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Posts from Friday, May 8

Patrick Patterson is returning to Kentucky for his junior season.

Patrick Patterson is returning to Kentucky for his junior season.

He’s back: Patterson returning for junior season

Posted at 5:15 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

The rumors are true. The big man is coming back.

Forward Patrick Patterson will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and will return to Kentucky for his junior season.

More details to come on the homepage here in a little bit.


The final chapter

Posted at 1:50 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

For many of the student-athletes, this weekend will serve as the crowning achievement of their careers at the University of Kentucky.

And no, it has nothing to do with all the postseason action going on.

This weekend will mark the final chapter in the careers of more than 60 student-athletes. After illustrious careers at UK as both students and athletes, 60-plus Wildcats will graduate, many of them participating in Saturday’s main commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. in Rupp Arena.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of these young people,” said Bob Bradley, associate athletics director of student services. “They have given much to the University of Kentucky, the athletics department and to the pride of our Commonwealth. There is nothing better we can do for them than to first honor our pledge to them when they join the Wildcat family and foremost watch them leave with diploma in hand. Graduation from the University of Kentucky will be one of their most important accomplishments in life.”

Congratulations, Wildcats.


Postseason Friday

Posted at 1:34 p.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Today is a huge Friday for Kentucky sports. We've got the men's and women's tennis teams squaring off in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the women's golf team playing at NCAA Regional Championships, and of course, the softball team playing in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament against Alabama.

There will be live updates on the homepage and Gametracker all day long, as well as Twitter updates from our UK account.

But what I don't want to leave out is the importance of the baseball series at home this weekend. While the Cats aren't playing in the postseason yet, they're fighting for their postseason lives.

Entering tonight's 6:30 p.m. game against Auburn at Cliff Hagan Stadium, UK trails Vanderbilt by a game and a half with six games to go for the eighth and final spot in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. While the Cats aren't in the postseason yet, for all intents and purposes, every game is a one-game playoff from here on out.

In my brief history covering the UK baseball team, I have never witnessed a team go through so many highs and lows. With some of the heartbreaking losses this team has gone through, many counted the Cats out two weeks ago.

But with a three-game series against reeling Auburn this weekend followed by the regular-season finale at SEC East Division leader Florida next weekend, they're not dead yet.

"Not only are we still in the mix, but the kids have competed extremely hard," head coach Gary Henderson said. "Now they haven't always played sharp - that part is evident - but I think the effort level and the competitiveness has been good. I think the kids are giving us what they have.

"This weekend is what it is. If we can win another series or get a sweep, it's a chance to go down to Gainesville with a shot of playing well and getting to Hoover."

UK owns the tiebreaker over Vanderbilt after taking two of three from the Commodores, but that likely won't come into play. Because of an earlier cancellation, Vandy has played one less game than the Cats and likely won't make that up, hence the half game lead. That means, barring a weather-related cancellation on UK's part, the Cats will have to gain two games in two weekends.

It's tough, but not impossible to do. Obviously things will have to go UK's way. A lot of it depends on what Vandy does. In a way, Kentucky's fate kind of lies with what the Commodores do.

But none of that will matter if the Cats don't win. If UK loses the next two series, it's over with. There's even a possibility that UK might need to sweep this weekend and take two of three in Gainesville, Fla., next week, but nobody knows for sure.

What UK has to do is win and hope for the best. Will there be some scoreboard watching in the UK dugout this weekend? Maybe a little bit. But Henderson said the players' focus has to be on taking care of their own business.

"Everybody is paying attention," Henderson said. "But the bottom line is and what I told the kids is that what Vandy does is irrelevant at this point. What's really relevant is we have to win a game Friday night. If we do that then we've got a chance to win a series on Saturday. If we get those things done, then we can really talk about Sunday getting a win and really putting ourselves in a position to do something. We've got six games left. To be worrying about what anyone else is doing is just wasted time and energy."


Showing her true colors

Posted at 1:40 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Does Christine Johnston regret spurning her hometown school of Ohio State for Kentucky? Of course not. Does she want to show the Buckeyes what they're missing out on when UK faces Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament? You bet she does.

The junior from Columbus, Ohio, and the Wildcats will face Ohio State on Friday at 2 p.m. at Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner will face the winner of Northwestern-Miami (Ohio).

Johnston's No. 1 priority is getting the Wildcats past the Buckeyes and into the second round (UK has actually already defeated OSU 4-3 earlier in the season). But that doesn't mean Johnston doesn't have something to prove.

For her, Friday's match is personal.

"It is always great to show people at home how I can go somewhere else and be just as successful," Johnston said. "I still have a lot of support from fans in Columbus, but it is still a rivalry."

And it goes well beyond competing against her Scarlet and Gray roots. Johnston will actually be competing against a former teammate and state doubles championship partner.

Johnston will go head-to-head against the Buckeyes' Kirsten Flower, who was a teammate of Johnston's at Upper Arlington High School in Columbus. The two played together as freshman partners and won the Ohio state doubles championship.

As sophomores, they both decided to play singles in the state tournament and ultimately faced each other in the finals. Flower got the upper hand in that matchup, giving Johnston one of only two losses she ever suffered in her high school career (her career record was 125-2, with both losses coming in the state finals).

Flower did not play high school tennis her junior and senior seasons, but without her Johnston managed to lead Upper Arlington to four consecutive state championships.

If Johnston and the Cats can squeak by Ohio State for the second time this season, she could face another Columbus native and Upper Arlington alum in the second round. Sydnee Bridger of Miami (Ohio), who is on the other side of the regional and will face overall top seed Northwestern, also played with Johnston.

Sydnee is a year younger than Johnston and Flower, but she helped Johnston capture three of those four state titles.

They're no longer on the same team, but Johnston said they are all still close friends. However, when they take the court this weekend at Northwestern, things could change.

"We all have some great memories with each other from high school tennis and even off the court that I know I will never forget," Johnston said. "I think it is a great accomplishment to have three girls from the same high school tennis team each representing their respective university at the NCAA Championships. I know we are all three Upper Arlington Golden Bears, but on Friday I won't be anything but a Wildcat."

The No. 26 Wildcats are making the team's 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. They'll face the No. 37 Buckeyes in Evanston, Ill., at 2 p.m. Meanwhile, the No. 11 UK men's tennis team will play at home against Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. on Friday.