"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.)
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Mar. 4:
Softball: Chanda Bell
Senior Chanda Bell enjoyed a successful week on the mound for the Wildcats en route to All-Tournament team honors at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational. Bell was involved in all three of UK's victories with two wins and a save. She tossed a team-high 13.0 innings with a 1.62 ERA and 15 strikeouts. She notched a season-high seven fanned batters in a six-inning win over Stephen F. Austin. Her save in the first game with the Jacks moved her into fourth all-time in saves. Bell increased her career win total to 57 games as she moved into just second all-time in career starts at UK. Bell gave up just 0.61 hits per inning pitched this weekend as batter's averaged just a .170 batting average against UK's right-hander.
Softball: Kara Dill
Junior Kara Dill continued her explosive offensive play with a team-high nine hits for a .500 batting average in leading UK to a 3-2 week at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational. Dill's efforts earned her All-Tournament team accolades for the second consecutive tournament. She's put together a career-long 15-game hitting streak which included at least one hit in all five contests this week. She scored a team-high eight times and drove in four runs as well. In a win over Stephen F. Austin she registered a single, double and triple for the second time this season. She was also perfect on the base paths with three stolen bases. Dill has been the offensive spark for the Wildcats as UK logged three run-rule victories this weekend including scoring eight or more runs in three victories.
Gymnastics: Audrey Harrison
Finished third in the all-around competition with a career-best all-around score of 39.225. Tied a career high on vault with a 9.825 and bars with a 9.775, while setting a career high on beam with a 9.825. Is currently ranked 33rd in the nation in the all-around competition with an RQS of 39.035
Softball: Griffin Joiner
Freshman Griffin Joiner moved into the No. 3 spot in the batting order and enjoyed a tremendous offensive weekend en route to All-Tournament team honors. Joiner led the Wildcats with a .571 batting average and ranked second on the team with four RBI. She strung together a career-long hitting streak of eight games and four consecutive games with at least one RBI. In a win over Stephen F. Austin she posted her first career double, and in the heartbreaking loss to No. 12 Louisiana she enjoyed her first career perfect outing at the plate with three hits and a walk in the win. In the second victory over the Jacks, she became the second UK player this season to score three runs in a single game. For the week, she batted more than .200 higher than her season average and scored five of her nine total runs for the season.
Baseball: Corey Littrell
Turned in a quality start in UK's sweep-clinching win over UIC ... Picked up the win with six shutout innings, allowing only two hits, walking two and striking out seven ... Allowed only two hits - both to the same hitter - with his two walks coming as two-out free passes ... On the year, Littrell has a 2-0 record and a 1.89 ERA in three starts, striking out 20 and walking four in 19 innings, allowing only 11 hits and a .177 batting average.
Baseball: Luke Maile
Had a monster week in leading UK to the nation's best record and one of only two undefeated teams in college baseball ... Led UK to five wins during the week with a .500 average (9-for-18) with three doubles, one homer and six RBI ... Caught all five games during the week behind the plate as UK senior catcher Michael Williams was held out as an injury precaution ... Finished with three walks and one strikeout during the week, with his strikeout the first of the 11-game season and his first encompassing all of UK's preseason scrimmages ... In UK's 3-2 win over Morehead State on Tuesday, Maile went 1-for-3 with the game-winning two-RBI single ... In a win over Xavier on Wednesday, Maile went 3-for-3 with a walk, homer and a double, driving in one RBI ... Maile drew a walk and launched an RBI single in a win over UIC in the first game of the series, also stealing a base ... In the second game, Maile went 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI ... In UK's sweep clinching win, Maile was pulled from the lineup early for rest but went 3-for-4 with a double and two singles, stealing another base ... On the year, Maile has hit .405 (17-for-42) with four doubles, three homers and 13 RBI, stealing a team-leading six bases in seven attempts.
Baseball: A.J. Reed
Helped lead UK to five wins during the week, one as the starting pitcher and four as a middle of the order presence ... Posted a .308 average (4-for-13) during the week with a double, team-high seven RBI and three walks ... On the mound, made his first career start, tossing six innings with four hits and one run allowed, striking out two with a 1.50 ERA ... On the year, Reed has solidified himself as one of the top freshmen in the nation and one of the top two-way players in college baseball, batting .303 (10-for-33) with a homer and a team-high 17 RBI in his first 11 career collegiate games ... On the mound, Reed has one start in two games, with a 1.35 ERA and a 1-0 record ... His other pitching appearance came when he was inserted with the bases loaded and one out in the season opener at Wofford, striking out the first hitter he faced and getting out of the jam unscathed.
Men's tennis: Grant Roberts
Grant Roberts: Stepped in nicely to earn two wins at the No. 6 singles position for Kentucky and was on track to earn a third when his match was abandoned due to the team result already being clinched. Both singles wins came in straight sets, taking down Michael Nott of Arkansas 6-3, 6-3 and Jarred Wynan of Louisiana-Lafayette 6-3, 6-4. Teamed with senior Alex Musialek to win his lone two doubles matches of the week as well.
Men's basketball -The Wildcats closed out an historic regular season on Sunday with a 74-59 win at No. 16 Florida to put a cap on a perfect 16-0 run in Southeastern Conference play. It was the third time in UK and SEC history that a team posted a perfect 16-0 mark in league play. The last time it occurred in the 2003 season. - Anthony Davis led the Wildcats with his 14th double-double of the season on a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. He added six blocks as well. - Terrence Jones (19) and Marquis Teague (12) both scored in double-figures for the Wildcats. - Kentucky shot 52.5 pct. from the field while holding Florida to 38.2 pct. and 16 points below their season average. Women's basketball - Kentucky fell to LSU, 61-72, in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. - Junior guard A'dia Mathies and senior guard Keyla Snowden were each named to the SEC All-Tournament Team. - Mathies averaged 21.0 points per game in UK's two tournament appearances, while Snowden averaged 17.0 points and 4.5 3-pointers per game. - UK defeated Florida, 71-67, in the quarterfinals. It was UK's third trip to the SEC semifinals in as many years.
Baseball - The Kentucky baseball team continued its hot start to the season with five wins during the week to improve to 11-0 on the season. The Wildcats return to action with another five-game week, starting Tuesday and Wednesday with a pair of midweek tests against Tennessee Tech and Marshall at Cliff Hagan Stadium. - Kentucky (11-0) owns the best record in the nation and is one of only two undefeated teams in college baseball, joining 10-0 Gonzaga. The Wildcats are off to the fourth-best start to a season in school annals and the best since opening up a school-record 19-0 in 2007 and 2008 and a 15-0 start in 2000. - The Wildcats have been paced by a balanced approach throughout the year, with an explosive offense that owns a .334 average with 13 homers in 11 games, a 2.64 team ERA with 113 strikeouts in 99 innings and a .983 fielding percentage. Men's tennis - UK started conference play in style by winning its first two conference matches of the year, defeating No. 17 LSU 5-1 and No. 47 Arkansas 6-1. Also won its lone non-conference match of week, taking down Louisiana-Lafayette 5-2. The win over LSU marked Kentucky's 23rd over a top-25 opponent since the start of the 2009 season. - Kentucky won the doubles point in all three matches, including sweeping doubles play against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas. The Wildcats are now 9-0 on the season when they win the doubles point. - Kentucky played well in singles action, winning 13 of the 17 singles matches last week that ended in a decision. Sophomore Tom Jomby led the way with a 3-0 record in singles, while seniors Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek and sophomores Grant Roberts and Alejandro Gomez grabbed two singles wins each.
Gymnastics - Earned their second-consecutive win over a top-25 opponent with an impressive team score of 195.95 at No. 21 Illinois on Friday. The high score marks only the 11th time in school history the Wildcats have scored a 195.95 or higher in a meet. - The win moved Kentucky to No. 25 in the latest GymInfo rankings with an RQS of 194.930. It marks only the second time since 2007 that UK has been ranked in the top 25 at this point in the season (week two of RQS rankings). - Kentucky sealed the win over Illinois on balance beam with an impressive team score of 49.050, which was only the 10th time in school history UK has posted a 49.05 or higher on the event. Overall, Kentucky set or tied 10 season highs and 10 career highs in the meet.
Softball - The softball team capped its 18-game road trip with a 3-2 weekend at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational which saw UK plate eight or more runs in its three victories. Junior Kara Dill, senior Chanda Bell and freshman Griffin Joiner were tabbed to the All-Tournament team after pacing the Wildcats. - Dill extended her career-long hitting streak to 15 games and batted .500 for the weekend. She's logged multiple-hits in eight games this season including twice this weekend. - Freshman Griffin Joiner moved into the No. 3 spot in the batting order and excelled for the Wildcats with a team-high .571 batting average. - Bell was involved in all three of UK's wins including charting two victories and notching a save. She tossed 15 strikeouts and limited opponent batters to just 0.61 hits per inning. Track and field - Senior distance runner Luis Orta was named the SEC Men's Runner of the Year by the league coaches on Friday. - Sophomore Matt Hillenbrand ran a career-best time in the mile, crossing the finish line in 4:06.33 at the Alex Wilson Invitational. - Freshman Keffri Neal also ran a career-best time at the Alex Wilson Invitational, Neal finished 14th in the men's 800-meter run with a time of 1:49.97.
Women's tennis - The women's tennis team suffered a pair of 4-3 losses in its opening weekend of SEC action. The Wildcats fell to LSU and Arkansas by the same score. - Jessica Stiles was impressive for the Blue and White as she garnered sweeps at the No. 1 spot in both of the Wildcats' matches against conference competition. - Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff also logged wins in both matches for UK in the No. 4 spot.
Men's golf - Kentucky, as a team, was in a tie for fifth after the first round of the USF Invitational. - David Snyder was in a tie for 15th after the first round, following a 1-over-par 73. - Four Wildcats rank in the top 25 after one round of competition. - Joseph Barr and Chase Parker each eagled the par 5 11th hole during Sunday's first round. Upcoming schedule
Monday, March 5 Men's golf at USF Invitational
Tuesday, March 6 Baseball hosts Tennessee Tech - 4:00 p.m. Men's golf at USF Invitational Wednesday, March 7 Baseball hosts Marshall - 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 8 Diving at NCAA Zone Diving (Bloomington, Ind.)
Friday, March 9 Men's tennis hosts South Carolina - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Arkansas/LSU - 1:00 p.m. (New Orleans) Women's tennis at South Carolina - 3:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Canisius - 4:00 p.m. Softball hosts Alabama - 6:00 p.m. Rifle at NCAA Championships (Columbus, Ohio) Track and field at NCAA Championships (Nampa, Idaho) Diving at NCAA Zone Diving (Bloomington, Ind.) Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic
Saturday, March 10 Softball hosts Alabama - 1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Canisius - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball SEC Semifinals - 1:00 p.m. (New Orleans) Rifle at NCAA Championships (Columbus, Ohio) Track and field at NCAA Championships (Nampa, Idaho) Diving at NCAA Zone Diving (Bloomington, Ind.) Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic Sunday, March 11 Softball hosts Alabama - 1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Canisius - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Florida - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball SEC Finals - 1:00 p.m. (New Orleans) Women's tennis at Florida - 1:00 p.m. Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic
Men's basketball - Kentucky won its 45th SEC Championship outright Saturday on the heels of an 83-74 win over Vanderbilt. - Freshman Anthony Davis led the way with his 13th double-double of the season, scoring a career and game-high 28 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds. He also added five blocked shots and two steals. - Freshman Marquis Teague added 16 points while dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds. Terrence Jones also scored in double-figures with 12 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks. - UK celebrates Senior Night against Georgia on Thursday, honoring seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas.
Women's basketball - Kentucky won all three games last week, including an impressive 76-40 win on the road at Mississippi State in the regular season finale on Sunday to give the Wildcats their first regular season championship since 1982. - The Cats earned the No. 1 seed, and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament for the third-straight season and now prepare to square off against the winner of Florida (No. 8 seed) and Auburn (No. 9 seed) in the quarterfinals Friday, March 2. - The Cats, who were picked to finish second in the SEC standings by the league coaches and media, have had another remarkable season under the direction of head coach Matthew Mitchell. He has led UK to its third straight 20-win season with a 24-5 overall record, including a 13-3 mark in SEC play. - The 13 league wins were a school record for SEC wins in a season and UK was the only school in the SEC to go undefeated at home. UK's 18-0 home record is just the third undefeated season in school history.
Baseball - The Kentucky baseball team posted three wins on the weekend to sweep Buffalo in the home-opening set. - The Wildcats return to action with home midweek contests vs. Morehead State (Tuesday) and Xavier (Wednesday) at 4 p.m. ET, before hosting Illinois-Chicago in a three-game series Friday-Sunday. - Kentucky (6-0) is off to its best start to a season since opening 19-0 during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The Wildcats have utilized a balanced approach with a .341 team average, a 3.50 team ERA and a staggering .996 fielding percentage. UK has made just one error on the year, coming on an attempted pickoff at second base.
Rifle - UK rifle finished second at the 2011-12 GARC Championships over the weekend at Ole Miss, placing third overall in smallbore and second overall in air rifle, finishing just six points shy of champion West Virginia. - Kentucky completed the final day of the GARC Championships with a solid air rifle score to finish second to West Virginia overall, after UK placed third in smallbore on Saturday. UK, the regular-season conference champions and the defending NCAA Champions, fell just six points shy of the Mountaineers. - UK was led on Sunday by a strong air rifle performance, as Settlemires paced the team with a 595. Greathouse fired a 592, while Wheatley finished with a 590. Henri Junghanel totaled a 585 and Katie Fretts fired a 579 to round out the starting lineup.
Men's tennis - Kentucky could not avenge an earlier loss this season to highly ranked Ohio State, falling 4-0 to the second-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The win extended Ohio State's home winning streak to an impressive 136 consecutive matches, which is the longest in the nation. - The Wildcats dropped the doubles point with tight losses at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles, while OSU continued its momentum in singles action, earning singles matches at Nos. 2, 4, and 6 for the win. - UK junior Anthony Rossi, who is the reigning SEC Player of the Week, did not record a decision in the match, keeping his singles streak alive at 16 consecutive matches. Gymnastics - UK gymnastics posted its best meet of the year Friday, earning a team score of 195.525 en route to defeating No. 15 Auburn and Pittsburgh. It was Kentucky's first league win this year. - The Wildcats earned season-best team scores on two events, scoring a 49.125 on uneven bars and a 49.2 on floor exercise. The high score on bars is tied for the 12th-highest score on the event in school history, while UK's 49.2 on floor is tied for the 16th-best in school history. - Sophomore Audrey Harrison won her second all-around title on the season for UK, scoring a career-best 39.175. Senior Storey Morris finished first overall on uneven bars, while Harrison finished tied for first on beam and won the floor title outright with a 9.9. Softball - UK went 3-1 at the Georgia Southern Invitational where Kara Dill and Chanda Bell were named to the All-Tournament team. Dill batted .600 for the weekend and extended her season-long hitting streak to 10 games. Bell picked up two wins to become the school's all-time career leader in victories with 55. - Freshman Griffin Joiner had a breakout weekend with a .417 average. Joiner also reached base three other times by way of a walk and a hit by pitch, and registered her first career stolen base.
Track and field - The Kentucky men's team finished eighth at the SEC Championships with 38 points, while the women's teams placed 12th with seven points. - Senior Kentucky men's distance runner Luis Orta won the men's 3,000m run Saturday and the men's 5,000m run Sunday, becoming the first student-athlete to win both races in the same championship since Georgia's Ian Burrell in 2007. - Orta was a co-recipient on the men's side of the Cliff Harper Trophy, awarded each year to the high-points scorer of the meet. - Orta was the first Kentucky athlete ever to win the 3K at the SEC Indoor Championships, and was the first Wildcat to win the 5K since Richard Ede in 1987.
Women's tennis - Kentucky traveled for a midweek match with Akron, where the Cats lost a heartbreaker, 4-3. UK also traveled to Indiana to face the Hoosiers and dropped the match, 5-2. - Sophomore Khristina Blajkevitch excelled despite the tough competition at Indiana, bringing home a win in singles and doubles play. - Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and CeCe Witten grabbed wins for the Wildcats in singles play vs. the Zips while also defeating their opponents in their respective doubles matches.
Men's golf - Kentucky finished in a tie for ninth at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate, its first tournament of the spring season. - Freshman David Snyder finished in a tie for 10th after a career-low round of 4-under-par 68 in the final round to finish at even-par. - Junior Chase Parker carded a career-low round of 5-under-par in the final round to finish in a tie for 25th. - Kentucky's final round team score of 285 was the second lowest third round of the tournament.
Swimming and diving - Tyler Reed and Lucas Gerotto both qualified for the 2012 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships with swims Sunday afternoon that catapulted them into elite company on the final day of the Bulldog Last Chance Meet. - Gerotto swam a 46.75 in the 100-fly, just three one hundredths of a second off the UK record, and good enough to place him 13th overall in the nation this year. Tyler Reed swam a 43.08 in the men's 100-freestyle to push himself to Seattle for the NCAA Championships in that event.
Tuesday, Feb. 28 Baseball hosts Morehead St. - 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 1 Men's basketball hosts Georgia - 9:00 p.m.
Friday, March 2 Women's basketball vs. Florida/Auburn - 1:00 p.m. (Nashville) Softball vs. Texas A&M CC - 2:30 p.m. (Lafayette, La.) Men's tennis at LSU - 4:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Illinois-Chicago - 4:00 p.m. Women's tennis hosts LSU - 5:00 p.m. Softball vs. Stephen F. Austin - 7:30 p.m. (Lafayette, La.) Gymnastics at Illinois - 8:00 p.m. Track and field at NCAA Qualifying
Saturday, March 3 Softball vs. Stephen F. Austin - Noon (Lafayette, La.) Softball at Louisiana-Lafayette - 2:30 p.m. Baseball hosts Illinois-Chicago - 1:00 p.m. Women's basketball SEC Semifinals - 4:00 p.m. (Nashville) Track and field at NCAA Qualifying
Sunday, March 4 Softball vs. Nicholls State - 11:00 a.m. (Lafayette, La.) Men's basketball at Florida - Noon Women's tennis hosts Arkansas - Noon Baseball hosts Illinois-Chicago - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Arkansas - 1:00 p.m. Women's basketball SEC Finals - 6:00 p.m. (Nashville) Men's golf at USF Invitational
Men's basketball - The Wildcats pushed the nation's longest current winning streak to 18 games after posting a 77-62 win over the Ole Miss Rebels in Lexington on Saturday. - Terrence Jones tallied his first double-double of the season with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. - Doron Lamb led all scorers with 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, while Darius Miller hit 3-of-7 from 3-point range for 15 points. Kyle Wiltjer was 3-of-4 from 3-point range for a personal best in league play with 13 points. Anthony Davis was the fifth Wildcat to record double-figures with 10 points. - As a team, UK hit 10-of-18 from downtown, the most in SEC play this year.
Women's basketball - The Wildcats currently sit in a tie with Tennessee for first place with three games remaining in the regular season. UK had one of its best starts in program history, winning 21 of its first 23 games and each of its first 10 games in SEC play. - The Wildcats have their sights set on winning their first SEC regular season championship since 1982. The Cats are just one win away from tying the most SEC wins in school history at 11. Kentucky has won the last three meetings against Vanderbilt, including a 78-68 win last season in Lexington. - UK ranks in the top 10 of four national statistical categories, including leading the nation in turnover margin (+11.9). The Cats have forced at least 23 turnovers in six of the last seven games.
Baseball - The baseball team opened up the 2012 season with two wins on opening weekend and will finalize the opening weekend Monday at 2 p.m. ET at USC Upstate (2-0) after rain postponed the regular-scheduled Sunday finale. - The Wildcats used a 10-4 win at Wofford in the lidlifter, behind a dominating performance from Taylor Rogers on the mound, who fanned a career high nine in his season debut. UK also got a homer from 2011 All-SEC third baseman Thomas McCarthy to cap the scoring, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. - In a 10-2 beatdown of Eastern Michigan, a team that won 37 games in 2011, UK used a 13-hit attack to total 10 runs for the second consecutive game. UK's starter Jerad Grundy turned in a winning performance in his debut, striking out four in 5.2 innings and retiring 12 consecutive hitters in the middle of the game.
Rifle - Kentucky completed the NCAA qualifying competition on Saturday at Barker Hall, totaling a 4657 total team score. - Kentucky will return to action at the Great American Rifle Conference Championships, hosted by Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., at the Patricia C. Lamar Army National Guard Readiness Center Feb. 25-26. - UK was led in air rifle by Wheatley and Greathouse, with the duo each charting a 590. Henri Junghänel (587), Emily Holsopple (589) and Ethan Settlemires (587) rounded out the UK starting lineup in air gun.
Men's tennis - UK went 1-2 over the weekend in the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championships. The Wildcats defeated No. 11 Texas A&M 4-0 in the first round after claiming the doubles point and getting three quality singles wins. The win punched UK's ticket to the quarterfinals of the event for the first time since it advanced to the semifinals in 1997. - UK would fall in the quarterfinals in heartbreaking fashion, dropping one of the closest matches of the tournament to No. 3 Ohio State 4-3. Against OSU, seniors No. 6 Eric Quigley and No. 20 Alex Musialek defeated ranked foes. Quigley took down No. 16 Chase Buchanan, while Musialek defeated No. 12 Blaz Rola. - Rossi led UK at the event, going 3-0 in singles play. The junior has won 16 consecutive singles matches for UK and is an impressive 26-2 on the season, including 9-0 in dual matches.
Swimming and diving - The swimming and diving teams wrapped up the 2012 SEC Championships on Saturday with the men placing in seventh and the women finishing ninth. - For the swimmers, Lucas Gerotto led the way for UK, placing third in the men's 100-fly with a time of 47.00 in the finals. The Sao Paulo, Brazil native finished on the podium of the SEC Championships for the first time in his career. - For the divers, it was a very successful meet as the Wildcats qualified divers for the finals in every event. Greg Ferrucci took second in the men's 3m springboard to cap what was the best-ever 3m competition for UK in school history. The Wildcats also qualified John Fox and Corey Cowger for the finals of the event. Ferrucci went on to place third overall in the 1m springboard, jumping from seventh to third in his final dive of the competition. Gymnastics - UK concluded the road portion of its 2012 SEC schedule by falling 197.225-193.125 to No. 4 Georgia on Saturday. UK gymnasts set or tied four season highs and three career highs in the meet. - Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo led UK on uneven bars for the third time this season with a career-high tying 9.875, while sophomore Holly Cunningham paced UK on vault for the third time in the last four meets. - Sophomores Kayla Hartley and Kayla Sienkowski performed well. Hartley continued her strong scores on floor exercise with a team-high 9.8, while Sienkowski finished tied for first overall on balance beam with a career-best 9.825. The event title for Sienkowski was the first of her career. Softball - The softball team went 3-2 over the weekend at the FAU Kickoff Classic. UK shutout Wright State behind a terrific pitching performance from sophomore Lauren Cumbess who yielded just two hits and struck out six in the win. - Kentucky then rallied for a seventh-inning comeback for the second time this season in knocking off the host Owls. UK plated four runs in the final frame to pull away 6-3 in the game. - Junior Kara Dill led the bats for the Wildcats with a .438 weekend that included a pair of multi-hit outings and converting on all five steal attempts. Dill scored twice, drove in two runs and hit her first double of the season. Women's tennis - The women's tennis team hosted its last doubleheader of the season, defeating Eastern Kentucky, 5-2, and Evansville, 7-0 on Saturday. - Junior Jessica Stiles posted an impressive comeback at the No. 1 singles spot against Eastern's Amandine Faouzi after trailing in the first two sets. She ultimately won, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. - Kentucky kicked off the spring with an eighth place finish at the UCF Challenge in Sorrento, Fla. - Junior Ashleigh Albrecht led the Cats, finishing tied for 20th with a 5-over-par 221. - Sophomore Liz Breed finished the weekend with a team-high 11 birdies.
Monday, Feb. 20 Baseball vs. USC Upstate - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's basketball hosts Vanderbilt - 9:00 p.m. Men's golf at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate (Mobile, Ala.)
Tuesday, Feb. 21 Women's tennis at Akron - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Mississippi State - 9:00 p.m. Men's golf at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate (Mobile, Ala.) Thursday, Feb. 23 Women's basketball hosts South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 24 Softball vs. North Florida - 11:30 a.m. (Statesboro, Ga.) Softball vs. Jacksonville St. - 1:30 p.m. (Statesboro, Ga.) Track and field hosts SEC Championships Baseball hosts Buffalo - 4:00 p.m. Gymnastics hosts Auburn/Pittsburgh - 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 Softball vs. Radford - 11:30 a.m. (Statesboro, Ga.) Men's basketball hosts Vanderbilt - Noon Baseball hosts Buffalo - 1:00 p.m. Softball at Georgia Southern - 3:30 p.m. Men's tennis at Ohio State - 4:00 p.m. Track and field hosts SEC Championships Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Sunday, Feb. 26 Women's tennis at Indiana - 11:00 a.m. Baseball hosts Buffalo - 1:00 p.m. Women's basketball at Mississippi State - 1:30 p.m. Track and field hosts SEC Championships Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Feb. 12:
Gymnastics: Kayla Hartley
Led Kentucky to a season-best score on floor exercise with a career best score of 9.9 ... Hartley, a native of Versailles, Ky., is only the 18th gymnast in school history to earn a 9.9 or higher on floor ... Her solid score is the highest for any UK gymnast this season on any event and the highest floor score of UK since Andrea Mitchell posted a 9.95 last season on March 4.
Men's basketball: Doron Lamb
Helped lead the top-ranked Wildcats to a 2-0 record on the week, including wins over seventh-ranked Florida and on the road at Vanderbilt ... Scored a game-high 18 points in 20-point win over seventh ranked Florida ... Went 4-5 from 3-point range in win over Gators, tying his season-high for 3s made in a game ... Scored game-high 16 points in win at Vanderbilt, hitting multiple 3-pointers for the seventh time in the last eight games ... Averaging three 3-pointers per game over the last three games ... His first 3-pointer against the Commodores game UK a four-point lead in a back and forth game, while his second 3-pointer put Kentucky ahead for good 64-63 with 3:18 left in the game.
Track & field: Luis Orta
Ran a career-best 14:02.45 in the 5,000-meter run, the fourth best 5,000m run in school history. Orta has the best 5,000m in the SEC by 11.90 seconds, and the 25th best time in the country. Orta finished sixth in the at the Husky Classic on Friday, which featured eight teams ranked in the latest top 25.
Track & field: Bradley Szypka
Set a career-best mark in the shot put with a throw of 16.31m/53-06.00. Syzpka has the ninth best shot put throw in the SEC, and the second best among freshmen. Szypka's mark leads the team this season.
Men's basketball: Marquis Teague
Helped lead the Wildcats to a 2-0 mark on the week including a 20-point win over seventh ranked Florida as well as a win in Memorial Gym against Vanderbilt ... Teague tallied his first-career double-double in the win against Florida scoring 12 points and dishing out a game-high 10 assists ... He also hit a pair of 3-pointers, the fourth time this season he's hit multiple 3-pointers ... Teague followed that performance with a 13-point, eight assist, one turnover game on the road at Vanderbilt ... Over the last eight games, Teague has dished out 46 assists against just 17 turnovers.
Track & field: Keilah Tyson
Won the 200m dash at the SPIRE Division I Collegiate Invitational by breaking the UK 200m dash freshman record for the second time in as many weeks with a time of 23.69. Her time of 23.69 is a career-best and the second best in school history. Tyson is tied for the fourth fastest 200m in the SEC this season, and is the fastest time among freshmen. Additionally, Tyson's time is tied for the 15th fastest in the country. Tyson also competed in the long jump this weekend, finishing sixth in the event, but with the top mark among the freshmen.
MEN'S BASKETBALL - With a pair of wins over SEC foes this week, Kentucky owns a 17-game winning streak. UK knocked off No. 8 Florida at home before defeating Vanderbilt in Nashville. Kentucky's win over the Commodores marked the first victory for a No. 1 ranked team in the last four tries against the home-standing team in Memorial Gym. - Kentucky has won its first 11 in league play, the best SEC start for the Wildcats since the 2002-03 team went 16-0. - Doron Lamb scored a game-high 16 points against Vanderbilt. He has hit multiple 3-pointers in seven of the last eight games. - Anthony Davis finished with seven blocks against the Commodores, giving him 127 on the season and moving him to seventh on the SEC single-season blocks list and 12th on UK's career blocks list. - In the win over Florida, Marquis Teague notched his first career double-double effort with 12 points and 10 rebounds. It marked the first double-double by way of points and assists since John Wall achieved the feat during the 2009-10 season.
GYMNASTICS - The gymnastics team posted its best home score of the season on Friday, falling 196-194.7 to defending National Champion Alabama in Memorial Coliseum. - UK earned a season-high score on floor exercise with a 48.85 and was led on the event by sophomore Kayla Hartley's 9.9 score. Hartley's high mark brought home the floor title on the event as she became only the 18th gymnast in school history to earn a 9.9 or higher on the event. The score of 9.9 is the highest for any UK gymnast this season on any event. - Senior Storey Morris had a great meet, finishing tied for second on beam and tied for third on uneven bars, while sophomore Kenzie Hedge finished second on vault.
MEN'S TENNIS - Behind another match-clinching point from Alejandro Gomez, the men's tennis team continued its blitzing pace to start the season with a 4-3 win over No. 30 Notre Dame on Sunday. - Kentucky is now 9-0 on the year, extending its best start to a season in the 30-year tenure of head coach Dennis Emery. The win over UND was UK's sixth of the season over a ranked foe after already taking down No. 12 Pepperdine, No. 22 Tulsa, No. 29 Indiana, No. 53 Michigan State and No. 59 North Carolina State. - Four Wildcats earned singles wins Sunday, including No. 5 Eric Quigley, No. 36 Anthony Rossi, No. 95 Tom Jomby and No. 111 Alejandro Gomez. Rossi is currently riding a 13-match winning streak, while Quigley has won nine consecutive matches.
SOFTBALL - Kentucky went 1-3 in its opening weekend of the season with its victory coming in dramatic fashion. The Wildcats used a seventh-inning rally highlighted by a two-run homer from Rachel Riley to capture the win over the Tigers. - Freshman Griffin Joiner hit the game-winning solo blast for UK. Two other Wildcats hit their first career homers in L.A. as well. Ginny Carroll and Krystal Smith belted back-to-back bombs in the final game with UCLA.
TRACK AND FIELD - Keilah Tyson won the 200-meter dash, breaking the UK 200m freshman record for the second time in as many weeks with a time of 23.69. Tyson's time is the second fastest in school history. - Luis Orta finished sixth in the 5,000m run with a time of 14:02.45, the fourth fastest time in UK history, and the fastest time in the SEC this year. - Walter Luttrell finished 10th in the 3,000m run with a time of 8:08.90, the 10th fastest in UK history and the third fastest in the SEC this year. - Darryl Bradshaw ran a career-best 8.00 in the 60m hurdles. Bradshaw's time is the sixth fastest in program history.
WOMEN'S TENNIS - Women's tennis hosted a doubleheader, defeating Winthrop 4-0 and Cincinnati 7-0. - The Cats moved into second place in the SEC Eastern Division with their two victories. - Sophomore Misha Testerman played her best match of the year, defeating Cincinnati's Carly Wilson, 6-0, 6-0.
WOMEN'S GOLF - Through one round at the UCF Challenge in Sorrento, Fla., the women's golf team sits in ninth place, 13 strokes off the lead. Kentucky finished the opening round with a nine-over-par 297. - Junior Ashleigh Albrecht paced Kentucky through the first round, shooting a one-under par 71. With two birdies and an eagle, Albrecht finished the day tied for fifth, five strokes off the lead. Albrecht carded an impressive eagle on the 354-yard, par-four ninth hole - the only eagle of the day.
Monday, Feb. 13 Women's basketball at Tennessee - 7:00 p.m. Women's golf at UCF Challenge
Tuesday, Feb. 14 Women's golf at UCF Challenge
Wednesday, Feb. 15 Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Thursday, Feb. 16 Women's basketball at Alabama - 7:30 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Friday, Feb. 17 Softball vs. Wright State - 4:00 p.m. (Boca Raton, Fla.) Baseball vs. Wofford - 4:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball at Florida Atlantic - 6:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (Knoxville, Tenn.) Men's tennis at National Team Indoors (Charlottesville, Va.)
Saturday, Feb. 18 Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier - 8:00 a.m. Softball vs. LIU Brooklyn - 9:00 a.m. (Boca Raton, Fla.) Women's tennis hosts Eastern Kentucky - 10:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Eastern Michigan - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Michigan - 1:00 p.m. (Boca Raton, Fla.) Gymnastics at Georgia - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball hosts Ole Miss - 4:00 p.m. Women's tennis hosts Evansville - 6:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (Knoxville, Tenn.) Men's tennis at National Team Indoors (Charlottesville, Va.) Sunday, Feb. 19 Softball vs. Maryland - 11:00 a.m. (Boca Raton, Fla.) Baseball vs. USC Upstate - 3:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Men's tennis at National Team Indoors (Charlottesville, Va.)
Under Tim Garrison, the Wildcats have posted a season-high score of 195.05 in their last two meets ahead of a matchup with No. 1 Alabama. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Tim Garrison can't help but look ahead.
In the future, he sees the Kentucky gymnastics program he was chosen to lead in April 2011 consistently attracting the nation's best athletes. He sees UK going routine for routine with the elite in the Southeastern Conference, the nation's premier league.
Nearly 10 months into his tenure, Garrison sees the program moving in the right direction, but he's not forgetting about the small steps it's taking along the way.
"We're laying a foundation, but we haven't written this season off," Garrison said. "We want to continue to get better."
Improving is exactly what the Wildcats have done a month into the 2012 season. UK is fresh off a back-to-back meets in which the Cats posted season-best scores of 195.05, rebounding from a disappointing 191.975 in their first SEC meet against Arkansas.
UK relies on an unusually young roster, using 18 or more routines from freshmen or sophomores in all five meets so far this season, so Garrison has opted to institute a simpler approach to competition. The Wildcats willfully undertake routines with a lower level of difficulty than many of their opponents, focusing on consistent execution.
"I think the higher level of difficulty you have, the less consistent you'll be," Garrison said. "With athletes like we have right now, which are athletes that need to be doing more simplistic routines because they need to be more comfortable with what they're doing."
Garrison is refreshingly forthright in evaluating his team, whether he's talking to a reporter, an assistant coach or an athlete. His honesty lends him credibility when he lays out his expectations. That's crucial, because setting standards and living up to them is at the center of his philosophy for rebuilding this program.
"We're changing the culture, there's no doubt about it, just the expectation level," Garrison said. "We go out there and get a 195, we're not satisfied."
He was characteristically frank with the Wildcats after their effort in Fayetteville, Ark., making it abundantly clear he was unwilling to accept that kind of performance. The way they have responded with progressively higher scores since is encouraging for the rest of this season and beyond.
"We don't come in and get scared," freshman Alexis Gross said. "We went into the first meet scared and he said that's not what we do anymore. Now we expect more of ourselves so the younger generations are going to carry that on so we'll have a fearless team."
Gross is nothing if not fearless. Although just a freshman, the Pasadena, Md., native has stepped in as an all-around performer because she is unfazed no matter the opponent or surroundings, a desirable attribute in the daunting SEC.
"I have no fear to be honest," Gross said. "Obviously I get scared of skills and stuff like that, but when it comes to meet day, I don't think that anyone else is any better than I am even if I know they are."
With No. 2 Alabama coming to Memorial Coliseum to face the Cats on Friday at 7 p.m., that kind of mentality will come in handy.
"The biggest thing I look for in an athlete, especially in this kind of environment, is for them to be unflappable," Garrison said. "Nothing's going to get them out of their comfort zone. Nothing's going to intimidate them. She's that athlete for us. It doesn't matter who's performing, it doesn't matter what performance was just done on the other rotation, she's not going to look at that and say, 'Wow, they are really good. Maybe I'm not so good.' She's going to look at that and say, 'Really? Here I go.'"
In more ways than one, Gross is exactly the kind of athlete Garrison loves coaching. Not only does she steadfastly refuse to accept anything but her best effort, but she also matches her coach in honesty. Because of that, it should come as no surprise that she has already established herself as a vocal presence on the team in spite of her youth.
"I've always been very vocal," Gross said. "I guess I would say I'm pretty blunt, and that's just the way that I am. My club coaches raised me very well to be that way. In the beginning, I was a little timid, but as I saw there was a vocal role that needed to be filled, I filled it. I think the girls trust me too, so that helps."
Both before and during the dual meet with the defending national champion Crimson Tide, Gross will be helping deliver Garrison's message that the Cats are competing with themselves more than anyone else. His goal is to get to the point where UK is on a level playing field with a team like Alabama but for now, he wants to be the one with an eye on Alabama's routines, not his student-athletes.
"If they never look up and see another performance by anybody else on Alabama's team, I'd be happy as I could be," Garrison said. "I look around and I see what's going on because I want to know what's out there. I'm pretty versed on what's out there but I want to see what they're doing and how far we need to go to get to that level."
Garrison is demanding tunnel vision out of his gymnasts because the team's goals are more about scores than wins and losses, at least at this point.
"Even though we're competing with those teams on the floor at the same time, that's not really who we're competing against," Garrison said. "We're competing against teams who are ranked between 16th and 26th, where we are. We want to try to get in the top 18 to qualify for regionals as a three seed. That's really our goal."
The Cats are currently ranked No. 26 with an eye on moving up incrementally in the short term. In the more distant future, Garrison envisions more drastic jumps.
"We have a very clear understanding of where we are," Garrison said. "These guys know where we are. We intend to get better as the weeks go on. But as the years go on, we're going to recruit and we're going to train and we're going to get better."