Guest post: Numbers favor Kentucky by 1 point tonight

Vicky Graff Photo

Vicky Graff Photo

By RICHARD CHEEKS

Certainly, the Cats’ loss at Vanderbilt was costly to their hopes of another solitary finish at the top of the SEC, but the Cats remain in control of their own destiny with respect to earning a share of the championship. They must win their final two games, at Florida on Tuesday, and then for Senior Day at Rupp next Saturday afternoon. The Cats can still claim sole possession of this title, but to do so, the Cats must not lose AND Texas A&M must fall to Vanderbilt next Saturday in College Station.

Florida coach on UK frontcourt: “Long, athletic, versatile.”

Skal Labissiere (Vicky Graff Photo)

Skal Labissiere (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky fans might be stunned to hear Florida coach Mike White, who has done a terrific job this year, describe Kentucky’s frontcourt.

I asked him Monday on the SEC coaches teleconference what he thought of the frontcourt at Kentucky. Here is what he said:

“Long, athletic, versatile I guess in terms of how different they are. They complement each other well of course. (Derek) Willis is just so different from (Alex) Poythress, who is just so different from Skal (Labissiere), who is so different from (Isaac) Humphries. They’re just very good,” White said.

Calipari: “We gotta build a couple more guys out of this”

Alex Poythress (Larry Vaught/Verizon Photo)

Alex Poythress (Larry Vaught/Verizon Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

No one has to tell John Calipari that Kentucky will face a loud, sold out arena at Florida tonight. But the UK coach said Monday he’s not worried about that.

“I’m, again, just trying to focus on my team. I know how good they are. I know how good they are in that building. It’s just I’m focused on my team. Let’s just try to get better. Let’s get this thing – we gotta build a couple more guys out of this,” Calipari said.

Tyler Ulis insists legs are “good” despite off-shooting game

John Calipari says Derek Willis, left, won't play at Florida tonight. Without him, Tyler Ulis says UK has a hard time spreading the defense. (Vicky Graff Photo)

John Calipari says Derek Willis, left, won’t play at Florida tonight. Without him, Tyler Ulis says UK has a hard time spreading the defense. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Tyler Ulis saw nothing coming to make him anticipate he would miss 15 of 20 shots at Vanderbilt like he did Saturday.

“It happened and I just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Stay in the gym and keep playing,” he said Monday.

He’s played 34 or more minutes in nine straight games, including all 45 minutes in overtime losses at Kansas and Texas A&M. Even coach John Calipari has worried if he might be wearing down.

Get ready for another John Calipari TWEAK

John Calipari is tweaking his team again. (Vicky Graff Photo)

John Calipari is tweaking his team again. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Here comes another John Calipari tweak.

The  University of Kentucky coach said Monday he was putting in a tweak just as he did late in the season two years ago when No. 8 seed UK reached the national title game.

Calipari and the Cats will unveil the tweak Tuesday night at Florida.

“It’s not a wholesale change from what we do, but you Basketball Bennies will have an idea of what I did. Most of you in this (meida) room have no idea what I tweaked, but the people who really follow it and study it will say, ‘Wel,l this is what he just did,'” Calipari said Monday.

Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis finalists for prestigious national awards

Tyler Ulis (Vicky Graff Photo)

Tyler Ulis (Vicky Graff Photo)

ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – The U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced today finalists for the USBWA’s Oscar Robertson Trophy as the men’s national player of the year and the USBWA’s Integris Wayman Tisdale Award for the men’s national freshman of the year.

The finalists’ lists include 11 players for the men’s player of the year and five players for the men’s freshman of the year. Three players from the Atlantic Coast Conference headline the Oscar Robertson Trophy list, including Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, a finalist from a season ago. Iowa State’s Georges Niang, one of two Big 12 players tabbed, is also a repeat finalist. Kentucky and Duke have finalists on both lists.

Calipari to bigs: “You gotta assert yourself;” Willis starting to run

By LARRY VAUGHT

On the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference today I asked Kentucky coach John Calipari if he had any different feelings about his team’s loss at Vanderbilt after reviewing the game tape from Saturday. Here’s his answer:

“We’ve got some guys that we have to help them build confidence. Some of it’s just teaching them how to assert themselves. I talked to the team, if a guard is thinking about Kentucky and he goes to John Wall and says, ‘John, I’m thinking about Kentucky.’ John Wall will say, ‘Can you get your own shot? Because he’s not running a whole lot of plays for anybody. He runs actions and you gotta be able to insert yourself and make plays,'” Calipari said.

Jamal Murray SEC Freshman of the Week

-2BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – February will forever be a month to remember for freshman Jamal Murray. The sharpshooter averaged 26.4 points per game in eight games during the month and capped it with a 33-point performance at Vanderbilt en route to claiming Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors on Monday. It is the fourth such honor of the season for the Kitchener, Ontario native.

Head coach John Calipari has enjoyed a number of prolific players and scorers in his coaching tenure – although, Murray is putting up numbers unlike any other player under Calipari in a long, long time.

Evelyn Akhator SEC Player of the Week

Vicky Graff Photo

Vicky Graff Photo

LEXINGT­­­ON, Ky. – University of Kentucky junior forward Evelyn Akhator has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week by the league office and CollegeSportsMadness.com after helping the Wildcats defeat two ranked teams last week, it was announced Monday.

Akhator was brilliant for Kentucky, averaging 15.0 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in UK’s wins over No. 24 Missouri and No. 11 Texas A&M. Against the Tigers, Akhator scored 15 points with nine rebounds, including hitting a season-best .750 (6-of-8) from the field with one block. She followed that performance with her 10th double-double of the season at Texas A&M with 15 points and 18 rebounds, adding three assists and two steals. The junior’s 18 rebounds set a new season high, while her 10 offensive rebounds were also a season best.

Calipari wants Matthews back to being “energy guy”

Charles Matthews (Vicky Graff Photo)

Charles Matthews (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

The day before Kentucky lost at Vanderbilt, UK coach John Calipari was optimistic that freshman Charles Matthews might provide a needed boost for the Wildcats.

“He’s getting back to being the energy guy. He got away from that, like started judging his energy based on shooting and scoring,” Calipari said Friday. “Well, you’re not going to have a whole lot of energy then.