Mark Story

UK fans have spoken. Title of Kentucky’s biggest basketball rival is between two teams.

Quick hitters from Lynn Bowden for President headquarters:

21. Kentucky’s biggest basketball rival. In an Oct. 19 Internet poll on Kentucky.com, we asked UK fans to vote for the team they consider to be the Wildcats’ biggest men’s hoops rival.

20. Two-team battle. If the non-scientific poll yielded results representative of the broader Kentucky fan base, two schools stand apart as far and away UK’s biggest rivals.

19. Louisville. Not surprisingly, the intrastate Cardinals were voted UK’s main rival with 50.77 percent of the vote.

18. Duke. The men of Krzyzewski were a relatively strong second in voting for Kentucky’s biggest hoops antagonist with 32.18 percent.

17. A surprise at third. Tennessee (6.44 percent) came in ahead of North Carolina (4.39) in the poll (which surprised me). Florida (3.78), Indiana (1.74) and Kansas (0.72) rounded out the voting for Kentucky’s biggest basketball rival.

16. Kentucky 80, Georgetown College 53. Only a fool would draw conclusions from a basketball exhibition in October.

Here we go.

15. Defensive length. Georgetown shot 16-of-64 vs. UK in Sunday evening’s exhibition. The defending NAIA Division I national champions will not be the only team this season whose offense is discombobulated by Kentucky’s combination of length and athleticism.

14. Strong guard play. Kentucky’s backcourt — Immanuel Quickley (16 points, 3-of-4 three-point tries, three assists), Ashton Hagans (14 points, six assists, four steals) and Tyrese Maxey (14 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals) — looks stout.

13. Post questions. Would have liked to see EJ Montgomery (five points, five rebounds, three blocked shots) assert more command over the smaller Tigers.

12. Jake Ohmer. In the 2017 Boys’ Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena, Ohmer led Scott High School to the semifinals with games of 41 points (Harlan County in opening round), 32 points (Perry County Central in quarterfinals) and 33 points (one-point loss to eventual state champion Bowling Green in semifinals).

11. Horse for a course. Back in Rupp Arena Sunday playing for Georgetown vs. UK, Ohmer picked up where he had left off. The 6-foot-1 guard hit eight of 16 shots, two of six three-pointers and all seven of his free throws. He fouled out to a nice ovation from the Rupp patrons after scoring 25 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

10. Derek Dooley. Was Tennessee head football coach when UK beat the Volunteers 10-7 in 2011 with wide receiver Matt Roark playing quarterback.

9. Derek Dooley redux. Was Missouri offensive coordinator Saturday night when UK beat the Tigers 29-7 with wide receiver Lynn Bowden playing quarterback.

8. Rich Brooks. In his days (2003-2009) as Kentucky football coach, Brooks liked to say that UK “needs to look more like the teams it plays.”

7. Looks like SEC. Other than the 204 rushing yards from Lynn Bowden, the most impressive thing about Kentucky’s dominating win over Missouri was the corps of long, athletic linebackers that were all over the field for Mark Stoops and UK.

6. Best still to come? Chris Oats (eight tackles vs. Mizzou), DeAndre Square (seven tackles), Josh Paschal (three tackles, one quarterback sack), Jordan Wright (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) and Jamin Davis (two tackles, one QB hurry) are all sophomores. J.J. Weaver (one tackle, one pass deflection) is a true freshman.

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Kentucky linebacker Chris Oats (22) led the Wildcats with eight tackles in UK’s 29-7 win over Missouri Saturday night. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

5. Tennessee. If Kentucky can beat the Volunteers on Nov. 9 at Kroger Field, it will give UK a 3-2 record vs. UT in games played in Lexington this decade. The Cats beat the Vols here in 2011 and 2017 but lost in 2013 and 2015.

4. Six decades. You have to go back to the 1950s, when Kentucky went 4-1 vs. Tennessee in games played in Lexington, to find the most recent decade when the Cats had the upper hand on the Vols on their home field.

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Wide receiver turned quarterback Matt Roark, left, directed Kentucky to a 10-7 win over Tennessee in Lexington in 2011. It was UK’s first victory over UT since 1984. Jonathan Palmer

3. Tennessee and Louisville. If Kentucky can beat the Volunteers and Cardinals (Nov. 30 at Kroger Field), it would be the first time UK has beaten UT and U of L in the same season since 1924. (In fairness, we will point out UK and U of L did not play from 1925 through 1994).

2. Damien Harris. The former Madison Southern High School and Alabama running back recorded his first NFL carries for the New England Patriots during the Pats’ 33-0 pasting of the New York Jets on Monday Night Football Oct. 21.

1. A familiar face. As Harris carried the ball four times for 12 yards vs. the Jets, he was taking handoffs from New England’s backup quarterback, former Auburn star Jarrett Stidham.

The moment was especially poignant for residents of Madison County — because Harris and Stidham played youth football together as little boys in Richmond.

Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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