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Silva leads Gamecocks to 76-68 win over No. 18 Wildcats

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari thought his freshmen looked like freshmen for the first time all season. South Carolina’s Chris Silva continued to look like a major force in the Southeastern Conference who led the Gamecocks’ dramatic second-half comeback against the Wildcats.

Silva tied his career high he set earlier this month with 27 points as South Carolina (12-6, 3-3 SEC) rallied from 14 points down in the second half to top No. 18 Kentucky 76-68 on Tuesday night.

Silva “was the difference,” Calipari said. “He manhandled everyone we put on him.”

It didn’t look like it would have an impact midway through the second half when Kevin Knox’s short jumper with 12:28 to go put the Wildcats ahead 54-40. But that’s when South Carolina, fueled by the powerful, 6-foot-9 Silva, got going and outscored Kentucky (14-4, 4-2) 36-14 the rest of the way to pull off the upset.

Silva had 12 points in that stretch to lift the Gamecocks.

As well as Silva played, Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen began trying to make the splashy, dramatic play instead of the smart one, Calipari said. As South Carolina gradually cut into the margin, the Wildcats shrunk from the challenge.

“All of a sudden, you’ve got a bunch of young guys that don’t know how to grind it,” Calipari said.

That was evident when Wesley Myers’ driving layup tied the game at 65-all and he followed that with a second straight layup for the Gamecocks’ first lead of the second half, this one ruled good when Kentucky’s Nick Richards was called for goaltending.

Maik Kotsar made four straight foul shots to give South Carolina a 71-67 lead and Kentucky could not respond.

“We weren’t listening to nothing the coaches were saying,” Knox acknowledged.

The Gamecocks broke a four-game losing streak to Kentucky, which managed just three points over the final 6 minutes.

South Carolina coach Frank Martin talked with Silva at halftime, urging him to go straight up and over Kentucky’s defenders instead of putting up shots away from the basket. “He told me to go strong and finish,” Silva said.

All the Gamecocks seemed to follow Silva’s lead.

“Our guys took ownership,” Martin said as the Gamecocks won for third time in four games after opening SEC play 0-2.

Frank Booker added 18 points for South Carolina.

Knox led Kentucky with 21 points. No other Wildcat had more than 10 points.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats had little consistency with their shooting touch. But their relentless style helped them claw back from an early 19-12 deficit to lead 37-34. The active Kentucky lineup pushed the pace and made the Gamecocks pay for putting them on the free throw line, going 17 of 22 in the first 20 minutes. Things changed down the stretch as Kentucky’s freshman-heavy team struggled to keep up with the Gamecocks. The Wildcats were just 6 of 14 from the free throw line after the break.

South Carolina: When the Gamecocks miss shots, they’re in trouble. After starting the game 7 of 9 from the field, South Carolina missed 18 of its final 21 shots of the opening half. That helped turn a seven-point lead into a 37-34 deficit at the break. Shooting woes have plagued the team much of the season. In fact, the Gamecocks shot just 27 percent from the field last time out and somehow pulled out a 64-57 victory at Georgia on Saturday. The Gamecocks shot just 37.1 percent in this win.

VANDERBILT’S DEBUT: Highly regarded 6-9 freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who was out with a left foot injury, finally saw his first action as he came in off the bench against South Carolina. And Vanderbilt was rusty after not playing this season. He missed his only attempt in the opening half and tipped in a ball for a South Carolina basket while fighting for a rebound. Vanderbilt finished with six points and five rebounds. “I thought he was pretty good first time out,” Calipari said.

KNOX’S STREAK-SAVING SHOT

The Wildcats were 1 of 11 on 3-pointers and the one made 3 by Knox ran Kentucky’s string of consecutive games with a basket from behind the arc to 1,031. Knox’s shot came with 7 minutes to go.

UP NEXT

Kentucky starts a two-game home stand against Florida on Saturday.

South Carolina faces its second straight ranked opponent in No. 21 Tennessee at home Saturday.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Tuesday’s Three Things to Know: Kentucky loses, K-State whips Oklahoma and UNC wins

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1. KENTUCKY FALLS AS JARRED VANDERBILT MAKES HIS LONG-AWAITED DEBUT

Having missed No. 18 Kentucky’s first 17 games due to a foot injury, Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt made his debut Tuesday night against South Carolina. While Vanderbilt showed some flashes of the skill that made him one of the top recruits in the 2017 class, it was clear that there’s a lot of rust to be shaken off. But the return of Vanderbilt was not enough to help Kentucky avoid defeat, as South Carolina picked up the 76-68 victory thanks in large part to Chris Silva.

Silva, who’s been thrust into a position of leadership due to how much South Carolina lost from last year’s Final Four squad, was the best player on the floor Tuesday night. Silva scored a game-high 27 points while also grabbing eight rebounds, shooting 9-for-17 from the field and 9-for-13 at the foul line. Outside of Nick Richards, who tallied 12 points and four rebounds before fouling out, Kentucky did not offer up much resistance in the paint and Silva made the Wildcats pay for it.

Add in the fact that both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (six points, six turnovers) and Hamidou Diallo (five points) struggled to get going, and the end result was the shorthanded Wildcats losing a game they led by 13 points with 13:25 remaining. In a game that lacked flow for significant stretches — the teams combined to attempt 74 free throws — Kentucky managed just four fast break points. And with the point guard play lacking sans the injured Quade Green, Kentucky couldn’t do enough offensively to close out the Gamecocks.

2. KANSAS STATE WHIPS NO. 4 OKLAHOMA

There’s no denying the fact that Oklahoma freshman point guard Trae Young is one of the nation’s best players, and an early frontrunner for national Player of the Year honors. That being said, the Sooners really need their best playmaker to get his turnover issues in check. After turning the ball over nine times in the Sooners’ overtime win over TCU on Saturday, Young racked up a stunning 12 turnovers in Oklahoma’s 87-69 loss at Kansas State Tuesday night.

Add in the fact that he shot 8-for-21 from the field in scoring his 19 points, and the end result was what is the worst night of Young’s freshman season. Give credit to Bruce Weber’s charges, especially Barry Brown Jr., for much of this as they were active defensively and got after Young all night long. Brown also scored 24 points and dished out five assists, with Dean Wade adding 21, seven boards and seven assists as Kansas State picked up its first win over a ranked team this season.

Our Rob Dauster has more on Young’s rough night here.

3. NO. 15 NORTH CAROLINA HOLDS OFF NO. 20 CLEMSON

Having never beaten North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Clemson dropped to 0-59 all-time as Cameron Johnson led five Tar Heels in double figures with 21 points. After shooting a combined 3-for-16 from three in the four games prior, Johnson was 6-for-9 from deep and 7-for-10 from the field overall. Johnson and Kenny Williams III combined to score 20 points in the first half, which helped North Carolina build a 15-point halftime lead despite Joel Berry II and Luke Maye both struggling offensively.

Berry and Maye would pick it up in the second half, which helped North Carolina hold off a Clemson team that made ten of its first 11 shots from the field. Marquise Reed tallied 21 points and Shelton Mitchell 18 for the Tigers, who shot better than 61 percent from the field in the second half. Clemson should be fine moving forward, but the big takeaway from this result is Johnson breaking out of his slump and showing just how valuable he is to North Carolina moving forward.

Washington lifts No. 17 Kentucky past LSU, 74-71

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — P.J. Washington scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, and No. 17 Kentucky held off feisty LSU 74-71 on Wednesday night.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander capped his 18-point night with two free throws with 16 seconds left, and Kevin Knox had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), who survived their first true road test this season.

Duop Reath had 24 points and 11 rebounds for LSU (9-4, 0-1), which missed two 3-point attempts that could have tied it in the final seconds.

Tremont Waters had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but his attempt to tie the game with a late 3 was off-balance and way off-target. The ball deflected out of bounds off Kentucky, giving LSU 0.8 seconds to get off one more shot, but Brandon Sampson’s right corner bounced off the far rim as time expired.

Kentucky trailed 36-31 at halftime, but Washington asserted himself in the second half with an array of power moves, getting free along the baseline for three dunks in a 3-minute span to help Kentucky move in front. He also got the roll and the call when he collided with Sampson under the hoop on a fast break, completing a three-point play that gave Kentucky a 67-65 lead.

Gilgeous-Alexander also came through late, hitting a driving scoop as he was fouled to put Kentucky ahead 71-67 with 1:22 left

Kentucky scored the game’s first seven points capped by Knox’s 3, but LSU began to chip away, thanks in no small part to a defensive effort that produced 11 first-half Wildcat turnovers.

The Tigers tied it at 18 after Reath hit a 3 and layup in succession. Reath scored 13 points in the first half, when Waters scored 10.

LSU led by as many as five in the first half when Aaron Epps, who finished with 13 points, hit a left-wing 3 to make it 36-31, a score that stood until halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats did not block a shot or attempt a free throw in the first half, reflecting a style of play that was too passive for coach John Calipari’s liking. That changed in the second half, when the Wildcats scored 30 points in the paint, blocked three shots and attempted 13 free throws.

LSU: The Tigers went 5 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half, but missed their first eight attempts from deep in the second half, giving UK more chances to use its athleticism in transition. LSU came in 7-0 when leading at halftime, but protecting a five-point halftime lead against a team like Kentucky was going to require a better performance down the stretch.

UP NEXT

Kentucky hosts No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday.

LSU visits No. 11 Texas A&M on Saturday.

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More AP College Basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

No. 8 Kentucky uses barrage of three-pointers to outlast Virginia Tech

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Kentucky figured out its defense in the second half and used a barrage of three-pointers on offense as the No. 8 Wildcats were able to outlast Virginia Tech for a 93-86 non-conference win on Saturday afternoon.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.

1. Kentucky is really dangerous if the three-ball is dropping

Kentucky isn’t a terrible three-point shooting team. They just don’t shoot very many of them.

That changed on Saturday as the Wildcats went 11-for-22 from the three-point line in the win over Virginia Tech. To put that number in perspective, Kentucky was averaging 4.6 made three-pointers per game coming into this one. The Wildcats prefer to work the ball inside or attack the basket, hoping to crash the offensive glass if the first shot doesn’t go.

But with the three-pointer working for them on Saturday? Kentucky looked really tough on the offensive end, especially since Virginia Tech’s offense was rolling in the first 20 minutes and the Wildcats needed the three-ball to answer.

I don’t expect Kentucky to shoot nearly this well in many games this season, especially away from home. Freshman guard Hamidou Diallo was 4-for-7 from three-point range. This preseason, Diallo was getting benched by head coach John Calipari when he even attempted a triple. In other words, his performance was an outlier and Kentucky’s team performance probably was as well.

If the Wildcats are shooting like this, however, good luck stopping what they are trying to accomplish on the offensive end.

2. Even in a loss, Virginia Tech looked legitimate

One of the things I’ve harped on with Virginia Tech is the brutal non-conference schedule the Hokies have played. Starting 9-1 looks promising until you realize the best wins came over Iowa and Ole Miss and the loss came against Saint Louis.

But even though they ultimately fell at Rupp Arena, Virginia Tech looked like they’ll be a factor in the ACC this season. The first half, in particular, was very impressive for the Hokies as they shot 62 percent from the floor and withstood a barrage of Kentucky three-pointers to take a lead into the break. Kentucky made double the amount of three-pointers they usually make and the Hokies were still in this game until the very end.

Obviously, Virginia Tech still has work to do to be a contender in the ACC. They don’t have a ton of size to hang with some of the bigger teams in the country, which could be problematic against conference opponents like Duke. The Hokies also had some problems with turnovers as Kentucky’s 2-2-1 pressure really caused some issues for certain stretches. Virginia Tech had 19 turnovers on Saturday when they’ve averaged 13 on the season.

Not accustomed to facing teams like Kentucky, the Hokies were bothered at times by the length and athleticism of the Wildcats.

Here’s the thing though: would you want to face a veteran Buzz Williams team that doesn’t seem intimidated by anybody? Me neither. The Hokies won’t be a fun team to play in March.

3. Kentucky needs to focus more on Kevin Knox

To start the second half, Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox (21 points) was simply unstoppable. Scoring 11 points in a four-minute burst, Knox scored through contact, knocked down a three-pointer and also made a tough mid-range look.

And then Kentucky’s offense went away from him as lesser players tried to score using one-on-one moves.

The Wildcat offense went stagnant for a stretch before Diallo and Quade Green continued to shoot the ball well. It was puzzling to see their offense work during certain stretches. Kentucky obviously has tons of elite, five-star talent and they have to share the ball and some shots. But Knox wasn’t even getting touches after he made scoring look easy during the early part of the second half.

Since Knox has a tendency to float away from the basket and not demand the ball during stretches of play, Kentucky needs to make sure that they keep their biggest offensive threat engaged at all times. Thankfully in this game, players like Diallo and Green stepped up in the scoring column. But there is going to be a time when Kentucky needs Knox as a go-to scorer. They have to make sure to keep Knox fully engaged.

No. 3 Kansas outlasts No. 7 Kentucky in ugly Champions Classic game

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CHICAGO — Kansas used a late three-pointer from Malik Newman and some clutch free-throw shooting to outlast Kentucky, 65-61, on Tuesday night in a disjointed second game of the Champions Classic.

With both teams struggling to score in the half court for much of the night, Newman’s trey with 2:10 left proved to be a critical bucket for the No. 3 Jayhawks (2-0) as the redshirt sophomore also knocked down two important free throws late in the game. Svi Mykhailiuk paced the Jayhawks with 17 points to lead an ugly offensive effort while big man Udoka Azubuike tallied 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-for-5 shooting. Newman finished with 12 points.

Preseason All-American Devonte’ Graham had a sluggish 3-for-14 shooting night for Kansas but he iced the game with two free throws with 7.1 seconds left as he finished with 11 points and five assists.

The No. 7 Wildcats (2-1) had a solid effort from freshman Kevin Knox as the five-star wing looked like he was ready to play in a high-pressure game. Knox finished with a game-high 20 points as his perimeter shooting and ability to create his own shot were a bright spot for Kentucky.

Freshman guard Hamidou Diallo was the only other double-figure scorer for Kentucky as he ended with 14 points. Kentucky’s interior struggled much of the night as freshmen P.J. Washington and Nick Richards provided little-to-no help on either end of the floor.

 

 

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.