NEWARK, N.J. -- The pride of Kentucky has returned to a place it hasn't been in far too long.
The longest Final Four drought of college basketball's winningest program came to one jubilant end Sunday night in Newark, N.J. The Kentucky men's basketball team, the Commonwealth's team as John Calipari likes to say, is headed back to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.
Long has the UK program been the standard in college basketball. As the sport's all-time winningest program and holder of seven national titles, excellence is demanded of the Kentucky basketball team and Final Fours are expected.
It's an annual tradition for the Kentucky basketball players, no matter how highly touted or undervalued they are, to take on both the honor and burden of trying to return to college basketball's greatest stage ever year.
In the 1990s, it seemed like a formality UK would be there every year. The program made it to the national semifinals four times in the '90s, including three straight from 1996-98.
Kentucky hadn't returned since and wasn't expected to again this year.
This was supposed to be the bridge year between two great teams -- last year's fabulous freshman team of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe and next year's unprecedented signing class.
"I think we had the most talented team in the NCAA by far last year, position by position" Harrellson said. "This year, I just think we play with more passion and more heart than we did last year."
Rebuilding isn't all that acceptable in the Kentucky program, but it appeared this season was exactly that when UK started to stumble through Southeastern Conference play in January and February and lost four of seven games. When Kentucky dropped a game at Arkansas in mid-February, surely nobody thought an NCAA Tournament run was possible, much less a run to the Final Four.
And yet here they are. The Unexpectables? Yeah, you could call them that.
"We knew we were special, we knew we were talented," sophomore reserve Jon Hood said. "We just had to get it on the right path. We had to complete games down the stretch. Once we did it, started doing it in the SEC Tournament, we knew we could do it."
Hood, a Kentucky native, knows a thing or two about the importance of the basketball team in the state of Kentucky. Growing up on the gravel driveways of Madisonville, Ky., hoisting shots on rickety rims while he watched players like Antoine Walker and Tony Delk cut down the nets in the '90s, he knows that, as the lifeblood of the Commonwealth, the heartbeat of the state beats a little softer, a little slower when the Wildcats aren't at the top of college basketball.
As Final Four chance after Final Four chance eluded the program -- in 1999 against Michigan State, in 2003 versus Marquette, in 2005 against Michigan State and again last year versus West Virginia -- it looked as though Kentucky's grip on the college basketball world was slipping.
Remember, two years ago, before Kentucky hired the program's savior, Calipari, this team was in the NIT. No disrespect, but the National freakin' Invitation Tournament!!!
"We went to the NIT and we are here now and back in the Final Four," said Harrellson, an All-East Regional performer. "We got Kentucky back."
Back where it belongs.
"It means a lot to me, especially being a part of this program," said Darius Miller, another Kentucky native, who was 8 years old the last time UK was in the Final Four. "I grew up in Kentucky, so I know what it means to the state of Kentucky. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Emotions sank in everywhere in the closing seconds at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. A far less entertaining team than last year's group of rascals, and by far a much more reserved group, the team let loose in the final seconds.
Calipari kissed the sweaty forehead of DeAndre Liggins. The players embraced at the free-throw line. Stacey Poole, as always, jumped, hooted and hollered.
When the buzzer sounded, the dancing began on the court and continued onto the stage. T-shirts waved, Big Blue chants roared and Miller headed to the stands to hug his father. Even the great salesman of Kentucky basketball, Calipari, was left speechless when a reporter pointed out that you're either going to the Final Four a year early or a Final Four too late.
In Lexington, pictures and video surfaced on the web as fans stormed the streets of Limestone and Maxwell.
"Man," Miller said, "we know they're going crazy back home."
They were. Thousands of fans greeted the fans as the Wildcats got off the plane at Blue Grass Airport and Josh Harrellson climbed some airline equipment to hoist the East Regional trophy
The fans have lived, they've died and they've waited a long time for this. The Kentucky players have waited an even longer time to return to the ladder and snip a piece of that nylon.
Liggins, donned with an East Regional championship hat, made his way up the ladder in the postgame to get himself a piece. Sure, he's done it a few times for the SEC championship, but that's not what the Kentucky program is measured by, what it's about.
Men's basketball - Kentucky advances to its 22nd Sweet 16, the second most in NCAA history, after a 71-63 win over West Virginia in third round of the NCAA Tournament. - In holding the Mountaineers to 63 points, Kentucky ran its record to 25-0 this season when holding the opponent to 67 or fewer points and 46-0 under John Calipari. The win extended UK's season-best winning streak to eight games. - Brandon Knight poured in 30 points in the victory, the most by a UK freshman in program history in NCAA Tournament action. Terrence Jones notched his 12th double-double this season, tying him with Chris Mills for second on UK's freshman double-double list. - Josh Harrellson is averaging 15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game in the NCAA Tournament. - The Wildcats have four players averaging double figures in the tournament, including Brandon Knight (16.0), Josh Harrellson (15.0), Terrence Jones (11.0) and Darius Miller (10.0).
Women's basketball - The Cats are making their eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and now own an 8-7 record in the tournament following a win over Hampton in the opening round. - UK is now 4-1 all-time as a No. 4 seed. - Junior guard Keyla Snowden scored a team-high 19 points in a career-high 37 minutes of play. Snowden's 16 points in the first half marked the most points in an opening frame since Dunlap scored 16 vs. Tennessee on Feb. 7. - Dunlap recorded her 31st career and ninth doubledouble of the season with 13 points (11 coming in the second half ) and a game-high-tying 12 rebounds.
Swimming and diving - The Kentucky women's swimming and diving team concluded its season Saturday with a 28th-place finish at the 2011 women's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships held at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin, Texas. - Senior diver Lisa Faulkner led the Wildcats by earning points on each of the three boards with a fifth-place finish on the platform, a 15th-place mark on the three-meter board and a 16th-place finish on the one-meter board. - Senior backstroke swimmer Chatham Penrod earned All-America honorable mention honors in the 100 backstroke with a 16th-place finish. - Mandy Myers swam a career-best time in the 100 butterfly on Friday, tapping in at 54.31. Myers topped her previous best time by .02.
Softball - Head coach Rachel Lawson earned her 100th career victory as the head coach of Kentucky with the first of two wins at Arkansas. She attained 100 wins in the Blue and White faster than any other coach in school history. - Senior Meagan Aull is enjoying a career-long hitting streak at nine games. Aull has a hit in every SEC game this season. - Freshman pitcher Ellen Weaver earned the win on the mound in the opening game of the LSU series. It marked just the third win in program history over the Tigers, and Weaver is the second consecutive freshman pitcher to earn a win in Baton Rouge, La.
Baseball - Kentucky has won eight of its last nine contests. - In the rubber match on Sunday with Tennessee, UK rode a four-hit game from senior closer/outfielder Mike Kaczmarek and a three-RBI outing from freshman J.T. Riddle to a 7-3 series-clinching win. - Riddle had a monster week, batting .538 during the four games with a homer and eight RBI. Riddle's breakout game on Sunday included a three-run homer in the first inning, his first career homer, and a spectacular diving catch in right field to save extra bases.
Gymnastics - The gymnastics team earned a team score of 193.95 en route to a seventh-place finish at the SEC Championships. - Kentucky's best event score came on vault where the Wildcats scored a 48.715. The Wildcats were led on the event by seniors Jasmine Minion and Phylicia Reshard, who each scored a 9.8. Fellow senior Andrea Mitchell earned a 9.775, while senior Colleen Williams scored a 9.7 and freshman Audrey Harrison posted a 9.65. - Kentucky concluded the meet on floor exercise with a team score of 48.675. Mitchell led UK on the event with a 9.85, while Minion and Reshard each earned a 9.8.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team continued its dominance this season, posting three wins on the week over No. 21 Notre Dame, No. 37 Alabama and Butler. - UK has now defeated 10 top-50 ranked teams this season, including a 5-2 record at home. The Wildcats are now 11-2 at home this season overall and 39-8 at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center since the start of the 2009 season. - With the wins over Notre Dame and Butler, Kentucky continued to be unbeatable at home in non-conference play, earning a 23-0 record the past two seasons, including a 10-0 mark this season. - Kentucky was led throughout the week by its strong play in both singles and doubles, winning at least five singles matches in each victory. No. 4 Eric Quigley, No. 77 Anthony Rossi, No. 117 Alberto Gonzalez, Brad Cox and Tom Jomby each earned two singles wins during the week.
Men's golf - Kentucky finished the Schenkel Invitational in a tie for 13th with freshman Cody Martin and sophomore Chase Parker finishing in the top 40 on the individual leaderboard. - Martin scored the lowest round of the tournament for UK with his 1-under-par 71 in the second round. The native of Union, Ky., earned a team-high 10 birdies on the weekend en route to finishing tied for 32nd. Parker scored only three birdies at the event but earned an impressive two eagles to finish tied for 50th.
Women's tennis - The UK women's tennis team concluded its three-match Texas road swing on Saturday, but could not pick up a victory. - Senior Megan Broderick and sophomore Jessica Stiles each picked up their co-team-leading seventh singles victories of the season. Broderick defeated Elizabeth Ullathorne of Texas Tech 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) and Stiles got a win over TCU's Olivia Smith 6-0, 6-3. - Freshman Khristina Blajkevitch earned her fifth victory in singles play by topping Texas Tech's Haley Fournier 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
Rifle - Behind gritty performances from veterans Heather Greathouse and Ethan Settlemires, the Kentucky rifle team won the overall national title at the 2010-11 NCAA Championships. After UK won the smallbore NCAA Title on Friday in the first day of competition, the Wildcats held off West Virginia's charge in air rifle on Saturday to secure the first national championship in program history, finishing with a 4700 team total score. - Kentucky entered the final day of competition on Saturday owning a seven-point lead. UK claimed its first-ever NCAA Championship in smallbore on Friday, totaling a 2336 team score, led by Settlemires and Greathouse. Settlemires won the NCAA individual championship on Friday with a 590 in smallbore, becoming the first individual NCAA Champion in smallbore in program history.
Men's basketball - Kentucky won its league-leading 27th SEC Tournament championship, defeating Florida 70-54 in the championship game. Darius Miller was named the tournament MVP and the Wildcats placed Miller, Josh Harrellson and Brandon Knight on the SEC All-Tournament team. - UK will be making its NCAA record 51st appearance in the NCAA Tournament, taking on Princeton in the second round of the tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Women's basketball - The No. 17/16 Kentucky women's basketball team earned its eighth bid to the NCAA Tournament with a No. 4 seed in the Spokane Regional. UK will play 13th-seeded Hampton on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Albuquerque, N.M. - It is the eighth overall NCAA Tournament berth for the Cats and their first back-to-back appearances since the 1982-83 seasons. UK is 7-7 all-time in the Big Dance, including a 3-1 mark under Matthew Mitchell.
Softball - Behind a pair of comeback victories, the 23rd-ranked softball team defeated No. 7 Tennessee in two out of three games to capture the series to begin SEC play. It marked the first time since 2000 UK had won the series with its border-state rival. - Senior Megan Yocke batted .556 on the weekend, which included a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings in the rubber match between the two teams. She was then intentionally walked in the bottom of the 10th to set the stage for Kara Dill's walk-off RBI-single.
Baseball - The Wildcats posted four wins on the week, totaling a staggering 1.40 ERA as a team in 45 innings pitched, walking just 13 and striking out 45. UK got stellar starting pitching during the week, including quality starts from four of five starters a complete-game shutout from junior Alex Meyer on Saturday. - Kentucky has been a well-rounded team, totaling a .295 batting average and a 3.51 team ERA, fielding at a .978 clip. The Wildcats have been led by center fielder Brian Adams, who has hit .368 with five doubles and five RBI.
Gymnastics - The gymnastics team scored three wins over the weekend, defeating William and Mary on Friday and North Carolina and George Washington on Sunday. Kentucky was led in both meets by senior Phylicia Reshard, who won the all-around against William and Mary and finished second in the all-around in Sunday's quad-meet. - The Wildcats defeated William and Mary on each event, with junior Storey Morris winning the uneven bars title, Reshard winning the vault title, seniors Jasmine Minion, Andrea Mitchell and Reshard winning on floor, and Mitchell grabbing event honors on beam.
Men's tennis - The Wildcats were led by impressive play in doubles, taking the doubles point from both Tennessee and Georgia. Against Tennessee, Kentucky got upset wins at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles with senior Alberto Gonzalez and freshman Tom Jomby taking down the 55th-ranked doubles tandem in the nation, while junior Alex Musialek and sophomore Anthony Rossi defeated the 52nd-ranked team. UK was equally impressive against Georgia in doubles with junior Eric Quigley and senior Brad Cox knocking off the sixth-ranked doubles team in the nation and Gonzalez and Jomby posting a win over the 36th-ranked doubles team. UK dropped the overall matches to nationally ranked Tennessee and Georgia. - In singles, Musialek led the UK charge with a convincing win over No. 24 Javier Garrapiz, while Rossi and Jomby also posted singles wins.
Swimming and diving - Freshman diver Greg Ferrucci and senior diver Lisa Faulkner earned spots in the men's and women's NCAA swimming and diving championships, respectively, thanks to their performances in the Zone C Diving Championships. - Ferrucci recorded a score of 339.60 in the preliminaries and finished with a mark of 716.35 in the finals to finish in second place on the men's one-meter and earn his spot in the NCAAs. Faulkner earned a score of 296.35 in the women's one-meter preliminaries and finished with a score of 581.15 in the finals to finish in fifth place and earn a spot in the NCAA championships.
Track and field - Kentucky track and field junior Keith Hayes capped off an incredible three-week run leading up to the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships with a seventh-place finish in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles, grabbing two points for the Wildcats. - Hayes earned his first All-America honor for his top-eight performance in the finals Saturday.
Men's golf - Behind impressive final rounds from sophomore Chase Parker and freshman Cody Martin, the UK men's golf team moved up four spots on the leaderboard to finish 13th in the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate. Martin (80-70-69-219) and Parker (78-72-70-220) led the Wildcats, posting solid scores on the final day to earn a top-25 finish. - Martin carded the lowest UK round of the day Tuesday, earning a 1-under-par 69 to move 36 spots up the leaderboard. He finished the tournament in a tie for 21st, totaling a 9-over-par 219 after a 10-ove-par 80 in the opening round and an even-par 70 in the second round.
Women's golf - The Cats competed in the LSU Tiger Golf Classic and finished in 18th place with a final score of 95-over-par 959. - Sophomore Heather Lott led the Wildcats with a final score of 12-over par to finish the tournament in a tie for 31st among the 111 competing golfers.
Women's tennis - The Cats dropped a pair of SEC road matches over the weekend to Tennessee and Georgia. The Wildcats fell 6-1 in each match. - Freshman Khristina Blajkevitch won a thrilling victory over UT's Kata Szekely 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (12-10). Senior Megan Broderick topped Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia after the 48th-ranked player had to retire.
Tuesday, March 15 Baseball hosts Murray State - 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 16 Softball at Arkansas (DH) - 5 p.m. Women's tennis at Baylor • 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 17 Men's tennis hosts Notre Dame - 1 p.m. Women's tennis at TCU - 2 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Princeton - 2:45 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Men's tennis hosts Butler - 7 p.m. Women's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Austin, Texas)
Friday, March 18 Baseball hosts Tennessee - 6:30 p.m. Softball at LSU - 7 p.m. Women's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Austin, Texas) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Saturday, March 19 Women's tennis at Texas Tech - 10 a.m. Baseball hosts Tennessee - 1 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Alabama - 1 p.m. Softball at LSU - 4 p.m. Women's basketball vs. Hampton - 6:30 p.m. (Albuquerque, N.M.) Men's basketball vs. West Virginia/Clemson/UAB - TBA (Tampa, Fla.) Gymnastics at SEC Championships (Birmingham, Ala.) Women's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Austin, Texas) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 20 Baseball hosts Tennessee - 1 p.m. Softball at LSU - 2 p.m. Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Men's basketball - UK extended its home winning streak to 33 games, which is the second-longest streak in the country. The 33-game winning streak is tied for the longest streak in Rupp Arena history and the third-longest streak in program history. John Calipari is 32-0 at Rupp Arena as Kentucky's head coach. - Over the last four games Darius Miller is averaging 18 points and 5.5 rebounds. He's made 25-of-47 shots for 53.2 percent, including 12-of-24 3-pointers. He's also blocked 10 shots. - Kentucky will celebrate Senior Night on Tuesday, hosting Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are 84-6 all-time on Senior Night.
Women's basketball - Senior Victoria Dunlap recorded a team-high 19 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 76-62 win over Auburn in the final game of the regular season. UK improved to 22-7 overall, 11-5 in league play, which tied the school record for SEC wins set last season and tied the school mark for SEC road wins (five) set in 2005-06. - UK has earned a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament for the second consecutive season and is preparing to square off with the winner of LSU (No. 7 seed) and Alabama (No. 10 seed) in the quarterfinals.
Softball - Kentucky went 3-1 at the Stanford Nike Invitational behind the play of Megan Yocke. Yocke batted .615 in front of her hometown and charted two hits in every game. - Junior pitcher Chanda Bell tossed the second no-hitter of her career in a 7-0 win over Colorado State. The history didn't stop there as Bell also topped her own single-game record with 16 strikeouts, besting her previous high of 15. Additionally, she became the school's all-time career leader in strikeouts thrown, passing Keary Camunas for first on the list. - Kentucky has matched its best start in program history winning 11 of its first 14 games.
Baseball - Kentucky rebounded from three losses during the season-opening weekend by winning four of five games last week, including picking up a series win over the University of Illinois Chicago over the weekend. - UK has posted a .307 team batting average through its eight games in 2011 totaling five homers and 45 RBI. On the mound as a team, UK owns a 3.99 ERA with a pair of saves and 65 strikeouts in 70 innings. - Individually, catcher Luke Maile leads UK at the plate with a .419 average with four doubles and five RBI. Shortstop Taylor Black, named this week's SEC Player of the Week, is coming off a monster week that saw him total nine RBI and a .529 batting average. On the mound, UK junior Alex Meyer has posted a 1-1 record with a 3.00 ERA through his first two starts in 2011. Meyer has struck out 20 in 12 innings, allowing only six hits and a .158 opposing batting average.
Gymnastics - UK defeated LSU on Friday with a season-high score of 195.575. UK has now defeated the Tigers for the second consecutive season after posting its first win over LSU in 31 tries last year in the Lady Luck Invitational in Las Vegas. Kentucky has now posted back-to-back wins over an SEC opponent for the first time since defeating Auburn in 2005 and 2006. The victory in a SEC dual meet is the first for the Kentucky program since it took down Auburn on Jan. 12, 2008. - Kentucky finished third at the event, defeating Bowling Green 194.65-189.45, while No. 7 Nebraska won the four-team meet with a 196.5 and No. 15 Iowa finished second with a 195.5. Seniors Andrea Mitchell and Phylicia Reshard finished second and third in the all-around competition, respectively, with Mitchell earning a 39.25 and Reshard a 39.075. - The meet wraps up a stretch of four meets in 10 days for UK, with Kentucky showing major improvements during the difficult stretch. The Wildcats faced five top-25 teams the last two weeks, defeating No. 20 LSU with its season-best score of 195.575. Kentucky also scored a 195.05 at then-No. 14 Ohio State and finished off the 10-day stretch with a solid-road score of 194.65 Sunday at the Masters Classic. UK's best improvement throughout the last two weeks came on beam, where Kentucky improved its season-high mark from 48.375 to 48.7.
Rifle - Despite getting strong performances on Sunday from newcomers Emily Holsopple and Henri Junghänel in air rifle, the Kentucky rifle team posted a 4672 total team score to finish second at the 2010-11 Great American Rifle Conference Championships. - Holsopple and Junghänel led UK in air rifle, with both newcomers totaling a 591. Ethan Settlemires finished with a 588, while Megan English had a 590 and Heather Greathouse - who led UK in smallbore on Saturday - totaled a 578. - The Wildcats, who won the regular-season title with an unbeaten slate, finished with a 4672 total team score, with No. 1 West Virginia winning the GARC Championships with a 4704 team score.
Track and field - Junior Precious Nwokey launched herself to the 2011 SEC pentathlon championship with the third-highest point total in the NCAA this season, Friday in Fayetteville, Ark. With her performance the junior also broke her own school record with 4,185 points. - Junior Keith Hayes took home the silver medal in the men's 60-meter hurdles with a career-best time of 7.78. Hayes' time ranks second on UK's all-time 60m hurdles list, only trailing former Wildcat star Mikel Thomas at 7.74. - The women's team equaled their 2010 point total of 38 points but finished one spot higher in eighth place at the conclusion of the 2011 SEC Championships on Sunday. - The men's team finished ninth with 20 points and had contributions from Keith Hayes (eight points), Josh Nadzam (three points), Colin Boevers (two points), the 4x400m relay (four points) and the distance medley relay (three points).
Men's golf - The men's golf team scored the lowest team round of the tournament to finish in second, while sophomore Chase Parker finish tied for second at the final day of the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate. - Kentucky (293-302-279-874) was extremely impressive in the final round, posting a 9-under-par for the lowest 18-hole round of the season en route to the lowest 54-hole tournament score of the year of 874. The final round of 279 was the eighth-lowest mark during the Brian Craig Era. - UK was led in the event by Parker (73-69-70-212), who finished in a tie for second place for his best collegiate finish.
Women's golf - The Cats began play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Golf Championship in New Orleans on Sunday. Kentucky was led by sophomore Ashleigh Albrecht who shot a 3-over par, 75. Kentucky, competing in one of the most competitive tournaments of the spring season, finished the first round with a 17-over par, 305.
Women's tennis - The women's tennis team got wins at Nos. 1-3 singles, but fell to No. 37 Indiana at home on Saturday. Senior Megan Broderick, sophomore Jessica Stiles and freshman Caitlin McGraw each earned their fifth wins of the season in singles play.
Swimming and diving - The men's and women's swimming units competed in a last chance meet in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday and Saturday. The Kentucky men and women had 200-free relay teams earn NCAA (B) provisional times.
Monday, Feb. 28 Women's golf at Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate (New Orleans)
Tuesday, March 1 Men's basketball hosts Vanderbilt - 9 p.m. Women's golf at Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate (New Orleans)
Wednesday, March 2 Men's tennis hosts Murray State - 1 p.m.
Friday, March 4 Men's tennis at Ole Miss - 3 p.m. Women's basketball vs. Alabama/LSU • 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Women's tennis hosts Ole Miss - 4 p.m. Gymnastics hosts George Washington and Bowling Green - 7 p.m. Baseball vs. Rice - 8 p.m. (Houston) Track and field at Iowa State Qualifier
Saturday, March 5 Softball at Southern Illinois • 1 p.m. (Carbondale, Ill.) Baseball vs. Houston • 4:30 p.m. (Houston) Women's basketball SEC semifinal game - 4/6:30 p.m. (Nashville) Softball vs. SIUE - 7 p.m. (Carbondale, Ill.) Track and field at Iowa State Qualifier Swimming and diving at Last Chance Meet (Columbus, Ohio)
Sunday, March 6 Softball vs. Wright State - 10 a.m. (Carbondale, Ill.) Women's tennis hosts Mississippi State - 11 a.m. Baseball vs. Utah - noon (Houston) Men's basketball at Tennessee - noon Men's tennis at Mississippi State - 1 p.m. Softball vs. Purdue - 2 p.m. (Carbondale, Ill.) Women's basketball SEC championship game - 5:30 p.m. (Nashville)
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 24:
Men's soccer: Tyler Beadle
Freshman Tyler Beadle had a great week in leading the Wildcats to a crucial win over conference foe FIU and a tie with No. 16 Indiana. Beadle made four saves in the tie with IU, helping UK to just its third tie in series history with the high-octane Hoosiers. In the win over FIU, Beadle collected his fourth shutout of the season, saving four shots in the game, including two shots in a five-second span in the second half. A native of Douglasville, Ga., Beadle has posted a 1.11 goals-against average in his first 15 collegiate games.
Men's golf: Brian Belden
Brian Belden shot a 1-under-par 71 in the final round, totaling a 54-hole score of 1-under-par 215 to gather his third straight top-20 finish at the UNCG Bridgestone Golf Collegiate. The top-20 finish is the third straight top-20 finish of the year for Belden, who ended the Gary Koch Intercollegiate in 15th and the Philadelphia Big 5 Invitational tied for ninth. Belden's 3-under-par 69 in the second round was one of the lowest rounds of the tournament and the lowest UK score at the event.
Rifle: Heather Greathouse
Sophomore Heather Greathouse posted a match-best 590 in air rifle and added a 581 in smallbore to lead the Kentucky rifle team past Army on Sunday at UK's Barker Hall.
"I am very proud of Heather and her performance this weekend," UK head coach Harry Mullins said. "She worked through diversity like a champion in order to reach her personal goals. She has set some high standards for herself this year, but has also committed to a high level of intensity during training. This focus has brought her expectations to reality. We are all looking forward to watching Heather the rest of the season."
Football: Winston Guy
Recorded eight tackles in the loss to Georgia.
Football: Mike Hartline
Completed 27 of 43 passes for a career-high 353 yards and four touchdowns.
Women's soccer: Laura Novikoff
Laura Novikoff helped UK to a 1-1 record on the weekend by netting three goals, including the game-winner against Mississippi State. Novikoff scored two goals against Mississippi State, including one off a free kick from 45 yards out. Her multi-goal game was the second of her career and the second for UK this season.
Men's tennis: Eric Quigley
Eric Quigley won the singles title of the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Indoor Championships over ITA No. 1 John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee 6-3, 7-6 (5), claiming his second straight singles title at the event. The win marks the second time in his career that Quigley has defeated the No. 1-ranked player in the country. Last year, Quigley took down top-ranked Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State in straight sets 7-5, 6-1 at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships. This is the first time in three chances that Quigley has defeated Smith.
Men's soccer: Tyler Riggs
Freshman Tyler Riggs netted the biggest goal of his short UK career on Sunday, helping UK post a win over league foe FIU. With the game scoreless and just three minutes left in regulation, Riggs hooked up with Charles Pettys for the game-winning goal, lifting UK to the crucial, must-win over FIU. On the year, Riggs, a native of Louisville, Ky., owns a team-best four goals.
Football: Raymond Sanders
Accounted for 156 rushing and receiving yards with one TD in the game against Georgia.
- Former UK golfer J.B. Holmes is in contention at the PGA Championship after two rounds of play. Holmes currently sits in a tie for third with Jim Furyk at 6-under-par. Matt Kuchar leads the the tournament at 8-under. The second round just wrapped up at beautiful Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc., with the third round set to begin any minute. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like we're seeing the former UK star storm into contention more and more these days. The ex-Cat is quietly becoming a household name but is still looking for that breakthrough major championship. Maybe it comes this week. Holmes won't tee off until much later today, but you can follow all the action on CBS at 2 p.m. ET. Live scoreboard can be found here.
- Chris Low of ESPN.com provides some nice praise for Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb on his blog. Low writes that "Cobb is one of the best football players -- period" in the league and that "Cobb could play on my team any day." Pretty good approval from a guy who has typically been tough (but fair) on Kentucky football on his blog. Also, while we're talking about the pigskin, UK will have a scrimmage Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium to begin a major evaluation of the depth chart. There are a lot of position battles going on that Phillips hopes to look closely at Saturday. While the scrimmage is closed to the public, we will have a full report on the front page later this evening along with some video interviews on the blog.
- John Wall might be gone, but the legend of his dance continues to grow. During Friday's night's NFL preseason game between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills, a game the Redskins won by the count of 42-17, Washington punt returner Brandon Banks did the John Wall Dance (video below) after scoring a touchdown (credit to John Clay for the find). Wall fever is obviously catching on in Washington for the Wizards' No. 1 overall pick. Even video games (NBA 2K11) have caught on with the dance.
Not much going on in the way of news, but here are a couple of things worth checking out:
- In light of last week's saddening news that future Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. has retired, SportsIllustrated.com is chronicling the top retirements of 2010. Why is this relevant for a UK blog? Well, beloved UK football coach Rich Brooks, who, as Sports Illustrated terms it, got Kentucky's football program back on the road toward respectability, made the list. I don't know if the list is in order of importance, but for a Kentucky football coach's retirement to even be big news speaks volumes of how far the program has come under the tutelage of Brooks. Check out the feature here.
- In addition to a great news release by Evan Crane, check out this story by Jody Demling of the Courier-Journal on a great story on a pair of UK golfers at the Kentucky State Amateur Championship. Jordan Blann, a senior on the 2009-10 Kentucky golf team, edged out his brother, who is also a UK golfer, on the first playoff hole of the Championship. "You want to beat him, but you don't," Jordan said of beating his brother, according to the Courier-Journal story. "I don't know. You just don't ever expect something like that."
- ESPN Insider Chad Ford released version 1.0 of his NBA Mock Draft. To no surprise, Kentucky Wildcats litter the first-round draft projections. Ford has point guard John Wall going No. 1, forward DeMarcus Cousins No. 4, forward Daniel Orton No. 11, forward Patrick Patterson No. 12 and guard Eric Bledsoe No. 18. It's truly amazing to see how a guy like Orton, who played sparingly in his first season at UK, has risen so high. It's worth repeating that should the NBA Draft on June 24 go according to Ford's mock draft, it would be the first time in NBA history that four players from the same team were selected with the top 12 picks. You must be an ESPN Insider to view the full mock draft.
- With a 12-game improvement from the season before, the UK men's basketball team posted the third-best turnaround among all NCAA Division I programs this past year. Only Coastal Carolina (plus 15) and Loyola Marymount (plus 13.5) had better improvements from the 2009 final records to the 2010 final marks. The game improvements factor in wins, losses and total number of games played.
- Former Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks made a pretty distinguished list ranked by CollegeFootballNews.com. After guiding the Cats to four consecutive bowl games, the website ranked Brooks No. 5 as one of the top five coaching hires in the Southeastern Conference over the last decade. Brooks beat out the likes of national championship head coach Les Miles of LSU, Bobby Petrino of Arkansas and newly hired Derek Dooley at Tennessee. Florida's Urban Meyer, Alabama's Nick Saban, LSU's Nick Saban and Georgia's Mark Richt ranked 1-4, respectively.
- UPDATE at 5:15 p.m.: Former UK golfer J.B. Holmes is making noise on the first day of the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, long considered the fifth major of the PGA Tour. Holems shot an opening-round 6-under-par 66 and currently sits in second place behind Robert Allenby as the first round continues. Check out live stats at ESPN.com.
ESPN.com makes sure to note that the rankings aren't necessarily a list of the world's most talented players, only a compilation of the the hottest teams. It's also a list of people they believe are on the verge of a big 2010 without Tiger.
Holmes currently ranks 11th on the PGA Tour money list with $971,905. The former UK star has notched two top-10 finishes in four starts this season.
Holmes has two career victories on the PGA Tour, both coming at the FBR Open. He played at UK from 2002-05.
Former University of Kentucky standout golfer J.B. Holmes is in second place after the first round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Holmes carded a 7-under par on Thursday.
Holmes, the 2005 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was posted seven birdies and one eagle on the day. The eagle was a score of two on the par-4 eighth hole. The native of Campbellsville, Ky., native started on the 10th hole scoring a 4-under par. On the final nine holes of the day, Holmes shot 3-under-par.
Holmes, a member of the 2005 SEC Championship team, has played brilliant golf in 2010, finishing in the top 30 in both events he has played in. Last weekend, Holmes finished tied for third at the Northern Trust Open, shooting a 4-under-par for the final round and ending the tournament at 13-under-par.
Holmes, consistently one of the longest golfers off the tee in the PGA, is averaging 292.9 yards per drive this season, good enough for 11th on the tour. Holmes currently is 21st in the FedEx Cup standings.