Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: Kentucky men and women’s basketball in big Saturday games

Kentucky center Alyssa Rice (45), teammate Evelyn Akhator (13) and Florida guard Cassie Peoples (13) vie for a loose ball during an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday, March 4, 2016.
Kentucky center Alyssa Rice (45), teammate Evelyn Akhator (13) and Florida guard Cassie Peoples (13) vie for a loose ball during an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday, March 4, 2016. The Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

Kentucky women cruise past Florida, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “Each of the last 10 contests in this rivalry had been decided by 10 points or less. But not this one. Not this time. After falling behind by double digits in the first quarter of the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals, the No. 13 Cats roared back, demolishing No. 25 Florida 92-69 on Friday.”

Florida women bruised and battered by UK, reports Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun. “Obviously we’re disappointed in the way we played,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “We’re especially disappointed in the way we played defensively. We had big letdowns in that area.”

Saturday is a huge game for LSU, reports Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times. “LSU’s Ratings Percentage Index number is 86 and also wanting after losses to RPI bottom feeders Arkansas (No. 112) and Tennessee (No. 140) just last week. This is why the Tigers desperately need a win over Kentucky, which is No. 13 in the RPI.”

Box score from first UK-LSU game this year

Poythress content, grateful on eve of Senior Day, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “Honor student. Loving son. Living example of perseverance and good will. Those who snicker at the NCAA-preferred term of ‘student-athlete’ should look away when Kentucky basketball honors Alex Poythress on Saturday. He’s a throwback to yesteryear when players were really thought of as students as well as athletes. At UK, where the so-called one-and-done rule has put Senior Day on life support, there’s a hint of irony as Poythress takes center stage. It’s a feel-good story about a player who has experienced plenty of pain as a Wildcat.”

UK gets no sympathy for injuries, reports Tipton. “We’ve been injured all year,” Calipari said. “I have to tell you, I haven’t heard anyone crying for Kentucky. As a matter of fact, I have not heard it mentioned.”

LSU needs a Keith Hornsby impression, says Jerit Roser of NOLA.com. “But the Tigers will need more than just their Superman — or for that matter, their Robin, freshman guard Antonio Blakeney — to show up Saturday against the Wildcats to win a crucial regular season final in Lexington, Ky.”

LSU looking at SEC Tournament possibilities, reports Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. “For the second year in a row, the LSU men’s basketball team will go into its Southeastern Conference regular-season finale on the road Saturday facing an incredibly tall task. Some might view it as a near-impossible mission, just as it seemed a year ago when the Tigers were missing a key player for a game that would be vital to their NCAA tournament hopes and SEC tournament seeding.”

SEC title is definitely a goal for UK, reports Metz Camfield of CoachCal.com. “That’s definitely a goal,” said UK forward Alex Poythress, who will be going through Senior Day festivities prior to tipoff. “Winning any title that we can, SEC title would be the first step in our goal, then the next step would be to try to win the national title. We’re just trying to chase titles, just trying to win games.”

Poythress and family arrive at a special Senior Day, writes Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal. The senior forward missed almost all of the 2014-15 season after tearing his ACL. He missed five games this season after minor knee surgery.

UK basketball individual game-by-game stats

Previewing UK’s final home game, from Josh Ellis of the Kentucky Kernel. “We’re going to play a desperate team, but I’m not worried about it because every team we play is desperate. Every single team, every night at home, on the road, is desperate,” Calipari said. “And they’re going to be desperate. It’s good for us. That’s what prepares us for March and that’s why our teams historically have played well in March. Because we never get an off night.”

Finale big for both teams, reports Derek Terry of Cats Illustrated. “As has been the case for the past three UK opponents, LSU is sitting on the bubble and still searching for marquee wins late in the season. The Tigers have underachieved this season with a talented roster led by Ben Simmons, but a win over the Wildcats in Rupp Arena would go a long way in helping their cause for an NCAA Tournament bid.”

Melvin Lewis back on the field for UK football’s Pro Day, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Nearly five months after his college football career came to a premature end, former University of Kentucky defensive tackle Melvin Lewis was back on the field at Nutter Field House on Friday morning, working out with his former teammates in front of about 30 NFL scouts. Lewis suffered a broken fibula in the Wildcats’ loss to Auburn last October, an injury that ended his promising run at UK and threw his football future into question.”

Dreams on display at Pro Day, reports Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause. “I just told them to relax and enjoy the process and have a great day,” said head coach Mark Stoops. “A lot of times guys get pretty worked up and the minute you start putting some numbers on guys they tighten up a little bit. I just want them to do the very best they can.”

Rick Pitino is likely to stand his ground, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. Louisville finishes its season on Saturday night at Virginia. Speculation has already started about whether Pitino will return to U of L next season in the face of investigations over the so-called Stripper Scandal.

Trustees chairman says he hopes Pitino stays, reports Eric Crawford of WDRB. “Larry Benz, the chairman of the University of Louisville board of trustees, tonight issued a statement on behalf of the board concerning basketball coach Rick Pitino, saying, ‘our genuine hope is that Coach Pitino is our coach for as many years as he wants.’”

Vanderbilt has shot at four-way tie for title, writes Adam Sparks of the Tennessean. The Commodores would have to beat Texas A&M while Kentucky loses to LSU. “We need some help to really be playing for the championship,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “But all you can do is play that one game for that next opportunity.”

South Carolina hopes to regroup against Arkansas, reports David Cloninger of The State. The Gamecocks have lost four of their last six, including a 74-72 home loss to Georgia on Thursday night.

SEC men’s basketball schedule for Saturday

  • 12:00 - Ole Miss at Tennessee (SEC)
  • 12:00 - Vanderbilt at Texas A&M (ESPN2)
  • 2:00 - LSU at Kentucky (CBS)
  • 2:30 - Auburn at Mississippi State (SEC)
  • 4:00 - Alabama at Georgia (ESPN2)
  • 5:00 - South Carolina at Arkansas (SEC)
  • 7:30 - Florida at Missouri (SEC)

SEC Women’s Tournament schedule

Friday’s results

  • South Carolina 57, Auburn 48
  • Kentucky 92, Florida 69
  • Tennessee 70, Texas A&M 60
  • Miss State 63, Vanderbilt 46

Saturday’s games

  • 5:00 - Kentucky vs. South Carolina (ESPNU)
  • 7:00 - Tennessee vs. Miss State (ESPNU)
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