Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky basketball preview

In this Nov. 8, 2015, photo Eastern Kentucky's Dan McHale looks on from the sidelines during an NCAA college basketball exhibition game in Richmond, Ky. Eastern Kentucky has a new coach on the sidelines for the first time in a decade.
In this Nov. 8, 2015, photo Eastern Kentucky's Dan McHale looks on from the sidelines during an NCAA college basketball exhibition game in Richmond, Ky. Eastern Kentucky has a new coach on the sidelines for the first time in a decade. Richmond Register/The Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

Eastern Kentucky’s style of play should look familiar, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “When Kentucky plays Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday night, UK fans might feel a bit of déjà Blue. EKU Coach Dan McHale, a former student manager for UK, uses the same playing style that thrilled UK fans when Rick Pitino orchestrated it in the 1990s.”

Skal Labissiere’s physical struggles can be solved, reports Tipton. “I’ve seen skinny guys battle,” Calipari said. “Just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean (voice takes a softer tone), ‘Well, OK.’ You’ve just got to have that mentality. Some of that is inner dialogue. What exactly are you saying to yourself when a shot goes up? … What are you saying to yourself when the other team is beating you to balls?”

Game more than just a reunion for McHale, reports Bob Flynn of the Richmond Register. “I was with Rick when he made that first trip back into Rupp. It was a surreal experience. It was fun and I remember everything about that day and I’ll never forget it. It was a great day,” McHale said. “This will be different coming back as a head coach and it’s special as well. I don’t think I will ever forget this trip to Rupp either.”

Derek Willis has gone gray by choice, reports WKYT. “As one of the few upperclassmen on the Kentucky basketball team, it’s understandable that junior Derrick Willis may feel older than the typical 20-year old. Maybe that explains his choice of hair color. The forward showed off newly-dyed silver locks at Kentucky’s availability with the media Tuesday afternoon.”

SEC ADs are now hiring defensive coordinators as head coaches, says my column. “All three new SEC head coaches are former defensive coordinators. Just in the past week, Missouri promoted defensive coordinator Barry Odom to replace retiring head coach Gary Pinkel, a former offensive coordinator. Georgia hired Alabama’s defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace Mark Richt, a former quarterbacks coach. South Carolina hired Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to replace Steve Spurrier, another ex-Florida head coach who revolutionized the league with his offense.”

Mark Elder wants to keep standards up at Eastern Kentucky, reports Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Butch Jones lost his tight ends and special teams coach on Tuesday, but for the first time in his career, he saw one of his assistants take over another program. Eastern Kentucky announced it hired Tennessee’s Mark Elder to be its head coach, which makes Elder the first Jones assistant to become a full-time head coach. Others, including Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling, have held interim jobs.”

Muschamp taking Auburn assistants to South Carolina, reports Michael Niziolek of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “Will Muschamp isn’t the only assistant that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has to replace. South Carolina officially announced Travaris Robinson and Bobby Bentley as members of Muschamp’s coaching staff Tuesday. Robinson will be the Gamecocks’ defensive coordinator while Bently will coach the team’s running backs. The assistants’ shared their excitement on social media about their new positions.”

Florida falls at No. 17 Miami 66-55, reports Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald. “Even before a sellout crowd of 7,972 packed the BankUnited Center Tuesday night, before new football coach Mark Richt energized the crowd with his mid-court ‘I’m so thankful to be back home’ speech, there were clues the game between the 17th-ranked University of Miami and rival University of Florida was no ordinary December non-conference matchup. For one thing, tailgaters were spotted in the MetroRail parking lot.”

Steady effort leads Arkansas past Evansville, reports Eric Bolin of Arkansas News. “Dusty Hannahs scored a season high 23 points coming off the bench to help Arkansas to a 89-76 win over Evansville on Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena. The Texas Tech transfer and Little Rock native had hit 21 points three times this season but a fair of free throws in the final minute provided the final score and his Arkansas best. He scored 16 in the first half as Arkansas built a double-digit lead by halftime and kept it throughout the rest."

Georgia holds on to beat Winthrop, reports Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph. “Georgia once again had trouble putting an opponent away. Holding a 17-point lead over Winthrop in the second half, the Eagles rallied to make yet another game at Stegeman Coliseum interesting. But in the end, Georgia was able to hold on and defeated the Eagles 74-64.”

SEC basketball standings

South Carolina

0

0

8

0

Kentucky

0

0

7

1

Auburn

0

0

4

1

Texas A&M

0

0

7

2

Florida

0

0

6

2

Ole Miss

0

0

6

2

Vanderbilt

0

0

6

2

Alabama

0

0

5

2

Georgia

0

0

4

3

LSU

0

0

4

3

Miss State

0

0

4

3

Missouri

0

0

4

3

Tennessee

0

0

4

3

Arkansas

0

0

4

4

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