NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  Horace Spencer #0 of the Auburn Tigers reacts against the Boston College Eagles in the second half of the Under Armour Reunion at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Auburn forward Horace Spencer out for season with shoulder surgery

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Auburn sophomore forward Horace Spencer will miss the rest of the season with shoulder surgery on his left shoulder, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-8 Spencer is averaging 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he’s one of the team’s best rim protectors.

Spencer’s surgery will be performed on Thursday.

“Horace, he’s one of our toughest players, and he’s a fighter, and he’s not afraid, and he’s a really good teammate,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said in the release. “Horace has got a little bit of mother hen, and he’s got a little bit of big brother in him. He’s our team protector.”

Pearl noted in the release that Spencer was out for four months after last season after knee surgery, so he’s had a hard time staying healthy during his first two years at Auburn. On the bright side, Spencer being out for four months means that he’ll get most of this summer to improve before his junior season.

No. 15 Kentucky takes down Alabama

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 31:  Malik Monk #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Rupp Arena on January 31, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Kentucky survived foul trouble and a late Alabama rally as the No. 15 Wildcats held on for a 67-58 SEC road win on Saturday afternoon.

Coming off of a recent sluggish stretch that included a blowout loss at Florida and a poor defensive effort in a home win over LSU, the Wildcats (20-5, 10-2) had an impressive early surge to build a lead as big as 18 as they led by double-digits for much of the game.

Things started to turn when Kentucky freshman big man Bam Adebayo (14 points, seven rebounds) fouled out with a little over six minutes left, giving the Crimson Tide a sliver of hope. Alabama cut it to within six with under two minutes left but sophomore Isaiah Briscoe (11 points, 11 rebounds) made a lot of key buckets down the stretch to keep the Crimson Tide down.

Freshman Malik Monk (17 points) had a so-so shooting game but ended up with 14 points while senior Derek Willis had a key three-pointer out of a timeout with just over a minute left to effectively seal the game.

Kentucky only shot 21 percent from three-point range but their defense looked way better than recent performances as they closed out harder on shooters and helped force 16 Alabama turnovers.

Alabama (14-9, 7-4) shot themselves in the foot with a lot of missed free throws and turnovers as they did everything they could to dig out of the early hole. The slower tempo certainly helped the Crimson Tide but shooting 9-for-26 from the free-throw line is going to kill you.

Braxton Key led the Crimson Tide with 21 points while Dazon Ingram added 12 points. Alabama lost this hard-fought battle to Kentucky, but they played hard in front of a sold-out crowd that got to see some of this team’s young talent.

No. 8 Kentucky overcomes slow start to beat Georgia in overtime

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 31:  Malik Monk #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Rupp Arena on January 31, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Kentucky found itself down 12-0 and blew a late second-half lead but rallied behind guards Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe for a 90-81 overtime SEC home win over Georgia on Tuesday night.

The No. 8 Wildcats (18-4, 8-1) snapped their two-game losing streak as they played without freshman guard De’Aaron Fox, who sat out the game due to illness.  Kentucky clearly missed Fox’s presence on both ends of the floor. Using a new starting lineup featuring Isaac Humphries that slid Derek Willis to the three, Kentucky didn’t get going until Monk started hitting shots.

The freshman erupted for 37 points as he got hot from the perimeter and went 7-for-11 from three-point range. It was yet another performance for Monk to add in his Player of the Year discussion, especially since Fox was out o the lineup on Tuesday. Sophomore Isaiah Briscoe also had an outstanding overall floor game for the Wildcats as he just missed a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

One concerning thing about this win for Kentucky is the lack of help from anyone besides Briscoe and Monk. Without Fox on the floor, the Wildcats needed another scorer to help those two but nobody could really get going. Freshman big man Bam Adebayo (12 points) had a late three-point play and got going a bit in the second half and overtime but he was quiet for too long.

Georgia (13-9, 4-5) looked like they were going to capitalize on the Wildcats’ uninspired start but they eventually gave up that lead and found the game tied by halftime.

Junior forward Yante Maten continued to show that he’s one of the most underrated players in the country as he finished with 22 points. Senior guard J.J. Frazier (23 points) and big man Derek Ogbeide (career- high 18 points, 13 rebounds) also had solid games for the Bulldogs.

Georgia missed out on a golden opportunity to get a win that could put them in the NCAA tournament discussion since the bubble is so soft. The Bulldogs won against Texas over the weekend but they’ve now lost four of five SEC games. It doesn’t get any easier for Georgia from here as they have back-to-back games against ranked teams with a road game at South Carolina and a home game against Florida.

Vanderbilt snaps four-game losing streak in upset of No. 19 Florida

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06:  John Egbunu #15 of the Florida Gators reacts against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half during the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Vanderbilt snapped a four-game losing streak by using a strong second half to take down No. 21 Florida, 68-66, on Saturday afternoon in the SEC.

The Commodores (9-10, 3-4) shot 46 percent from the field and nailed 10 three-pointers as Matthew Fisher-Davis led four double-figure scorers with 19 points. For a young team with a new coach in Bryce Drew, this is a solid victory that he can build off of as his team did a great job of executing offense down the stretch.

This is a bad loss at home for No. 19 Florida (14-5, 5-2) and doesn’t help the weak national reputation of the SEC. Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen lit it up for 29 points for the Gators but Devin Robinson (12 points) was the only other Florida player who finished with double-figures.

As we’ve seen from the Gators the past three seasons, they’re incredibly inconsistent and they have a tendency to show up flat at inopportune times. A lot of that falls on the lack of quality point guard play and the lack of development from former McDonald’s All-American Kasey Hill. Hill isn’t the only Florida player who needs to step up for them to maximize their potential, but this is his final stretch of college ball after an underwhelming career.

Right now, Florida is in position to break a two-year NCAA tournament drought, but losses like this can’t happen again at home if the Gators want to get back in the field.

Monk fuels No. 6 Kentucky past Auburn

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 14: Malik Monk #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats drives to the basket against T.J. Dunans #4 of the Auburn Tigers in the first half of the game at Rupp Arena on January 14, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Kentucky used a second-half surge to pull away from Auburn as the No. 6 Wildcats ran away with a 92-72 SEC home win on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats (15-2, 5-0) were only up, 70-64, with a little over eight minutes but used a 22-8 run to close out the game as the team’s offense once again showed why they are among the best in the country. Freshman guard Malik Monk led Kentucky with 24 points on the night as the Wildcats shot a red-hot 57 percent (11-for-19) from three-point range.

Bam Adebayo added 15 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky while De’Aaron Fox (13 points), Mychal Mulder (12 points) and Isaiah Briscoe (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

Auburn (11-6, 1-4) was led by T.J. Dunans’ 23 points while freshman Mustapha Heron had 11 points.

If Kentucky shoots 57 percent from three-point range they are going to be nearly impossible to stop — and it wasn’t just Monk was going bananas and hitting all the deep jumpers. Monk hit four three-pointers and kept up his normal pace but inconsistent shooters like Briscoe went 2-for-2 while Wenyen Gabriel (six points, 16 rebounds) was 2-for-3 from distance as well.

Auburn was able to stay in the game for longer because of some woeful free-throw shooting from Kentucky. The Wildcats’ were only 17-for-32 (52 percent) from the free-throw line — well below their season average of 69 percent — but that might only be a one-game issue and not a long-term problem.

 

Five-star guard Hamidou Diallo commits to Kentucky

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Five-star Class of 2017 guard Hamidou Diallo made things interesting in the recruiting world by committing to Kentucky on Saturday evening during a scheduled announcement. Diallo announced between a final list that included Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and UConn but he only took official visits to see Kentucky and UConn in the last few weeks.

The 6-foot-6 Diallo is a unique case because he graduated high school last year and was doing a year of postgrad ball at Putnam Science Academy before deciding to go to college in the middle of the season. Diallo can enroll immediately at Kentucky for the second semester and the Wildcats can either use him this season or redshirt him and play him next season. There’s also the additional wrinkle of Diallo being eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft — since he can use the Thon Maker way to go pro.

If Diallo plays immediately for Kentucky then he isn’t going to take starting minutes from De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe. Those guys are doing just fine in Kentucky’s starting lineup. But Diallo could provide valuable depth and another athletic defender on the perimeter. Dominique Hawkins is an experienced senior who is good at pressuring the ball. Diallo could join him in a Kentucky perimeter second unit that can really get after the ball handler.

One NCAA tournament coach at USA Basketball tryouts last summer said Diallo was among the best trap defenders he had ever coached. So if Diallo is unleashed off the bench in a full-court trap situation that could be a nice weapon to have in certain situations.

If Diallo redshirts then it would be a good sign that he’s not going to look towards the NBA and would likely go to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. Diallo is an athletic freak who can play well above the rim, rebound from the perimeter and defend multiple spots on the floor but he does have holes in his game.

Adding a more consistent perimeter jumper to his game would be very beneficial to Diallo’s development — and NBA draft perceptions — and he could also stand to improve his overall offensive polish. Far from a finished product, Diallo is a huge prospect if he can add the skill level to match.

Since the 2017 NBA Draft is so loaded this season — I mean, you’ve seen all these freshmen we’ve been talking about, right? — it would be tough for Diallo to make a dent in mock drafts if his intentions are to be a first-round draft pick this summer. This would be especially true since Kentucky has so many quality guards earning minutes in front of him and Diallo likely wouldn’t get much of a chance to shine — if he even plays in the first place.

But there is still plenty of time for Diallo to be molded into an ideal NBA two-guard and he could give Kentucky a nice additional toy to play with off the bench for the rest of the season.

If Diallo also happens to stick around for the 2017-18 season it would give the Wildcats a joke of a recruiting class that would include five, five-star players — point guard Quade Green, Diallo, forward Jarred Vanderbilt, forward P.J. Washington, center Nick Richards — and four-star guard Shai Alexander.