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Ex-Cat Harrellson Talking Big For An NBA Newbie

In the run-up to last week’s NBA draft, there wasn’t a lot of talk about ex-Kentucky big man Josh Harrellson.  When he was drafted 45th overall by the New York Knicks, the eyebrows of more than a few SEC fans were raised.

But while hoops fans might have been surprised to see Harrellson drafted, the former Wildcat is talking like a man who feels he belongs:


“I’m going to protect my stars.  Amar’e, Carmelo, if someone getting rough with them, I’m going to protect them.  I’m going to make my presence felt.  They’ll know I’m there.”


A hat tip to KentuckySportsRadio.com for finding that quote.

So basically Harrellson sees his role as that of an enforcer, a cementhead, a goon.  Sounds like the New York Rangers should’ve drafted him rather than the Knicks.

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SEC Headlines – 6/14/11 Part Two

1.  Recent Kentucky basketballer Josh Harrellson is one of the good guys in college sports.

2.  Football analyst, ex-Vol — and possible AD candidate? — Charles Davis weighs in on Tennessee’s NCAA situation.

3.  Georgia kicker Blair Walsh is within reach of the SEC’s all-time scoring mark.

4.  UGA president Michael Adams is planning to attend Mark Emmert’s “how do we clean up college sports” summit.

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SEC New Year’s Day Headlines

1. Kentucky 78 – Louisville 63.  A double-double for Josh Harrellson.

2. John Clay: “Louisville had the glitz.  Kentucky had the grit.”

3. College of Charleston 91 – Tennessee 78.  Vols drop to 9-4.  Pearl ejected.

4. Florida 71 – Xavier 67.  Gators snap the Musketeers 30-game home winning streak.

5. Arkansas 87 – UT Arlington 74.  Razorbacks win fourth straight.

6. Auburn 63 – Grambling 45.  Tigers improve to 6-7.

7. Georgia 64 – Eastern Kentucky 57.  Streaking Bulldogs have won eight in a row.

8. Jeff Schultz: Does anybody believe Mark Richt can still get it done?”

9. Scott Rabalais on LSU football: “These last 10 years — 2001 to 2010 — can’t be topped.”

10. LSU’s “Mr. Reliable” gets set for his final college kicks.

11. Justin Wilcox is staying put at Tennessee.

12. Expect the NCAA Rules Committee to take a look at the final play in regulation from Thursday night’s Music City Bowl.

13. One of the perks of a big-time college football coaching job?  Use of a private plane for personal use.

14. An eventful year in South Carolina sports.

15. Greg McElroy originally committed to Texas Tech.  Alabama is glad he changed his mind.

16. How Auburn’s receivers stack up against Oregon’s defensive backs.

17. A memorable one-year anniversary for Auburn.

18.  The big story at Ole Miss in 2010? Black Bear.

19.  Month by month – what SEC fans were talking about in 2010.

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Kentucky Basketball: What Went Wrong in Chapel Hill

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Kentucky coach John Calipari's Excedrin headache.

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Gerry Broome – AP

Kentucky coach John Calipari’s Excedrin headache.

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The Kentucky Wildcats 75-73 road loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, while certainly not the end of the big blue world, has surprisingly been treated as a Gardner-Webb/VMI-like loss by many of the UK faithful.  Realizing the passion of Kentucky fans is one aspect of the program that makes it great, sometimes though, that passion blinds and skews ones thoughts on losses (as well as wins), and can have the unpleasant side effect of misdirected blame.

While pointing an accusatory finger at the officials (who, by the way, missed calls for both teams, with a few being egregious), John Calipari (why didn’t he recruit another big man?), and the NCAA (it’s their fault Enes Kanter received a salary) for the two-point defeat seemed a popular notion on the Internet and talk radio immediately following the hotly contested contest.  From my seat, though, accountability for the loss falls most directly onto the (playable) roster of each team.  More pointedly, to the size and talent of the men who make up the two rosters, as well as the breadth and depth of said roster. 

The phrase “bad match-up” has been bandied about often in the world of college basketball, most often during NCAA tournament time.  But, the dreaded “bad match-up” rose up and bit the ‘Cats Saturday, even if it was only a nip.  And it was a (bad) match-up the Big Blue Nation should have seen coming.

Follow me after the jump for my A to D reasons for UK’s loss to the Heels.

A) Talented size matters:

North Carolina, which boast two generously talented big men in 7-0 Tyler Zeller and 6-10 John Henson, came into the game with a decided edge in the paint (this, UK fans knew, or at should have known), but the Grand Canyon-deep & wide disparity wasn’t evident until after the game began.  And then, within minutes, UK fans should have thought, “This is gonna be worse than I thought.”  Making matters even more unpalatable, the combination of a hyped Tar Heel squad, and a hyped Tar Heel crowd, widened the already considerable gap in paint talent to an alarming degree.  The result, UNC scored 34 points in the paint to UK’s woeful 14.

But the discrepancies, unfortunately, do not stop there: UK missed 38 shots in the game … UK grabbed eight offensive rebounds, which is only 19.0% of their misses (that’s putrid, folks).  For comparisons sake — The next lowest percentage of misses snagged by the ‘Cats this year is 33.3% in the UConn loss.  The ‘Cats did do a credible job of rebounding Carolina’s misses, though, limiting the Heels to only nine offensive rebounds on 34 missed shots.  But, the ugly side of the coin tells us the ‘Cats allowed the Heels to better capitalize on the few offensive rebounds they were able to grab, by outscoring UK 11-5 in second chance points.

The bottom line: UNC’s Zeller and Henson combined to make 13-23 shots, score 40 points, grab 23 rebounds, and block eight shots (6-8 Harrison Barnes was magnificent in the first half, making 4-5 shots, 3-4 three-pointers, and scoring 12 points): UK’s Terrence Jones, Josh Harrellson, and Eloy Vargas made 5-21 shots, scored 13 points, corralled 15 rebounds, and blocked one shot.  A mismatch of thunderous proportions.

B) Terrence Jones played like the freshman he is:

Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones, the ‘Cats best big man, simply had a bad game.  It was apparent after Jones missed his first few shots (he eventually missed his first five tries) that he looked uncomfortable being guarded by the 6-10 Henson.  Unable to get clean looks, Jones began pressing and was noticeably bothered by the bigger, nearly as quick Carolina forward.

The result, a 3-17 (0-3 trey tries) shooting performance, good for only nine points for the 20.7 points per game scorer.  And on a day when rebounding was at a premium for the ‘Cats, Jones grabbed only six in 28 minutes of play (he averages 10+ boards per game).

Does Jones deserved to be berated for his less-than-stellar outing?  Of course not.  He is, after all, a freshman, playing in his first true road game, in front of his first hostile crowd (unless one counts the UDub idiots in Maui), against a more experienced, bigger player in Henson.  Jones will learn from his experience, and probably become a better player because of it.

C) The benches: 

This one is easy — UK played six players at least 10 minutes; UNC played eight players at least 10 minutes.  UNC played one player more than 30 minutes, UK played four players more than 30 minutes.

This will be a concern for UK all season (against deep opponents), unless someone (Jon Hood?) earns meaningful playing time in practice.

D) The slowdown:

With 10 minutes remaining in the game, and UK clinging to a four point lead (60-56), the ’Cats began to milk the clock on each possession.  Calipari did this to limit UNC’s offensive possessions, because the ‘Cats were quickly being handicapped with serious foul trouble — At the time, Jones, Harrellson, Brandon Knight, Eloy Vargas, DeAndre Liggins all had three fouls.

Now, one can debate the effectiveness of such a ploy (I don’t like it), but a strong argument can be made that without slowing down the pace, UK would have lost more players, sooner, to the bench due to disqualification (Jones, Harrellson, and Knight all eventually fouled out).  But, the numbers tell us UK was ineffective offensively during the slowdown stretch, scoring only 7-points (and making zero shots from the floor) between 9:55 and :55 of the second half, after scoring 63 points the first 30:03 of the game.

The upside of the loss (if there is such a thing) is the fact that UK had all of the above aspects of the game working against them, and still only lost by two-points, on the road, against a quality opponent.  And one of the primary reasons for UK staying in the lead, or close to the lead (for the entirety of the game), was the play of Doron Lamb.  Lamb looked to be doing his best Tony Delk impersonation for most of the contest, making trifectas (3-4), driving to the hole, making free throws (7-8), and valuing the basketball (one turnover in 32 minutes).  Without Lamb’s 24 points, the game would have been over long before the final horn.

Another positive to come out of the game was the play of Josh Harrellson.  In 21 minutes of play, Harrellson scored four points (2-2 from the floor), and grabbed seven rebounds (four big offensive boards).  Not overly impressive numbers taken alone (save the offensive rebounding number), but Harrellson displayed an aggressiveness not often seen out of the Missouri native, perhaps because he knew Zeller and Henson provided UK with a very real challenge … a challenge he was largely responsible for answering.  Whatever the reason, if Harrellson continues to play with a (blue) chip on his shoulder, it can only mean good things for the ‘Cats as they go forward.

Also deserving of kudos is DeAndre Liggins for his four assists and zero turnovers, as well as a season-high six rebounds.  Darius Miller also crashed the boards, nabbing seven rebounds, his most since UK’s season opener.

Lastly, and thankfully, the ‘Cats do not have to fret over facing a team loaded with such talented size again this year … until tourney time, and hopefully by then, UK will have figured out a way to stop the opponents talented bigs from having career games.  Perhaps a call should be placed to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, for a 2-3 zone may hold the answer.

Thanks for reading, and Go ‘Cats!


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Kentucky (10) 73 @ North Carolina 75: Postmortem

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Dorn Lamb was terrific, but not terrific enough.

Gerry Broome – AP

Dorn Lamb was terrific, but not terrific enough.

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I am furious about this game, and any of you who participated in the open game thread will know why.  But that is by the by, and we are leaving that in the game thread.

Congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heels on their outstanding victory.  The Heels dominated Kentucky in the paint, and they did a marvelous job of shooting free throws when the game was on the line.  Props to North Carolina fans for creating a Final Four atmosphere in the Dean Dome, which is exactly what this game calls for.  Great game by Tyler Zeller and John Henson, they really dominated the game inside the paint.

For Kentucky, this is a tough, brutal loss.  Speaking as a Kentucky fan, my disappointment on losing this game could be measured on the Richter scale.  I know we played well enough to win, and a gritty effort by Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins now goes by the boards.  I know that this is sometimes how basketball goes, but right now, I am absolutely inconsolable.  This is a game Kentucky should have won, and frankly deserved to win.  Alas, we did not.

Game observations:

  • We knew we had a hole in the middle, and a thin bench.  Both came to the fore today.
  • Josh Harrellson did yeoman’s work when he wasn’t saddled with foul trouble.  Harrellson has got to improve his foot movement and understand that without him, UK is in a tough spot in the paint.  I know he didn’t intend to pick up all those fouls, but if he can’t figure out how not to, big games are going to come with great difficulty.
  • Doron Lamb did everything right.  There is nothing to criticize, and much to praise.  Game ball.
  • DeAndre Liggins was a defensive monster and contributed some excellent offense.  Normally, he played well enough to earn the game ball, but today, Lamb was just a little better.
  • Brandon Knight had a very good game overall, but he made some mistakes that cost UK, including missing the front end of a huge one and one.  Point guards just can’t do that.
  • Terrence Jones just wasn’t utilized correctly today, or he didn’t follow the instructions of the staff.  He also missed four free throws in a row.  It’s hard to be too critical of him, though, he did some good things out there.
  • Darius Miller came and went, but mostly he did okay.  I continue to be disappointed in his level of contribution, but he did not completely disappear as he so often does.
  • We have got to develop a little more depth.  Where was Jon Hood, and why?  I think Calipari forgot about him.
  • Eloy Vargas was exposed today.  He has miles to go before he is a quality player at this level.
  • Props to Carolina for their toughness in the face of yet another horrible game by Harrison Barnes.  Props to Barnes for playing tough despite continuing shooting woes.

I have several more comments that I would really like to make, but I am not going to do so.  Just like coaches, blogs like this one often have to swallow their disappointment and leave some comments to others.  Despite the fact that I think UK deserved to win this game, Carolina also played well enough to win, and ultimately, they did.

The overall effect of this loss is hard to measure right now.  I am convinced these young Kentucky players are very much disenchanted with the game at this precise moment.  But they must put it behind them and move on, just as we fans must.  The Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Louisville loom, and yours truly will be attending that game in person.

And I will be hoping, and expecting, a better outcome.


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Kentucky Wildcats (10) @ North Carolina Tar Heels: Open Game Thread

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Does it get any better than this?

The Kentucky Wildcats go on the road today to the Dean Dome to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, two basketball powers going toe-to-toe with young, talented players.  This is going to be a beauty.

Particulars are as follows:

Kentucky @ North Carolina
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | North Carolina Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Sat., Dec. 4, 12:30 p.m. ET
Coverage TV: CBS
Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio
Text Updates
Location Dean E. Smith Center
Chapel Hill, N.C.

It’s always tough to go on the road and get a win, particularly when you are heading into the heart of Tobacco Road to take on one of the most storied teams in the nation.  Every year that this series continues is one more great chapter to a rivalry that goes back into antiquity, and the great players that have passed through this frequent meeting of powers is legendary.

Today’s game is likely to revolve around who does the best job taking care of the basketball.  In the last game against the Boston U. Terriers, Kentucky forced 8 turnovers in the second half en route to a blowout win.  The Tar Heels have had trouble taking care of the basketball all year, and if Kentucky can force the Heels to turn it over at 25% or more of possessions, the path to a Tar Heel victory becomes tricky.

For Kentucky, offensive rebounding will be the problem.  Carolina has a number of talented big players to throw at the Wildcats’ thin front court, and if they are able to get UK’s big guys like Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas in foul trouble, the Wildcats could be in tough here.

What the Wildcats need to win:

  • A fair whistle.  There is legitimate concern that this game could deteriorate into a foul-fest because of the youth and aggressiveness of these two teams, and that favors the Tar Heels.
  • The Dribble Drive Motion.  If Brandon Knight & Co. can play the DDM the way it is designed, North Carolina will have lots of trouble handling Kentucky.  UK is a better 3-point and 2-point shooting team, and the DDM, if run correctly, will get the players good looks.
  • Post defense.  Tyler Zeller and John Henson are both very capable post players, and UK must try to force UNC to take more perimeter shots than they want.
  • Offensive rebounding.  Beating UNC on the offensive boards will be a major challenge, but if Kentucky can do it, they have a great shot at winning.
  • Maturity beyond their years.  Youthful mistakes have plagued the Wildcats at times this season, and the Tar Heels as well.  Harrison Barnes, in particular, has been off to a slow start, but against the young Kentucky team, he will feel a lot more at home.  The team that can best hide their youth is likely to win this game.

What the Wildcats can’t afford to do:

  • Get into foul trouble.  North Carolina has much better quality depth than Kentucky.
  • Turn the ball over.  The Wildcats have done a good job of taking care of the ball all year.  They can’t afford to turn it over in the Dean Dome.
  • Allow North Carolina to beat them off the dribble.  The Tar Heels have several brilliant athletes, including Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Kendall Marshall.  If they get to the rim a lot, fouls will pile up against UK and that will spell trouble.
  • Allow a lot of open looks at three.  This UNC team has not shot particularly well from the perimeter, but that could change at any time.  They have good shooters who can fill it up if they get open looks.
  • Be passive on the glass.  North Carolina is bigger and more skilled inside than Kentucky.  Big efforts from Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson on the glass will be needed to keep the Wildcats from losing the battle of the boards.

This is the biggest game of the early season, in my opinion, because it is a true road game against a talented team that could be a real factor in March.  The Tar Heels have all the pieces, they are just lacking the experience and confidence to put it all together.  Kentucky cannot afford to let them use this game as an opportunity to start a rebound from their slow start.

Go, ‘Cats!


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A 5-spot from UK basketball presser

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

A 5-spot from just-complete UK basketball interviews, previewing Saturday’s game with North Carolina:

1. Alan Cutler was hot on the Enes Kanter reaction angle, etc. The WLEX-TV anchor asked every player about the Kanter situation, and if the team expected to hear anything after yesterday’s appeal hearing was conducted. They all said they had no idea. They said that Enes has been in good spirits,  joking around, and that he has played well in practice. Asked what it would be like if UK had Kanter for Saturday’s game with the Heels, Doron Lamb said, “That would be crazy.”

2. John Robic pinch-hit for head coach John Calipari again. Cal is here, and was to conduct practice, but did not  talk to the local media here for interviews. By the way, Robic said he had no idea what was going on with the Kanter situation. “I’m like everybody else around here.” Asked about first true road game of the year, he said it wasn’t like football where you can blast music to simulate crowd noise.

3. Brandon Knight said he does know Harrison Barnes. But the UK freshman said he had not talked to the North Carolina freshman in awhile. He said that Barnes is a great player, and that he looked forward to playing against him.

4. Knight did not know that Josh Harrellson had been called a “mother hen,” laughing at the notion.

5. Robic on Barnes: “He’s a very talented player. I’ve never seen him play in person, just on tape, but at 6-7, 6-8 he’s a jump shooter who can create his own shot. They look to him for big shots. They run some isolations for him. A good offensive rebounder. I think they’re expecting a lot; it’s unfair what the media has done with him, I think there have been people who have said that. But he sure is a talent. He’s a pro. He’s a definite pro. We have our hands full with him because of his size.”

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Video: Josh Harrellson and the beard is back

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Josh Harrellson talked to the media today before practice, and yes, the beard is back.

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Maui Championship: UConn 84, UK 67 — Postmortem

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Kentucky freshman forward Terrence Jones is a full grown man.

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Eugene Tanner – AP

Kentucky freshman forward Terrence Jones is a full grown man.

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Congratulations to the soon-to-be-ranked Connecticut Huskies for winning the 2010 EA Sports Maui Invitational … in resounding, dominating fashion.

Looking like a veteran team, the Huskies totally took the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats out of their offensive game-plan with sticky man-to-man, pressure defense (staples of Jim Calhoun-coached teams).  And that fact, coupled with the John Wall-like play of junior point guard Kemba Walker, as well as a total lack of interior defense by the ‘Cats, propelled the deserving Huskies to an 84-67 route over the boys in blue.

For the game particulars (and if ones stomach can handle the ugly truth), follow me after the jump:

The ‘Cats looked young, played young, and got beat like they were young.  It’s probably not the last time this year something like this will happen, but let’s hope, as they gain experience, games such as these become less and less frequent.  (And yes, this is the second time in five games the ‘Cats have “played down to their age and experience,” the other being against Oklahoma on Monday night)

The easiest and most succinct way to describe Kentucky’s woeful defensive effort against UConn is to say the ’Cats didn’t react to penetration.  As in the Oklahoma game two nights earlier, the UK interior defense was non-existent, due to (as a team), not stopping the man driving to the rim.  There was no help given, and no stepping out to cut-off the drive, resulting in a night-long Huskie layup clinic.  Want proof?  Exhibit A: How about the game-deciding stat of the night: UConn 42 points in the paint; UK, 24.  Exhibit B: A direct result of UConn’s ability to get to the rim (and make easy shots) is the tremendous disparity in field goal shooting for the teams — UConn was 30-52 (57.7%) from the floor, while UK forced shots, most times outside the realm of the offense (only six assists on 22 made baskets), on the way to 36.7% field goal accuracy (22-60).  When a team makes only 37% of their field goals (which of course happens from time to time), then that same team simply must play all-out, leave-it-on-the-floor defense (executed properly), to have any chance of winning the game.  Youth, there’s only one cure: Time.

Brandon Knight stat line: 3-15 field goals, six points, five assists, five turnovers, and five fouls.  Knight, God bless him, tonight played like a rookie point guard  — Over-penetrating, not knowing what to do with the ball after over-penetrating, and making more defensive mistakes than one can count.  Along the way, he infuriated his head coach with a couple of silly, totally avoidable fouls.  But, Knight is a great talent, and will bounce back from this setback (or was it growing pains?), and deliver like the champion that he is.

Terrence Jones is just … spectacular.  But one man, a good team cannot beat.  Jones ended the night with 24 points on 6-11 shooting (4-4 from beyond the arc) and two rebounds.  Jones did, though, commit five fouls in 27 minutes of play; UK needed him on the floor for 37 minutes, not 27, but it wouldn’t have mattered on this night.  The ‘Cats were doomed to defeat regardless.  Regardless, it’s difficult for me to articulate how excited I am for Jones to be wearing a Kentucky jersey.  He has a chance to be a very special player.

The combination of Eloy Vargas and Josh Harrellson gave the ‘Cats 44 minutes of play, six points (all by Vargas), 12 rebounds (about six or seven too few on this night),  four blocks, zero turnovers, and 4-4 free throw shooting (all by Vargas).  I thought Vargas far outplayed Harrellson on this night, especially on the defensive end of the court.  Vargas was aggressive, when Harrellson failed to rotate to help on several occasions (as well as being out of position, by a long way, on a sweet down screen in the first half) allowing several lay-ins opportunities for a variety of Huskie players.  Both of UK’s big men need to continue to improve (baby steps, baby), and if they can somehow combine for 10-15 points per game, to go along 10-12 rebounds per game, and play solid defense (which has been an “iffy” proposition to this point in the year), the ‘Cats should be able to compete with anyone.  But, when those things don’t happen (against good teams), games like the loss the ‘Cats just took squarely on the chin, will be much more likely to happen.

Neither Darius Miller (who played only 29 minutes due to foul trouble), nor DeAndre Liggins shot the ball very well, (combining to make only 9-24 shots), neither defended particularly well, combined for only seven rebounds in 67 minutes of action, and generally didn’t step-up as the leaders they should be evolving into.  They were, though, in a tough position, kind of like a man standing at the base of a mountain, looking fearfully at the avalanche racing toward him.

Come to think of it, the entire team had that look tonight, for a large portion of the night. 

The ‘Cats simply must learn that everything they do, and hope to do, starts with defense and rebounding.  When that light bulb comes on, they will improve dramatically.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Thanks for reading, and Go ‘Cats!


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Bib Blue Linkapalooza: Maui Invitational Championship Edition

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Brandon Knight, scoring point guard.

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Eugene Tanner – AP

Brandon Knight, scoring point guard.

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It seems that sports commentators had a lot more to say about Duke last night, and pretty much ignored Kentucky.  But not here at A Sea of Blue.


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