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From the Pressbox: Notes on football recruiting, basketball heading to Auburn

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With national signing day on the horizon early next month, these are busy times for new Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops and his staff.

There are times when recruiting is a face-to-face game but offensive coordinator Neal Brown says other means of contacting prospects are a big part of the job.

"It's all about relating to the kids and there's not a whole of phone communication. It's more Twitter and Facebook. You've got to communicate your message through those media, through videos or pictures," Brown said on "The Leach Report" radio show. "You've got to communicate your message in a variety of ways to get it through and they have a short attention span, so you better grab them within the first 30 seconds or so. It's still about relationships and getting them on campus. I think we have the top city in the SEC, our campus is beautiful and the fan support is off the charts. It's our job to engage them (prospects) early, relate to them on their level and I think we can get that done."

Auburn finding shooting touch

I don't know what exactly Santa Claus delivered to the Auburn basketball team but it had something to do with their collective shooting eye.

At Christmas, the Tigers were 5-6, having just lost at home to Winthrop. Since, Tony Barbee's club has won three of five games with the only losses coming against Illinois (by two in Chicago) and at Arkansas (in double overtime).

During that five-game stretch, an Auburn team shooting 43.5 percent from the field for the season has hit 48 percent or better in three of those games and has been 50 percent or better in each of the last two. And the Tigers are averaging eight three-pointers per game over this five-game stretch versus an average of six per game in the previous 11 outings.

Twice in the last five games (and three times for the season), Auburn has made 11 3s in a single game.

UK a second-half team on the glass

Kentucky had one of its better rebounding performances in the win over a physical Tennessee team, after having been out-boarded in the previous two games.

But there's one rebounding stat that trended the Cats' way for a long time now.

Maryland is the only team to out-rebound UK in the second half of a game.

And here's a stat that speaks to the importance of starting fast: UK is 11-0 this season when leading at halftime and finished with a 32-0 mark in that department last year. 

The last time the Cats lost a game in which they led at halftime was on February 1, 2011, when a 35-34 lead turned into a last-second loss at Ole Miss. That's a streak of 51 consecutive games.

Ford on Oklahoma State point guard

One item that didn't make it into our story on former Cat Travis Ford's reflections on the 1993 Final Four team was his assessment of Marcus Smart.

The rookie point guard has been universally praised for his play through the first half of the season and Ford says he is a "special player."

"He is kind of a throwback, an old school player. His greatness comes from playing hard and making everyone around him a better player. He is all about winning, that is all he cares about. He doesn't care about how many points he scores or things like that, he just cares about winning. Every drill we do, he wants to be the best at. He wants his team to win," Ford continued. "He leads us in so many different categories - steals, assists, rebounding and he can score the basketball. He is a special player, there is not many that come along and can affect the game in so many areas and he plays point guard for us at six-four, so he is a big presence for a point guard but his attitude and work ethic is unmatched."

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