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SEC Headlines 4/2/2011 Part One

Kentucky and the Final Four

1. Kentucky vs. UConn – how the two teams match up.

2. The revenge factor. When these two teams met in Maui back in November, UConn won by 17 points.

3. Reasons to pick Kentucky….and reasons to not.

4. Keep your eye on the point guards this weekend.

5. John Calipari and Jim Calhoun - real mutual dislike.

6. They may not like each other – but there is some admiration.

7. It’s either Calipari’s first Final Four…or his third.

8. This season puts the “coach” in coach Cal.

9. Since the one-and-done rule was instituted, Calipari’s teams have averaged 33.5 wins a season.

10.  Brandon Knight is a success story, on and off the court.

11.  Charges of a secondary recruiting violation for a former Calipari assistant while UConn deals with with allegations of money and a recruit.

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Clarke And Knight Named Players Of The Week

Arkansas shooting guard Rotnei Clarke has been named the SEC’s Player of the Week for his work last week.  Clarke averaged 21.5 points in the Razorbacks wins over Kentucky and Auburn.  He has now scored more than 1,200 points in his UA career.

Meanwhile, Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight has been named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week.  Knight averaged 21 points, 5.5 assists and 4 rebounds in UK’s games with Arkansas and Florida.

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SEC Headlines – 1/17/11 Part Two

1.  Poor free-throw shooting is catching up with Florida.

2.  Will Muschamp is already 2-0 in Gainesville.

3.  Kentucky’s Jon Hood is making strides.

4.  It’s a balancing act for Brandon Knight the great shooter and Brandon Knight the Wildcat point guard and distributor.

5.  Lute Olson says it was “very unprofessional” for John Calipari to take DeMarcus Cousins and Darnell Dodson with him from Memphis to Kentucky last year.  (If Cal ever takes recruits from UK to another school, Cat fans will say the same.)

6.  Bruce Ellington was the difference for South Carolina in a win at Florida on Saturday.

7.  Bruce Pearl says Stegeman Coliseum in Athens is “going to be the most hostile environment we’ve been in this year.”

8.  Trey Thompkins will be a big challenge for the Volunteers.

9.  Vol linebacker Herman Lathers has undergone shoulder surgery.

10.  Junior forward Andre Walker is expected to return for Vanderbilt at some point this season… but next season is up in the air.

11.  Vandy football coaches believe success is closer than most people think. 

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Both SEC Basketball Awards Head To Lexington

The SEC has handed out its Player of the Week honors and both awards went to guys in the Bluegrass State.

Freshman guard Doron Lamb was named the SEC Player of the Week for his 32-point performance against Winthrop last week.  Lamb was a smokin’ 11 of 12 from the field including seven three-pointers in eight attempts.

Point guard Brandon Knight collected the SEC Freshman of the Week award for his 21-point, five-rebound performance against Winthrop.  Knight has scored 14 or more points in six consecutive games.

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Hopson, Knight Win SEC Honors

The SEC has handed out is honors for the week and two of the league’s brightest stars have received them.

Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson was named the SEC’s Player of the Week for his 27-point performance in an 83-76 win over Pitt in downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight received SEC Freshman of the Week honors after averaging 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in UK’s wins over Notre Dame and Indiana.

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Comparing Wall’s UK start to Knight’s UK start

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Here’s a chart comparing John Wall’s first seven games at Kentucky to Brandon Knight’s first seven games at UK. If you remember, Wall sat out Kentucky’s first game last year as part of his punishment for receiving extra benefits while an amateur. You will also notice, that Wall played 13 more minutes than Knight to this point, but took 23 fewer shots. Wall had 30 more assists, but two fewer turnovers than Knight at this point. And Brandon has had a harder time getting to the foul line. Wall had taken nearly twice as many free throws by this point. That’s the main reason why Wall had scored 11 more points.

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Some UK-UNC post-game notes from Saturday

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(H-L photo/Mark Cornelison)

Some UK-North Carolina notes from yesterday:

  • Terrence Jones did not have a field goal in the second half.
  • Jones missed the front end of two bonus situations, both in the first half.
  • DeAndre Liggins did not score in the second half.
  • Darius Miller scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half
  • After scoring 13 points in first half, Brandon Knight score just two in second half.
  • Doron Lamb score 11 in first half, 13 in the second half.
  • Lamb scored 24 points, but his last field goal was at 9:56 of the second half. He scored just four points in final 7:43.
  • Brandon Knight’s only points in 2H came with 12.3 seconds left.
  • UNC’s Harrison Barnes did not score after the 4:30 mark of first half. Scored 8 of his 12 points in a 138-second span between 10:40 and 8:22 of the second half.
  • Tyler Zeller was 10-of-10 from the foul line in final 4:19.
  • Zeller scored 18 points in the second half.

  • UNC’s John Henson did not have a field goal in the second half. He scored just one point in the second half, missing four of five free throws. He did not take a free throw in the final 3:03. Roy Williams did do a good job of keeping him out of harm’s way as far as free throw line was concerned.
  • UK had four players foul out in the game. Looking back, I found that UK had three players foul out at Florida on 1-19-08. Jodie Meeks, Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson all fouled out.
  • UK had two players foul out vs. Connecticut on 12-9-09 last season in New York. Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton both fouled out; Orton in just three minutes of action.
  • UK had two players foul out at Vandy on 1-30-10 — Orton in 7 minutes, and Patterson in 30.
  • Kentucky had three foul out vs. West Virginia in the Elite 8 — Liggins, Miller and John Wall.
  • In the past few years, no UK player has taken as many as 17 shots, and made a few as three. Ramel Bradley was 4-of-17 vs. Georgia on 3-5-08. Joe Crawford was 4-of-17 vs. Vanderbilt on 1-20-07. Terrence Jones went 3-of-17 vs. North Carolina.
  • Darius Miller played a season-high 34 minutes.
  • Liggins still has just one offensive rebound in six games, covering 194 minutes.
  • Lamb has made 12 of 21 shots, including five of eight 3s in last two games.
  • Knight had six turnovers on Saturday. He has 24 assists and 33 turnovers so far.

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Video: Brandon Knight on the UK defeat

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

After fouling out with 15 points, UK’s Brandon Knight talks to the media.

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Video: Brandon Knight on Enes, Barnes and Dean Dome

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Video of UK freshman Brandon Knight talking to the media before today’s practice.

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Enjoy Jones, but root for Knight

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Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Brandon Knight gives instructions to his teammates against the Boston University Terriers.

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Andy Lyons – Getty Images

Brandon Knight gives instructions to his teammates against the Boston University Terriers.

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It’s not hard to see why Kentucky fans are so geeked about the early play of freshman forward Terrence Jones. The multi-dimensional Oregonian has wowed scouts and Big Blue Nation alike in the early season, posting upperclassman numbers in just his first few games in Blue and White. 

But while Jones and his production are obviously crucial to the Kentucky offense, it’s the play of another of the highly touted freshmen that should concern UK fans more, because if guard Brandon Knight doesn’t grow into a consistent scoring and passing threat, too many of those impressive double-double performances from Jones will be in close Kentucky losses.

Point guard is probably the toughest position on the basketball court to play consistently well. Part of that is just having the ball in your hands so much more. You’re guaranteed to have more chances to make boneheaded plays than a big man who relies on entry passes and rebounds to be productive. The origination of those entry passes? More often than any other position, the point guard.

Much ink has already been spilled on the things Brandon Knight does differently than other, previous John Calipari-coached phenom guards. I won’t rehash that. But what needs to be addressed more urgently is the confidence issue, because if there is one thing that separates good point guards from great ones, it’s the confidence in one’s own basketball ability to shrug off mistakes and to make changes on the fly.

Kentucky fans were spoiled by John Wall’s preternatural abilities, both physical and mental. His toughness – that feeling that he just knew what the next play would be and how to make it – is not normal, in a freshman or in any other player. It’s, simply, the stuff NBA All-Stars are made of, and that was patently obvious from Day 1 (Before, even).

Knight, for all his strengths as a shooter and creative slasher, does not appear to possess that same instinct for the game, at least not at this stage. He has shown confidence in his shot and an appropriate stubbornness to continue to push the ball even after a rough shooting patch, but he doesn’t control the court with the same cool savvy as his predecessor. That isn’t an indictment of him, it’s just a fact. It can’t be expected, and fans expecting it are bound to be disappointed.

What Knight does well he must continue to do well. He’s not going to become a seven-assist-a-game player anytime soon (OK, six on Tuesday was a nice start … ), but the bigger issue is keeping the offense running, whether that means continuing what’s working, or fixing what ain’t. Certainly some of that — maybe most — is on the coach. But the coach is only an observer of the game. Only the players in the mix can see, truly, what’s working and what is not, which players have it and which ones do not, and what plays are capable and what are not. In the UCONN loss, for example, Knight, in trying to regain momentum, too often tried to make the big play. This is understandable. In high school, why in the world would Knight have passed to a teammate to make the big play? But at this level, there are some plays even Knight simply cannot make. It is at these moments that Knight’s maturation must occur.  

This is Knight’s team, and it will be, for better or worse. How he performs in clutch situations will determine the team’s success or failure in a way that his teammates’ performance – even talented classmates Jones and Doron Lamb – will not. Calipari knows this, and that’s why he’s making statements like this one:

“You better really buckle down and coach him,” Calipari said of freshman point guard Brandon Knight, who committed 13 turnovers in the final two games here and made just three of 15 shots against UConn. ” … These guys are 18 years old, and they need to be coached, and I need to coach them. I can’t just say, ‘You guys will be fine.’

UK fans aren’t the only ones spoiled by last season’s rare talents. Calipari seemed to be acknowledging that even a precociously talented freshman like Knight isn’t on the same level as a once-in-a-generation point guard like Wall. Calipari will need to mold Knight more like he did with Tyreke Evans, his combo guard star at Memphis. Like Evans, Knight is a scorer more than a playmaker, and harnessing his instincts to score while maintaining that aggressiveness will have a huge effect on both Knight’s progression, and by proxy, Kentucky’s season.

Jones is a joy to watch. He’s strong, superbly skilled and plays with flair, something Kentucky fans love almost as much as any actual production. But Jones can afford to. He’ll be a go-to scorer and playmaker, but he won’t be the decision-maker on the floor. That will be Knight. And how Knight handles those decisions will have a greater effect on the outcome of games than any amount of scoring and rebounding Jones puts up.

On the young season, Knight is averaging 4.5 turnovers a game. Obviously, that number is inflated by the small sample size. But it’s also something that must concern Kentucky fans going forward. For over the next month is a murderer’s row of games where even a few bad possessions might mean the difference between wins and losses. Games at North Carolina, against Notre Dame in Louisville, vs. an improved Indiana and at Louisville will test the freshman’s ability not only to produce numbers, but to drive his team on both ends of the floor.

If Calipari’s teaching can pay quick dividends, and Knight can solidify his decision-making and playmaking skills, Kentucky could emerge a top 10 squad heading into conference play. If not, and if UK drops a few of those contests, it could be a season of watching for Terrence Jones highlights on Sportscenter each night, something I’m betting most Big Blue fans would be more than happy to trade for sustained success.


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