CHICAGO — Done writing my column off UK-UCLA, but here’s three more things:
1. Kentucky had 25 assists. That’s the most assists the Cats have had in a game since Nov. 23, 2012 against Long Island University-Brooklyn. But here’s the thing. Go back to John Calipari’s first season at Kentucky, when John Wall was his point guard. That first year, Kentucky had a 28-assist game against UNC-Asheville, a 30-assist game against Hartford, a 27-assist game against East Tennessee State in the NCAA Tournament.
If the Cats don’t have a John Wall on this team, they may have a combination of one. Andrew Harrison dished eight assists Saturday. That was in 23 minutes. Tyler Ulis dished six assists. That was in 18 minutes. Consider that UK scored 32 field goals and 25 of them came off of assists.
Consider this: Dakari Johnson had six assists. Before Saturday, Johnson had never made more than three assists in a game. He also had four blocked shots in 25 minutes. Not a bad game.
CHICAGO — Kentucky decimated UCLA 83-44 in the CBS Sports Classic in the United Center and we have video of the principals discussing the carnage.
We have UK coach John Calipari, whose team has now won each of its first 12 games by double digits. We have Tyler Ulis, whose Chicago homecoming was a happy one as he dished six assists in 18 minutes. We have Devin Booker, who scored a game-high 19 points, thanks in part to making five of six three-point shots.
We also have UCLA coach Steve Alford, who made some interesting comments about this Kentucky team being the best team he’s coached against in his 24 years. We have Bryce Alford, son of Steve, who ended up with 13 points. We have Kevon Looney, a freshman and not a bad player. Looney had nine points and nine rebounds.
Click the continue line for the videos.
Welcome to the Kentucky.com liveblog for Saturday’s game between No. 1-ranked Kentucky and UCLA. Here are the basics:
To join the liveblog, click the continue line.
Big Blue Links for Saturday:
Kentucky meets UCLA in Chicago today, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “If you’re looking to contrast basketball dynasties, how Kentucky and UCLA are flying to Chicago for Saturday’s game is one place to start. UK chartered a flight with Miami Air International, which services professional teams, U.S. military and governmental agencies and Fortune 500 companies. UCLA flew commercially.”
Age has brought a different perspective on the UCLA dynasty, is my column. Back then, I rooted for anyone to beat the Bruins. Now, I have more appreciation for what the Bruins accomplished.
Norman Powell has learned the value of staying power, writes Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times. The 6-foot-4 UCLA guard is a rarity, a senior with his eyes on the NBA draft as the Bruins prepare to play the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
Rebecca Greenwell is back to normal at Duke, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. The Kentuckian has been through three knee surgeries. No. 12 Duke plays host to Matthew Mitchell’s eighth-ranked Cats on Sunday in Durham.
The CBS Sports Classic in Chicago highlights a busy Saturday and not just because it’s North Carolina-Ohio State followed by Kentucky-UCLA. It’s also Uncle Verne, Verne Lundquist on play-by-play with Greg Anthony on color as, yes, CBS is televising the CBS Sports Classic.
If you’re looking ahead to next Saturday’s UK-U of L clash, you can check out Louisville at Western Kentucky on Fox Sports 1 at noon. The fourth-ranked Cardinals are unbeaten. Western Kentucky is 4-0, but with losses at Minnesota, to Belmont at home, at Stony Brook and at Murray State. WKU did beat Ole Miss 81-74 in Oxford last Saturday.
Up the road in Indy, Butler plays Indiana, followed by Notre Dame vs. Purdue. If you missed it earlier this week, I wrote on Butler’s interim coach, Chris Holtmann, a Nicholasville native who is doing an excellent job in a tough spot this season.
Here’s the list of college basketball games on television for Saturday:
When Eastern Kentucky visited Rupp Arena on Dec. 7, the Colonels made just six of 30 three-pointers (20 percent) on the way to an 82-49 loss to No. 1-ranked Kentucky.
Friday night at No. 18 Miami, it was a completely different three-point story. Jeff Neubauer’s Colonels made 14 of 26 from behind the arc for 53.8 percent on the way to a shocking 72-44 crushing of the host Hurricanes.
Eastern Kentucky’s website says its the school’s first win over a Top 25 team since 1959. A twitter follower says it is actually the first since a 1971 win over No. 17 Murray State. The Racer History web site backs that up.
“Our whole goal going into the game was there’s no way we were going to allow Miami to get to 50,” said Neubauer, according to the AP. “You can have 49 points but they’re not getting 50. Somehow that came true here tonight.”
With Kentucky and UCLA playing Saturday at the United Center, I contacted Zach Helfand, who covers the Bruins for the Los Angeles Times, and asked him a few questions about the team from Westwood.
Here are his responses.
1) What do the Bruins do well enough that you might think they have a chance of upsetting Kentucky?
Hefland: “If UCLA is going to have any chance, the guards will have to shoot the lights out and the big men will have to rebound. Kentucky just has more talent than the Bruins, and their strengths neutralize UCLA’s. UCLA likes to run, and it struggles at times in a set offense. But Kentucky has the athletes to stop transition. The Bruins have rebounded really well — that’s been their biggest strength this season — and Kevon Looney is a very long, very talented player on the glass. But Kentucky just has so much size. If UCLA can win the rebounding battle, that would be a big win.
Some reactions from the interweb concerning the Boston Celtics trade of former UK star Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday:
Zach Lowe of Grantland: “We know Rondo has an extra gear when he gives a crap. The Mavs are betting that Playoff Rondo is still in there somewhere, waiting to be unleashed. “This will be a Chauncey Billups–to–Denver–level addition,” one league executive says. Playoff Rondo could make a dramatic impact on defense for Dallas as it navigates through Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, and the rest. Even a semi-comatose Rondo contemplating his next Connect Four session is an upgrade on that end over Nelson, J.J. Barea, and Raymond Felton.
“His size matters for a team with so many point guards. The Celtics already had Rondo guarding some wing players, which allowed them to sic Bradley on opposing point guards. Rondo has the length and tenacity for it; who can forget him going toe-to-toe with LeBron James for a few precious playoff possessions?”
Dwain Price of Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “The acquisition of point guard Rajon Rondo by the Dallas Mavericks has turned the NBA on its collective heels. That’s because now the Mavs have a top-flight defender on the perimeter to go along with a top-flight defender in the middle in center Tyson Chandler.
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A few good college basketball games on the tube this Friday night before Christmas week, but let’s talk about South Carolina.
Frank Martin’s Gamecocks play host to Clemson at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network. Last time out, South Carolina dealt Oklahoma State its only loss this season, ripping the Cowboys 75-49 in Columbia back on Dec. 6. The Gamecocks have won three straight.
Meanwhile, Clemson will be trying to win its third straight over an SEC team. The Tigers beat Arkasnas 68-65 and Auburn 72-61 in its last two games, both at home. And Clemson beat LSU 64-61 back on November 24.
Here’s the list of Friday night’s televised games:
Big Blue Links for Friday:
John Calipari says UCLA’s lack of depth could actually work to the Bruins’ advantage, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. Calipari said his three best teams played six or seven players. Those teams were his 1996 UMass team, his 2008 Memphis team and his 2012 Kentucky national title team.
Mark Story of the Herald-Leader writes about how Kentucky could have already passed UCLA in national titles. Kentucky has eight. The Bruins have 11. Injuries have something to do with those two totals.
Hal Mumme says he is a huge fan of new UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, reports Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. Mumme hired Dawson at Southeast Louisiana, then took him o to New Mexico State.
Special teams coach Craig Naviar is leaving UK for Houston, reports Jon Hale of the Cats Pause. Navair joins new Houston head coach Tom Herman, formerly Ohio State’s offensive coordinator. Navair and Herman worked together at Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice.