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First, Mark Stoops asked Kentucky fans to fill Commonwealth Stadium. Next, he posed the question, "Why not?" This year, Stoops wants to know: "Are you with me?"

For the third year in a row, UK football aired a Super Bowl ad in Lexington. In case you missed it, watch it above.

Now that you've watched, head to ukfootballtix.com and buy your season tickets for the first season in The New CWS. Speaking of the new stadium, you can visit TheNewCWS.com for more information about season tickets and updates on construction.

O'Neill comes up clutch, leads UK past Georgia

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Mirroring her team's play, Jennifer O'Neill had an up-and-down-and-up-again afternoon.

She started off "in spectacular fashion," according to her coach, and Kentucky built a big lead, but hit a wall in the middle portion of a Sunday showdown with Georgia. The Lady Bulldogs capitalized and UK's 17-point margin disappeared.

But over the final 97 seconds, O'Neill took over.

"We had to try to regroup and then she ended the game with a big flourish and was really money down the stretch," Matthew Mitchell said. "So it was an interesting game. Started great and ended great and the middle was something not as great."

Exactly when Kentucky needed it, the senior guard stepped up. The Wildcats trailing Georgia 72-70 in a back-and-forth Sunday showdown, O'Neill wasn't about to let her team lose a home game it could have won against a top-25 opponent for the second time in four days.

"I think at the end of the game, in this game today, she was really able to lock in and focus and correct any mistakes she was making," Mitchell said.

After Jelleah Sidney came up with a steal, Matthew Mitchell called timeout. The play he called went awry, so he called timeout again and drew up another for O'Neill, who had 13 points at the time. O'Neill used two screens and took a pass from Bria Goss. Calmly rising, O'Neill drilled a 3 with 1:37 left to give the No. 10 Cats (17-5, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) a 73-72 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"Once it left my hands I felt pretty good about it," O'Neill said.

"It's good to have really good players sometimes, you know, because she just made a play," Mitchell said.

The shot started a game-ending 10-0 run during which O'Neill scored eight points against No. 21/20 Georgia (17-5, 5-4 SEC). Fittingly, O'Neill grabbed the last defensive rebound and dribbled out the final eight seconds on UK's 80-72 win on UK Hoops' annual Alumni Day.

"I think that 3 helped us gain momentum," O'Neill said. "Everybody started getting excited, everybody started getting up on defense and we started being more aggressive on defense, which allowed us to get turnovers."

UK would get stops on its final four defensive possessions, forcing three turnovers, and O'Neill hit a driving jumper and three free throws to clinch the win. For the game, she had six rebounds and four assists to go with her 21 points.

"She was fantastic overall and we needed every bit of what she gave us today," Mitchell said.

Her team-high point total came in spite of just eight attempts from the field, her lowest total in nearly a month. O'Neill hit six of those shots, 3 of 4 from 3 and 6 of 7 at the free-throw line to score more points than she has since Dec. 12.

For the Cats to be their best, O'Neill needs to be aggressive. However, she's learning to strike a balance between asserting herself and forcing things.

"(Assistant coach Tamika Williams) has been teaching me how to understand how understand quality, not quantity when I'm shooting or when I have a workout," O'Neill said.  "... That's really it: just really paying attention to my form and why I'm missing. I don't want to just keep shooting and missing and not understanding why I'm missing to change it."

Whatever she did on Sunday, the Cats could use more of it.

Get to know UK softball's Sylver Samuel

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Sylver Samuel.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

Having played in 126 games with 104 starts in centerfield, junior Sylver Samuel has become a staple for UK's defense in the outfield. Samuel, who has great speed and takes away hits in the gaps, played almost every out in centerfield in 2014 and only committed two errors with six assists.

Samuel has been a strong contributor at the plate as well, posting a .298 career batting average with 60 runs scored and 41 stolen bases. The native of Simpsonville, S.C., showed drastic improvements last season from her freshman campaign with 52 hits, four doubles, two triples, an inside-the-park home run and nine RBI. Samuel has led UK in stolen bases each of the last two season with 21 in 2013 and 20 in 2014.

A two-year member of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll, Samuel currently ranks seventh in career stolen bases at UK with 41 and has shined in postseason play the last two seasons with a hit in 12 of her 16 career NCAA Tournament games.

Come see Sylver and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets.  

To help you get to know Kara better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

Do you have any pets? A German shepherd ...

When was the last time you were moved to tears? Anytime I watch a depressing movie ...

If you had a Derby horse, what would you name it?
Two2Tango

If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create? A Jawk, half jaguar, half hawk ... the ultimate predator!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? I wish I knew multiple languages, which would always come in handy

After softball, what would be your dream job? If I could ever work with the New York Yankees I would probably cry tears of joy every single day ... and later get fired for being too emotional in the workplace.

Name three things you like? Animals, 80's pants and the Yankees ...

Name three things you dislike? Weekdays, moths and moths ...

What trip would you like to take in your lifetime? I would love to go to Bora Bora or Brazil.

What do you typically have for breakfast?
I will eat any type of food at any time of the day.

What is your favorite dessert? Ice cream ...

What is one TV show you cannot miss? American Horror Story

What artist gets the most play on your iPod right now? Jhené Aiko

How do you like your eggs? Scrambled

Have you ever bought anything from ebay and if so, what was it?
A phone case ...

If you were famous would you rather have a statue or a building named after you?
A building ...

Do you collect anything?
80's pants and fun socks (currently on hold until further notice)...

How many text messages do you receive on average a day? Um, depends on when I start my day ...

What is your favorite class you've taken in college so far? Art was the most fun class I've taken, even though I can't draw ...

What three things do you think of most each day?
What I'm eating for dinner, when can I take a nap, and do I have any homework ...

Karl-Anthony Towns scored all 12 of his points in the first half of UK's 70-55 win over Alabama. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns scored all 12 of his points in the first half of UK's 70-55 win over Alabama. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
It was yet another double-digit win.

Kentucky built a double-digit lead in the first eight minutes against Alabama, but John Calipari didn't sound afterward like he is coaching the nation's lone unbeaten team.

"We're just, we're reverting, doing some things that are just absolute sins in this program," Calipari said.

Coach Cal went on to talk about the Wildcats too often going for rebounds with one hand. On a night when UK shot a season-high 58.5 percent and committed just five turnovers, Calipari still found reason to say the Cats were "just a little bit off."

Considering UK has blitzed through the first three months of the season and has trailed only 103:43 of a possible 855 minutes after its 70-55 win over Alabama on Saturday night, that might sound like nitpicking.

Well, that's kind of the point.

"I may be wanting these guys to be perfect on every possession, but you know what?" Calipari said. "I just think we have to keep that standard high of what we'll accept and what we're not accepting."

The perfection that everyone else is talking about - 40-0 - isn't the perfection Calipari and the Cats have in mind. If it happens along the way so be it, but each step in the journey is the focus.

"Right now, you should just try to find out how good you can be," Calipari said. "And that's all we're doing."

Take Karl-Anthony Towns as an example.

The freshman wasn't subtle about showing his potential in the first half against the Crimson Tide, scoring in the post on each of UK's first two possession en route to 12 points. But for the second consecutive game, Towns took a step back in the second half. He wouldn't score again after dealing with foul trouble.

"Gotta keep playing, play through a lot of things that happen in the second half and no excuses," Towns said. "Just keep playing through what the game is giving me in the second half. I just gotta keep making sure that I play the game (like) I played the game in the first half."

Anywhere else, Towns' line of 12 points in 15 minutes is solid. At UK, it's merely a tease of what he should be all the time.

"We're trying to get them to be confident and we did some stuff with Karl that I think helped him, but that second half is just like, come on now," Calipari said. "No way. This should have been a 25 and 8 night for him, it really should have."

Towns has remained near the top of NBA Draft boards throughout, but he admits adjusting to the physicality of the college game has been more difficult than he expected. He's learning.

"That's the biggest thing for me," Towns said. "Just keep being physical and keep playing my game. Now sometimes I get too aggressive and then I pick up fouls, but I'm just trying to play the game, trying to make sure I control the paint at all costs, defensively and offensively. It's a process."

Though the process is far from over, Saturday was a step forward for Towns and his fellow post players.

Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein each made all four of their field-goal tries to tie for the team lead with 12 points, while Dakari Johnson got to the free-throw line eight times and chipped in six points. Add in Marcus Lee's eight points and UK's bigs combined for 38 points on 13-of-16 shooting.

"Today our post play was good, which is why we shot over 50 percent," Calipari said. "Because now it opens up everything else."

Considering UK's size, the Cats projected to have that kind of post presence all season, but that hasn't been the case in recent weeks. Opponents began to worry less about the interior with Devin Booker, Aaron Harrison and Tyler Ulis hitting from the outside and the post players were unable to make them pay.

They changed that against Alabama.

"You either got to double team or you got to dig, you got to do something or the guy's going to score," Calipari said. "That's what Karl and Dakari and Willie should be able to do. Even in a physical game they should be able to do that."

If they do, UK's ceiling becomes even higher. That's a frightening proposition.

"Like I said, this team, the question is, how good can we be," Calipari said. "And I don't know yet. I'm trying to get guys to go to that next level. I'm prodding and pushing and screaming and yelling, go, because I really do want to see how good can we really be."

Video: Highlights from UK's home win over Alabama

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Video: Coach Cal's post-Alabama press conference

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Video: Marlana VanHoose's Rupp national anthem

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Tough loss behind them, Cats on to Georgia

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Matthew Mitchell has been a head coach for a decade now.

Losing hasn't gotten any easier for him in that time.

"It's just misery, man," Mitchell said. "I don't know how to describe it other than it's just miserable. I'm no fun to be around."

Mitchell got his most recent reminder of how unpleasant it is to lose on Thursday night. No. 10 Kentucky (16-5, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) dropped a 73-72 heartbreaker to No. 6 Tennessee, missing four potential game winners in the final 16 seconds.

Afterward, Mitchell spent some time sulking, but not too much.

"You can fuss and mull it over and stew and fume at the house like I did last night for three or four hours and then you gotta get up this morning and turn the page, man," Mitchell said. "You gotta get going because this game is in front of us and that one last night is behind us."

The page turned, UK is on to Georgia. The Wildcats better be.

"We're playing a Georgia team that will beat our tail if we don't get ready for them. It's a wonderful thing from that standpoint," Mitchell said. "If you want to hang your head right now, Georgia will be more than happy to take advantage of that."

The No. 21/20 Lady Bulldogs enter Sunday's 1 p.m. matchup with UK at Memorial Coliseum 17-4 (5-3 SEC). The Cats will be Georgia's third straight top 10 foe after the Lady Bulldogs beat Texas A&M on Jan. 22 and lost at Tennessee on Sunday.

Georgia played the final 22:42 of that game without leading scorer Shacobia Barbee. Barbee will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in her lower right leg. The Cats, only weeks removed from losing Janee Thompson to a season-ending injury as well, can relate.

"It just takes away an extremely talented, experienced, tough player that can affect the game defensively, on the rebounding, the scoring," Mitchell said. "She's just a really outstanding player for them. It's just absolutely horrible for that kid. It's horrible for anybody to have a season-ending injury."

Since Georgia had an open date on Thursday, Mitchell isn't sure exactly how Barbee's absence will affect the Lady Bulldogs. What he does know is they'll be ready come Sunday.

"If I needed somebody to figure it out, Coach (Andy) Landers is probably as good as anybody to figure it out," Mitchell said. "So they'll be ready. They'll play real hard. They'll be tough. They will know how to attack us and what our weaknesses are and they'll put stress on that."

Similarly focused on UK's weaknesses are the Cats themselves.

UK played the No. 6 Lady Vols to just a made shot or foul call away from a victory in spite of 19 turnovers and a still-developing group of young post players. As difficult as it might be for Mitchell to remember, that's a reminder of what the Cats are capable of.

"With this team, we don't have any time to waste," Mitchell said. "I really do think we're improving. I really do. I think we're getting better. I think we're headed in the right direction. I think this team has a chance to be really good. That's what we need to stay focused on right now, just fight for improvement every day."

Get to know UK softball's Nikki Sagermann

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Nikki Sagermann.jpg Over the next two weeks, Cat Scratches will give fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook heading into the team's season opener on Feb. 4 vs. Florida A&M.

In just two years with the program, junior infielder Nikki Sagermann already ranks eighth in school history in career home runs with 20 and fourth in slugging percentage at .526. The third baseman saw a dip in average her sophomore season but not power, belting 12 doubles, one triple, 13 homers and 49 RBI, which nearly doubled her production from her freshman season.

Sagermann had a five-game stretch during the 2014 season where she hit five home runs, including three that clinched the game-winning RBI for Kentucky. The native of Buford, Ga., ended the season strong by recording an RBI in 27 of UK's last 49 games, including 14 multi-RBI games during that stretch. Sagermann was UK's leading scoring in its Super Regional win, hitting .444 with two RBI.

Last season, Sagermann earned NFCA All-Southeast Region honors on top of being named All-Southeastern Conference Second Team by league coaches and to the SEC All-Tournament Team. Sagermann was a member of the 2014 SEC Academic Honor Roll and has been active in the Lexington community since arriving on campus.

Come see Nikki and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets.  

To help you get to know Nikki better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

What is your nickname? My parents call me Bug, my coaches and people from home call me Saga, my teammates call me Keisha, and the fans call me Swag ...

What talents do you have besides softball? I sing so so so good in the shower.

If you could trade places with Coach Lawson for one day, what would you do? First, I would go to her house and count how many cats she has and then I would go through her phone to see who she texts because I'm so nosy. And then I would find her childhood pictures because I have always wanted to see her in her elementary days. Then go on a shopping trip or two and cancel the team's 6 a.m. workouts forever.

Person that has most influenced you in life, why?
My Dad because he is the reason why I am the player and person I am today. He pushed me so hard when I was little, so all you girls who do not like your Dad right now ... Just know it is worth it in the end.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Definitely how to dance, because I love to dance but I look like a fool ... So if I could dance and be great at it, you'd find me dancing down the streets

Name three things you dislike?
I dislike clowns, people smacking when they eat and French fries.

Where is your favorite place on Earth? My bed ... If I'm missing, check my bed first because I will literally be in it for hours by myself.

What do you typically have for breakfast? Every day Nana (Maisie Steed) and I make ham, egg and cheese sandwiches. They are 10x better than any other place you can buy them at.

What is your most memorable moment as a softball player so far?
It would be seeing our crowd of UK fans and my parents in the front row as we took the field for the first time at the Women's College World Series. There are no words to describe the emotion I felt at that very moment.

Funniest player on the team and why? Depends on the type of humor you like. Griffin has the wittiest comments of any person I have met. Dari is great at impersonating. Kelsey and Christian are so southern that hearing them talk makes you laugh. So, take your pick.

Best dancer on the team is... Darington, the girl is talented. Griffin is definitely runner up, she knows how to groove.

What is your worst fear? Clowns, clowns, clowns, clowns, clowns ...

What did you do growing up that always got you into trouble? I always forgot to put the clip back on the chips, so they would go stale. Mom didn't like that.

Favorite saying or quote you like to live by: Go with the flow ... it's the definition of my life.

How do you like your eggs? Well I told the waitress the other day that I like them fully cooked and she called it "over hard" or scrambled with cheese.

Have you ever bought anything from ebay and if so, what was it? My Mother is an ebay queen, so there's a whole bunch of my stuff from there.

If you were famous would you rather have a statue or a building named after you?
Statue, so everyone could remember my face.

Do you collect anything? My Dad and I collect quarters and we are trying to get every state in America.

How many text messages do you receive on average a day? Depends on the day ...  if the group message with the team sparks up, you better be ready for hundreds of texts that are about complete nonsense and lots of laughs.

What three things do you think of most each day? I think about my future a lot, what I'm going to eat for each meal because food is very important in my life, and I think about softball and my swing during class, whoops.

Recent Comments

  • Sandy: Just wanted these young ladies to know that I watched the whole game. I am exceedingly proud of you. Even read more
  • Rao: When Harrison twins drive the ball to the post opponents usually snap the ball from their left hand even before read more
  • Kristi Hazlewood: We love you MiMi! read more
  • CHRIS OSEDO: I love the job Coach Call is doing in UK. I hope my son comes there soon. read more
  • B J Vance: Kudos to the Big Blue Nation who turn out everywhere to cheer the Cats. The very entertaining and knowledgeable Dick read more
  • gerald adams: you done a hell of good job today boys. I,m so prod ove you all for the heart some of read more
  • Silviu Udrea: Huge fan !!! Keep going on :) read more
  • JR: Erin is one dedicated player of the game of softball.......and it would be hard to find anyone who has worked read more
  • Commenter: Both Derick and Dominique should watch Willie's game 3 years back. Compared to what Caulistain then these two players are read more
  • Patrick Quinn: I've always liked Willis...we will need him getting significant minutes during our run..I have faith in his athletic ability...I remember read more