Big Blue Links for Monday:
▪ South Carolina’s offense was too much for the Kentucky women in a 95-87 victory Sunday in Columbia. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader was in Columbia to report on No. 7 South Carolina winning at least a share of its fourth consecutive SEC regular season title. Meanwhile, Kentucky failed to follow up on Thursday’s overtime win over No. 3 Mississippi State.
“This is pretty special,” Gamecocks Coach Dawn Staley said after the celebrating was over at Colonial Life Arena. “Especially a week ago, we didn’t control our own destiny. It makes it that much more special because we fought our way back and we got lucky.”
▪ Jen has the draw for the SEC Women’s Tournament, which starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday in Greenville, S.C. By benefit of a double bye, UK’s first game is Friday.
▪ Joe Mussatto of SEC Country has an excellent feature on new UK cornerback Lonnie Johnson, a junior college transfer. Joe traveled to Gary, Ind., to get more of the back story on Johnson. “Don’t nobody know what I’ve been through to get here,” he told Mussatto.
You might remember that we met the entertaining Johnson when UK’s early enrollees were made available to the media last month.
▪ Speaking of SEC Country, I neglected to include Kyle Tucker’s story from UK’s 76-66 win over Florida in Sunday’s Big Blue Links. He referred to Malik Monk’s 33-point game as UK’s nuclear option that must not be disarmed.
“Ah, yes, this is why you do not, under any circumstance, bench Malik Monk,” Tucker writes. “No matter how little he rebounds, how poorly he defends or how awful his shot selection might be at times. Because, as Monk reminded everyone Saturday, he’s always just one bucket away from lighting his own fuse.”
▪ Tuesday is Kentucky’s final home regular season game, and it's Senior Night for Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and Derek Willis. Here’s a photo salute to the senior trio. And Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader has more on the seniors. (Yes, UK has seniors this year.)
▪ Vanderbilt pays a visit to Rupp Arena on Tuesday night. The Commodores have won four straight including, as Adam Sparks of the Tennessean reports, Saturday’s 77-48 trouncing of Mississippi State in which junior forward jeff Roberson put on a show in front of his family from Houston. Roberson scored a career-high 23 points and made five straight three-pointers in the second half.
▪ Your Twitter feed will be filled with plenty of these Monday.
▪ Louisville rebounded from Wednesday’s loss at North Carolina to whip Syracuse 88-68 on Sunday at the KFC Yum Center. Gary Graves of the AP has the report as Donovan Mitchell and Ray Spalding both took star turns. Mitchell hit six three-pointers on the way to 25 points. Spalding scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
▪ College Basketball Talk picked Georgia’s J.J. Frazier as its Player of the Week. After scoring 36 points in the Bulldogs’ 82-77 loss to visiting Kentucky on Jan. 18, Frazier averaged 28.5 points and 4.5 assists in Georgia’s wins over Alabama and LSU. Frazier has picked up his play in the absence of Yante Maten, who sprained his knee against UK.
▪ Kentucky is now No. 6 in Monday’s Kenpom.com rankings. The Cats are 10th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency.
▪ The Kentucky women’s track and field team tied the school record with a team finish of third overall at the SEC Indoor Championships over the weekend in Nashville. UKAA reports Jasmine Camacho-Quinn won the gold medal in the 60-meter hurdles.
▪ Delaware scored four unearned runs in the eighth inning to knock off the Kentucky baseball team 4-3 on Sunday in Norfolk, Va. UKAA reports that the Cats won two of three games over the weekend and got seven two-hit innings from Sunday starter Justin Lewis. The Cats face Eastern Kentucky in new head coach Nick Mingione’s home opener on Tuesday.
▪ Cincinnati suffered a surprising 53-49 loss at Central Florida on Sunday. Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Bearcats shot just 29.6 percent in falling to 25-4 overall and 14-2 in the AAC. UC was leading the ACC in scoring at 76.2 points per game.
▪ Duke is unsure of Grayson Allen’s status for the last two games of the regular season. Jessika Morgan of the Raleigh News and Observer reports that Allen is battling a left ankle injury that kept him out of the Blue Devils’ 55-50 loss at Miami on Saturday.