Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana and Trae Young have big days, plus more links

Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) reacts to a basket as UK defeated Virginia Tech 93-86 in Rupp Arena on Saturday Dec. 16, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel (32) reacts to a basket as UK defeated Virginia Tech 93-86 in Rupp Arena on Saturday Dec. 16, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

Sunday links:

Kentucky makes its case for greater respect, writes Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Before what was billed as a statement game against Virginia Tech, a cautious Kentucky Coach John Calipari seemed to try to cushion the Big Blue Nation for possible defeat. Instead of a Truman-esque declaration about beating the Hokies and making college basketball like it, Calipari couched his words in equanimity.”

Kentucky aces its test against Virginia Tech, says my column. “Before Saturday, Kentucky was the turnover-prone team, ranking 271st out of 351 Division I teams in turnover percentage, according to hoops’ most famous quant, Ken Pomeroy. And yet UK committed just 11 turnovers Saturday — three in the second half — against the full-court pressure of Virginia Tech while employing a press of its own that helped turn the Hokies over 19 times.”

Turnovers spoil Virginia Tech’s upset recipe, writes David Teel of the Daily Press. “Hall of Famer John Calipari has coached Kentucky for nine seasons. Never in that time has an opponent strolled into Rupp Arena, the Wildcats’ iconic home, and shot as well as Virginia Tech did Saturday. That’s 148 games, mind you. Against pedigreed teams such as Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina, Louisville and Florida.”

Kentucky’s press slows Virginia Tech, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. “The problem with shooting the lights out is that you can wind up dribbling in the dark. So it was with Virginia Tech on Saturday. So it was that a team that made 18 layups and shot 58.2 percent from the field – the highest percentage by a visiting team at Rupp Arena in at least a decade – found a way to lose.”

Pressure defense and three-pointers beat Virginia Tech, reports Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times. “Kentucky usually hurts teams by scoring in the paint, so Williams wanted to make Kentucky beat Tech from outside. But Kentucky did just that. Tech outscored Kentucky in the paint, but the Wildcats sank a season-high 11 3-pointers — one more than Tech made — on a season-high 22 3-point attempts.”

Virginia Tech can still take positives into ACC season, says Gene Wang of the Washington Post. “That the Hokies were able to push eighth-ranked Kentucky for the majority of a 93-86 loss provided promise for when ACC competition commences at the end of the month. But the result also left the Hokies smarting from a flurry of errors dealing with Kentucky’s recently installed press, as well as from wayward three-point shooting in the second half in their first visit to Rupp Arena.”

Kentucky is young, streaky and loaded with talent, writes Lindsay Schnell of USA Today. “Shortly after No. 5 Kentucky used 11 threes to beat Virginia Tech 93-86 at Rupp Arena on Saturday, despite the fact that it was the Hokies who came in averaging 10 treys a game and 46.8% from the arc (second in the nation) Hamidou Diallo looked very much like he wanted to roll his eyes when reporters asked if he personally was caught off guard by the Wildcats’ precision from long-distance.”

Quade Green turns Terminator, says Kyle Tucker of SEC Country. “Just a day earlier, John Calipari had been explaining how vital freshman point guard Quade Green is to Kentucky’s offense. How his value is greater than most people understand. How if Green’s gouged right eye kept him from playing Saturday against Virginia Tech, it would spell trouble. Then the game started, but Green did not, and the Hokies unleashed their spectacular offense. Calipari could only stomach 92 seconds and 5 quick points by the visitors before he hollered down his bench for the 6-foot kid wearing sunglasses.”

Kentucky shines from the three-point line, writes Phillip Hawkins of the Kentucky Kernel. “Diallo scored the second-most points for the team against Virginia Tech, finishing the game with 20 points. This is now back-to-back games where he has finished with 20 or more points. A major key to his getting his 20 points was his three-point shooting. Only a 31 percent three-point shooter on the season, Diallo knocked down four of his seven three point attempts against the Hokies.”

Louisville finds its offensive groove in win over Memphis, reports Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal. “Greg Paulus in recent weeks confronted an issue troubling Louisville basketball, and the former Duke guard made it his mission to help the Cards’ guards and wings solve it. Louisville, now 8-2 after an 81-72 win over Memphis on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, wasn’t spacing the floor enough on offense. The Cards often settled for rushed and challenged shots because they were having trouble creating much else, and their shooting percentages lagged.”

Trae Young powers Oklahoma past No. 3 Wichita State, reports Taylor Eldridge of the Wichita Eagle. “Young, the nation’s leading scorer, torched the No. 3 team in the nation for 29 points and 10 assists to power Oklahoma to a 91-83 upset victory over Wichita State at Intrust Bank Arena. It was the seventh straight game Young scored at least 28 points, as OU improved to 8-1 and WSU fell to 8-2.”

Florida crumbles in loss to Clemson, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “The biggest gaffe came with under a minute remaining. Florida took a 68-67 lead on a heads-up steal and layup along the baseline by Chris Chiozza with 1:23 left. Then, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes combined for a blocked shot, with Stone getting the rebound on a missed drive by Clemson guard Marquise Reed.”

Indiana beats Notre Dame in overtime, reports Rick Bozich of WDRB. “Behind for nearly 34 minutes and never ahead by more than two points until the final seconds, the Hoosiers somehow beat a Notre Dame squad ranked 18th in the nation, a team that won the Maui Invitational and a team led by Bonzie Colson, the Atlantic Coast Conference pre-season player of the year. The Hoosiers moved from 83rd to 74th in Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings, their best number since the pre-season.”

Is there now a state of Kentucky problem for UK recruiting? asks Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “Unless something changes, the 2018 Kentucky Wildcats football recruiting class will not include one player signed directly out of a high school in Kentucky. The 2017-18 UK men’s basketball roster does not have a recruited scholarship player from the commonwealth for what appears to be the first time ever.”

Ex-UK assistant Randy Sanders gets a head coaching job, reports Grant Ramey of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “A familiar face is reportedly taking over as head coach at East Tennessee State. FootballScoop.com reported Saturday that former Tennessee offensive coordinator Randy Sanders is “expected to become the new head coach at ETSU.’”

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