SEC Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 9th, 2012

  1. After witnessing his team getting dismantled in Lexington by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida coach Billy Donovan had high praise for coach John Calipari’s squad. “The one thing I like about their team is I love their disposition on the floor,” he said. “There’s a certain disposition you have to have and I’m not talking about an arrogance or a cockiness, but there’s like a focus level in terms of what really goes into winning at that level. There’s a mentality there.” Donovan is a good source on this year’s championship. Not only did he lead the Gators to two straight national championships in 2006 and 2007, but Florida has played the top three teams in the country, all on the road. He even offered up a nice prediction for basketball fans in April. Billy the Kid says he would love to see Kentucky and Syracuse play in the title game. “It would be a heck of a game,” Donovan said. And after last year’s anti-climatic performance, it’s a game that would be great for the sport of college basketball as well.
  2. Anybody who watched Kentucky’s rout of the seventh-ranked Gators on Tuesday can attest that this could be a championship year for the Cats. Despite being loaded with talent throughout his college coaching career, including making a Final Four run last year, this is John Calipari’s best team. The different between this team, and say, Calipari’s 2009-10 club that had five first round NBA draft picks, is that Kentucky has players experienced in Cal’s system. Calipari is well-known for his utilization of freshmen players who bolt for the NBA after one season. He has a couple of likely 1-and-dones in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who happen to be two of the best players in the nation, but he adds a level of comfort and experience that his previous teams have not typically possessed. Three returning players (Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones) give Calipari a complete team that knows his expectations and appears to be coming together at just the right time.
  3. Another key to the Wildcats’ latest successes has been the development of freshman point guard Marquis Teague. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated charts how Teague’s shot and turnover percentages have declined over the course of the season. Against Florida on Tuesday, Teague finished with 12 points, 10 assists and five turnovers. His recent success, and thus the improvement of Kentucky’s offense, is attributed to him finding a comfortable role as a supporting player. “We enjoy winning, so if I’ve got to take less shots for us to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. And as long as he continues to find open teammates and improve his shot selection, Kentucky won’t just continue winning, but will continue winning big.
  4. Just when it appeared that Vanderbilt was hitting its stride after some early season struggles, the Commodores have lost three of their last four SEC games. And with a tough stretch ahead, including a College Gameday matchup with Kentucky on Saturday, there is at least some question as to whether or not the ‘Dores are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.“We’re not playing great right now, but I definitely think we’re a tournament team,” forward Jeffery Taylor said. Coach Kevin Stallings agreed. “If we stay healthy enough and we do what we’re supposed to do in our preparation, then we’ll be in the tournament,” he said. For the record, I think Vandy will make the Tournament, and I even think they will finally make it out of the first round. However, the fact that we are even having this conversation indicates just how far the Commodores have fallen from lofty preseason expectations that had them competing for an SEC title and contending for a Final Four in March.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t necessarily need forward Jeronne Maymon to score points. Martin is looking for an increased toughness from his leader, and the numbers will follow. “I don’t think it’s so much being asked to score,” Maymon said. “I just think it’s about going out there and trying to lead, in a way. Play tough defense, talk and be vocal — that’s all Coach [Cuonzo] Martin really stresses. He really doesn’t stress point totals.” Maymon’s 19 rebounds against Auburn signify exactly the sort of toughness that his coach is looking for. “Coach Martin loves tough guys and guys that go out there and play their heart out,” he said. “That’s mainly what I’m about.”
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Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
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A Quick, Fake Summary: There Ain’t No Easy Way Out of Rupp Arena

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 3rd, 2011

Seven or more potential NBA Lottery picks! The new #1 team in the nation versus the old #1 team! Jim Nantz put on his extra-stretchy pants! Almost everybody in college basketball was excited for this afternoon’s tilt between Kentucky and North Carolina. Would the teams bring the kind of effort and execution that the nation would expect from them?

Absolutely!

North Carolina took a 43-38 lead at halftime thanks to incredible 3-point shooting (6-8) and great execution from junior forward John Henson, who had six points, three rebounds, and three blocks in the 1st half. Kentucky missed tons of lightly-contested jumpers and shot only 14-38 FG (36.8%) and a dismal 2-9 3FG (22.2%). Terrence Jones (5-11 FG, 3-3 FT for 14 points in first half) and Mike Kidd-Gilchrist (eight points, seven rebounds in first half) kept the Wildcats close.

Surprisingly it was John Calipari’s young squad that stepped up to the challenge by controlling the game. Kentucky forced North Carolina to play a slower-tempo game and started double-teaming senior forward Tyler Zeller (14 points, eight rebounds, and four turnovers for the game). North Carolina got blocked six times in the second half and was limited to just 10-29 FG (34.5%) and six free-throw attempts on just five Kentucky fouls.

Neither team would back down: It took a block by Anthony Davis (seven points, nine rebounds, and two blocks) on Henson (ten points, eight rebounds, and three blocks) to prevent North Carolina from going ahead in the final seconds. The future NBA Stars all contributed to the epic game: UNC’s Harrison Barnes scored 14 points with four 3-pointers in just 24 foul-limited minutes. Kendall Marshall had eight assists and three turnovers with eight points. UK’s Jones (14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and two steals), Marquis Teague (seven points on 3-11 FG, four assists, and one turnover) and Doron Lamb (14 points on just two 3-pointers) all shined on both offensive and defensive ends. Even Rupp Arena attendees seemingly forced a turnover when Dexter Strickland fumbled away an inbound pass during a deafening “Go Big Blue” chant.

Kentucky wins 73-72, but neither team would back down. That made for an awesome experience that will be talked about in the annals of college basketball history.

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The MOST ANTICIPATED North Carolina at Kentucky Preview!

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 3rd, 2011

The game that nearly every college basketball fan has circled on their calendars is finally here: #4 North Carolina visiting #1 Kentucky. The hype for the game started with Kentucky’s defeat of UNC in the 2011 Elite Eight. Then anticipation turned into a frenzy when upperclassmen — sophomore Harrison Barnes, senior Tyler Zeller, and junior John Henson for the Tar Heels, sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones for the Wildcats — passed on the 2011 NBA Draft. Instead the NBA will be coming to them (if they can get the media credentials) Saturday at Noon EST. Plebeians like the rest of us can watch the national broadcast on CBS.

Series History (by Gerald Smith): These two programs are the foundation of college basketball, yet on Saturday they play each other for just the 35th time in history. The Tar Heels own the overall series 22-12 and have padded their lead with a 6-2 record since 2004. Back in the 1920s, North Carolina and Kentucky were actually conference-mates in the Southern Conference. The two teams played each other twice in the conference tournament held in Atlanta and once in Lexington, with the Tar Heels coming away victorious each time. Kentucky left to join the Southeastern Conference while North Carolina eventually split off with other Southern Conference teams to form the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Adolph Rupp Helped Turn This Into A Regular Series in the 1960s

Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp and first-year UNC coach Dean Smith organized a ten-game home-and-home series starting in 1962. According to BigBlueHistory.net’s highly-detailed write-up of the UNC-UK rivalry, the first game of the series saw the debut of Smith’s “the Kentucky play”: a prototype version of Smith’s (in)famous Four Corners offense. North Carolina point guard Larry Brown — yeah, that Larry Brown — would move the ball to the middle and all other Carolina players would space out to the four corners of the floor. By controlling the ball and limiting Wildcat great Cotton Nash to 12 points, North Carolina upset the Wildcats, 88-86. During the 11 games that encompassed this first regular-season series, UNC won eight of them.

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Five and Five: Kentucky’s Strengths and Weaknesses Against North Carolina

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

Kentucky is the best team in the land, but no team is without faults. In preparation for Saturday’s showdown with North Carolina, we will highlight Kentucky’s five biggest strengths and five biggest weaknesses of this early season. (Ed. Note: The UNC analysis is here)

Weaknesses

  • Ball Control/Turnovers — The Cats turned the ball over 21 times against Old Dominion with point guard Marquis Teague racking up six by himself. The Kentucky offense has to learn to play under control. The Monarchs showed the Cats a packed-in zone disrupting Kentucky’s desire to take its man off the dribble resulting in more missed shots and more turnovers than the Cats were accustomed to. If Teague can continue to grow and develop into the leader this offense needs, Kentucky’s half court sets will continue to improve exponentially.
  • Defensive Rebounding/Frontcourt Strength — Kentucky has a 73.1% defensive rebounding percentage, which is not great. This can mostly be attributed to games where the thin frontcourt was pushed around a little bit. Anthony Davis isn’t going to out-muscle any of his opponents. But he is quick and can beat other big men to the ball. Davis has used his athleticism and wingspan to block shots and grab rebounds, but he will have to learn to body up with big men who will attempt to push him out of position. North Carolina’s John Henson has a similar body type to Davis, so this may not be as evident on Saturday.
  • Free throw shooting — The Cats are shooting 68.2% on the year from the foul line. They hit a low-point against Kansas going 16 of 29 for 55.2%. Kentucky is aggressive on offense, and ends up going to the free throw line often. They will need to begin converting at the line to avoid this being an issue in the future. Davis leads the team with 36 free throw attempts, but is only making 53%.
  • Depth — Kentucky has at least six future NBA pros on the roster. However, John Calipari is only going about seven deep right now. Freshman Kyle Wiltjer and senior Eloy Vargas don’t have much consistency to their minutes. Wiltjer is averaging just over 15 minutes per game, but only saw three minutes of action against Kansas. And Vargas is averaging just over eight minutes per game. Outside of early season blowouts, Calipari has not stretched his rotation past eight players. It hasn’t been an issue thus far for the Cats, but Kentucky has avoided foul trouble for the most part.
  • Three-point Shooting — The Cats are a much better three-point shooting team than they were in 2009-10 when they couldn’t shoot West Virginia out of a 1-3-1 zone in the Elite Eight, but the Cats could still get better at knocking down open shots from beyond the arc. On the year, Kentucky has been a solid 39.6%. However, the Cats were disrupted into shooting 4 of 13 against Old Dominion for 30.8% in that game. Kentucky is sure to see more zones like the one that Old Dominion employed this year, and the one that the Mountaineers used on their way to the Final Four in 2010, so three-point accuracy will continue to be important. In addition to Doron Lamb, who has been hitting 48.3% of his three-point attempts this, Kentucky also has two great shooters in Wiltjer and senior Darius Miller, both of whom have struggled thus far. Look for both to find their stroke as the season goes on and their confidence grows, and perhaps they could move this area into the strength column.

Kentucky needs Darius Miller's three point accuracy from last year to re-emerge

Kentucky’s strengths are what have put them as the number one team in the country right now.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.02.11 – 12.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we move into December, the first big Saturday of the year (highlighted by the battle in Lexington) is now upon us. Not to mention we get a nice preview of things to come on Friday evening.

#6 Florida @ #3 Syracuse – 7 PM EST Friday on ESPN (*****)

  • Syracuse has three distinct advantages in this game despite playing a top ten opponent. One is home court, two is height, and three is depth. The Orange have taller players at every position, one through five, and Jim Boeheim can go a legitimate ten deep into his bench. Against a Florida team that will be without forward Erik Murphy, Syracuse may be able to overwhelm the guard-heavy Gators. The key for the Orange will be defense. The 2-3 zone creates a fantastic match-up given Florida’s preferred style of offense, shooting lots of threes. If the Orange can be active and extend the perimeter of the zone, Florida will have a tough time.
  • The key for Florida is simple: make threes. To do that however, the Gators must establish Patric Young early and often. Playing without Murphy, Young is Florida’s only reliable post player. If he can’t get going, Syracuse won’t have to worry about extending the zone and leaving holes in the middle. If Young gets off to a fast start, the Orange will have to respect his presence by packing its defense in a bit more inside the arc. That will give Florida’s dynamic guards the opportunity to make shots. With Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario both shooting almost 50% from deep and two other Gators lurking as potential snipers, Syracuse doesn’t want to be forced to do that.

Can UF Establish Patric Young Inside To Give Its Shooters Room?

  • It’s always fun when a team that relies heavily on guards and the three point shot gets together with a team that plays almost exclusively zone. The Syracuse defense will tempt Florida to shoot the deep ball all night but Florida must work for open shots by establishing Young and some sort of an inside-out game. Keeping the zone off balance and moving the ball effectively are always keys to finding open shots. Defensively, Florida has to do better. Syracuse is much more efficient on that end of the floor while the Gators rank a pedestrian 52nd in the nation. Although three point shooting is the big key in this game, Florida’s defense could cost them in a tight game.
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A Quick, Fake Summary: St. John’s Cannot Hide or Ever, Ever Escape

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 1st, 2011

Most folks wouldn’t be surprised if St. John’s lost tonight; any young team without their head coach in attendance would be rightful underdogs visiting a #1 team on their home court. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Kentucky finished the game with lot of blocks. They’ve been swatting them at an excellent pace for most of this early season. But the combination of Red Storm youth and Kentucky defensive length and intensity created the perfect environment for freshman forward Anthony Davis to wreak havoc.

Davis accumulated eight blocks through the second half of Kentucky’s 81-59 victory tonight. Kentucky fans in Rupp Arena were openly cheering for Davis to tie or break Kentucky’s single-game block record (nine, shared by Andre Riddick and Sam Bowie). When referee Jim Burr called a questionable body foul on Davis denying the ninth block, it was like a pitcher on a no-hitter in the 8th inning giving up a bloop single. Davis subbed out with 4:44 left in the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds and having outshined his teammates on the national stage.

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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: St. John’s @ Kentucky

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 1st, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Gerald Smith and Patrick Prendergast are going one-on-one to break down St. John’s trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky.

Gerald Smith: They’re young now, they’re wild now and they want to be free; Kentucky and St. John’s have got the magic power of freshmen in them! The Johnnies gathered the third-best recruiting class in the nation which included Maurice Harkless, D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer. The Wildcats managed yet another number one recruiting class of Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer (7.8 PPG while averaging 16 minutes per game) has been the slowest to adjust to the speed and complexity of coach John Calipari’s system. The other freshmen have been crucial from the beginning: Kidd-Gilchrist (12.5 PPG while averaging 30 minutes per game), Teague (11.7 PPG while averaging 30 minutes per game) and Davis (12.7 PPG while averaging 25.7 minutes per game) have powered the Kentucky machine to triumphs over Top 25 Kansas and an experienced and well-defending Old Dominion squad.

Its Fresmanpalooza in Lexington (credit: BB Times)

These Wildcats freshmen starters aren’t without their faults. Davis is still learning how to play as a collegiate-level forward who should be more effective in the post. Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump-shooting will be a thorn in his side most of the season. Teague is experiencing the normal growing pains of Calipari point guards: Forcing too many plays which lead to turnovers or bad offensive sets.

Which St. John’s freshmen have been the fueling their team so far this season?

Patrick Prendergast: First off, it is a shame that St. John’s coach Steve Lavin will not be on the sideline for the game as he continues in his recovery from prostate cancer surgery. His presence would have added to the allure of this one. If St. John’s, a team that has not played well of late, can hang in there with the more talented Kentucky team as they did with Arizona and Texas A&M, this has the potential to be an extremely entertaining game as it is difficult to see the Storm go out of character and try to slow the game down to offset Kentucky’s need for speed.

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Breaking Down the Play: Kentucky’s Post Game

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 29th, 2011

Breaking Down the Play is a regular feature during the season to provide in-depth analysis on the Xs and Os of an SEC team. Today’s Breaking Down the Play goes in depth on Kentucky’s ability to feed the post for a variety of options.

Kentucky’s ability to feed the post provides the Wildcats with a variety of options out of the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. The Cats were not establishing a post presence in their first several games of the year, but in the last two games they have made the inside out game a bigger part of their offensive strategy. In fact, Kentucky has run a designed play to give Terrence Jones the ball in the low post on the first play of the game in both of their last two contests. Kentucky has been extremely effective when making a pass to the post because of at least three different offensive options that open up for the Wildcats.

Below are the three plays from the game against Portland that showcase Kentucky’s options out of the post in the Dribble Drive offense:

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Can Kentucky Become A Team? Does It Need To?

Posted by nvr1983 on November 23rd, 2011

The old adage is that for many great teams the whole is greater than the sum of their parts, but for this year’s Kentucky team the opposite may be true. While John Calipari and the rest of Big Blue Nation hopes that this changes by the end of the season, the team’s performance early on indicates that this may not be the case. If the Wildcats continue to excel as individuals playing well in moments, but doing so inconsistently, the question is whether these Kentucky Wildcats are loaded enough to win a title by relying on their extraordinarily talented parts as opposed to becoming an efficiently functioning team. We have seen plenty of instances where supremely talented teams fail to live up to their potential because they rely on spectacular individual performances rather than cohesive play as a unit. However, few college basketball teams have boasted this amount of talent (all five Kentucky starters could be selected in next year’s NBA Lottery), particularly in an era where much of the top-level talent spends so little time in college.

Are The Wildcats A Group Of Individuals Or A Team?

The suggestion that the Wildcats function more as a talented group of individuals rather than a team should not be taken as a condemnation of Kentucky’s basketball team or John Calipari’s coaching methods even if some within the Big Blue Nation will take it as such. It is more a reflection of the extraordinary talent on this team and the lack of experience (outside of two seniors, the rotation is essentially two sophomores and four freshmen). You can make a compelling argument that the Wildcats still have ample time this season to come together as a team, but an equally compelling argument can be made that the skill sets of the players in their rotation tend to overlap so much that it is unrealistic for Calipari to put a rotation of his five best players on the floor and not have at least one of the players be somewhat redundant. As a result, it is unlikely that Kentucky will use all five players on the court at their optimal level, particularly on offense.

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A Quick, Fake Summary: Kansas Couldn’t Beat Pitfall and Got Tired of Tryin’…

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 16th, 2011

Kentucky‘s freshmen entered Madison Square Garden and thought they were playing a different game. Maybe they pretended they were wearing McDonald’s All-America jerseys as each player tried to make plays one-on-one. Kentucky’s offense broke against a physical Kansas defense over and over. Freshman guard Marquis Teague had six turnovers and looked like he was button-mashing in NBA Live. Thanks to a superhuman effort by Terrence Jones and a Wildcat-wide defensive effort, Kentucky remained tied 28-all at halftime.

Coach John Calipari reminded his team at halftime they should be playing a different game. (No official word from the locker room if Calipari blew on the cartridge and held the reset button while powering on.) Kentucky entered the second half playing more team-oriented basketball and applied pressure to collect a 11-2 run. Later the Wildcats blew open the game when Doron Lamb (17 points on 3-5 3FG) and Darius Miller (five points, four assists in 20 minutes off the bench) exploited Kansas’ packed-in defense with a three-point barrage. Recovered as if expending an energy tank, Teague calmed himself and allowed no further turnovers. Freshman Anthony Davis (14 points, seven rebounds, six blocks) showcased his incredible talents and proved he could contribute offensively and defensively against stronger and thicker competition.

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Big 12 vs. SEC: Previewing the Kentucky vs. Kansas Game

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 15th, 2011

The Champions Classic pits two of the most storied programs in college basketball in one of the most anticipated matchups of the early season. This clash features #2 ranked Kentucky Wildcats taking on the #11 Kansas Jayhawks in historic Madison Square Garden. The environment is sure to be electric as two of the nation’s marquee teams come together with a lineup of extremely talented players. The game will feature star power forwards as Kentucky’s Terrence Jones takes on the Jayhawk’s Thomas Robinson. The best of the Big 12 will meet the king of the SEC. It’s Kentucky vs. Kansas. And we have everything you need to know to prepare for the their inaugural Champions Classic game.

History of the Rivalry

This section was written by Gerald Smith. Gerald is an SEC microsite writer and the SEC Correspondent for Rush the Court.

Despite the thousands of games both teams have played over a century of competition, the Wildcats and Jayhawks have faced each other only 25 previous times. Kentucky leads the overall series 19-6, but Kansas has won the last three games and five of the last eight dating back to 1985. From 1969 until 1990, the teams faced each other yearly in December. After Kansas’ 150-95 drubbing of Kentucky’s probation-limited team — which prompted a public tirade from Kentucky head coach Rick Pitino –  the schools elected not to renew the series. The schools agreed to a home-and-home series for 2005 and 2006; Bill Self’s Jayhawks won both games against Tubby Smith’s Wildcats and the regular-season series lapsed yet again.

KU Ripped UK in the 2007 NCAA Tournament

Great games dot the all-time series. In December 1973, Roger Morningstar (father of just-graduated Jayhawk, Brady) scored 20 points to give KU its first victory over UK. On New Year’s Eve in 1984, Kentucky forward Kenny Walker dominated with 37 points and 19 rebounds as Kansas lost 92-89. KU legend Danny Manning had 30 points in the losing effort. Kentucky and Kansas played twice during the 1998-99 season: A Kentucky victory in the Great Eight and another matchup in the NCAA Midwest Regional Second Round. Wildcats forward Scott Padgett drained a three-pointer to force overtime and led his team to a 92-88 victory. Jayhawk Ryan Robertson scored 31 points in a valiant effort to extend Kansas’ season.

Tuesday’s matchup at Madison Square Garden is the 23rd time that one or both of the teams were in the Top 25 when playing each other. Kansas is 12-6 overall in MSG; Kentucky is 10-3. KU coach Bill Self is 3-1 all-time against the Wildcats and 1-0 versus UK coach John Calipari — in the 2008 National Championship game that happened for Kansas but didn’t actually happen for Calipari’s Memphis Tigers. Calipari is 0-3 all-time against the Jayhawks. The two coaches were nearly on the same coaching staff: Calipari was an assistant coach at Kansas from 1982-85, then Self joined coach Larry Brown’s coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 1985-86. Of course, KU and UK are tied all the way back to legendary coach Phog Allen and former Phog assistant turned UK coach Adolph Rupp.

Why Kansas Will Win

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