Ben Howland looks right about Tennessee, but “really talented” UK also impresses him

Nick Richards (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Remember during the preseason that it was Mississippi State coach Ben Howland who said he thought Tennessee, not Kentucky, should be favored to win the SEC championship — a statement that UK fans didn’t like one bit.

However, guess who is No. 1 in the COUNTRY this week? Yes, it is 16-1 Tennessee. The Vols are unbeaten in SEC play and obviously lead the league.

But that doesn’t mean Howland is not impressed with Kentucky, which jumped to No. 8 in the rankings after its win at Auburn, going into Tuesday night’s game in Rupp Arena.

Tyler Herro has become a “big-time athlete

Tyler Herro (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Tyler Herro’s legacy just gets better and  better.

He had 20 points at Auburn in Saturday’s 82-80 win, including the go-ahead free throw, and impressed Auburn coach Bruce Pearl  a lot.

“He’s really good. Tyler Herro was an elite high school player; could have gone anywhere in the country. He’s a big-time athlete. I mean, he’s a big kid. So, no, I mean — I think Keldon and Tyler’s ability at guard, at 6-6, 6-7, whatever they are, was a factor.

Tyler Herro SEC Freshman of Week

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It was a different Wildcat this time around but the same team winning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week. With Kentucky guard Tyler Herro earning Monday’s weekly conference award, UK has now won SEC Freshman of the Week honors in five of the last six weeks.

Herro earned this week’s award after averaging a team-best 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in road wins at Georgia and at No. 14/12 Auburn, UK’s first road victory at an Associated Press top-15 team in the SEC since March 1, 2006.

Another impressive weekend for Kentucky track and field

CLEMSON, S.C. and NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Kentucky track and field teams got plenty more quality performances this past weekend at two meets – the Clemson Invitational and Vanderbilt Invitational.

Daniel Roberts, who was named Southeastern Conference Men’s Runner of the Week last Tuesday, lowered his 60m dash and hurdles personal bests for the second weekend in a row.

Roberts broke Nick Anderson’s school record in the 60m hurdles with a third-place 7.68 at the Clemson Invitational, dropping his PB by .03.

Whatever Hagans said to Johnson, it worked

Keldon Johnson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

After not scoring in Kentucky’s win at Georgia, Keldon Johnson failed to score in the first seven minutes at Auburn Saturday.

Teammates insisted they didn’t doubt his ability going into the game, but fellow freshman Ashton Hagans had to get into Johnson early in the game when he wasn’t looking for a pass from Hagans and it resulted in a UK turnover. Kentucky coach John Calipari took Johnson out after the play and the few choice words from Hagans.

UK cheerleaders win 24th national title

Kentucky cheerleaders won a fourth straight national title Sunday. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky cheerleaders won their 24th national championship at the Universal Cheerleaders Association finals competition Sunday night in Orlando, Fla.

Competing among the Division IA Coed squads, this year’s win was the fourth in a row for Kentucky cheer under Coach Jomo Thompson. Although Kentucky has won 24 championships in the last 35 years, it is only the second time that UK has strung together a quadruple triumph. The Wildcats won a school-record eight straight from 1995-2002.

UK-Auburn Photo Gallery by Vicky Graff

Ashton Hagans gave UK the leader it needed against Auburn’s defensive pressure

Ashton Hagans (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Freshman point guard Ashton Hagans had three turnovers for Kentucky against Auburn Saturday. However, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl gave Hagans a large share of credit for UK’s 82-80  victory because of the way he ran the UK offense against a defense used to forcing more turnovers.

“They took care of the ball. They only turned it over 13 times, and I thought that was a factor. Ashton Hagan is a terrific point guard. He’s doing what he does for teams. He runs teams,” Pearl said.

Benny Snell on “another level of happiness”

Kentucky running back Benny Snell with fans at the KSBar & Grill. (Matt Walter Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Junior running back Benny Snell might not be as highly regarded in NFL mock drafts as teammate Josh Allen — the consensus national defensive player of the year — but Snell became the face of the UK football program with his outgoing personality and ability to close out games like he did for the Cats in the Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State.

Brucel Pearl on Kentucky: “They’re better than last year’s team.”

Bruce Pearl said his team couldn’t stop Keldon Johnson, right, and Tyler Herro. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl admitted he was “disappointed” with his team’s 82-80 home loss to Kentucky Saturday, especially with the “great environment” at Auburn Arena for the Southeastern Conference showdown between top 15 teams.

Kentucky built a 17-point lead early in the second half before Auburn came charging back to take the lead with less than a minute to play.

“It had a lot with us staying engaged. I thought the kids didn’t panic. We got down in the second half and took it one possession at a time,” Pearl said.