Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Kentucky men and women’s basketball execute Thursday twin killing

Tennessee guard Kevin Punter, left, loses control of his dribble with pressure from Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe in the second half. The University of Kentucky hosted the University of Florida, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Rupp Arena in Lexington .
Tennessee guard Kevin Punter, left, loses control of his dribble with pressure from Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe in the second half. The University of Kentucky hosted the University of Florida, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 at Rupp Arena in Lexington . Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Friday:

Derek Willis helps Kentucky beat Tennessee, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Derek Willis walked carefully and slow toward his post-game media duties Thursday night. He hobbled up to a seat on a podium and sighed as reporters leaned in expecting to hear Willis talk about his career-high 25-point game and Kentucky’s 80-70 victory over Tennessee.”

Kentucky women roll at Mississippi State, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had people walking out of The Hump with a lot of time left and I wanted to go with them,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. “I’m embarrassed. I’m very disappointed.”

Can Tyler Ulis and UK do what Kemba Walker and UConn did in 2011? asks Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “No one knows better than Kentucky fans that a perimeter-oriented team without a dependable low-post game can cut down nets on the last weekend of the men’s college basketball season. Twice in the past six years, Connecticut teams built on exceptional guard play — and not blessed with a traditional back-to-the basket scorer — have beaten UK in the Final Four en route to national titles. “

Herald-Leader photo gallery from Kentucky’s win over Tennessee.

Kentucky pulls away from Tennessee 80-70, reports Grant Ramey of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Rick Barnes was willing to concede Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray on Thursday night against Kentucky. If the Tennessee men’s basketball team was going to be competitive, that was all the Vols could give up. Derek Willis spoiled those plans. “

Willis feels horrible, but looks fine, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. The junior says he has been battling knee problems, but still made seven of 10 three-pointers as Kentucky improved to 10-3 in conference play.

Empowered Kentucky hitting its stride, writes Darrell Bird of the Cats Pause. ““The best part of last game is I could step away -- didn’t do it on purpose -- but I could step away and see that this team was empowered,” Calipari said. “They were running and doing the things that we had taught and they didn’t need me there.”

Tennessee football needs a culture change, writes Jay Greeson of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “The University of Tennessee football program has had too many run-ins with the law concerning sexually related offenses. Yes, in a perfect world, one is too many — but this is far from a perfect world, especially in the college setting with hormones and potential alcohol and who knows what other variables involved. “

Eastern Kentucky’s rally comes up short against Belmont, reports WKYT. “Eastern Kentucky University’s men’s basketball team staged a furious rally, cutting a 22-point deficit to one, but couldn’t completely overcome a slow start in a 86-78 loss to visiting Belmont University on Thursday at McBrayer Arena. “

Former college quarterbacks are coveted campaign partners in South Carolina, reports Josh Kendall of The State. “On Wednesday night in Chapin, Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio picked up the most coveted endorsement in Columbia. Also, the governor of South Carolina backed Rubio. Maybe that’s an overstatement, but in the state of South Carolina it’s only a slight one. In case you haven’t noticed, out state is starting to swell with a very Southern phenomenon -- the ex-quarterback-favored-son-turned-political-endorser.”

After collapse against Duke, confounding questions remain for North Carolina, reports Andrew Carter of the Raleigh News and Observer. The Tar Heels let a second half lead slip away in one-point home loss to the visiting Blue Devils.

SEC men’s basketball games Saturday

  • 12:00 - Florida at South Carolina (SEC)
  • 12:00 - Georgia at Vanderbilt (ESPN2)
  • 2:30 - Mississippi State at Alabama (SEC)
  • 5:00 - Ole Miss at Auburn (SEC)
  • 5:30 - LSU at Tennessee (ESPNU)
  • 6:30 - Kentucky at Texas A&M (ESPN)
  • 7:30 - Missouri at Arkansas (SEC)
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