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By ASHLEY SCOBY
Jalen Whitlow is not your average Joe.
At least that’s what he – and fans – have come to believe after spring practice concluded with the Blue-White scrimmage Saturday. Whitlow completed 17 of 28 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns to show the coaching staff and fans that he is right in the thick of the three-man quarterback race.
After a freshman campaign in which he started seven games and contributed 1,007 yards and 6 touchdowns (passing and rushing), Whitlow has a gained a quiet self-confidence.
“You’ve got to carry yourself with confidence,” he said. “Players carry themselves with confidence. You would never see Peyton Manning carrying himself like a regular Joe.”
The biggest difference between last season and the beginning of spring practice for Whitlow has been “maturity.” Nearing the completion of his second semester of college, he thinks he has grown up a lot, which has, in turn, helped him on the football field.
“Last fall I was an 18-year-old pretty much trying to grasp everything,” Whitlow said. “Everything’s moving so fast but now the college life is not a big thing anymore. Just coming in here and just focusing on football and school and just being grounded is the biggest thing.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown thought Whitlow has used his freshman year experience to turn into the solid quarterback that has emerged during the spring.
“I think he’s learning how to prepare,” Brown said. “Getting thrown to the fire, it does one of two things for you. It really damages you or you find out what it takes and you come back stronger than ever and I think that’s what happened.”
All of that maturity and experience helped Whitlow turn in a solid spring game performance, especially compared to the other quarterbacks. Max Smith, the original starter last season before going down with an injury, was 11-18 for 108 yards and a touchdown, while Whitlow’s classmate Patrick Towles went 6-14 for 65 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Whitlow also rushed for 49 yards Saturday, showing that his speed and ability to get out of the pocket will also be factors in the quarterback race.
Running, however, isn’t something Whitlow particularly wants to do.
“I don’t like running,” he said. “I like passing plays. I want to throw the ball.”
Brown said Whitlow has “come along” as a passer so far in the spring, but that his athleticism is something the coaches will look at, if Whitlow were to be named the starter.
“At Troy…when we had a kid that was athletic, we ran the ball with the quarterback,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out who we are. What are our pieces to the puzzle? And then we’ll form a package around them.”
Forming that package is something that might be far away, but head coach Mark Stoops knows what Whitlow could potentially bring to the table.
“Jalen did a nice job,” he said. “He has that dimension to run the football and pull it down when something’s not there and create… I was impressed with the way Jalen played.”
Even if Whitlow is not named the starter come fall camp, UK knows it doesn’t just have an average Joe athlete wearing number 13.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has not been happy with everything about spring practice, but he has no trouble pinpointing what he has liked best.
“I’m pleased with their overall attitude. Again, I keep on saying it: It’s not where we want it to be, but I see the improvement. I see them wanting to do things right,” the UK coach said. “I see their attitude being good, and their effort. That’s what I’m most pleased about. We have good players. They need to be led and they need to be put in position to be successful and we need to improve in all areas, but I see them wanting to do that.”
He says players and coaches have learned to be more comfortable with each other during spring practice.
“Again, it’s not a finished product and probably never will be. We’re always working on those relationships, but it is getting better,” Stoops said.
Photos by Clay Jackson, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.
By Keith Taylor, The Winchester Sun
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Alex Poythress was just as “shocked” as the rest of Big Blue Nation following Kentucky’s 59-57 loss to Robert Morris in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament Tuesday night.
“We just couldn’t do it at the end,” the Kentucky freshman said. “It’s real disappointing.”
It was a similar road loss for the Wildcats, who failed to gain traction in games played away from home during most of the season. Kentucky, the top seed on the NIT, won just four games in eight attempts in hostile environments, inducing an 0-3 mark against non-conference foes.
“It was a tough environment and they had a great crowd,” Poythress said. “They were incredible and cheering them on. It was just one of those away environments where (they) were rooting against you. It’s incredibly tough to play on the road. You just don’t realize it’s not a home game. You may have fans, but to the other team, it’s their home game. It’s tough playing in the road. It was a a tough game (Tuesday night) because it was so compact and so close to the floor. It was a tough environment.”
From the beginning, the Wildcats had problems overcoming and overflow crowd of more than 3,500 and found themselves in a hole after the hosts scored the first 10 points of the game. That lead blossomed to as many as 13 points in the second half before the Wildcats battled back to make things interesting down the stretch. The overall environment also was an issue for the Cats down the stretch.
“We just couldn’t capitalize (down the stretch),” he said.
Poythress said the Wildcats had trouble matching Robert Morris’ intensity throughout most of the contest.
“They came out and strong, they came out hitting every shot and came out pumped,” he said. “They came out wanting to win the game. They had a nice crowd and everything, but got us down and we played catch up the rest of the game.”
Poythress, who scored just six points in 27 minutes, said the Cats came in with a “good game plan” and one that he thought was enough to put the Wildcats back over the top.
“To come out on the losing end of this game is really disappointing,” Poythress said. “It’s just frustrating.”
Poythress said the Wildcats had a renewed focus following a 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last Friday in Nashville. The team failed to make the NCAA Tournament field and was denied an opportunity to defend the NCAA title, but Poythress didn’t mind continuing the postseason in the NIT in a season that failed to measure up to last year’s standard.
“I felt like we were ready and I feel like we are ready every game,” he said. “The coaches do a great job of preparing us, but we us players just didn’t execute. It comes down to x’s and o’s and for us, just playing ball, really. Coach (Calipari) is going to help us (and put us in position to win).”
Looking back on the season, Poythress said capitalizing on “on the little things” would have made a difference for a team that failed to live up to last year’s expectations.
“We just had mental lapses and we just had to focus,” he said. “It was tough to follow last year’s team. If you think about it, they were one of the best basketball teams (in history). The had six pros, almost had 40 wins and won a national championship. It’s tough to follow that. But there are high expectations when you come here. People expect you to win and you can’t let them down. We had great potential, but we just didn’t know how to put it all together.”
He added that the team wasn’t lacking in the leadership department.
“We had great leadership in Julius (Mays),” he said. “He was always there from Day 1. We just didn’t follow him. It was kind of our fault.”
WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
MOON, Pa. (AP) – Mike McFadden hit two free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining and Robert Morris shocked defending national champion Kentucky 59-57 in the opening round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats decided not to call timeout after the second free throw but Kyle Wiltjer’s 3-pointer before the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim, sending hundreds of students onto the court as Robert Morris ruined Kentucky coach John Calipari’s homecoming.
Lucky Jones led the Colonials (24-10) with 15 points but was ejected for a flagrant foul on Archie Goodwin with 3:41 to play. Kentucky, which trailed by 13 in the second half, managed to tie it twice but could never grab the lead.
Goodwin scored 18 points for the Wildcats but couldn’t stop Kentucky’s disappointing season come to a stunning end.
The victory was validation for the Colonials, who won the Northeastern Conference regular season title with ease but were upset in the conference tournament. The loss relegated the school to the NIT, but it hardly felt like a letdown in perhaps the biggest win in the program’s history.
“I know they were disappointed not to get to NCAA tournament. This is a memory they’ll get for rest of their lives.” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said in the giddy aftermath.
Robert Morris will advance to the second round, while Kentucky’s injury-marred underachieving year came to a merciful end. The Wildcats were never the same after center Nerlens Noel went down with a devastating knee injury. Kentucky dropped six of its final 10 games, the last one coming in a somewhat rickety gym in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
The Wildcats let the Colonials race to an early 10-0 lead, only led briefly at the end of the first half and appeared disinterested to spoil the return of a hometown kid made good.
Calipari was born in Pittsburgh, grew up a couple of miles from the Robert Morris campus and played guard at Moon High a couple of 3-pointers away. He returned to Western Pennyslvania to finish up his college playing at Clarion and served as an assistant coach at Pittsburgh in the 1980s before hitting the big-time.
The homecoming, however, was less happy than hostile.
Fans scooped up the 3,500 tickets in a matter of hours on Monday then lined up outside in the blustery March wind well before tipoff of arguably the biggest game in school history. Robert Morris averaged barely 1,000 fans during its 15 home games, yet there were scalpers asking for $75 to get in the door.
Though disappointed in missing the NCAAs, in a way, it may have served as a blessing.
While the NCAAs would have provided Robert Morris with a brief moment in the sun, the NIT gave the school of just over 3,600 undergraduate students an opportunity to host one of college basketball’s big boys on its own turf.
Kentucky earned a top seed in the NIT but was forced to hit the road because Rupp Arena is hosting NCAA games this weekend. Though Calipari warned his team to be ready, the Wildcats hardly looked thrilled to be there, and it showed.
Robert Morris scored the game’s first 10 points while the Wildcats ‚Äî who typically play in front of home crowds in excess of 23,000 ‚Äî stumbled their way through a series of miscues and appeared rattled in a gym with wooden bleachers that swayed underneath the feet of a clamoring student section chanting “Bobby Mo” every chance it could.
Senior Jarrod Polson came off the bench to steady things, and Kentucky recovered to get within 28-27 at the break.
Yet the Colonials never folded, making 8 of 12 shots during one stretch to move back in front 49-36 then holding off a late Kentucky push to send students leaping over tables and onto the floor in a delirious celebration.
KENTUCKY (21-12): Cauley-Stein 4-6 1-4 9, Poythress 3-7 0-0 6, Goodwin 5-8 8-8 18, Harrow 2-3 0-0 5, Mays 1-5 2-2 5, Hood 1-2 0-0 2, Polson 4-5 2-4 10, Wiltjer 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 21-40 13-18 57.
ROBERT MORRIS (24-10): L. Jones 4-5 6-6 15, Johnson 5-11 2-2 14, McFadden 3-4 2-2 8, Williams 2-4 0-0 6, Myers-Pate 3-7 0-0 6, V. Jones 3-7 2-2 8, Appolon 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 0-5 2-2 2, Hawkins 0-0 0-0 0, Armstrong 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 14-14 59.
Halftime_Robert Morris 28-27. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 2-10 (Harrow 1-2, Mays 1-4, Hood 0-1, Poythress 0-1, Wiltjer 0-2), Robert Morris 5-16 (Williams 2-4, Johnson 2-4, L. Jones 1-2, Appolon 0-1, V. Jones 0-1, Myers-Pate 0-1, Anderson 0-3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Kentucky 25 (Goodwin 7), Robert Morris 19 (Johnson 5). Assists_Kentucky 7 (Polson 3), Robert Morris 10 (V. Jones 5). Total Fouls_Kentucky 17, Robert Morris 20. A_3,444.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
By LARRY VAUGHT
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — For Kentucky fans Sarah and Ryan Reynolds, there’s no complaining about UK playing Robert Morris here tonight in the NIT.
The two Centre College graduates — he graduated in 2006 and she did in 2008 — were among those in line about 2 1/2 hours before the game for a chance to land top seats and it paid off as they wound up in the second row opposite the UK bench.
“I am from Lexington and she’s from Louisville, but we were both born and raised Kentucky fans,” Ryan Reynolds, who is doing a radiology residency in Pittsburgh, said. “Both our parents went to UK. It has been kind of odd to be living here in Big East country, but now we have a chance to see our Cats and we were not going to miss that.”
He paid $40 apiece for the seats — a bargain compared to what they paid to see Sweet Sixteen games in Atlanta last year when UK when the national title.
“We know it has not been a great year, but we are proud to be here,” he said. “I love the talent we have and hope some sticks around to come back for next year and do what Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb did last year.”
The couple had not been to a game at Robert Morris before, but it had a familiar feel.
“It’s about the size of the Centre gym,” Sarah Reynolds said. “And we have a lot better seats here than we could ever get at Rupp Arena.”
She didn’t mind being surrounded by Robert Morris fans or the Robert Morris dance team — they did have two UK fans sitting beside them.
“I will keep him (Ryan) in line and we will have fun with this,” she said. “I bleed blue all the way, too. I am from Louisville, but he would have never married me if I was not a Kentucky fan.”
Other Kentucky fans also got here early to fill a section opposite the Reynolds behind the Kentucky bench.
“We have a great Kentucky following here. We are everywhere,” Ryan Reynolds said. “I am not surprised to see so many UK fans here. We all love the blue. Up or down, we are with them. And next year, we’ll be right back playing for the title.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Are there more critical needs on offense or defense? That’s the question UK football coach Mark Stoops was asked Monday after his first spring practice session. Stoops didn’t sugar-coat his answer.
“You know, it’s difficult for me to talk about position because as we all know in here, we need to get better everywhere. There’s not one position on our field that we don’t need to improve,” Stoops said. “And so that’s why it’s hard for me to get specific on a certain group because we need to improve on all areas.
“I mean, again, I feel like there was a few guys offensively that stood out that did a good job that I feel like there was too many balls on the ground and very sloppy. I know it’s day one, and we are going to improve the execution, but I think just, you know, wide receivers on this offense is very important.”
TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Dai-Jon Parker scored 12 points, and the Vanderbilt Commodores beat Kentucky 64-48 Friday night in a rematch of last year’s Southeastern Conference tournament championship and put a serious dent in the Wildcats’ hopes of at least having a chance to defend their national title.
Kentucky (21-11) came in as a bubble team projected possibly as a play-in candidate after coach John Calipari sent six players to the NBA last summer and tried reloading yet again with another top recruiting class. But Nerlens Noel had surgery earlier this week to fix his torn ACL, and the Wildcats couldn’t match the intensity of the Commodores.
Kevin Bright scored 11 points, Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller had 10 apiece. Vanderbilt (16-16) shot 50 percent overall, hitting 8 of 17 3-pointers.
Archie Goodwin led Kentucky with 12 points, and Kyle Wiltjer had 10. Ryan Harrow was 2 of 15 for four points as Kentucky was held to a season-low in points. The Wildcats outrebounded Vandy 32-30 but just couldn’t keep up with how well the Commodores shot the ball.
The Commodores also lost their top six players off the team that won the school’s first tourney title in 61 years with three also in the NBA. Their growing pains have been such that winning is the only way to keep playing now.
They came out and hit 18 of their first 27 shots, including their first five of the second half, in building a 48-27 lead. Kentucky clawed back with 10 straight points, the last a high-flying dunk by Goodwin to pull within 48-37 with 12:43 to go. Then the Wildcats went cold, not hitting another field goal until Alex Poythress’ layup with 7:31 remaining made it 53-41 because Vandy suddenly couldn’t hit after a Kevin Bright 3-pointer with 11:22 left.
Johnson hit two free throws followed by a 3-pointer from Sheldon Jeter to push the lead back to 17 with 6:00 left, and Kentucky didn’t threaten again. Vandy coach Kevin Stallings was able to pull his starters in the final minute for an ovation.
Kentucky swept Vanderbilt in the regular season, but the Wildcats won both games by a combined six points. The Commodores weren’t happy about a 60-58 loss Jan. 10 at Memorial Gym where officials missed a late shot clock violation on a key bucket by Noel.
Even though this game is only a couple miles away from Vanderbilt’s campus, Wildcats’ fans turned Bridgstone Arena into Rupp South filled with blue from the court up to the rafters.
The atmosphere only seemed to rev up the Commodores.
Kentucky led twice, the last on a reverse layup by Goodwin at 6-5. Shelby Moats hit a 3 from the top of the key for Vandy, then Willie Cauley-Stein dunked to tie it up at 8. Odom scored on a layup putting Vandy up 10-8 with 12:42 to go. Kentucky got within two three times, the last at 18-16 with 6:22 to go on a layup by Harrow on his lone bucket of the half as he missed eight shots.
Vanderbilt finished the half on a 20-7 run as the Commodores kept tipping away passes and pushing the Wildcats out away from the basket. When they had the ball, the Commodores knocked down shot after shot. Cauley-Stein picked up his second personal with 4:53 and went to the bench. Vanderbilt scored 16 of the next 23 points.
Moats capped the half as he hit a long jumper in the final seconds for a 37-23 lead before going to the bench for a chest bump with Fuller.
VANDERBILT (16-16): Odom 3-7 2-2 9, Johnson 3-9 4-4 10, Bright 4-6 0-0 11, Parker 5-8 0-0 12, Henderson 1-4 0-1 2, Watkins 0-0 0-0 0, Fuller 4-6 2-2 10, Josephs 0-0 0-0 0, Astroth 0-0 0-0 0, Jeter 1-3 0-0 3, Moats 2-3 2-2 7, Siakam 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-46 10-11 64.
KENTUCKY (21-11): Goodwin 5-10 2-5 12, Harrow 2-15 0-0 4, Cauley-Stein 2-6 3-5 7, Poythress 2-3 1-3 6, Mays 2-8 0-0 6, Hood 1-3 0-0 3, Polson 0-2 0-0 0, Wiltjer 4-5 2-3 10. Totals 18-52 8-16 48.
Halftime_Vanderbilt 37-23. 3-Point Goals_Vanderbilt 8-17 (Bright 3-5, Parker 2-3, Moats 1-1, Odom 1-1, Jeter 1-3, Fuller 0-1, Johnson 0-3), Kentucky 4-14 (Mays 2-7, Poythress 1-1, Hood 1-3, Goodwin 0-1, Wiltjer 0-1, Harrow 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Vanderbilt 30 (Odom, Parker 6), Kentucky 32 (Cauley-Stein 9). Assists_Vanderbilt 9 (Johnson 3), Kentucky 6 (Mays 3). Total Fouls_Vanderbilt 16, Kentucky 16. A_NA.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Being back in Rupp Arena Saturday was special for Anthony Davis Sr. — and that was before Kentucky beat No. 11 Florida.
“It brings back a lot of memories just to be back in this Kentucky atmosphere rooting for the Cats again. It’s unbelievable,” said Davis.
Last season he seldom missed a game in Rupp Arena when his son, Anthony, was playing for Kentucky and leading the Wildcats to a national championship in a season when he swept most major postseason individual awards. He went on to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft by New Orleans and was on the Olympic gold-medal winning United States team.
“It was definitely a great experience coming back. Just to see these guys, coming back (today) … Anthony wishes he was still here playing, but he had to move on. But it is good to come back and see everybody,” Davis said. “I just wanted to come back and visit the Kentucky family. I miss them. Anthony misses them.
“I wanted to see a game and enjoy it I have kept up with them since day one this year. They are going to be fine. You have to believe that. They are young, energetic. They just have to come together.”
His son’s rookie season has been rocky at times mainly due to various injuries. However, he had 20 points and 18 rebounds in a game Saturday.
“It has been a learning experience. He had a couple of injuries early on. We will just have to see what the second half of the season is going to bring him,” Davis said. “But he is getting a chance to play with guys he has dreamed about playing with all his life. You get to play with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James. He’s really enjoying that and having fun with it.”
His parents try to get down at least once every two weeks to see him play.
“He is still only 19 and misses home, so we try to get down a lot to see him play,” Davis said. “His mother misses him. She is not handling it well. She tries to get down a lot to see him, though.”
Davis said his son stays in touch with his former UK teammates.
“They are like brothers. They have a tight bond with each other. I don’t think nobody can break that up,” Davis said.
He’s not sure how often his son talks to UK coach John Calipari. “But I imagine they keep in touch. He thinks a lot of coach Cal,” Davis said.
Davis still remembers how nervous he was a year ago as Kentucky was poised to start its national championship quest.
“To see him come from high school and only win six games and come here to Kentucky and win a national championship, it was great for him. We really enjoyed the experience with him,” Davis said. “Those guys wanted to win so much. Once they all got together and forget all the all-star games and just the guys that were coming in and sacrificing for each other and not worrying who would score the most, they really wanted it. They talked about it during the McDonald’s All-American Game, but then to come out and win it was a blessing for all of them and us.”
It was enough of a blessing that UK’s Final Four MVP won’t ever forget his college roots.
“Without a doubt, he’ll be back here. I have no doubt in my mind. He loves it here. He will always be a Wildcat. He is a Wildcat from here on out,” his father said. “I knew he would come in and make a big difference here, but I did not he would come in and dominate his one and only year at Kentucky. We are proud of him.”
His parents will be even prouder when he eventually completes his college degree that his father says he will “most definitely” complete.
“He will if his mommy and daddy have anything to say. He will do it. Don’t worry about that,” Davis said.