Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky basketball, College Football Playoff, Tennessee dumpster fire and more links

Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones dunks during his team’s 79-70 win over Harvard at Rupp Arena on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.
Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones dunks during his team’s 79-70 win over Harvard at Rupp Arena on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. aslitz@herald-leader.com

The return of Big Blue Links:

It wasn’t easy, but Kentucky holds off Harvard, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Kentucky neither trailed nor built a double-digit lead in the first half. That reflected an opening 20 minutes in which momentum swung back and forth. UK led 42-37 at intermission, and might have left the court with a sense that the margin could have been greater.”

Under national radar, Kevin Knox off to a solid start, says my column. “Just because Bagley, Sexton, Jackson and Young, among others, have been hogging the early-season limelight doesn’t mean that the 6-foot-9 forward from Tampa, Fla., hasn’t lived up to his preseason billing as the highest-ranked recruit in John Calipari’s 2017 class. Far from it. In fact, after scoring 20 points and grabbing seven rebounds to lead the Cats to a 79-70 win over Harvard in Rupp Arena on Saturday, you can make the case that Knox has been a model of consistency through the first eight games of his collegiate career.”

D.J. Jefferies puts on a show for Kentucky fans, writes Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “His team up three points coming out of halftime and UK Coach John Calipari sitting directly behind the basket he was about to attack, D.J. Jeffries decided it was time to put on a show. The five-star basketball recruit was just fine in the first half, scoring 10 points and playing with lots of energy to help Olive Branch (Miss.) jump ahead of Adair County at the break. In the second half, Jeffries took it up a couple of notches.”

Growing pains on display in Kentucky’s win, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. “While their freshmen-fueled team continues to experience fits and starts, trials and errors and to clang dunk shots off the rim and into the stratosphere, Kentucky basketball fans are already in midseason form. Early in Saturday’s second half, with the Wildcats clinging to a six-point lead over overmatched Harvard, a fire alarm sounded at Rupp Arena. Three beeps and then a pause, and then three more beeps. On and on until the officials called a timeout.

Diallo and Knox lead the way for Kentucky, writes Chris Leach of the Kentucky Kernel. “After a week of rest days and practice, the Kentucky basketball team improved their record to 7-1 on Saturday afternoon by defeating Harvard 79-70. Kevin Knox led the Cats in scoring for the fourth time this season, pouring in 20 points. Hamidou Diallo was close behind with 19 points of his own, which tied his career-high set in the previous game.”

Should UK fans believe John Calipari’s talk of retirement? asks Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Whatever the reason for this self-administered career counseling, Calipari wound up a 40-minute question-and-answer session at the Lexington Rotary Club on Thursday by talking about what it’s like to lead Kentucky’s basketball program. This came without the prompting of a question from a Rotarian, which suggested it was the product of some forethought.”

Georgia dominates Auburn to win the SEC title, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. “It’s been a long time coming. Georgia, which has knocked on the door and come so close over the past couple of decades, appears to be playoff bound. With a 28-7 stomping over Auburn, the No. 6 Bulldogs figure to jump into the top four when the selection committee announces its field of four Sunday afternoon.”

All is right in college football, as long as the playoff committee doesn’t screw it up, writes Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports. “If you don’t think the College Football Playoff is the best thing to happen to the sport since homecoming was invented, consider where we would be without it. Namely, there would be no Ohio State vs. Alabama, Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban, Big Ten vs. Southeastern Conference debate for the last spot in the four-team field. Which is about as good as sporting debates get.”

A day of deliverance for Georgia, writes Mark Bradley of the AJC. “It has been 35 years since the Bulldogs headed toward January knowing a title was theirs for the winning. This Georgia team will rise on New Year’s Day to play in a College Football Playoff semifinal, either in New Orleans or in Pasadena, Calif. Win on Jan. 1, and the Bulldogs will be back in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 8, another championship on the line, a championship bigger than the one they seized here Saturday.”

Clemson punches its playoff ticket, reports Matt Connolly of The State. “Clemson might not have a turnover chain, but the Tigers will be adding another piece of jewelry to their collection soon. Clemson dominated Miami from start to finish Saturday night, earning a 38-3 win against the Hurricanes in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C.”

Ohio State deserves the fourth spot, says Bruce Feldman of SI.com. “Oklahoma also whipped the Buckeyes in Columbus, but I still give them the edge over Alabama because the CFP committee says conference titles are important, and despite the additional blowout loss, Ohio State’s three best wins are more impressive than any victory the Tide has.”

Gus Malzahn addresses Arkansas rumors, reports Jordan D. Hill of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “After Auburn’s 28-7 loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn addressed the elephant in the room. Or, maybe more fittingly, the Razorback in the room. Malzahn fielded questions regarding rumors that he will leave Auburn to become the Arkansas head coach. Malzahn, who went to high school in Arkansas, started his college playing career at Arkansas and was the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator in 2006, refuted the idea he has plans to leave Auburn.”

The dumpster fire at Tennessee has lessons for Kentucky, writes Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “Last week was when epic Tennessee Volunteers athletics dysfunction completed a nasty circle. In 2008, John Currie was an assistant on the staff of then-Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton at the time of Phillip Fulmer’s controversial ouster. The firing of the longtime coach — and Fulmer’s perception of Currie’s role in how it went down — reportedly left simmering ill will.”

Future UK opponent Virginia Tech wins at Ole Miss, reports Antonio Morales. “For the second time in as many games, Ole Miss found itself in an overtime contest at The Pavilion. For the second time in as many games, the Rebels found themselves on the wrong side of a close affair. After South Dakota State escaped Oxford with a win Tuesday night, Virginia Tech accomplished the same when it beat Ole Miss, 83-80, in overtime Saturday afternoon.”

Georgia picks up nice road win at Marquette, reports Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The Marquette Golden Eagles just could never get in sync on Saturday afternoon. Foul trouble left MU disjointed from the start in a 73-66 loss to Georgia at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski switched up the starting backcourt, inserting freshman Greg Elliott for senior Andrew Rowsey.”

Houston pounces, trounces Arkansas in basketball, reports Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Houston forward Devin Davis made up for lost time against the Arkansas Razorbacks in a big way. Davis, a 6-6 senior who played just three minutes against the Razorbacks last season after sustaining a right hand injury, had a career-high 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead Houston to 91-65 victory in the rematch on Saturday night at Texas Southern’s H&PE Arena before an announced crowd of 4,186.”

Devonte Graham scores 35 in Kansas win, reports Gary Bedore of the Kansas City Star. “Devonté Graham, a self-proclaimed LeBron James fan, examined some pictures of the future NBA Hall of Famer after Kansas’ game-day shootaround Saturday morning at American Airlines Arena. ‘LeBron’s my favorite player,’ senior point guard Graham said after putting on a LeBron-type performance in the Jayhawks’ 76-60 victory over Syracuse on Saturday night in the home of the NBA’s Miami Heat.”

No. 1 Duke overcomes a sloppy second half to beat South Dakota, reports Jonathan M. Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer. “Through Duke’s first nine games, it had been a second-half team – susceptible to slow starts that would ultimately end in big finishes. When it played Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington on Wednesday, No. 1 Duke trailed by four points with five minutes left in the game. And during its three games in the PK80 tournament, it trailed at halftime of each game, before coming from behind to win. But on Saturday, Duke dominated in the first half and did not play well in the second.”

College basketball on television Sunday

  • 2:00 - Tulane at North Carolina (ESPN2)
  • 2:00 - UCF at Alabama (ESPNU)
  • 4:00 - Seton Hall at Louisville (ESPN2)
  • 4:00 - Northwestern at Purdue (Big 10)
  • 4:30 - Nebraska at Michigan State (Fox Sports 1)
  • 6:00 - Tennessee at Georgia Tech (ESPNU)
  • 6:30 - Coppin State at Georgetown (Fox Sports 1)
  • 8:00 - Maryland at Illinois (Big 10)
  • 8:00 - Dayton at Mississippi State (SEC)
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