SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals

SEC Tournament: ‘The Tweak’ worked as Kentucky runs over LSU

Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

All it took was one sentence from John Calipari to work Big Blue Nation into a furor.

“The Tweak”.

Coach Cal had promised Kentucky fans that he had done something, made some kind of an adjustment to his team’s offense that would spark a change in this Wildcat team, and whatever is was that he did, it worked. The Wildcats used a dominating, 19-2 first half run to open up a big lead and survived a second half surge from the Tigers, advancing to the SEC semifinals with an 85-67 win on Friday night.

MOREGet caught up on today’s Bubble Banter

 

So what was “The Tweak”?

To be honest, I couldn’t even tell, because the biggest difference between this Kentucky team and the one that had taken the court for the last two weeks of the regular season was simple: they actually decided to play. They were moving the ball offensively, working through their sets, moving the ball before attacking a defender, making the extra pass, hitting open jumpers. Defensively, they were active and aggressive, clearing the defensive glass and effectively double-teaming LSU’s stud low-post presence Johnny O’Bryant. Kentucky was motivated.

They played together. Their role players played their roles. Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson combined for 26 points and 27 boards, 10 of which came on the offensive end. James Young and Aaron Harrison combined for 35 points on 11-for-26 shooting — 6-of-15 from three — the majority of which were good shots that came in the flow of the offense. Andrew Harrison had 11 points and eight assists while committing just three turnovers and taking just four shots. Willie Cauley-Stein had six boards and six blocks.

For the first time in a long time, Kentucky, arguably the most talented team in the country, was actually fun to watch.

RELATED: Should we be worried about Kansas defensively?

 

Whatever “The Tweak” actually was, the end result was that Kentucky bought-in to what Cal wanted them to do. And as weird as it sounds, that’s all Kentucky has needed to do all season long.

Whether this success lasts is a different story. The Wildcats will face the winner of Georgia and Ole Miss on Saturday night, and if there’s anything we’ve learned about Kentucky this season, it’s that you can never can a good performance for granted.

But I do feel comfortable saying this: the team that showed up on Friday night is a team that can make a Final Four.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that, and tomorrow everyone will be watching to see if it actually sticks.

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

Getty Images
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Leave a comment

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.