Big Blue Links for Sunday:
Kentucky.com has reports on UK’s 71-63 win over Texas A&M, the UK women’s loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament, UK football’s quest for new playmakers and much more.
▪ Texas A&M’s fast start fizzles out in loss to Kentucky. Richard Croome of the Bryan/College Station Eagle reports:
“The ninth-ranked Kentucky men’s basketball team fell behind 19-5 and turned to its bench.
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“It’s not a luxury Texas A&M has, which along with poor free throw shooting proved costly for the Aggies, who were unable to climb to .500 in Southeastern Conference play on the final day of the regular season.
“The Wildcats, who are getting used to slow starts, never panicked after missing 13 of their first 15 shots, took the lead at 24-23 and led the entire second half to win 71-63 in a matinee game at Reed Arena on Saturday.”
▪ Georgia-Tennessee winner gets Kentucky in SEC Tournament. Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph reports:
“A regular-season finale loss combined with a couple of upsets dropped Georgia to the No. 8 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament.
“Georgia lost Saturday’s game to Arkansas 85-67, in a game the Razorbacks pulled away throughout the second half. That combined with Vanderbilt stunning Florida and Mississippi upsetting South Carolina caused Georgia to drop two spots. The Bulldogs entered the day with the inside track to the No. 6 seed.
“As a result, Georgia will face No. 9 seed Tennessee in the second round of the SEC Tournament at 1 p.m. EST next Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee. Georgia and Tennessee played a thriller earlier this season, with the Bulldogs winning 76-75 in Knoxville.”
▪ So this is what Memorial Magic is all about. Joe Rexrode of the Tennessean writes on Vanderbilt’s come-from-behind 73-71 win over Florida:
“So that’s what they mean. The obscure 1970s band Pilot said it best through the Memorial Gym sound system Saturday, with a sort of euphoric disbelief in the air and Vanderbilt 73, Florida 71 on the scoreboard.
“’Oh, oh, oh, it’s magic. You know-oh-oh. Never believe it’s not so…”’
“There are coaching adjustments and plays and bounces that can explain how Bryce Drew’s Commodores turned a steadily evaporating game into their own. Likewise, how they went from an 8-10 team that couldn’t play defense to a team with a very good chance of being the first invited to the NCAA Tournament despite 15 losses.”
▪ North Carolina pulls away late to topple Duke. Steve Wiseman of the Durham Herald Sun reports:
“Joel Berry’s red-hot first half and timely shots down the stretch allowed No. 5 North Carolina to celebrate its ACC regular-season championship in style.
“Berry scored a game-high 28 points as the No. 5 Tar Heels pulled away in the final four minutes to beat rival Duke 90-83 on Saturday night at the Smith Center.
“Berry scored 19 points while making five 3-pointers in the first half. He was held scoreless over the first 11 minutes of the second half. But, after No. 17 Duke cut UNC’s lead to 79-78 with 4:07 to play, Berry scored UNC’s next seven points as the Tar Heels finally shook the Blue Devils.”
▪ Louisville launches into the post-season on high note. Eric Crawford of WDRB writes on Louisville’s win over Notre Dame:
“It’s not that Rick Pitino hasn’t had teams play tough schedules before. He’s had several teams play Top 5 schedules in the past decade. But he hadn’t had one with so little proven experience face a schedule like the one the Cardinals encountered this season.
“Louisville beat No. 19-ranked Notre Dame 71-64 on Saturday to finish the regular season at 24-7. It was the Cardinals’ eighth straight game against a team in Ken Pomeroy’s Top 50, and their sixth straight game against a team ranked in the top 32 in offensive efficiency by Pomeroy.
“The Cards held a clinical Notre Dame offense to its second-lowest point total of the season. The pounded the ball down low to senior center Mangok Mathiang, who scored a career-high 18 points and added 11 rebounds.”
▪ Ray Harper leads Jacksonville State into the NCAA Tournament. Teresa Walker of the AP writes on the former WKU coach who won the OVC Tournament on Saturday:
“First-year coach Ray Harper wants Jacksonville State to be as successful in basketball as the school is in football.
“And he’s in a hurry to get there.
“Greg Tucker scored all 14 of his points in the first half, and Jacksonville State topped UT Martin 66-55 Saturday night in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth. “
▪ Joey Votto is working to be a complete player. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports:
“Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price has been with the Reds since 2010, the year Joey Votto was voted Most Valuable Player for the National League. Looking back on those seven years, Price can’t remember Votto ever shirking his commitment to defense.
“But Votto can. In the offseason following the 2015 campaign, he needed a break. He didn’t work as hard as he normally does.
“It cost him in the field in 2016.”
Ken Pomeroy Top 20
3. West Virginia
4. North Carolina
11. Wichita State
14. Saint Mary’s
18. Florida State
19. Oklahoma State