Sidelines with John Clay

Links: UK women stop skid as UK men search for answers

Kentucky guard Maci Morris (4) drives to the basket against Vanderbilt guard Minta Spears (23) during the first half of UK’s 71-63 win at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky, on Sunday, February 5, 2017.
Kentucky guard Maci Morris (4) drives to the basket against Vanderbilt guard Minta Spears (23) during the first half of UK’s 71-63 win at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky, on Sunday, February 5, 2017. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Monday:

Side projects aside, time for John Calipari to solve the puzzle, says my column. “The snarky skeptics will request that on the next Cal Cast, John Calipari’s weekly podcast, the Kentucky coach might invite a guest who could help him figure out what in the world is going on with his struggling basketball team. After all, it’s hard to do podcasts, a book tour, attend Pittsburgh Steelers games and sit for national media interviews, plus find time to coach. So say the critics.”

Kentucky women beat Vanderbilt to stop two-game losing streak, reports Caitlyn Stroh of the Herald-Leader. “Coming off back-to-back losses against Missouri and No. 5 South Carolina, Kentucky fought hard for a much-needed 71-63 victory against Vanderbilt. An eye-for-an-eye battle turned in favor of the Wildcats when they scored nine unanswered points to end the third period, giving Kentucky (16-8, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) a lead it did not relinquish.”

Blocked shots have played a role in Florida’s winning streak, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “There were plenty of reasons why Florida posted its largest margin of victory against Kentucky in school history. But an early factor in No. 24 Florida’s 88-66 win over No. 8 Kentucky on Saturday night at Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center was how well the Gators protected the rim. Florida didn’t concede any easy inside baskets to the Wildcats, blocking five shots in the first half and altering others. The Gators finished the game with seven blocked shots.”

Rick Pitino says Louisville has been playing Virginia wrong, reports Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal. “On the surface, that statement won’t carry much weight. Of course, Louisville (19-4, 7-3 ACC) has played Virginia wrong: Tony Bennett’s teams are 4-1 against Pitino’s squads since U of L joined the ACC. But as Pitino went deeper and deeper into his explanation, it made more and more sense. Now Monday night’s 7 p.m. tilt in Charlottesville, Virginia, gives Pitino and his Cards a chance to apply the lessons he learned and reverse U of L’s three-game skid against Virginia.”

Louisville at Virginia (ESPN, 7 p.m.)

No rest for Virginia with Louisville coming to town, reports Norm Wood of the Daily Press. “Only 53 hours after its most demoralizing loss of the season, Virginia gets to find out how short its memory is, not to mention how fast it learns on the fly. As frustrated as No. 9 U.Va. was Saturday watching Syracuse guards Andrew White and Tyus Battle thrive in the Orange’s 66-62 win, a dangerous Louisville backcourt duo arriving in Charlottesville on Monday night could represent an even bigger headache for the Cavaliers. Shaking off another crushing loss to Syracuse, which seems to have U.Va.’s number when trailing the Cavaliers by double digits, will be the Cavaliers’ primary ambition in a quick turnaround.”

LSU played well early but couldn’t stop skid, writes Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. “Texas A&M was in the right place Saturday night to fix some of the problems the Aggies suffered from during their 3-6 start in Southeastern Conference play. Going into its game at LSU in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Texas A&M ranked 13th out of 14 teams by averaging 66.3 points per game in nine SEC outings. And the Aggies were dead last, having committing 17.0 turnovers per game. Following a slow start, A&M was more efficient and productive in the second half to post an 85-73 victory that ended a two-game losing streak and piled even more misery onto the Tigers’ season.”

Oregon is looking like a Final Four team, writes Ken Goe of the Oregonian. “ If Arizona is the country’s No. 5 college basketball team, then the Oregon Ducks will win the national championship. The Ducks throttled fifth-ranked Arizona 85-58 Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena. If you think the game was that close, you weren’t paying attention. Oregon was up 38-11 late in the first half and 64-27 with 11:24 left in the second.”

North Carolina feels at home in Greensboro with win over Notre Dame, reports Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer. “Home court is the most among the most precious commodities a team can have in college basketball, and in the ACC in particular, and North Carolina was without it, unexpectedly, on Sunday against Notre Dame. The 16,000 or so who filled the Greensboro Coliseum, though, did their best to make the Tar Heels feel as though they were back in the Smith Center – especially during the final tension-filled seven minutes of UNC’s 83-76 victory.”

Indiana takes another Big 10 loss, reports Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall. “Turnovers remain a major problem for Indiana: Turnovers were the difference in Sunday’s loss as Wisconsin turned Indiana’s 15 miscues into 26 points. At just past the midway point of conference play, Indiana is one of 11 major conference teams turning it over on 20 percent or more of its possessions. Only three of those 11 teams have winning records in conference play. Two of them, Baylor and Villanova, have the best defense in their respective leagues. At 21.2 percent, Indiana currently has the fifth worst turnover percentage among major conference teams in league play.”

The Falcons lost the most Atlanta game ever, writes Mark Bradley of the AJC. “This wasn’t just another in Atlanta’s lengthy series of Hard Knocks and Epic Collapses. This was the absolute worst. This was the game that, with 17 minutes and seven seconds remaining, could not be lost. It was. No team in the Super Bowl’s first 50 installments had led by 11 points and not won. The Falcons led by 25 and lost. For three quarters, they played so well on this biggest of stages that these fingers were composing a tone poem to Dan Quinn and his Brotherhood and Kyle Shanahan and his unstoppable offense and Matt Ryan as the architect of this franchise’s deliverance. That bit of verse has been shredded, along with a starving city’s hopes and dreams.”

SEC men’s basketball standings

Team

SEC

Overall

South Carolina

9-1

19-4

Florida

8-2

18-5

Kentucky

8-2

18-5

Arkansas

6-4

17-6

Alabama

6-4

13-9

Miss State

5-5

14-8

Ole Miss

5-5

14-9

Tennessee

5-5

13-10

Auburn

4-6

15-8

Georgia

4-6

13-10

Texas A&M

4-6

12-10

Vanderbilt

4-6

11-12

LSU

1-9

9-13

Missouri

1-9

6-16

SEC men’s basketball mid-week schedule

Tuesday, Feb. 7

6:30 p.m. - Alabama at South Carolina (SEC)

7 p.m. - Florida at Georgia (ESPN2)

7 p.m. - LSU at Kentucky (ESPN)

8:30 p.m. - Vanderbilt at Arkansas (SEC)

9 p.m. - Mississippi State at Auburn (ESPNU)

Wednesday, Feb. 8

6:30 p.m. - Ole Miss at Tennessee (SEC)

8:30 p.m. - Missouri at Texas A&M (SEC)

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