UK Men's Basketball

Bledsoe is SEC's freshman of week (again)

For the seventh time in 10 weeks, the Southeastern Conference named a Kentucky player its freshman of the week on Monday.

This time, the award went to Eric Bledsoe, who also won it in November. Fellow UK guard John Wall has won it four times and forward DeMarcus Cousins once.

Bledsoe averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last week as Kentucky won at Florida and Auburn. He scored a career-high 25 points at Florida to lead the Cats to their first win in Gainesville since 2004. Then he added 13 points in a victory at Auburn.

"He's always been a winner," Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy said of Bledsoe. "He's always played with poise, which defies being a freshman. I've never seen him get rattled. He plays at a steady pace."

Kennedy, who made a recruiting pitch for Bledsoe, noted that the UK guard has proved wrong those who questioned his ability to shoot accurately. Bledsoe has made 45.7 percent of his shots, including 47.1 percent from three-point range.

"If you know the kid, which we did, he's a tremendous worker," Kennedy said. "If there's an area of his game perceived as a weakness, I knew he'd get that addressed."

UK effort saluted

Sounding like UK Coach John Calipari, Louisiana State's Trent Johnson lamented his team's inability to play consistently well for 40 minutes.

Unlike Calipari, Johnson saw Kentucky as an example of an inexperienced team that plays hard and together consistently well.

"John's done a helluva job," the LSU coach said. "... It's one thing to get talent. But to get them all on the same page in a short period of time and compete at a high level, that speaks volumes to coaching."

Meeks not needed?

Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo saluted how well Bledsoe and Wall lead Kentucky.

"Their demeanor on the court, they're like seniors," Lebo said. "They don't get rattled. They're special guys, and they're pretty good together."

Then Lebo added, "I was telling my staff. Jodie Meeks made the best decision of them all to leave. I don't know how much he'd play for them this year."

Sidney decision soon?

Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury spoke hopefully of a decision soon on the eligibility of heralded freshman Renardo Sidney.

Sidney has been sitting out all season as State awaits for the NCAA Eligibility Center to rule on his case. Last week, MSU received a "Statement of Facts" on the case from the Eligibility Center, which some interpreted as a sign of an upcoming decision. The statement was a listing of facts all sides acknowledged.

"Hopefully, the end's in sight a little bit more than it has been," Stansbury said. "Hopefully we'll hear something by the end of the week. That's my optimistic thinking."

Sidney, a top-25 national prospect, has not practiced with the team since semester break. The player can get more done by working out alone with coaches, Stansbury said.

Downey excels

Wall might end up a national player of the year. But right now, South Carolina's Devan Downey arguably is the SEC's best point guard.

After three league games, Downey is averaging 32.3 points. He's made 48.1 percent of his three-point attempts and leads the league in steals. He also became just the ninth player in South Carolina history to score 1,500 points.

"He's been as dominant as any player in college basketball the last month," Kennedy said of Downey.

Triple-double

Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado's 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks against Arkansas marked the second triple-double of his career. Only three other SEC players have posted more than one triple-double, LSU's Shaquille O'Neal (6), Alabama's Roy Rogers (2), and Florida's Nick Calathes (2).

Varnado blocked 16 shots last week to bring his career total to 490. That's three short of becoming the second-most prolific shot blocker in NCAA history.

Less is more?

Tennessee won four straight games without four suspended regulars. After dismissing Tyler Smith from the team, the Vols reinstated Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum.

Coach Bruce Pearl acknowledged that being forced to use unheralded players improved the team's one-for-all approach.

"Now two or three are playing that don't need a lot of shots," he said, "and are happy to be out there screening, cutting, defending. It allows the best players that remain to be a little bit more creative and have more freedom to do more things.

"It's a good example of less is more."

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