Just a few lines on the mega hyped UK–Florida game from last Saturday night that was splattered across the nation for all the voters in each poll to evaluate thanks to the iconic sports network ESPN—then I promise we’ll move on. No sense in beating a dead horse, especially in the horse capital of the world, and I of all people don’t want to be accused of over analyzing our beloved Cats, especially the coach.
It may not have made any difference at all—then again it may have been the breaking point of the game and nobody realized it at the time it happened. Cal’s players played without confidence, and with a different more puzzled look on their face as well as with their body language for the remainder of the game after a member of the SEC officiating crew calling the game sprinted from the half court line some 45 feet to the baseline where Calipari had his back to him and was having a conversation with another fellow official when the official sprinting from mid court hit Calipari with a mysterious technical foul which produced two made free throws and another possession for the Gators, which turned into a five-point play.
Just minutes before that scenario played out, UK had taken it’s biggest lead of the game at 45-38. Then everything went south until the ugly final score was all that was left on the Rupp Arena scoreboards.
The deeper into the game the match-up went the more the seasoned and experienced Gators took control, until, in the final five minutes, they just dominated each end of the court possession by possession to the point UK just had too much experience and defense thrown at them to overcome. Final score 69–59, and UK’s lone double-figure loss of the season. No, it was not a 10-point spread type game; as a matter of fact, UK lead for probably 25-28 minutes of the first 30-35 minutes of the game. Those last seven or eight possessions on each end of the floor, though, were dominated by Florida at all five positions.
The entire Kentucky team gave a great physical and emotional effort, but not so much in the mental and execution department, especially the last five minutes of each half. UK lead 31–28 at the half, but left four possessions hanging without any type of attempt at the goal due to unforced turnovers; two by James Young and one each by the Harrison twins. That’s a possibility of eight to 12 points left off the board, which could have easily made that halftime lead in the seven to nine point area, which makes for a whole different second half scenario.
Obviously, UK was playing with the comfort of the home standing blue bloods at it’s back which is an intangible that you can’t measure the point value of, but any novice basketball mind could see that UK now more than at any time this season has a team that is capable of making a respectable run in the NCAA tournament regardless of what their NCAA seed plays out to be.
Now the Cats have to somehow reboot that momentum they had accumulated over the last two weeks and at a pretty tough place this Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN down in Oxford, Miss., where once again the home standing Johnny Rebs need an NCAA resume builder in the worst way, and the blue and white clad Wildcats can provide the fodder for the Rebel mission if UK isn’t mentally and emotionally prepared to play.
Hopefully, Saturday’s experience against the No. 3 ranked Gators propelled the fast forward button a little faster in the maturing process for these talented but still wet behind the ears Cats.
The Cats have back to back home game revenge match-ups against LSU this coming Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPN and against Arkansas the following Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN, those two teams busted UK’s SEC bubble first with a two point and five-point loss which started the slide down the top 25 rankings back in mid January.
UK will then have only one home game left and that will be the annual senior night game against Alabama on Tuesday, March 4, when home-bred Kentucky boys Jon Hood and Jarod Polson will be honored in pre-game festivities at center court.
This scene always brings many emotions full circle with everyone in Rupp Arena.
UK Spring Sports Off To Impressive Start
Rachel Lawson’s UK softball program is off to a perfect 10–0 start for the 2014 spring softball season and had the bull pen not fallen apart in the eighth and ninth innings Sunday morning against VMI Gary Henderson’s bat-cats would have been off to an undefeated 3–0 mark for their own 2014 baseball season.
Lawson’s diamond beauties are ranked No. 7 in the latest collegiate softball poll and just finished off No. 15 Texas right in their own back yard Sunday 6–5. All 10 of the UK wins have been on the road with the first five coming in the Mizuno Inv. in California and the last five coming in the Texas Long Horns women’s softball tourney in Austin, Texas. This coming weekend, the UK softball team will be back out on the road headed south this time for a five-game stint in the Florida Atlantic Inv. in Boca Raton, Fla.
The first home game for the UK softball team will be on Friday, Feb. 28, when they host EKU at 3 p.m. at their new state of the art women’s softball complex off Alumni Drive in their own invitational tournament. The four participating teams for that weekend softball extravaganza Feb. 28 through March 2 will be UK, EKU, Pittsburgh, and Butler.
Gary Henderson’s bat-cats kicked their 2014 season off in the Carolina’s this past weekend with the first three games taking place in Wilmington, N.C., and the lid-lifter to the season—an opening game upset of pre-season ranked No. 1 Virginia 8–3. Chandler Shepherd, the pride of Louisa, Ky., led the bat-cats to victory number two with just over five strong innings from the mound against UNC–Wilmington in a 10–4 win. Then in game number three of the weekend, the UK bull pen collapsed after building a 7–4 lead going into the top of the eighth, and VMI came back roaring with a 10–9 win.
The UK baseball teams home opener will be Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Cliff Hagan Stadium against Wright State University.
Check out www.ukathletics.com for more info on the UK baseball and softball teams upcoming season’s.
You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK sports as well as KHSAA sports.