall Cobb isn't the only Tennessee native with a lot to play for in Knoxville.

"I'm going to be so excited that I won't be able to sleep the night before," true freshman Tyler Robinson said last week.

He's from the same Alcoa, Tenn., high school as Cobb and said the only interest the Volunteers showed in him was as a center. He's happier playing tight end for UK but has learned quickly that his body is not where it needs to be for this league.

"Definitely (need) get stronger," Robinson said. "These boys are big up here. In high school, I was bigger than everybody. Now, they're 280 or 290 and they're faster than I am."

Kentucky takes one of the SEC's most potent offenses into this matchup, and Robinson said for the Cats to keep it going, they will have to play smart.

"They move a lot," Robinson said. "They're not in conventional fronts.  (But) Mike (Hartline) will be all right. He studies his butt off all the time."

= = =

Tennessee has played its way into bowl contention with a late-season three-game winning streak. Knoxville News-Sentinel beat writer Austin Ward says it's not a complete surprise.

"I don't know if they are as good (as the lopsided wins over Memphis and Ole Miss suggest) but they've played 16 freshmen, so they were bound to improve," Ward said on "The Leach Report" radio show last week. "By the time they got to November, there was a reasonable expectation they could (do something like this)."

The surge has coincided with the emergence of true freshman quarterback Tyler Bray.

"He's got a very strong arm, and despite being so thin, he's shown a remarkable ability to escape pass rush and break some tackles in the pocket and make some plays," Ward said of Bray, who has 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions in the three games he's started. "He still struggles with knowing coverages and always knowing the proper read but he's not afraid to take some chances."

Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
UT Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UT Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Nov. 27
12:21 p.m
Coverage TV: SEC Network
Radio: BBSN
Online Audio listen
GameTracker
Online Video via ESPN3
Live Blog
Location Neyland Stadium
Knoxville, Tenn.
Gameday Information
Tennessee Volunteers at a Glance
Head Coach Derek Dooley
Record at School 5-6 (First season)
Record 5-6, 2-5 SEC
Ranking NR
Series Record Tennessee leads 73-23-9
Last Meeting Tennessee defeated Kentucky 30-24 in overtime in Lexington, Ky. last season.
2010 Team Stats UK UT
Rushing Offense 167.2 119.7
Passing Offense 274.6 240.3
Total Offense 441.6 360.0
Scoring Offense 34.7 27.3
Rushing Defense 178.6 155.8
Passing Defense 168.4 225.4
Total Defense 347.0 381.2
Scoring Defense 28.9 25.6
Turnover Margin -0.27 +0.36
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (130 rushes, 719 yds, 9 TDs)
UT: Tauren Poole (176 rushes, 935 yds, 10 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (237-361, 2906 yds, 22 TDs, 8 INTs)
UT: Matt Simms (113-195, 1460 yds, 8 TDs, 5 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (66 catches, 839 yds, 7 TDs)
UT: Denarius Moore (36 catches, 707 yds, 8 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (120 total, 15.0 for loss)
UT: Nick Reveiz (86 total, 6.0 for loss)
Sacks UK: Luke McDermott, Danny Trevathan (3.0)
UT: Malik Jackson (5.0)
Interceptions UK: Winston Guy Jr. (2)
UT: Janzen Jackson, Prentiss Waggner (4)

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 off to a fast start: "We've got to play fast from the first snap. If we play like we've been playing in the first half, we could be down too much and not be able to fight back. That's one thing we don't want to do. We want to try to match their intensity. They have a lot to play for and so do we. We need to definitely get off to a fast start to match their intensity. If we don't we could be down 21 points the way they're scoring points. Their defense is playing a lot faster because they're going out on the field with leads. Their offense is scoring a lot of points and their special teams has scored some points, so they're getting out on the field with confidence and the lead. When you go on the field for the first time and it's 7-0, you go out there a second time and it's 14-0 and then you go out there and it's 21-0, I think that gives your defense a lot of confidence."

Cat Scratches' take: Maybe the single biggest problem for the UK football team this year has been its slow starts. If Kentucky played like it has in the second half of games all season long, we could be talking about an eight- or nine-win team at this point. When the Cats lead after the first quarter, they are a perfect 4-0. UK is 1-4 when the opponent leads after the first quarter and 2-5 after halftime. Last time out, Kentucky allowed 242 first-half yards to a struggling Vanderbilt offense. In the second half, the Commodores totaled just 158 yards. The Cats cannot afford to get behind big to a Tennessee team averaging 42.0 points per game over the last three contests.


Defensive keys - Hit young QB early, slow down hot UT passing game: "We've got to try to disrupt their quarterback. We've got to give him a lot of different looks and get in his face as often as we possibly can. Defensively, we've just got to keep them in front of us. We can't let them get behind us. One thing that they've been doing is they have been throwing the ball really well. They have created a lot of down-the-field throws so we've got to keep them in front of us. They have four really good receivers, two young ones and two old ones, and their quarterback has a hot hand right now. We've just got to keep them in front of us and stop the run because their run game in recent weeks has helped open up the passing game."

Cat Scratches' take: The promotion of freshman quarterback Tyler Bray to full-time starter has really provided a spark in turning the season around for the Vols. Over his last three games, Bray has thrown for 880 yards and 10 touchdowns, including five scores against Memphis. Tennessee has relied heavily on the passing game the last few weeks because of Bray's ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly and let his receivers make plays. Phillips hopes to mix up some looks to confuse the first-year gunslinger.    


Key matchup - Healthier Derrick Locke vs. Tennessee run defense: "Our running game opens up a lot with Derrick Locke. There was a three-game stretch where we weren't able to run the ball as efficiently with Locke out. All that did was open up our passing game and a chance for Randall Cobb to run the ball in the Wildcat because now you've got Derrick Locke coming across in the speed sweep and we have the ability to hand the ball to him. That takes another guy out of the defensive front and it allows Randall to run the ball in the Wildcat formation."

Cat Scratches' take: Locke wasn't 100 percent in his return from a four-week injury absence, but his presence alone was enough to boost a running game that had severely tripped up without him. With Locke in the backfield, UK pounded Vanderbilt for 341 yards on the ground. Cobb was the biggest beneficiary of Locke's presence, running for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Tennessee is giving up 155.8 rushing yards per game, ninth in the league. 


Joker's additional factor - Playing on the emotions of The Streak: "Football is a game of emotions. You have to play on them. You have to use anything you possibly can to get emotionally involved in the game. That's one of the things we've got to use to get emotionally into this game."

Cat Scratches' take: Phillips hasn't exactly opened up about what he's said to his team about the 25-game losing streak to Tennessee, but all indication are it's been brought up. From the "517" number plastered in the lobby of the Nutter Training Facility to the "Beat Tennessee" stickers, the Kentucky players are using the notorious streak as motivation. Cobb, an emotional player and Tennessee native who, just two weeks ago talked exuberantly about playing Tennessee, has been mum this week on how important beating Tennessee would be. He and the Cats are ready for their play to do the talking.


Tennessee player to watch for - defensive back Janzen Jackson: "Janzen Jackson is a really good player in their secondary. The (Chris) Walker kid at the defensive line and then Nick Reveiz at linebacker are both great players that are playing really good lately. They have a guy at every level that you have to account for. Jackson is just so long and physical and rangy. He's a guy that can cover a lot of ground."

Cat Scratches' take: Jackson does a little bit of everything. He's third on the team with 54 tackles, has three tackles for a loss, four pass breakups and four interceptions. If Jackson picks off a Mike Hartline pass, watch out because Jackson has the ability to return one for six. Walker has five tackles for a loss and two sacks, and Reveiz is ninth in the Southeastern Conference with 86 stops.


Final injury report: The bye week has helped heal the Cats. Wide receiver Brian Adams, who was doubtful earlier in the week with a hamstring injury, appears to be good to go for Saturday. Linebacker Qua Huzzie is questionable (shoulder). Defensive lineman Nermin Delic is likely out with a shoulder injury. 

As Kentucky was preparing to depart for a four-game road trip to Portland and Hawaii for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, John Calipari warned that the inexperienced Wildcats could be facing up to three losses with the quality of competition they would be up against. Calipari's focus would be on improving his team rather than wins and losses.

Anyone familiar with UK's coach immediately wondered whether he was again underselling his team and tempering expectations with his three-loss proclamation. After racing through the opening three games of the trip and looking quite precocious in the process, it was apparent that Calipari was indeed giving his team just a bit less credit than it likely deserved.

However, in the final of the Maui Invitational, Kentucky faltered against Connecticut, losing 84-67 and looking a lot more like the team Calipari feared would struggle. Even though the game meant that UK's long trip west ended in a loss, the successes and failures Kentucky faced along the way ensure that the journey will be worthwhile as the season goes on. 

In fact, losing the way that they did in the finals may give Calipari just the kind of attention from his players that he needs to help the team improve.

In the loss to UConn, UK faced a squad that had been overlooked by some in a Maui field that featured three teams ranked in the top 11 of the coaches poll. In the Cats' opening wins against Wichita State and second-ranked Michigan State, the Huskies were led by the spectacular play of junior guard Kemba Walker, who scored a combined 61 points en route to the finals.

Against Kentucky, Walker again stepped up his game, tallying another 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Even when Walker was unable to find his own shot, he got the ball to his teammates, notching six assists.

On this night, it was that kind of unselfishness that separated the Huskies, especially in the early on.

"We had a selfish, young team in the first half," Calipari said. "Obviously I haven't done as good a job as I can because in the first half we were out of whack. They need to be coached."

Fortunately, this is still the first month of the season and plenty of time remains for coaching. With this road trip under the team's belt, Calipari now has more information about what he needs to do to transform this team from a young and selfish squad into a contender.

For instance, Calipari now knows that Kentucky has a workhorse in Terrence Jones.

After another 24-point performance in the final, Jones was named to the all-tournament team.  He repeatedly showed during this trip that when UK needs a big play, be it a bucket, a rebound, a block,or a steal, Jones is probably the best option.

However, UK also learned that life must go on when Jones is not on the floor.

After playing 36 minutes in UK's win over Washington, Jones battled first-half foul trouble. He committed his second foul on an Alex Oriahki and one that pushed UConn's lead to 29-22 with nine minutes to go in the half. Jones sat the rest of the way and UK looked disjointed offensively, committing turnovers and routinely over-penetrating into the heart of the defense without any thought of passing.

Jones will be central to Kentucky's success this season, but there will be times when he finds himself in foul trouble or an opponent effectively limits his production. In his absence, the focus must be on unselfishness and ball movement, especially at the point guard position.

Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb have predominantly run the point so far this season. Both have more of a scorer's mentality and outside shooting ability than anyone who played point guard last season, which showed its advantages in the first three wins of the trip.

This game, though, exposed just how much that mentality needs to be balanced with a willingness to share the ball and make sound decisions.

Knight and Lamb combined for seven turnovers and just five assists in the loss, something that will surely be a topic of discussion when the Wildcats hit the practice floor and film room upon their return to Lexington.

The point guards were far from the only ones Wednesday to display the selfishness Calipari referenced. All too often, players took the ball to the basket only with the intent to score, which resulted in turnovers, missed shots and only occasionally a positive result.  

That sort of mentality has an effect on all aspects of the game.

"When a guy gets passed up three straight times, is he really encouraged to defend?" Calipari asked.

That question was clearly a rhetorical one, because UK allowed 50 points on 60 percent shooting in the first half.  

The degree to which offense and defense are intertwined is often lost on a team as young as this Kentucky squad, but there is no better teaching tool than feeling the high of a win, followed abruptly by the sting of a tough loss.

This team showed an awful lot of positives on its trip, particularly in its three wins. The large contingent of Big Blue faithful that traveled along with the team got to experience those.  There were some negatives along the way, too, but Calipari put things in perspective on Twitter just after the game as he so often does.

"Not the way we wanted to end the trip obviously but we will learn from this loss and work on the things we didn't do well," Calipari said. "Overall, 3-1 on a tough trip with a young team and we now know more about where we are on the path."

Video: Cats amped, ready for Tennessee

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Martin to put Tennessee ties aside for rivalry

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Martin_Tee FB 10_11.jpgTee Martin was once Tennessee football.

Quarterback of the 1998 Tennessee national championship team, Martin is a bit of a legend in Knoxville, Tenn. On your drive into Neyland Stadium from the north, swing a left off Phillip Fulmer Way and you'll pull onto Tee Martin Drive, a one-block stretch just outside Neyland Stadium.
If there is anyone that bled Tennessee orange, it was Martin, a UT letterman from 1996-99. On Saturday, for the first time since quarterbacking the Volunteers to late 1990s dominance, Martin will return to Neyland Stadium as an enemy.

Instead of Tennessee orange, Martin will don Kentucky blue, a unique role that Martin has no doubt thought about since taking the wide receivers coaching job at UK nearly 10 months ago.

"It's emotional, but at the same time, I have a job to do," Martin said. "Nobody is going to be caring about my emotions (during the game). Once the ball gets kicked off, I'm not going to worry about that either. I look forward to going out there and doing what we can do."

Martin isn't sure how he'll be received when he enters Neyland Stadium as a Kentucky coach. No matter how revered a person is, trading in your jersey for a rival's color can cross the line, even if it's for a valuable opportunity.

Just ask current Louisville basketball coach and former UK legend Rick Pitino how that goes.
"I can't explain what it's going to feel like when I pull up to the stadium," Martin said. "I just don't know."

Whatever happens, Rocky Top will always have a soft spot in Martin's heart.

"I spent a lot of my young life there," Martin said. "From when I was 17, to when I was a grown man and I went on to the NFL and won championships, you can't forget that. It's a special place to be, but I am working for Kentucky and we have a job to do when we get there."

UK head coach Joker Phillips said he hasn't spent much time talking to Martin about his return to UT, but offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and Martin had a brief conversation. As a 22-year player/coach at Tennessee, Sanders knows a thing or two about facing former school ties.

"We've haven't talked about it a whole lot," Sanders said. "Tee has been removed from it for about 10 or 11 years. It's not like he's just nine months removed from it. Obviously there will be a lot of familiar faces. Obviously the stadium and the field and everything are familiar, but you're also going to a different locker room wearing a different color. Once you get the initial reaction of going to a different locker room, it's game day. You're focused on what you need to do to win the game."

The trip to Knoxville will be Sanders' third as an opposing coach. Sanders was Martin's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when Martin was directing the UT offense.

"We made history at Tennessee," Martin said. "I know it's going to be emotional for him, but he has already done (returned to Tennessee). It's probably old habit for him, but this is my first time."

Of course, if both spent time at Tennessee, that means they were a big part of the 25-game winning streak over Kentucky.

Martin said they never specifically talked about The Streak when he was playing - The Streak was considerably shorter in the late 1990s - but Martin said Kentucky was a game they felt like they had to win.

"The thing that was ingrained in you when you were brought up was that you had to beat Florida and Alabama and Kentucky," Martin said. "That was pretty much how I was raised in that program. I wasn't aware of a streak. The coaching staff may have talked about it, but you don't even think about it. They had Tim Couch and all those guys. We knew we had to bring our A game to beat Kentucky."

Though the Vols have dominated Kentucky for a quarter of a century, as someone who has now been on both sides, Martin doesn't think it's been as lopsided in recent years and expects a close game Saturday.

"Since coach (Rich) Brooks got here, that game hasn't been as high scoring," Martin said. "This rivalry is a lot closer than a lot of people think. This year, (Tennessee) has a lot more talent than their record indicates. They have gotten better as the season has gone on and they need this game to go to a bowl game. They have their motivations and we have our motivation, so it's going to be a good game."

The game will carry special importance for one of Martin's position players, wide receiver Randall Cobb. As a native of nearby Alcoa, Tenn., Cobb did his best "it's just a game" impression Monday at Kentucky's weekly news conference.

No matter how Cobb chooses to approach the game, Martin has little doubt that Cobb will have a significant impact on the outcome.

"You can see it in his eyes," Martin said. "He is one of those types of veterans that you know he is going to bring his A game, but for this game, it is special. You can just look at him and tell by the way he is going about his business. We do what we do. Randall Cobb is part of our offense. There is no secret about that. I'm pretty sure that they know. He is excited about that. It will be his last chance to win in that stadium. You can look at his face and look in his eyes and tell that he is ready to go."

Cal says he missed on UConn's Walker

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TournamentLogo Color withR.jpgWhen Kentucky faces Connecticut in Wednesday night's EA Sports Maui Invitational championship game, head coach John Calipari will be coaching against the one that got away.

That one, UConn point guard Kemba Walker, has been the early season storyline of the college basketball season, scoring 18, 42, 31 and 30 points, respectively, to lead a young, upstart UConn team to a 4-0 start.

Calipari said he recruited Walker out of Rice High School in Bronx, N.Y., but didn't put a full-court recruiting press on him because he didn't realize just how good he was.

"Normally I can see something and I say, yes, let's go with it, this is the guy," Calipari said following UK's 74-67 win over No. 13/11 Washington.  "I missed it in him. I told him last year in the warm-up (in the game in Madison Square Garden), I said, 'I missed on you. No question I missed on you.' "

Walker was ranked No. 14 in the final 2008 Rivals.com recruiting class. Asked if it was Walker's 6-foot-1 stature that led Calipari to pass, Calipari pointed out that he signed eventual NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans instead.

"It's not that I passed on him," Calipari said. "It wasn't like Kemba said I've come (down to Connecticut and Memphis). I think what I did was we were recruiting a bunch of guys then. I think we got Tyreke, who is pretty good, too. But I went specifically to look at him because I like his high school coach, think he's a great guy. I went and looked at him and I said he's good. He was playing in a slippery gym in Pittsburgh somewhere, I believe.

"I think Jim (Calhoun) did a great job recruiting him, but it was like I didn't realize how good he really was. And everybody -- his coach told me you have no idea how good this kid is. Like I said, I made a mistake on that one. No question, he's terrific."

Walker is averaging 30.3 points in four games this year for the Huskies, including a 29-point second-half effort in UConn's first-round win over Wichita State and the go-ahead jumper in the upset of No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday night. Walker scored 12 points and dished out six assists in last year's UK-UConn game in the SEC/Big East Invitational.

Expect Kentucky guard DeAndre Liggins to guard Walker in the championship game.

Despite the recruiting miss, Calipari looks to have secured his third straight No. 1 class for the 2011 year.

Wednesday's championship game is slated to start at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Youth aside, this UK team is pretty darn good again

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UK_Washington_11.23.10_BW_23.JPGFor all the reasons this Kentucky men's basketball team shouldn't be an early season elite team - namely youth, inexperience, a lack of depth and no Enes Kanter - there are countless more that's made this team 4-0 and placed it on the national radar.

Those reasons: heart, passion, grit, talent and even youth, to name a few.

Yes, John Calipari has told everyone time and time again that this team has a long ways to go. And to a degree, especially for it only being November, it does.

But let's face it: Calipari is one of the best marketers in the game. He can sell a Thanksgiving turkey to a vegetarian and yet downplay a diamond to a jeweler if it means making his team better.

After a frantic, hold-your-breath 74-67 win over No. 13/11 Washington on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational, not even Calipari can disguise how good this UK team is.

"For us, there's nothing better, especially with a young team, to shoot 39 percent, 17 percent from the foul line, have double the turnovers than assists and still win a game," Calipari said with some slight exaggerations. "It's lovely. We played how we had to play with foul trouble in the first half ... and guys fought like crazy.

"I thought we had some great individual performances, yet our team is not there yet. We got a little selfish today. Defensively, at the end, it was like layup, layup and foul. We left the huddle (saying) don't foul, (yet) we fouled. That's what happens with young guys. But what I did like is we made the four free throws we had to, to finish the game. Those balls went down, and that means we have a will to win, and it's beginning to happen."

Though the wintry months of December, January and February have yet to descend on us, this group dominatied of 18- and 19-year-olds is already learning how to battle adversity and win. There is no John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins on this squad, but this group has proven to be pretty special nonetheless.

"These guys were hooting and hollering and hugging (after the game)," Calipari said.

There was plenty for them to hoot about Tuesday night:

First, was how the team responded to a streaky first half. After the Cats gained early control with an 18-0 run, Washington fought back and took a one-point halftime lead on a 29-14 run.

As Brandon Knight and Darius Miller sat on the bench with two fouls apiece, seldom-used players like Stacey Poole, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson filled in and kept the Huskies within reach.

"The beginning of the game, we knew this was going to be two teams going at one another, and you could not back down," Calipari said. "If they push, you push back."

And that's what Calipari's team did in the second half. After Washington found some momentum to close the first half, UK gained control of the game with a relentless defensive approach and a workman-like effort on the boards.

Entering the game averaging 107.1 points per game and a plus-12.3 rebounding margin, Washington shot just 25-of-65 from the floor and got outrebounded 49-39. UK pulled down 19 offensive rebounds and scored 17 second-chance points.

"They outrebounded us and they were more disciplined than we were," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "I think in those two areas that made the difference in the outcome."

That's right, a Kentucky team dominated with youth out-hustled and out-smarted a veteran Washington team that some pundits have tabbed a potential Final Four sleeper. Kentucky's first-half flurry was so fast and so defensive-minded that a usually unshakeable Washington team looked flustered.

UK is supposed to still be learning, right?

Well, for as important as the youth was Tuesday night - Knight led all scorers with 24 points - a couple of Kentucky's veterans (Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins) pitched in with huge efforts.

Just weeks after finding himself in the Calipari doghouse, Harrellson scored nine points and pulled down 14 big rebounds, a career high. Calipari praised Harrellson after the game for his pick-and-roll defense, UK's supposed Achilles heel.

"Just playing 34 minutes and coming through for my team when they needed me most and just coming out with a victory, that's more (important) than 14 rebounds a game," Harrellson said.

As has become the norm, Liggins provided another stingy defensive effort, holding Washington star Isaiah Thomas to 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

Meanwhile, freshman forward Terrence Jones, the pregame centerpiece because of the recruiting battle between UK and UW, handled himself well with the eyes of the nation fixated on him. In a physical, emotional game against some of his former friends, Jones had 16 points and 17 rebounds.

"There were a bunch of big plays that he came up with, a bunch of second-half rebounds," Calipari said. "We were so depleted (in the first half) that we were just throwing him the ball. We just said throw it to Terrence, this is all we can do. We ran no offense. There was nothing because we had guys that didn't know the offense. We had guys that hadn't played this year out there."

Of course, Knight was the scoring hero against Washington. He routinely got in the paint for runners and hit 10-of-17 shots just a night after struggling against Oklahoma.

"It was important as far as confidence but the main thing was trying to do whatever it took to get a win today," Knight said.

And win Kentucky did in an NCAA Tournament-like atmosphere.

Are there reasons Kentucky shouldn't be playing this well right now? Well, sure. But maybe one of the biggest reasons - youth - is serving more than one purpose.

Maybe this team is just too naive to realize it's not supposed to gut out games like Tuesday's. Maybe the players are just too young to care about rankings and a raucous crowd.

Whatever the case is, youth and all, this Kentucky team is pretty darn good already.

UK Hoops No. 9 in both polls

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The Kentucky women's basketball team moved up to No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll this week after defeating then-No. 12 Notre Dame last week. UK stayed at No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25.

AP Top 25

1. Connecticut (39)
2. Baylor
3. Stanford
4. Tennessee
5. Xavier
6. Duke (1)
7. Ohio St.
8. Texas A&M
9. Kentucky
10. West Virginia
11. Oklahoma
12. Georgetown
13. UCLA
14. North Carolina
15. Florida St.
16. Texas
17. Georgia
18. Notre Dame
19. Iowa St.
20. Iowa
21. TCU
22. St. John's
23. Maryland
24. Vanderbilt
25. Michigan St.

USA Today/ESPN
1. Connecticut (31)
2. Stanford
3. Baylor
4. Tennessee
5. Xavier
6. Duke
7. Ohio St.
8. Texas A&M
9. Kentucky
10. Oklahoma
11. West Virginia
12. Georgetown
13. UCLA
14. Florida St.
15. North Carolina
16. Notre Dame
17. Iowa St.
18. Georgia
19. Texas
20. Nebraska
21. Iowa
22. Vanderbilt
23. Wis. Green Bay
24. St. John's
25. TCU

 

Skinner on facing UT, UK's NCAA Tournament chances

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From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Nov. 23

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"That award is made for Randall."

That's what ESPN.com's Southeastern Conference blogger Chris Low said about Randall Cobb and the first-ever Paul Hornung Award, to be given out for this first time this season to college football's most versatile player, by the Louisville Sports Commission. Just try finding a better fit for that honor than Kentucky's No. 18.

"I'm not a voter but there's a lot to like there," said Karl Schmitt of the Louisville Sports Commission, which created the award to honor the Louisville native and former Green Bay Packers legend. "He's so consistent. And what I like to point out is besides the different ways he touches the ball, the guy (also) holds for field goals and extra points."

Schmitt said there's a panel of 16 voters from various parts of the country who will select the winner of the inaugural Hornung Award. 

"You just don't see people doing as many things as he did," Schmitt said of Hornung, noting that the award will be officially presented in a ceremony at Louisville's Galt House hotel on January 25, with another Green Bay legend, Bart Starr, as the featured speaker. "He played both ways and he kicked and he punted."

Cobb is vying for the top spot in the national all-purpose yards ranking and he's already set the UK record for career touchdowns with a season left to play -- unless he leaves for the NFL.

"I don't think (he will leave) because I don't think he will be projected high enough," Low said earlier this season when asked about the prospect of Cobb entering the draft after this season. "If you are a first-round pick you ought to go; if you are a second-round pick, depending on your background, you think about it. I don't think that Randall will be that high right now. 

"I think the problem is that the NFL people are all interested, and I have talked to several of them, but they are trying to figure out where he will play. Will he play receiver or can he play defense? He certainly can be involved in the return game but he is not a natural receiver. He is absolutely one of my favorite players in the SEC and college football because, I have said it so many times, we can take Randall out and have a race and he probably won't be the fastest, he is certainly not the biggest guy, and you start talking about who looks the best and he won't stand out. But when you put pads on him and turn the scoreboard on and give him the football, he is magnificent.

"If you get the football on the 4- or 5-yard line and have one play to score a touchdown and I can pick anyone in the SEC to give the football to, it would be Randall Cobb because he can do so many things. He can throw it, throw it to himself, he can run it (because) he is so good at seeing things, holes and creases. He is a tough, tough player. Kentucky is very, very lucky to have him." 

I reminded Low that his comment about giving it to Cobb for one game-winning play would bring back some bad memories from last year's Tennessee game when Cobb did not get the call on UK's last offensive snap of regulation.   

"I'd say Joker (Phillips) and Randy (Sanders) would like to have that one back," Low said.

Low said the fact that this has been the first season in which Cobb has played receiver on a full-time basis means there's probably some improvement left in the fundamentals of playing that position at the next level.

So how did Cobb escape Knoxville, Tenn., given that he played high school ball only a short drive from the UT campus?

"They are still asking that question (in Knoxville) every time they see him score a touchdown up there in Lexington," Low said. "There was a combination of a few things. Tennessee was a little slow to pull the trigger because Randall wanted to play quarterback, and that was important to him, and I don't think Tennessee and (then) offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe were sure he could play quarterback or at least be a fit for that system.

"But as the year wore on and he guided (Alcoa High School) to a state championship, he was so good that someone told Phil Fulmer that if you don't go after this guy, you are crazy. Well, Tennessee did, but by that time they were too late. Kentucky had done a great job with him. Randy Sanders had recruited him and to Randall's credit, he was with Kentucky and was not going to go back on his word and felt that Kentucky had been with him all along. He saw himself with that program and has had a fabulous career."

UK basketball coach John Calipari often says he doesn't know much about football but he does know leaders. And Cobb went to Coach Cal earlier this season to discuss that subject.

"He's a unique athlete and person," Calipari said.

Indeed he is.

Nov. 21 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, Nov. 21:

Women's basketball: Victoria Dunlap

Registered her first season and 23rd career double-double with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds in the 81-76 win over No. 12 Notre Dame on Sunday. Went 7-of-12 from the floor and 10-of-12 shooting from the foul line, playing a team-high 38 minutes. Grabbed a season- and game-high 14 rebounds while adding a team-high four assists, three block and two steals in the win. Averages a league-high 4.3 steals per game and has now grabbed at least one in 44 of her last 45 games. With 24 points, Dunlap has now scored in double digits in 36 of her last 39 games, including 10 straight. Made 10-of-12 free throws in the game, moving up to fourth place on UK's career free throws made list with 326.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot led the Wildcats to a much-needed road victory at Ole Miss in helping UK to its third straight victory over an SEC West foe. Klefot had a match-high 26 digs to lead UK with an astounding average of 6.50 digs per frame. Her 26 digs in the four-set match is the highest total for a four-set match in SEC action this season and it marks the third time in the last four matches she has tallied 25 or more digs in a match. Klefot has now charted 493 digs for the season and with one more regular-season match to play she is set to become just the fourth player in school history to amass 500 or more digs in a single year. She currently ranks fifth for a single season in UK allure. Klefot also dished out three assists in the match which matches a career high for dimes in a single outing.

Men's basketball: Brandon Knight

Knight scored a personal-best 21 points in leading Kentucky to a 79-48 win at Portland. Knight shot better than 50 percent from the field (7-of-13), while hitting a pair of 3-pointers and going 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He also blocked a career-high two shots.

Men's basketball: Darius Miller

Helped lead Kentucky to a 79-48 win at Portland with a solid all-around game. Finished with career highs in steals and blocks while scoring 15 points, shooting 6-of-7 from the field, including 3-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. Scored seven straight points during UK's 15-0 run to open the game against Portland

Volleyball: Becky Pavan

Junior Becky Pavan led the Wildcats to a hard-fought and much-needed road victory at Ole Miss on Friday. Pavan paced the UK offense to the tune of a team-high 12 kills. Pavan also added offensive numbers with a pair of aces and a total of five blocks. For the week, she averaged 3.00 kills per stanza on a sizzling .417 hitting clip. She also notched 1.25 rejections per set for 4.25 points per stanza which ranks as tops on the team. As a middle blocker, she also picked up four digs which is just the third time this season she has scooped up four or more digs in a match. For the week, her numbers were more than double her season average in kills, hitting percentage, aces, digs, blocks and points per game.

Women's basketball: Bernisha Pinkett

Freshman Bernisha Pinkett came off the bench and scored a career-high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, in just 23 minutes against No. 12 Notre Dame. Pulled down a career-high five rebounds, including four offensive boards. Led all scorers at halftime with 10 points, including 2-of-4 shooting from behind the arc. Currently UK's third-leading scorer with 12.0 points a game.

Swimming & diving: Kayla Sergesketter

Senior Kayla Sergesketter led the women's side in the Tennessee Invitational by earning NCAA (B) qualifying times in the 200 freestyle relay as the lead swimmer, the 400 medley relay as the anchor, the 50 freestyle, the 200 freestyle, the 200 medley relay where she was the anchor, the 100 freestyle and the 400 freestyle relay as the anchor.

Jones playing like best freshman in the country

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RBW_5635.jpgWashington coach Lorenzo Romar, in Hawaii for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, may have cringed when watching Terrence Jones dominate the floor in Kentucky's first-round win over Oklahoma.

Better yet, what if UK coach John Caliapri had not won the much-publicized and over-scrutinized recruiting battle for Jones? Thinking of a scenario without Jones after Monday night is scary enough to turn a paradise like Hawaii into a nightmare for Coach Cal.

In perhaps the Cats' sloppiest game of the young season - a humid, sweat-filled gym, tougher competition and Brandon Knight's first off game may be the reasons for that - Jones was the difference from beginning, middle to end in Kentucky 76-64 win over Oklahoma.

Jones' stat line was eye-popping: 29 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and two steals. His 29 points were two shy of Jamal Mashburn's freshman single-game record of 31.

"He's alright," Calipari said with an overwhelming tone of sarcastic modesty as Jones smiled just a few feet away at the postgame news conference.

 Yeah, not bad for an overlooked, 6-foot-8, versatile forward who, at No. 13 in the 2010 Rivals.com player rankings, may have been undersold, and is playing out of position as the lone legitimate post presence on a team short of big men.

"I felt last year, when we recruited him, I thought Terrence Jones was the best player in the country in his class," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said after falling to Jones and Kentucky. "I know there were some other guys that got some accolades, but I just didn't see anyone that could have an impact on a game like he could. He certainly did that this afternoon."

Jones left his fingerprints on just about every part of UK's opening-round tournament win. He started the game with smooth floaters and jump hooks, widened the UK margin with authoritative, blow-by dunks, and finished the game with seven of nine points down the stretch, including a key assist and block.

When Oklahoma rallied from an 18-point deficit, it was Jones' versatility that iced the game. With Oklahoma trailing by 11 with just under five minutes to go, Jones ripped down a rebound, raced the length of the floor and whipped a no-look pass between two defenders to a streaking Josh Harrellson for a layup.

It was a play exemplified by top-rated point guards, not 6-8 forwards.

"He truly is a point forward," Capel said. "He can really pass the ball with his left. He can affect the game defensively. I loved him. I didn't love him this afternoon, but when we recruited him I loved him. That was my whole pitch to him. I thought he was the best player in the country. Regardless of who anyone else was talking about or where anyone else was ranked, I didn't think anyone could do all the things that he could do."

Minutes later, Jones blocked a 3-point shot that would have cut the UK lead to three points before running the length of the floor for a game-sealing dunk.

"It was just me and DeAnde's (Liggins) day to bring a lot of energy," Jones said. "Last game Brandon and Darius (Miller) brought most of the energy on both ends and brought the team up. I would just say today was me and DeAndre's day to."

Liggins deserves much of the praise as well for his unremitting defense and energy. Liggins charted 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals, countless floor burns and one sore shoulder (he said after the game that he should be OK to go Tuesday).

But Kentucky doesn't hold off Oklahoma and won't stay in the top 25 very long without the play of Jones.

He's taken what would have been be a good Kentucky team and made it an elite team. And make no mistake about it, with Jones playing as well as anyone in the country right now, young or not, this is one of the top 10 teams in the country.

"Probably a week ago, I was watching him, just staring at him in a meeting, and I said, 'You know I love coaching you and I love you,' " Calipari recalled saying. "And I said, "But it's going to be hard, kid, because I'm going to have to be right on you because you have the ability to dominate games.

" 'I don't care that you're 18. I've had other 18 year olds that have your ability and your size and your length and they dominated the games. But that's hard.' He's not used to playing this hard. He's not used to competing. As the game gets more physical, that's when we'll find out if he's ready to be that guy."

So far, Jones (averaging 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds) is that guy. On a team with mega recruits like Knight and Doron Lamb and veterans like Miller and Liggins, it's Jones who has proven to be most valuable.

When the offense went stagnant in the second half against Oklahoma, it was Jones that stepped up and led UK to the finish line. And when Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible a couple of weeks ago, it was Jones who embraced his role as the enforcer in the paint.

Now, as the rest of the nation starts to take notice of the way Jones has started the 2010 season, he'll have to face his most intriguing test yet. If No. 13/11 Washington takes care of business against Virginia late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, Jones will face the team he originally committed to before Kentucky.

"With this tournament, I'm ready to play whoever wins," Jones said. "I do have a lot of friends on that team and me and Coach Romar are good friends. He's a great coach, but I'm respecting both (Washington and Virginia)."

Jones may be playing like the best freshman in the country "today," Calipari said, but tomorrow could bring a whole different challenge if Jones' original college choice is next on the schedule. 

The battle for quite possibly the best player in the 2010 class may be long over, but the intriguing early season storyline of Terrence Jones is about to get even better. Stay tuned Tuesday night.

Cats can't downplay significance of ending The Streak

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FB 09_10 UK_TN WEB 76.jpgRandall Cobb can reverse a message nearly as fast as he can reverse directions on the football field, but even Cobb can't fake how important the Tennessee game is this year.

"It's just another game," said Cobb, a Tennessee native, who, just a week ago, expressed his desire to play UT right after the Vanderbilt win. "I've got nothing to say this week. I'm going to talk with my pads."

A valiant effort by Cobb to stick to the team message no doubt, but there was no denying what the slight smile Cobb let out shortly after meant.

Like it has been for the better part of two decades, the infamous losing streak to Tennessee is once again on the line this week. But when all things are considered - Tennessee playing for bowl eligibility, the Cats' chance at a bigger bowl game and this being one of the final notorious losing streaks for UK left to conquer - this year's annual regular-season finale has an even larger feel to it.

Phillips, no stranger to the rivalry as a member of the 1984 UK team, the last squad to beat Tennessee, didn't devalue the significance of this week's game at his weekly news conference Monday  - Saturday's showdown at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., is big.

"You can't say it's just another game for either party," Phillips said. "You can't go down there and find any person that will say it's just another game. It's a big game for both parties involved.  We've got a chance to be 7-5. They've got a chance to be bowl eligible. So it's a big game." 

Phillips did try to take a page out of Cobb's book by downplaying how often they'll use  the 25-game losing streak to Tennessee, but there are references to Tennessee and The Streak scattered throughout Kentucky's practice complex.

Taped on the door of the Wildcat Den at Commonwealth Stadium was a sticker that read "Beat Tennessee." Senior offensive tackle Brad Durham said there are reminders in the hallways of the Nutter Training Facility and locker room reminding them of the streak.

Durham even wore a shirt with the numbers "517" on it. Though nobody let the proverbial cat out of the bag and revealed the number's meaning, it obviously references some sort of Tennessee tie (any guesses, readers?).

"It's undeniable that there has been a (losing) streak," junior cornerback Anthony Mosley said. "We don't really bring it up a tremendous amount, but it's undeniable that there has been a streak and it will be in the back of our minds when we play."

Kentucky has ended a lot of hexes over the last few years, most notably this year's victory over South Carolina and Steve Spurrier and last year's road-defining wins at Georgia and at Auburn. But if there is one thing that still defines the separation that exists between Kentucky and the next step in the Southeastern Conference, it's the losing streak to Tennessee.

"It's just like South Carolina," Mosley said. "It proves that when it comes to rivals, we can beat them; when it comes to top-10 teams, we can beat them. If we can do that this Saturday, it would just prove that we can beat anybody. It's something that we have to do."

To be taken seriously in the SEC, to make that leap up the league ladder, the players feel it's imperative they put the losing streak to Tennessee behind them.

"Everybody is tired of hearing about 25 years," Durham said.

Meanwhile, the Volunteers don't want to earn the dubious distinction of being the team that finally lost to Kentucky.

The end of The Streak seemed like it was coming to fruition a month ago as the Vols struggled under first-year coach Derrick Dooley, but Tennessee has since rallied behind freshman quarterback Tyler Bray and won three straight games.

 The winning streak has the Vols a win away from bowl eligibility with one game remaining.

"In the last three games, offensively, they have gone with the freshmen, Bray, and their numbers are unbelievable offensively," Phillips said. "They're playing really well; one of the hardest teams in the SEC right now."

A win over Tennessee would befit a game that carries so much magnitude. A Tennessee program that has long dominated an inferior Kentucky program is now on the brink of a rare mediocre stretch. A loss would mean the Vols would miss postseason play for only the fourth time in 30 seasons.

On the other hand, a UK win could still open the door for the significant next step the players and coaches have talked about all season long. Although hopes of a bigger, better bowl game appeared to be dashed with a loss to Mississippi State nearly a month ago, a victory would insert Kentucky into the Gator Bowl discussion.

Regaining some postseason possibilities - not denying Tennessee's - is the most important stake for UK, Phillips said.

"Our goal is to be 7-5 at this point," Phillips said. "The sweetness of (denying Tennessee a bowl game) has nothing to do with it. It will be sweet for us to be 7-5."

And sweet for Cobb, who will be playing his final game near his hometown of Alcoa, Tenn. Not that Cobb is willing to talk about it.

"The only thing we need to worry about is preparing to execute," Cobb said. "If we do those two things, the rest will take care of itself."

Crawford suspended for season; Neloms out a half: Phillips handed out a season-ending suspension to senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford at Monday's news conference while announcing the SEC's decision to suspend cornerback Martivus Neloms for the first half of the Tennessee game.

Crawford, who was suspended a game earlier in the season for a violation of team rules, has been suspended for the UT game and bowl game for another violation of team rules.

Neloms was suspended by the SEC office for throwing a punch in the Vanderbilt game.

UK men's basketball moves up in polls

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We're just a couple hours away from the 5:30 p.m. ET tip between UK and Oklahoma in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Though these rankings likely become a moot point after this week's tournament in Hawaii, it seems like voters have moved past the Enes Kanter decision and like what they have seen from UK in its first two games.

The Cats jumped to No. 8 in this week's AP Top 25 and No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Full rankings are below:

AP Top 25

1. Duke (58)
2. Michigan St. (6)
3. Ohio St.
4. Kansas St. (1)
5. Pittsburgh
6. Kansas
7. Villanova
8. Kentucky
9. Syracuse
10. Purdue
11. Missouri
12. Baylor
13. Washington
14. Memphis
15. Minnesota
t16. Florida
t16. Georgetown
18. San Diego St.
19. Illinois
20. Texas
21. Temple
22. Gonzaga
23. BYU
24. Tennessee
25. North Carolina

USA Today/ESPN
1. Duke (29)
2. Michigan St. (2)
3. Ohio St.
4. Kansas St.
5. Pittsburgh
6. Kansas
7. Villanova
8. Purdue
9. Kentucky
10. Syracuse
11. Washington
12. Missouri
13. Baylor
14. Florida
15. Memphis
16. Georgetown
17. Minnesota
18. Gonzaga
19. Illinois
20. Temple
21. Texas
22. San Diego St.
23. Butler
24. Tennessee
25. North Carolina

UK football players on Tennessee, The Streak

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Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb


Junior cornerback Anthony Mosley


Senior offensive lineman Brad Durham

Kentucky wins Big Blue Crush

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Kentucky has ended one streak with Tennessee.

Kentuckians donated a record 3,503 pints of blood to defeat Tennessee in the 23rd annual Big Blue Crush, a yearly blood battle between UK and Tennessee. The weeklong battle, which takes place before the UK-Tennessee football game, helps to ensure an adequate blood supply is available during the holidays.

UK's win snapped a seven-year losing streak to Tennessee.

"There are two streaks we've got to break," head coach Joker Phillips said at the beginning of the blood drive. "We haven't won (the blood drive) since 2002. At the end of this week, I expect one of them to be broken. In two weeks, we'll take care of the other one."

Now it's time for the football streak.

 

Live blog: Phillips' weekly news conference (Tennessee)

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Maui Invitational links

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Cal.jpgSome links from five times zones west, where the Kentucky men's basketball team is getting ready for the EA Sports Maui Invitational (will update as more stories come in):

- Brett Dawson from The Courier-Journal writes that John Calipari might try implement a new "funky" zone with his team:

The zone has been a four-letter defense for most of John Calipari's career, but the University of Kentucky basketball coach has added one to his playbook, and the Wildcats might employ it during this week's Maui Invitational.

Just don't ask them to explain it.

The Calzone, apparently, defies description.

"It's a funky -- it's not a traditional zone," Calipari said. "It's a little bit of a crazy, funky zone that we're going to start using, that I'll probably use over in Maui. It's a combination of a couple different zones that we're just going to throw at people and see what happens."

- Calipari hopes Kentucky's child's play won't be scary, writes Dawson:

The sky and the water are the brightest blue here in basketball paradise.

The teams and coaches assembled for the Maui Invitational are first-rate, as usual.

And yet University of Kentucky coach John Calipari sounded uncertain on Sunday whether his 12th-ranked Wildcats are in the right place at the right time.

- Jerry Tipton from the Lexington Herald-Leader on Calipari teaching Terrence Jones how to be great:

"We've just got to get some guys a little tougher. When they get bumped, when they get bodied up, they shoot fadeaway hooks and stuff."

Sitting to Calipari's left, freshman Terrence Jones couldn't beat back the shy smile that crept across his face.

Yes, Calipari was talking about Jones, who faced the biggest team yet in his introduction to college basketball. Though the loser this night by a decisive margin, Portland had the bodies to push UK ... and to activate Calipari's demand for more-more-more.

- Tipton writes that experience could mean sink or swim for the Cats:

Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar used the analogy of a swimmer drowning or a boxer getting hit with a haymaker when explaining the difference experience can make.

"If a boxer loses his form and starts wildly swinging, he's going to get knocked out," Romar said Sunday at a news conference for coaches leading teams in this year's EA Sports Maui Invitational. "He's going to get knocked out.

"If you feel you're drowning, you forget your form," he said. "You start panicking, you're going to drown."

- Matt May from The Cats' Pause writes about the experience factor in Maui:

The event features six quality programs from major conferences, as well as an up-and-coming Wichita State team. In the span of 72 hours each of those squads will be served a healthy dose of knowledge about their team, which is exactly why the Maui Invitational has become the preseason college basketball tournament over the past decade.

"This is a great tournament," Kentucky coach Calipari said. "This is a great experience to find out what we really are and see if we have some players who when they're up against it can play. The holes that we have will be exploited by these gentlemen and that's why you go to a tournament like this. What do we have to work for to be competitive?"

According to the Associated Press, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Terrence Jones always wanted to go to Kentucky:

Leis around their neck, the Pacific Ocean over their shoulders, Kentucky's John Calipari and Washington's Lorenzo Romar didn't look like two coaches still bitter about a fierce offseason recruiting battle.

If anything, they were almost giddy, thrilled to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world and about the opportunity their teams have in the first true test of the season.

Terrence Jones? He didn't come up until someone asked, and even then the down-to-the-last-second recruiting duel wasn't an issue.

"Honestly, we could make a big deal out of it, but it's just going to be a game where you have a lot of respect for their program,'' Romar said as waves crashed about 50 yards away. "All the teams we have a chance to play here, all our guys are going to look forward to it.''

- Coach Cal with his thought from Maui, courtesty of Lexy.com:


Johnson continues to emerge in NFL

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124johnsons.jpgPersonal confession: I'm a Cincinnati Bengals fan; embarrassingly a huge one. Please forgive me for it; I was born one.

But even my Cincinnati ties aren't enough to stop me from applauding what former UK wide receiver Steve Johnson did to my Bengals on Sunday.

In a wacky, almost surreal 49-31 come-from-behind Buffalo Bills win, Johnson caught eight passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. The Bills trailed 28-7 at one point before Johnson torched the Cincinnati secondary.

Johnson's 11-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter put Buffalo ahead 35-31. From there, Buffalo never looked back.

Johnson leads the Bills with 52 catches for 728 yards and nine touchdowns. If it weren't for Buffalo's struggles, you'd be hearing a lot more about Johnson.

UK_Notre Dame_BM_015.JPGAs far as early season games go, Sunday's Kentucky-Notre Dame showdown was as good as it gets.

Faced with an NCAA Tournament-like atmosphere in front of a near-packed house of 6,794 fans at Memorial Coliseum, the No. 9/10 Kentucky women's basketball team made a pretty significant statement to the rest of college basketball with an 81-76 win over No. 12 Notre Dame:

Last season was no fluke. And this year's team, still very much a work in progress, could be just as good, if not better, than last year's team by season's end.

"I don't think anyone is making statements two weeks into the season," UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "Notre Dame clearly has some talented players and a good basketball team, and we were fortunate to win. We are just happy that we could get better this week and the players could be rewarded with a win."

But the emotions of Sunday, from the relentless defense to the electric "Pack the House" crowd inside Memorial Coliseum and even Mitchell's foot-stomping tirades on the sideline, said all one needed to know about the type of statement Kentucky was hoping to send with a victory over the Fighting Irish.

Fitting of a team with a motto "Can You Hear Us Now?" the Cats screamed they're once again for real.

"It shows that we have worked hard," junior guard Keyla Snowden said. "In the practices in the summer, in the preseason, we worked hard. Every day we try to take advantage of our fundamentals and take advantage of how we come out. Last year was not a fluke. Every day we are trying to prove that and just keep improving on our legacy."

The legacy of this 3-0 Kentucky team remains very much a tossup, but already these Cats, mixed with news faces and old, are establishing a very similar identity to last year's team.

UK forced 17 Notre Dame turnovers, scored 18 points off Fighting Irish mishaps and came up with timely big plays when they were needed the most.

The veteran, Victoria Dunlap, played like an All-American; the rising star, A'dia Mathies, fought through an off game and came up with a key late steal; the sharpshooter, Keyla Snowden, hit the biggest shots of the game whenever Notre Dame inched close; the versatile newcomer, Maegan Conwright, held Fighthing Irish star Skylar Diggins in check until late in the game; and even the young, naive freshman, Bernisha Pinkett, banked in an unlikely 3-pointer.

Kentucky no doubt caught some good fortune Sunday, but good teams somehow find ways to manufacture a few breaks.

"I was very concerned about our young team handling zone offense execution," Mitchell said. "As you saw, it's rough at times. For us to win a game, we had to have a break like that on this day. Hopefully we will continue to progress as a team and we won't have to bank one in from the corner. But I'm glad we did today."

Pinkett doesn't make that banked 3-pointer, though, if the Cats don't play with the type of unwavering confidence they exhibited against Notre Dame.

Despite missing their first 12 attempts from behind the 3-point line, the Cats kept shooting, sometimes at almost a head-scratching rate. But by the second half, the long-range bombs started to pay off, especially for Snowden.

Returning from a right knee sprain that sidelined her for a game, Snowden drilled four momentum-killing 3-pointers in the second half. Three of Snowden's second-half 3s came after Notre Dame cut the lead to four points or fewer.

"I really thought that No. 4 won the game for them," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of Snowden. "I thought the 3s that she hit were unforgivable defensively for us. They were huge shots when we were trying to guard her. I really thought if we could have guarded her we could have won the game."

Snowden hit just 1-of-5 from behind the arc in the first half, but like any good shooter, she had a short memory.

"As a shooter, you just have to stay confident and keep shooting," said Snowden, who finished with 17 points on 5-of-12 perimeter shooting. "Whether you are 0-for or not, you just keep shooting. That is just something a shooter has to do. You have to have that confidence. It's like that old saying, 'You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don't take,' so you just have to keep shooting."

Just ask Dunlap. Despite a rough start to the season shooting the ball (last year's Southeastern Conference Player of the Year entered the game 9-of-30 from the field), Dunlap helped will her team to a win Sunday.

Without the services of freshman center Samantha Drake, who sprained her left knee against Miami (Ohio), Dunlap had to play like a one-man frontcourt. Based on her final stat line of 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals, it looked like she did.

"I think I could go another game or two right now," Dunlap said. "I think I got my mindset this week during practice. I was telling the coaches in practice this week that if I looked tired to not let me come out of the drill. I knew that I would have to contribute minutes for our team, and I think I did that."

Dunlap's biggest contribution came on the boards. When a taller, stronger Notre Dame team took over on the boards, Dunlap provided key rebounds, often times grabbing the ball between two and three players as she was slung to the ground.

"I don't know what we would've done without her," Mitchell said. "We were absolutely destroyed on the boards and it looked like to me that the important ones we did get, it was Victoria going to work. She showed up big in a big-time game, and that's a high level to play at in the early part of the season. That's two teams that have aspirations of being on the national scene, and Victoria played like a big-time player."

Asked after the game if Sunday's victory was a statement win, Dunlap thought so.

"For people to see that we actually can play with a team of that caliber says a lot," Dunlap said. "Even though we may not have as much hype as them as a program, we still think we have the capability of going out on the court, being aggressive and knowing what to go in big games."

Head coach Matthew Mitchell


UK players (from left to right) Keyla Snowden, Victoria Dunlap and Bernisha Pinkett

Live blog: No. 9/10 UK Hoops vs. No. 12 Notre Dame

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Notes and observations from UK-Portland

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I missed my flight with the team to Portland and Hawaii, so unfortunately I'm stuck in Kentucky. Kidding on missing the flight, but really, I'm in the Bluegrass State for the entire road trip. That means all I've got for the next week on Kentucky men's basketball are some brief notes and observations. I hope they'll make do. Here are Friday night's (or Saturday morning's) observations from UK's 79-48 win over Portland, the Cats' second win of the season:

- For it being only the second game of the season, Kentucky is playing pretty good defense. Though Portland missed some point-blank shots in the early going and fought off some big-game jitters, a lot of the credit should be pointed UK's way for holding Portland without a field goal for the first eight minutes of the game. At that point, the Cats held a 15-0 lead and never looked back. Kentucky looked to be in midseason form for most of the game on the defensive end. When the Cats weren't swarming, they were deflecting loose balls, coming up with steals (seven) or blocking shots (six). Portland shot 9-of-32 from the field in the first half and 18-of-59 (30.5 percent) for the game.

- DeAndre Liggins didn't put up a spectacular stat line, but he put together the type of defensive effort that earned high praise from his head coach last year. Liggins guarded sharpshooter Jared Stohl for most of the evening and held him to 11 points. Stohl rarely got free from Liggins, and when he did, last year's top 3-pointer in college basketball shooter hit only 1-of-6 3-point shots.

- Brandon Knight isn't John Wall nor will he ever be. Simply two different players. But get this: He may be a better overall scorer. For as fast as Wall is and as successful as he is on the NBA scene, Knight is scoring the ball with uncanny efficiency for a freshman. Knight has hit 13 of his first 26 collegiate shots, including four from behind the 3-point line. He isn't putting up the assist numbers that Wall did, but he's getting to the lane with relative ease and may have an even better-than-advertised jump shot. Knight has been silky smooth on the offensive end and provided a calming presence when the ball is in his hands. If there is one criticism from Friday, it's that he committed some bad fouls. But hey, he's a freshman and it's only his second career game. Against Portland, he finished with a game-high 21 points.

- Nice overall game from Darius Miller. The veteran was one of the primary sparks in UK's 15-0 run. Miller scored nine first-half points and finished with 15 total points, five rebounds, five steals, four assists and four blocks. If UK is going to be successful this year, Miller is going to have to play a role similar to the one we saw Friday.

- Terrence Jones would probably be the first one to tell you he forced it a bit against Portland. Playing in his hometown in front of countless friends, family and supporters, Jones finished with five points on 5-of-12 shooting. Jones struggled in the first half and hit just one field before coming alive in the second half. It wasn't quite the 25-point, 12-rebound debut we witnessed against East Tennessee State, but not bad for a freshman making a much-anticipated return home. 

- Overall it was about as good of a start as one could ask for on the road trip. Portland is better than it looked Friday, and part of the reason the Pilots didn't look good is because of Kentucky. It's early and the competition only gets tougher from here, but confidence is already brewing with this young UK team.

Mitchell calls Notre Dame game a huge opportunity

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UK_Morehead_41.JPGAs if No. 12 Notre Dame in the third game of the season with six freshmen on the roster wasn't enough, the Kentucky women's basketball team has found an early season hurdle in the form of the injury bug.

In No. 9/10 Kentucky's first game of the season, sharpshooter Keyla Snowden went down with a nasty right knee sprain. Snowden practiced Thursday and was expected to again Friday, but she's a game-time decision for Sunday.

Then, freshman forward Samantha Drake, a surprise starter and significant contributor to begin the year, sprained her left knee against Miami (Ohio) and is questionable for the Notre Dame game. She was not expected to practice Friday.

Pair those injuries with the already indefinite absence of point guard Amber Smith and suddenly a once deep UK team is shrinking thinner by the day as it prepares for a huge showdown with a high-scoring Fighting Irish team Sunday at 1 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.

No worries, though, Wildcat fans: Head coach Matthew Mitchell has found a quick cure in freshman do-it-all Maegan Conwright.

The 5-foot-8 freshman guard out of Arlington, Texas, has played a significant role in her first two collegiate games, serving as a one-man band-aid for Mitchell's injury-plagued team. Though she came in as the least heralded of UK's five-player mega recruiting class, she's made the largest contribution so far.

Conwright, a Texas high school state champion, scored eight points and pulled down four rebounds in her debut against Morehead State before recording 15 points, five steals, four assists and three rebounds in a big 31 minutes in a win over Miami (Ohio).

"I struggle a little bit remembering all the plays and where I'm supposed to go in every position, but Coach Mitchell helps me a lot," Conwright said. "I'm willing to do whatever, play wherever to help the team."

Conwright came to Kentucky as a defensive stalwart and earned playing time over her highly regarded teammates because of it, but it's largely been her versatility and ability to play multiple positions that's helped her get on the court.

She played all five positions in high school, and at UK she has seen time at every position besides center.

"She has been very valuable," Mitchell said. "You have the possibility of going into this game against a highly ranked opponent possibly missing two starters and you still feel like you have a chance. That is a credit to our players and how hard they have worked and how hard they have prepared. I don't know how things will turn out on Sunday, but I know that the kids are going to go in there and fight hard, and Maegan is a great example of that.

"Maegan is a great example because she really doesn't know what she is doing at any of the positions, so you can just put her at any of the positions and it doesn't really matter," Mitchell joked. "She is going to play hard and maybe get some steals and maybe get a few rebounds, and I know she is going to go to the bucket."

Conwright represents a growing trend and change in Mitchell's recruiting philosophy to target versatile, interchangeable players that can play multiple positions.

Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap and SEC Freshman of the Year A'dia Mathies are probably the best examples of the flexibility Mitchell has with his roster, but just about every player has the ability to play multiple positions.

"I had a very traditional view on recruiting when I got here four years ago," Mitchell said. "I wanted to sign a great five, I wanted to sign a great four, and I got the list out and all those things. That's the approach that we were taking. For whatever reason, we were lacking passion in some different places, and so my idea on who we wanted here started to evolve into, 'Hey, this a great place to come play basketball. This is a great school, great university.' I just want people that want to come to Kentucky and then we'll figure the rest out and we'll figure out what position you play and what we're going to do."

Conwright fits that description perfectly.

"It's really exciting playing UK basketball," Conwright said. "I love the defense and I love the tempo."

As a result, UK has created a fast-paced, defensive-minded style out of having those types of players. Now, Mitchell and his coaching staff are looking at those athletic, "tweener"-type players that can play multiple positions.

It's been extremely beneficial for the Cats through the first couple of games.

With Smith out for the foreseeable future and with questions lingering around the point guard position, Conwright went to assistant coach Matt Insell and inserted her name into the discussion with junior Crystal Riley and highly regarded freshman Jennifer O'Neill.

"I knew that I could guard the point because I'm good at on-the-ball defense, so that was my main focus at first," Conwright said. "I played point in high school, so if (Mitchell) needed me I was there. I let him know that if he needed somebody else, if Crystal got tired or Jen got tired, I could be there to hold a spot for a minute until they got their rest."

What role Conwright will play in UK's biggest challenge of the year Sunday remains to be seen.

Playing in what is expected to be one of the team's biggest crowds of the year against a nationally ranked opponent that is averaging 91.0 points per game will provide a test more difficult than any of the freshmen have faced yet.

Asked what he'll tell a team mixed with youth and experience, Mitchell said to play hard and seize the opportunity.

"I want to win in the worst way," Mitchell said. "This is a very important game. We need to win it and we want to win it, but really it's just full of opportunity for our players. If we win, it's a fantastic thing for us. We'll learn through the win. If we get beat, these players have now played in the third game of their career. They've played at a high level. All the external things around them that we're trying to shield them from, inevitably they have to deal with those things. I just think it's a day full of opportunity for these young kids. We must find something positive out of this experience when they make the decision to play hard."

From the Pressbox: Notes from Tom Leach (Nov. 19)

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John Calipari is challenging his Kentucky team to be great at 3-point shooting, and the Cats will get a chance to see one of the best in action when the Wildcats play Portland on Friday night.

Portland's Jared Stohl led the nation in 3-point accuracy last season, hitting 48 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

"I think the thing about Jared that I've seen is the fact that with all the NBA players I've seen over the years, he's undoubtedly got the quickest release on his shot of any player I've seen," Pilots radio play-by-play man Bill Johnson said in an interview with www.tomleachky.com, adding that Stohl "looks like he's about 15 years old."

Johnson said Stohl gets most of his 3-point looks off picks but added the Pilots are pushing the pace offensively much more this season than they did a year ago.

"They have great ball movement," Johnson said. "They move (it) really quickly. Quick passes, good picks, a lot of backdoor plays and they'll set up a lot of screens for Stohl."

Portland's starting lineup also includes the son of former Seattle Supersonics' Jack Sikma.

"(Luke Sikma) is tough," Johnson said. "He will not be intimidated by anybody. (He's a) prolific rebounder and a very good defender. He's the type of player that every team in America would like to have on their roster. "

Johnson said the Portland coaching staff knows Kentucky's athleticism provides a tough matchup, but the returning members of the Pilots' team were part of wins last season over Oregon, UCLA and Minnesota.

"History never won a game and tradition never won a game," Johnson said of the staff's message to the team. "The Pilots have great respect for Kentucky -- who wouldn't? -- but they're looking forward to the challenge."

Johnson said Portland plays an occasional game in the Rose Garden, which is the site for Friday's contest and the home of the NBA's Trail Blazers. Normally, the Pilots play in a 5,000-seat gym on campus.

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This will mark the second-ever meeting between UK and Portland. The first came in 1989, in the old UKIT, when the Pilots' coach was former UK and Portland Trail Blazers' star Larry Steele.

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Kentucky's last game in Maui, Hawaii, came four years ago in the third-place game at the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Remember the team that beat the Cats that day?

It was Memphis, coached by John Calipari, which beat UK 80-63.

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Of Kentucky's top 10 all-time leading scorers, three -- Jack Givens, Kevin Grevey and Tayshaun Prince -- are left-handed like current freshman Terrence Jones.

He probably won't be in a UK uniform long enough to become the fourth, but Jones might make a run at the best-ever first year for a lefty at UK. But it's a tall hill to climb. 

Grevey scored 524 points and averaged 18.7 points per game in his first varsity season back in 1972-73 (as a sophomore). If you look at freshmen only, Givens' 292 points is the best for freshman southpaw.

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Coach Cal has often repeated the story about how he was advised against renewing the scholarship for DeAndre Liggins when Calipari came to UK. You can bet Calipari is glad he followed his own instincts as Liggins has developed into a key contributor, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

"It has to be something you want to do," Liggins said of being a defensive stopper. "You have got to stop them and that is something I take pride in, playing defense. That is my biggest role and will take me far in life as a basketball player.

"I was never a big-time scorer. I was always a guy who took charges and got steals. I scored here and there but I was never a big-time scorer. When I came to college I needed to change my role."

Now, Liggins is also being counted on for leadership.

"It is a group effort but me and Darius (Miller) have experience," Liggins said. "It is hard to me because it is new to me, but I need to get adjusted to it quickly."

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Here's a stat to motivate Derrick Locke to get himself as close to 100 percent as possible for the Tennessee game next Saturday: 

In the history of Kentucky football, only three players have rushed for 100 or more yards at Neyland Stadium -- and Kentucky won two of those games. The exception was 2006 when Rafael Little surpassed the century mark and the Cats were throwing into the end zone for the win on the last play of the game.

UK_Morehead_48.JPGWomen's basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell received a five-year contract extension worth $3 million, plus additional performance-based incentives, Thursday. Mitchell's deal is worth $600,000 annually, and if the UK coach reaches certain performance measures, the deal could be worth much more.

First of all, congratulations to Mitchell and his family for a well-deserved contract extension. If anybody deserved a new deal in the athletics department after last year's magical Elite Eight run, it was Mitchell.

With all that said, the most important part of the contract extension that I wanted to point out was the automatic rollover clause.

In the language of the deal, the contract states that "As of April 22 of each year thereafter the term of this Contract shall be continually extended by one additional year such that the term is a constant five year term, unless written notice is given on or before April 21st of the applicable year, or this Contract is terminated as set forth in Section 7. Either party may provide such notice."

In layman's terms, that means Mitchell's contract is an ongoing five-year deal. When this year ends, his five-year deal will automatically start over again. And when 2011 is over, just like that, the five-year deal starts over again.

The rollover deal's importance cannot be overstated. Not only does the rollover term ensure the coach stability at a program, it's significant for recruiting.

When prospective student-athletes look at a college or sign with a team, often times they're going there because of the coach. Recruits want to be ensured that, when they sign on the dotted line of the national letter of intent, they're signing up to play for that same coach for their entire careers.

With the rollover clause in Mitchell's contract, he can now ensure recruits that, barring termination or resignation, he will be at Kentucky from the first day of their career to the last.

It was an important part of Bob Huggins' deal at Cincinnati that, when terminated, led to the ugly divorce in the Queen City. When Huggins' rollover year was not granted by then-President Nancy Zimpher, Huggins felt like his recruiting hands were tied. Without the ability to ensure recruits he would be at Cincinnati in four or five years, Huggins said he could no longer recruit.

As long as Mitchell has the rollover clause in his contract, that should not be a problem in Mitchell's case. Recruiting should no doubt benefit from Mitchell's new contract.

TournamentLogo Color withR.jpgHere's a frightening scenario that you, as a Kentucky basketball fan, don't want to think about: Kentucky returning home from a road trip to Portland, Ore., and Hawaii 1-4.

UK men's basketball head coach John Calipari thinks it's a realistic possibility.

"Every one of those guys can beat us," Calipari said. "I hope we're not 1-4 when we get back, but we could be."

Calipari's Cats have had little time to recover from the Enes Kanter news much less get their feet underneath them from last week's season-opening win over East Tennessee State. But now is when we'll really start to find out about this freshman-laden team.

UK, already stationed in the Northwest, will face a dangerous Portland team that features last year's top 3-point shooter in Jared Stohl on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT before embarking to Hawaii for the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

"Look, this is a hard trip," Calipari said. "We are on our way to Hawaii to play three teams that are probably better than us. This is going to be a learning situation for us. We have to figure out what we do, how hard we have to play."

Particularly, Calipari is looking at how his team will get off the mat after it's been knocked down. With a tournament field that includes the likes of No. 2 Michigan State, Connecticut and Kentucky's tournament-opening opponent Oklahoma, chances are UK will face all the adversity it can handle.

"There are a lot of experiences these guys have to go through," Calipari said. "One of them is getting knocked down by a team you should beat because you weren't ready to play and you think at halftime you can turn it on. That's an experience they're going to have to deal with. The other experience is going (against) a team that is just better than you.

"How do you now play? You have to take better shots. You must play harder than they play or you can't win the game. You can't play loosey goosey. How do we now play? We've got all that stuff we've got to learn about. But that's why you play these kinds of games."

It will still be very early in the season when Kentucky returns for a late Thanksgiving feast, but like last year's ballroom affair in the Cancun trip, the Cats will have a better sense of how good the team is by they return home for December's slate of games.

"It tells us what we have to do, it tells us how far we have to go and where we're at right now," sophomore guard Jon Hood said. "That's the main thing. Where are we and how do we move forward?"

A couple of UKs returning veterans, Hood and senior forward Josh Harrellson, suggested that it was last year's Cancun trip that really brought the team together. Though the Cats struggled to beat Stanford in the final game of the tournament, the out-of-state tournament provided the team with an invaluable bonding experience that would pay dividends later in the season.

"Everything we did (in Cancun) we were together," Harrellson said. "We'd go out to dinner every night. The whole team would go. If we went to the pool, the whole team would be there. It was a great experience and got us going."

UK will enter the Maui tournament as the youngest team on the island and one of the most inexperienced in college basketball. With only eight full years of Division I college experience on the roster, only eight teams in Division I can claim to have a younger team than UK.

"We have many different issues than we did last year," Calipari said. "One is we are not playing as many people. You have a lot of room for error when you play as many guys as we played last year. Last year, if someone was off their game, we could just sit them and we would be fine. We don't have that luxury this year."

And if a player or two is off their game for this type of road trip, the losses could pile up quick. Depending on how one looks at it, the trip's value could go beyond the wins and losses.

"If you can look past a loss and get better then it doesn't affect you," Harrellson said. "If it gets to you, you can fall apart and separate."

Report: Cobble shines in UK football scrimmage

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The future of the Kentucky football team took the field for a scrimmage Thursday morning.

UK's redshirts and backups scrimmaged at Nutter Fieldhouse Thursday while the starters watched from the sidelines. Earlier in the week, head coach Joker Phillips called it a big scrimmage for the young guys because they were the future of the UK football program.

I didn't make it out to Thursday's scrimmage, but Ben Jones of the Kentucky Kernel has a pretty good write-up on what happened at the Kernel's blog. By the looks of Jones' report, defensive tackle Mister Cobble was the star.

Cobble recorded a sack and was constantly around the ball despite frequent double teams. According to Jones, he may be the best defensive tackle right now on UK's entire roster.

Jones also reports that quarterback Ryan Mossakowski looked much improved from the spring. Second-string QB Morgan Newton went down with a sprained ankle.

Check out Jones' full report at the Kernel's blog

UK_LSU_vball_29.JPGThe UK volleyball team, which found its NCAA Tournament hopes dwindling last week, has officially landed itself back on the bubble after beating No. 15 LSU on Sunday.

Among those shinning in the five-set match were seniors Blair Hiler and Lauren Rapp. The two seniors combined for 28 kills and four blocks on Senior Day.

"It was really important (to beat LSU), especially because it was a big win for us to possibly get into the NCAA," Hiler said. "It was not only big for us on Senior Day with the team pulling for us but we also have further goals beyond that."

The win improved UK's RPI standing to 49. With two matches to play, significant victories over Louisville, Ohio State and LSU, and a schedule that ranks among the toughest in the country, UK (16-12) suddenly has a chance at its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance.

"RPI is definitely a strong consideration but there are a lot of factors," head coach Craig Skinner said. "One is strength of schedule, which we have had a very difficult schedule this year. Can you beat teams in the top 50? Can you beat teams that are going to be in the tournament? We've proven to be able to do that."

Rapp and Hiler are not unfamiliar with postseason play. They have been in the NCAA Tournament every year since their arrival at UK.

"I think it is really important to keep the NCAA streak alive," Rapp said. "It is always a goal that we have at the beginning of every season and I don't think we want to be the senior class that breaks the streak."

Kentucky can further enhance its tournament resume with wins against upcoming opponents Ole Miss and Tennessee. With the 2010 season coming to a close, the last two games of the season are critical to prolonging the collegiate careers of Rapp and Hiler, both of whom were vital in turning the team around from a midseason slump that included four losses in five matches.

"I think they are really embracing the last month of the season," Skinner said. "They are realizing that their careers are coming to a close at Kentucky and I think they are giving everything they have to make sure this season lasts as long as it possibly can."

Rapp and Hiler have made significant impacts on the Kentucky volleyball team over the last four years and together they have helped UK clinch yet another winning season.

"I think from where we were prior to 2004 to where we are now is a completely different ballpark in terms of schools across the country, and they have been a huge part of that," Skinner said.

Individually they have placed themselves among the leaders in multiple categories and have been an integral part to UK's success with their versatility on the court.

Rapp averages 2.64 kills per game and is currently eighth in career kills at 1,254. In addition to her 701 career digs, Rapp has 411 block assists, which ranks her second all-time behind Queen Nzenwa. Rapp was recently named American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Week for her 17-kill, 10-dig performance in the win over LSU.

"(Rapp) is as versatile a player as you're ever going to see," Skinner said. "She can hit quick, she can hit second-tempo plays, she can pass, she can play defense and she can serve. I would say there are very few people across the country that could do that. She has several skills and is not just limited to one or two."

Alongside the versatile play of Rapp, Hiler adds a go-to presence in challenging situations, including in her match-point kill in the fifth set Sunday.

"She embraces pressure, she embraces challenges and I think our team has relied on her a lot when we've needed points and big kills," Skinner said. "She's come through a lot more times than not in those situations in her career. I think she expects that out of herself and our team feels very comfortable with her getting swings when we need points.

Hiler averages 2.05 kills per set, notching 722 kills to date in her career. In her 109 matches played, Hiler, has recorded 251 career digs and assisted in 143 blocks.

While their statistics of their four-year careers are impressive, the ultimate goal for both Rapp and Hiler is success in yet another NCAA tournament.

For now, Kentucky's resume is built on solid competition and tough wins. The team will look to add to their success in its final two regular-season matches.

"I think we just have keep pushing and playing like we have been, and I think if we do, we'll make (the tournament)," Rapp said.

The Cats round out their season at Ole Miss on Friday at 8 p.m. before returning home to host Tennessee on Nov. 24.

"Getting a road win against Ole Miss, who beat us earlier in the year, that will make a big statement for us," Hiler said.

34_UK_Pikeville_24_cw.JPGTerrence Jones has places to go, people to see when he gets home, according to his current head coach, John Calipari.

What he may need to remind himself in the immediate future is that he has a game to play against Portland on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT in the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

"This is a dangerous game because now (Terrence Jones) thinks he is on vacation," Calipari said. "He doesn't know we are playing a basketball game because he has never done this before. He has already lined up what he is going to do by the minute. He probably hasn't listed the game at 7:30 on Friday night, so you have that issue."

While the rest of Jones' teammates have had the EA Sports Maui Invitational circled on their respective calendars for some time, Jones has been looking forward to the one-game pit stop in the Northwest the most.

A Portland native who struggled with the decision to play at home (Oregon), close to home (Washington) or to leave home (Kentucky or Kansas), Jones is anxious to go home and play in front of friends and family.

"It will mean a lot," Jones said. "It's always good to have the chance to play in front of my mom and grandma and show them me as a college player and how much I've improved since high school and how much harder I play."

Jones said he isn't homesick or longing for a little change in weather, but he is excited about showing his fellow Oregonians how much he's improved at UK.

"I just really want to play and show them the whole team, not just me," Jones said. (I want to show them) me playing with a new team, new faces and show them where we are as a team."

It isn't all that uncommon for teams to schedule games around a veteran's hometown, but this is uncharted territory for a freshman like Jones.

"He and I talked about that," Calipari said. "He came in and I told him that I have never had a player go home and play well, so good luck. I mean, naturally, he is just happy we are going."

Jones, who has played in the Rose Garden before, said he hopes to prove Calipari wrong and build on his 25-point, 12-rebound effort in his debut last week.

"(Calipari told me) to stay focused on the game and not worry about the little things like who is in the crowd and just playing different just because I'm playing in front of people I know," Jones said, while noting that Calipari was exaggerating a bit on what he has planned for his trip.

Jones said he doesn't know how many friends and family will be at the game, but he's not expecting any boos for his decision to leave home.

"It's going to be real fun," Jones said after the East Tennessee State win. "You know how Jarrod (Polson) gets that little (eruption of cheers from the crowd) every time he touches the ball? Hopefully I get that next game."

As for the Portland team that UK plays Friday, Jones is all too familiar with the 3-0 Pilots.

"Coach Cal has pretty much explained (how good) they are in practices and told us not to take them lightly," Jones said. "I know (how good they are), but I think all of our players get that, too. I haven't seen them this year, but most of the games I went to see, they usually won."

45_UK_Vandy_16_cw.JPGFor all the physical tools Winston Guy possesses, mentally he wasn't ready when this season started.

One of the most scrutinized players in the preseason, the Kentucky football coaching staff wanted more out of Guy. As a two-year player and one-year starter, Guy was being looked to as a leader on a defensive unit that had lost most of its household names and defensive leaders.

But Guy wasn't ready for a role that had been in the making for a while. 

"Coming into the season, I was going through a lot family wise and just a lot of stuff that was on me," Guy said. "I'm a big family guy. I love my parents to death. It was just a lot of stuff that they were going through that affected to me. That's the only family I have that really takes care of me. ... I was just so depressed about stuff that it was affecting me on and off the field."

And it showed in the first few games.

After sitting out the first half of the season opener against Louisville due to a violation of team rules, Guy totaled just 12 tackles in the first three games. Guy was singled out early on by the tackles he was missing as opposed to the tackles he was making.

"As a defensive back, you're either a goat or a hero," defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "All the great plays that you make, all the tackles that you've made, if you don't cover the guy you're supposed to and it becomes a big play, all the other 12 tackles you've made (don't matter)."

Some soul searching, improvement with some of his family issues, and an emotional, bare-all talk with head coach Joker Phillips and director of strength and conditioning Ray "Rock" Oliver spurned a turnaround.

"There were some things that I needed to get off my chest and some things I needed to be more focused on in football," Guy said. "(Phillips) told me to worry about the family issues off the field because some of that stuff was affecting me during practice."

Said Brown: "We all can use certain things off the field as excuses, but once you're on the field, this is the time to forget about all the other things you might have going on in your life because now you can just relax and play football. Those things will be there when you get done."

Over the last few games, Guy has really caught on. Although a defensive unit would rather a safety not lead the team in tackles, Guy has over the last two games, totaling a team-high 34 tackles in wins over Charleston Southern and Vanderbilt.

What's impressed the coaching staff the most is Guy's ability to make plays closer to the line of scrimmage. Against Vanderbilt he recorded 2.5 tackles for a loss.

"The thing we've asked our safeties is to show up a little faster," Phillips said before the Vanderbilt game. "What I mean by show up, when they're running the ball, we are only showing up close to the line of scrimmage. Earlier we thought they were kind of passive in getting downhill in making plays. Now you've got to make plays in space the longer you wait. If you go pull the trigger now, it's not as much space because the ball's either bounced or inside the tackle box. We need our guys to go pull the trigger quicker."

Phillips, a former UK wide receiver, used to joke that he had as many career interceptions (zero) as Guy. Not anymore.

Guy recorded his first career interception against Auburn, a momentum changer that nearly ignited a Kentucky upset, and he followed it the next week with another first-half interception against South Carolina. This time the late pick changed the tide and the Cats upset the 10th-ranked Gamecocks.

"The difference between a good defense and an average defense is the safety's play," Phillips said.

Guy said he's started to embrace that responsibility. Physically gifted at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, it's been up to Guy to catch up to the cerebral part of the game.

"Sometimes I have little mental lapses, but everybody does," Guy said. "I try to be a perfectionist about everything I do because safety is one of the most important parts of the defense. If we don't do something (as a defense), everything is on us. I try to be so perfect and stay on myself about what I need to do."

Clearly, Guy is starting to get it. As the team's second-leading tackler with 91 stops, Guy has turned his attention to better pass coverage and leadership.

"It takes a lot to be a leader," Guy said. "I wouldn't mind being a leader, but I'm not much of a vocal person. I lead by my actions on the field. When you step into that leadership role, there is a lot of stuff that goes into it on the field and off the field, what you do in the community, and how people look at you. I don't want to be that guy to be in that big spotlight and make mistakes. It's really huge to step into that role. I would hope people look at me as a leader, but I would rather people look at me as a leader by example."

Guy said he has inspirations to play at the next level in the NFL. With a game left, a likely bowl destination down the road and a senior season of eligibility still remaining, it's up to Guy to embrace a role that physically he's always been tailored for.

"I think I have been playing really good," Guy said. "I'm just doing my job, studying a lot of film and doing what the coaches expect me to do. I don't really worry much about tackles during the game. I'm just trying to make plays and trying to get the defense off the field."

Head coach John Calipari


Freshman forward Terrence Jones


Sophomore guard Jon Hood


Senior forward Josh Harrellson

Barnhart: I plan to be here

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With speculation about Mitch Barnhart's interest in the vacant Kansas athletics director job still running rampant, the current UK athletics director went to his Twitter account Wednesday to defuse any more speculation.

Two days after releasing a statement indicating he had not been formally contacted by Kansas, a statement that some said was far from a denial in his interest in the job, Barnhart took a more direct approach.

"Big Blue Nation: I'm proud of what we've accomplished together, but we have a lot of unfinished business," Barnhart said, via his Twitter account. "I plan to be here to see this great place achieve what it has never even dreamed 'til the battle is won!"

UK Hoops holds ground in polls

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AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Connecticut (39) 1-0 992
2 Baylor (1) 3-0 937
3 Stanford 1-0 921
4 Tennessee 2-0 883
5 Xavier 2-0 821
6 Duke 2-0 804
7 Ohio State 2-0 757
8 Texas A&M 0-0 675
9 Kentucky 2-0 664
10 West Virginia 1-0 596
11 Oklahoma 1-0 594
12 Notre Dame 2-0 575
13 Georgetown 1-0 513
14 North Carolina 1-0 441
15 UCLA 2-0 423
16 Florida State 2-0 334
17 Texas 1-0 319
18 Georgia 1-0 270
19 Iowa State 2-0 244
20 St. John's 1-1 191
21 Maryland 1-0 165
22 Iowa 2-0 150
23 Vanderbilt 1-0 146
23 TCU 1-0 146
25 Michigan State 2-0 120


ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Connecticut (28) 1-0 771
2 Baylor (3) 3-0 731
3 Stanford 1-0 719
4 Tennessee 2-0 677
5 Xavier 2-0 633
6 Duke 2-0 625
7 Ohio State 2-0 536
8 Texas A&M 0-0 535
9 Oklahoma 1-0 523
10 Kentucky 2-0 499
11 West Virginia 1-0 460
12 Notre Dame 2-0 451
13 Georgetown 1-0 383
14 Florida State 2-0 348
15 UCLA 2-0 335
16 North Carolina 1-0 292
17 Iowa State 2-0 259
18 Georgia 1-0 207
19 Texas 1-0 202
20 Vanderbilt 1-0 144
21 Nebraska 1-0 115
22 Michigan State 2-0 107
23 St. John's 1-1 100
24 Iowa 2-0 77
25 TCU 1-0 70

Reports: Gator Bowl still in play for the Cats?

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I took the liberty to post a few bowl projections Monday for the Kentucky football team but did so without posing the Gator Bowl as a possiblity.

To my knowledge, I didn't even know the Gator Bowl was still in play for the Cats, but according to a couple of reports, UK is still very much in the running for the Gator Bowl.

According to play-by-play announcer Tom Leach, who also writes two posts a week on this blog, Kentucky may stand a chance at the Gator Bowl if a few things go the Cats' way. First and foremost, UK would have to beat Tennessee after Thanksgiving and then hope that Florida wins out and is picked ahead of Mississippi State in the bowl pecking order.

Leach writes that if Florida finishes 8-4, he thinks the Chick-fi-A Bowl would look at Florida, leaving the next pick to the Gator Bowl. With Kentucky's recent string of Music City Bowl appearances, Leach then believes that Mississippi State could end up in Nashville, Tenn., and UK could wind up in the Gator Bowl.

Following along? If it sounds confusing, check out Leach's complete bowl take.

There is some credibility to Leach's report, too. The Gator Bowl, which will take a Southeastern Conference team and a Big East team this year, wants teams that finish the year strong, according to a report in the The Florida Times-Union.

A win over Tennessee would give the Cats three wins in a row and certainly constitute a strong finish.

According to The Florida Times-Union report, Florida, Mississippi State and Georgia are all on the Gator Bowl's radar.

There is still a lot of football left to be played, but after a midseason slump, UK football's dreams of playing in a bowl in the South remains a small possiblity.

From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Nov. 16

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31_UK_Pikeville_21_cw.JPGWhen Pikeville played an exhibition game at Kentucky earlier this season, Bears' coach Kelly Wells got to relive a special memory involving UK junior Darius Miller.

Back in 2004, when he was leading Mason County to a Sweet 16 title in Rupp Arena, there was a key moment in one of their wins when Wells felt the momentum moving toward the opponent. He looked down his bench, saw the eighth-grader Miller and decided to take a chance on finding the spark he needed in that unlikely source. Miller responded with eight points to key a rally for the Royals.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009 with Miller now on the roster of the USA's under-19 team as it marched toward a gold medal. Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon was directing that squad and he recalls how Miller became a defensive playmaker, including making a key steal in a semifinal victory over Croatia.

The point here?

Miller is a guy you can count on to do whatever it takes to help his team win.

Now, with Patrick Patterson gone to the NBA, the junior from Maysville, Ky., will be asked to provide more leadership on a team once again dominated by freshmen. It is a role Miller is more than happy to accept.

"I don't have a problem with it," Miller said. "I have always been a leader on my team except for the last two years. I am comfortable with it. I think all of us need to step up and do our part because we have experienced it before."

One thing that will serve Miller well now is his solid character. Dixon got firsthand experience with that and found that quality even more impressive than Miller's athleticism.

"He's got good length and good size, quick jumper, good lateral quickness," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon told www.tomleachky.com last summer. "He led us in steals and in blocked shots. He is a very good player and a great kid. I want to talk about his playing but I keep going back to a great person he was (with us) and what a great teammate he was. Obviously, he comes from a great background and I just think he's just a very, very good person."

Fellow junior DeAndre Liggins is another quiet player who will be asked to step outside his personal comfort zone to be a more vocal presence on this Kentucky team. And Miller thinks Liggins will provide the help that is needed there.

"DeAndre was quiet at first," Miller said."He has always been able to play and play with a high intensity. I think a lot of people will be surprised with how big a role he has with the team. He has been playing extremely well and he has taken the leadership role. He has been talking to guys and if they need to be told something, he will tell you. In the past few years, he hasn't done that a lot, but now he has taken that part and the team needs him. At first, he was quiet and kept to himself a bit. Now he has opened up and been there on and off the court."

One thing this Kentucky team will have that last year's team did not is veteran players with experience in the NCAA Tournament. Having been through it for the first time last season, Miller understands the value of that kind of track record.

"You can't really tell somebody what it is like," Miller said. "You have to experience it. We are here to guide (the freshmen) and let them know how it is going to be."

Another thing Miller can tell them about it is the bitter sting of coming up short of your goals. Head coach John Calipari has said on more than one occasion that Kentucky was the best team in the country last March only to have a bad night against West Virginia in a game that would have put the Wildcats in the Final Four. Miller and the other veterans are living with that and perhaps using it to motivate them, too.

Miller said he and the other players on last year's team needed several days to even get to the point where they wanted to go outside their homes after the loss to West Virginia. 

"(I think about it) a lot really," Miller said. "We thought we had the best team in the nation, so it is always hard when you lose. None of the veteran guys want to feel that way again and it was a pretty painful loss when we thought we could have done better, so we hope to do better this year."
 

Nov. 14 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, Nov. 14:

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Freshman Whitney Billings was a major factor in UK's 2-0 week that included an upset of No. 15 LSU on Sunday. Against the Tigers, Billings led the Wildcat offense with 18 kills on .255 hitting. She notched her seventh career double-double with 14 digs to aid the Wildcat cause. She ripped 11 kills on .269 hitting against the Razorbacks while scooping up seven digs in the winning effort. For the weekend, Billings ranked second on the squad with 3.62 kills per frame and was third with 2.62 digs per set. She posted over a kill per frame more than her season average and her .260 hitting percentage was double her season average of .157 hitting. Billings received 48 serves on the weekend, the second highest total on the team, and she made just one error for a .979 percentage.

Football: Randall Cobb

Had 10 carries for a career-high 170 yards, two touchdowns and 286 all-purpose yards.

Women's basketball: Maegan Conwright

Averaged team's third-highest point total with 11.5 points per game in helping UK begin 2-0 for the second consecutive season. Had a career day in her first collegiate start against Miami, charting 15 points, four assists, five steals and one block in 31 minutes of play. Came off the bench against Morehead State to record eight points and four rebounds in 20 minutes of play. One of UK's most versatile players as she saw action at three different positions against Miami due to injuries to key players. Conwright started at the point guard position but also saw time at the shooting guard and small forward spot.

Women's basketball: Victoria Dunlap

Averaged a team-high-tying 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.5 steals and 3.5 blocks per game in helping UK open the season at 2-0 for the second consecutive season. Hit 16-of-21 free throws for a team-high 76.2 percent from the free-throw line. Recorded a game-high seven steals against Morehead State and now has at least one steal in 44 of her last 45 games. With 16 points against Miami, Dunlap charted her 70th career game with double figures. She now has scored in double digits in 35 of her last 38 games, including nine straight.

Football: Winston Guy

Posted a career-high 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, in the win over Vanderbilt.

Men's basketball: Terrence Jones

Jones scored a double-double in his Wildcat debut. Became the first UK freshman to begin his career with a double-double since Jules Camara in the 1998-99 season. Jones is only the second freshman in school history with a 20-10 game in his debut. Scored UK's first 12 points of the second half. Teamed with fellow freshman Doron Lamb to become the first freshman pair in school history to log 20 points in the season opener.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot put together her best effort of the season in leading UK's back-row defensive effort in the upset victory over No. 15 LSU. The first-year starter at the position topped her career best of 28 digs set just a week ago in a five-set loss at Alabama, with 29 crucial digs against the Tigers on Sunday. UK needed every one of her 5.8 digs per set in fending off the SEC West leaders, as she led four players on the backline with 10 or more digs on the night. With 38 digs this weekend in the two matches, Klefot now has 467 for the season, which is the ninth most in a single-season in UK allure. For the season Klefot has topped 10 or more scoops on 25 occasions and notched 20 or more digs nine times. For the weekend, Klefot endured 67 serves in her direction and she notched an impressive .955 reception percentage with just three errors committed on the weekend.

Football: Derrick Locke

Had 22 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns in his first game since the Auburn contest.

Volleyball: Lauren Rapp

On a weekend with UK's chances at postseason on the line, nobody played better than senior Lauren Rapp for the Wildcats. UK's captain put together a pair of solid outings in leading UK to a 3-0 sweep of Arkansas and a five-set upset of No.15 LSU on Sunday. In Kentucky's upset of the SEC West leaders, Rapp struck for 17 kills and added 10 digs for her 12th career double-double and fifth of the season. She nearly notched a triple-double with a career-high six assists. In addition, she added four blocks to her stat line. In the win over Arkansas, Rapp led the team with 13 kills and a match-high five blocks. She also contributed seven digs and a pair of assists. For the week, Rapp averaged a team-high 3.75 digs per set on a team-best .388 hitting clip. She posted 1.12 blocks per frame, added an assist to the offensive numbers and defensively scooped up 2.12 digs per frame. Every one of her numbers this week was higher than her season average, impressively improving her performance when UK needed it most. With a service ace against LSU, Rapp moved into 10th all-time with 106 career aces at UK. She also moved into eighth all-time with 1,254 kills and ninth all-time with 2,996 career attempts.

Football: Danny Trevathan

Had 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback sack, one fumble caused and one pass breakup in the win over Vanderbilt.

Barnhart: I have not been contacted by Kansas

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Thumbnail image for Barnhart_Mitch 2x3.jpgContrary to a report by national sports blog SPORTSbyBROOKS.com, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said he has not been formally contacted by the University of Kansas about the athletics director position.

Barnhart released a statement Monday, a day after SPORTSbyBROOKS.com reported that Barnhart, who has served as the athletics director at UK since 2002, is being targeted as a finalist for the Kansas AD job and would interview for the job in early December.

"Being a Kansas native with family in the area, having gone to Ottawa University in Kansas and my wife, Connie being a Kansas alum, I have many ties to the state," Barnhart said. "We have received calls from friends and supporters of the university about the athletic director position at Kansas. I have not been formally contacted by the University of Kansas.  I am 100 percent focused on UK Athletics."

The report said Barnhart was one of three finalists targeted by the six-member Kansas AD search panel. The Kansas athletics director position was recently vacated by the retirement of Lew Perkins.

Despite ties to Kansas, which includes a bachelor's degree from Ottawa University in Kansas, the Kansas City, Kan., native said he is focused on improving the facilities at Kentucky.

"We have made progress in many areas over the last eight years, but we need to provide our coaches and student-athletes with the facilities to compete at the highest level," Barnhart said. "We have initiated the process of building a new track and are now focused on how we can upgrade Commonwealth Stadium and our football facilities. Our 22 sports receive unbelievable support from the Big Blue Nation and our fans deserve championship level success across the board."

The Kansas City Star reported Monday that no finalists for the Kansas job have been identified, according to chairman of the search committee Ray Evans. The Star, using a source with knowledge of KU's search, said Barnhart is not "likely to land" the Kansas job.

Barnhart is in his ninth year as the athletics director at Kentucky. 

Kentucky slides in polls

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Despite an impressive season-opening win over East Tennessee State, the Kentucky men's basketball team slid in the latest rankings.

Kentucky checked in at No. 12 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 and No. 13 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Cats started the season No. 10 in the AP and No. 11 in the Coaches Poll before their 23-point win over ETSU.

So why the slide after the win? Chances are the Enes Kanter decision from last week had something to do with it.

Full rankings are below:

AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Duke (58) 1-0 1,617
2 Michigan State (7) 1-0 1,558
3 Kansas State 1-0 1,422
4 Ohio State 1-0 1,379
5 Pittsburgh 3-0 1,325
6 Villanova 1-0 1,197
7 Kansas 1-0 1,178
8 North Carolina 1-0 1,021
9 Florida 1-0 1,017
10 Syracuse 2-0 967
11 Gonzaga 2-0 911
12 Kentucky 1-0 887
13 Illinois 3-0 834
14 Purdue 1-0 772
15 Missouri 0-0 685
16 Butler 1-0 626
17 Baylor 1-0 587
17 Washington 1-0 587
19 Memphis 1-0 540
20 Georgetown 1-0 333
21 Temple 2-0 289
22 Virginia Tech 1-0 271
23 Brigham Young 1-0 228
24 Tennessee 1-0 194
25 San Diego State 1-0 162

ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Duke (29) 1-0 773
2 Michigan State (2) 1-0 743
3 Kansas State 1-0 676
4 Pittsburgh 3-0 656
5 Ohio State 1-0 648
6 Kansas 1-0 568
7 Villanova 1-0 557
8 North Carolina 1-0 476
9 Purdue 1-0 475
10 Florida 1-0 456
11 Syracuse 2-0 441
12 Gonzaga 2-0 434
13 Kentucky 1-0 433
14 Missouri 0-0 362
15 Washington 1-0 348
16 Illinois 3-0 335
17 Baylor 1-0 308
18 Butler 1-0 267
19 Memphis 1-0 209
20 Temple 2-0 136
21 Georgetown 1-0 128
22 Texas 2-0 110
23 Tennessee 1-0 92
24 Virginia Tech 1-0 82
25 Wisconsin 1-0 78

Bowl projections

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With two weeks to go, one team left to play and the Kentucky football team bowl eligible, it's due time to start looking at bowl predictions.

At six wins and with the likelihood the Southeastern Conference fills its bowl spots, UK is probably headed to a bowl game in Tennessee or the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

Here are a few bowl projections from ESPN, CBS and Sports Illustrated.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach - South Florida vs. Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl
ESPN's Andrea Adelson - UCF vs. Kentucky in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl
CBS - Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl
SI - North Carolina vs. Kentucky in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

UK-Tennessee at 12:21 p.m. on SEC Network

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If The Streak is going to end, we'll know sometime before the sun sets Nov. 27.

The Kentucky-Tennessee game in Knoxville, Tenn., has been picked up by the SEC Network for a 12:21 p.m. ET broadcast. It will mark the third straight day game for UK.

SEC football schedule for Nov. 26-27 games

Friday, Nov. 26

Auburn at Alabama (CBS Sports) (3:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. CT)

Saturday, Nov. 27
Kentucky at Tennessee (SEC Network) (12:21 p.m. ET / 11:21 a.m. CT)
LSU at Arkansas (Little Rock) (CBS Sports) (3:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. CT)
Mississippi State at Ole Miss (ESPNU) (7 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT)
Wake Forest at Vanderbilt (CSS) (7:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. CT)
Georgia Tech at Georgia (ESPN) (7:45 p.m. ET / 6:45 p.m. CT)
Florida at Florida State (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2) (3:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. ET)
South Carolina at Clemson (Raycom, ESPNU, ABC, ESPN or ESPN2) (Noon, 3:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. ET)


As Joker Phillips heads into two weeks of preparation to end The Streak against Tennessee, the first-year head coach has his eye on ending another streak to the Volunteers - the Big Blue Crush streak.

"This is my first Big Blue Crush and my first time as a head coach coaching against Tennessee," Phillips said. "At the end of these two weeks, I expect to be undefeated in both events, so let's make sure we make that happen."

Kicking off the 23rd annual Big Blue Crush on Monday at the Singletary Center for the Arts, Phillips spoke of the importance of beating Tennessee both on the field and off.

"This is a part of what we call Operation Win, which is winning in the classroom, winning on the field and also winning in the community," Phillips said. "We want to be a part of winning in the community. We need everybody in this community to get behind this blood drive. The rivalry of Kentucky-Tennessee is not just on the field. It's in the blood donor rooms also."

Phillips was part of the ribbon cutting center at the Singletary Center for the Arts for the Kentucky Blood Center's yearly blood battle between UK and Tennessee. The weeklong battle, which begins Monday and lasts through Friday, helps to ensure an adequate blood supply is available during the holidays.

"Big Blue Crush is important to the healthcare of the region because it ensures a strong blood supply for the holiday season," said Bill Reed, the Kentucky Blood Center's president and CEO. "This year, we plan to beat Tennessee, and we're providing many donation opportunities to make it easy for our donors."

Tennessee leads the rivalry with a 12-9-1 record, including a seven-year winning streak over Kentucky.

"There are two streaks we've got to break," Phillips said. "We haven't won (the blood drive) since 2002. At the end of this week, I expect one of them to be broken. In two weeks, we'll take care of the other one."

The Kentucky Blood Center will be taking donations at the Singletary Center every day this week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Other blood donating centers will be available throughout campus and throughout the region.

During Big Blue Crush, all donors will receive a Big Blue Crush T-shirt and a coupon good for a free McDonald's menu item. There will also be daily prizes, including iPads, iPod Nanos and gift cards from Wildcat Wearhouse.

The Kentucky Blood Center has set a goal of 4,000 donors this year in hopes of taking back the trophy.

UK takes care of business, becomes bowl eligible

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For two quarters, the Kentucky football team worried the unthinkable was going to happen.

A loss to Vanderbilt would have set up two agonizing weeks of waiting and thinking about the notorious losing streak to Tennessee and bowl eligibility. Could you imagine a UK team that would have to sit through a bye week with the sting of six losses and figure out how to end the streak just to make it to a bowl game?

It may have been an impossible situation to overcome and quite possibly the two longest weeks of Joker Phillips' life.

Fortunately for Phillips, the fan base and the Cats, that scenario is no longer in play. Kentucky woke from its first-half sleepwalk to defeat Vanderbilt 38-20 on Saturday afternoon in front of 60,391 fans on Senior Day. It was by no means a masterpiece against a struggling Vanderbilt team, but the Cats did what no team has done in program history by clinching bowl eligibility for the fifth straight season.

"I'm proud of this senior group," head coach Joker Phillips said. "We talked last night. "They didn't want to let this thing go. They want to be a part of this thing as long as they possibly can. Only way they can be any longer is to get ourselves into an extra game, and they went out and did that."

Where Kentucky heads this holiday season may not be the place the Cats envisioned at the beginning of the year, but for a program that went to just 10 bowl games prior to the 2006 season, getting to a bowl game still means something.

"It means the world to me, especially (for) the fifth year seniors that came here," Phillips said. "Myself and Rich (Brooks) went into their homes, sold them our vision, our dreams. It was only our vision and our dreams. They had nothing to do with it. They hoped that we would get in bowl games and those things. For us to be able to sell them our vision, our dreams, and they believed in them. Now going out with five straight bowl games, that means the world to me."

Credit a talent-filled junior and an emotional speech by a wise veteran with turning an ugly first half into a second-quarter romp.

Let's start with the former.

Cobb, who admitted after the game the possibility that it could be his final game in Commonwealth Stadium crossed his mind, ran wild again. In breaking the single-season all-purpose yardage mark, Cobb ran for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.

Phillips said Locke injected "juice" into his team with a career-long 73-yard touchdown run on UK's first drive of the second half. As if he was shot out of a cannon, Cobb rushed off the left guard on a quarterback keeper to give UK a 17-13 lead.

"Somebody came by and said, 'You can't coach that.' You can't," Phillips said of the "it" factor Cobb possesses. "You can't coach what he has."

Cobb's best run, maybe of his career, came two drives later. On a designed throw for Cobb, the 5-foot-10, 186-pound junior scrambled away from two would-be sacks, ran down the left sideline, cut it back across the field and shook a couple more defenders - all before finally running out of gas and stepping out of bounds on the right sideline.

The end result was a video-game like 52-yard run. If Cobb was in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy, that would have been his signature play.

"It made me feel like I was back in high school for a second," Cobb said of the dazzling play.
But it wasn't all Cobb. A defense that gave up 242 yards to the Southeastern Conference's worst statistical offense turned it around in the second half - a common storyline this season - by holding Vanderbilt to 158-second half yards.

Credit the turnaround to senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin for a curse-filled, emotional speech in the locker room at halftime.

"I'm a guy that, I don't like to talk too much to my teammates because I feel like if you're on them all the time, whether you're a coach or a player, people start to ignore you," Lumpkin said. "This is one of those times where I was just like 'bleep' it. I'm going to say what's on my mind."

The coaching staff told the team at halftime that it was on the players after a dismal first-half effort. Phillips told the players not to take the field in the second half if they weren't playing inspired football.

After the coaching staff left, Lumpkin stood up and sent one more message.

"The next thing I know I'm speaking what's on my mind," Lumpkin said. "People are listening and people are getting riled up. I told them what they what we were playing for. You better look like a team that's playing for a bowl game. In the first half we looked like a team that was packing it in, trying to go home for Christmas. In the second half it turned."

In his first game since injuring his shoulder against Auburn, senior Derrick Locke rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, but 83 yards of it came on one carry. Locke admitted that he isn't 100 percent.

Still, to come back and help the senior class to yet another bowl game on Senior Day was special for Locke.

"I wanted to give the fans something to remember me by," Locke said. "I felt like I did that. All the seniors, I felt like we did that. We went out on a good note, but now we need to finish on a good note. To give the fans what they want, we have to win at Tennessee."

But instead of limping into Knoxville, Tenn., in desperate need of a win, UK can clean its wounds during the bye week and then head to Tennessee with a newfound confidence.

"If we could go play them tonight, I would go down there tonight right now and play them," Cobb said. "I'd give you everything I have, everything I've got left after this game, which I still feel like I've got a lot of energy right now. Expect a lot from us when we go to Knoxville."

With bowl eligibility taken care of, the goal is on ending The Streak.

"I think that would put something on our season that we haven't had in the past," Cobb said. "We've been able to go to bowl games and we've been able to end some streaks, but I think that streak is something that a lot of folks want ended. I think that would put a cap on our season. I think everybody would be a little more satisfied with our season than they are now."

Video: Joker, players discuss bowl-clinching win

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Joker Phillips

Mike Hartline

Ricky Lumpkin

Randall Cobb

Live blog: UK football vs. Vanderbilt

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Calipari respectfully disagrees with Kanter ruling

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In his first public comments since the Enes Kanter ruling, Kentucky men's basketball head coach said he respectfully disagrees with the NCAA's decision.

"I respect the NCAA's decision," Calipari said after UK's season-opening win over East Tennessee State. "I don't agree with it, but I respect the decision because it's a hard decision."

Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible Thursday by the NCAA for "receiving benefits above his actual and necessary expenses while playing for a club basketball team in Turkey."

UK will appeal the decision to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee at the end of November.

"Enes Kanter is like my son or any of your sons out there," Calipari said. "He got nothing from anybody except his dad, and his dad did not do anything wrong. His dad did all the things he thought were going to make sure his son stayed an amateur. No one can argue the point that this kid wanted to be an amateur, and so did his father.

"Now, if they did some things they didn't know were wrong by our rules, maybe. But they didn't do anything wrong. And I feel bad. So we're looking at the appeal and thinking that, you know, common sense, people will look at this in a common sense way and say, 'You know what, the kid deserves better than this.' "

One thing is for sure: The Kanter case is creating precedent in college basketball.

"Educational expenses, we've never seen this before," Calipari said. "They're things they haven't seen. I respect what they've done, I just don't agree with it."

Jones shows all is good without Kanter - for now

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28_UK_ETennSt_14_cw.JPGFor one night at least, the Kentucky men's basketball team did a pretty good job of answering any questions as to how the team will fare without Enes Kanter.

Opening the 2010-11 season under the disappointing news that the Turkish big man (Kanter) is permanently ineligible, pending an end-of-the-month appeal, 6-foot-8 freshman Terrence Jones went wild in squashing any concerns about UK's inside shortcomings.

At least he did for a night.

Jones posted his first career double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead Kentucky comfortably past East Tennessee State, an NCAA Tournament team a year ago, 88-55. In posting a first-game double-double, Jones became the first Wildcat to post a double-double in his debut since Jules Camara in 1998-99.

Much like his second exhibition game and the Blue-White Scrimmage, Jones continues to show unmatchable versatility. In addition to being UK's rock inside, Jones knocked down two 3-pointers, showed an ability to drive to the basket and came up with three steals.

Best of all, Jones didn't record a single turnover. The downside is he made just 3-of-10 foul shots.

"He's hard to guard," ETSU head coach Murry Bartow said. "He's one of those guys that can float out and make the 3. He's got the (isolation) game. He can go by you off the dribble. He's got that midrange game off the dribble, plus he's athletic and he can offensive rebound.

"He's not really a four, he's not really a three, he's not really an outside guy or an inside guy. He's kind of got that whole game, which makes it hard to match up on him and hard to guard. He's very talented."

Jones, a young man with a lot suddenly resting on his shoulders, will have to be all of the above without Kanter.

"He has to be a monster down low (without Kanter) like he was tonight," said Knight, who came up with a big 17 points of his own. "He has to have that intensity that he had tonight."

With UK's only other two post players struggling to find a groove (Josh Harrellson started but scored just two points in 16 foul-riddled minutes while Eloy Vargas had zero points), it was on Jones to slow ETSU big man Isiah Brown and produce some type of an inside game.

Jones was slow to get going, but he took over the game early in the second half with 12 straight points. In his typical dynamic fashion, Jones scored the points off a dunk, midrange jump shot, free throws and 3-point shot.

"I was just in the flow of the game," Jones said. "It was fun just going up and down. When the ball is in your hands you've got to make it. I could have done a lot better in the first half, but that was a good little run for me."

While admitting the team didn't take the disappointing Kanter news well, Jones said he took it upon himself to become the lone presence in the post.

"I accepted that to be one of my priorities, to get rebounds and help our team have more plays," Jones said.

And after 6-foot-8, 210-pound Brown scored ETSU's first nine points, Calipari had to look Jones' way to become the interior defensive stopper.

"What he did is he competed because Brown was killing us," Calipari said. "What I told him after the game is, 'You may be our post defender. It may be you. You may be it so they can't throw it to the post on us and score.' "

Jones slowed Brown but the junior forward for ETSU finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

"Being versatile, I wanted to play all over," Jones said. "With (Kanter) gone, whatever the coach wants me to do is what I'll do."

Kentucky's long-range shooting also did well to cover up UK's interior game. In a stark contrast from the last time we saw the Cats in a game that counted, Kentucky buried 13-of-26 shots from behind the arc, including 10 first-half 3-pointers.

"You're not going to do this every game," Calipari said. "You're not going to shoot that well. If you defend, attack that glass, make free throws like we didn't today, you'll be fine."

Freshman guard Doron Lamb, who made a surprise appearance off the bench after starting the two exhibition games, provided an energetic spark as UK's sixth man. Lamb scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

"We just felt comfortable," Lamb said. "We know each other very well on the court. We've played with each other without Kanter so we know the system very well."

The Cats were braced for game one without Kanter. Will they be for the rest of the season? 

Video: Calipari, players talk season-opening win

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John Calipari

Terrence Jones

Doron Lamb

DeAndre Liggins

Live blog: UK men's basketball season opener vs. ETSU

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UK_CSU_ASB_04.JPGTime: Saturday at 12:21 p.m. ET


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

TV coverage: SEC Network with Dave Neal, Andre Ware and Cara Capuano

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: 69 degrees, most sunny, 10 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

Senior Day advisory: Fans are advised to be in Commonwealth Stadium by 11:50 a.m. in order to see the Senior Day introductions.

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 10:15 a.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 10:15 a.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 Vanderbilt can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

Different year, same frantic style for UK Hoops

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adia.jpgIf you were looking for pretty basketball Friday on the first day of the women's college basketball season, inside Memorial Coliseum was not the place to find it.

Playing with gargantuan expectations for the first time in this young century, the No. 9/10 Kentucky women's basketball team struggled to pull away from Ohio Valley Conference opponent Morehead State. In a first half that was every bit as ugly as MSU coach Tom Hodges' yellow, blue and white argyle-patterned suit, UK shot just 10 of 28 from the field, turned it over nine times and sputtered to a seven-point lead.

But there's something about ugly that fits this Kentucky women's basketball team well. A season after ranking in the nation's top 10 in turnover margin and steals, an in-your face, feisty defense looks to once again be the trademark of the 2010-11 team.

Even when UK started to pile up the bricks in the first half, there was never much of a doubt of what was going to happen. Everybody knew Kentucky's full-court trapping defense would eventually take over and bust through the wall of bricks.

And it did as the Cats rolled 82-48 over Morehead State behind 36 turnovers in Friday's season opener.

"I think the second half we went back to our defensive fundamentals," said sophomore A'dia Mathies, who finished with a team-high-tying 18 points. "We really pressured the ball and denied the ball like we should have done in the first half. In the second half we really turned it around and stepped it up."

The Cats used an unyielding second-half press to fuel an 18-0 run. Morehead State committed 20 turnovers in the second half and struggled in spurts to get the ball past midcourt.

"Their defensive tenacity and intensity, especially in the second half, was really the difference in the game," Hodges said. "They forced us into some awkward decisions in bad spots within our offense."

Hodges said there's good reason UK is a top-10 team, but the first-year MSU coach pointed to Kentucky's defense as to what may separate the Cats from any other team in the country.

"It looked like there were eight of them out there a couple of times, maybe even nine or 10," Hodges said. "There are so many things (that make them good on defense). The first thing you see when you turn on film - and film is not an adequate portrayal - is their tenacity and how hard they play. They play unbelievably hard every possession. Every pass within your offense is pressured. Every dribble, every time you bounce the ball, there is going to a hand in there to harass you and throw your timing off."

On a day when reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap struggled to put the ball in the basket (4-of-16 shooting), it was her defense that led to 18 points and eventually buried the Eagles.

Dunlap finished with seven steals, four blocks and countless deflections. Her defense is what helped her to the foul line late in the game and to another double-digit scoring day.

"That is the number one thing when we approach the game is our defense," Dunlap said. "We have to pressure the ball and get up in their face and deny while knowing where everybody is on the court. Once we get into more games and get up to game speed, we will get enough pressure to get people to turn the ball over."

Defense will have to be the staple, at least early on, while UK tries to find its way offensively.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell, while loaded with returning stars Dunlap and Mathies, is trying to sort through a myriad of early season questions. The biggest of his concerns is how to replace injured point guard Amber Smith, where the six freshmen fit, and who will replace the energetic roles of departed players Lydia Watkins and Amani Franklin.

"We are running a bunch of players in and out of there, so that is sort of a double-edged sword," Mitchell said. "As a coach, you worry that there might not be much offensive cohesion, but then you start seeing the second half and I hope that a pattern is developing. In some games it is going to be a big margin like that but other games you may be down seven or eight and you can wear them down and push through a three- or four-point victory. That is sort of the thought process."

While Mitchell tries to figure out his lineup and while the offense tries to work though its kinks, it will be up to the defense to settle the team down and create easy transition baskets.

"When you are creating steals and then laying it up and get back in the press again, that is discouraging to the other team," Mitchell said. "It helps a lot when you can just lay it up and you don't have to worry about throwing it into the post and missing the post and then your point guard didn't do what she is supposed to."

As Mitchell seemed to allude to, there were plenty of season-opening problems Friday. But when you can play ugly and win by 34, well, ugly doesn't seem so bad anymore.

Ugly seems to look just right for this UK Hoops team yet again.

Snowden injures knee: It didn't look as if things could get much worse during UK's sluggish first half against Morehead State until Keyla Snowden went down with a right knee injury.

Snowden's knee was awkwardly bent back when Morehead State's Ashar Harris dove into Snowden as she tried to get a loose ball. Snowden laid face down on the court several minutes, banging her hand in pain and frustration several of times.

The junior guard was eventually carried off the floor and into the locker room without putting any weight on her right leg. Snowden returned in the second half on crutches and with a large brace around her knee.

Mitchell sounded as if it wasn't serious but declined to speculate any further.

"It is a little too early to tell," Mitchell said. "It doesn't look terrible, but we don't really know. We will just have to wait until tomorrow. I just hesitate to give you any more information than that so we can see if it swells tomorrow. We are feeling OK about it right now but we just don't know yet."

Video: Mitchell, players talk season-opening win

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Matthew Mitchell

UK Players

Live blog: UK Hoops season opener vs. Morehead State

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From the Pressbox: Notes from Tom Leach (Nov. 12)

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It's a veteran East Tennessee State team that Kentucky will face Friday night, one that features three fifth-year seniors. But one of those veterans is probably going to be watching from the sidelines.

ETSU radio play-by-play man Jay Sandos said on Thursday's "Leach Report" show on WKJK-AM that last year's leading scorer, Tommy Hubbard, is recovering from a knee injury. He said it's similar to the one that sidelined Alabama running back Mark Ingram for the Tide's opener back in August.

"The bad news is they lose, probably for this game, their leading scorer and rebounder from last year, Tommy Hubbard," Sandos said. "Without (him), it could be a really tough task."

The Buccaneers make their living off their press, with a goal of trying to force more than 20 turnovers per game by the opponent.

"It's really what got them to the (NCAA) tournament (last season)," he said, adding "the press kept them in the game against Pittsburgh (in a one seed versus a 16 matchup in 2009). The Bucs were tied going into the last media timeout and had the basketball."

ETSU does get forward Mike Smith, perhaps its best defender, back on the court after he missed last season with an injury.

= = =

Of the 100 points Kentucky scored in its 29-point NCAA tourney win over East Tennessee State in March, 89 were produced by players no longer on the UK squad.

= = =

Sophomore Jon Hood gave the Wildcats a spark off the bench in last week's exhibition rout of Dillard, mainly by knocking down perimeter shots.

Coach John Calipari is no doubt hoping that helps Hood's confidence.

"I need more confidence after I miss a shot," Hood said. "I have gotten a lot better. When you miss a shot you get down on yourself and that is what it is. When you miss a shot, you can't get down on yourself. You start doubting yourself with whether you will miss the next shot or next two or if I start making turnovers or something like that.

"Coach Cal says you have got to forget it. He always yells 'Next.' Just move onto the next play and that has helped a little bit."

Hood said it's not a new issue for him.

"It has been an ongoing thing, but in high school it was never this bad," Hood said. "In high school, I could bully my way to the rim and make up for it. Out here, if you start 0-for-3, it is hard to get going and get hot if you miss that first 3, whether it is starting with a layup, then going to midrange and then 3, you have got to work your way up. That is what it is -- hustle and rebounding to get your mind off the shooting thing. It's all help and you get so much better at that, that it is still a long way to go."

= = =

Without Enes Kanter, Kentucky will rely even more heavily on its perimeter players this season and its point guard in particular. Brandon Knight will need to score big, but Calipari also wants him to balance that mission with being the quarterback of the offense.

"It's a tough position to play in this offense," Calipari said on a recent Big Blue Sports Network pregame show. "It's like being a quarterback in the West Coast offense and you've got five reads and you're used to just going back and winging it. But he's playing well. I would like him to lead the nation in assists and yet still score."

= = =

This senior class has accomplished a great deal for Kentucky football to move this program forward, but one thing only the fifth-year guys know is what it feels like to win on Senior Day.

Kentucky's last victory in the final home game of the season came in the 2006 campaign, a hard-fought 42-40 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
 

WBSK 09_10 UK_GA Web 39.jpgOn Friday at 11 a.m. in Memorial Coliseum, UK Hoops will open its season against Morehead State. The game will also open the Division I women's college basketball season as the first regular-season game of 2010-11 season.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell spoke with the media on Thursday afternoon. Here are a few highlights as the team prepares for tip-off tomorrow morning.

UK turns to freshmen for early contributions

UK Hoops is coming off of a successful 2009-10 season that ended in a trip to the Elite Eight. Reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap and reigning SEC Freshman of the Year A'dia Mathies return, but UK's six-member freshman class will need to play a major role for last year's success to be duplicated.

"(The freshman) are very important," Mitchell said. "They outnumber every other class of active players three to one; there are six of them and two in the rest of the classes. I would anticipate all of them having a chance to play tomorrow."

Two freshmen, guard Kastine Evans and center Samantha Drake, played key roles in UK's lone exhibition outing against Kentucky Wesleyan. 

Evans was the second-leading scorer behind Dunlap with 15 points while Drake contributed with 10. Mitchell is looking for a consistent third scoring option behind Dunlap and Mathies, and that could come in the form of a freshman-wide effort.
 
"I think (the exhibition) is possibly how this team may be, where you have Dunlap and Mathies as go-to players, but what excited me is to know who else is going to step up and it may be Kastine one day or it may be Keyla (Snowden) one day," Mitchell said.

Set the alarm clocks early

The 11 a.m. tipoff will be the earliest start time of the season for UK Hoops, which presents a unique challenge in UK's first game.

"Today is going to be a long day for us," Mitchell said of Thursday's preparation. "We are going to have to be mentally tough. We will come in and have our normal practice. Then, we will come in and do our game-day practice tonight because the schedule is just the way it is tomorrow morning. We have talked about it this week. We have talked about how important mental focus is going to be and preparation. I'm concerned about a number of things tomorrow and so I guess you could throw that one in there."

Mitchell also went on to say the team has prepared for the game with early morning practices on both weekdays and weekends. However, the adrenaline associated with the first game of the season should help UK wake up for the early start.

"I think the excitement to get the season started will probably override everything else," Mitchell said.

Mitchell familiar with Morehead State

Opening the season against Morehead State holds special meaning for Matthew Mitchell, having spent two seasons at the school as head coach before coming to Kentucky before the 2007 season. 

When Morehead State was looking for a new head coach this past off-season, Mitchell was excited to see Tom Hodges get the job.

"I've known Coach Hodges for quite some time now and clearly I have a connection to Morehead State, so when they were looking for a coach, I was very interested in who they would hire," Mitchell said. "Tom is a fine young man and a great head coach."

Without having played a regular season game, Hodges has already made a splash with his wardrobe. Mitchell was sure to point out that Hodges is sponsored by Loudmouth Golf, the company responsible for golfer John Daly's, shall we say, visually intriguing clothing choices.

"I am looking forward to seeing what the wardrobe selection is," Mitchell said. "It will be interesting."

Fortunately, Mitchell assured the media he would not follow his counterpart's lead.

"I will not be dressed in Loudmoth Golf apparel, if anybody is interested in my wardrobe selection," Mitchell said.

Special guests for game

In attendance for Friday's game will be 2,000 sixth graders from the Fayette County Public School system. The students will get a tour of the University of Kentucky campus and a chance to see UK Hoops in action. Mitchell looks forward to the enthusiasm the group of young people will bring to the crowd, particularly in light of the early start time.

"We hope the energy from those people will help us a bit," Mitchell said.

Kanter decision casts cloud of uncertainty

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The news that no Kentucky basketball fan wanted to hear dropped like a hammer Thursday evening.

Turkish big man Enes Kanter, whose presence evoked national championship dreams for the second consecutive season, has been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA, pending an appeal that will be completed by the end of November.

There's still a small window that Kanter may play at UK, but by in large, the dark, thunderous cloud that was hovering over Kentucky's star-studded team this year finally struck lightning.

Without Kanter, the fears of a razor-thin frontline and a team barren of a legitimate low post scorer just became reality.

"We appreciate that the NCAA has an appeals process to allow this young man to defend the uniqueness of his circumstances," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "Enes is a great kid who is working hard in the classroom and enjoying being a college student.  It is our hope that he will be allowed to continue his academic and athletic career at Kentucky."

But the veracity of the situation is Thursday's news was a very harsh blow to a Kentucky team now in desperate need of a new identity. Head coach John Calipari was forced to play a small lineup with mild success in two exhibition games, but how that small - and thin - lineup will hold up against a Division I schedule for the entire season remains to be seen.

Worst of all, the Kanter nightmare was realized 24 hours before the season opener against a very good East Tennessee State team.

UK was dealt a small fortune in that ETSU's leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago, Tommy Hubbard, will not play as he recovers from knee surgery. But for the most part, Friday's opponent is very much the same veteran team Kentucky faced in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

"This was a bad first game to schedule," Calipari said (it was unclear if the coach knew of the Kanter decision at the time). "We are going to have a bunch of young guys out there trying to hold the fort down."

Kentucky still has more talent and more potential than ETSU and the majority of the teams on UK's schedule, but given the earth-shattering news, one has to wonder how a group made up largely of 18- and 19-year-olds will handle Thursday's news.

Will the Kanter decision have an effect on how the players perform? Will they hold down the proverbial fort? Or will the dark clouds of the Kanter news cast a shadow over Friday's season opener and potentially the season?

That, more than the interior and depth questions, will determine how this year could shake out, at least in the early going. If the Kentucky players were holding onto hope of having the skilled big man from Istanbul, Turkey, they need to let those go now and focus on ETSU, the rest of the schedule and the parts they have to work with (even with the slightest possibility that Kanter could still play after an appeals process).

From this point forward, it is going to be on the shoulders of the 10-man lineup people saw in the two exhibition games.

Now, more than ever, Kentucky will need 6-foot-11 transfer Eloy Vargas, who will play Friday just a few days since learning his father died in the Dominican Republic.

Even with Vargas, versatile big man Terrence Jones' role has become even more important. Jones was brought in for his dynamic ability, but UK will need every bit of his 6-foot-8 inch frame now to anchor the low post.

Josh Harrellson? He'll have to go from a seldom-used role player to a vital player off the bench. Guard Darius Miller, in addition to the increase in scoring that will likely fall on his shoulders, will have to model his game off that of players who are usually 20-30 pounds heavier than him.

Don't even think about injuries if you're UK. That could take a bad situation and turn it chaotic.

More than any other player, the news will fall hardest on freshman guard Brandon Knight, who now becomes not only the player to replace top NBA Draft pick John Wall but the centerpiece of the UK offense

"I feel ready," Knight said before the Kanter news broke. "My teammates have been working hard, so that only makes my job easier just knowing that you've got a group of guys that are ready to go on a long journey."

And a long journey, filled with overhanging clouds of doubt and uncertainty, it could be without Kanter.

"We're going to learn," Calipari said Thursday when asked about how his freshmen would handle their first regular-season game.

Now we're really going to learn what this team is made of. For better or worse, let the 2010-11 season begin.

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 NCAAenhancedlogo.jpgRelease from the NCAA:

INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff has ruled University of Kentucky men's basketball student-athlete Enes Kanter permanently ineligible for receiving benefits above his actual and necessary expenses while playing for a club basketball team  in Turkey.

The university will appeal the decision to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee at the end of the month.  The reinstatement committee is the final appeal opportunity in the initial-eligibility process.  It is independent and comprised of representatives from NCAA member colleges, universities and athletic conferences and can reduce or remove the conditions, but it cannot increase the conditions imposed by the staff.

Actual and necessary expenses are defined by NCAA rules and generally relate to a player's expenses directly necessary for practice and competition on a team.  Some examples include meals and lodging directly tied to practice or competition, coaching, medical insurance and transportation tied to practice or competition.

Kanter played three seasons with the Turkish sport club Fenerbahce from 2006-07 to 2008-09. Although he competed primarily for the club's under-18 junior team, he did compete on the club's senior team in 2008-09. According to facts agreed to by the university and the NCAA Eligibility Center, Kanter received $33,033 more than his expenses for the 2008-09 season.  

The new NCAA rule that allows prospective student-athletes to compete on teams with professionals while maintaining their amateur status prior to college applies; however, the bylaw states any such benefits cannot exceed actual and necessary expenses, which was the case here.  

"Enes took advantage of an opportunity to play at the highest level available to him, but the consequences of receiving payments above his actual expenses is not compatible with the collegiate model of sports that our members have developed," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs.

The reinstatement staff considers a number of factors when deciding each case. These include the nature and seriousness of the violation; any impermissible benefits received; the student-athlete's level of responsibility; any mitigating factors presented by the university; applicable NCAA guidelines; and any relevant case precedent.

"We appreciate that the NCAA has an appeals process to allow this young man to defend the uniqueness of his circumstances," said Mitch Barnhart, University of Kentucky director of athletics. "Enes is a great kid who is working hard in the classroom and enjoying being a college student.  It is our hope that he will be allowed to continue his academic and athletic career at Kentucky."

Kanter moved to the United States in 2009 and attended a prep high school before enrolling at Kentucky this fall.

NCAA student-athlete reinstatement guidelines allow Kanter to resume practicing but not compete or travel with the team while the appeal is pending.

SUMMARY OF TIMELINE

The NCAA Eligibility Center staff first contacted Kentucky in March 2010 and Enes Kanter directly on March 24, 2010, with questions about his involvement with a Turkish professional basketball team.  From the beginning and throughout the process, the university and the NCAA conducted multiple interviews and compiled documentation pertinent to the case.  

In June, the NCAA staff provided Kentucky and Kanter with information it received indicating Kanter received benefits from the Turkish team.  In August, Kanter and his father acknowledged receiving those benefits.  From August to mid-October, NCAA staff assisted Kentucky as it pursued its due process with factual and interpretive appeals.

On Oct. 25, Kentucky agreed to the statement of facts in the case and on Oct. 27 asked the student-athlete reinstatement staff to rule on his eligibility. The staff, after an initial review, asked for more information on Nov. 1.  Kentucky responded on Nov. 4 and 8, and the NCAA reinstatement staff made its decision on Nov. 11.

Knight, Miller discuss season opener

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Junior guard/forward Darius Miller


Freshman guard Brandon Knight


Video: Calipari on ETSU, signing class

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John Calipari on ETSU


John Calipari on 2011 signing class

Video: Mitchell on Morehead State, signing class

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
VU Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Nov. 13
12:21 p.m
Coverage TV: SEC Network
Radio: BBSN
Online Audio listen
GameTracker
Online Video via ESPN3
Live Blog
Location Commonwealth Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
Vanderbilt Commodores at a Glance
Head Coach Robbie Caldwell
Record at School 2-7 (First season)
Record 2-7, 1-5 SEC
Ranking NR
Series Record Kentucky leads 40-38-4
Last Meeting Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 24-13 in Nashville, Tenn.
2010 Team Stats UK VU
Rushing Offense 149.8 131.9
Passing Offense 277.9 135.1
Total Offense 427.7 267.0
Scoring Offense 34.4 17.8
Rushing Defense 176.3 180.1
Passing Defense 165.4 241.2
Total Defense 341.7 421.3
Scoring Defense 29.8 30.9
Turnover Margin -0.40 -0.22
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (108 rushes, 574 yds, 7 TDs)
VU: Warren Norman (77 rushes, 459 yds, 4 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (222-338, 2674 yds, 21 TDs, 8 INTs)
VU: Larry Smith (96-194, 1058 yds, 6 TDs, 4 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (63 catches, 783 yds, 7 TDs)
VU: Brandon Barden (24 catches, 281 yds, 3 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (110 total, 12.5 for loss)
VU: Sean Richardson (75 total, 6.5 for loss)
Sacks UK: Taylor Wyndham (2.5)
VU: Rob Lohr (3.5)
Interceptions UK: Winston Guy Jr. (2)
VU: Casey Hayward (5)

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 key - Get out in space: "We've got to make plays in space and get some of our athletes in space. If Derrick Locke plays it changes our game plan a little bit because we've got to try to get him out in space a little bit more. We weren't as worried about getting those other guys out in space as much as Locke. Locke is guy who has speed and is one of the fastest guys on our football team, so you want to try to get him in space so he can make plays for you."

Cat Scratches' take: Kentucky with Derrick Locke and Kentucky without Derrick Locke are two different teams. For the first time in more than a month, it looks as if Locke is going to play (Locke said he was going to play Wednesday). Phillips likes Vanderbilt's defense, but the head coach will no doubt try to take advantage of a run defense that is giving up 180.1 yards per game, last in the Southeastern Conference. If Locke can return to his old self when UK was averaging 189.8 yards as a team with him, the run game should be an area the Cats can capitalize on. Remember, Kentucky ran for 308 yards on the Vanderbilt defense a year ago.

 

Defensive keys - Defend the zone-read: "You've got to stop the quarterback run game and their zone-run schemes and try to get them in a throw game so we can put pressure on him and make things uncomfortable for him. He likes to run a lot. They've done a lot of stuff to get him freed up in the run game and the one thing we've got to make sure we do is we've got to have a hat on him. They like to run those run-zone schemes and a lot of those schemes keep the ball in their quarterback's hands. They'll try to stay as close to that as they can even with their running back issues."

Cat Scratches' take: Vanderbilt's running back depth has been decimated. Leading rushers Warren Norman and Zac Stacy are both out for the game, and Kennard Reeves, who has just 26 carries on the season, looks to be the starter. Having said that, Phillips does not believe Vandy will stray from its run game. Quarterback Larry Smith isn't a prolific thrower, but he is a part of the Commodores' run game and has rushed the ball 82 times. Keep an eye on a wildcard this week, similar to what Charleston Southern, a traditionally pass-heavy team, did last week. Charleston Southern, facing a porous UK rush defense, inserted a player that had never played quarterback under center and ran with pretty good efficiency.

 

Key matchup - UK's punt block team vs. Vandy's punt unit: "You always want to try to go after people with our punt block team but we've looked at film (from the Florida game). Florida did get home a couple times with them, and we've got to try to go after them a little bit. Once you get one blocked, you start pressing, and usually something shows up somewhere on the second one."

Cat Scratches' take: What Phillips is talking about are two punts Vanderbilt had blocked last week against Florida. The Gators have had a penchant for blocked punts under Urban Meyer, but obviously there is some type of weakness on the Vanderbilt punt unit if you have two kicks blocked in a game. Look for special teams coach Greg Nord to mix things up to try to swing some momentum UK's way.

 

Joker's biggest concern - Vanderbilt's defense: "I think they have as solid of a defense as anyone in the league. Statistically it doesn't show, but I think those guys do a really, really good job of being fundamentally sound and rallying to the football and tackling people. They do a good job of tackling, so we've got to get our guys out in space and see if they can tackle our athletes. I really like the (Chris) Marve kid. He's been around for a long time, but their whole defense is very, very solid and sound."

Cat Scratches' take: Vanderbilt ranks last in the league in total defense, but part of the problem is the Vandy offense hasn't stayed on the field long enough, ranking last in the conference in fewest plays run. The Commodores have played well in spots, giving up just 14 points to Ole Miss' high-octane offense and holding the Florida offense to three-and-out on three of its first four series last week. Several individual stars highlight the Vandy defense. Linebacker Chris Marve is fifth in the SEC in tackles (68), defensive end Tim Fugger is first in fumbles forced (four) and Casey Hayward is tied for first in interceptions (five).

 

UK player that must step up - Quarterback Mike Hartline: "Mike Hartline has to have a solid game for us. He's got to take care of the football, manage their blitz packages and he's got to execute our offense. Him being a fifth-year senior, he's been through a lot here. With everything he's been through here and to bounce back, you can't be anything but proud of the way he's handled himself and we're looking at him to have a big game."

Cat Scratches' take: Maybe no player deserves a louder ovation than Hartline on Saturday. Even with everything he's been through and the type of season he's had (2,674 yards and 21 touchdowns), he admitted this week that much of his legacy rests on what he does in his final two regular-season games and whether or not UK makes it to a bowl game. Look for him to try to cement his legacy as a very good, underappreciated gunslinger that was a big part of UK's bowl streak.

 

Final injury report: After missing four straight games, Locke is expected to play this week. Backup tailback Raymond Sanders will more than likely get reps as well. Linebacker Qua Huzzie is doubtful with a sprained AC in his shoulder. Ronnie Sneed, who is suffering from a shoulder stinger, is expected to start at Mike linebacker.

Wall's historic night

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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 Thumbnail image for nba1.jpgAgain, I don't want make this a weekly update on the former Wildcats in the NBA, but come on, how could I not post about John Wall's historic night?

Kentucky's point guard from last year posted his first career triple-double Wednesday night in the Washington Wizards' win over the Houston Rockets. Wall had 19 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, six steals and just one turnover.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Wall is the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. Only LeBron James (twice) and Lamar Odom did it at a younger age. Wall is also the sixth player in NBA history to record his first career triple-double within his first six career games. Oscar Robertson was the fastest to his first career triple-double: He had one in his first career game.

Through six games, Wall is averaging 19.4 points and 9.6 assists per game.

Wall's predecessor, Jodie Meeks, went and had himself a night as well.

Meeks, now with the Philadelphia 76ers, scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc.

Video comments from Calipari on coachcal.com

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said it best when talking to Courier-Journal recruiting reporter Jody Demling about John Calipari's third consecutive top-ranked signing class.

Class School National rank
2011 Kentucky 1st
2010 Kentucky 1st
2009 Kentucky 1st
2008 Memphis 4th
2007 Memphis 10th
2006 Memphis 23rd
2005 Memphis 7th
2004 Memphis 9th
Kentucky Farm Bureau

"I have not seen anything like this (run of No. 1s) since I have been in the business," Meyer told Demling. "It's amazing and I guess what makes it so amazing is that it really doesn't seem that amazing. It seems like clockwork."

Ho-hum for the mad recruiting scientist, Calipari. The 2011 early signing class for the second-year Kentucky coach was just another day in the life of the game's top recruiter.

Calipari signed four five-star recruits to national letters of intent Wednesday. High school superstars Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer will all be playing basketball at the University of Kentucky next season, securing what is widely regarded as the nation's top class for the third straight year. Teague (No. 2), Gilchrist (No. 3), Davis (No. 6) and Wiltjer (No. 25) are all ranked in the Rivals.com top 25 in the class of 2011 and are consensus five-star recruits.

And yet none of us in the Commonwealth are surprised in the least.

Already one of the nation's top recruiters at Memphis, Calipari has found the perfect platform at Kentucky to recruit the nation's top players. Calipari's previous point guards own the last two NBA Rookie of the Year awards (and maybe a third on the way in the form of John Wall), and a record-setting five UK players went in the first round of the NBA Draft this past year.

When you pair those results with a program like Kentucky together, it's been a perfect, unbeatable combination for nabbing the best of the best.

"You sell results," Calipari told me in a recruiting story for Kentucky's official yearbook. "You sell what we've been able to do. When I said this is a big, big moment for Kentucky basketball, maybe the biggest when those five players were drafted in the first round for the first time in the history of the program, I stand by that statement. That's why we were able to have the kids committed this year and looking at the juniors and how this thing might roll for the next four or five years."

In that story (you can order the yearbook here or find in stores for $10), Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua admitted that kids are basically selling themselves for the chance to play at Kentucky, so much so that they don't even look at all the top-10 players in a class anymore.

Instead, the coaching staff is focused on who of the nation's top crop fits best in the system.

"There may have been one other player that I really wanted that we didn't get," Calipari said. "Short of that, we've gotten who we wanted."

In this year's class, with the nation's top frontcourt (Davis and Gilchrist), top point guard (Teague) and a lengthy sharpshooter (Wiltjer), Calipari got what he wanted. In fact, he may have nabbed his best recruiting class ever.

With the nation's second-, third- sixth- and 25th-ranked players, according to Rivals.com, Calipari has far and away the nation's best average ranking this year and best of his career.

As good as the 2010 signing class was with Enes Kanter (No. 3), Brandon Knight (No. 6), Terrence Jones (No. 13), Doron Lamb (No. 21), Stacey Poole (No. 33) and Eloy Vargas (No. 26 in the 2008 class), 2011 may be better.

Not even the 2009 star-studded class of John Wall (No. 1), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 2), Daniel Orton (No. 22), Eric Bledsoe (No. 23) and Jon Hood (No. 40) was quite as top heavy as this year's class (let's not forget that Calipari could still add a signee or two in the late period).

Now, it remains to be seen whether any of these last two classes can match what Wall and Co. did, because let's face it, last year was pretty special. But on paper, when your worst player is ranked 25th in the nation, you've pulled off one heck of a recruiting coup. Believe it or not, this class looks as good, if not better, than any class Calipari has ever hauled in.

And it's all been like clockwork.

One can almost picture Calipari on Wednesday sitting with his legs up on his desk, yawning as the faxes come in.

OK, maybe that's a stretch. But the point is, as long as Calipari is at Kentucky, this string of top-rated recruiting classes should no longer surprise anyone.

As unfair of an expectation as it is, the only thing that will surprise us is the year he doesn't get the top class.

Video highlights of UK's newest signing class

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Kentucky announced the signings of yet another highly touted signing class Wednesday.

Five-star recruits Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer signed national letters of intent to play basketball at the University of Kentucky next season, securing what is in all likelihood the nation's top class for the third straight year. Teague (No. 2), Gilchrist (No. 3), Davis (No. 6) and Wiltjer (No. 25) are all ranked in the Rivals.com top 25 in the class of 2011.

Watch video highlights below of the future Cats from high school. All clips can be found on YouTube.


Marquis Teague 
 




Mike Gilchrist


Anthony Davis


Kyle Wiltjer

Live blog: UK men's soccer vs. No. 25 Tulsa

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If the Kentucky men's soccer team hopes to make the NCAA Tournament, the Cats will need to make a pretty significant run in the Conference USA Tournament and likely need to win it.

The Cats have played well down the stretch by winning three of their last four matches, including one against Wednesday's opponenent, Tulsa.

Brent Ingram, the UK men's soccer sports information director, is in Memphis for Wednesday's match and will have a live blog of the action starting at 8:30 p.m. ET 

Brooks bass fishing? Just too good not to post

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Have you ever wanted to just sit on a lake with former UK football head coach Rich Brooks to fish and talk a little football?

Well, watch the video below and you'll have your chance.

While it's bass fishing, if you're a UK football enthusiast, I would watch the video below. Brooks reflects on his time at Kentucky and some of his favorite moments in the Bluegrass State. Seriously, it's worth watching.

Credit to the guys over at Kentucky Sports Radio for the find.

Joker Phillips wasn't willing to fully commit to Derrick Locke playing Saturday for Senior Day, but the senior tailback was.

"I'm going to play this week," said Locke, who has missed the last four games with a shoulder stinger. "I feel pretty good. I felt good out there today. I felt good yesterday. The main thing was to see how I felt banging around a little bit. I banged on them pretty good today."

Locke has practiced Tuesday and Wednesday this week, including contact drills Wednesday. Locke said it's been frustrating to sit out for four straight weeks, especially with NFL aspirations on the line.

"It was rough knowing that this is my last year to show scouts what they need to see and to do what I wanted to do," Locke said. "It was rough because I didn't know when (the feeling) was going to come back. They were telling me it might never come back. It might come back in a month. I'm like, 'You've got to come back quicker than that.' "

Locke, who has never lacked in self-confidence, said doubt began to creep into his mind as to when, and if, he would return.

"Two weeks into it I still couldn't feel my arm," Locke said. "I couldn't just raise my arm. I could only move my arm about 45 degrees. My nerve just kind of basically shut down in my deltoid (muscle), so I couldn't really function. Now I'm getting my strength back and I can move it."

Was he scared he wouldn't come back?

"I wouldn't say I was scared, but I was worried," Locke said. "I was concerned about being out. I've got a family, so this is my life. This is what I want to do. If I can't play, then what am I going to do? I've got my degree, but that's not the route I want to go."

But Locke, who considered making the jump to the pros last season, said he doesn't regret returning to UK for his final season of eligibility.

"I felt like coming back was the best for me," Locke said. "I needed to get a lot smoother. I needed to get better on some things, and I feel like I've done that early in the season. I feel like I've proved what I needed to prove. At the same time, you want to play against your SEC opponents. You want to continue to do good things."

Even though he's missed four-plus games with the shoulder stinger, Locke still leads UK with 574 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. 

Locke expects to have fresh legs for his return - and final game - at Commonwealth Stadium.

"I'm ready to get out there and help my team," Locke said. "You can't help sitting on the sidelines. I've been helping the young guys out, but I need to get out there and play. We need the extra playmaker out there. I'm just going to go out there and do what I can do to help my team."


Senior running back Derrick Locke


Head coach Joker Phillips

Video: Hartline has no regrets as career winds down

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Kind of a side note to the video interview above: Junior Randall Cobb tabbed Mike Hartline -- not the popular choice, Ricky Lumpkin -- as the most likely the cry at Saturday's Senior Day festivities.

When told what Cobb said, Hartline wondered out loud why anyone would think he was the most likely to cry. For what it's worth, Hartline chose Lumpkin as well for most likely to cry.

Anyway, check out the above video to see what Hartline had to say about his career at UK.

Nov. 7 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, Nov. 7:

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Freshman Whitney Billings put together a complete performance for the Wildcats during their 1-1 road trip. Billings provided UK with a spark both offensively and defensively this week. The Helena, Ala., native charted 14 kills on a .306 hitting percentage in a wild five-set loss to Alabama. It marked the 14th time this season she had topped the 10-kill mark and the fifth time she hit for an above .300 clip. Billings’ floor defense was impressive as the freshman picked up 35 digs on the weekend for an average of 3.89 scoops per set which ranked second on the squad only behind libero Stephanie Klefot. Billings also added six blocks for the weekend including a pair of solo rejections. She was targeted 60 times from the service line and committed just one error for a stellar .983 percentage. Her two assists against the Tide is a career-best for a match, while she totaled back-to-back 15 or more dig performances for the first time in her career.

Volleyball: Gretchen Giesler

Junior Gretchen Giesler led the Blue and White with 2.89 kills per set on a team-best .447 hitting percentage. Giesler was one of two players to reach double-figures in the kill column with 10 in the win over Mississippi State. She followed that performance with the best offensive output of her career in the five-set thriller against Alabama. Giesler tossed down a career-best 16 kills on .483 hitting against the Tide. Her previous career-best number was 13 set last season. Giesler paced the squad with 26 kills on the weekend while also adding five blocks for the week. She averaged twice as many kills per set and over .200 percent better than her average hitting percentage for the season.

Football: Winston Guy

16 tackles

Women's golf: Betsie Johnson

Betsie Johnson led the Cats for the third straight tournament. Johnson was the highest placing golfer on the team in three of the Cats' four fall tournaments.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot was sensational for the Wildcats this weekend during their 1-1 road trip. Klefot led a strong defensive effort against Mississippi State as the Blue and White totaled a season-high 77 digs in the win. Klefot was responsible for a match-high 21 digs to lead the way. She followed that performance with a career-best and match-high 28-scoop effort in five-thrilling sets against Alabama. Klefot’s 28 digs is the most since BriAnne Sauer had 35 in 2009 for any UK player. The sophomore picked up nearly 50 digs on the week in nine sets of action for a staggering 5.44 digs per set average. She topped the 20-dig plateau twice and has now tallied 10 career matches with 20 or more digs, including seven this season. Klefot’s 4.44 digs per set in SEC action ranks third in the SEC – and this week she averaged a dig more than her league average. For the season, Klefot has racked up 429 digs and needs just 11 more to break into the single-season top-10 list at UK. Additionally, Klefot posted a .971 reception percentage as she was targeted 68 times and had a mere two reception errors. For the season, Klefot averaged a .963 clip in that category.

Men's soccer: Brendan Murphy

Freshman Brendan Murphy picked a great time for his first career goal, netting the game-winning goal against South Carolina in the 87th minute … Goal broke the 1-1 tie and gave UK the win, avoiding the school-record 10th overtime game of the season … Murphy’s goal may have been the best goal for the Wildcats all season, as he took the ball on the far side of the pitch, working his way through the South Carolina defense inside the box, side-stepping a sliding tackle and leaping a Carolina defender, firing an off-balance shot from the near side of the 18-yard box, sailing into the net at the near post.

Men's tennis: Eric Quigley

  • Junior Eric Quigley defeated several highly-ranked players to take home the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships consolation singles title Sunday.
  • Quigley won the title with a three-set victory over No. 26 Dennis Nevolo of Illinois 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
  • The victory was one of many so far this fall for Quigley, who has a 18-3 record with a 12-1 mark against top-45 ranked players, including wins over Nos. 1, 13 (twice), 21, 26 (twice), 28, 30, 31, 33, 44 and 45.
  • The finals appearance is the fourth of the season for Quigley, who won his second consecutive USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships in late October. The junior also played in the finals of the ITA All-American Championships in early October and the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic in September.

Football: Donald Russell

Rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns

Football: Danny Trevathan

13 tackles, two tackles for loss

Football: CoShik Williams

Rushed for 95 yards and three touchdowns

Tuesday afternoon notes

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Apologies for the lack of content the last couple of days. I've been under the weather a bit and I'm still trying to round back into form. A couple of notes to catch you up on the latest UK news:

- Thoughts and prayers go out to Kentucky men's basketball forward Eloy Vargas and his family as UK has confirmed that Vargas' father has died. There are no other details on the elder Vargas' passing, but UK has confirmed that Vargas' father died in the Dominican Republic. Vargas' status for Friday's season opener is uncertain, but that should be the last thing on Vargas' mind right now.

- UK football fans' biggest fear got some legs Tuesday when junior Randall Cobb confirmed to the Lexington Herald-Leader's Chip Cosby that he will weigh his NFL Draft options after the season. In an interview after practice Monday, Cobb told Cosby that he plans on waiting until after the season to submit his name for the NFL Draft Advisory Board before deciding whether to turn pro. Does this mean Saturday's game is Cobb's last one at Commonwealth Stadium? Not quite. Most juniors with an NFL future usually have their draft status evaluated, and the NCAA allows student-athletes to submit papers to the draft and return to college once in their collegiate careers. Becase of the (I believe strong) possibility of returning to UK, it doesn't sound as if Cobb will participate in Senior Day activities. Read the full details on Cosby's blog.

- Leading rusher Derrick Locke is scheduled to talk to the media Wednesday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in the Auburn game. Locke has missed the last four games with a shoulder stinger and has declined to talk to the media since. With Senior Day on Saturday and the chances that he will play this week increasing, Locke has agreed to talk Wednesday. I'll have coverage of what Locke says Wednesday on the blog.

- Just a quick reminder that Wednesday is the first day of the fall signing period. The signing period, which lasts through Nov. 17, includes all sports except football, soccer, track and field, and cross country. We cannot talk about the prospective student-athletes on this website until UK has received the national letter of intent. UK will announce the signings with a news release. Those of you looking for comments from basketball coaches John Calipari and Matthew Mitchell on their classes, they are scheduled to talk about the signees during news conferences Thursday.

- Congrats to former UK linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has been named the Denver Broncos' Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award recipient. The prestigious award historically recognizes a player for outstanding leadership both on the field and in the community. Woodyard will be recorgnized during pregame festivities of Sunday's game against the Chiefs when a $5,000 donation will be presented on his behalf to both the Tennyson Center for Children and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.

It's never too early for NCAA Tournament projections

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We are oh-so-close to tipping off the 2010-11 Kentucky basketball season Friday. The men's season actually began Monday night with three top-25 teams in action (that does not include Tennessee's exhibition loss to Division II Indianapolis).

With the season kicking off this week, I guess it's never too early to look at March projections. Gary Parrish CBS Sports and Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com have preseason projections of what the NCAA Tournament field could look like at the end of the season.

Parrish has tabbed the Cats a No. 4 seed along with Illinois, Missouri and Temple and picks six teams from the Southeastern Conference to make the Big Dance.

Meanwhile, Palm predicts UK will be a No. 3 seed. Palm has the Cats playing No. 14 seed Fairfield in the first round. Kentucky is also Palm's SEC champion and one of five SEC teams to make the field.

From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Nov. 9

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44tamme.jpgFate -- in the form of an injury to Dalls Clark -- gave Jacob Tamme an opportunity to start at tight end for the Indianapolis Colts. From there, it's on him, and the former Wildcat star is clearly demonstrating that he was prepared to take advantage of the opportunity that came his way.

Sunday, in a loss at Philadelphia, Tamme caught 11 balls for 108 yards. And for the second week in a row, the one-time Boyle County High School standout caught a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning.

"I felt pretty calm. I felt really confident in what I was doing," Tamme told www.tomleachky.com after his first-ever NFL start the week before. "You know, when you play with Peyton and the guys we have on our team, it is easy to go out there and play with confidence, so I feel like I can go out there and do some good things and move the ball. It all clicked."

Tamme reflected on his days at Boyle County, playing for coach Chuck Smith, who is now the linebackers coach at UK. Tamme said he felt their teams there were always better prepared than their opponents. He said that focus on preparation continued at Kentucky and it is just the same with the Colts' organization.

"Our walkthroughs (the day before a game) are very serious," Tamme said. "It is getting in the right spot, taking the right steps, putting your body in the right position and it's a lot of things. On defense, for example, we work on tackling. In practice, you can't afford to tackle (for fear of injury), but we work on getting your body in the right position for game day. I think we have a lot of guys who take that very seriously and that type of preparation helps us a lot, the fact that we hone in on that and get our mind and body prepared for what it will be like on Sunday."

Once Clark went down with a season-ending injury, did Tamme do extra work with Manning to develop chemistry between QB and receiver?  It turns out, Tamme was already doing that.

"We have been doing extra work for several weeks now," Tamme said. "We have been doing it a lot and I have been doing extra film study and we have been going over things. It is one of those things where, when your teammates have confidence in you to get in there and do the job -- and especially with somebody like Dallas going down because you can't really replace him -- (it motivates you). I just go in there and be myself and do what I can do and I think that can help us. It is fun to be a part of it, and when guys have confidence in you to be a part of this offense, it makes it even better."

Tamme had the chance to play in a Super Bowl last season and even made a tackle on kickoff coverage. But surely that first NFL TD catch was a special moment.

"Well, it felt like touchdowns did at Kentucky," Tamme said of his touchdown in the Monday night win over Houston. "You have a euphoric moment where you don't know what is going on and the guys come over and celebrate and it's a good thing. It was nice to get in the end zone but even better to help us move the ball and get a big win that we really needed."

Tamme's opportunity to move up the depth chart at tight end also got him another first -- having his picture in Sports Illustrated. The magazine's section on fantasy leagues recently featured a large picture of Tamme, touting him as a valuable pickup because of how many passes the Colts throw to their tight end (former Wildcat wide receiver Steve  Johnson was also mentioned given his emergence in Buffalo's passing game).

"I heard more stuff about fantasy leagues than I ever had in my whole life," Tamme said. "I told somebody that it's an honor to be in Sports Illustrated but I wish it had something to do with actually playing. Hopefully, we have some more weeks like (the win over Houston) and I can keep getting catches and help us move the ball. Fantasy stuff is all fun and games for people like that. But hopefully we keep focused on the right stuff and those things will come."

The week before his first NFL start, Tamme had the chance to return to UK because the Colts were coming off a bye week and he had a few days off. Coach Joker Phillips had Tamme address the current Wildcat team after a practice. There has been a steady parade of former Cats in the NFL who have been stopping by in recent weeks and they share one trait -- a tremendous pride in what the UK program accomplished over the past four years.

"You hope we'll be able to get back together one day and say we were part of starting the time when we believed we could win the SEC," Tamme said. "There was a time not too long ago when that was completely out of the question. When we were trying to get things turned around, the main thing was we just believed. I know it sounds cliché, but we had a bunch of guys that did believe and had some talent, too."

Check out Kentucky Athletics Interactive

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If you haven't already checked out the site in previous months, I wanted to remind everyone to check out the Kentucky Athletics Interactive website as UK continues to add custom micro-sites on each of its 22 varsity sports.

The latest micro-site to go live was the Kentucky women's basketball team site.

Kentucky Athletics Interactive, which can be accessed at http://interactive.ukathletics.com, was launched to inform and educate prospective UK student-athletes and their families, as well as the general public, about the University of Kentucky Athletics Department and its mission. The primary goal of the website Interactive is to provide online visitors with a broad overview of the UK Athletics program and each of its 22 varsity sports in an innovative and entertaining way. The hope of the site is to provide an accurate glimpse of what it means to study and compete as a nationally prominent student-athlete at UK.

The current micro-sites live on the site pertain to cross country, football, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's golf, volleyball, women's basketball, and rifle. The men's basketball site is expected to go live in the near future.

In addition to the micro-sites, Kentucky Athletics Interact includes UK Tube, the new official video site of the Kentucky Wildcats, which features new videos created by the UK Sports Video staff, as well as UK student-athletes, coaches and other staff, in accordance with NCAA rules and regulations.

Also, prospective student-athletes can learn about the "first three steps" all prospective student-athletes must take to compete as a Division I athlete at UK.

Thumbnail image for Phillips.jpgVanderbilt, believe it or not, has been like a rite of passage for the Kentucky football team.

Over the last four years, Kentucky has entered the Vanderbilt matchup twice needing a win to become bowl eligible. In the other two years, UK has desperately needed the victory to move up the bowl pecking order.

For what it's worth, UK has taken care of business three out of the four trips, the lone loss coming in eerily similar Senior Day fashion.

"It's always been like this since I've been here," senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "If we handle (our) business it will be our sixth win, another step in the right direction for our program and another way to get the season going again in the right direction. They're going to come in here and try to ruin our season."

With a decimated running back corps and an almost impossibly unfair situation for first-year head coach Robbie Caldwell (former coach Bobby Johnson mysteriously retired not even two months before the start of the season), the Kentucky game for Vanderbilt, as Lumpkin said, is like the Commodores' bowl game.

"To watch coach (Joker) Phillips in his first year trying to get bowl eligible, we hope we can make them squirm another week," Caldwell said.

And that's exactly what UK wants to avoid. Despite Tennessee's struggles this season (the Volunteers are currently 3-6), the last thing the Cats want to do is have a 25-game losing streak to UT and bowl eligibility on the line for their trip to Knoxville, Tenn.

With UK's bye week set on the schedule for next week, the agony of losing to Vanderbilt could become anxiously unbearable with an extra week to think about the stakes in Knoxville.

"You don't want to go into a bye week with a loss," Lumpkin said. "Then you're saying, 'Alright, we've got to win this game or else the season is over.' You want to go into the bye week with a win."

Lumpkin knows all too well the anguish of losing entering a bye week. In 2006, when UK's current bowl run began, the Cats were thumped 49-0 in Baton Rouge, La., and it appeared Rich Brooks' tenure at Kentucky was on the brink.

Fortunately for Brooks, UK and the current four-year bowl streak, Kentucky turned it around after the bye with a season-changing - and possibly program-changing - victory at Mississippi State.

"That wasn't fun," Lumpkin said. "The bye week wasn't a bye week. We practiced every day and it was hard."

Memories like that have started to resurface for Lumpkin and the 15 seniors that will play their final home game in Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. Lumpkin said the reality of his collegiate career ticking down hit him in the team hotel last week before the Charleston Southern game.

With everything the senior class has gone through, especially for fifth-year seniors Lumpkin and quarterback Mike Hartline, Lumpkin wants to end it on a good note.

"You don't want to be that team to end this tremendous bowl streak we have going," Lumpkin said. "Even though we lost last year, just going four in a row is great, especially here at Kentucky and especially for the redshirt seniors that have been here from the beginning. You don't want to start something and then go out ending it."

Unlike many of his coaching colleagues who downplay the emotional significance of Senior Day, Phillips said he will try to play on those emotions in the days leading up to the Vanderbilt game.

"We'll start talking about that tomorrow with getting each one of those guys explaining what it means to play their last game," Phillips said. "I think it could be a positive. They'll be playing in front of this crowd, the last time they'll be playing in this stadium for their careers, so I think we'll use those emotions because I think it always helps."

Video: Football players discuss Vandy, Senior Day

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Senior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin


Senior wide receiver Chris Matthews


Junior safety Winston Guy

Ian Collins

Brendan Murphy

Live blog: UK Hoops vs. Kentucky Wesleyan

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Live blog: UK men's soccer vs. South Carolina

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Head coach Joker Phillips


Quarterback Mike Hartline


Running back CoShik Williams


Wide receiver Randall Cobb


Linebacker Danny Trevathan

Live blog: UK football vs. Charleston Southern

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UK's energy, toughness does a 180 in final tune-up

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17_UK_Dillard_014_RB.JPGIn one aspect, there is only so much you can take from an exhibition game against an overmatched team.

In another aspect, if you're a Kentucky basketball fan and head coach John Calipari, what was there not to like about UK's 122-54 rout of Dillard in front of 21,589 fans at Rupp Arena?

There was a 69.6 percent shooting clip from the field, 28 assists, 11 3-pointers and a plus-26 rebounding margin. Like Calipari said postgame, everything looks good when you make shots, but there was no overshadowing the improved energy and intensity in the final tune-up before next week's regular-season opener.

Monday night against Pikeville, the Cats were getting pushed into the cheerleaders on rebounds. On Friday, UK was diving for loose balls, winning 50-50 chances and playing unselfishly.

"Intensity, passion, everybody talking more, playing together and just going harder," was the difference Terrence Jones said after the victory, and nobody epitomized the four-day turnaround better than Jones.

The 6-foot-8 forward looked lost and frustrated Monday in his first game against outside competition, missing 7-of-9 shots and turning the ball over six times in the win over Pikeville. Against Dillard, the potential upside of Jones - the versatility and the explosiveness - shined through again with 23 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks, four assists and three steals.

Jones was the equivalent of a five-tool baseball player.

"He had a passion about playing," Calipari said. "There was no coolness. High school kids, when it doesn't go right, they try to be cool like, 'I don't really care. You know, this isn't really me.' But you can't be that way. He even started the game a little bit that way.

"But what you saw was when he got near that goal, the thing that he does that not many in the country do at his size, his second, third and fourth jump.  'So go in there and do it.  Just go in there and go rebound every offensive rebound.  Go after it once, twice, three times.  Don't accept being blocked out.  Then run that court.' "

Similar to the Pikeville game, Jones started slow. This time around, though, Jones composed himself and finished 10 of 13 from the floor.

"I just wanted to improve from the first game," Jones said. "(I had) first-game nerves. I just didn't play as hard as (Calipari) wanted me to. I wanted to prove to him that I was going to come out and play harder. We just practiced real hard this week to get ready for this game and I feel it showed."

Calipari downplayed the score after the game, saying the Cats still had a "long way to go," but in terms of team chemistry, UK appeared to be clicking in midseason form.

Uncharacteristic of a team made up of freshman scorers, Kentucky played as selflessly as you're going to see a team play all year.

Late in the first half, with UK already riding a 41-10 run, Jones stuffed a player at the top of the arc and had nothing but the open hardwood and rim ahead. But instead of taking it the length of the court to finish off the play he started, Jones bounced it twice and passed ahead for Jon Hood to throw down the dunk.

"We've just been focusing on sharing the ball," Jones said. "I started off taking two bad shots I should have passed and I just wanted to make that up for myself by giving away one." 

Hood returned the favor on the very next play with a perfect lob that Jones reached back for and tomahawked with one hand.

Later in the second half, Doron Lamb continued the effort with a dive at half court for a loose ball. He threw ahead for Brandon Knight, who again had a wide-open dunk, but Knight threw off to Jones instead for another thunderous dunk.

"We're just trying to build chemistry as a team and just trying to look for our teammates and know when they're supposed to be there," senior forward Josh Harrellson said. "That just gets the crowd going. We're trying to get everybody's adrenaline pumping and (pump) more enthusiasm into the game because that brings more energy."

Harrellson and Hood were largely responsible for igniting the initial spark.

After getting off to the team's second consecutive sluggish start, Harrellson entered the game and provided an immediate lift. A week after finding his way into Calipari's doghouse with a controversial post on Twitter, Harrellson put up four quick points, four rebounds and a block before going back to the bench.

Hood picked up right where Harrellson left off with two 3-point daggers from the left corner. When Hood hit the second trey, UK had turned a two-point deficit into a 26-11 lead Kentucky lead.

Harrellson finished with 13 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-6 shooting, and Hood tallied 18 points thanks to four shots from behind the arc.

"(This game) boosted it a little bit," Hood said of the confidence he gained Friday. "It's still just the preseason and we've still got a long way to go."

True, but there were a lot of questions about this team's toughness and mindset after the first exhibition game. The Cats provided plenty of answers before the real test begins.

"It's kind of in between where we want to be, but, there are signs," Calipari said. "I'm dealing with all freshmen again, so we've got to do it in a hurry, but we're getting there. 

John Calipari

Jon Hood

Josh Harrellson

12_uk_uga_06_jw.JPGTime: Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET


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

TV coverage: Pay-per-view live, Big Blue Sports Network and Fox Sports South with Rob Bromley, Dusty Bonner and Ryan Lemond (additional TV info)

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: 41 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 10:15 a.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 10:15 a.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 Charleston Southern can be found at UK's official Gameday site.

"We're still not finding each other."

That was head coach John Calipari's lament in our pregame interview Monday night. After the Cats beat Pikeville 97-66, he sat down for the postgame interview and said he didn't see much improvement as Kentucky recorded just seven assists on 26 made baskets.

How does a coach get that quality to improve in his team?

"You get them out and floor and let them play with each other a lot. If I'm not playing a lot of guys, they'll be a great 'team,' " Calipari said, referring to how a shorter rotation will breed more familiarity. "As the season goes along, they'll find each other."

= = =

We get one more look at the Kentucky men's basketball team in exhibition play Friday night against Dillard, one week ahead of the official opener. 

Rookie point guard Brandon Knight is continuing what he displayed in Canada, but fellow freshman Terrence Jones gives the Wildcats' an interesting dimension with his ability to go inside and out at 6-foot-8.

Knight is a hard-to-guard guy given his mix of slashing ability plus a smooth outside shot, but the rookie point guard said Jones presents the greatest challenge to a defender.

"There's really no way to defend him," Knight said. "If he has a guy the same size on him, he's going to blow right by him. If he has a guy that's smaller, he can go into the post. He creates mismatches all across the board. He can rebound the basketball, he can push it, he can play as a point guard."

= = =

It was Clint Eastwood as "Dirty Harry" who said "a man's got to know his limitations."
 
Coach John Calipari considers that trait an asset when it comes to freshman Jarrod Polson, who joined the Wildcats as a walk-on and is now on scholarship. At media day, Calipari said Polson "knows what he can't do," meaning the young man understands what his role is for this team.

"Just learn the offense," Polson said. "Pretty much doing whatever Calipari tells me to do.  Guarding Brandon every day in practice."

And guarding Knight is quite a challenge.

"His quickness and strength," Polson said are the two hardest things to guard. "He's really strong. And I didn't realize he was such a good shooter."

Polson had a much different role at West Jessamine High School last season. In the final two regional tournament games, he scored 71 of his team's 111 points and the Colts advanced to the second round of the Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena. Polson finished as his school's all-time leading scorer.

= = =

Former UK quarterback Dusty Bonner has been impressed with how Mike Hartline has handled himself during his time at Kentucky.

"He caught a lot of heat that I thought was undeserved and he's managed to come through that and not listen to any of the negativity," Bonner said.

Hartline did not have his best game in the loss at Mississippi State but still made some tough throws. Nevertheless, his critics will no doubt resurface without giving much consideration to the absence of Derrick Locke, which has enabled opponents to unleash more pressure on the Kentucky passing game.

Bonner sees a more confident quarterback out there now and one who is making throws he didn't make before.

"The South Carolina game in particular, there are some throws he made -- out routes across the field -- I'd have to think opened some eyes in the NFL as a guy that can potentially play at the next level," Bonner said in an interview with www.tomleachky.com.

And said Hartline is particularly good when the protection breaks down and he has to move out of the comfort zone of the pocket.

"When some guys get forced out of the pocket, they're in panic mode," Bonner said. "Mike's not like that. He scans the field and he delivers a nice ball." 

= = =

Sophomore linebacker Ridge Wilson made his first start of the season at Mississippi State last week and said the key to moving up the depth chart was understanding what he didn't know.

"In high school, you could just play on talent," Wilson said. "In college, you've got to read your keys. Coach (Steve) Brown constantly tells me, 'Read your keys.'  I'd say, 'I'm making a play.' but then I started believing what he was saying was right and I could make the play faster. I just continue just to hush my mouth and try to take it day by day and try to have a short memory (when I make a mistake)."

Operation Win received a morale boost Friday thanks to some of Kentucky's closest military friends.

With Saturday's Military Appreciation Day game on the horizon, the 101st Airborne Division Demonstration Team out of Fort Campbell, "The Screaming Eagles," parachuted and landed onto the Tim Couch Practice Fields during the Kentucky football team's Charleston Southern walkthrough.

While the team stretched for its morning walkthrough, sergeant Adam Sniffen and sergeant Jae Park jumped from a plane 3,000 feet above the Nutter Training Facility and landed in the middle of the practice fields.

As soon as Sniffen and Park touched down on the field, the Kentucky players, some of whom were chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A," ran over to meet the "The Screaming Eagles" before Park helped the UK coaching staff deliver the game plan for Saturday's game with Charleston Southern.

"Always know the situation of the game," Park said to the UK players. "Know your backup and who's got your back. Hit the field like you mean it."

Head coach Joker Phillips, who, along with his coaching staff, journeyed aboard two Blackhawks to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center outside of Greenville, Ky., to meet with troops from the 149th Maneuver Enhanced Brigade before the season, said it's just the beginning of a long-standing relationship with the military.

"That was amazing," Phillips said. "I had cold chills just watching those guys. I told our guys that these guys are well trained and we have to show tomorrow how well trained we are."
It was a special moment for sophomore kicker Craig McIntosh, who serves as a member of UK's Army ROTC program.

"It's very inspiring to have them come out and motivate us to get ready for the game tomorrow," McIntosh said. "Military Appreciation Day is a really big deal, and I'm looking forward to seeing that enormous flag out there (Saturday) on the field and honoring everything the men and women of our armed forces means to us. They defend our country, and I'll be a part of that in the near future."

Defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, whose parents both served in the Army, said Military Appreciation Day is always one of his favorite games. 

"Military Appreciation Day should inspire any team," Lumpkin said. "You want to win that game for them. It makes them excited and a lot of the soldiers coming are going to be from Fort Campbell and pretty sure they are all Kentucky fans. To send them back with a win would be awesome. We get to shake their hand after the game and to see their smiling face has been my favorite thing to do here over the past five years here. They are just so excited to be here. During the game, you see them eating their hot dog, drinking their soda while yelling and watching the game it a great feeling and it's awesome to be around it."

Watching "The Screaming Eagles" parachute and land on the field also served as a nice break and surprise for the Kentucky football players, who, until Friday morning, had no clue they would get to meet some soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.

"It was a nice break in practice, but at the same time, to see them come down with the drift markers and the wind and things like that, it was amazing," Lumpkin said. "It's like what we do, but their job goes to a higher extent. If they mess up, they may not be coming back. To see how they take all the preparation and know what the altitude is, add in the wind, sky conditions and see how all of that takes effect, and then to see how they can land perfectly on a little dot, that is precision. You have to love it."

Sniffen and Park are scheduled to parachute and land on C.M. Newton Field at Commonwealth Stadium before UK's game with Charleston Southern on Saturday.

Video: Collins previews South Carolina game

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Nidiffer's unexpected rise, return to Lexington

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BSB 09_10 UK_USC Game1 Web 25.jpgJune 8-9 were a pair of really stressful days for Marcus Nidiffer.

The former Kentucky standout catcher sat in front of a computer for two days, glued to MLB.com as the 2010 MLB Draft was announced, pick by pick. A total of 1,525 players were picked in the 50 rounds of the draft but as the draft came to a conclusion, no one had selected Nidiffer.

That seemed a little odd for a player who finished his career as a three-year starter behind the plate in the best conference in college baseball. All he did was hit .284 (121-for-426) with 25 homers in 153 career games at UK.

"Man, I sat there on the computer, watching pretty much every single pick," Nidiffer said about watching the draft. "I talked to all the friends that were draft eligible, too, and was just wondering what was going on. After the draft was over, I was kind of wondering what I was going to do."

That decision was taken out of his hands, as the Houston Astros jumped in and signed Nidiffer to a non-drafted free-agent contract, assigning him quickly to Greenville in the Appalachian League.

"I started looking at other things in my life other than playing baseball," he said after not getting drafted. "I was lucky enough to get that call and got the opportunity and rolled with it."

And did he ever roll with it.

A three-year starter at catcher for the Wildcats, it looked like Nidiffer would be a veteran college catcher who would be given a chance for an organization with depth issues behind the plate. But that wasn't the case. The Astros knew that if Nidiffer was going to advance in their organization, it was going to be because of his power bat, so they put the 6-foot-2 native of Bristol, Tenn., at first base, taking pressure off and allowing Nidiffer to focus solely on offensive production.

"I tell you what, playing first base is a lot easier on your body," Nidiffer said. "I feel fresh every day. It's not as much wear and tear on your body like catching is. Catching is just a whole different position, a whole different mindset. At first base you may get a groundball every four innings and catching you're in every pitch. It certainly makes hitting a lot easier."

Nidiffer produced, raking his way through the Appalachian League in 48 games. He batted .303 (50-for-165) in his pro debut, with 10 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 24 RBI, adding six stolen bases. He ranked third in the league in slugging percentage (.588) and second in OPS (.981), going yard once every 15 at bats.

"A lot of us get a lot of pride in seeing Marcus be successful," UK assistant coach and offensive coordinator Brian Green said. "Marcus and I had a really special relationship and watching him do what he did in the minor leagues was really enjoyable for me. Marcus deserves to be successful, he is a good person, he was a great Wildcat and he was a leader. He showed up every day, he played hurt, he gave it his all on a daily basis. I wasn't surprised, but at the same time I was. I was fired up to see him do what he did."

That production led to a promotion to the New York-Penn League for the final 21 games of the year, where Nidiffer hit three homers and had 12 RBI, finishing his debut season with a .286 average (70-for-245) with 14 homers and 36 RBI.

"It was really fun; it is a lot different than college ball," Nidiffer said of professional baseball. "It is just a whole different approach. You are playing every day. It is an absolute grind. The traveling is tough and you absolutely have to be all about yourself, get better yourself and do things for you, which is a tough transition from college. But it is fun and I am loving every minute of it."

BSB 09_10 UK_Bama1 Web 24.jpgNow done with his first professional season, Nidiffer is back in Lexington, hanging with his old teammates and spending time on campus with the program. During UK's Fall World Series scrimmage on Thursday, Nidiffer hung out in the dugout with former UK stars and current professional standouts Chris Rusin and Gunner Glad, imparting wisdom and getting to know a young UK team.

"It feels really good to be back in Lexington," Nidiffer said. "It's great to see some familiar faces, see what has changed. It just feels great to be back in this atmosphere, I kind of miss it. I really like these guys, I like the coaches. And when that time arises and someone needs some help or advice from someone who is older and knows what is going on, I'll be able to do some comparisons and let them know what is going on."

On Tuesday, MLB.com continued its organization breakdown of the minor league all-stars for each franchise. The website honors the players - regardless of age or prospect status - who had the best seasons in their organization. Nidiffer was selected as the all-star first baseman for the Astros.

"Sometimes opportunities come for players unexpectedly and they can either take advantage of them or they fail," Astros field coordinator Dick Scott said. "He was brought in to fill a hole, recognized this was his chance and definitely got our attention. He hit well and hit for some power. He was asked to play first base, which he had never played before prior to arriving in the organization. He possesses a strong work ethic and a desire to continue proving he belongs."

"That is a pretty big honor," Nidiffer said after being told about the distinction from MLB.com. "Being a free agent and to have anyone look at me as that type of player really helps out a little bit in the future and how I could move up the ladder. I still have to play and perform but being honored helps. Having that sign on you as a free-agent signing, you kind of have to work double time and prove your worth a little bit more then the guy that was drafted in the first 10 rounds."

After dominating in the rookie-level system for the Astros, Nidiffer's next logical promotion appears to be the South Atlantic League Lexington Legends. If he is promoted to the Legends for the 2011 season, Nidiffer will become the first former Wildcat to play full time for the Legends in their collegiate hometown.

"When I heard that, I got the chills, to be honest," Green said. "It is an incredible thing and even more incredible that Marcus Nidiffer could be that guy who could play for the Legends. Marcus is a great role model for a lot of the guys. He is a great story and he is a great story for those freshmen on our team."

Nidiffer had a bevy of exciting moments in his UK career, including helping UK win the Southeastern Conference Championship in 2006 as a freshman, leading UK to the NCAA Regional finals in 2008 and hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning to complete a sweep of the defending NCAA champion LSU in 2010, the last at bat of Nidiffer's UK home career.

"This game isn't easy, it didn't come easy for Marcus," Green said. "His first two years, he didn't have much success. He would tell stories about not even getting at bats in intrasquad games at times. He was constantly swinging and missing. Then he put it together that junior year and he backed it up with his senior year. It would be great for him to be that guy (with the Legends), in our town and our community; it would be an incredible story and an inspirational story for all of us." 

Cats trying to manufacture more toughness

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07_UK_Pikeville_06_cw.JPGJohn Calipari had a pretty stern message for his impressionable cluster of youth in practice Tuesday following his team's 31-point struggle over Pikeville. The message: If you get pushed around by an NAIA team, how are you going to survive in the Southeastern Conference?

Calipari did his best to toughen up his team before its final exhibition game against Dillard on Friday and prior to the start of the regular season with a more direct, in-your-face practice Tuesday. The second-year UK coach says he doesn't like to yell, but there was more of it in practice and in the film room a day after his team played with what he termed a lack of fire.

"It comes down to how do we get them to play harder?" Calipari said. "How do we get them to compete at a higher level? How do we get them to play rougher? How do we get them to go after every ball? It's almost like changing a culture. You've got to come in and make them think differently."

To show them what he's talking about, Calipari said he showed the players film of what he called "soft plays." He said there were about 25 of those and only six or so borderline hustle plays.

"Instead of blocking out you just stood there and he throws you into the cheerleaders and you slide all over the floor and - boom - into her, there's sparkles on your face," Calipari said of some of his team's play. "That happened about three times. We had towels over there wiping sparkles off their faces."

In practice Tuesday (Calipari gave his team the day off Wednesday), there were tougher rebounding drills, physical 3-on-3 sets and intense defensive exercises.

"He is just making us compete in practice with competitive drills," freshman guard Stacey Poole said. "We are going after each other in practice and making sure that we do everything hard. Everybody did what they had to do because Coach Calipari doesn't play about that. We just have to compete and have fun in practice while doing it."

It has been quite the eye opener for a freshman-dominated group that is still adjusting to the talent level and change of pace of the college game.

Calipari described some of his players as "shell shocked" in their first exhibition game, so much so that some of the players didn't even know what to do in pregame introductions.

"They didn't know where to go," Calipari said. "The first guy who got introduced started walking and was like 'Where do I go?' The second guy came out and went over to shake hands with the official like it was a high school game."

Asked Thursday if he was worried about his team's youth-driven lack of intensity in the Pikeville game, Calipari said no because of his players' respect for the staff and understanding of the program's tradition.

"I'm going to have to be ultra patient, and I have been that way to this point," Calipari said. "That's why I needed to go crazy in the game to let them know how I'm going to be. I'm trying to be patient, but there are certain things that are unacceptable."

Some of those things Calipari cited as unacceptable: not playing hard, not running hard, not sprinting back, on defense, not making cuts and not grabbing balls with two hands.

Calipari said his staff and the fans, to a lesser degree, have been spoiled by some of his recent teams' toughness over the past few years, including last season's.

"We went through some of this last year," Calipari said. "The only difference is when we were able to practice, I didn't have to do what I do now, which is manufacture the environment of toughness. We had it. We just threw the ball up and beat the crap out of each other. Here I'm going to have to manufacture it a little bit. If they're what I thought they were, they have fight in them. I just have to bring it out in them."

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 NCAAenhancedlogo.jpgWith the fall signing period coming up on Tuesday, the University of Kentucky compliance department wants to remind fans that they are discouraged from attending any signing day parties or announcements of prospective student-athletes.

UK has been informed by the NCAA that attendance at a prospective student-athlete's announcement, party or signing could be deemed a violation of NCAA rules and could result in an NCAA violation for the school. Any contact with a prospective student-athlete could represent impermissible recruiting contact with a student-athlete, as defined by NCAA bylaw 13.01.4

Bylaw 13.01.4 states that boosters and fans "of an institution's athletic interests are prohibited from making in-person, on- or off-campus recruiting contacts, or written or telephonic communications with a prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete's relatives or legal guardians."

The fall signing period, which includes all sports except football, soccer, track and field, and cross country, starts Tuesday and lasts through Nov. 17

Head coach John Calipari


Freshman Stacey Poole


Freshman Jarrod Polson

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Gameday Information
Game Notes UK Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UK Depth Chart Get Acrobat Reader
CSU Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Saturday, Nov. 6
12:30 p.m
Coverage TV: BBSN
Radio: BBSN
Online Audio listen
GameTracker
Online Video via ESPN3 (subject to blackout)
Live Blog
Location Commonwealth Stadium
Lexington, Ky.
Gameday Information
Charleston Southern Buccaneers at a Glance
Head Coach Jay Mills
Record at School 42-44 (Eighth season)
Record 2-6, 0-4 Big South
Ranking NR
Series Record First meeting
Last Meeting First meeting
2010 Team Stats UK CSU
Rushing Offense 141.1 89.9
Passing Offense 278.3 248.8
Total Offense 419.4 338.6
Scoring Offense 32.8 22.6
Rushing Defense 180.3 197.9
Passing Defense 169.4 230.9
Total Defense 349.8 428.8
Scoring Defense 30.8 37.4
Turnover Margin -0.22 -0.63
2010 Stat Leaders
Rushing UK: Derrick Locke (108 rushes, 574 yds, 7 TDs)
CSU: DeMarcus Moon (95 rushes, 323 yds, 6 TDs)
Passing UK: Mike Hartline (207-314, 2402 yds, 19 TDs, 7 INTs)
CSU: A.J. Toscano (82-135, 1066 yds, 9 TDs, 4 INTs)
Receiving UK: Randall Cobb (59 catches, 682 yds, 6 TDs)
CSU: Gerald Stevenson (43 catches, 643 yds, 2 TDs)
Tackles UK: Danny Trevathan (97 total, 10.5 for loss)
CSU: Chris Patrick (63 total, 7.5 for loss)
Sacks UK: Taylor Wyndham (2.5)
CSU: Fred Godfrey, William Hunt (2.0)
Interceptions UK: Winston Guy Jr. (2)
CSU: Charles James (5)

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 key No. 1- Execute: "We've told our offensive guys, when you see teams that lose to I-AA teams, the thing that happens is you don't protect the ball, you play sloppy, you get minus-yard plays, you miss blocks and assignments. Those things you cannot do in a game like this. It's all about execution. Execute your assignment and make sure you're not careless with the ball."

Cat Scratches' take: It's fairly simple in a game like this - execute and take care of business. Talent-wise, UK should be able to rebound from its recent skid and get back on track in its quest for a fifth straight bowl bid, but the precedent for Football Championship Subdivision upsets has been set this year with Jacksonville State defeating Ole Miss, North Dakota State upsetting Kansas and South Dakota toppling Minnesota (quite a year for the Dakotas, huh?). The Football Bowl Subdivision opponents (Ole Miss, Kansas and Minnesota) had a minus-five turnover margin in those three games.

 

Offensive key No. 2- Re-establish the run: "We've definitely got to try to rush the football, which we've tried to do every game. We've never been one of those teams to just abandon the run, and this is one of those games that we've got to run the football to get some confidence. If Derrick Locke can go, we've got to try and get him some confidence with being able to take a hit and being able to protect the football. You've got to give him some reps to feel good about himself, but you also have to be smart and can't wear him down either. ... Locke, one thing he does, is when you get the ball out to him in space in our passing game, he's really dangerous. We've been more of a perimeter running game this year, especially with some of the schemes that Coach (Mike) Summers has brought us and with Locke's speed. People have tried to take that away since Locke has been gone. When you get him on the perimeter, that's when he's the most dangerous, and we haven't had that the last few weeks."

Cat Scratches' take: Since starting tailback Derrick Locke has gone down with injury, the running game has gone down with him. UK is averaging just 70.3 rushing yards per game in the last three weeks, a stark contrast from the 189.8 yards the Cats were averaging with Locke in the game. Locke practiced all week and will dress for Saturday's game. He will be a game-time decision. Sophomore Donald Russell will get the start no matter what, as freshman Raymond Sanders is a game-time decision with a strained abdominal muscle. If neither Locke nor Sanders can play, expect to see former running back Moncell Allen to get some touches along with CoShik Williams.

 

Defensive keys - Build on last week's effort: "I liked our defensive effort last week. We've still got to get better at tackling and getting guys to the ground. We've still got to do a better job of doing it for 60 minutes and not letting guys open up big holes for the other team. This week, we will have to defend more in the passing game than the running game."

Cat Scratches' take: Last week was probably the most complete defensive effort UK has posted on defense for 60 minutes. Against a run-heavy offense, the Cats held their own, especially in the second half. UK forced MSU to punt the ball five times and allowed just one score after halftime. For the game, MSU totaled 347 yards of total offense. Kentucky, which has played against its fair share of run-oriented teams, will get a bit of a break this week against a pass-heavy team. The Buccaneers' offense ranks 101st in the FCS with 89.9 yards per game.

 

Key matchup - CSU quarterback Andre Trudnowski vs. UK's pass defense: "We're going to have to make it very uncomfortable for their quarterback. They're one of the top teams in the country in throwing the ball. They're throwing for nearly 250 yards a game. We've got to make it really uncomfortable for him and play really good in pass coverage. He's played good for them. He actually played with DeQuin Evans and Chris Matthews in junior college so he's a mature guy; he's not a young guy. This is his second year in their program. He's more than adequate."

Cat Scratches' take: CSU lost its starting quarterback midway through the season with an injury but has hardly missed a beat with Trudnowski tossing the pigskin. The Buccaneers are throwing for 248.8 yard per game, and Trudnowski has 875 yards in four appearances.

 

Charleston Southern player to watch for - Kick returner Gerald Stevenson: "They've got a kick returner that has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, so we've got to do a good job of kicking the ball where it needs to be kicked and a good job of covering and tackling him to the ground."

Cat Scratches' take: Even more impressive about Stevenson's three kickoff returns for a touchdown: they've come on just 12 returns. Stevenson, who is averaging 38.2 yards per return, is also a part of the high-octane passing offense. CSU's leading receiver has caught 43 balls for 643 yards and two scores.

 

UK player who must step up - Offensive lineman Stuart Hines: "A guy that hasn't played great for us of late that was playing really, really good earlier in the year is Stuart Hines. We've got to get Stuart Hines back on track. He got injured a few weeks ago and hasn't played well. He's just struggling with inconsistency a little bit. He's been hobbled. We've got him healthy enough now that he should be able to play well for us this week."

Cat Scratches' take: Hines, the leader on the offensive line, represents a sudden collective line issue. After ranking near the top of the nation in fewest sacks allowed for the first half of the season, opposing defenses have started to penetrate UK's line. The Cats have surrendered 10 sacks over the last three games, and quarterback Mike Hartline was under heavy pressure throughout the MSU game.

 

Final injury report: Locke practiced this week and will be a game-time decision. Sanders, who did not practice this week with an abdominal strain, is also a game-time decision. Tight end Tyler Robinson is out.

Football links: Do-it-all Cobb; Trevathan a force

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It's been a little light on football on here this week (Joker Phillips' weekly game plan is on the way). Fortunately for me, there are a couple of really good football stories out in the media for you to get your weekly football fix. Click on the links below:

- Sports Illustrated has a feature on Randall Cobb and his multi-position talents.

On the play-by-play sheets from University of Kentucky football games, Randall Cobb's name is omnipresent.

There's Cobb returning the kickoff. Then Cobb catching a pass. Cobb making plays any way his coaches can imagine -- throwing, running, catching or returning, darting and shape-shifting his way downfield. And once he's propelled his team to the end zone, Cobb never trots immediately to the sideline.

He still has to hold the extra point.

When he's not performing his day job as the Wildcats' star receiver/quarterback/return specialist, Cobb moonlights as the team's PAT and field-goal holder. It's a role typically reserved for punters and backup quarterbacks, but for Cobb, holding kicks is just another way to get his hands on the football.

"Why not?" said Cobb of his role as a holder.

- The Kentucky Kernel, UK's independent daily student newspaper, writes on linebacker Danny Trevathan, who continues to lead the Southeastern Conference in tackles.

Danny Trevathan is the UK football team's version of the 'Waterboy.'

"When I see somebody take the ball, I think like they stole from me or something and I'm trying to get it back," the junior linebacker said. "I just have an attack mentality like Bobby Boucher; all of negative stuff in my life, I try to apply it to the field."

Although Trevathan said that he doesn't watch the movie with Adam Sandler reprising the role of Bobby Boucher very much now that he's grown up, the Leesburg, Fla., native has also matured into a formidable defensive force.

Important poster, media guide info for fans

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Wanted to provide everyone a reminder that posters, if acquired through the UK Athletics Department, are free of charge.

Fans can get posters for free by stopping by the media relations office in the Joe Craft Center (second floor) in-person.

Those wishing to have posters shipped to their respective home or business may place an order by calling 859-257-8000. Fans will be charged $5 for mailing orders for the shipping and handling fee of each packaging tube. Up to three posters can fit in a tube.

Also, for those seeking media guides from men's and women's basketball or football, the UK media relations department can no longer take orders over the phone. All media guide orders must go through the UK Team Shop at www.ukteamshop.com.

Men's soccer in C-USA Tournament

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All the men's soccer team has asked for this year is a chance to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Coaches and players alike have said all along that, after recent NCAA Tournament snubs, the best chance to get in is to take their fate out of the NCAA committee's hands and earn an automatic bid with a Conference USA Tournament championship.

Well, the Cats now have that chance.

After an up-and-down season marred with injuries, inexperience and a lack of depth, UK has made a late push and clinched itself a spot in the C-USA Tournament. UAB's victory over Marshall on Wednesday night assured the Cats a spot in the six-team tournament.

Now, instead of Kentucky playing a must-win game on Sunday against South Carolina to get into the tournament, UK will be playing for a higher seed. The Cats (3-2-2), currently fifth in the conference with 11 points, can finish as high as the No. 3 seed with a win over the Gamecocks.

Video: Locke practices, cleared to play

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Starting tailback Derrick Locke practiced with the team Wednesday and appears to be getting closer and closer to making a return after missing the last three games with a shoulder stinger.

"He looked really good in the drills I saw him in," head coach Joker Phillips said after practice Wednesday. "He practiced the whole practice. He caught the ball well out of the backfield. Now he didn't get hit. We didn't touch him. He had a red jersey on. But he looked really fast."

Locke is cleared to play, but Phillips said it's up to Locke as to whether or not he feels like he can protect himself. Phillips said Locke is still working on getting strength back in his right shoulder after missing the last three weeks.

"If he can play, we've got to play Derrick Locke," Phillips said. "What are we going to save him for? You all heard what Coach (David) Turner said the other day. This is a game we've got to win. We've got to use everybody that is possibly available to win this game."

Locke received a similar report from Phillips last Wednesday but experienced a setback after practice and did not play against Mississippi State.

Wall's home debut much better than NBA debut

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With so many former Kentucky players in the pros these days, I don't want this to turn into an alumni blog or anything, but John Wall's Tuesday night was just too good not to post.

Making his home debut in Washington, Wall went for 29 points, 13 assists and nine steals in Washington's first win of the year. The nine steals tied a franchise record.

Wall is just the third player in NBA history to tally at least 60 points and 20 assists in his first three games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Connie Hawkins and Oscar Robertson were the first to do it.

Read all about Wall's night here.

UK-Vandy_wsoc_022.JPGImagine a soccer offense similar to a no-huddle, four-wideout football team (sounds kind of like the Oregon football team, huh?). That's what Jon Lipsitz is trying to implement in his second year at the helm of the women's soccer program.

"We are gunslingers and that's our attitude," Lipsitz said. "We throw everybody in the attack. We take every risk possible. Let's be honest. Soccer can, at times, be a little mundane and a little boring. I love the game but I'm willing to say that. We don't want it to be. We want it to be exciting. We want the crowd to love what they see. We want to try fancy moves and take risks."

But in his first year as the head coach, Lipsitz's team, to put it bluntly, was boring because it failed to score goals. In 18 games in 2009, UK found the back of the net a Southeastern Conference-low 11 times.

In Kentucky's last two games alone, the Cats have scored 11 goals, including a 6-1 rout of Vanderbilt on Friday night in a literal must-win situation to make it to the SEC Tournament.

Lipsitz said he's "felt" an offensive outburst coming for a while, but improving from 11 goals to 31 goals in one season takes more than just a feeling.

"Our players have just worked extremely hard in training," Lipsitz said. "I think that's a lot of it, and we have really emphasized our attack for the last three weeks, almost exclusively. We still do defending every day but we've really spent a lot more time on our attack."

Lipsitz, whose team will play No. 2 seed South Carolina on Wednesday at noon in the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., also said his team is healthy for the first time all year.

UK's leading goal scorer, junior Kelsey Hunyadi (eight goals), has sat out four games this year due to concussions, and for the first time last week, the Cats' three top offensive threats, Hunyadi, junior forward Natalie Horner and freshman forward Caitlin Landis, practiced together.

"We're healthier than we were the first day of preseason," Lipsitz said.

The practice paid off Friday as Hunyadi played what Lipsitz called one of the best games he's seen in a long time, Landis scored a goal, and Horner tallied two goals and two assists.

"Natalie came here a very dynamic player, a very special player, but I think what she's done is she's become a more complete player," Lipsitz said. "She's become more of a goal scorer, she's become more aggressive going to goal, she's become a better passer and she's become a much better defender."

When UK essentially faced elimination matches at Mississippi State and against Vanderbilt, the offense that had held the Cats back for the last two years finally opened up. For seniors Laura Novikoff, Kelly Browning and Sydney Hiance, who have had to bear a coaching change and adapt to a new roster, it was the perfect way to get into the SEC Tournament.

"I can't describe how much this means to me just to be a part of this team," Novikoff said. "To be a part of this atmosphere, this team, with all the adversity we've faced and how much we've had to grow and struggle and change as a team, to come out and finish like this, it means a lot to me."

The victory was just as important for Lipsitz, who, in his second year at the helm of the program, wanted to see tangible results in the program's improvement.

In his first year on the job, Kentucky stumbled to a 5-9-4 record and 11th-place finish in the SEC. This year, UK will head into the SEC Tournament with a 10-7-2 mark.

"One of my concerns last week is if we don't beat Vandy and we don't make the SEC Tournament, the players won't feel like we have really made the next step in rebuilding this program and people outside the program that don't see the work that they've done every day won't see it," Lipsitz said.

The key now for Lipsitz and his team is avoiding complacency. Will the team be satisfied with its marked improvement and SEC Tournament invited or will it fight for more?

UK's opponent, South Carolina, was one of the few teams to dominate the Cats all season, winning 5-1 in Lexington a couple of weeks ago.

"I called them all in (before training) and I said, 'Look, if we're going down for an expense-paid trip to the beach on UK's dollar for 36 hours and we're just going to have a little kick around in the park, tell me now,' " Lipsitz told his team. " 'Because if that's going to be our attitude then there is no reason for me to push you in training and there is no reason for us to be flying down there. But just tell me so I know how to handle it.

" 'If we're going down there to kick some butt, advance and be there until Sunday, I need to know that also because we're about to train for an hour and 15 minutes and I'm going to need to push you on every single moment. Every single thing I'm going to be on you.' They said, 'We're going down there to win.' They get it."

Oct. 31 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. 31:

Football: Randall Cobb

292 all-purpose yards, including 12 pass receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown

Women's soccer: Natalie Horner

Natalie Horner had a career night helping UK to a 6-1 win over Vanderbilt and an appearance in the program's first SEC Tournament since 2007. Horner scored two goals and assisted on two others in the win ... She took seven shots, three on goal. She has recorded a team high seven assists and ranks second on the team in points scored.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot led a strong defensive effort in helping UK to a pair of impressive victories over Georgia and Auburn. Klefot helped the Wildcats limit the Bulldogs to a negative .010 hitting percentage with a team-best 11 digs in the win. She was the lone player in the match to reach double-figures for digs. Against, Auburn she led the squad with a match-high 13 digs in limiting the Tigers to a mere .108 hitting percentage. Klefot has now led the Blue and White in digs 20 times this season and she has reached double-figures on 22 occasions. Klefot's passing was also sensational this weekend. The sophomore was served at on 59 occasions and she charted a .966 percentage for the weekend. She is just two digs shy of reaching 700 for a career - a total that leads the team for a player who has not even played two full seasons.

Men's soccer: Matt Lodge

Sophomore midfielder Matt Lodge netted the biggest goal of the season for the Wildcats on Wednesday, breaking a 1-1 tie with a goal at No. 17 Tulsa ... The goal lifted UK to the win at Tulsa, its first since the 2006 season ... The goal came on a free kick from 30 yards out, bent around and netted in the far post ... It was Lodge's fourth goal of the season and the 10th of his two-year career ... With the win over Tulsa, UK moved closer to contention for the C-USA Tournament, Nov. 10-14.

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 the 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.

Volleyball: Lauren Rapp

Senior Lauren Rapp led the Wildcats to pair of 3-0 sweeps against two SEC opponents to keep UK's hopes alive for an NCAA Tournament bid. Rapp was sensational for the Blue and White as the senior from Indianapolis led UK with 3.17 kills per set on a hot-handed .381 hitting clip. Her defensive effort was just as magnificent as she led the team with 10 blocks for an average of 1.67 per set. She also ranked third on the team with 2.17 scoops per stanza. With 10 kills against Auburn, Rapp moved into 10th place all-time for career kills with 1,199 for her career. She is just one shy of becoming just the 10th player in school history with 1,200 for a career. Rapp also nearly reached another milestone with eight block assists for the weekend. The senior now needs just one more block assist to become just the second player in school allure with 400 career block assists while ranking second all-time in that category. Rapp posted above-average numbers in nearly every category including kills per set, hitting percentage, assists, digs, blocks and points per game.

Football: Danny Trevathan

16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble caused

From the Pressbox with Tom Leach: Nov. 2

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All of John Calipari's great players have one trait in common: None of them knew how good they were, including his latest great point guard, freshman Brandon Knight.

"He's not sure how good he is," Calipari said. "That's a great sign."

Knight flashed his potential in his first game in a Kentucky uniform when the Cats played a series of exhibition games in Canada back in August. His 31-point, zero-turnover debut got the Big Blue Nation excited quickly and sparked comparisons to last year's star floor general, John Wall.

"I was surprised with how well things went in the beginning because you see practices and never know how games will go because practices aren't that intense and a lot of different things are going on," Knight told tomleachky.com. "In games there is a different mindset and different focus. I was impressed and things looked really well. We had been working hard in practice and it carried over into the games."

Calipari has understandably downplayed the talk of how Knight compares to Wall. He stresses that both are different players and that's why Calipari admits he's still learning how this team will play best. Until (and if) Enes Kanter joins the mix, it's clear UK will have to rely more on its point guard to score than was the case last year, and Calipari has said he'll experiment with more pick-and-roll plays because of Knight.

Normally, Calipari eschews any motion that brings players together on the court in his Dribble Drive Motion Offense, but the coach also adapts his system to his players each year. Calipari said he's noticed that Knight seems particularly good in those pick-and-roll situations, so that may lead to a tweaking of the system.

Knight knows he'll have to tweak his game, too, and it didn't take him long to understand that one of his favorite high school plays would not work so well at this level.

"In high school I was able to get to the rim a lot and shoot a lot of underhand layups," Knight said. "Now, when you have a 7-footer coming to contest, you got to get higher.  The thing right now is trying to shoot higher layups and get the ball higher and shoot every ball that I can."

Some degree of leadership naturally falls onto the shoulders of whoever plays the point guard role, but with this young of a team, Calipari will have to count on Knight to be similar to Wall when it comes to being a take-charge player on the court.

Knight said he's not normally a player who does much talking on the court, but he realizes his team will need him to step it up in that department.

"I was always in a leadership position but I was never a vocal leader," Knight said. "I was always a guy who led by example. I did it and now you do it. Now I am becoming more of a vocal leader and a leader that does it by example. I am put into that role because no one else is very vocal. In high school, towards the end of my season, I started becoming very vocal because I was a senior and we had a pretty young team, so I had to be pretty vocal in that situation to lead some of the young guys to the right places and give them the right state of mind to be the right team."

Knight said it's easier to assume command when he's on the court and involved in a game.

"It comes easy in the flow of the game," Knight said. "When you have a guy in the wrong position, you can't let them sit there and just use hand gestures. You must let them know, and when you see a mismatch, you need to let him know he needs to be posting. It comes with the flow of the game and knowing what you are talking about and being confident in yourself, then the vocals just open up."

Any issues with speaking up to older players when he's just a freshman?

"Not really because the guys know it is my job to do that and that coach will get on me if I don't do that," Knight said. "So I know it is my job to put them in the right places and they welcome stuff like that because it will help the team in the long run."

This UK team doesn't have the types of personalities that dominated last year's squad, but Knight said a less demonstrative team is not necessarily a bad thing.

"We are a different team and different type of players and I think it is good that we are laid back," Knight said. "We are trying to come together as a team and reach our main goal."

Knight said his work ethic was instilled in him when he was a youngster by his parents.  And Calipari knows that commitment to hard work makes it easier to assume a leadership role on the court.

"Of all the kids I've coached, I don't know I've coached one with a larger work capacity --everything, weight room, academics, (etc)," Calipari said. "He respects the game. The other thing he does is he'll get people involved."

Knight can be a leader in the classroom, too. He had a 4.3 grade-point average in high school and might actually be able to graduate in two years because of the college-credit courses he took before ever enrolling at the University of Kentucky.

Notes: Cats in the pros

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MBSK 09_10 UK_Vandy Web 42.jpgFormer Kentucky pros are having quite the success in the pros lately. Let's take a brief look at how some former UK stars are fairing in the NBA and NFL:

- DeMarcus Cousins has helped the upstart Sacramento Kings get off to a surprising 3-1 start. The former UK forward scored 10 points and three rebounds in the fourth quarter Monday night to lead the Kings back from a double-digit deficit. Cousins is averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the Kings.

- With starting point guard Baron Davis sitting out because of a sore left knee, Eric Bledsoe received his first NBA start of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. Bledsoe scored nine points and three assists in 39 minutes for the winless Clippers.

- There is a ton of hype surrounding this year's No. 1 NBA Draft pick John Wall, and deservedly so, but he still has a ways to go until he catches up to the talents of another former Kentucky player, Rajon Rondo. The Boston Celtics point guard was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week to open the season after averaging 10.7 points, 16.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds in the Celtics' first three games. With all the options Rondo has around him, he's the early favorite to win this year's assists title.

- Meanwhile, just a day after Ramon Harris signed a contract to play in the NBA D-League, three former Cats were drafted in the NBDL annual draft. Perry Stevenson, a teammate of Harris' last season, was picked in the second round by the Tulsa 66ers. Also, a pair of former UK 7-footers, Jared Carter and Shagari Alleyne, was also picked up. Carter was selected in the sixth round by the Erie BayHawks and Alleyne went to the Austin Toros in the seventh round.

- It was only a matter of time before Jacob Tamme got a chance with the Indianapolis Colts. With Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark on the bench with an injury, Tamme caught six passes for 64 yards and his first career touchdown in his first career start on Monday Night Football.

- I'd never wish anyone to get hurt, but props to former UK defensive tackle Myron Pryor for laying a nasty hit on Brett Favre on Sunday in the New England Patriots' win over the Minnesota Vikings. Pryor knocked Favre, the NFL's Iron Man, out of the game with a cut on his chin.

- Meanwhile, Steve Johnson nearly helped the Buffalo Bills to their first win of the season with a game-tying 4-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. The Bills came up short in overtime but Johnson is now up to 30 receptions for 409 yards and six touchdowns.

- Their seasons ended last week, but former UK men's soccer stars Jason Griffiths and Barry Rice saw some action in their first seasons in the MLS. Griffiths played in 10 games and made four starts for the New England Revolution and Rice logged two games and a start for D.C. United.

What we've learned from UK so far

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10_UK_Pikeville_04_BW.JPGKentucky rolled to a 97-66 victory over Pikeville in a foul-infested contest on Monday night in the first of two exhibition games this year.

There were fouls, mistakes, fouls, a few nice plays here and there, and more fouls. It was everything one would expect from the first competition of the season against a different team.

"We really had no real fight or viciousness to our game," head coach John Calipari said. "The thing with a game like this, I think Pikeville came out, which every team we play does, with a high energy level, aggressiveness. They were pretty big kids. They were seniors. They banged our freshmen around.

"If we learn from this, this was a great game to play. If we don't learn from this, we've got to do it some other way. I've got to get them to understand. That means probably I've got to get meaner, which I don't like to do. 'Just learn. You know what just happened. Let's get better.' "

The exhibitions, and the preseason to a larger extent, are all about learning. Now that we've finally seen the Cats against somebody other than themselves, let's take a look back at some other things we've learned so far:

1. Brandon Knight is going to have to score a lot (at least early on) - With few veterans to count on, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in the NBA, and relatively no go-to, established players on the inside without Enes Kanter for the time being, Kentucky is going to need Knight to continue to play like he has in Canada, the Blue-White Scrimmage and Monday's exhibition game.

Knight scored 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting Monday night, but it was his steadying influence that proved to be the most important against the Bears.

When the Cats got off to an anxious and slow start, Knight took over the game in the first half and turned an early deficit into a double-digit lead. From the14:29 mark, Knight scored the next eight of Kentucky's 16 points, turning a three-point Pikeville lead into a 26-17 advantage.

"What I like is he has a fight," Calipari said. "When he saw we were dying, he took it and drove it. 'I'm going to do it.' At times I'm going to just let him go. If no one else wants to do it, go do it all."

Calipari was pleased with Knight's leadership but said Kentucky can't win if it's all on Knight.
"He's got to get a feel for how we're playing," Calipari said. "He's got to understand, you can't just drive in the first play of the game. You got to get everybody involved.  He's got a green light.  Get everybody involved. When you see spots, go take your place." 

What Knight did provide on a night that featured what Calipari said was his team's fewest "hustle points" in the last four or five years, was some fire and leadership when UK needed it the most. Knight continually got to the line with drives in transition when Pikeville started to impose its will.

"I think it starts off with me just being able to pick the guy up in front of me and diving for loose balls and talking to my teammates," Knight said. "I think if I exhibit that energy it will transfer to them."

2. UK can't afford for Terrence Jones to get in foul trouble: Knight had to take over, in part, because Knight's scoring partner in the Blue-White Scrimmage was glued to the bench with two early fouls.

Jones put his versatility on display in last week's scrimmage with 29 points, but Jones struggled to find the same rhythm against the Bears. The 6-foot-8 freshman scored just nine points and committed six turnovers in 22 minutes of foul-riddled action.

With Kanter's eligibility still in question and with no timetable on when the decision will come, Jones will be counted on largely for UK's interior points.

Although Kentucky finished with 40 points in the paint, almost all of those were off drives by the guards. Between Jones, Eloy Vargas and Josh Harrellson, UK's current primary inside threats, the Cats got 17 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

The most troubling statistic in the paint was Pikeville's 14 offensive rebounds.

"Offensive rebounding, that's got to be one of our main things," Calipari said. "We've got to be a team that really goes and offensive rebounds. Today, again, some of our guards got them, but you're not going to get them in a real game. A two guard or a point guard is not going to rebound in an offensive game."

Jones settled down a little bit late in the game and finished with nine points and seven rebounds. 

3. UK could shoot a lot of free throws in the dribble-drive: The question now is can they make them?

After a slow start at the charity stripe, the Cats ended up hitting 44 of 56 free throws. Yes, 56 free throws.

The most encouraging stat was that Knight, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb, UK's three primary ball handlers, went 28 of 32 from the line.

"What you want them is to be confident and go in there and get fouled so you want to go to the line," Calipari said. "Darius goes 11 for 12. Brandon goes 9 for 10. Doron goes 8 for 10. That's because they're driving the ball and getting fouled."

With referees being encouraged to call more hand checks, the number of fouls, especially in UK's dribble-drive offense, could be on the rise.

Calipari has made sure to tell his players of the new rule and emphasize the need to take advantage of it.

"I think that's going to help us offensively because we're driving to the paint continuously," Knight said. "We've just got to learn to drive straight at our defenders and not sideways. I think it's going to help us get to the line a lot more. We're going to be able to defend against it because the dribble-drive is all we run."

4. Miller will be counted on for leadership: Vastly overlooked in comparing last year's youthful team with this year's inexperience bunch is lack of veteran leaders.

Without the calming influences of Patrick Patterson, Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson, this team might actually be younger in terms of leadership and game experience. One of the few returning players with significant action over the past couple of years is Miller, who will be counted on this year for more than just points.

Miller recorded a double-double Monday with 21 points and 10 rebounds, providing a reassuring authority with key drives and foul shots as Pikeville hung around. The key now for Miller is consistency, Calipari said.

"I think Darius did some good things and there were other times he just stopped playing," Calipari said. "You can't do that with freshmen because they are going to stop playing."
Miller went 11 of 12 at the line, most of which came down the stretch. The junior agreed with his coach's assessment.

"I think that's something I have to work on, not getting caught up and just watching the play," Miller said. "We're all going to have to do a better job of it than we did tonight. ... We didn't play with that intensity that we thought we should have. It's our first exhibition game so hopefully it gets better with time."

Video: Calipari, Knight, Miller discuss Pikeville win

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Head Coach John Calipari

Darius Miller

Brandon Knight

Live blog: UK men's basketball vs. Pikeville

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Making a bowl game still important for UK football

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For a team that set its hopes on getting to a bowl game out of Tennessee, going to a bowl game in Nashville or Memphis suddenly looks like a pretty rosy destination for the Kentucky football team.

"We've still got a good chance of getting a good bowl," senior fullback Moncell Allen said. "If we win these three games, we're going to put ourselves in a good position. With these bowl games, you never know what will happen when it comes down to people picking who they want. We're a great team and everybody knows it. We've just got to get over this hump and make sure that we take care of business."

But at 4-5 on the season with three games to go, the best position UK (4-5, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) appears to be headed in is either a Music City Bowl or Liberty Bowl appearance, Kentucky's two destinations during its current four-year bowl streak.

The players expressed a strong desire to get out of the state of Tennessee this year for a bowl game, but the chances of upgrading to a bowl like the Chick-fil-A Bowl is very slim at this point. UK would need to end the season with three wins over Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt and Tennessee to even be in the discussion for that.

"Now it's more just getting to a bowl game, period," senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford said. "With the bumpy season like we've had, we want to go out on a good note. Whether (the bowl game) is in Tennessee, no matter where it's at - Idaho, for all I care - as long as we get to a bowl game, that's the important thing right now."

As disappointing as the season outlook may be for a team that had a season-long goal of an SEC division title and a "bigger, better" bowl game, making a fifth straight postseason is still a significant measure of how far the program has come.

"We don't want to be known as the team that ends the bowl streak," Hines said. "I'd say we've got one of the longest bowl streaks in the country. Not a lot of teams have been to four straight bowls. That's something we want to keep going."

Coming into this season, only four teams in the SEC had a longer bowl streak than UK. Before the 2006 Music City Bowl, Kentucky had played in just 10 bowl games.

"We want to go forward," Crawford said. "We want to take steps up the ladder. Not getting to a bowl game would be taking a step backward and we don't want to do that."

Just getting to a bowl game now will require at least two wins and maybe even three with the ever-changing state of the SEC picture.

"There is definitely more pressure," junior offensive tackle Stuart Hines said. "We've got three games to get at least two wins. And then if we get those two wins it's still not a guaranteed bowl game. That depends on what other teams do in the league. Three wins would really be big for us."

Assistant head coach David Turner, who was filling in for head coach Joker Phillips on Monday due to a death in Phillips' family, said Kentucky isn't taking Saturday's Football Subdivision Championship opponent, Charleston Southern, lightly.

To make a bowl game, UK needs a win Saturday just as badly as it has at any other point during the season.

"(Former coach) Gene Stallings used (to say when) somebody asked him in a press conference ... 'If you don't think it's a big game, lose it.' So it is a big game for us," Turner said.

Not only does this group not want to be the one to end the bowl streak, Turner said, going to a bowl game also offers the added benefit of extra practices in December.

"Obviously we feel it's good to be able to get into the postseason because you get X amount of extra practices for those young guys, which can be beneficial and help you down the road," Turner said. "So it's a carrot out there, so to speak, that's dangling. It's a three one-game season (from this point forward). We can't worry about team X or team Y. We've got to worry about Charleston Southern. We can't worry about the bowl.

"You do your business on the field, that bowl picture takes care of itself."

Video: Football players preview Charleston Southern

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Senior fullback Moncell Allen


Senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford


Junior offensive tackle Stuart Hines

The Kentucky women's soccer team will head to Orange Beach, Ala., this week for the Southeastern Conference Tournament after defeating Vanderbilt 6-1 on Friday.

Head coach Jon Lipsitz talks about his team and its offensive-minded attacking style as the Cats prepare for No. 2 seed South Carolina on Wednesday at noon.

UK-Vandy at 12:21 p.m. on SEC Network

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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.jpgThe Kentucky-Vanderbilt game on Nov. 13 has been picked up by the SEC Network for a 12:21 p.m. broadcast.

It is the second straight week UK will play a day game and only the second time at Commonwealth Stadium this season. This week's UK-Charleston Southern game is slated for a noon start on pay-per-view (Big Blue Sports Network and Fox Sports South will show a delayed version of the game).

Here is the full Southeastern Conference TV schedule for games on the week of Nov. 13:

CBS (noon) - Ole Miss at Tennessee
SEC Network (12:21 p.m. ET) - Vanderbilt at Kentucky
CBS (3:30 p.m. ET) - Georgia at Auburn         
ESPNU (7 p.m. ET) - UTEP at Arkansas
Institutional Pay Per View (7 p.m. ET) - Louisiana Monroe at LSU    
ESPN or ESPN2* (7:15 p.m. ET) - South Carolina at Florida
ESPN or ESPN2* (7:15 p.m. ET) - Mississippi State at Alabama

* The game time for both South Carolina at Florida and Mississippi State at Alabama will be 7:15 p.m. ET. The network, ESPN or ESPN2, will be decided after the results from games of Nov. 6.       

Former Cat Harris signs NBA D-League contract

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MBSK 09_10 UK_Bama Web 30.jpgIf you count the NBA Developmental League, last year's 2009-10 Kentucky men's basketball team has now put six players in the NBA.

Former guard Ramon Harris has signed a contract with the National Basketball Developmental League and will play with last year's NBDL champions and affiliate of the Houston Rockets, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Capitol Sports Management LLC, which represents Harris, announced the deal Monday.

"It's a blessing to have the opportunity to continue playing basketball at a professional level," Harris said in a release. "My goal is to play the game at its highest level in the NBA and the D-League provides a great opportunity for me to develop my game and be seen by NBA scouts every night."

During Harris' career at Kentucky, the 6-foot-7 guard/forward averaged 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. Harris' best year as a Wildcat came during his junior campaign when he averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds and started in 28 of the 31 games played that season. In his senior season, Harris was a key contributor on a team that featured five NBA first-round draft picks and reached the Elite Eight.

UK Hoops media guide available for purchase

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wbb yearbook cover 2010.jpgThe Kentucky women's basketball media guide is now available for purchase online at the UK Team Shop.

The media guide, which is filled with 208 pages of stats, player information and quotes from head coach Matthew Mitchell, costs $20.

Orders will no longer be taken over the phone or through the mail. All orders must be placed online through the UK Team Shop.

The UK men's basketball media guide should be available in the next couple of weeks.

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