Baseball - Kentucky completed its first series win over Ole Miss since the 2008 season, as the Wildcats won the set over a blistering-hot Ole Miss club that entered the weekend fresh off a series win over consensus No. 1 Florida. UK posted a 3-2 win in the opener, suffered a 9-3 loss in the second game, before riding a strong pitching effort from Corey Littrell to a series-clinching win on Sunday, 8-3. - UK has opened up the 2012 season with a 30-3 mark, the best start to a season in school history, leading the NCAA in wins and pacing the conference atop the standings for the second consecutive week. - UK's 9-3 start to conference play is also a program best, with UK running up a school-record 21-game home winning streak earlier in the year and a program-best 22 game winning streak to open the season, the second-longest streak in the storied history of the SEC. UK now owns a 7-2 record against teams ranked in the top 25, with UK also boasting a 9-1 record in one-run games in 2012.
Men's tennis - Behind a dominating performance in singles action that included a come-from-behind effort from senior No. 7 Eric Quigley for the decisive fourth point of the match, UK clinched a share of the SEC regular-season title with a 5-2 win over No. 14 Ole Miss on Sunday. UK began the weekend with a 6-1 win over No. 10 Mississippi State. This is the first SEC title since UK won the overall SEC Championship in 1992. - Quigley was the star of the weekend for Kentucky, winning both of his singles matches to increase his impressive record to 10-0 against SEC foes. The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., defeated two highly ranked foes during the week, including No. 15 Artem Ilyushin and No. 19 Nik Scholtz. Quigley's win over Scholtz was the match clincher vs. Ole Miss. - The two wins over the weekend takes Kentucky's record against top 25 teams this season to 9-3, while UK has earned 29 wins over top-25 teams since the start of the 2009 season. UK also continued to perform well at home, boosting its home record to 58-10 since the start of the 2009 season.
Gymnastics - UK concluded the season with a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Champaign Regional behind a team score of 194.750. - The Wildcats saved the best performance of the night for last, scoring a team score of 48.95 on uneven bars. Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo led the way for Kentucky with a career-high tying 9.875, which ranked her fifth overall at the meet. - UK seniors Storey Morris and Whitney Rose ended their collegiate careers with strong showings at the event. Morris posted a team-best 9.825 on balance beam and a 9.8 on both vault and bars, while Rose tied a season best score on bars with a 9.775. Softball - The Kentucky softball team earned a crucial series victory over South Carolina this weekend at home to improve to 5-7 in Southeastern Conference action and remain in the hunt for a spot in the SEC Tournament. - Kentucky was led by the hot-hitting of senior Brittany Cervantes and freshman Griffin Joiner. Cervantes batted .400 for the week, including .500 against the Gamecocks. Cervantes hit homers in all three games against South Carolina, while scoring five times and driving in four runs. Joiner led the offensive unit with a .444 average for the week. She notched a pair of doubles and three runs driven in to help the Wildcat cause. - Senior Rachel Riley also boasted the Wildcat attack with a .400 average and a pair of homers. She was vital in her pitching performance as well. Riley tossed her first shutout of the season in the series-tying victory. She went the distance and struck out five in the win. Senior Chanda Bell earned the other victory in the circle for UK while striking out 10 in a complete-game series-clincher on Sunday. Women's tennis - Women's tennis grabbed its first SEC victory of the season over Mississippi State, posting a final result of 5-1. - In singles play, Jessica Stiles defeated 113th-ranked Alexandra Perper at the No. 1 singles slot, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 1-0 (10). Khristina Blajkevitch also found herself in a tight match as she defeated Olesya Tsigvintseva 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 (8). Caitlin McGraw and Stephanie Fox also grabbed singles victories for the Cats. - UK next faced No. 16 Ole Miss and fell 7-0. Freshman Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff put up a valiant effort in singles play, falling just short of Erin Stephens at the No. 3 singles slot, 6-7, 4-6.
Men's golf - Men's golf finished 13th at the Gary Koch Invitational, its final tournament of the regular season. - Junior Joseph Barr led Kentucky with a final score of 8-over-par, tying for 38th. - It was the second time this season Barr had the best or tied for the best tournament finish on the team.
Women's golf - The University of Kentucky women's golf team finished 13th at the 2012 Bryan National Collegiate. - Junior Heather Lott finished the weekend in a tie for 35th at 11-over-par 227. - Junior Betsie Johnson led Kentucky with eight birdies on the weekend.
Track and field - Competing at the Florida Relays, junior Shiara Robinson recorded the seventh-best time in the 400m hurdles in UK history with a 1:00.85. - Sophomore Julie Nunn ran the 10th fastest 400m dash in program history, clocking a 55.71. - Freshman Keilah Tyson continued her impressive rookie campaign, missing out on her UK freshman record in the 100m by just 0.01 seconds. - Junior Luis Orta finished fifth in the 5,000m with a time of 14:09.47, while sophomore Allison Peare finished fifth in the 800m. Upcoming schedule
Tuesday, April 10 Baseball hosts Louisville - 6:30 p.m.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 25:
Gymnastics: Holly Cunningham
Sophomore Holly Cunningham posted the highest individual score for Kentucky at the SEC Championships with her career-high tying 9.85 on vault. Has now posted a 9.8 or higher on vault in nine of her last 10 meets.
Softball: Griffin Joiner
Freshman Griffin Joiner was her continued steady-self offering the Wildcats a .300 batting clip and a pair of crucial RBI in helping clinch a series over No. 18/21 Auburn. Joiner gave UK a 1-0 lead in both of the final two games of the series with the Tigers. In Saturday's game the lead would be one UK would not relinquish en route to earning a series win over the Tigers for just the fourth time in school history. Her sacrifice fly in the final game of the series proved to be UK's lone scoring of the game and it was a lead UK held until Auburn mounted a two-run bottom of the seventh rally to salvage a sweep. Joiner's presence at catcher cannot go unnoticed. She logged a perfect 1.000 fielding clip while notching 28 putouts and four assists. Runners attempted to steal on her a mere three times, and she successfully turned the play in all three attempts not allowing any runners to advance a base on her watch. Her success rate discouraged additional attempts as teams opted for sacrifice hits and hit-and-runs.
Men's tennis: Alex Musialek
Became the 14th player in school history to record 100 singles wins with his come-from-behind win over No. 82 Roberto Maytin of Baylor. The native of Dax, France, earned the historic win in a three-set thriller over No. 82 Roberto Maytin at No. 2 singles. After dropping the first set 3-6, Musialek dominated the second set 6-1 and then rolled in the third set 6-4 to grab the win.
Baseball: Alex Phillips
Senior southpaw Alex Phillips had a pair of strong relief outings in helping the Wildcats extend their NCAA-leading 24-1 record with a series win at Tennessee and a midweek win at Cincinnati ... In game two of the series at UT, Phillips entered the game after a rain storm had halted play on Sunday, working the final 4.1 shutout innings to post a win to even that series ... In a midweek win at UC, Phillips entered when the steady UK bullpen was allowing six runs to make the contest tight ... Phillips immediately got UK out of any trouble to lock the save down with two innings and two strikeouts ... On the year, Phillips owns a 3-0 record and a 2.11 ERA in 10 relief outings, tossing 21.1 innings, allowing only 12 hits and five walks, striking out 19, with a .190 opposing batting average.
Baseball: J.T. Riddle
Sophomore second baseman J.T. Riddle had a clutch week in helping No. 2 Kentucky to a midweek win at Cincinnati and a series victory at Tennessee ... Riddle's clutch hitting led UK to the series win over the Vols, UK's first in Knoxville since the 2008 season and helped the Wildcats improve to a nation-leading 24-1, including a 5-1 mark in SEC play ... After the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the year in the series opener on Friday night to snap a 22-game winning streak, Riddle's bat paced UK to the series-evening win in game two, batting 3-for-4 with three RBI, a homer and a triple ... In the series finale, a seven-inning game, the two teams were locked in a scoreless pitching duel in the top of the sixth when Riddle smacked a double off the wall in leftfield to score the go-ahead and game-winning run ... In a midweek win at UC, Riddle scored a pair of runs and added an RBI single ... In addition to his contributions at the plate, Riddle has played stellar defense at second base, with his instincts, range and arm strength helping the UK defensive unit rank second in the SEC in fielding ... On the year, Riddle has hit .318 (28-for-88), with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 18 RBI, with his 23 runs scored ranking eighth in the league.
Softball: Rachel Riley
Senior Rachel Riley was flawless in her two starts and two victories this week in UK's impressive 3-1 weekend including taking a series from No. 18/21 Auburn for just the fourth time school history. Riley earned the decisive-series clinching victory over the Tigers with a complete-game effort. She worked 7.0 innings yielding just one earned run and limiting Auburn to a mere five hits. She struck out four in the win. The win marked the ninth of her career over a top-25 ranked opponent and the first in her senior campaign. She also contributed offensively with a 2-for-4 day at the dish which was her sixth multi-hit outing of the season. In UK's non-conference victory in front of her hometown of Bowling Green, Ky., on the campus of Western Kentucky, Riley again worked a complete-game. She struck out six batters and allowed just five Hilltopper hits. She also logged a 1-for-4 day at the plate in the UK victory. With 10 strikeouts this weekend, Riley moved into fifth place on UK's all-time career strikeout list. With two wins she also becomes just one of three pitchers in school history with 35 or more career wins.
Baseball: Chandler Shepherd
Right-hander Chandler Shepherd made his first career road start at Big East foe Cincinnati on Wednesday, posting his second career win ... Shepherd worked a career-long 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out two ... Shepherd worked five shutout innings and came out for the sixth inning in an effort to extend his pitch count, with the Bearcats scoring two on a triple ... On the year, Shepherd has appeared in five games with four starts, posting a 2-0 record and a 3.15 ERA, in 20 innings, walking five and striking out 11.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Mar. 18:
Gymnastics: Caitlyn Ciokajlo
Won her fourth uneven bars title of the season and her third straight with a 9.85 score on Saturday against Centenary. The native of Brooklyn, Mich., has now led UK on bars in six meets this season, scoring a 9.825 or higher in five consecutive meets.
Men's basketball: Anthony Davis
Averaged double-double in UK's two NCAA Tournament wins (15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.5 bpg, 4.0 apg)
Track and field: Raymond Dykstra
Set a career-best mark in the javelin
Won the javelin competition by over 22 feet
Set the program record in his first ever collegiate competition in the javelin
Set the freshman record in the javelin
Track and field: Andrew Evans
Had career-best marks in the discus and in the hammer throw
Won the Discus, defeating all other competitors by over 11 feet
Recorded the seventh best mark in program history in the discus and in the hammer throw
Baseball: Trevor Gott
UK sophomore right-hander Trevor Gott solidified his role as one of the top closers in college baseball during Kentucky's 5-0 week, picking up three saves - including two against the two-time NCAA Champions, No. 2 South Carolina ... Appeared in three games with three saves, tossing three shutout frames, with one hit and no walks allowed, striking out six ... Made first appearance in the ninth inning of UK's 2-1 midweek win on Wednesday, locking down the save ... Came on in the ninth inning with UK nursing a 4-3 lead and a runner at second base and no outs in the series-clinching win over USC on Saturday ... After getting a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to third base, Gott struck out the next two hitters to end the game and leave the game-tying and inherited runner stranded at third base ... In the series finale, after UK allowed a leadoff runner to reach base on an error in the ninth inning with UK looking for the sweep, came out of the pen to get three consecutive outs to finish off the game and sweep the Gamecocks ... On the year, Gott - the 2011 Cape Cod League Reliever of the Year - has a 1-0 record and a 2.08 ERA, saving five games in 10 relief outings, striking out 16 and walking two in 8.2 innings.
Men's basketball: Terrence Jones
Averaged double-double in UK's two NCAA Tournament wins (15.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg)
Baseball: Luke Maile
Kentucky junior catcher Luke Maile continued to provide the vocal and physical leadership to a school-record 21-0 start to the season, launching a pair of homers during a 5-0 week, pacing UK to a series sweep over No. 2 South Carolina, the two-time defending NCAA Champions ... Maile hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the series opener, a blast to dead centerfield with UK trailing by a run, part of a three-RBI game ... In the second game of the series, Maile delivered another clutch RBI single in UK's 4-3 win over the Cocks ... In the finale, Maile set the tone by launching his fifth homer of the year in the first inning off USC's Colby Holmes, leading UK to the sweep-clinching win ... Maile's walk-off homer was his staggering seventh game-winning RBI of the season, leading the team and tying the team leader Thomas McCarthy's seven game-winning RBI from the entire 2011 season ... On the year, Maile has hit .360 (27-for-75) with five doubles, five homers, 27 RBI, a 13-4 walk-strikeout ratio and six stolen bases.
Men's golf: Cody Martin
Opened with back-to-back rounds of 2-under-par 70 at the Bulls Invitational
Led Kentucky with a final score of 1-under-par
Finished in a tie for 21st
Track and field: Kayla Parker
Won the 100m hurdles
Set a career-best time in the 100m hurdles, breaking her previous career-best by .27 seconds
Recorded the seventh fastest time in program history
Baseball: A.J. Reed
Freshman A.J. Reed turned in one of the more prolific weeks in the history of UK baseball, leading UK to five wins as the No. 4 hitter, midweek starter and weekend late-inning reliever ... Picked up two wins on the mound, one coming in a midweek start on Tuesday and the second coming in relief of UK's series-clinching win over No. 2 South Carolina on Saturday ... In both of his wins on the mound, Reed - who owns a 12-game hitting streak - delivered the game-winning RBI at the plate ... In his start, tossed six innings, allowing only one run and striking out six, with first-pitch strikes hurled to the first 21 hitters he faced ... Reed became the first UK player in program history (modern era: 1979-present) to start on the mound and as the No. 4 hitter in the order in the midweek win ... On Saturday, Reed was summoned out of the bullpen on short rest working two shutout innings to set up the game for UK closer Trevor Gott in the ninth inning, picking up his fourth win of the year ... At the plate, Reed led UK in hitting all week batting .526 (10-for-19) with two doubles, one homer and five RBI ... Totaled a 2-0 record with a 1.12 ERA on the mound, striking out eight in eight innings ... In his midweek starting pitching assignment, collected a career-high three hits, batting 3-for-4 with three RBI ... Delivered two hits in a 2-1 midweek win over Murray State on Wednesday ... In his SEC debut on Friday, Reed went 2-for-4 with an RBI, adding the game-winning double in the seventh inning in the series-clinching win on Saturday ... Finished with two hits in the series finale, helping UK to its first series sweep of USC since 2006 ... On the year, has hit .386 (27-for-70) with seven doubles, two homers and 28 RBI, with a 4-0 record and a 1.83 ERA on the mound in 19.2 innings with 18 strikeouts.
Men's basketball: Marquis Teague
Career-high 24 points in win over Iowa State along with seven assists.
Men's basketball - On the heels of an 87-71 win over Iowa State in the third round, top-seeded Kentucky earned a rematch against the Indiana Hoosiers, the lone blemish on the Cats' regular-season record. - In a win over Iowa State, UK got a double-double from freshman Anthony Davis (15 points, 12 rebounds). It was his 18th double-double of the season. Three other Wildcats scored in double-figures, including a career-high 24 points from Marquis Teague. Teague also dished out seven assists and Davis added a career-high five assists. - Darius Miller (19) and Doron Lamb (16) also scored in double-digits, while Terrence Jones grabbed 11 rebounds. - Kentucky finished the game shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, hitting 10-of-20. Women's basketball - A balanced scoring effort and a dominating performance on the boards helped No. 12/11 Kentucky defeat McNeese State on Saturday 68-62 and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. - Eight players scored at least six points, led by reserves Keyla Snowden and Azia Bishop who posted double-figure scoring efforts. Snowden, the Southeastern Conference Co-6th Woman of the Year, led the Wildcats in scoring with 11 points, while Bishop came off the bench for 10 points and three blocks in just 16 minutes. Sophomore reserve forward Samarie Walker pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds which tied for the most rebounds by a UK player in the NCAA Tournament. - The Wildcats grabbed a season-high 58 rebounds in the win, the most for UK in the Big Dance and the most since charting a school-record 62 boards vs. Murray State on Nov. 26, 2010.
Baseball - The No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats completed a stellar five-game week with five wins, including a weekend series sweep over No. 2 South Carolina, the two-time defending NCAA Champions. - Kentucky opened up conference play in historic fashion, sweeping the high-octane Gamecocks for the first time since 2006. UK extended its school-record winning streak to 21 games to open the season with the sweep, eclipsing the previous record of 19-0 set to open the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The Wildcats now own the third-longest winning streak in the storied history of the SEC. - Kentucky posted a pair of midweek wins before facing the two-time defending NCAA Champion, the league leader in ERA and the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. Kentucky exploded out of the SEC gate with a walk-off win on Friday, 4-3 with Luke Maile launching a home run to centerfield with the Wildcats trailing 3-2. On Saturday, UK again rallied for a 4-3 win, using a heroic pitching performance from freshman A.J. Reed and sophomore Trevor Gott. Sunday, UK completed the sweep with a first-inning homer from Maile and clutch hitting from senior catcher Michael Williams, with Gott locking down his fifth save of the year. Gymnastics - The gymnastics team continued its recent success by scoring yet another impressive team score defeating Centenary on Saturday with a score of 195.875. The win over Centenary gave the Wildcats its first winning regular season since 2008. - UK defeated Centenary on every event, posting a 48.875 or higher on all four apparatuses. Individually, a UK gymnast took home event honors on each event, including sophomore Audrey Harrison, who won her fourth all-around title of the season. Senior Storey Morris and freshman Kenzie Hedges finished tied for first on vault, while sophomore Caitlyn Ciokajlo won bars, sophomore Kayla Sienkowski and freshman Shannon Mitchell won beam, and sophomore Kayla Hartley won floor. - UK has scored a 195 or higher in five of its last six meets, including a 195.875 or higher in three straight meets. UK's high score Saturday marked the first time in school history the Wildcats have posted three-consecutive team scores of 195.875 or higher.
Softball - Senior Brittany Cervantes hit a game-winning home run to top NC State and lift UK into the championship game of the UK Invitational to highlight the week for the Wildcats. The blast marked the 36th home run of her career and is the new career record for the Wildcats. Cervantes also hit three doubles on the week to aid the Wildcat offensive cause. - Senior Chanda Bell earned a pair of victories for the Wildcats this weekend. In the two wins she tossed 9.2 innings without giving up a run and striking out 21. In a win over UMKC she worked a complete game shutout and struck out 13. It marked the 33rd time in her career she has struck out 10 or more batters in a game.
Track and field - The UK men's and women's track and field teams opened their outdoor seasons at the Bulls Invitational on Saturday. - Sophomore Andrew Evans and freshman Raymond Dykstra won the men's discus and javelin, respectively. Dykstra threw a school-record mark of 69.09m/226-08 en route to his victory. - Kayla Parker had a career-best mark in the long jump and later won the women's 100-meter hurdles with a career-best time. - Sophomore Allison Peare won the women's 1,500m run with a career-best time of 4:28.97, while freshman Keffri Neal finished second in the men's 1,500m.
Women's tennis - The women's tennis team engaged in strong doubles play in its road match against No. 2 Florida but could not overcome the Gators, who grabbed the win, 7-0. - The Wildcats traveled to Coral Gables, Fla., to take on the University of Miami but, due to inclement weather, the match was canceled with no plans of rescheduling due to Kentucky's travel plans. Men's golf - The men's golf team finished ninth at the Schenkel Invitational, carding back-to-back opening rounds of 286 before closing with a 298 for a total of 6-over-par. - Sophomore Cody Martin led UK, finishing in a tie for 21st at 1-under. Martin carded back-to-back opening rounds of 2-under-par before shooting a 3-over-par during Sunday's final round. - Junior Chase Parker remained consistent throughout, shooting 73, 72, 72 to finish tied for 31st at 1-over-par. - Parker has carded seven straight rounds of 74 or better. The Augusta, Ga., native is 7-under-par during that span.
Women's golf - Kentucky finished 11th at the SunTrust Gator Women's Invitational in Gainesville, Fla. - Junior Betsie Johnson led the Wildcats with an 11th place finish at 8-over-par 218. - Sophomore Liz Breed sunk six birdies on the weekend.
Monday, March 19 Men's tennis hosts Baylor - Noon Men's tennis hosts Murray State - 6:00 p.m. Women's basketball vs. Green Bay - 9:45 p.m. (Ames, Iowa)
Wednesday, March 21 Baseball at Cincinnati - 4:00 p.m. Softball at Western Kentucky - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 22 Men's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Federal Way, Wash.)
Friday, March 23 Women's tennis at Auburn - Noon Men's tennis hosts Auburn - 4:00 p.m. Baseball at Tennessee - 6:00 p.m. Softball at Auburn - 7:00 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Indiana - 9:45 p.m. (Atlanta) Men's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Federal Way, Wash.) Saturday, March 24 Softball at Auburn - 2:00 p.m. Baseball at Tennessee - 4:00 p.m. Men's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Federal Way, Wash.) Gymnastics at SEC Championships (Duluth, Ga.) Sunday, March 25 Women's tennis hosts Alabama - Noon Softball at Auburn - 2:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Alabama - 2:00 p.m. Baseball at Tennessee - 2:00 p.m. Women's basketball vs. TBD (Kingston, R.I. ) Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C.) Men's basketball vs. Baylor/Xavier (Atlanta)
Kentucky captured six consecutive victories to close out Tim Garrison's first regular season as head coach. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The University of Kentucky gymnastics team was in a state of rebuilding. A new head coach, Tim Garrison, had been hired after a successful assistant coaching tenure at Nebraska. The Wildcats were looking to turn a new page in the story of its gymnastics program.
They just did not think they would get to the good part so early in the book.
With some familiar faces mixed in with a new cast of characters, in just one season, Kentucky has seen a program turnaround much quicker than they expected with fascinating sub plots based all around one underlying theme: Winning.
On the road in their season finale this past weekend, the No. 23 Wildcats went down to Centenary in Shreveport, La., and defeated the Ladies in every event including, tying a season-best team score on vault with a 49.125, as they went on to claim their sixth straight victory.
"(Saturday) was another step forward for the Kentucky gymnastics program," said Garrison, "We didn't set a record team score or even a season high. What we did was, once again, show consistency in our performance. We hit 24 of 24 routines and that has been our goal all season."
It took awhile to get this team to that point.
When Garrison was named head coach after the conclusion of last season, he decided that he needed to change two things. The first was the team's fitness. In order to be successful, the Wildcats' fitness level had to improve in order to have a better overall appearance due to the subjective nature of the sport, but also to prevent injury. The second thing he wanted to change, after talking to assistant coach Chuck Dickerson before the season, was this team's attitude.
"After meets they would apologize to (the staff)," said Garrison. "They would feel like that had something to apologize for. I don't like that. I don't think that's a positive thing. I want them to leave a competition, if they don't do well, I want them to be mad. I want them to have a sick feeling, that, 'Dang it, we left it out there on the floor.' Not apologize and say, 'Sorry, Coach, we let you down.' No, no, be mad, be upset."
That trend seemed to continue early on in the season for this bunch. They dropped five of their first six competitions, with all five of those losses coming in conference. To their defense, all five of those teams are perennial forces on the national scene, but at times, they did not even seem competitive. They were dealing with a brand new program and were competing with a few walk-ons.
In their first competition, UK met their conflict head on at Arkansas as the Razorbacks dominated, 196.650-191.975.
"After Arkansas," said Garrison, "I felt like I was kind of pushing a rope. I thought as a staff we needed to do something to make them understand that that wasn't going to happen. That can't happen."
Garrison called the loss an early season "setback," one of two important setbacks for UK this season. The second came in a loss at Georgia.
Kentucky did not perform particularly well, losing 197.225-193.125 with Georgia reeling off a ridiculous score. However, in the face of that setback, this group pulled together to decide they had finally had enough. The feeling was different. While this story could have taken a turn for the worst, it was just reaching its climax.
"I think it was the turning point," said Garrison. "I think setbacks are great teachers. And it's always been that way and it will always be that way. They bring things into focus, and a lot of times it's negative things. Well, we had two setbacks that are significant this season.
"After Georgia, all they needed was a nudge. That was it. Here's what just happened: you're mad, you're disgusted with yourself, because you know that you left a lot on the floor that you know you could have corrected. And it's been a turning point."
The players agree.
Do-it-all freshman Alexis Gross, who came in second Saturday to teammate Audrey Harrison in all-around competition posting a score of 38.875, has emerged as a vocal presence this year. The outspoken rookie noticed that even though her team did not perform to their best abilities in Georgia, there was no quit in this team.
"Everyone fought over and over again," said Gross. "No one gave up. We started on bars and it was rough, but each event we would fight to come back. Things would not go our way, but no one would give up. And at the end of the meet, we all looked around and were like, 'We're a better team than what we just did.' "
And they have proven it since.
The seniors (Storey Morris and Whitney Rose) have led the way, the freshmen have weaved themselves into the fiber of the team and those walk-ons are performing at a high level.
After Georgia, Kentucky (7-5, 1-5) has gone on to win six consecutive meets, including Saturday's win over Centenary. Their recent surge has seen UK compile team scores of 195 of higher in five of their last six meets, including a 195.875 or higher in three straight meets for the first time in school history. Kentucky scored a 195.95 two weeks ago at Illinois before last week's historic 196.025 against Ball State and George Washington, which was good for Kentucky's best consecutive scores ever.
Gross, who says she's been afforded the opportunity to step up and be a leader on this team with just two seniors, loves the way this team competes for each other. She says that is why UK has pulled things together.
"The team, you know, everyone is so into each other," said Gross. "When (Caitlyn Ciokajlo) sticks a dismount, I feel like I stuck a dismount, that's how into the meet I am. And they fact that we've all become like that has just fueled our fire."
This season, this story, is unfinished. After completing their regular season, they will head to Duluth, Ga., to compete in SEC Championships this Saturday. And while the team is focused on success this weekend, the authors of the book are still looking to come up with a storybook ending.
"Obviously Nationals is what we want to do," said Gross. "If we keep rolling, I have so much confidence in this team, I think we could actually do it. And I'm pretty sure that would be the first time, so that would be really awesome."
All is well in the world of Kentucky sports after a weekend that saw the men's and women's basketball teams keep their tournament runs alive, baseball pull off a sweep of the two-time defending national champions and gymnastics finish off the regular season on a high note.
A big thanks to Metz Camfield and Ryan Suckow who stepped in and provided some great coverage of UK Hoops and baseball as I follow the men throughout March Madness. We're going to keep the content coming over the next few weeks, so stay with us.
Anyway, there's never a dull moment in March, so let's get to a few odds and ends on another nice morning in Lexington:
The big story on this Monday is Matthew Mitchell and his Wildcats taking the floor for a second-round matchup with seventh-seeded and 10th-ranked - yes, you read that right - Green Bay (31-1). It's not often that a No. 2 seed like Kentucky faces a more highly ranked team in the second round, but that's the unique circumstance that will take place on Monday at 9:45 p.m. in Ames, Iowa. Metz wrote about that exact topic on Sunday afternoon, so check it out if you haven't already. We'll be live blogging the game beginning around 9:30 p.m., so come join us.
The only other UK team in action today is No. 7 men's tennis, which takes the court for the first time in over a week with a doubleheader against Baylor at noon and Murray State at 6:45 p.m. It's a beautiful day, so head over to the Boone Tennis Center.
After a pair of impressive performances in Louisville, the men get a few days off before they have a Sweet 16 rematch with fourth-seeded Indiana. Late last night, it was announced UK-IU would tip off at 9:45 p.m. on Friday in Atlanta. Based on the fact that Georgia Dome officials tweeted last night that tickets in the upper level are now available due to demand from fans, it should be quite an atmosphere. Additionally, UK will hold an open practice at the Georgia Dome on Thursday from 3:10 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Anthony Davis is among four finalists for the Naismith Award, given annually to the national player of the year. Now that the field has been narrowed, fans can submit their votes on behalf of Davis. Fan votes will comprise 25 percent of the final tally, so you can really make a difference in Davis' candidacy. The other three finalists are Thomas Robinson of Kansas, Draymond Green of Michigan State and Doug McDermott of Creighton. Text VOTE to 34763 or head to this link to cast your ballot.
It got lost in the shuffle a bit with the NCAA Tournament's first weekend going on, but the No. 23 gymnastics team had yet another strong showing this weekend, defeating Centenary in its final meet of the regular season. Tim Garrison has carried the team to new heights in his first season as head coach and Ryan Suckow will have a story on that topic later this afternoon. Next up is a trip to Duluth, Ga., for the SEC Championships. Conveniently, Duluth is less than 30 miles from Atlanta, so fans can stop over on Saturday, the day between basketball games.
"I was standing under the basket and saw a pass headed right at my head," Bilas recalled Tuesday. "I was just ducking when all of a sudden two big hands come out of nowhere and grab the ball like it was tossed. I mean, this was a bullet, and I was sure it was going to hit me."
Davis caught the ball and scored.
"Holy (Toledo)," Bilas recalled thinking. "That was one of the best catches I can remember."
After winning all 16 of its league regular-season games by an average of 16.4 points, UK won by a combined 12 points against LSU and Florida -- two teams the Cats had previously throttled -- in the SEC quarterfinals and semifinals. Then they collapsed over the final five minutes against the Commodores.
"I'm a little bit of a perfectionist. I want them to dominate people," Calipari said. "It may not be fair, but that's how I view these guys -- trying to get them to that next level, trying to make sure that they understand you're going to have to outwork the other teams."
With President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron seated in the front row along one baseline, this so-called "First Four" game of the 2012 NCAA Tournament ranked first only chronologically until a improbable Western Kentucky rally made it memorable.
Western came back from 16 down in the final five minutes to win 59-58.
Calipari certainly appears to have succeeded based on that method of evaluation. Kentucky (32-2) enters the NCAA tournament as a clear title favorite after being one Christian Watford buzzer-beating three away from an undefeated regular season.
If Calipari does not cut down the nets with this Kentucky team, the pressure on him to win his first ring will only intensify. Here's a look at where Calipari ranks on my list of college basketball's best all-time coaches who did not win a championship.
Kentucky has pulled off another sweep of the awards, this time for The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference women's basketball team.
A'dia Mathies was named player of the year Tuesday, Matthew Mitchell claimed the coaching award, and Bria Goss picked up newcomer of the year. On Monday, the Wildcats took all three awards for the men's team.
The No. 2 seed is the second in school history for the Wildcats, and ties their highest seed ever in the tournament. Kentucky was also a two seed in 1982. The other first-round matchup in Ames, Iowa, features No. 7 seed Green Bay (30-1) and No. 10 seed Iowa State (18-12).
"It's a really historic night for us, and we're so excited," UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It's the first time in our school's history that the women's program has been to three straight tournaments. It's the first time we've ever gotten a seed this high (since 1982). It's a great night for us and we couldn't be more excited about advancing to the tournament and getting a two seed and having a chance to compete for a national championship. It's a real, real exciting night for our program."
Freshman A.J. Reed pitched six dominating innings and had three hits, including a home run, and three RBIs to power the 16th-ranked and unbeaten University of Kentucky baseball team past Wright State 9-1 on Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The 6-foot-4, 235-poound Reed (3-0) became the first player in UK's modern-era history (1979-present) to start a game on the mound and at the cleanup batter. He allowed seven hits and the run, throwing first-pitch strikes to the first 21 batters.
Courtney Lee and rookie Chandler Parsons each scored 21 points, Patrick Patterson blocked Serge Ibaka's point-blank putback attempt in the final 2 seconds, and the Rockets charged back from an 11-point deficit in the last 3 minutes to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-103 on Tuesday night.
One person didn't view Brandon Knight's breakout game on Saturday night as a breakout: Knight himself.
Knight jumped out like a rocket in the Pistons' blowout win over the Toronto Raptors, atoning for two low volume performances in wins against the Lakers and Hawks (six points, seven assists total). He scored all 19 of his points in the first half and finished with seven assists.
Forward Tayshaun Prince became the sixth player in franchise history Saturday to play in 700 career games with Detroit. Prince, a 2002 draft pick, has played at least 78 games in seven of his nine seasons. The only players who have played more games in a Pistons uniform are Joe Dumars (1,018), Isiah Thomas (979), Bill Laimbeer (937), Vinnie Johnson (798) and Lindsey Hunter (703).
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Mar. 11:
Baseball: Cameron Flynn
Enjoyed a breakout week in helping No. 23 Kentucky to five wins, including a series sweep over the weekend ... Batted .500 (7-for-14) in four games, with two homers and seven RBI, slugging .929 and reaching base at a .529 clip during the week ... Drew one walk and got hit by a pitch, adding one outfield assist while playing left and rightfield ... A native of Lexington, Ky., Flynn leads UK in hitting through his first 15 career UK games, batting .441 (15-for-34) with four doubles, a team-best four homers and 13 RBI ... Flynn owns a team-high .912 slugging mark, adding a .511 on-base percentage with a 6-5 walk-strikeout ratio ... Belted homers in back-to-back wins over Canisius on the weekend, joining fellow outfielder Zac Zellers as Wildcats to homer in consecutive games in 2012 ... Went 3-for-4 in UK's win over CC in the series opener, with the homer and a walk.
Track and field: Terri-Ann Grant
Finished ninth in the women's high jump at the NCAA Championships, clearing a mark of 1.78m/5-10.00.
Earned second-team All-America honors in the high jump.
Baseball: Jerad Grundy
Turned in a strong start in his final non-Southeastern Conference tune-up of the season, posting his third win of the season on Saturday vs. Canisius ... Tossed a career-high 7.1 innings, allowing only three hits and two walks, striking out seven ... Held CC to a .125 batting average ... Faced only three hitters over the minimum in the win ... On the year, Grundy has made four starts, posting a 3-0 record and a 2.25 ERA ... In 24 innings in 2012, Grundy has allowed only 16 hits and six earned runs, walking seven and striking out 23.
Gymnastics: Storey Morris
On Senior Day for the UK gymnastics team, senior Storey Morris had an outstanding meet. Morris won the balance beam title at the event with a career-high tying 9.875, while sticking her vault to go 9.775 and earning a solid 9.85 on bars.
Men's Golf: Chase Parker
Finished fourth out of 90 golfers at the USF Invitational with a final score of 3-under-par.
Shot a career-best tying 5-under-par 67 in the second round of the USF Invitational, his second round of 67 in his last three rounds played going back to the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate.
Is 8-under-par in his last four rounds played going back to the final round of the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate.
Defeated all other SEC golfers at the USF Invitational.
Led Kentucky to a third-place finish at the USF Invitational, defeating two top-40 schools (No. 20 Florida State and No. 38 MTSU), with a 54-hole total of 868.
The Wildcats' 4-over-par 868 is their third-best 54-hole total of the year, and their best of the young spring season.
Baseball: A.J. Reed
Dynamic two-way talent led UK in the middle of the batting order in four of five wins during the week, starting the fifth game and picking up the win on the mound ... Batted .389 (7-for-18) in the four games, batting No. 4 and No. 5 in the order ... Had two doubles and six RBI, with a .500 slugging mark and a .431 on-base percentage ... Made a start for the Wildcats vs. Marshall on Wednesday, picking up the win in his second career starting assignment ... Tossed five innings, allowing four hits and two runs, striking out a career-best seven ... On the year, Reed leads UK with 23 RBI, adding a .333 (17-for-51) average with five doubles, one homer and eight walks ... Has posted a 2-0 record and a 2.31 ERA on the mound, with 10 strikeouts in 11.2 innings.
Men's tennis: Grant Roberts
Went 2-0 in singles action over the weekend, including his match-clinching point against No. 9 Florida on Sunday. After falling in the first set, Roberts made some quick adjustments on the court to grab the second set and then dominate the third set 6-0 for the win.
Gymnastics: Whitney Rose
Performed very well for Kentucky in the last home meet of her career, tying a season best on uneven bars with a mark of 9.775. Rose has been in every bar lineup this season, holding a strong average.
Men's basketball - The SEC regular-season champion, Kentucky Wildcats, make their NCAA-record 52nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament, earning an at-large bid as the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament. - The Wildcats just missed the league's automatic bid, dropping a 71-64 game to the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC Tournament championship. - UK was led offensively Sunday by senior Darius Miller, who tallied a team-high 16 points. - The Wildcats got a pair of double-double performances from Anthony Davis (12p, 10r) and Terrence Jones (12p, 11r) on Sunday. For Davis it was his fourth-straight double-double. He also added three blocks. - Doron Lamb rounded out Kentucky's four double-digit scorers against Vanderbilt.
Rifle - The UK rifle team concluded its 2011-12 season with a second-place overall finish at the NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend. - In the first day, UK won its second consecutive team national championship in smallbore. The NCAA Championship in smallbore was just the second in program history. - The Wildcats' (11-1, 6-0) second-place finish is the fifth all-time runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships in program history. - The championships conclude another stellar season for the Wildcats, which completed a second consecutive undefeated GARC regular-season schedule. Baseball - The No. 23 Kentucky baseball team completed a five-game week with a three-game weekend series sweep over Canisius, in addition to midweek wins over Tennessee Tech and Marshall. - The Wildcats are the lone undefeated team in the NCAA, posting a 16-0 record, owning the longest winning streak and the most wins in the nation. - UK's 16-0 start is the third-best start to a season in the over 100-year history of the program, passing the 15-0 start the 2000 team opened up with under Keith Madison. The 2007 and 2008 teams own the school record with a 19-0 start. - During the week, UK posted a 10-6 win over Tennessee Tech and a 7-3 win over Marshall. UK then charted a 19-9 win over Canisius in the series opener, before winning the series on Saturday with a 7-5 result and sweeping the Golden Griffins with a 5-4 walk-off win on Sunday. - UK has been paced by the best offense in the SEC, owning a .349 team average, belting 16 homers through 16 games, with a 3.25 ERA on the mound and 163 strikeouts in 144 innings. Men's tennis - The men's tennis team had another great weekend in SEC play, defeating No. 33 South Carolina and No. 9 Florida at home. - The wins were Kentucky's 10th and 11th over ranked teams for this season, while the victory over Florida was UK's 24th over a top-25 team since the start of the 2009 season. UK has now beat Florida in consecutive regular seasons for the first time since 1992-93. - Sophomore Grant Roberts stole the show Sunday vs. UF with a three-set match to clinch the UK victory. Senior No. 6 Eric Quigley, sophomore No. 98 Tom Jomby and Roberts each earned two singles wins over the weekend.
Gymnastics - The gymnastics team had yet another winning weekend when it scored one of the highest team scores in school history of 196.025 against George Washington and Ball State. The two wins guarantee UK a winning regular season for the first time since 2008. - UK has now posted consecutive 195.95 scores or higher for the first time since 2002, while Tim Garrison is the first head coach in school history to post a 196 or higher in his opening year. - UK scored a 49.0 or higher on three events, including a season high on bars, while UK set or tied eight season highs and seven career highs in the meet.
Softball - Kentucky dropped three games with No. 1 Alabama in its home-opening weekend. The Tide escaped a 3-1 nine-inning thriller in the opening game. - Griffin Joiner, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, led the Wildcats with a .544 batting average and a homer. - Pitcher Lauren Cumbess tossed a career-high 10 strikeouts in a tough-luck loss to the Tide in the second game of the series. - UK will take a weekend off from SEC action by hosting the UK Invitational. - Kentucky finished its indoor season Friday at the NCAA Championships in Nampa, Idaho. Track and field - Senior Terri-Ann Grant represented the Wildcats at the championships, finishing ninth in the high jump with a mark of 1.78m/5-10.00. - Grant's performance earned her second-team All-America honors. - Kentucky begins its outdoor season March 16 at the Bulls Invitational in Tampa, Fla.
Women's tennis - Kentucky dropped a 6-1 decision in its opening SEC road match of the season at South Carolina. - Khristina Blajkevitch captured the lone point for the Wildcats with a 3-6, 6-3, (10-8) win at No. 3 singles. - UK remains on the road at Florida and its match has been postponed until Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Men's golf - Kentucky finished third at the USF Invitational after back-to-back rounds of 4-under-par and 1-over-par in the final two rounds of the tournament. - Chase Parker led the way for UK with a fourth-place finish after a 5-under-par 67 in the second round. - Parker's 67 tied his career-low round, and was his second round of 5-under-par in as many tournaments. - Parker, Cody Martin and Stephen Powers each finished in the top 25. Upcoming schedule
Monday, March 12 Women's tennis at Florida - 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13 Softball hosts Western Illinois - 3:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Wright State - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 Baseball hosts Murray State - 4:00 p.m. Thursday, March 15 Women's tennis vs. Miami - 5:00 p.m. (Coral Gables, Fla.) Men's basketball vs. WKU/MVSU - 6:50 p.m. (Louisville) Friday, March 16 Softball hosts N.C. State - 3:00 p.m. Softball hosts UAB - 5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.) Track and Field at Bulls Invitational (Tampa) Women's golf at Lady Gator Invitational (Gainesville, Fla.) Saturday, March 17 Men's basketball vs. UConn/Iowa State - TBA (Louisville) Softball hosts Missouri-Kansas City - 1:00 p.m. Softball hosts TBD - 3:00 p.m. /5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts South Carolina - 2:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Centenary -7:00 p.m. Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.) Women's golf at Lady Gator Invitational (Gainesville, Fla.)
Sunday, March 18 Softball hosts TBD - 11:00 a.m. /1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts South Carolina - 1:00 p.m. Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.) Women's golf at Lady Gator Invitational (Gainesville, Fla.)