Kentucky moves into SEC Championship game

By Ricky Blair

This is what the Kentucky fan base has been waiting for all year long, a team that plays with confidence and swagger.  For the second straight game in the SEC tournament in Atlanta, GA, that is exactly what the fans received.

The Wildcats disposed of the third seeded Georgia Bulldogs 70-58.  This time, it was the Harrison twins that led the way.  Aaron finished with 22 points, 15 of those came in the first half.  Andrew, who is playing his best basketball of the season, had 12 points and set a career high in assists for the second straight game with 9.

Kentucky went up by as many as ten during the first half, but settled for only a 36-32 lead going into the locker room.  Georgia cut the lead down to two early in the second half and this young team started to pick up some of their old habits according to Coach John Calipari, who said “when the lead was cut, they came to the sidelines and were pouting……I told them to just go out and have fun”.  The team responded to the message and went on a run that put them up by double digits.  Once the Wildcats went back to work, they put the throttle down and looked sharp, finishing with an 18-point victory.

This was a total team effort.  In addition to how well the Harrison’s played, Julius Randle had another double-double, going for 12 points and 11 rebounds.  James Young was also solid again, putting in 14 points, going 6 of 8 from the field.

Kentucky moved on to play Florida in the SEC championship game.

What Others Think of Us

“I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!”  Theodore Roosevelt 

 

Being overly concerned about what others think of us, or might think, gets in the way of our being our authentic selves. This concern likely begins in childhood when we may have been teased or bullied for being different. Perhaps we had a new haircut, wore glasses or were shorter/taller than our peers.

All it took was one or two mean kids to embarrass us in front of the others for us to begin to become self-conscious and concerned about how others might judge us. Of course then we did not realize that it was only a couple of mean-spirited individuals who said anything, and the others just accepted us as we were. We may have then erroneously assumed that everyone was looking at us in a judgmental way.

Then in junior high or high school, where social insecurity can make students quite judgmental, we notice that the most attractive, athletic or well-dressed students seem to get the most attention. We may begin to judge ourselves for not measuring up, and assume others judge us that way as well.

We then carry these feelings into adulthood where they are no longer appropriate. The criticisms of children and adolescents are ego-based and superficial. Only with maturity do young people learn to discern and appreciate the deeper qualities that make up an individual.

It is true that some adults remain at a less mature level and continue to judge and gossip about others. They do this to make themselves feel better, and their comments say more about themselves than they do about the intended target. We do not need these kinds of people as friends. We should neither dwell upon their judgments, nor should we conduct our lives in ways that will win their approval.

We have one life to live, and we are each unique beings. There is much freedom, joy and contentment in exploring who we really are, knowing what is important to us, and living in alignment with what is true for us.

 

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca

UK to face Louisville in Sweet 16 in Indianapolis

UK was the team that was supposed to be undefeated going in to the NCAA Tournament, not Wichita. UK was supposed to be the favorite this year, not Wichita. After a so so season by Kentucky standards, the young Wildcats appear to have hit their stride after beating Kansas State Friday, then defeating #1 seed and undefeated Wichita State in a thriller.

UK fans are hoping for another win over Louisville
UK fans are hoping for another win over Louisville

UK will continue the gauntlet, called the Midwest Region by taking on in State and bitter rival, Louisville in Indianapolis next weekend. In what has been the worst Region seeding in a long time, the Midwest was loaded with such powers as Michigan, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas State, Undefeated Wichita State and a red hot Tennessee squad.

For UK to make the Final Four, they will still have to beat Louisville and either Michigan or Tennessee. Kentucky fans are ready for another run to the Final Four and it will have to continue by beating the hated Cardinals.

Cardinals Rout Huskies on Senior Day

Senior Day games bring a lot of emotion for the players and fans alike.  Some teams start off with a wave of emotion early on and then the energy goes away which allows the other team to get back in the game.  It happened when Louisville went to SMU last Wednesday during the Mustangs’ Senior Day.  The Mustangs were up by 14 early in the game and then the Cardinals got right back in the game and took a 32 – 30 lead into halftime.

The 11th-ranked Cardinals made sure the 19th-ranked Huskies never got back into the game after taking an early 10 – 2 lead in route to an 81 – 48 victory.  It was one of the most complete games they have played from beginning to end this entire season.  The Cardinals clinched a tie for the AAC regular season conference title with Cincinnati.

Louisville coach, Rick Pitino, was worried that Russ Smith would be a bit too amped up for his last game in the KFC Yum center.  What he got was a Smith performance unlike any he has seen.  Smith finished the game attempting only two shots while dishing out a career-high 13 assists.  Pitino said, “I can’t ever imagine Russ Smith, knowing him, on senior night, would pass up all opportunities to score and get 13 assists. It shows you how much he has grown. If any pro scouts wondered tonight whether he can be a point guard, I think the thing is now closed. He can pass, he can handle, and he had an amazing performance by him.”

Pitino added about Smith, “I think he (Russ Smith) was trying to say, because we were making such a big deal out of it, was not getting carried away on Senior Day and stay focused. More than anything else, he got to play point guard and he knows the role of a point guard, which is pass before shot. So he moved over from the 2 to the point and that is why he had to do what he had to do.”

This was also the Senior Day for Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, and Tim Henderson.  Together the Cardinals’ quartet of seniors helped become the all-time winningest class in the school’s prestigious history.  Hancock poured in 16 points.  Van Treese was all over the floor finishing with 6 points, 2 steals, and a season-high 13 rebounds.  Henderson started and scored the game’s first basket.

Louisville fans may have also witnessed the last game for sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell.  Harrell had another monster game for the Cardinals scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.  NBADraft.net and draftexpress.com both have Harrell projected as the 25th pick of the first round.  That could change based on his performance of late.  Pitino said of Harrell, “His wing span is just phenomenal. He’s an incredible basketball player right now. He’s improved his passing. He’s improved his dribbling. He’s improved his one-on-one moves.”

Louisville’s defense was outstanding against the Huskies.  They held Connecticut to a season-low 48 points and an abysmal 29.4 shooting percentage.  Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, one of the AAC’s top backcourts, were held to a combined 4 of 24 shooting and committed 9 turnovers.

Huskies’ coach, Kevin Ollie, was not pleased with his team’s performance after the game saying, “I didn’t see anything like this coming. And I’m glad it came because now we know how tough we have to be to be a champion. [Louisville] is a champion. We weren’t tough enough. We weren’t together enough. [Louisville] took every opportunity to take advantage of it. That’s what champions do. That’s why they’re the champions.”

A coin toss was held after the game to determine the number one seed for the upcoming AAC conference tournament with Cincinnati winning.  The conference tournament begins this Wednesday.  Louisville will earned a first place bye and will play the winner of South Florida and Rutgers Thursday at 3:00.

U of L Senior Day - Photos by Jason Sheehan
U of L Senior Day – Photos by Jason Sheehan

UofL 2014 Senior Day (4) UofL 2014 Senior Day (3) UofL 2014 Senior Day (2)

Wildcats begin SEC Tourney play with impressive win

By Ricky Blair – Fear the tweak! After hearing all week about this big tweak of change the Wildcats had made since their last regular season game, all eyes were on the lookout to see what this big change could be. If the tweak was not obvious the change in attitude and hustle were evident. After a slow start to the game for the Wildcats, this young team showed some of the enthusiasm that they have been missing all year long. Led by James Young’s 17 points and Dakari Johnson’s 9 rebounds the Wildcats went to the locker room at halftime with a 42-32 advantage.

The Cats came out of the locker room and held the lead for most of the second half, but a run by LSU with 14 minutes to go closed the gap to six and challenged this young group to see if this new found confidence could stand this test. The Wildcats did steady the ship and cruised to an 85-67 win over the Tigers. Julius Randall who had missed several easy shots during the contest finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds, Young finished with 21 points.

Coach John Calipari said ‘this was not the tweak” after Andrew Harrison had said more team work and having fun had made a difference, so there may be more to come. The first step in tourney play was successful; hopefully this is just the beginning.

NCAA Seeding Slams Kentucky Teams

The NCAA must have been spending a lot of time recently in Colorado in a weed shack. I don’t disagree with the UK Wildcats getting an 8 seed with their 10 losses. They will be playing in the MidWest Region with their first game in St. Louis, Mo. against Kansas State. If they win, the would likely face South #1 Seed and undefeated Wichita State. Louisville, a 4 seed in the MidWest as well. Should they win their first two games and UK wins their first two, the two Kentucky powers would have to play each other.

James Young - Photo by Steve Harp - East KY Media
James Young – Photo by Steve Harp – East KY Media

Louisville is 29-5 and ranked number 5 in the AP poll. Kentucky is 24-10 and dropped out of the rankings. By contrast, Duke was unbelievably ranked #7 with a 26-7 record and an absurd 3 seed, also in the MidWest Region. Kansas was a 2 seed in the South with a record of 24-9. Again, the people doing this years seeding have got to be Colorado High. The selection committee did get the #1 seeds right with Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Wichita State.

NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET

This year’s selection committee proved there is a love affair with Duke and Kansas and an innate hate for UK and Louisville. My hope is the Wildcats continue to keep their momentum and or Louisville remains hot and one or the other brings the NCAA Title home to Kentucky for the 3rd straight season.

Hey Selection Committee, ease up on the Colorado Purple Passion, Your seedings lead me to believe you may be high.

 

From UK Athletics:

Kentucky Makes Record 53rd NCAA Appearance

Wildcats, seeded eighth in the Midwest Region, to face Kansas State Friday

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the 53rd time in program history the Kentucky Wildcats are among the field for the NCAA Tournament, it was announced Sunday evening. Kentucky claimed an at-large bid following a 61-60 loss to No. 1-ranked Florida on Sunday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship.

Kentucky, seeded eighth in the Midwest Region, is set to travel to St. Louis, Mo. and will take on ninth-seeded Kansas State in the second round of NCAA Tournament. The game is set for Friday, March 21st. Time and television information will be announced later in the evening. The winner of the UK-KSU matchup will play the winner of No. 1-seeded Wichita State and the winner of the 16-seed First Round play-in game between Cal Poly and Texas Southern.

Series History

Kentucky is 8-0 all-time against Kansas State, with two postseason meetings. UK downed KSU 68-58 in the national championship game in Minneapolis, Minn., to claim the program’s third NCAA title. The two schools also met in the 1976 NIT, where UK pulled out an 81-78 win.

UK has never played Wichita State, but the Wildcats own an 11-4 record all-time against Missouri Valley opponents. Kentucky has also never played Cal Poly and is 1-0 against Texas Southern, with an 83-35 win in 2007.

NCAA Tournament History

  • Kentucky is 42-10 in tournament openers and has won 20 of its last 21 second round (previously first-round) tournament games. The Cats won their opener during the 2012 title run against Western Kentucky, 81-66.
  • UK has claimed a 14-5 record in the second round since 1992.
  • Since 1992, UK is 107-31 (.781) in postseason play (SEC, NIT and NCAA).

40 and 0, YEAH RIGHT!!!

Before the season started, everyone in the nation who did their preseason polls, had UK 1 or 2 and some had UK even going 40 & 0 with a National Title. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Despite having the best recruiting class ever, at least on paper, & despite having Poythress and Cauley-Stein coming back from a disappointing season last year, UK has fought to be mediocre by Wildcat standards.

James Young had a miserable night vs Florida. Photo - Steve Harp - East KY Media
James Young had a miserable night vs Florida. Photo – Steve Harp – East KY Media

UK has 9 losses, that include two spankings by Florida, a home loss in overtime to Arkansas, disappointing road losses to Arkansas and South Carolina. In the Florida loss Saturday, a must win for UK, Wildcat players stood around for what seemed like several minutes, as the ball was passed around the perimeter. With players like Randle, Johnson and Cauley-Stein down low, it is amazing UK simple does not feed the post every trip down the court. This team has entirely too much talent to have more than 1-2 losses, yet they find themselves looking at a 7-12 seed depending on who you ask.

USA Today, has UK as a 7 seed in the East playing a 10 seed. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the bracket guru, has KY as a 7th seed in the South at Raleigh North Carolina. The unfortunate part is that he also has Florida as a #1 in the South as well as Michigan, Cincinnati and #2 seed Virginia. UK could make it to the South Region Final and possibly avenge two beat downs to Florida.

The only thing that will be considered a saved season will be a Kentucky run to the Final Four. Without it, this season will be considered on of the worst UK has seen in some time, even eclipsing last seasons debacle. Only time will tell, but believe this, BIG BLUE NATION is not happy with this years team. Maybe some of the players

 

Russ Smith: Louisville’s Newest Living Legend

Louisville Cardinals’ coach, Rick Pitino, has been blessed the past several years with tremendous senior leadership.  In their 2011 – 2012 season in which the Cardinals finished 30 – 10 and advanced to the Final Four, Pitino relied on seniors Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric to help lead the way.

In the 2012 – 2013 season the Cardinals relied on two of the best leaders in Louisville history in Peyton Siva and Gorgiu Dieng.  All they did was help the Cardinals win their third National Championship defeating Michigan in the title game.

All great teams in any sport have at least one common denominator:  leadership.  That leadership starts with the coaching staff and bleeds down to the players.  The Cardinals would not have advanced to the 2012 Final Four without Chris Smith or Kuric.  They most likely would not have won the championship last year if not for the leadership of Siva and Dieng.

Perhaps none of these teams would have advanced as far as they did without the help of Russ Smith.  Smith will be one of four seniors honored Saturday against Connecticut on Senior Day along with Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, and Tim Henderson.

Smith was not a heavily recruited player when he decided to commit to Louisville.  The Louisville media guide has several schools he also considered, but Pitino has often jokes that Smith has made up some of the schools he was being recruited by.  If not for the urging of former Assistant Head Coach, Ralph Willard, Smith might have never put on a Cardinals’ uniform.  As the story goes, Willard and Steve Masiello was sent to Smith’s prep school in Connecticut to recruit a South Kent player.  That player was not Smith.   Smith was so intent on going to Louisville he even tried to commit before he was even offered.

Willard and Masiello had to convince Pitino that Smith would be a perfect fit for the Cardinals’ up-tempo style of play.  At first, Pitino was not sure Smith was big enough to play in the extremely physical Big East.

Smith was a part of a recruiting class that included Gorgui Dieng.  This class was not even ranked by any of the major recruiting services.  Four years later this class would become a five-star class by many experts and most certainly Louisville fans.

Smith’s freshman year did not go well.  Injuries (broken foot, concussion, strained foot, sore knee) limited him to 17 games.  He averaged a little more than five minutes of playing time per game.  Smith was not happy with his injuries and lack of playing time that he called his mom and told her he was coming home.  He had a change of heart and decided to stay.  The Cardinals would finish the season with a 25 – 6 record.  They entered the NCAA tournament as a number 4 seed and were upset by Morehead State in the second round.

More playing time would be on the horizon for Smith’s sophomore campaign.  He made the most of it by averaging 11.5 points per game.  He was a spark off of the bench for the Cardinals for most of the season as he started only 7 games.  Smith and Siva made it extremely difficult for opposing guards to get the ball up the floor as the two combined for 151 steals.  Smith recorded a Louisville single-season record for steals, previously held by the great Darrell Griffith, with 87.  The record would last for only a year with Siva breaking it the next season.  The Cardinals would win the Big East tournament and advance to their second Final Four under Pitino where they were defeated by arch-rival Kentucky.  Louisville would finish the season with a 30 – 10 record.

Smith’s sophomore campaign also brought about one of the best nicknames in all of sports.  Pitino gave him the nickname, “Russdiculous”, for the crazy and sometimes unorthodox way he plays.  According to an article in Sports Illustrated, Pitino gave Russ the nickname in January of his sophomore season.  It happened during practice when Smith threw up one of his crazy shots.  Pitino yelled at Smith saying, “That shot was ridiculous!  Only you would take that shot!  That shot was…Russdiculous!”

Louisville came into the 2012 – 2013 season with a ton of potential and experience.  Could they feed off of the experience of getting so close the previous year and bring the first championship to Louisville since 1986?  They proved they had it as they brought home the title.

The chemistry on the championship team was phenomenal.  You hear fans talk about the chemistry and the love that team had for each other.  Fans also talk about who was most responsible for the title.  The title could not have been one without the steady play and leadership of Peyton Siva.  It could not have been one without the inside presence of Gorgui Dieng.  It could not have been one without the timely shooting of Luke Hancock.  The Cardinals needed the solid inside play of Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell.  It needed Tim Henderson’s two huge threes against Wichita State.  With that being said, the Cardinals most certainly would not have won the title without the play of Russ Smith.

Smith led the Cardinals in scoring with 18.7 points per game.  He combined with Siva for a total of 183 steals.  Their defensive pressure made it difficult for opposing guards to get the ball up the court.  He scored a Louisville record 134 points in six NCAA tournament games at times proving to be unguardable.

The only question after the National Championship was whether Smith would return to Louisville for his senior season.  Louisville fans would have supported his decisions no matter what it was.  The fans would be excited when he announced he wanted to come back for one more year.

Pitino told Smith he needed to become a better passer in his final year.  He needed to improve his outside shooting.  His shooting has improved dramatically as he has increased his overall field goal percentage from 41.4 to 46.8 percent.  His three point shooting has increased from 32.8 to 39.6 percent.  His passing has improved.  He leads the team in assists with 4.5 per game.

There is still more to be written in the college career of Russ Smith.  Will he lead his team to a third consecutive Final Four?  Will the Cardinals be the first team since Florida in 2006 – 2007 to win back-to-back titles?  Where will Smith rank on the all-time list of Cardinals’ greats?

Smith may or may not be a great NBA player in the future.  However, I would not bet against him.  He has proven everyone wrong his entire life.  Whether it was being lightly recruited, being a 2-star high school player, to almost transferring away from Louisville, Smith has put himself on the list of all-time greats at Louisville.  It is a list that includes the likes of Darrell Griffith, Wes Unseld, Charlie Tyra, Pervis Ellison, Rodney McCray, Junior Bridgeman, Dejuan Wheat, Milt Wagner, Derek Smith, etc.

Cardinals’ fans will miss Russ for many reasons.  We will miss his attitude.  It is an attitude that says ‘I cannot be stopped’, whether it is one-on-one or one-on three.  With Russ it really didn’t matter if it was him against the entire team.  We will miss that smile that only Russ has.  The smile that tells you everything is going to be okay.  And yes, we will miss “Russdiculous”.  It drove us crazy at times for four years, but the good outweighed the bad.  How many times have we yelled at the top of our lungs “RUSS!!!”?  I will miss yelling it and I have a feeling coach Pitino will miss it too.

I finish by saying thank you to Russ for so many great times over the past four years.  Thank you for being so likeable.  Don’t ever change who you are as that is what makes you so special.  Whether it is the NBA or not, you will be successful in whatever you do.  That is what makes you Louisville’s newest living legend.

15 will compete in state Poetry Out Loud championship

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s 15 high school Poetry Out Loud champions will compete March 13 for the title of state champion and the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth at the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C.
The state finals, which are open to the public, will be Thursday, March 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at the Capital Plaza Hotel, 405 Wilkinson Blvd., Frankfort, Ky. The program is coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council.
“The Poetry Out Loud state competition is an exciting day for the school champions and their peers who travel to Frankfort,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. “It really is inspiring to see how these students come alive when they are reciting poetry and how their classmates respond to their performances. Poetry Out Loud is an outstanding example of arts education at work.”
Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to schoolwide competition, then to the state competition and ultimately to the national finals, April 29-30, in Washington, D.C.
School winners who will compete to represent Kentucky in the national finals are:

  • Titus Carter, Allen County Scottsville High School
  • Gabrielle Thompson, Boyd County High School
  • Trey Griffin, Butler Traditional High School, Jefferson County
  • Haley Sullivan, East Ridge High School, Pike County
  • Katelyn Taylor, Franklin County High School
  • Haley Reed, George Rogers Clark High School, Clark County
  • Haley Bryan, Grant County High School
  • Celeste Shearer, Hart County High School
  • Dorthea Acker-Hogg, Hazard High School, Perry County
  • Cayce Brockwell, Hickman County High School
  • Jodi Hooper, McCracken County High School
  • Cassie Gearles, Phelps Jr. and Sr. High School, Pike County
  • Taryn Syck, Pike County Central High School
  • Sydney Doose, South Warren High School, Warren County
  • Dove DeNigris, Western Hills High School, Franklin County

The winner of the state finals receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up receives $100, with $200 going to his or her school library.
Since starting in 2006, Poetry Out Loud has grown to more than 365,000 students competing in 2011-12. For a general overview of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest visit www.poetryoutloud.org.
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.
The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, creates opportunities for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kentucky Wins On Senior Night In Rupp

By: Tyrus York – Senior Night in Rupp Arena is a special time for Kentucky fans, players, and coaches.  On Tuesday, the #25/24 Kentucky Wildcats (22-8, 12-5) bid farewell to seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, two players that have been main-stays at this program for the last 4-5 years.

Jarod Polson - Senior Night - Photo by Steve Harp - East KY Media
Jarod Polson – Senior Night – Photo by Steve Harp – East KY Media

The Wildcats welcomed in an underperforming Alabama team (12-18, 6-11) that has struggled mightily this season.  Of course the Cats weren’t in much better shape recently coming off 2 straight losses, including a miserable performance at South Carolina.

Kentucky would rebound Tuesday night however and take care of business, defeating the Tide 55-48 in a sloppy battle between two teams that clearly weren’t on top of their game.

The offensive production from Kentucky has been putrid the last several games.  Against Alabama, they managed to shoot only 32.7% from the field and only 17.9% from three.  Defense kept the Cats in it holding their opponent to a season low 48 points.

Part of the outcome Tuesday was due to Alabama not being very good.  The other part was Kentucky’s ability lock down defensively when they had to and get the win.

Julius Randle led Kentucky as the only player to reach double digits in points or rebounds, going for 12 points and 11 rebounds to secure his 17th double-double of the season.

James Young and Dakari Johnson were your second leading scorers with 9 points each.  Young’s only make from the field was a 3 pointer with 4:10 to play that put Kentucky up by 6 points.  Before that 3, Young was 0-8 from the field with only 1 attempt coming from inside the 3 point line.

It upsets some fans to see Young firing shot attempts at will despite having an off night, but Coach Cal reminded the media after the game that if you don’t take the open shot then you’re not playing.  Young is a scorer and even though he had a tough night, he made the most important shot of the game to give Kentucky the victory.

Dakari Johnson continues to improve down low and has slowly become one of the most consistent players we have.  Game after game we see Dakari get a little more aggressive in the paint which will prove beneficial as Kentucky closes the season out at #1 Florida on Saturday.

Tuesday was a good win for the Cats who could not afford to drop a 3rd straight game including 2 in a row at home.  But the night belonged to Hood and Polson.

Both seniors received starting nods from Coach Cal and both took advantage early, each hitting a 3 pointer to give Kentucky their first 6 points of the game.

Kentucky locked up the #2 seed in the SEC tournament with the win against Alabama and will open the tournament on Friday March 14th.  But first, Kentucky has a date with #1 Florida at noon on Saturday in Gainesville where the Cats can possibly send a message to the nation that this young team is ready to grow up.

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