Calipari says “team believes” in Derek Willis

By LARRY VAUGHT

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

For the last few weeks, Kentucky’s most dependable rebounder has become junior Derek Willis. He’s also become a consistent third scorer behind Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray

“I’m really proud of him. He’s rebounding the ball. He’s getting better defensively. Still not there. But this team believes in him and he believes in himself more,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after Tuesday’s win over Georgia.

Kentucky likely will need the best Willis has Saturday when it plays at South Carolina. A win could move UK to the top of the SEC.

Guest post: UK’s stock on rise in a perplexing season

By RICHARD CHEEKS

UK defensePrior to this season, most forecasts prefaced their remarks noting that there are no dominant teams in 2015-16.  Of all the statements that have been or could have been made about this season, this one has proven more accurate than most.

What does love mean? Let first-grade students explain

By LARRY VAUGHT

My granddaughter, Savana Hudson, knew hugs meant love to her. (Larry Vaught/Verizon Photo)

My granddaughter, Savana Hudson, knew hugs meant love to her. (Larry Vaught/Verizon Photo)

As I noted earlier when I left the newspaper and ventured out on my own, my blog sometimes would be about more than just UK sports.

This is one of those times — and I hope you appreciate why.

Kim Cloyd is a first-grade teacher at Stoner Creek Elementary in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. She recently asked her students as part of a writing project what they thought love meant.

Alex Poythress named to Academic All-District Team

-1LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky senior men’s basketball player Alex Poythress has been named to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District Team and is eligible to earn Academic All-America honors.

The CoSIDA Academic All-District teams recognize the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom. First Team Academic All-District honorees advance to the CoSIDA Academic All-America ballot where First, Second, and Third-team All-America honorees will be selected later this month.

Jamal Murray says Cats have been “trusting each other more on defense”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Jamal Murray goes after a loose ball against Georgia. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Jamal Murray goes after a loose ball against Georgia. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Jamal Murray has scored 59 points in the last two games, one major reason Kentucky had no trouble easily beating Florida and Georgia.

“With guys shooting like we’ve been shooting and everybody’s rebounding like they’ve been rebounding, I think we’ll be fine,” Murray said after the Georgia win Tuesday. “Everybody’s getting better individually every day, so we’re just trying to keep getting better every day.”

That was certainly needed after Kentucky blew a 21-point lead and lost at Tennessee last week.

Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray on Naismith Trophy Midseason List

Jamal Murray (Vicky Graff Photo)

Jamal Murray (Vicky Graff Photo)

ATLANTA – Making up arguably the nation’s best backcourt in the country, Kentucky guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have been named to the Naismith Trophy Midseason List by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Kentucky is one of just six players with two players on the midseason list.

Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, founder of the game of basketball, the Naismith Trophy is awarded annually to the women’s and men’s college basketball players of the year. First awarded in 1969 to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Naismith Trophy was sculpted by Marty C. Dawe of Atlanta and has become one of the most prestigious national honors awarded each year to the top women’s and men’s college basketball players in the nation.

Labissiere knows he can still “do better” on the boards

By LARRY VAUGHT

Skal Labissiere screamed after a dunk Tuesday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Skal Labissiere screamed after a dunk Tuesday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Before the season started, a seven-rebound game would not have seemed that significant for 7-foot freshman Skal Labissiere.

However, the freshman has struggled to hold his own inside and he credited getting seven rebounds in Tuesday’s win over Georgia to the fact he just kept fighting.

“I know I can do better. That’s something I’m still working on,” he said.

Kentucky coaches have put him through an abundance of individual workouts to help him.

Willis knows importance of defense to UK’s success

By LARRY VAUGHT

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

For a player known for his scoring and shooting, Derek Willis certainly understands the importance of defense if Kentucky wants to finish the season playing well.

“It was weird because we were playing so good defensively (earlier in the season) and maybe we started working on offense and doing a couple other things, different actions and just kinda got away from defense,” Willis said after Tuesday’s win over Georgia.

“We were playing alright offensively, and now we’re back into it again, doing defensive work I would say every bit of 45 (minutes) to an hour a day now. I mean, it’s just helped us. Tonight shows.”

Boogie Man’s fall got variety of responses from UK fans

By LARRY VAUGHT

Darren Moscoe with Anna Palumbo at the UK-Florida game. (Jennifer Palumbo Photo)

Darren Moscoe has been a fan favorite in Rupp Arena. (Jennifer Palumbo Photo)

Kentucky’s rout of Florida Tuesday night almost became secondary story in Rupp Arena when the “Boogie Man” picked up a young UK female fan during his dancing routine and both took a tumble down the steps and hit the concrete in a pile.

Darren Moscoe of Frankfort always seems to show up at the second half timeout when UK plays the Tommy James hit, Mony Mony, and has his own special dance routine down the steps in the lower arena that most fans have come to enjoy.

Tyler Ulis one of 20 finalists for John Wooden Award

Vicky Graff Photo

Vicky Graff Photo

LOS ANGELES – Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is one of 20 players on the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list, announced Wednesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award is presented annually to the top player in college basketball.

The players on the list are considered strong candidates for Wooden Award, though a player does not have to be on the preseason, midseason or late season list to win the award. Fifteen top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA will be submitted to the voters on the ballot prior to the NCAA Tournament.