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No. 8 Kentucky dealing with first losing streak of season


LEXINGTON, Ky. — Coach John Calipari might feel worse about his Wildcats’ two-game losing streak that dropped Kentucky four spots in the Top 25 to No. 8 if his young team had been beaten soundly in those contests.

Not that he feels good about Kentucky letting two winnable games slip away by making mistakes at crucial moments.

Nonetheless, Calipari believes Kentucky (17-4, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) will make the necessary adjustments as it enters the midpoint of its conference schedule with Tuesday night’s game against Georgia (13-8, 4-4) before heading to No. 24 Florida on Saturday. But the coach said the Wildcats must be tougher and more focused than they’ve shown in losses last week to No. 3 Kansas and at Tennessee.

“I’m not panicked,” Calipari said Monday. “After watching the tape, I walked away and thought it’s all fixable. But when you watch the tape, I did less coaching last year than I’m having to do now and that’s a big (difference). Until they’re doing this off one another and understand what each of them has to do, they can’t be the team they can be.”

Midseason growing pains aren’t uncommon for a Kentucky. The Wildcats annually face a roster makeover of highly touted freshmen and last year they also lost back-to-back games to the Jayhawks and Volunteers – but in reverse order.

Three years ago, they lost four of seven entering the SEC tournament before regrouping to reach the NCAA championship game. Even the Final Four team that began 38-0 two seasons ago endured SEC challenges that threated their perfect start.

Calipari’s yearly task seems to be making sure the Wildcats’ composure improves with more SEC challenges looming.

Better decision making is a good starting point after Kansas scored 21 points off 17 Kentucky turnovers in Saturday’s 79-73 loss in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Jayhawks’ mixture of zone and man defenses slowed down the Wildcats and kept the ball away from leading scorer Malik Monk and 6-foot-10 Bam Adebayo for stretches.

“Sometimes we make harder plays for the team instead of easier plays,” sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe said afterward. “In that stretch, we didn’t touch the ball and that’s something we’ll work at and just get better with over time.”

The end result is often forced perimeter shots or turnovers, not to mention slowness getting back on defense. Even when the Wildcats set up on the other end, Kansas outscored them 44-34 and was nearly even on the boards (35-34).

Calipari said that Kentucky can’t allow drives to the basket and not winning the 50/50 balls to Georgia, which beat Texas 59-57 in the Challenge to end its own two-game slide.

The Bulldogs feature an impressive scoring tandem in 6-8 junior forward Yante Maten (19.7 points per game) and senior guard J.J. Frazier (15.5), who combined for 35 points against the Longhorns. Kentucky counters with the nation’s fourth-ranked offense (91.3), but its coach also wants the Wildcats to reclaim the mental and physical edges that made them hard to beat not long ago.

“This is all stuff that when you’re coaching young kids, you have to go through and reinforce,” said Calipari, who showed players video of every turnover against Kansas to drive home his point.

He added, “I’ve still got the same guys that if we had won (those) two games we would have had votes for No. 1. And I would have said, `We’re not No. 1 because we still have these issues.”‘


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NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.


N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.