SHANE SHACKLEFORD: One Writer's Observations on UK Men's & Women's Basketball
I think that most folks I write to in my weekly sports columns are either rabid, die-hard, and beyond passionate Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans or at very least have a passing, albeit much less passionate interest in UK basketball. I have also been asked on different occasions about the UK women’s team and how they are faring.
With those ideas in mind, I thought you the reader might enjoy knowing what was happening in Lexington. From this point forward, I will put some things together weekly that might peak your interest or at least keep you informed about all things in Big Blue Nation (BBN). So without further adieu, here are some items of interest from the Wildcat basketball programs.
In men's basketball, the Cats had a tough week. For the first time all season and the ninth time ever in the John Calipari era, the Cats dropped consecutive games at South Carolina 76-68 and at home to Florida 66-64. The Florida loss was somewhat historic because it was the first Cat loss in Rupp Arena in 16 games and the first SEC home loss in 30 games. Ouch.
The Cats rebounded, however, to pick up a conference win Tuesday night over Mississippi State 78-65 at home. With the win, UK improved to 15-5 on the season. PJ Washington had a big game for the Cats. The freshman forward scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed six rebounds. Freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 16 points and handed out six assists against the Bulldogs.
There were some bright spots this week, though. Freshman forward Kevin Knox had a good week, averaging 16.3 points per game. Knox’s play is very encouraging. He is beginning to peak at the right time after streaky performances throughout the season so far.
Most importantly for Kentucky, freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt made his long anticipated debut in blue after being injured the first 17 games. In 13.5 minutes per contest, Vanderbilt averaged 5.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Vanderbilt’s versatility comes at a crucial time for UK with about two months to play, including the postseason.
In women’s hoops, the Cats had only one contest for the week, and it was a tough opponent in No. 10 South Carolina. The Cats suffered a loss in Rupp Arena to Carolina 81-64 on Sunday afternoon.
Local product Maci Morris had a team high 19 points and added four assists in the contest. Junior guard Taylor Murray added 17 points. Freshman Keke Montgomery had a career high 12 points and seven rebounds in the loss, while fellow freshman Dorie Harrison had 11 points and seven rebounds.
One bright spot for Kentucky was the Cats scoring 28 points in the third quarter versus the Gamecocks, the most points scored by the Cats in a quarter in SEC play for the year to date.
Both Wildcat teams continue play on the road to the March Madness. The men will play on the road January 27 at No. 7 West Virginia as part of the Big 12/SEC challenge. The West Virginia game will also feature ESPN College GameDay. This is the second time in consecutive weeks the Cats are a part of GameDay. Also, it is worth noting that with the Mississippi State victory Calipari hasn’t lost three consecutive games in his career while in Lexington. The women will host Alabama on January 25 in historic Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for the Cats and Crimson Tide at 7:00 pm.
Shane Shackleford is a columnist for KySportsStyle.com Magazine, Middlesboro Daily News, Harlan Daily Enterprise and other media outlets. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, and Twitter @shack_daddy_1.