University of Kentucky players A.J. Stewart, Josh Harrellson, and Darius Miller watch from the bench against North Carolina in their NCAA basketball game in Chapel Hill

Reminder: Kentucky’s more than just talented freshmen

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Think Kentucky’s nothing but freshmen waiting to jump to the NBA? Think again.

The Wildcats (27-8) rely as much on senior Josh Harrellson and juniors DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller as they do Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. As Luke Winn notes, UK actually logs more minutes from juniors and seniors than Duke, Arizona, UConn and North Carolina.

Liggins is one of the country’s best defender. Miller was named MVP of the SEC tournament and Harrellson’s emerged as such a reliable – and popular – post player that it’s hard to imagine the ‘Cats without “Jorts.”

Yet none of them would’ve been a factor this season without spending serious time in the offseason working on their games. Harrellson had to get into shape. Miller needed to become more aggressive. And Liggins needed to embrace his role as a defensive stopper.

And it worked. Give credit to the players, and to UK coach John Calipari, who usually gets saddled as a recruiter and nothing more. Not that he takes all the credit.

“I don’t have a magic wand,” Calipari told the AP. “What you try to do is talk to them about what they have to change.”

There’s more to be found about those three in this feature. Mostly, I think it’s a healthy reminder that no team relies solely on freshmen – no matter how the team is usually referred to.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Darryl Reynolds shines, Kris Dunn struggles as No. 3 Villanova beat No. 11 Providence

Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds (45) dunks the ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Creighton, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Villanova, Pa. Villanova won 83-58. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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Replacing the injured Daniel Ochefu, who missed his third straight game as the result of a concussion, Darryl Reynolds finished with a career-high 19 points and 10 boards as No. 3 Villanova went into Providence and knocked off the No. 11 Friars, 72-60.

Josh Hart chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards (seven of which were offensive), Kris Jenkins notched a double-double as well and Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points for the Wildcats, who improved to 10-1 in Big East play, keeping them all alone in first place in the league.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win, which wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, is that Villanova did it while shooting just 5-for-22 from three. The Wildcats have been reliant on the three during this recent run atop the conference, and on Saturday, they won by controlling the the glass and the paint.

Reynolds’ performance was something else. This is a guy who entered the game averaging just 2.3 points and a reputation for being little more than the reason that Ochefu played so many minutes, but it got to the point on Saturday that he was being double-teamed in the post to get the ball out of his hands. That’s pretty remarkable.

As if the fact that Villanova, playing without their best rebounder, grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and totally controlled the defensive glass.

 

Much of that is likely due to the fact that Ben Bentil, the 6-foot-8 forward for the Friars that is the Big East’s leading scorer, was dealing with an ankle injury he suffered at DePaul earlier this week. He finished 20 points, but much of that came in the form of jumpers and shots at the rim while his two rebounds was much more indicative of the impact that he was able to make with his ankle.

But what was really concerning for Providence was that Kris Dunn was downright awful. He shot 4-for-15 from the floor, committed six turnovers and simply made the wrong decision too many times. Yes, he was likely pressing due to the fact that Bentil was injured and Villanova’s defense was keying on him, but it’s not exactly comforting to know that this is what his floor is.

He’s Kris Dunn.

He’s going to be keyed on by defenses every single time he steps on a basketball court.

He has to be better than he was today.

VIDEO: Gibbs, Sullivan lead Davidson past Duquesne

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In a matchup of two teams jockeying for position in the middle of the Atlantic 10 standings, Davidson beat Duquesne 93-82 in Pittsburgh with guards Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan leading the way.

Gibbs, who has three games of 40 points or more to his credit this season, scored 25 points and Sullivan added 22 for the Wildcats, who in total had five players score in double figures. Davidson shot 12-for-26 from beyond the arc and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds on the afternoon as they moved to 5-5 in Atlantic 10 play.

Duquesne, which is now also 5-5 in the A-10, was led offensively by the guard tandem of Derrick Colter and Micah Mason. Colter scored 23 points and Mason 22 for the Dukes, who shot 13-for-34 from beyond the arc.