"It was magical," Jenkins said of a performance in which he equaled a career-high of six three-pointers. For Kentucky, it was magical only in the sense of yet another possible victory that -- poof! -- disappeared in the final minutes of a possession-by-possession game.
With a meager six-man rotation for the most part, Kentucky had been betting against long odds they would be able to avoid injury all season. But in Saturday's 81-77 loss at Vanderbilt, in the 24th game, luck finally ran out.
19. Dicky Lyons Jr. Remember when Lyons Jr. infuriated Rich Brooks by guaranteeing a road victory over Mississippi State in 2006? All Lyons Jr. did was go to Starkville, roll up 117 yards receiving and make a circus TD catch to spark the Kentucky victory that launched the turnaround of the Brooks era. Walking the talk is as righteous as sports gets.
The celebrity treatment is operating in full force for Tim Masthay. Masthay and his wife, Amanda, had just finished lunch at a Green Bay restaurant and were ready to settle up when they received a message from the restaurant's manager. "They told us lunch was on the house," Masthay said. "That was a nice little surprise."
Turnovers mean extra possessions. They mean extra chances to score, especially in transition. UK is averaging 25.5 points (23.3 points in SEC play) off opponent mistakes this season, which is a huge chunk of its offense.
The UK gymnastics team is asking the question; why have one head coach when we can have two? Technically, Heather Hite and Chuck Dickerson, the team's two coaches, are assistants, but they are the two who manage the team.
The Kentucky baseball team is tired of coming close. After back-to-back seasons where they finished a half-game out of the postseason the Cats are determined to make a return. "The past two years our goal was to make it to postseason and we came up a half-game short both times so this year we're hungry to get back," junior outfielder Chad Wright said. "I feel like if we play like we should we could win (the SEC) because we have a lot of experience back in our pitching staff."
There used to be a time when chicks didn't dig the long ball, ground-ball putouts were the norm and a 2-1 score was just another day at the park. Those times are resurfacing at Kentucky's baseball diamonds. For the Kentucky baseball and softball teams to succeed this season, it's going to come down to pitching.
On a day where a number of Kentucky track and field student-athletes excelled under the pressure of championship like fields and conditions, senior Sharif Webb rose to the top as he locked in UK's first NCAA automatic qualifying mark of the year, Saturday at the Husky Classic in Seattle.
Freshman Greg Ferrucci and senior Lisa Faulkner turned in another great performance Saturday on day two of the Southeastern Conference Diving Championships. Ferrucci earned a career-high score of 400.55 in the men's three-meter board prelims, the second best score in school history. Ferrucci's score of 400.55 broke his previous career high by nearly 15 points.
Softball: UK rallies for extra-inning comeback over DePaul (UKathletics.com)
The Kentucky offense found its rhythm for five runs over the final two innings in a dramatic comeback 6-3 victory over DePaul in extra innings to preserve its perfect record at the FIU Combat Classic in Miami late Saturday night. Trailing 3-1 going into the top of the seventh, UK rallied for a pair of scores to force extra innings before plating three runs in the top of the eighth to secure its third consecutive victory to begin the 2011 season.
Rifle - The rifle team rode a school-record team score to a 4696-4680 win over No. 1 West Virginia, clinching the 2010-11 Great American Rifle Conference regular-season championship on Saturday at UK's Barker Hall. - Kentucky completed an undefeated season in conference action with the win, besting the 2008-09 NCAA Champion Mountaineers, who also entered the match undefeated in league play and needing a win over UK to clinch the title. - With the win, UK has clinched its fourth all-time regular-season GARC Championship and its first since the 2008-09 season. - Kentucky's 4696 total team score eclipsed the school record set earlier in the year when the Wildcats totaled a 4691 win over Memphis in Oxford, Miss., on Jan. 21.
Men's basketball - The Wildcats dropped a 70-68 heartbreaker at Florida over the weekend. After falling behind by 13, the Cats battled back to take a one-point lead late in the game, but a last-second 3-pointer by Brandon Knight fell short. - UK hosts Tennessee on Tuesday. The Wildcats have posted a 160-51 (.758) record against SEC East teams since the league split into divisions in 1991-92. Kentucky is 5-1 in games following a loss this season. - John Calipari is 28-0 at Rupp Arena as the UK head coach. The Wildcats have the second longest home winning streak in the country at 29.
Women's basketball - Kentucky put together an impressive win over Auburn on Thursday for its seventh consecutive victory. The Cats defeated the Tigers 69-38 in Memorial Coliseum, marking the largest margin of victory in SEC play in school history. It also marked the first time UK has held an SEC opponent under 40 points in school history. - Sophomore Brittany Henderson led the winning effort with a career-high 13 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. - Senior Victoria Dunlap collected her second consecutive and sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. She has now eclipsed the 1,000-rebound mark (1,007), becoming just the second player in school history to chart more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career.
Gymnastics - Senior Andrea Mitchell took home the all-around title with a career-high score of 39.275 and the University of Kentucky gymnastics team posted season-high marks on balance beam and vault, but fell short in an upset bid at No. 22 Auburn 194.625-194.450. - Mitchell was spectacular for the Wildcats, scoring season highs on vault, uneven bars and beam to post a career-high score in the all-around. The all-around win for Mitchell was the first individual all-around title for UK on the road in the SEC since 2006. - Kentucky defeated Auburn on vault with a season-high post of 49.2 while also scoring a season-high mark on beam with a 48.375. UK took home event honors at three events with Jasmine Minion winning event honors on vault and Mitchell claiming honors on bars and beam.
Men's tennis - The men's tennis team could not repeat its historic upset last season against Virginia, losing to the top-ranked Cavaliers 7-0 in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. - Virginia, which boasts two top-10 ranked doubles teams and six top-105 ranked singles players, took control of the match from the beginning, winning the doubles point and all six singles matches. - Kentucky took two first sets in singles against the Cavaliers.
Track and field - The track and field team wrapped up competition at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet with a win by junior Walter Luttrell in the men's 5,000-meter run and placed six other student-athletes in the top six of their respective events on Saturday in Blacksburg, Va. - Luttrell secured his victory with a personal-best and SEC-leading time of 14:29.50 in the men's 5,000-meter run, claiming the Wildcats lone win of the day. The junior is now the two-time defending champion and record holder in the event at the VT Elite Meet, previously winning with a time of 14:41.65, Feb. 5, 2010. - Senior Mary Angell recorded her third consecutive top-six finish in the women's shot put with a throw of 50-07.25/15.42 meters. The senior's season-best mark of 51-01.75 currently sits second in the conference. - Junior Keith Hayes ran his second-fastest 60-meter hurdle race this season, in 7.82, approaching his season-best time of 7.80, which currently ranks ninth in the NCAA. - Freshman Kyron Joseph recorded two top-five finishes Friday, claiming fifth in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.82 and third in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.58. Joseph was followed closely in the 200-meter by fellow freshman Kadeem Kushimo who grabbed fifth in 21.79.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell to No. 7 Michigan 7-0 on Saturday at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. - Kentucky will host Ohio State on Wednesday at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center for its first home match of the season. Matches will begin at 1 p.m.
Maurice Davis was the latest basketball star to blossom on the Southside of Chicago. Long, lanky, equally adept at scoring and rebounding the athletically built 18-year-old senior was an honor student, captain of the Englewood Technical High School basketball team and on the radar of Division I-A college scouts. He was going to score a rare victory over the streets. And then, in the flash of a gun's muzzle, he was gone. Another victim of the struggle. DeAndre Liggins was just 14 at the time, another youngster trying to steer clear of the violence and drug war that claimed so many of his friends and neighbors.
John Calipari said it again. "What we know is that we're good enough to win," the Kentucky coach said Saturday night, standing in the back hallway of the O'Connell Center. And yet, Kentucky can't seem to win. Not on the road. Not in a close one.
John Calipari's back-to-back magic is snapped. Chomped, you might say. Florida's 70-68 win Saturday night at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center capped an 0-2 week for the University of Kentucky and gave Calipari his first back-to-back losses since he dropped four straight at Memphis in 2005.
Kentucky had so much talent and depth last season that it had a much greater margin for error than John Calipari's second team does. That's why UK's 70-68 loss at Florida Saturday night -- Kentucky's fourth two-point loss this season and second in five days -- was so close to a huge, huge win for the Wildcats.
Former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodsonadmits it hasn't been easy accepting that his football playing days are over. But coaching is something Woodson believes can help him cope. Woodson and ex-UK receiver Glenn Holthave joined Joker Phillips'staff as student assistants. Both have enrolled at UK for the spring semester. Woodson said he's about two semesters away from a degree in kinesiology, and Holt expects to get his sociology degree in December.
Despite pitching well his senior season, Meyer's commitment to the Wildcats was so strong that he fell to the Red Sox in the 20th round in the 2008 draft. Boston went all-in with their signings that year and made a hard push to pry Meyer away from Kentucky at the deadline. Meyer said turning down the Red Sox was the toughest decision of his life, but he never second guesses himself.
Drumming up interest for their 11th season, the Lexington Legends did something at their annual publicity "caravan" Thursday that they'd never been able to do before -- introduce a Kentucky Wildcat who very well could be on their opening-day roster. "That would be a cool thing," Marcus Nidiffer said. "I'm ready to be the first."
Matthew Mitchell pondered the question for just a millisecond. On a scale of zero and Armageddon, where does No. 16 Kentucky's Monday evening showdown with No. 5 Tennessee rank? Pounding the table for mock emphasis, Mitchell said with a smile "gotta go with Armageddon. This is big. Game of the Century." OK, maybe not. But it is going to be big.
The Kentucky rifle team road a school-record team score to a 4696-4680 win over No. 1 West Virginia, clinching the 2010-11 Great American Rifle Conference regular-season championship, on Saturday at UK's Barker Hall. "I was really proud of the team, they really did great," UK head coach Harry Mullins said. "This was the first step in our journey this year."
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the extreme competitiveness and impressive football character Cobb and Locke display, which contribute to their rising stock. Kentucky's defense was just okay in 2010 and the quarterback and offensive line were average at best, but the Wildcats hung around in a lot of games because of these two players. Locke could be seen lowering his shoulder while Cobb continued to make tough catches over the middle no matter the situation or score, and scouts notice that.
But social media is here to stay, and it's all over the news. In Egypt, Facebook and other forms of social media are being used by people on all sides of that nation's crisis to spread information and show solidarity. Back here in the U.S., Twitter has been responsible for three of the biggest stories in the NFL postseason.
Tim Masthay had an exit plan. Eighteen months ago, the punter for the Green Bay Packers was newly married but also out of a job. The Indianapolis Colts had sent him to the scrapheap of NFL specialists. And suddenly Masthay, then 22, had to confront the possibility that his future -- and his income -- would not be that of a professional athlete.
By the end of his stellar career with the Kentucky Wildcats, Masthay was well known to fans for his booming punts that so often flipped field position. Now in his rookie year with the Super Bowl-bound Green Bay Packers, Masthay is again being talked about for all the right reasons.
If you've ever wondered what it looks like to see a team collectively hold its breath all at once, watch the Kentucky gymnastics team during its beam routine. Historically an area of concern for UK, beam, one of four routines in a gymnastics meet, is once again the proverbial mountain to climb that separates the Cats from moving up the Southeastern Conference ladder. At season's end, the team will likely look at beam as either the team's key to a successful season or the anchor of disappointment.
If you've ever wondered what it looks like to see a team collectively hold its breath all at once, watch the Kentucky gymnastics team during its beam routine.
Historically an area of concern for UK, beam, one of four routines in a gymnastics meet, is once again the proverbial mountain to climb that separates the Cats from moving up the Southeastern Conference ladder. At season's end, the team will likely look at beam as either the team's key to a successful season or the anchor of disappointment.
No wonder everyone is so tense when Kentucky is on the beam.
A week and a half ago, UK was on the verge of upsetting No. 13 Arkansas. Leading after two events, UK headed to the beam with floor exercise to go.
The thought process was pretty simple: Get through the event with a decent score and slam the door shut on Arkansas on floor. But that's easier said than done when walking a tight rope in front of thousands of people.
The Cats fell that night. And they fell again. And again. Three falls in six performances on the beam ended all hopes of upsetting Arkansas. It was and still is the difference between UK and teams like Arkansas.
"It's very frustrating," assistant coach Heather Hite said. "I think the hardest part for me is that I know they are so good at that event. They could be very successful, and my job here is to get them to reach that potential. When I see them fall, I see they are not getting to where they could be and we have to work on what makes them do their best. In the competitions, they aren't showing these people how good they really are, and I was so disappointed for them because they do such great things in practice. We want to show how great they are."
For a team that has no problems staying on the beam in practice, it ultimately comes down to overcoming a mental hurdle. Years of struggling has a way of adding up into one heaping pile of frustration.
"It's one hundred percent mental," Hite said.
It's contagious. When one person falls off the beam, the already overbuilt pressure snowballs into even more pressure and anxiety.
For the next person on the beam, the focus then becomes more about not messing up than executing, which is obviously not the mentality Hite and fellow assistant coach Chuck Dickerson are looking for.
"It's almost like a domino effect," Hite said. "They tell you that if more than one person falls, it's a totally different thing. Mentally you are thinking, 'I have to stay on and salvage this.' Then they hold back to stay on the beam and that's not what you want them to do. You don't want them to think like that.
"Instead, you want them to do their routine, and if everyone else falls, at least I did my routine. You kind of want them to look selfishly at the balance beam."
It isn't a matter of not being able to succeed on the balance beam, gymnast Andre Mitchell said. According to the senior, the Cats frequently nail the beam routines in practice.
"All of our problems are mental because we could come in here any time of day and hit a routine and do it in our sleep," Mitchell said. "We have done it before. It's just in our heads."
Maybe no other gymnast has had to overcome the mental aspect of beam more than Mitchell.
Self-described as an overly competitive gymnast, Mitchell tends to take things like falls tougher than anyone else on the team. The problem is those frustrations can sometimes carry over into other events.
"I get so mad knowing that we could have beaten them," Mitchell said. "It eats me up. It's a challenge for me going into floor because usually I mess up on the next event because I am so upset and my head is somewhere else."
In that aspect, Mitchell has come a long way, Hite said. She's practiced patience this year and learned to move on from event to event.
It's shown as Mitchell is arguably the best all-around performer the Cats have. She's finished second in the all-around at every meet this season with the exception of a third-place finish against Georgia last week. Ironically, if she hadn't fallen off beam in the meet at No. 1 Florida, she would have set a career best in the all-around.
"The difference is night and day," Hite said of Mitchell's improvements. "She used to get so frustrated with herself and get down. It was hard for her to get out of that and move on to the next event. She's very competitive and wants to win. This year, individually, she is taking care of her business and realizing the rest of the team will succeed because she is doing her part for the whole team."
After a season-low score of 46.400 at Florida and the nightmare against Arkansas, the team showed significant improvements last week.
Junior Whitney Rose, arguably the Cats' best gymnast at vault, was taken out of the beam lineup last week because of confidence issues and a freshman, Audrey Harrison, took her place. The Cats ended up with a season-high score of 48.175.
"We are improving each week which is a good thing to look at," Mitchell said. "Even though we are struggling on beam, we are making progress each week and that definitely leads to confidence. It definitely makes me feel good that we are progressing at an even pace."
It should come as no surprise either that once Kentucky improved its beam score, its total score benefitted as the Cats notched a season-high 195.000 overall mark against Georgia.
The only problem for UK is the road never gets easier in the SEC. Having already faced four nationally ranked teams, including No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Georgia, UK will head to Auburn to face the No. 22 Tigers.
Although the Cats want to win every meet, the ultimate goal is to improve their team score each and every week to make regionals and nationals at the end of the year.
"It's not all about winning," Mitchell said. "It's about improving, too. It's definitely about putting a good score out there."
Beginning this week, we're going to start posting the UK Sports Report on the blog. The UK Sports Report is a weekly recap of UK's athletics events from the week before that we've typically handed out to the media, but from this point forward, we're also going to post it on here. I hope to have a slightly cleaner format next week and we'll likely post it on Mondays, but for now, here's the first online edition of the UK Sports Report:
Men's basketball - UK improved to 16-4 and 4-2 in the SEC with Saturday's 66-60 win over Georgia. Doron Lamb scored a game-high 19 points and was joined by Darius Miller (14), Brandon Knight (11) and DeAndre Liggins (11) in double figures. - Kentucky is 28-0 at Rupp Arena under head coach John Calipari. UK has won 29 in a row at home, beginning with the 2009 NIT game at Memorial Coliseum and continuing with the last 28 at Rupp. It is the second-longest active streak in the nation.
Women's basketball - Senior All-American Victoria Dunlap averaged a team-high 21.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in UK's two SEC road wins vs. Ole Miss and Alabama last week. Dunlap scored 18 points in the come-from-behind win over the Rebels, including 16 in the decisive second half. - Against the Tide, Dunlap paced the winning effort with 25 points and 15 rebounds, marking her 27th career and fifth double-double of the season. She also moved up to No. 3 on both the all-time scoring and steals lists at UK. - Junior sharpshooter Keyla Snowden came off the bench for 13 points after netting 4-of-5 3-point attempts. - Sophomore guard A'dia Mathies added 12 points and four assists in helping the Cats win their sixth consecutive game.
Gymnastics - The gymnastics team scored its highest team score of the year behind an incredible individual performance from senior Phylicia Reshard, who took the all-around crown, but the Wildcats fell just short to No. 3 Georgia 195.550-195.000. - Reshard was excellent for Kentucky on all four events, posting two career highs en route to earning Kentucky's first all-around title in an SEC dual-meet since 2007. She scored a career high on uneven bars with a 9.775 and beam with a score of 9.825. The senior also tied a career high on floor with a mark of 9.875. Reshard, who was participating as an all-around for only the second time in her career, scored a career high in the all-around competition with a 39.250 to take home event honors. - Junior Whitney Rose took home medalist honors on vault for the third time this season and the 12th time of her career. On floor, the Wildcats scored the top four scores with Reshard and fellow senior Jasmine Minion taking home event titles. It was the first career event title on floor for Reshard and the fifth of Minion's career.
Men's tennis - Senior Brad Cox outlasted No. 100 Danny Kreyman 15-13 in a second-set tiebreaker to seal No. 12 Kentucky's 4-0 victory over No. 22 Wake Forest, advancing the Wildcats to the National Indoors for the second consecutive season. UK defeated No. 42 Boise State 4-1 on Saturday. - With the win Kentucky earns one of 16 spots in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Men's Team Indoor Championships to be held in Seattle on Feb. 18-21. The appearance in the National Indoors is the second consecutive for Kentucky. Last year, Kentucky defeated Wake Forest 4-3 in Lexington to earn its first appearance in the round of 16 of the indoor or outdoor championships since 2005. - On the week, UK went 3-0 with wins over three teams in the ITA top 50. Individually, Kentucky was led by Cox and junior Eric Quigley. Cox went 3-0 with a win over No. 100 Kreyman to improve his season record to 6-0. Quigley was just as impressive, going 3-0 with wins over No. 45 Jonathan Wolff of Wake Forest and No. 62 Damian Hume of Boise St.
Swimming and diving - The men's and women's swimming and diving teams topped Cincinnati on Saturday but dropped races to Virginia Tech in a double dual meet among Kentucky, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech. - UK set five Keating Aquatics Center records throughout the afternoon. All four of UK's relays etched their names into the KAC record books and senior Chatham Penrod set a new clip in the 200 backstroke.
Track and field - The track and field team tabulated four individual victories and placed six others in the top five of their respective events, at the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet this weekend. - Precious Nwokey put together the best performance of her career, setting the school record in the pentathlon with 4,024 total points. The junior's score is currently No. 4 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the SEC, narrowly missing out an NCAA automatic qualifying mark of 4,075. - Senior Sharif Webb won the 800-meter run. It was his first attempt at the event this season, finishing with a time of 1:50.59. - Sophomore Cally Macumber notched her first career victory in the women's one-mile run with a personal-best time of 4:48.70. Macumber earned All-SEC honors in cross country, indoor and outdoor track a season ago. - Freshman Julie Nunn picked up the first win of her young career, in the women's 400-meter dash with a time of 54.78. - In his final season in the blue and white, Keenan Hall won his first long jump title, landing in the pit 23-07.25/7.19m from the launching board. Hall was the only UK athlete entered into the event.
Tuesday, Feb. 1 Men's basketball at Ole Miss - 7 p.m.
When Walker is able to play for UK next season, she will have an immediate impact, said Tom Jenkins, who runs the Ohio Girls' Basketball Report. Jenkins has known Walker since she was in sixth grade.
"Kentucky's a great fit for her, and she's a great fit for Kentucky," Jenkins said Saturday. "The style that (coach Matthew Mitchell) has developed there: playing 94 feet with exceptional athletes, it fits Samarie perfectly. ... She has the size, the speed, the athleticism. She has it all."
Calipari: "I think there's no team in America that has more upside than this team, based on the fact that individual players, I believe, aren't playing to the level I believe they're going to play in another month or so."
The Gymkats have had solid results on vault, uneven bars and floor so far this year. They are now focusing their efforts on an improved team performance on the balance beam.
"Beam has always been a struggle for us at Kentucky and my main goal is figuring out why that is and how we can fix it," assistant coach Heather Hite said. "I think that we made a lot of steps toward fixing it as far as if we are falling, we're still getting good scores."
Men's basketball: Calipari molds style to fit young team (Sporting News) "We're getting better," UK coach John Calipari said, "but we may be a little different team than I think. We might be an execution team that has to grind it a little bit more than I would like, but if that's how we have to play, then that's how we play."
Football: Minter planning transition to 3-4 defense (Herald-Leader) "My ideal vision is what we could call a 3-4 with a hybrid linebacker who could also put his hand on the ground," (Minter) said. "That way if we needed to go with four down (linemen), we could get in and out of it without having to substitute."
Men's basketball: Lexington mayor Gray calls for Rupp redesign panel (Herald-Leader) "There are many people who believe the civic center's arena and the convention complex need a total redesign and renovation to bring the facilities up to competitive standards," Gray said. "It needs to be the best -- state of the art. Making it the best is a responsible investment in our Lexington brand."
...Wall was both basketball star and cultural phenomenon. In his one year in Kentucky, he launched a dance craze, became a lyrical staple in rap songs and earned first-team All-America honors by leading a 35-3 UK team.
"Tim played a huge role," receiver Greg Jennings said. "I don't know if he understands it. It will probably be overlooked, but for him to kick the ball the way he did and to keep it out of the hands of the most feared guy on the football field, it was a huge job by him."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes.
These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Jan. 9:
Women's basketball: Victoria Dunlap
Averaged a team-high 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in a tough three-game stretch for Kentucky.
Jumped four spots on UK's all-time scoring list to No. 6 with 1,525 points.
Put together her third double-double of the season against Arkansas with 26 points and 13 rebounds and now has 25 in her career to tie Josh Mills for No. 3 all-time on UK's all-time double-doubles list.
Hit 8-of-10 from the free-throw line against Georgia and now has 376 career free throws, moving her into third place on UK's all-time free-throws made list.
Totaled four blocks in the week and needs just one more to move to No. 2 on that list.
Swimming & diving: Greg Ferrucci
Came in third place in the men's one-meter championship at the Tennessee Diving Invitational on Jan. 3
Earned a sixth-place finish in the men's three-meter championship at the Tennessee Diving Invitational on Jan. 4.
Came in fifth place on the platform at the Tennessee Diving Invitational on Jan. 5
Recorded a second-place finish on the three-meter board in Columbia, S.C., in the Cats' double dual meet against South Carolina and the College of Charleston.
Scored a 385.90 to win the one-meter board in the Cats' double dual meet against the Gamecocks and the College of Charleston.
Currently holds the second best score in UK history on the platform dive, the third best mark in the men's three-meter board and the fourth best score in the men's one meter board.
Gymnastics: Andrea Mitchell
Performed well in the team's first event of the year, finishing in the top five in three events to help Kentucky defeat No. 17 Illinois and Northern Illinois with a score of 194.350 ... Was solid on each event, however was the star of the meet on floor, posting a career-high mark of 9.95 for her first career event title on that event ... The high score was the third highest posting in school history, becoming only the seventh gymnasts in UK history to record a score of 9.5 or higher on floor ... With the impressive mark, Mitchell ranks No. 1 in the country on floor, posting the highest score on the event so far this season ... Was also impressive on bars, where she has developed a new routine for this season, scoring a solid score of 9.775 ... Finished third in the all around competition and first on the UK team with a score of 38.975.
Sometimes it takes a little adversity to turn things around.
In the Kentucky gymnastics team's case, it's making the most of a situation that could fracture a lot of teams.
After seven seasons, the school and longtime head coach Mo Mitchell parted ways about three months ago. With the season just around the corner, instead of hiring a new head coach during the middle of preseason preparations, Kentucky elected to stick with its two assistant coaches, Chuck Dickerson and Heater Hite, to run the squad in 2010-11.
The situation has been unique. Neither are the official head coaches, but both are sharing head-coaching duties, managing the day-to-day operations of the team, practices, matches, recruiting, etc., as any other head coach would.
"It's been a learning curve how to go about everything, but we've learned a lot," Hite said. "I think that's a great thing. It's given us an opportunity to see what goes into the program and how much goes into the gymnastics alone."
Where one head coach and two assistants used to run things, it's down to two assistants for this year as Hite and Dickerson split the duties. The key, both have said, has been organization.
Everything, from practices to recruiting to budget meetings and e-mails, has been split up between the two. Dickerson has taken more of a leadership role in the gym while Hite has dealt with more of the paperwork and the behind-the-scenes work.
"It's been trying at times," Dickerson said. "Having two coaches instead of three has been a little different. But it's been good. What's made the transition good is the kids. They've accepted it and moved forwarded and stayed together as a tight unit. That's actually made the transition pretty easy."
And that, more than anything, is the biggest story as the UK gymnastics team heads into its annual Excite Night, the season-opening event for the Cats. When Kentucky hosts Illinois and Northern Illinois on Saturday in front of an expected crowd of a few thousand, it won't be as a splintered team without a head coach or leadership.
Instead, the team fans will see Saturday, as Hite and Dickerson tell it, will be a unit that's rallied around adversity; that has fused in a difficult situation and formed a strong, more unified leadership core.
"It was tough, but the kids made the transition easy," Dickerson said. "They came in and said let's stay together as a team and let's fight and let's work and get this thing done. ... Sometimes it takes a bad situation to make a good situation. I feel like they've got more heart than any team we've had here. Sometimes when things happen out of the blue that you don't expect to happen, it can bring a team together, and I think it has."
The biggest challenge for the two assistant coaches has been practice. In most college gyms, the team is split up into three groups with each coach presiding over an event. With only two coaches now in the mix, they've had to split up into two groups of more performers and make the most it.
"We wanted it to be run and organized the way if there was a third person here," Hite said. "Our whole goal was to make it for the girls and show the administration that we are capable of getting everything done. We knew from the very beginning that we were willing to do whatever we had to do, however we had to split it up to get things done."
Turning a difficult situation into a positive happened pretty fast thanks to captains Whitney Rose and Storey Morris.
"Obviously it affected them some, but they decided they're not just here for us coaches," Dickerson said. "They're here for the University of Kentucky and they're here for each other and God has them here for a reason. They brushed themselves off and got after it."
Rose made it to nationals last year as an individual performer in the vault. Hite and Dickerson are hoping Rose's experience will pay dividends for this year's squad.
"We're hoping she blazed a trail for us last year," Dickerson said. "We've got to get to nationals. She got there last year, and when she came back, she sat the team down and said, 'Listen, I just paved the way for us as a group.' "
The Cats welcome seven freshmen that will see some time in a few events, but by and large, the veterans - four seniors and two juniors - will be the core performers. Unlike past years where UK has struggled a bit on the beam and bars, Hite anticipates a pretty consistent team.
Rose is fully healthy for the first time, Andrea Mitchell is in her fourth year of doing the all-around and UK is expected to do riskier routines this year, which will pay dividends if the team can execute them.
The goal this year is to make a leap in the Southeastern Conference. The Cats annually contend for a top-25 ranking but have struggled in the nation's best league. A jump in the conference would place the program among the nation's best.
"If we could go fourth or fifth in the SEC, that's great," Hite said. "If we could higher than that, that's icing on the cake. That's our ultimate goal is to make a jump in the SEC. If you're jumping up in the SEC, you're anywhere from 18th to 12th in the nation."
As for the future of Hite and Dickerson after this season, they want to be at Kentucky. As a former gymnast (Hite) and a longtime assistant (Dickerson), both have remained adamant that Kentucky is where they want to be in the future and admitted that this year is a quasi audition.
Hite is just two years removed from being on the team and is in her second year as an assistant, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have aspirations for being a head coach. The current situation she's in gives her a great chance to prove herself.
"She's done well," Dickerson said. "I've watched her grow up a lot this year as a coach. She's become more of a mentor to the girls."
Hite said she's still learning a "ton," but fortunately she has a longtime veteran in Dickerson to lean on.
"He's my biggest fan and just pushes me along," Hite said. "We live maybe five feet apart from each other, so I'm always going over and knocking on the door and saying, 'OK, how did this go today? Is this OK?' "
Coaching futures aside, the focus as Excite Night and the 2011 season looms, both for the coaches and UK's administration, is on the success of this year's team.
The players and assistants have done all the right things and come together in a difficult situation. They've rallied around one another and put together what they say is one of their strongest preseasons in years (UK is ranked No. 24 to start the year).
Now the question is how they will perform on the big stage. Everyone is anxious to find out.
"What are they going to do?" Hite said. "Are they going to go out there and be nervous or are they going to go out there and kick butt? That's what I'm waiting on. I'm waiting on to see how they handle the pressure and the season."
For many Kentucky coaches, players, journalists and fans, Twitter has become a part of their everyday lives. With that in mind, Cat Scratches will select a handful of topics from around the world of Kentucky sports and highlight some of the best of what those coaches, players, journalists and fans are communicating to their followers on Twitter.
UK football prepares for road matchup with No. 8 Florida On Saturday at 7 p.m., the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU as UK looks to end a near quarter century losing streak against Florida.
Larry Vaught, Danville Advocate-Messenger (@vaughtsviews) - Cat Walk at the Swamp. Fans should gather by 4:45pm near Gate 15 off Stadium Rd.
Running Back Derrick Locke (@locke20) - "Preparation for Florida"
Matt Jones, Kentucky Sports Radio (@KySportsRadio) - "Danny Trevathan broke his hand against Akron and kept playing. Will have cast on his hand versus Florida"
Linebacker Danny Trevathan (@DTrevathan22) - "Being strong and wrapping it up like my role model @PatrickWillis52 ..time to take it to the swamp!! Preparation been started!! Godspeed"
Men's Basketball prepares for Big Blue Madness, Blue-White Game The UK men's basketball team will tip-off the upcoming 2010-11 season in October with the annual Big Blue Madness on Oct. 15 and tge Blue-White Game on Oct. 26. This week, details regarding the sale of tickets to both events were announced.
The official Twitter of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews) - "Tickets for Big Blue Madness will be available Oct. 2, at 7 a.m. at the Memorial Coliseum ticket windows on Euclid Avenue and online. Tickets are free again this year and there will be a limit of two tickets per person at Memorial Coliseum. Online orders at UKathletics.com and Ticketmaster.com will have a minimal service fee attached, limit of two tickets per household. Fans lining up ahead of time at Memorial Coliseum are asked to do so no earlier than 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29. http://bit.ly/bWYm09"
The official Twitter of Rupp Arena (@Rupp_Arena) - "Who's excited for Big Blue Madness in 23 days? We can't wait to host another season! #RTL"
Sydney Hiance named SEC Player of the Week On Monday, senior goalkeeper Sydney Hiance was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Hiance registered two shutouts last week in wins over Evansville and South Alabama. The two shutouts brought her career total to 19, good for third place in school history. The award was also Hiance's sixth conference award of her career, best in school history.
The official Twitter of UK Athletics (@UKAthleticsNews) - "Women's soccer GK Sydney Hiance has been named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, her sixth career SEC award: http://bit.ly/cxOC3P"
Women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz (@UKCoachLipsitz) - "Congratulations to Sydney Hiance for earning SEC defensive player of the week" UK Athletics Works with
God's Pantry God's Pantry is a food bank that works to fight hunger across central and eastern Kentucky. UK Athletics is proud of the work that players and coaches do in conjunction with God's Pantry. Visit this link to support God's Pantry.
John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) - Got some recruiting travel later in the weekend but I was very happy to be able to join our players today as we visited elementary schools in conjunction w/God's Pantry. I absolutely love getting out in the community w/our guys & stressing the importance of educ. 2 youngsters. Huge credit goes to our AD, @UKMitchBarnhart, for making events like these possible for all our student-athletes. It's really what being part of the UK family is all about.
The official Twitter of UK gymnastics (@UKGymnastics) - "Video and Photos from the UK Gymnastics team's work with God's Pantry BackPack Program tonight: http://bit.ly/bt3ndE"
UK Hoops assistant coach Matt Insell celebrates Birthday On Wednesday, third year assistant coach Matt Insell celebrated his 28th birthday. His players and fellow coaches offered him well wishes on his big day. That's really one of my favorite things about Facebook and Twitter -- it's a whole lot easier to remember people's birthdays.
The official Twitter of UK Hoops (@UKHoopCats) - "Happy Birthday to UK Hoops assistant coach @minsell We hope you have a great day! Go Big Blue!"
Head coach Matthew Mitchell (@UKCoachMitchell) - "Happy Birthday to @minsell! He's a great friend and I hope he has a great day!!"
Assistant coach Kyra Elzy (@CoachLZ) - "Happy Birthday to my little brother - Matt Insell. We will celebrate when you get back. Today is a BIG work day....LOL."
One run, one vault, one landing. That's all Whitney Rose gets. That's the only chance she will have to represent the Kentucky gymnastics team.
As the lone athlete to qualify for nationals, Rose will have the honor -- or burden -- of carrying the Wildcat torch in this weekend's NCAA Championships. UK failed to qualify as a team after finishing fifth at the NCAA Lexington Regional, but Rose qualified on the vault with a 9.9 performance two weekends ago in Memorial Coliseum.
When Rose steps onto the floor Thursday in Gainesville, Fla., she will shoulder the eyes and the pressure of UK's first national championship appearance since Krystle Cook made it in 2006.
Most people would wilt under the pressure. Rose relishes in it.
"It is more of an honor than pressure," Rose said. "My best vault was at regionals and it was because I kind of knew we were finished as a team. I also wanted to finish strong, so it was less pressure. That is how my mindset is going to be at nationals, that there is nothing to really lose. I'm just going there to honor UK."
During regionals at UK's Memorial Coliseum on April 10, Rose carried Kentucky's national championship appearance hopes on her back. On the last rotation of the evening, the chance for the team to place second and advance to the final meet of the season was bleak.
It was UK's last chance to send somebody to nationals. Rose nailed it with a near-perfect effort.
A similar situation will present itself this weekend in the Sunshine State, but Rose and head coach Mo Mitchell are looking at it is an opportunity for the entire team.
"My goal is to get the team to go," Mitchell said. "We really felt like we had a shot to get the team to go. It just didn't pan out for us this year. The great thing is she gets to set the path work. When she gets back, she can explain to them, 'Guys, this is where we want to go. We need to be there as a team.' That's why this is so important."
Rose, calling it the biggest meet of her life, described it as opening the door for next year's team.
"When we come home, she's going to be able to explain that whatever it takes, we need to do this," Mitchell said. "That's what it's all about. It's about making the NCAA Championships. It's not just about regionals. I've been there and I say it all the time, but to have their own peer there to experience it will be huge for us."
Rose has been a big-time athlete since arriving at Kentucky two seasons ago. As a freshman, Rose did not disappoint, earning Southeastern Conference Freshman honors for only the fifth time in school history.
"I didn't know that I was that respected in the SEC, but it did build my confidence," Rose said. "It gave me more voice on the team. They respected me more."
Although a back injury has plagued her this season, Rose has stuck a 9.900 or better on vault six times this year.
Before practice Monday, one of UK's athletic trainers described her as the John Wall of gymnastics. Mitchell had no qualms with that assessment because she doesn't settle for mediocrity. Although a lot of college athletes have the raw ability and talent to be stars, Rose doesn't rest on it.
"Her consistency level has been tenfold," Mitchell said. "Her confidence has been up there and her expectation level has been up there. That's why she's going to nationals is because she expects to go. That's the biggest difference. Last year she was a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman who didn't know where she was going or how she was going to get there. This year she was more focused."
Rose will make her national championship appearance Thursday at 7 p.m. in the in the second of two semifinal runs. The top four from each session in each event (plus ties) from the preliminary runs will advance to Saturday's finals. Also, the top 16 performers from each event are named All-America.
All that riding on a run, a vault and a landing. It's a lot of pressure in just a few split seconds, but it's one Rose has mastered over the course of the season.
"You have to have the ability to say, 'I can do this in my sleep,' " Mitchell said. "The bottom line is her vault is great. It's going to come down whether she sticks it or not."
There isn't as much thinking involved as say the floor exercise, but that's what makes the vault even more demanding.
"In vault, I'm more or less trying to be as strong and as powerful as I can be and it's over with like that," Rose said. "I just want to be explosive."
Mitchell and assistant coach Heather Hite had a meeting with Rose early Monday afternoon, not to discuss this weekend's big meet but to talk about the opportunity at hand for next season.
Rose, who Mitchell said will be next year's captain, has the opportunity to set a precedent for her team at nationals and show them what it takes to get there. Mitchell no doubt wants her to perform well and earn individual honors, but he's more concerned with how she handles the big stage and how she will take the next step for next season's team.
"What are you going to do? How are you going to lead us? What is your mindset?" Mitchell asked Rose.