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Apr 1

Henry Thomas Talks 1993 Final Four and Cats

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 12:11 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

 

The Cats have landed into the Final Four for the first time since 1998 (I’m sure you all are aware of that), this improbable run was not foreseen as the Cats have turned their late game mishaps into late game victories.

If I could wish one thing for each and every Wildcat player it would be to take part in a Final Four.  Having been a part of the 1993 Final Four team, it’s a moment that I’ll never forget, from the fans cheering us on as we left Lexington, to the C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS cheer when we arrived at the hotel in New Orleans. You don’t want the time to pass and you want to stay in that moment forever.

With the goal being reaching the Final Four, you must refocus once you reach it and begin to really dive into the preparation for the 1st game. There are the distractions of autographs, fans, friends and family wanting to spend time with you, practice, media interviews and on and on. We were lucky to have an experienced coach like Coach Pitino to guide us through and prepare us as well as he did for our game vs. Michigan, and I’m sure Coach Cal will do the same to this edition of the Wildcats.

This edition of the Cats have grown from babies to adults during this 6 month journey of a hoops season. They were labeled soft, a team that can’t finish the job, young, etc., but through all of the difficulties, they’ve grown into MEN, a team that can handle adversity and overcome it to pull out a victory.

The “payback” cats as I like to call them, look to keep the perfect streak of revenge games going Saturday against UCONN.  Both of these teams are vastly different than the ones that played in Maui in Novemeber. The only constant is Kemba Walker, who lit the Cats up for 29 points and 6 assists. Walker is going to get his points, but UK is going to have to make him work for them, sounds easier said, than it will be to do though.  As I told friends Sunday, I can’t give you a reason why UK will beat UNC but somehow they will, and I feel the same for UCONN. Someone will make a play when the Cats need to and the addition of a “true” center that Harrellson has grown to will be a major factor as well.

All in all, I hope the Cats enjoy their Final Four visit, and if they’re like me, even 18 years later the goose bumps still come upon my body as I think about the good times associated with the Final Four.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!

Feb 11

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts – Vandy

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 12:53 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

When we last saw Kentucky, Tuesday night, they were thoroughly dismantling the Tennessee Vols.  What we saw, is what we need to see Saturday at Vanderbilt, one of the toughest venues in college sports to visit. The Cats got to all of the 50/50 balls, were very active on the glass and played with A LOT of intensity, something that’s been missing on the road since the Louisville game.

The Cats look to get back to that high level of basketball that’s been missing on the road since New Years Eve, in a HUGE S.E.C. tilt. Vandy is coming off of a gutty win Thursday night at home vs. Alabama, and looks to take control of 2nd place in the S.E.C. East, which is important because 2nd place gives you an all important bye in the 1st round of the S.E.C. Tournament.

One of the major keys to victory Saturday is smothering Sophomore John Jenkins. Jenkins averages 19 pts per games, while knocking down 40% of his 3’s and getting to the line to make 89% of his free throws.  Threes in Memorial Gymnasium can lead to a serious run for Vandy, especially when the crowd gets into it.  Like Coach Cal said, “everywhere we’ve played on the road, it’s been a white out, red out, blue out” so we should expect a gold out or black out Saturday, although just the fact that Kentucky is coming to town should be enough to get the Vandy fans at a fever pitch. Stopping the 3 ball and stopping Vandy runs will help silence the crowd and keep some of the momentum on the Kentucky side.

Jenkins isn’t the only Vandy sharpshooter; the Commodores have 6 guys that have drained almost 50 threes this season, so ball pressure on them is a must. Vandy will also try to pound the ball inside to Ezeli, Tchiengang, and Goulbourne to keep Kentucky honest, although if I were the coach I would dare these 3 guys to beat me inside rather than doubling and leaving a wide open three for someone on the perimeter.

The Cats and the road haven’t been good for each other, but they are just as close to winning the 4 road games they lost as they were to losing them.  To win this game, Kentucky MUST match the Commodores intensity from the opening tip. They must get to the majority of loose balls and not allow 2nd and 3rd shots by getting outhustled and finally they MUST defend the 3 ball, if Vandy knocks down more than 10-12 of them you can count the Cats out.

Another huge road test for the Cats, but I think they’ve learned from previous losses and will play with the fire that’s needed to come out of Nashville with a victory.. I say Cats 77 Commodores 72.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!

Feb 4

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts – Florida Gators

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 4:56 pm | Leave a Comment (1)
Category: Random Notes

The Cats travel to Florida tomorrow, coming off of their unexpected loss at Ole Miss Tuesday night. This will be the MOST hostile place they will have played this season. Tough crowds at UNC, Bama, Georgia & Ole Miss ( all cat losses) won’t hold a candle to what they’ll see tomorrow at 9 pm. Also, this will be the most formidable front line they will have faced since UNC. Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin have both the size & gerth to frustrate the Cats inside game. Josh Harrellson, where have you been buddy??? Since the Louisville game he’s been sort of a ghost in the post, and with NO depth at the center position, its been really tough on the Cats.

The bright spot through the tough road losses is that the Cats don’t die easily, they may get down 15-20 points but they battle back behind the sharp shooting of Lamb & Knight and (when he decides to take a shot) Darius Miller.

I don’t know if the Cats want to come out & trail by 15 to the Gators because 15 could turn into 25 in a hurry. The Cats must control the tempo and not get into a hurry and panic if Florida makes an early run. Gut check time in Gainesville, Florida tomorrow evening and we’re going to learn a lot about these young Cats. I look for the Cats to battle away, but come up a little short on the road once again. The Gators have 3 things that the Cats have to face that are their Achilles heel… Height, shooting ability, and the home court.

Gators 78 Cats 70.

GO BIG BLUE!!!

Feb 1

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts – Ole Miss

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 1:08 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

The Cats roll into Oxford, MS tonight to take on the 13-8 Ole Miss Rebels.  The Rebels started the season off very well, going 12-3 in non conference play, but their conference schedule hasn’t done them any favors by starting them off with 5 of the 6 SEC East teams to begin play. They’ve lost all of them vs. the East teams and have only beaten LSU in getting off to a bad start.

On paper it looks like an easy UK win, but you know that the place will be close to packed tonight and that ANYTHING can happen when you travel on the road in conference.

The Cats look to stop Ole Miss’ little big man, 5’10” Chris Warren, who’s averaging 18 points per game.  Warren is a quick guard who can knock the 3 down at almost a 40% clip. The Rebs top 2 scorers are guards, so if the Cats can handle the guys on the perimeter a victory should come.

Kentucky comes in off of their revenge game vs. Georgia, in which they jumped out to a nice size lead and saw Georgia slowly creep their way back into the game in the 2nd half.  Kentucky has had a couple of up and down games here lately and look to make the transition to playing a FULL 40 minute game. It’s getting close to March Madness time and you hope that the Cats can start building a little momentum as we get towards the most important part of the season.

Hopefully Kentucky is not looking ahead towards their important trip to Florida this Saturday, because danger is always lurking when you’re on the road.  As was the case at South Carolina and vs. Georgia, getting off to a good start is important for the Cats, especially when you can take the crowd out of the game early.  I look for Kentucky to do just that and come out of Oxford with a 77-64 victory.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!

Jan 22

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts: Pre-Game

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 12:00 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

The Cats travel to Columbia, SC today for a CRUCIAL SEC battle this evening, taking on the streaking Gamecocks. Since losing to Boston College on New Years Day, the Gamecocks have reeled off 4 wins in their last 5 games, holding serve at home (typical for this SEC season) and winning one on the road at Florida (atypical for this SEC season).  If South Carolina is smart they will be very scrappy and aggressive, for that is the key to knocking off these Cats when they’re away from Rupp Arena. Not to mention that South Carolina has defeated Kentucky 3 of the last 4 games, so they don’t fear the Cats at all.

South Carolina has the typical long athletes in the post that tend to give Kentucky trouble in the post, remember the game a couple of years ago where everything that was brought into the lane was THROWN out!  Well they still have those type of players there, led by Sam Muldrow and his 59 blocks so far this season.  South Carolina can also shoot it pretty decently from behind the arc, knocking down 35% of their 3’s, with Bruce Ellington leading the charge in that department by hitting 40% of his 3’s.

I’m sure practices this week have not been fun, as Coach Cal is wanting his team to become tougher. Cal also mentioned that his team is complacent because they’re all getting playing time regardless of the outcomes of games or their particular play, well when you have a rotation of 6, nothing’s going to change. If we’re lucky enough to have most of these guys stay next year, then the bench could become a motivator, because they could possible be 10 deep next year, but for this year, it is what it is.  When you have a Freshmen laden team, you never know what you’re going to get, last years squad, TOUGH AS NAILS, this years squad, talented but not as tough. The one thing these Cats have is the ability to shoot the basketball, which will keep them in EVERY game, but they need to find the will down the stretch to make plays and come away with a victory on the road.

Try number three for a road victory in the SEC, and for the third road game as well, there will be a HOSTILE environment waiting for the Cats.  If they come out early and play well, they can make the crowd a non factor, but an early run for the Gamecocks could spell doom for the Cats.  Kentucky trails South Carolina by 1 game in the conference and can’t afford to drop behind by 2, so already an must win basketball game.  Like I said, what you see is what you get with these Cats, they’re not going to miraculously turn around their toughness, but it can get A LOT better and I think it will.  I think Kentucky cures its road woes and comes away with a victory this evening by the score of 75-68.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!

Jan 19

Henry’s Postgame Thoughts – Alabama

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 1:58 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

Well, the Cats took it on the chin again on the road last night, losing a hard fought battle 68-66.  Although these Cats are learning day by day and game by game, this performance followed the script of UCONN, UNC, and Georgia.  Teams that get physical and bully Kentucky, can get them rattled and take control of the game. Bama did this after falling behind early, but chipping away by getting EVERY loose ball there was the get and by, amazingly enough, knocking down the 3 ball.

The Tide came into the game having made only THREE 3 pointers in the last 3 games total, but netted 4 in the 1st half last night. This propelled Bama to a 37-30 halftime lead, which ballooned to a 20 point lead with 15 minutes left in the game. Kentucky, to their credit, battled back to close the gap to 1, but a costly turnover on a handoff from knight to lamb, essentially turned the lights out on the rally.

My player of the game honors goes to Terrence Jones, who carried UK down the stretch by scoring time and time again in the post. He ended the night with 17 points and 9 rebounds and also one HUGE cursing out by Calapari!!!  The cameras could and should have gone away from that scene as they knew Cal was upset, but that’s TV for you.

This is a different version of the Cats from last years Freshman ladened team, and no I’m not saying that they’re not as talented as the 2009 Cats were, but they’re just not as tough.  NO ONE  bullied the Cats last year and when a play needed to be made, they simply just made the play. Kentucky, because of the way they shoot the ball, will always be in the game, it’s just when it’s crunch time, who’s going to step up and make a play?  They get out hustled far too many times to loose balls and get pushed around an awful lot as well.  Teams like Florida, Miss. St., UT, Vandy will feast on UK’s unwillingness to make hustle plays and inability to make plays down the stretch. Not saying that UK won’t win those games, but just recognizing that this team, MENTALLY, has a ways to go.

Next up is another road game and test at South Carolina, Saturday. We’ll see how they respond!

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!

Jan 18

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 9:39 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Random Notes

courtesy of big blue history

Kentucky travels to Alabama tonight fresh off of two ABSOLUTE BEAT DOWNS of Auburn and LSU, but the Cats will be tested on the road this evening.  This is the same setup as Georgia where an arena that usually doesn’t fill up, will be jammed packed and ready to cheer on their Crimson Tide. As most top teams in their conference do, Kentucky will get Bama’s best shot (see Florida State beating Duke at home, but losing to Auburn on the road… go figure that one out), so they best be ready to play from the opening tip.

Bama’s got the inside game that has caused Kentucky problems all year long. JaMychal Green, the 6’8″ 228 pound Junior, averages 15 points and 7 rebounds and is an absolute brut down in the post. Kentucky must contain him on the offensive end, but go right at him on the defensive end, in an attempt to get him in foul trouble. Bama doesn’t really do much from beyond the arc, so the Cats are going to have to toughen up underneath defensively.

Kentucky’s schedule so far has allowed them to grow up by playing tough games on the road. I don’t expect Kentucky to be rattled at all by the crazy environment they’ll see, I see the Cats coming out and handling their business to the tune of 79-67.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!

Jan 12

Henry’s Recap – Auburn

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 10:18 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Random Notes

photo courtesy of UK Athletics

Kentucky bounced back in a huge way, destroying the Auburn Tigers 78-54 last night at Rupp Arena. Terrance Jones, easily my pick, and everyone else’s for player of the game, had a big night, tallying 35 points and 8 rebounds. Jones displayed his inside and outside game last night, by dunking, posting up and scoring and even knocking down 4 of 5 threes. Kentucky rounded back into form by getting back to doing what they do best….. sharing the basketball. After getting just 9 assists Saturday against Georgia, UK notched 18 last night. When Kentucky shares the ball the way they did last night, it opens up good shots for a REALLY good shooting team, and you see the firepower that they have when this occurs.

This game was never in doubt as UK jumped out to a 15-3 lead right off the bat and never looked back. In a game in which the Cats shot 50% from the field and 42% from the beyond the arc, they took a step back from the foul line by only making 9 of 17. Hey, there’s always improvement for something from game to game, right???!!

As I look at the Kentucky team, as I’ve said before, when they play a team that doesn’t have a productive center, UK will dominate, and on the flip side, when they play a team that has a center that’s a legitimate threat, it’s going to be a battle!!!  Overall a very impressive performance by the Cats and I look for them to continue their dominance this Saturday vs. LSU.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!

Jan 11

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 10:04 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Basketball

When we last saw the Cats, they were getting a lesson on what the road is going to be like in the S.E.C. A normally half packed arena was full and created a lot of energy, a team that normally shoots 64% from the line makes 30 of 34, shots that usually don’t fall for Georgia, fell. Shots that UK normally make, rim in and bounce out. Get the picture??… All of these things added up to a Georgia victory 77-70, in the first SEC tilt for both teams.

You could tell from the beginning that Georgia was on its A game and things were going to be difficult for the Cats. Georgia’s offense ran smoothly as UK struggled to get off or around the picks that were being set by the Bulldogs, which led to either easy lay ups or wide open shots. Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs with 25 points and 7 rebounds and was a terror both offensively and defensively. Thompkins frustrated Miller, Harrellson and early on frustrated Jones down in the post.

Offensively for the Cats, they reverted back to panicking a little when they got down, there were a lot of one on one forced shots and they consistently forgot to kick the ball out to the open man, therefore only 9 assists. Through all the things that were going right for Georgia and going wrong for the Cats, Kentucky still battled and battled to their credit and stayed right with the Dawgs. Terrence Jones, frustrated early by Thompkins and foul trouble, led the Cats with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Mr. reliable, Doron Lamb came off the bench to tally 18 of his own points.

Another good lesson from the Cats as they can once again learn from their defeat, we have to keep in mind the youthfulness of Kentucky and the lack of interior game that will rear its ugly head every now and then, especially when taking on an experienced big man like Thompkins. The Cats will get revenge though in a few weeks when the Dawgs come to Rupp though.

Tonight the Cats take on the 7-8 Auburn Tigers, who have to be tired after watching their football team bring home the national championship last night well beyond midnight. Coach Cal is set to take on his former player Tony Barbee for the 1st time in SEC play, so it’ll be interesting to see how they match wits. Auburn is (as usual) rebuilding a bit and are a hot and cold team, witnessed by them knocking off a decent Florida State team then losing a couple of days later to a down LSU team. I expect Kentucky rebound from their loss this weekend with an Impressive game tonight. Usually when the Cats take one on the chin, they bounce right back up! I look for the Cats to take out the Tigers 82-65.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!

Jan 3

Henry’s Big Blue Thoughts

Posted by: Henry Thomas at 1:08 pm | Leave a Comment (3)
Category: Random Notes

 


The Cats first trip the Yum Center……….SUCCESSFUL! I predicted a tight Cats victory, but I wasn’t close to seeing what occurred on Friday.  Kentucky out shot, out hustled, and out played their rivals from the west to the tune of a 78-63 win.  I didn’t realize that Charles Barkley, I mean, Josh Harrellson was going to show up and play BIG!  Harrellson finished the game with 23 points and 14 rebounds, he made 10-12 shots from the floor, with one of those being a three pointer.  When that one went down, you knew it was his day!

Louisville was hampered by a lack of size which stemmed form starter Raheem Buckles injuring a finger the day before the game.  Once the game started you could feel that UL couldn’t get anything going inside as the Cats rejected shot after shot, and that the only chance the Cards had was to knock down several threes. Preston Knowles did his best to achieve that, he hit 6 himself, but the rest of the team was just 2-10 from behind the arc, which ultimately sealed their doom.

Obviously, Harrellson was my MVP for the game, but not far behind him was Brandon Knight. Knight tallied 25 points and 4 assists, and kept the Cats under control for most of the afternoon. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s beautiful basketball when you have a bunch of unselfish guys that are willing to share the basketball and Knight leads the way with his unselfishness. Another beautiful thing is the free throw shooting, the Cats have quietly knocked down at least 75% of their free throws over the last 3 or 4 games, that is huge for them, in that there are fewer empty trips down the court.

The next task for the Cats is to stay grounded, coming off the emotional victory Friday, they now must take on the Penn Quakers tonight. The one thing that Coach Cal does very well is prepare his team for the next game, regardless of who it is. Penn comes in with a 5-5 record so don’t expect the Rupp Arena crowd to be buzzing tonight.  Kentucky seems really focused and ready to take care of business regardless of the opponent, so I expect a victory tonight from Kentucky 82-60. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Kentucky came out a little sluggish, but they’ll get it together and knock Penn out.

GO BIG BLUE!!!