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Kentucky Sports Report (week of Dec. 3)

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MEN'S BASKETBALL
- The Kentucky basketball team will play its final midweek contest in the month of December when the Blue and White takes on Samford on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. Kentucky and Samford met for the first time a season ago with the Wildcats earning an 82-50 win.
- Freshman Archie Goodwin has logged four or more assists in four consecutive games including five against Baylor on Saturday. Classmate Alex Poythress leads the Southeastern Conference hitting .672 percent of his shots, while fellow freshman Nerlens Noel leads the league with 2.9 blocks per game.
- Samford enters the matchup owning a 2-7 overall record which includes a pair of losses to ranked foes in Louisville and Memphis.

VOLLEYBALL
- The Kentucky volleyball team advanced to its second straight Sweet 16 following wins over East Tennessee State and Ohio State in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. With back-to-back appearances in the round of 16, UK is one of just eight schools to achieve the feat. It's the first time in the Craig Skinner era that UK has won two matches in the tournament in consecutive years and the first time in program history since the 1987-88 seasons.
- Senior Ashley Frazier's 12 kills on .500 hitting sparked a 3-0 sweep of ETSU on Friday. Then it was a spectacular display of defensive fortitude that halted the high-octane attack of Ohio State. UK charted 11.5 blocks and picked up 55 digs to fluster the Buckeyes into a .213 hitting clip and no more than 14 kills in a set following the opening frame en route to a 3-1 win.
- Junior Alexandra Morgan had seven blocks in the win, and senior Stephanie Klefot logged 18 digs to lead the way vs. OSU. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner paced three attackers in double-figures with a team-high 16 kills, while junior Whitney Billings notched her 17th double-double of the season with 10 kills and 12 digs in the winning effort.
- Kentucky will move on to face No. 1 seed Penn State on Friday at 5 p.m. in the West Lafeytte Regional. It is the second-consecutive season UK will face the top overall seed in the tournament.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

- Kentucky improved to 6-1 with wins over Miami (Ohio) and No. 6/7 Louisville last week. Against the RedHawks, junior Bernisha Pinkett had a career day as she came off the bench to record her first career double-double. She set personal-bests with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while equaling her career-high with five assists. She became the first Wildcat to post a 20-point and 10-rebound game since Victoria Dunlap (22 pts/11 rbs) vs. Vanderbilt on March 5, 2011.
- Sunday's matchup at Louisville pitted two of the nation's top two teams as No. 9/8 UK traveled to No. 6/7 Louisville. It marked the first meeting with both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, and it turned out to be quite the barnburner.
- Trailing by 14 points with 15:08 to play in the game, the Wildcats clawed back and charted one of the biggest comebacks in the Matthew Mitchell era. Led by junior DeNesha Stallworth's game-high 14 points, the Cats outscored the Cards 18-6 in the final 10 minutes, but the most valuable player of the game turned out to be one of the most unlikely players.
- Freshman point guard Janee Thompson, who did not see action in the first half and who was averaging just 5.2 points coming into the game, came off the bench to hit three straight critical free throws down the stretch and nail the go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds to play. She ended with 13 points in just 16 minutes of action, giving the Cats their first win over the Cards on the road since 1999 and their first win over a top-10 foe on the road since defeating No. 8 Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky., in 1991.

SWIMMING & DIVING
- The Kentucky diving team competed at the Miami Open last weekend in Oxford, Ohio in a field that included the Guangdong Provincial diving team from China.
- Junior diver Greg Ferrucci picked up a third-place score of 386.0 while senior John Fox earned a 322.4, good for fifth place in the 1-meter. Freshman Rebecca Hamperian earned a fifth-place score of 275.35. Sophomore Sarah Chewning earned sixth place with a final tally of 271.05 in the 3-meter.
- Sophomore Christa Cabot earned a career high score of 301.95 to take second place in the women's 1-meter. Junior Corey Cowger earned an NCAA Zone qualifying score of 326.45 on the 3-meter board.

Upcoming schedule

TUESDAY, DEC. 4
Men's basketball hosts Samford - 7:00 p.m.

THURSDAY, DEC. 6
Women's gymnastics Blue/White scrimmage - 6:00 p.m.

FRIDAY, DEC. 7
Volleyball vs. Penn State (West Lafayette, Ind.) - 5:00 p.m.
Women's basketball hosts DePaul (Rupp Arena) - 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY, DEC. 8
Men's basketball hosts Portland - 12:00 p.m.
Track-indoor at Hoosier Open(Bloomington, Ind.) - 9:00 a.m.

SUNDAY, DEC. 9

Women's basketball hosts MTSU - 1:00 p.m.

Kentucky defeated Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Kentucky defeated Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky volleyball team accomplished a feat that it had not managed since the 1987-88 seasons when they defeated Ohio State Saturday night, 3-1. Dating back to the 1988 season, UK had never reached the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons.

Until Saturday night.

After Kentucky reached the round of 16 last season, hosting a regional for the first time the Craig Skinner era and facing No. 1 seed Texas, Kentucky will be heading back to its second straight regional. The Wildcats will be faced with an equally tough opponent, as they will be matched up with this season's No. 1 seeded Penn State.  But this time, UK won't have the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd.

The Big Blue Nation came out in full force in the first two rounds, and without them, Kentucky may have been in trouble.

"(The crowd) kind of helped us through with that second game and without them I don't know if we would have came back and won," said senior libero Stephanie Klefot. "You hear that "Go Big Blue" chant and you get chills and it gives you that momentum to go out there and kick their butt."

The crowd's energy mixed with team's emotion will send Klefot to the third Sweet 16 of her illustrious four-year career. That level of success is no longer just a privilege, but rather has become the expectation of Skinner's program.

"We set lofty goals at the beginning of the year," said Skinner. "I think as a program, that's what we want to be and what we want to do. The Sweet 16 is the next step."

But before Kentucky could ever think about heading to the West Lafayette, Ind. Regional, the Wildcats would have to go through the high-octane offense of Ohio State. By the looks of things in the first set, it looked like it might be a Big Ten Sweet 16 reunion.

The Buckeyes steamrolled Kentucky in the first set, 25-18. Outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary was a force offensively, and UK had no answers for her eight kills. After a 19-kill performance Friday night against Notre Dame, it looked like the Wildcats would be in for a long night much like the Fighting Irish suffered at the hands of OSU's outside hitters.

Kentucky struggled to execute the game plan that Skinner and his staff had laid out for them early on.

"We knew they were going to get a lot of swings," said Skinner. "We were trying to get our block position to slow them down and we weren't in the right spots. They made some great swings."

Set two was a crucial one for both teams. It looked like Kentucky was going to handily take the second frame to even things up at the break as the Cats jumped out to a 9-5 lead. Then Klefot went to the serving line and turned up the heat with a couple of aces to make it 13-8. A stuff block by the Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan combination made it 14-8, and before the Buckeyes knew it, they faced a six-point deficit.

The deficit didn't last long and the Buckeyes answered the bell. Before UK could blink, OSU had regained the lead at 21-20. Ohio State's six-point run put them at a comfortable 23-20 advantage. But the visitors got a bit too comfortable and it not only cost them the set, but potentially the match.

"It was rough because we had been rolling through that set and we were feeling pretty good," said Ohio State outside hitter Emily Danks. "It was just that moment of let up that they took control of the game."

Kentucky would not be denied facing a three-point deficit. Kentucky pulled to within one at 23-22, but OSU answered on a kill by outside hitter Mari Hole. Now Kentucky was faced with another OSU set point at 24-22.

Enter Whitney Billings.

Billings pulled the Wildcats once more to within one to keep hope alive with a kill at 24-23. Then she really changed the landscape of the set with some dynamite serving to get the Buckeyes out of rhythm. A Christine Hartmann and Morgan block tied it up at 24. Then Billings put the finishing touches on the set to complete the comeback with consecutive aces to give Kentucky the 26-24 victory to go into the locker room with a 1-1 tie.

When both teams came out for set three, it looked like there would be another entertaining and nail-biting set. The Wildcats built an early 5-2 lead off of a couple of Lauren O'Conner kills. Then Ohio State reeled off three in a row to tie it up at five. But Kentucky would take off shortly thereafter with a 6-2 run and never looked back.

The Cats continued to build on the momentum they had gained after an improbable second-set comeback, and OSU seemed to be defeated by Kentucky's physicality and tough serving attack.

"Really they won the serve and pass game," said Ohio State head coach Geoff Carlston. "Whoever won that was going to win the match and they did. Especially at the end of the second set and they kept it going in the third and fourth set and we didn't respond very well but I thought that was a little bit of a reaction of them finding a groove serving."

Kentucky would finish the night with a season-high-tying of 10 aces.

The Wildcats had really turned up the pressure defensively as well as continuing their hard, and well-placed serves. Kentucky would build a 23-15 lead before Billings put the exclamation point on the set with a thunderous kill down the line to give UK set point. Senior Ashley Frazier went to the line, pumped in a sharp serve that was overpassed to the Kentucky side of the net, and O'Conner used one of her team-high 16 kills to clean it up and give UK the 25-15 third set victory.

Ohio State and Kentucky played it extremely close through the opening stages of set four. Each team battled back and forth through the 7-6 mark with UK grabbing the edge. Neither team had held a lead bigger than one point. But OSU blinked first as Ohio State's Mari Hole, who finished with a team-high 16 kills, made a critical error to give UK the 8-6 advantage.

The Wildcats ran with it.

Kentucky had went on a 7-0 run to make it 11-6, and after OSU put another point on the board, UK went on a 8-2 run thanks to a long serving run by Klefot in the middle of the set. Her run gave UK the lead and Billings' run pushed Kentucky to a 15-8 margin, eventually turning into a 17-10 lead.

"I think we practice so much on our serving and we try to go back there and be aggressive and it is a lot harder to do when you are in a big game," said Klefot. "Craig (Skinner) told me to go back there and take a deep breath before you serve and that helps when you focus on a certain spot on the court then we normally get more aces."

Klefot would finish with a monster night, earning 18 digs, five aces and three assists. The five aces were a career high for the senior in her final match at Memorial Coliseum.

Kentucky would go on to finish off the Buckeyes by a final tally of 25-18 when senior setter Christine Hartmann topped of a huge night of her own with her fifth kill to go along with 42 assists, leading her team to a .278 hitting clip.

"I'm glad we are ending this home court with a win," said Hartmann. "Last year we left with a loss and it was a great loss but we learned from it. It is definitely an expectation for this program from here on out."

The task certainly gets tougher for Kentucky now, as UK heads to West Lafayette on Dec. 7 to face the No. 1 seed in Penn State. Ohio State, conference members of the Big Ten along with PSU, has faced the Nittany Lions multiple times this season with unfavorable results. The Buckeyes fell to Penn State twice this year, each ending in sweeps.

"I don't think anyone matches up real well against Penn State to be honest with you," said Carlston. "I think Kentucky is pretty physical but Penn State is a different animal right now.

"I think Kentucky if they get in a groove and they serve like they did against us that gives them a chance I think. It's going to be a good match, two real physical teams."

The Cats know what's ahead of them, however. They've seen the same situation play out in front of them. No matter whom they play, regardless of the seed or name on the jersey, Kentucky will be ready to play Friday night. Once again, back in the Sweet 16.

"It's an opportunity," said Skinner of facing Penn State. "Our team typically rises to the challenge of whoever's in front of us. We typically play better against better teams.

"We trust what we do, and consider each point as the most important point of the season. Like I said before the tournament, I like this team and can't wait to go into a match with them."

Highlights, postgame with Craig Skinner


Whitney Billings, Stephanie Klefot, Lauren O'Conner, Christine Hartmann




Senior Ashley Frazier led the Kentucky attack with 12 kills over ETSU. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Senior Ashley Frazier led the Kentucky attack with 12 kills over ETSU. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
In a match that saw the East Tennessee State volleyball program make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, it also displayed an experienced bunch in the Kentucky Wildcats who were making their eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Craig Skinner.

After the first two points of the match, ETSU seemed the more experienced unit as the Buccaneers held an early 2-0 lead. That two-point advantage was short-lived.

Kentucky delivered an early bounce-back blow, going on a 20-3 run in the first set, ultimately leading to a 25-9 victory.

It was evident that the nerves and excitement of playing their first NCAA Tournament played a part in ETSU's first set struggles. Kentucky took advantage.

"It is different," said Skinner of making an NCAA Tournament debut. "Our first time in the Tournament you see the logo, you see the media, you see the different people there, you see the crowd and the bands. It's a different deal.

"Thankfully we've been in the Tournament. Our players have been there before and understand that."

Senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier certainly looked like she's been there before. She pounced on the ETSU defense, leading the Wildcats with four kills in that first set. Kentucky combined for 10 kills in the set and a .409 hitting percentage. But the defensive was equally impressive. The Cats picked up 15 digs in the frame and despite tallying no blocks, held ETSU to a .032 hitting percentage.

The Buccaneers settled in, however, and wouldn't leave Memorial Coliseum without putting up a fight.

Each team took turns going back and forth scoring points with ETSU eventually grabbing a 9-7 lead. Frazier looked to thwart the ETSU attack with a kill, but the Bucs answered right back.

Buccaneer outside hitter Megan Divine took to the serving line and tried to break the Kentucky passers. And it look like she might do it. She recorded three straight aces, baffling the Wildcats and forcing Kentucky into a timeout. She pushed the Bucs out to a 13-9 lead and it appeared Kentucky was in for a tougher battle than it expected after the first-set result.

Looking to break the momentum, senior setter Christine Hartmann looked to her other outside hitter in sophomore Lauren O'Conner. O'Conner broke Devine's serve with a kill, then it was the sophomore from Taylor Mill, Ky., who helped pull the Cats back even with the Bucs at 14 with another kill. She had four kills in the set.

"We got quiet when they ran a couple points," said Skinner. "You have to expect good teams to make good plays. ETSU did in the middle of the second set. It's just about trusting what you're doing and enjoying the journey of each point."

Then Hartmann took matters into her own hands on the next point and threw down a one-handed dump at the net to give Kentucky a 15-14 lead. And the Cats were off. They also picked up their defensive intensity, picking up three blocks in the set after recording no stuffs in the first.

Frazier tacked on two more kills in the frame, bumping up her total to eight on the night. It was another impressive run for the Wildcats after going down 13-9, UK went on to outscore ETSU 12-3 and took the second set 25-17.

Though Frazier was on her way to having a big night with 12 kills on 22 swings with just one error, she was quick to acknowledge that it was a total team effort Friday night.

"I don't think it was anyone individually who felt they needed to step up," Frazier said. "It was a total team effort. Going into the tournament, everybody's good at this point. You're going to have to play your best game in order to win."

East Tennessee still wasn't ready to let Kentucky walk away so easily. With a very impressive traveling party who made the trip from the Volunteer State, the crowd implored the Bucs to hang in and fight back. The Bucs did just that, staying with Kentucky early on in the third as they traded points to a 5-5 deadlock. But as Kentucky did all night, the Cats ran out to another long scoring stretch.

ETSU picked up two points to tie things at five, but a quick 6-0 run by Kentucky gave the Wildcats a lead they wouldn't look back on at 11-6. Frazier not only did it with her attack, but she also did it with her serve tonight, picking up an ace and serving tough to get the ETSU offense out of system. Her ace made it 18-7 and the route was on.

Kentucky finished with five aces and just one error. The Cats earned seven blocks after not recording one in the first set. And they tallied 43 digs including a match high 10 from senior libero Stephanie Klefot. Those statistics were the keys to the Wildcats' success.

"Our serving, our blocking defense and digging were the difference in the match," said Skinner. "That needs to be a mainstay for tomorrow night."

Kentucky went on to finish off the Bucs, 25-15, and take the sweep of their first round opponent to earn the right to face Ohio State in Saturday's second round. The Buckeyes put on an impressive offensive display against Notre Dame, also sweeping the Irish while hitting at a .512 clip.

Outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary had a monster night, picking up 16 kills on 19 swings, hitting .842 for the night. Kentucky will have the opportunity to try and stop Leary and the rest of the OSU offensive attack tomorrow night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum where fans can expect to see the game played at the highest level.

"(Ohio State has) made plays all year, and had a really good season within the Big Ten and beat a lot of good teams," said Skinner. "It's going to be a good volleyball match. It's going to be as good of volleyball as you're going to see in the country."



NCAA Tournament live blog: Volleyball vs. ETSU

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Kentucky hosts the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend at Memorial Coliseum. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Kentucky hosts the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend at Memorial Coliseum. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The University of Kentucky volleyball team welcomes in three strong opponents this weekend to Memorial Coliseum for the First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State, Notre Dame and East Tennessee State each have made their way to Lexington, Ky., for their first practices of the tournament as they prepare for their first-round matchups Friday evening.

Here is a team-by-team guide of what you can expect from Kentucky's potential competition this weekend as Lexington will be host to some of the best volleyball in the nation.

East Tennessee State Buccaneers (23-12, 11-7 A-Sun)

2012 Atlantic Sun Champions

Head coach: Lindsey Devine

-    Kentucky's first-round opponent (Lexington, Ky.)
-    Earned first trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history by defeating North Florida in championship match
-    Averaging 12.90 kills per set with a .227 hitting percentage offensively
-    Averaging 2.67 blocks per set and 13.3 digs per set defensively
Common opponents with UK: South Carolina (L, 3-2), Alabama (L, 3-0), Lipsomb (L, 3-1; W, 3-0)
Offensive leaders:
Megan Devine - JR OH - 539 kills (3.96 K/Set), .225 Pct, 36 aces
Meredith Hardy -  SO MB - 388 kills (2.85 K/Set), .296 Pct
Bethany Gesell - SO RS - 312 kills (2.31 K/Set), .241 Pct

Defensive leaders:
Meredith Hardy - SO MB - 199 blocks (25 Solo), 1.46 Blk/Set
Khadijah Wiley - FR MB - 115 blocks (14 Solo), 0.99 Blk/Set
Megan Devine - JR OH - 459 digs (3.38 D/Set), 83 blocks (9 Solo), 0.61 Blk/Set

What Devine is saying about Kentucky:

"As far as the matchup goes, I'm very pleased with the pairing. I feel the selection committee valued our overall potential. It helps with the location being close so our fans can make the trip to Lexington, and as far as playing Kentucky, I think it's a great opportunity for our program to play a team of their caliber in our first trip to the NCAA Tournament."

"Craig Skinner has done a fantastic job during his time at Kentucky and his teams are really well-coached," added Devine. "They have dominant outside hitters and three talented senior leaders, and we know they are going to put up a fight - especially being on their home court."



Ohio State Buckeyes (22-10, 13-7 BIG TEN)

4th Place BIG TEN

Head coach: Geoff Carlston

-    Faces Notre Dame in first round (Lexington, Ky.)
-    Finished No. 25 in the final RPI and No. 14 in the final AVCA Coaches Poll (Nov. 19)
-    Fourth straight selection to the NCAA Tournament (28-18 all-time in NCAA Tournament play)
-    One of seven Big 10 schools selected to the field of 64 and has reached the Sweet 16 each of the last two seasons
-    Senior outside hitter Mari Hole was named to the All-BIG TEN team
-    Senior right side hitter Emily Danks was named All-BIG TEN honorable mention
-    Averaging 13.61 kills per set with a .254 hitting percentage offensively
-    Averaging 2.29 blocks per set and 14.34 digs per set defensively

Common opponents with UK: Oregon (L, 3-2), Nebraska (L, 3-1; W, 3-1)

Offensive leaders:
Mari Hole - SR OH - 512 kills (4.20 K/Set), .239 Pct
Kaitlyn Leary - JR OH - 329 kills (2.57 K/Set), .265 Pct
Emily Danks - SR OH - 313 kills (2.57 K/Set), .231 Pct, 47 Aces

Defensive leaders:
Emily Danks - SR OH - 90 blocks (14 Solo), 0.74 Blk/Set
Dionna DiSalvatore - JR L - 483 digs (3.99 D/Set)

What Carlston is saying:

"I think they're pretty excited about a new season, seeing someone they haven't seen before and someone who doesn't know them," Carlston said.

"This team has really thrived on the road," Carlston said. "One of the best road teams in the country."

"We just got to stay healthy first of all, and then just being consistent and staying aggressive," Carlston said. "Notre Dame is a great team and so we got to really stay focused. Focus on one game at a time."


Notre Dame Fighting Irish (20-9, 13-2 BIG EAST)

2nd Place BIG EAST

Head coach: Debbie Brown

-    Faces Ohio State in first round (Lexington, Ky.)
-    First NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009
-    Sophomore right side hitter Jeni Houser was named All-BIG EAST First Team
-    Junior setter Maggie Brindock was named All-BIG EAST Second Team
-    Averaging 13.77 kills per set with a .255 hitting percentage offensively
-    Averaging 2.7 blocks per set and 14.5 digs per set defensively

Common opponents with UK: Nebraska (L, 3-1), Louisville (W, 3-2)

Offensive leaders:
Toni Aluqbue - SO OH - 385 kills (3.50 K/Set), .267 Pct
Jeni Houser - SO RS - 363 kills (3.27 K/Set), .322 Pct
Hilary Eppink - SR MB - 211 kills (2.18 K/Set), .274 Pct

Defensive leaders:
Andie Olsen - JR MB - 95 blocks (12 solo), 1.04 Blk/Set
Jeni Houser - SO RS - 88 blocks (11 solo), 0.79 Blk/Set
Taylor Morey - FR L - 464 digs (4.18 D/Set)

What Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner is saying about the teams in Lexington this weekend:

On ETSU:

"They've been hot the last part of the season. They've been playing really well. They have three or four very good attackers that bring the heat and play great defense. We're going to have to be prepared."

"They made a great run in the Atlantic Sun tournament and won three straight matches against very good teams. We have to block well and serve tough to get them out of system to stop their middles from getting involved heavily. Their leading attacker Devine on the outside hits as hard as anyone we've faced in the SEC. We'll have a great game plan and we'll be preparing for it as we get closer to Friday, and it should be a great test for us."

On OSU and ND:

"Both of those teams have beaten some of the best teams in the country during the regular season and earned their right to be in the tournament. Ohio State coming from the BIG TEN, a lot of great wins in that conference. Notre Dame coming from the BIG EAST, great wins in conference and out of conference, so that's going to be a great matchup."

"Right here in Memorial we are going to see some of the best volleyball in the country and that will continue on into Saturday with the winners playing at seven o'clock then. It's going to be a great weekend. The NCAA Tournament starts right here in Lexington so let's get it started."


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