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- John Calipari says Kentucky must “make some jump shots” to play with Florida
- John Calipari: “To have people say this team is done, I just don’t believe it”
- Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood will be “getting in their ears” to tell teammates about March play
- ESPN’s Jay Bilas has fun watching Gators, a team without “big shots going pro” after one year
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- High school coach on Harrisons: “No matter their body language, they want to win”
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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s game at Florida Saturday is not a postseason contest, but it might have a postseason atmosphere and is a good chance for seniors Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood to stress to younger teammates what games the rest of the season will be like.
So what can Hood and Polson tell them?
“Me and Hoodie, we haven’t played that much in tournament times at all but we’ve been there and we know what it’s like. It’s win or go home. Pretty much it’s just going to be getting in their ears and just telling them that you can’t let up at all once the tournament starts. If you let up, it’s over,” Polson said.
Will teammates listen?
“I think they do. I think really respect us,” Polson said. “They know we’ve been here for a while now and I hope they think we know what we’re talking about. So I think they do respect it and they listen to us.”
John Calipari was a lot happier during the Alabama game Tuesday than he was on Saturday when he was ejected from the loss at South Carolina. His players noticed, too.
“That’s just the type of person he is. He’s real loud and animated, but I guess wanted to see we would react to him just being quiet,” freshman center Dakari Johnson said. “And he did a good job just calling plays for us and making it player-driven. We were out there by ourselves, and it was kind of weird at first, but I think throughout the game we kind of adapted to it.”
Calipari said during Tuesday’s postgame press conference that his team was “rattled” by consecutive losses — something that didn’t happen his first three years at Kentucky.
“I’ve only lost two games in a row other than this year one time in my career and that was last year,” UK senior Jon Hood said. “One time since I’ve been here. I think all of us were a little rattled to a certain degree. We just had to rediscover, redefine what we were and we did that to an extent tonight and now we got to move forward.”
How does a team redefine?
“Go play. That’s the thing, go play. Players are going to play. Coaches are going to coach. Officials are going to officiate. You can’t get all boggled up with the officials and how they’re calling the call or how the coach is on you, whatever. We’re 18-year-old men and above. I’m 22. We know how to play basketball at this point. Just go to go play,” Hood said.
GARY B. GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Julius Randle had 12 points and 11 rebounds and No. 25 Kentucky rallied past Alabama 55-48 on Tuesday night to end a two-game losing streak.
Needing a bounce after Saturday’s loss at South Carolina with a huge hurdle looming this weekend at No. 1 Florida, the Wildcats (22-8, 12-5 Southeastern Conference) used a 15-2 second-half run to build a 43-34 lead. They added several smaller runs to hold off the stubborn Crimson Tide (12-18, 6-11) in their regular season home finale.
Kentucky avoided its first three-game losing streak under coach John Calipari and clinched second place in the conference.
It wasn’t easy or pretty for the Wildcats, whose 33 percent shooting reflected their generally tentative play. But a couple of timely dunks by Dakari Johnson and 3-pointers by Aaron and Andrew Harrison keyed the run that helped put away Alabama.
Trevor Releford had 13 points for Alabama.
Johnson and James Young had nine points for Kentucky.
No. 25 KENTUCKY 55, ALABAMA 48
ALABAMA (12-18): Taylor 1-4 2-2 4, Hale 3-5 0-0 8, Releford 5-11 2-4 13, Randolph 4-11 0-0 8, Cooper 0-7 2-2 2, Key 1-1 0-0 2, Engstrom 1-1 0-0 2, Obasohan 4-10 1-3 9. Totals 19-50 7-11 48.
KENTUCKY (22-8): Aa. Harrison 2-8 2-2 7, Polson 1-4 0-0 3, Hood 1-3 0-0 3, Cauley-Stein 1-2 1-2 3, Randle 4-8 4-5 12, Young 1-11 6-7 9, An. Harrison 2-6 1-1 6, Poythress 0-3 3-4 3, Johnson 4-4 1-3 9. Totals 16-49 18-24 55.
Halftime_Alabama 28-25. 3-Point Goals_Alabama 3-13 (Hale 2-4, Releford 1-4, Randolph 0-2, Cooper 0-3), Kentucky 5-28 (Hood 1-3, An. Harrison 1-3, Polson 1-4, Aa. Harrison 1-6, Young 1-10, Poythress 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Alabama 27 (Hale 6), Kentucky 41 (Randle 11). Assists_Alabama 7 (Releford 3), Kentucky 9 (An. Harrison, Aa. Harrison 3). Total Fouls_Alabama 19, Kentucky 11. A_23,504.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Ever wonder why Jon Hood always seems so happy at Kentucky even though he’s never played as much as he obviously would have liked?
Here’s the answer he gave Monday when asked about the various relationships he built during his five years at UK as he gets set for his senior farewell game tonight.
“It definitely means the world to me being able to call those guys up, chit-chat, talk, whatever,” Hood said. “Need something basketball wise or just talk to them how they’re playing, how they’re doing even outside of basketball.
“Guys that I’ve met around here – media guys, different people around the program – it’s good to connect with people and I don’t think that the fans understand that part of it.”
By RENE CORNETTE
Tonight, we will say goodbye to two Kentucky basketball players both born and raised in the Bluegrass who made their dreams of growing up and wearing the blue and white a reality. Over their collegiate careers, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson played their way into the hearts of Big Blue Nation and tonight as they line up with their families on the court at Rupp Arena , while Sundy Best sings, “My Old Kentucky Home”, I guarantee there won’t be a dry eye in the place.
What I will always remember about Jon and Jarrod the most is the heart and pride they played with year after year. Heart that was evident in the gentle way they steadied their teammates while giving 110 % themselves. Heart that showed in the way Jon Hood continued to be the first one out on the court to take part in pregame shooting when he knew he might not ever play a minute. Heart in the way Jarrod Polson listened to Coach Cal’s instructions and went out on the court and carried them out by sheer will alone.
Heart that brought me to tears when I watched Jon Hood after a game push a young Wildcat fan in a wheelchair back to the locker room. That’s the heart that embodied everything Jon and Jarrod are.
Jon and Jarrod will be missed but they’ll never be forgotten. We’ll remember that time Jarrod came in and played like he was 10-foot tall against Maryland while carrying the heart and pride of every Kentucky fan with him.
We’ll remember Jon Hood stepping up against Mississippi State, carrying a young team that was struggling to find their footing.
We’ll remember all of that and more because they’re a part of us, a part of our tradition and while they may never step another foot on the court at Rupp, our memories of what they did there will never fade.
From myself and everyone in the Big Blue Nation, Jon and Jarrod thank you from the bottom of our big blue hearts. Thank you for putting up with all of our craziness and thank you for treating us like your family. Good luck in everything you do. We’ll be supporting you always. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.
By LARRY VAUGHT
As he’s watched his son, Jarrod, play for four years at Kentucky, George Polson admits the overall experience has been even better than he anticipated it might be.
“It’s been better because of the increased playing time the last two years,” said George Polson as the senior guard, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship, prepares to play his final game in Rupp Arena Tuesday night against Alabama. “Obviously, getting a (national) championship in 2012 even though he was not playing a lot was special because not everybody does that. He has been to two Final Fours.
“I could not say anything except that his experience has been beyond what I expected. We fully expected him to play, but we didn’t know how many minutes. We didn’t think he would be a walk-on player who never got in a game. We figured he would play some. So in some ways his career has been more than we expected and in other ways about what we expected.”
Polson averaged 18.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds as a senior at West Jessamine High School and led his team to two straight 12th Region championships. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,884 points and picked walking on at UK over a scholarship offer from Liberty.
He played in 17 games as a freshman, including appearances against Florida, Indiana and North Carolina. During UK’s national championship season, he got in 11 games, including the NCAA Tournament win over Western Kentucky. He opened his junior season with 10 points and three assists in 22 minutes against Maryland and finished it with 10 points, three assists and a career-high 31 minutes against Robert Morris and became reliable performer for coach John Calipari.
This year he’s played a season-high 30 minutes against Mississippi State and has played in 24 games. Overall, he’s been in 85 games and scored 133 points in four years.
Every year, though, he’s been one of UK’s most popular players — and had girls show up at games with signs asking for dates or even a marriage proposal. However, his popularity transcends any age or sex barriers.
“It still blows my mind how popular he’s become,” George Polson said. “It is young men, old men, young boys, coaches, women, girls. You just go across the board and the support for Jarrod is there, especially locally. He is everybody’s son or grandson. I still have people come in my work to talk to me and bring me articles about Jarrod or just talk about the game.
“Another person came in the other day to get my autograph. That’s happened three or four times. It’s kind of weird each time and I think people are pulling my leg, but they are really not. Just various things like that remind me of how popular he really is.
“He has a fan following that is kind of different than the normal Cat. I told him recently that he might thinks this ends when the last whistle blows, but he’s going to be more in demand for speaking appearances and stuff like that. That’s usually reserved for star players, but he gets it and he’s not a star player. It just goes back to him being like your son, grandson. Everybody relates to him. Every Joe Fan can relate to Jarrod because he’s one of them.”
Yet what George Polson is most proud of concerning his son did not happen on the court. Instead, it’s his academic and off-court success.
“He is going to have two degrees (finance and marketing) and one minor (communications) in four years,” George Polson said. “I don’t know of any other player who has done that. That’s made me so proud.
“Then from a faith perspective, to be involved in all he has for his time at UK has been wonderful. His faith has grown exponentially since he’s been at UK, and that’s unusual. I am more proud of that than anything. He’s been on a mission trip and was nominated for the Southeastern Conference Good Works team. How could I not be proud of that.”
Plus, George Polson has also seen how teammates respect his son.
“His teammates truly do love him. Everybody knows he’s different than the normal scholarship player and how special his story at Kentucky has been,” George Polson said. “It’s going to be emotional for all of us (on Tuesday night), but there are no regrets. He followed his dream to Kentucky and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”
The University of Kentucky will unveil the fourth and final poster of a four-part men’s basketball poster series Tuesday night at the Kentucky-Alabama game at Rupp Arena.
The four-poster series features current Wildcats on the men’s basketball roster.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early. Doors open 90 minutes prior to tip-off.
The first 7,000 fans in attendance at Tuesday’s game will be able to pick up the poster in the Rupp Arena lobby upon entry.
A limited number of tickets are still available for Tuesday’s 9 p.m. game which is also Senior Night. Wildcat seniors Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson will be honored prior to the start of the game. Senior night festivities, which include Kentucky’s own Sundy Best performing My Old Kentucky Home, are scheduled to begin at approximately 8;45 p.m. ET.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Even when he was playing basketball at Centre College and majoring in English, Kris Bentley always knew music would be part of his life because some of his best childhood memories were listening to his father sing and listening to records with him.
But he had no idea music would become his career as it has with the rise of Sundy Best, which will sing “My Old Kentucky Home” Tuesday in Rupp Arena as part of the Kentucky senior game festivities.
Bentley and partner Nick Jamerson combine the classic rock sound of the ‘70s and ‘80s with Jamerson on guitar and Bentley on cajon (beat box). Bentley says Sundy Best uses touches of country and bluegrass to make its music personal — and they write all their own music.
“I grew up playing music in church and music was always prevalent in my childhood just as my love for basketball was,” said Bentley. “I actually started to play guitar in college. Before then, it was just the drums. But I borrowed one of dad’s guitars, took it to the dorm and kept it four years. That’s when my love for music went to a new level. I was listening to stuff and hearing different artists. That’s when I knew music would always be special for me, but certainly now where it is at now.”
Bentley and Jamerson are lifelong friends from eastern Kentucky and former college athletes as Jamerson played football at Pikeville. They are both life-long Kentucky fans, another reason they are thrilled to be part of Tuesday’s UK-Alabama game that will honor UK seniors Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood.
“Kris can shoot the ball, too,” said Hood, who has played basketball with Hood. “He might be the best H-0-R-S-E player you can see. He can bank in everything.”
Hood was introduced at Big Blue Madness in October to Sundy Best’s “I Wanna Go Home” and Bentley said he had been trying to get the duo to sing at a UK game.
“It was just over a week ago that I was in the gym (working out in Lexington) and got a call. I usually never answer if the number is not in my phone. I just usually check voice mail. But I decided to answer and it was the UK athletics department. They had gotten my number and asked if we wanted to sing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ at the Alabama game. I was like, ‘Where do I sign?’ It’s a dream come true for us,” Bentley said.
“We are 100 percent UK fans. Some of my earliest memories are watching Kentucky basketball. I remember in 1997 (in the national championship) game when Kentucky got beat my Arizona and I cried after the game. I remember losing to North Carolina in an Elite Eight game and crying. Both Nick and I are just like every other Kentucky fan. It’s no secret we are those crazy Kentucky fans.”
He’s looking forward to having a chance to hopefully meet UK coach John Calipari Tuesday.
“The whole scene is going to be really special and singing such a prominent song for that game means so much to us,” Bentley said. “I envision a lot of people singing along with us. It’s just one of those moments we want to soak in. Hopefully I will get to meet coach Calipari. I finally met (former UK) coach (Joe) Hall and he was so cool. I went to the Florida game a couple of weeks ago, but I can’t wait for this one.”
Sundy Best, which has been to the CMT Awards and performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville three times, is Bentley’s love now. He used to be the Centre player that always put the team’s pregame music together on a CD and remembers often singing in the locker room and other places with former Centre teammate T.C. Thomason.
However, he never let his hair grow anywhere near as long when he was playing basketball at Centre — coach Greg Mason would not allow it — as it is now even though it has been long at various times in his life.
“I never felt I had to let it grow at Centre. I had grown my hair out my senior year in high school and had long, shaggy hair. But not this long. I used to just grow it as long as I could before I got tired of it — or coach Mason made me cut it,” Bentley said. “I guess now I am just rebelling against coach Mason still. But when I tell people I played basketball at Centre and they look at my hair, they don’t believe it.”
But their music is making a name for them. They sold thousands of their self-released debut Door Without A Screen featuring the new single , which included a late 2013 re-release that pulled down nearly 5,000 tracks in one week.
“Our fan base is solid and growing daily and that is how we want it to be,” Bentley said. “Tuesday night will be special for us just like every other UK basketball fan. That night is about those seniors. It just happens be same day our new album (Bring Up The Sun featuring the single Until I Met You) will be out. We know there will be a lot not know who we are and will be asking who we are. But it will be great exposure for us and we are happy to be part of it.
“We have a lot of shows booked this year. It’s going to be busy with the way the word is spreading. We have been asked to come back to the Grand Ole Opry for the fourth time. We’re just waiting to see where the new album takes us. The feedback has been overwhelming and we hope this exposure at UK just helps even more.”
Bentley would love to believe Sundy Best could take a similar path that led Montgomery Gentry did that led to the rise of Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry.
“Actually Troy came to a show in Morehead and saw us. Nick has met Eddie before,” Bentley said. “I think anybody from this area who has gone down a path like this can relate to us. It’s cool that we basically grew up in the same neighborhood and have been good friends, or almost brothers. We grew up listening to classic rock stuff and we love writing all our own music. Every song we