SEC Tournament: UK grinds out win over UGA, Harrison twins peaking

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John Calipari has a special relationship with his guards. Since the ball is always in their hands, guards are Calipari’s extension on the court, and it is difficult to separate Calipari from Dajuan Wagner, Darius Washington Jr., Derrick Rose, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and now, Andrew and Aaron Harrison. The Harrison twins have suffered the normal inconsistencies of any freshman, but because they represent the Big Blue, and entered college with the hype usually reserved for the Dalai Lama, every bad game has been dissected and analyzed. But the brotherly backcourt is currently peaking, playing arguably the best combined basketball of the season, and their efforts were crucial in helping UK outlast Georgia, 70-58, in the SEC semifinal.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology

UGA was initially able to keep the contest close thanks to a combination of inverted offense and switching defenses, but Kentucky’s athleticism took over in the second half. An element of John Calipari’s fabled ‘tweak’ appears to be allowing Julius Randle to go one-on-one when the shot clock dwindles, and the big recorded his 20th double-double versus the Bulldogs, and is now tied with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis for most ever by a Wildcat frosh.

MORE: Get caught up on all of today’s Bubble Banter

Another aspect of the tweak has to be the play of Andrew Harrison. The guard spent much of the regular season driving the interior and seeking out contact to get to the stripe, but during the past two games, Harrison has been searching for teammates, not fouls, when he reaches the interior. The frosh now has 17 assists and only six turnovers through two SEC games. His brother, Aaron, hasn’t let Andrew soak up the statistical spotlight: the guard led the team against UGA, scoring 22 points, and is making 50 percent of his field goals in SEC tourney play.

Now UK will face off against Florida, a team that has defeated them twice already this season. UK’s young backcourt hasn’t fared well when matched up with the Gators, but the simplification of UK’s offense seems to have sparked something in both Harrisons. Rather than overcomplicate their game, and try to force the offense, the twins are using their athleticism, picking their spots to display those talents, and relying on an abundance of talented teammates. Even though Kentucky played Florida just last Saturday, this UK team has changed, and it is because of the relationship, trust, and confidence Calipari has in the twins to lead the squad.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Denzel Valentine, the nation’s best player?

Denzel Valentine
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.