College basketball on television: Feb. 21

Mark Jones, Sean Farnham and Kalyee Hartung is your ESPN crew for Kentucky-Auburn at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.

Here is the list of college basketball games on television Saturday:

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Big Blue Links: Joker Phillips, Karlito and more

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

Florida avoids further penalties in case involving infractions by former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips.

Kentucky takes aim at 27-0 Saturday night when the Cats face Auburn at Rupp Arena. ESPN has the telecast. Like it or not, the Cats are feeling heat from the streak, writes Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader.

Karl-Anthony Towns has an imaginary frustration valve known as Karlito, who sits upon his shoulder and listens to his troubles. Or something like that.

Auburn is the heavy underdog against the top-ranked Cats. The betting line is the 27-point range.

Kentucky will wear specially designed uniforms Saturday night.

In gymnastics, Kentucky topped Arkansas on Friday night as Jenny Hansen was honored by having her jersey retired.

Herald-Leader photo gallery from UK-Arkansas gymnastics

Linnae Harper of the UK women’s basketball team is working hard to break free of the clutches of cold shooting.

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It’s good to have Bruce Pearl back

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Welcome back, Bruce Pearl. We missed you, you big orange guy you.

The former Tennessee coach returns to Rupp Arena on Saturday might when his Auburn Tigers take on No.1-ranked Kentucky, a stiff challenge Pearl himself admits his first-year team is probably not ready to tackle.

We don’t care about all that. We’re just glad to have Hypeactive Bruce back in the good ol’ SEC, back where he’s a passionate voice for the sport of basketball, where he knows how to sell a program, where he can entice fans at a football school to be interested in basketball.

It’s been a rocky first year in War Eagle land for Pearl, but then that was to be expected. The Tigers are 4-9 in the league and 12-14 overall. They’ve pulled off an upset or two, beating LSU 81-77 in Baton Rouge and Georgia 69-68 in Athens. They’ve also lost three of their last four, however.

It says here Pearl will eventually close the skill gap. As it stands now, Rivals ranks Pearl’s recruiting class for 2015 as the 11th best in the nation. He has commitments from a couple of Top 100 players in power forward Horace Spencer (61) and small forward Danjel Purifoy (80).

There’s no love lost between John Calipari and Pearl, of course. That dates back to Pearl’s days in Knoxville and Cal’s days in Memphis. To add another factor, Pearl’s predecessor at Auburn, Tony Barbee, is a former Calipari player and assistant who after being fired as the Tigers’ coach joined the UK staff as a Calipari aid.

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Three things from Kentucky’s Auburn preview

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Three things from UK basketball’s media opp Friday to preview Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against visiting Auburn:

1.¬†From a sideline standpoint, it will be a bit odd Saturday night when Kentucky faces visiting Auburn at Rupp Arena. On the Auburn bench will be the Tigers’ current head coach, Bruce Pearl, the former Tennessee head coach in his first year on the Plains. On the Kentucky bench will be the man Pearl replaced, Tony Barbee, now an aide to his former coach, UK head coach John Calipari.

“We talked about it,” Calipari said Friday when asked if the situation was uncomfortable for Barbee. “He said, ‘Just go play the game, I’m good.'”

Calipari said Barbee inherited a tough situation at Auburn and nearly had the Tigers turned around when bad things happened beyond the coach’s control. After an 82-52 record in four seasons at UTEP, Barbee went 11-20 and 15-16 his first two seasons at Auburn before a nosedive.

The Tigers caved to 9-23 in 2012-13. They made some progress in 2013-14, going 14-16 overall and 6-12 in the league, but it wasn’t enough. Auburn AD Jay Jacobs pulled the plug. The 43-year-old Barbee ended up 49-75 in his four years at Auburn with an 18-50 record in the SEC.

Calipari said he was confident Barbee will get another head coaching job and do well. “I just hope I don’t have to play against him,” said Cal, who coached Barbee at UMass.

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College basketball on television: Feb. 20

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It’s the usual slate of mid-majors for Friday night’s college basketball viewing pleasure with the best game featuring Cleveland State vs. Green Bay in a Horizon League showdown.

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Breaking down Kyle Wiltjer’s 45-point night

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If you missed it, former Kentucky Wildcat sharpshooter Kyle Wiltjer exploded for 45 points on Thursday night as Gonzaga beat Pacific 86-74.

Here are some notes on Wiltjer’s tour-de-force:

– The 45 points is the third-highest total in Gonzaga history, behind Frank Burgess’ 52 in 1961 and Jean Clade Lefebrve in 1958.

– It was the highest-scoring game by a Zag in 54 years.

– Wiltjer is the first Zag to score 40-or-more points since Adam Morrison scored 44 points against Loyola Marymount on Feb. 16, 2008.

– Morrison had five games in which he scored 40-or-more points.

– It topped Wiltjer’s previous career-high of 32 points against Georgia back in November.

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Big Blue Links: UK women fall; Bruce Pearl’s return

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Big Blue Links for Friday:

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Surprise, surprise, Louisville’s Chris Jones is back

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When Rick Pitino said on the pre-game show before Louisville played Syracuse on Wednesday night that suspended guard Chris Jones might not return to the team for the rest of the season, you knew what was about to happen.

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College basketball on television: Feb. 19

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Wisconsin is running away with the Big 10. As expected. The Badgers hold a three-game lead over the rest of the pack. So the real drama, and logjam, is all about the five teams that are behind Bo Ryan’s superior squad in the standings.

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SEC preview: Ole Miss looks for sweep of State

Preview of the one SEC men’s basketball game Thursday night:

Ole Miss (8-4) at Mississippi State (5-7): Ole Miss had ripped off six straight victories before losing a 71-70 home heartbreaker to Arkansas last Saturday. The Rebels beat their arch-rivals 79-73 in Oxford on Jan. 28. Mississippi State has been surprisingly competitive in league play. The Bulldogs are coming off a 77-74 road win at Missouri last week. State is 2-3 in SEC home games. ESPN2 has the 9 p.m. game.

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