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Posts from Monday, Oct. 12

Sophomore Gretchen Giesler's defensive performance helped propel UK up the polls.

Sophomore Gretchen Giesler's defensive performance helped propel UK up the polls.

Volleyball moves into nation’s elite

Posted at 4:45 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Craig Skinner’s 100th win on Friday was the big story on the volleyball front, but UK’s steady climb up the national rankings and sudden stranglehold on the Southeastern Conference might need to be moved up from the backburner.

Following yet another banner weekend – a week in which Skinner became the fastest active SEC coach to 100 career wins – the UK volleyball team (17-1, 1-0 SEC) has ascended to No. 8 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll.

The Cats moved ahead of 18-time defending SEC champion Florida, which suffered a shocking 3-0 defeat to LSU on Sunday.

More importantly, the win gives the Cats a little bit of breathing room in the chase for an SEC championship. UK is now two games ahead of No. 9 Florida in the loss column, including a win over the Gators.

However, it’s too early for the Cats to relax. Although Florida might be a bit behind the proverbial eight ball at this point, LSU is breathing down the Cats’ necks with Sunday night’s win. The No. 24 Tigers are playing some of the nation’s best volleyball and sit at 7-1 in the conference, their only loss coming on a 3-0 sweep to UK.

LSU will meet Cats in Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 24. Florida will have revenge on its mind it comes to UK on Nov. 22 for a nationally televised match.

The Cats have Gretchen Giesler to thank for yet another undefeated weekend. The sophomore middle blocker was tabbed the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after posting 10 blocks in just seven sets this weekend.  

UK will return to action Friday at Mississippi State at 8 p.m. EDT.

 

Wyndham to start at defensive end; Peters ‘underrated’

Redshirt freshman Taylor Wyndham will get his first career start at right defensive end on Saturday.


Posted at 3:21 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Just call him Taylor “big play” Wyndham.

Following two of the biggest plays of the season – a bone-rattling sack against Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and a forced fumble in the South Carolina game – Wyndham will get the start at the left defensive end position against Auburn. It will be the first career start for the redshirt freshman.

Junior DeQuin Evans will start on the right side, and Collins Ukwu and Chandler Burden will mix time between both sides.

“All of those guys are starting to come along and make some plays,” head coach Rich Brooks said.

Called a “work-in-progress” before the season started, UK’s defensive line has suddenly become one of its strengths. The front four have caused 8.5 sacks on the season, including three big ones from senior tackle Corey Peters, who was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week after posting 2.5 sacks against South Carolina.

“I think Corey Peters has been one of the most underrated players we’ve had on our defensive line for a long time,” Brook said. “He just took it upon himself to try to do a lot of things and he did a lot of really good things in that game.

“Moving forward, he’s going to get a little bit more attention with double teams on the inside, which could help our ends on the outside.”

 

Lindley not expected to return for a couple of weeks

Sophomore cornerback Randall Burden, above, and freshman Martavius Neloms were thrown into the fire against South Carolina because of injuries. Head coach Rich Brooks said he was


Posted at 2:21 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

As if the Mike Hartline injury wasn’t bad enough, head coach Rich Brooks announced that preseason All-American cornerback Trevard Lindley would likely miss the next two weeks with a high ankle sprain.

Brooks said the swelling is down but said he is still unable to put much weight on it. Brooks is hopeful he’ll be able to return for the Mississippi State game.

Cornerback Paul Warford, who starts opposite of Lindley, is day-to-day with a quad injury. They’ll re-evaluate him on Wednesday, but Brooks said he’s not optimistic about his return until they see him go back-to-back days without any setbacks.

If both starting corners are unable to go, sophomore Randall Burden and freshman Martavius Neloms will get the majority of the snaps on the outside.

Brooks thought both of his corners did an admirable job in cover duty but said they have to finish the plays by turning their heads around and finding the ball.

“I’m encouraged by both of those guys, particularly Neloms as a true freshman, who has a short memory,” Brooks said. “I think he’s be going to be a really good player, but that’s a tough way to learn.”

 

Hartline tears ligaments, cartilage, but could return this season

Posted at 12:54 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Rich Brooks called the Mike Hartline news a “good news, bad news scenario.”

The good news: Hartline didn’t suffer any damage to his anterior cruciate ligament on his left knee and will not require any surgery. The bad news: He completely tore his medial collateral ligament, partially tore his posterior cruciate ligament, suffered some cartilage damage and could still very well be out for the entire season.

Quarterback Mike Hartline will be out a minimum of 3-4 weeks and quite possibly more.


Brooks said Hartline tore the MCL completely off the femur but said it would not require surgery. He’ll be out at a minimum of 3-4 weeks with the MCL injury, then Hartline’s availability will be contingent on how the cartilage heals. The PCL is expected to heal during that process, but there is a chance that the cartilage could hold him out the rest of the season.

Doctors will be unable to repair the cartilage tear while the MCL heals back with the femur because the trauma to the joint prevents the MCL from healing, Brooks said.

If Hartline can’t play with the cartilage tear after the MCL heals, doctors would remove the cartilage, adding another 2-3 weeks onto the recovery process and possibly ending Hartline’s junior season.

“It’s very much up in the air, but it’s great news that no major surgery (will be required) on the ACL,” Brooks said. “I think that’s a very, very good thing. The bottom line is that does not change our plan going forward into this week.”

That plan will involve true freshman Morgan Newton, junior Will Fidler and true freshman Ryan Mossakowski. Newton and Fidler will split the majority of snaps in practice this week, but a starter will not be named until later in the week.

Mossakowski, who some believed to be redshirting this season, will also get some reps in practice and will be placed into third-string emergency quarterback duty. Chances are he will still redshirt this season.

Brooks said they’ll expand the Wildcat package, but indicated that sophomore Randall Cobb will stay primarily at wide receiver.

“I think we’re a much better offensive football team moving forward trying to maintain the integrity of our offense with the Wildcat package getting a little different looks,” Brooks said. “Now we just have to have someone go in there and execute the offense at the normal quarterback position.”

Decision-making, playmaking and understanding how important hanging onto the football will be the biggest factors in determining a starter this week, Brooks said. Fidler has had more time in the system, but Newton possesses the uncanny ability to run and throw.

“Morgan has been getting a lot of reps and he should be a lot better prepared now than he was a month ago or six weeks ago,” Brooks said. “We just have to determine in practice, the best we can, who is the most prepared and then make a decision going forward, obviously, knowing that games are a lot different picture than what they see in practice. We’ll try to simulate it the best we can and see how their decision-making and execution plays out this week.”

No matter who the signal-caller is Saturday and for the near future, they’ll have a scaled-down playbook.

“We’ll have to cut back a little bit no matter if it’s Fidler or Newton on some of the pass reads and some of the offense,” Brooks said. “And then we’ll need to find out what they’re most comfortable with – what we would like to do and what they’re comfortable doing. It’s going to be a combination of those two things.”

That includes less audibles and checks at the line of scrimmage.

“That’s one of the areas that they are not as good as Mike Hartline was,” Brooks said. “Mike Hartline understood the offense, he understood defenses, he could get us in and out of plays, he understood protections, and when you make a mistake in protections, bad things can happen to you.”

Before Hartline was injured in the third quarter, he was playing arguably the best football of his career. The Canton, Ohio, native was 9-of-14 for 139 yards and a touchdown, and those numbers could have been better had the Cats not dropped several passes.

“Hartline didn’t make any bad decisions in the first 30 minutes,” Brooks said. “He threw accurately on almost every pass thrown. We had a couple of drops. He brought us back. … He responded in playing I think an outstanding football game on the road, which is not easy to do in this league.”

Without Hartline, the pressure will likely fall on the offensive linemen, a group Brooks called his unsung players. Although they’ve held up against nationally ranked opponents Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, Brooks said it will be much tougher to run the ball with a new quarterback under center.

Offensive lineman Christian Johnson called it the O-line’s biggest game of the year.

“Whoever it may be, he really hasn’t gotten a chance to play so we’re going to have to make sure he’s comfortable, let him get in his groove and start working on his job,” Johnson said.

Listen up: Patterson thinks Cats have championship potential

Posted at 12:30 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Junior forward Patrick Patterson returned to UK, in part, because he believes this team has the chance to do something special.


Patrick Patterson doesn’t step around a conversation when he’s asked something. He’ll look you in the eye and tell you exactly how he feels without sugarcoating it or embellishing it.

He’s straightforward, honest and confident.

That’s why when Patterson, a junior forward and anointed leader on the Kentucky basketball team, talks, people listen. They hang on to every word. They believe him.

Now he wants you to believe him when he tells you, the fans, that everything you’ve heard is true. The hype, the preseason rankings, the ridiculous dunks John Wall throws down in practice every day – they’re all true.

This team is special, and Patterson isn’t hesitant about saying it.


 

 

“I look at the coaching staff and what they’ve accomplished and I believe they can take us to the tournament and beyond – the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the championship,” Patterson said. “By looking at the players and what we have, from John Wall to Jon Hood to Eric Bledsoe and on down the list, just watching them day in and day out at practice and in the weight room, I just see their desire and their passion to win.

“The way that they play on the court, I can tell that we have a special team. If we can all just come together, can mesh well and get the offense down, we could be a team to be reckoned with on the court.”

Patterson said he doesn’t pay much attention to rankings, whether its preseason or during the year. One week you can be No. 1, he said, and the next you’re down to No. 5.

But, Patterson said there’s reason to put stock into those rankings this season. He’s had a firsthand account on the practice court this preseason of the potential UK has, and even the two-time All-Southeastern Conference forward has come away amazed.

Patterson has a laundry list full of goals for his team, his teammates and himself. Among them is winning a national title, becoming National Player of the Year and placing several Cats on the All-American team. Patterson believes they’re all attainable.

Why? Because he’s seen “flashes of excellence on the court.”

“I believe it can (be that type of season),” Patterson said. “On paper, we look that good. All we’ve got to do is transfer it over to the court. I believe that once we get it down in practice – and we will because we have a great coaching staff plus great players – I believe that we can have that type of season.”

It’s one of the main reasons the 6-foot-9 Huntington, W. Va., native decided to return for his junior season. Sure, he wanted to come back and get his degree in three years and hone his game, but the chance to play for head coach John Calipari and this team was too good of an opportunity for Patterson to pass up.

“It was tough (decision) during it, but in the end it was easy by looking at all the stuff I could gain by coming back this year,” said Patterson, who averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game a season ago.

When Patterson saw Bledsoe and Cousins commit, heard the rumors that Wall was coming, and saw how well Miller was doing for Team USA, he saw one of his lifelong goals to make the NCAA Tournament within reach.

Better yet, he saw a chance to win it.

“The opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament is just a magical thing,” Patterson said. “I’ve always wanted to play in there. My freshman year I couldn’t because my ankle and last year we didn’t get to because of the NIT. When I look at this year’s team, the possibility of going is definitely possible. It should happen. I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t. To go there is going to mean the world to me.”

Patterson took the onus upon himself this summer to make sure he improved his game to get there. He flew out to San Francisco with teammate Daniel Orton this summer to train with a legendary, yet mysterious basketball and workout guru, “Hell’s Trainer.”

John Calipari’s Dribble Drive Motion Offense calls for more ball handling, face-up jump shots and drives to the basket, three of Patterson’s self-described weaknesses. To improve upon those and get ready for Calipari’s offense, Patterson went west to transform his game and his body under the tutelage of Frank Matrisciano.

He scaled sand dunes, sprinted up the treacherous hills of San Francisco, lifted weights and climbed just about every stairwell in downtown San Francisco. Patterson returned to Lexington leaner and stronger than before, and he said his endurance, stamina and all-around game has never been better.

“When I look in the mirror, I could see my body has changed from last year,” said Patterson, who looks like he’s lost a fifth of his 6-foot-9 frame. “On the court, I’m just more confident overall.”

But Patterson’s assurance for this upcoming season doesn’t necessarily lie with the improvements he’s made in his game. His confidence stems from the pieces assembled around him.

The preseason Wooden Award candidate said he’s impressed with the roster from top to bottom. Whether it’s watching the Cats in transition, seeing Bledsoe and Wall fly by everybody for a layup, Darnell Dodson knocking down 3s, Darius Milller slashing to the hoop, or DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton just overpowering people inside, it’s by far and away UK’s most complete and talented roster since he joined the program two years ago.

“The (newcomers) are definitely as good as they’re hyped up to be,” Patterson said. “What everybody says about John and Eric is all true. They prove it every time they step out on the court. They put on their hard hats and they’re ready to go to work. They’re both tremendous basketball players.”

However, the difference with this team has been the close-knit relationships and bonds they’ve already formed. With six newcomers joining seven returners, it would have been easy for some of the players to clash with one another. But this team is as easy-going and relaxed with each other as it has been in years.

Despite being out in California for most of the summer, Patterson said he took it upon himself to make sure they came together from the start.

“We know that we’ve got to bond and come together, understand one another and get to know each other and become a family,” said Patterson, who called his teammates weekly from California. “This team is different, this team is new. We’ve got a bunch of newcomers so we knew we had to come together to develop that chemistry and relationship.”

Calipari has warned his players, the fans and the media from looking too far ahead because there will be times that the Cats struggle early on.

“My challenge is to keep these guys in the moment, not worrying about November and December,” Calipari said. “I must keep them in today because then there is no anxiety, there’s nothing crazy, there’s nothing overwhelming.  It’s all about building that mental toughness and that swagger and you do that by bunting about 100 straight bunts. It’s not hitting home runs. It’s bunts.”

But it’s hard for Patterson not to think home runs with everything he’s seen this preseason.

If nothing else, Patterson wants this team to put the fire back in the eyes of the program.

“(We want to) put that intimidation factor back onto the logo and our chest,” Patterson said. “When people see Kentucky, we want intimidation and to strike fear in (the opponent’s) eyes. To bring that back to the university would be a great accomplishment.”

 

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