Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Kentucky basketball skewers Florida’s NCAA hopes

Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) scored on a drive past Florida Gators center John Egbunu (15) as the University of Kentucky played the University of Florida at the O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Fl., Tuesday, March 1, 2016. This is second half action. UK won 88-79.
Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) scored on a drive past Florida Gators center John Egbunu (15) as the University of Kentucky played the University of Florida at the O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Fl., Tuesday, March 1, 2016. This is second half action. UK won 88-79. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Wednesday:

▪ Skal Labissiere is the comeback kid, says my column in the Herald-Leader. “Then Tuesday night, out of the blue, Skal Labissiere’s name showed up in Kentucky’s starting lineup. And then Labissiere showed up on the floor. He scored baskets. He grabbed rebounds. He put his long, thin body on people. He picked-and-popped as a tandem with point guard Tyler Ulis. By night’s end, Labissiere had scored 11 points and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds, and Kentucky had a huge victory on the road.”

▪ New look Kentucky whips Florida, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “As re-inventions go, Kentucky’s put the super in Super Tuesday. An 88-79 victory over Florida proved that Coach John Calipari’s pre-game talk about “tweaks” was more than showmanship and wishful thinking.”

▪ Florida’s tourney hopes take a huge blow, reports Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “Florida showed signs of more passion and urgency in its O’Connell Center season finale Tuesday night against No. 22 Kentucky. Execution was a different story. Abysmal free-throw shooting, poor perimeter shooting and some lapses on defense against Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray in the second half proved costly in an 88-79 loss to the Wildcats before an announced crowd of 10,684.”

▪ Lights out for the Gators, writes Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun. “When the construction workers begin renovating the inside of the O’Connell Center in a couple of weeks, they had better bring a few dump trucks full of Lysol. They’ll need it to rid the place of the smell left behind at the free-throw lines by the last Florida team to play in the place.”

▪ Gators fight and fizzle, reports Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s tough,” senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. “Everybody wanted to go out on Senior Night with a win. It puts us in a tough situation.”

▪ Labissiere roars back, reports Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. Kentucky’s freshman center scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 15 minutes. John Calipari said if Labissiere plays like that, however, Kentucky is a pretty good team.

▪ Kentucky ws all about balance, writes Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “All five Kentucky (22-8, 12-5 SEC) starters scored in double figures, led by Jamal Murray with 21 – 18 of which came in the second half on 4-of-4 shooting – for his ninth straight 20-point outing. Tyler Ulis notched his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 19 points and dishing 11 assists.”

▪ Florida drops a crucial contest, writes Jerry Palm of cbssports.com. “After an 88-79 loss at home to Kentucky, Florida's record dropped to 17-13. That is the Gators fourth straight loss, and while none of those have been horrible, the number is getting too high.”

▪ Texas A&M manhandles Auburn, reports Tom Green of the Opelika News. “Thanks to a 20-0 run that spanned the end of the first half and the first 3 minutes, 14 seconds of the second half — paired with a monstrous rebounding advantage — the Aggies handed the Tigers a lopsided 81-63 loss in the final game at Auburn Arena this season.”

▪ Vanderbilt crushes Tennessee, reports Adam Sparks of the Tennessean. “No Vanderbilt students stormed the court, and they had little need to Tuesday night. The Commodores trounced Tennessee 86-69 for the first season sweep of their rival since 2009-10. Vanderbilt (19-11, 11-6 SEC) saw the Vols (13-17, 6-11 SEC) get relatively close twice. But the Commodores pulled away both times with lopsided runs.”

▪ LSU handles Missouri, reports Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. “Down 22 points at halftime, Southeastern Conference cellar-dweller Missouri threatened to spoil Senior Night for LSU on a festive evening in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. But in a roller coaster of a season in which it has become accustomed to watching substantial leads slip away in the second half, the LSU basketball team managed to hang on for an 80-71 victory over Missouri.”

SEC men’s basketball standings

Team

W

L

W

L

Texas A&M

12

5

23

7

Kentucky

12

5

22

8

Vanderbilt

11

6

19

11

LSU

11

6

18

12

South Carolina

10

6

23

6

Ole Miss

8

8

18

11

Alabama

8

8

17

11

Georgia

8

8

15

12

Arkansas

8

8

15

14

Florida

8

9

17

13

Miss State

6

10

13

15

Tennessee

6

11

13

17

Auburn

5

12

11

18

Missouri

3

14

10

20

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