Strange: Wildcats begining to gain their bearing

Things aren't right at Rupp Arena. After Gardner-Webb and San Diego walked out with wins over Kentucky this season, nobody would argue that point.

But things aren't as wrong as they were a few weeks ago.

"They're a good team and getting better,'' is how Florida coach Billy Donovan described the Wildcats on Monday.

Tennessee will find out tonight to what degree Kentucky has started to gain its bearings under first-year coach Billy Gillispie.

Despite its earlier calamities, Kentucky has shown signs of life since beginning SEC play by upsetting unbeaten Vanderbilt in Rupp.

Since then, the Cats have lost at SEC West leader Mississippi State, 69-64, and at Florida, 81-70.

In each case, Kentucky fought back from 12-point deficits in the final minutes. The Wildcats got as close as two points at Starkville. They forced overtime in Gainesville.

"I think we've definitely made some drastic improvement,'' Gillispie said Monday. "We just need to get to the point to go ahead and make the play to win the game.''

Indications are veterans like Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford are getting on the same page with their demanding new coach, who replaced their demanding former coach, Tubby Smith.

"We've kind of taken on his identity a lot more now,'' Bradley told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Injuries hampered the process of developing new chemistry in the transition from Smith to Gillispie. Guards Derrick Jasper (knee) and Jodie Meeks (pelvis) missed a combined 20 games.

While both are playing now, neither practices with regularity. Gillispie, like most coaches, believes teams are forged in practice.

"It's better to have them in games than not at all,'' he said.

Odom Ends Limbo: Dave Odom said the main reason for announcing his retirement on Friday was to encourage South Carolina fans to get behind this team.

"I wanted the fans to be focused on supporting our team and I didn't think that was happening,'' Odom said. "The best way was to take myself out of the equation.

"Obviously, there's going to be a good coach here next year. (Athletic director) Eric Hyman will take care of that.''

Folks in Wichita are wondering if Gregg Marshall will be that coach. Marshall built little Winthrop University (in Rock Hill, S.C.) into a giant-killer before leaving for Wichita State this season.

Marshall, who is reportedly in the first year of a seven-year contract, issued a statement Monday that he won't comment on any jobs. That didn't exactly calm anyone's nerves.

Coach Cal's Take: John Calipari, coach of the nation's new No. 1 team, the Memphis Tigers, shared some interesting thoughts about UT and the SEC last week.

Calipari told Seattle Times columnist Bud Withers that the Vols can't win a head-to-head recruiting battle with the Tigers in Memphis:

"Tennessee will try to come here and recruit some, but the kids we want here, we're going to get.''

This year, the top player in Memphis, Elliot Williams, chose Duke over either school. Leslie McDonald, the 2009 top target, has Memphis and UT on his short list, along with several other high-profile programs.

Calipari also said the Vols, "foul, like on every possession.''

Underscoring his lack of enthusiasm for UT's Feb. 23 visit to the FedEx Forum, Calipari had this to say about SEC teams:

"If they want to play us, they should put us in the league. ... But they don't want you in the league. They just want to use you.''

He allowed that UT this year is "the most talented team to come into our building" in his eight years at Memphis.

MLK Day: A former basketball coach, George Raveling, is a historical footnote to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Raveling, the former head coach at Iowa, Washington State and Southern Cal, possesses the original typed copy of Dr. King's so-called "I Have A Dream" speech delivered in August, 1963, from steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Raveling recounted Monday on ESPN radio how he was a volunteer security helper who was positioned on the podium near King. Immediately after the speech, Raveling asked King for the printed speech and the civil-rights leader handed it to him.

Raveling said the memorable "I have a dream" portion of the speech was an ad lib that is not in the typed text.

Numbers: Kentucky's Bradley is on a streak of six consecutive games scoring 20 or more points. He's the first Wildcat to do so since Jamal Mashburn in 1992-93. The most recent Vol to do it was Chris Lofton, last season against ULL (31 points), Murray State (20), Memphis (34), Western Kentucky (32), Oklahoma State (20) and Texas (35).

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strange2@knews.com.

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Comments » 41

coach75 writes:

calipari's comments about tennessee are just his way of trying to get the vols to think about something other than the game. i don't think that will work and i hope we beat them by twenty again.

alfrizzle097 writes:

Calipari who? I guarantee you they are much more worried about us than we are them....
Just back it up with play moron!!

utchris writes:

He was third in line for Williams behind Duke and UT.

As for McDonald at Briarcrest, Cal is able to bend the recruiting rules a little there by fortune that his daughter goes there. He has basically mad the statement that he would take 4 of the starting 5 from there. They all play AAU together. It seems like he is pitching the package deal.

FWBVol writes:

Calipari's got to be kidding about the SEC not putting Memphis in the league. Why would the SEC want Memphis. Granted, Tiger High might be more competitive than Vandy in football and basketball, but that's no reason to put it in the SEC. It sounds like he's a little jealous to me.

eb502us#225637 writes:

Somebody needs to tell Calapari that we're going to "foul" our way to another blow-out win this year. Speaking of fouls, I think Cal is worried about his team's horrendous "foul" shooting. Must keep him up at night thinking about us hacking our way into his building and making them look like the C-USA program they are.

ORANGEASIAN writes:

Borrowing the words made famous by coach John Chaney " Calipari we are going to kil ya!!"

james#216392 writes:

I like to take the approach of laying back, don't brag until after the game is over. Why write or say things to fire up their players/coaches? That is one thing I love about Pearl. He may think it but he doesn't say it. We have a coach in our conference who loves to down-grade the other teams in the local paper. I have posted his comments in my locker room several times while making sure he never has anything to post. "Cap" seems to be a lot like him.

volguy writes:

I hate Calipari and Tiger High more than anything else in this world. I think Bruce does too, which is awesome. Can't wait to hear him fire back at Cal with one of his famous back-handed compliments. It's coming...

lildhoss76ut#638162 writes:

I have to admit Memphis has one of the most complete teams I've ever seen 10 players that could start anywhere. The Vols are gonna have they're hands full.Sly comments or not Cal is a hell of a recriuter and a pretty good coach. Memphis wins by 10. Sorry but that is how I see it.

King53 writes:

Didn't Cal have some NCAA violations at UMass and that is why he bolted for the NBA??? Just checking. I hope we pop that sorry SOB by about 30 pts when we roll into Memphis next month. I would love to see him squirm as we humiliate them once again.

Vol_Fan_4_Life_615 writes:

Calipari is scared. He knows he has the second best team in Tennessee. He knows his team is in trouble come Feb 23rd. I guess he did not want Chism did he? If only he could find talent like CP. And when he does he only wishes he could do what CP does with them when he gets them. Go Vols

War the Volunteer state being the best basketball state in America.

johnlg00 writes:

I too sorta chuckled at Coach Cal's comments, but I think he was just trying to sow some seeds in refs' minds before we play. Of course, Memphis never fouls(;-P)--except for the way they bang under the boards. Clearly he is right that Memphis gets more kids out of there than we do, but that may change with CBP on the case now. I suspect that some of the ones he gets couldn't qualify academically for UT. I think some of the posters are overreacting with their 20- and 30-point win predictions/hopes, but I think we have more than an even chance of pulling out a win there.

asleep#212036 writes:

I would love nothing more than to beat Memphis but they are going to be tough. Their starting 5 is probably the best in the country and their style is playground which, with the guys they put on the floor, is extremely difficult to defend. However, we will be the best team he plays this year and BP is a master of X's and O's. We can put some street-ballers on the court too so get ready to light up the scoreboard. Go Vols!!!

CrankE writes:

Tennessee also forces a turnover, like on nearly every possession.

Shut up and enjoy being used, Cal!

FatherVol writes:

Cal, Cal, Cal...as I told you on Saturday night, don't be dissing Coach Pearl about painting himself orange because your jig on sidecourt was pretty much the funniest thing to be witnessed by me in reason years. I think that you should know better than to provide bulletin board fodder that can only add to the energy of an opponent. How thankful I am for you and your quick wit! GO VOLS!

NatiVol writes:

Calipari and pearl are great for each other. We can not stand Cal and it sounds like they don't like us. He is still ticked we want home and home and not to play in Nashville every year. Pearl said no to that the scheduled OK st. there last year, Calipari was put in his place in state schools. There is UT, then the rest.

MOOREVOLS writes:

The Memphis game will be rough. Memphis fans hate Tennessee more than Florida, Kentucky, Vandy and Bama fans combined. I lived the first 31 years of my life in Memphis and they want to beat Tennessee more than any other team out there. The Memphis fans will be on the Tennessee coaches and players like they haven't seen in a long time, if ever. My hope is that Memphis is still undefeated on Feb. 23 and Tennessee is the team that hands them their first loss. Calipari is a good coach, but his problem is that he thinks the basketball world owes him something. All he's owed right now is a butt kicking from the Big Orange.

CrankE writes:

On the one hand, KNS buries deep in this article the bulletin board material from Calipari-not mentioning it in the headline. On the other, KNS does a great job of creating bulletin board material for UT opponents and putting it in the headline.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

Cal indicates that Tennessee is like 8 hours away. Not so. Memphis is in TENNESSEE. UTK is 8 away, but UT is all over the state. He reminds me of Gerry DiNardo-who wouldn't say, "Tennessee" while at Vandy.

Cal indicates that Tennessee is closer to Washington than Memphis. Which is ironic. Given that Cal is talking to a Seattle Times reporter, one might figure that Memphis is closer to Seattle than to Knoxville.

MOOREVOLS writes:

Tennessee is a sell out for Memphis in basketball every time the Big Orange comes to town, no matter what the records are. In football, Tennessee is the only sell out Memphis ever has. Memephis needs Tennessee alot more than Tennessee needs them. Tennessee is doing Memphis a favor by playing them in any sport. Calipari is crazy.

tigervol9802 writes:

Sounds like life as a mid-major is starting to take it's toll on Cal. Does anyone else besides me realize that he has NEVER coached at a BCS conference school?

Why would the SEC want the suitcase college at that end of the state when they all but got on their hands and knees and pleaded with the Big East to let them in? Sorry Tiger High, you always have been and always will be a mid-major because at your essense you are a Level C suitcase college. The big boys don't want those in their conferences.

Cal may not say it publically, but he knows darn well how important that game is to him in February. Lose that game and you will have lost your long-standing hold as the top program in the state. Heck, if I was him, I would downplay it as much as I could too.

Hunter writes:

"They don't want you in their league. They just want to use you."

Really, Cal? Tennessee (RPI #1, SOS #5) is using Memphis (won't play a RPI Top 50 in January or February)? Seems like Memphis's game with Tennessee is their only game that holds any weight until March Madness.

What will your excuse be when Tennessee takes down Tiger High? "Oh, well, our star player had a hangnail and some of the guys aren't sleeping well because the dorm mattresses are lumpy."

Your apology should be "We play in a phooey conference and we are SO grateful for Tennessee giving us a chance to legitimize our ranking. Please give us a 2 seed and we'll be ever so grateful!"

Putz........

TommyJack writes:

8hrs. away? Maybe in an old Volvo.

stevefrommemphis writes:

I'll bet Calipari would take J.P. Prince if he could get him. But I don't see many recruits from White Station (without question the best Memphis city school) headed to Memphis. Calipari, since you think we are "using you," as a fair man, I think Tennessee should just drop the series. I've said many times that it would be fine, actually preferable, if Tennessee never played Memphis in any sport ever again. Tennessee has nothing to gain from helping Memphis fill up their venues. Have Mike Hamilton call them and say that the Feb 24 game vs Memphis will be the last ever, and let's see how quickly Memphis runs crying to the state legislature to try to get te decision overturned.

jevolball7 writes:

What a cry baby!!!! Does ANYONE think the SEC wants tiger high? Cal. better wake up if he thinks that all prospects in W.TN are auto his! They may beat us,but it won't be because Cal. hits the shot! Rather have BP than 5 Cals. What an A..hole!

justbware#205283 writes:

You guys are so funny! One sweet sixteen appearance and you are a super power!! Looking forward to our game next month. BTW, C-USA is 5-3 vs. the SEC this year. Gotta love Cal when he can annoy so many vawl fans (and I said you guys foul everytime after watching two games!). Go Tigers! #1

justbware#205283 writes:

OVERRATED!!!! How 'bout them Cats?

mapdude#278093 writes:

The majority of the Tiger fans want to drop Tennessee from football and basketball. Just have to convince the AD (he's kinda dense about stuff like that). This phooey about cupcakes on the schedule...that's getting old. Tennessee eats theirs at the start of the season...we eat our at the end, you know, cupcakes should be desert, comes at the end of the meal. Except our cupcakes won't be playing like cupcakes. Most teams don't when they play #1.

mike#208050 writes:

There is a reason most Memphis fans hate the big orange, just read these comments you make.

The Vols have never been past the "sweet 16" and you act like you are a final four team. Well, you didn't look like one tonight against a 7-9 pityful SEC power, Kentucky. Make fun of Conf-USA because Houston beat the phooey out of Kentucky too!

It is hard for Memphis to compete in all sports because of the conference situation. Instead of whining about it, we play real power teams even at neutral sites for the national exposure.

Memphis or Coach Cal, scared of the Vols? Give me a break, we have beaten better than you already.

Pearl only wants to play Memphis to recruit Memphis. That is a fact. What has he gotten so far? If we can find you another loser like Tony Harris, we will send him your way.

I bet Pearl would give his eye teeth to have a Shawn Taggert, Willie Kemp or Doneal Mack playing for him. Any of them would start for UT, they come off our bench! You just keep Childress and those other transfers, they wouldn't even make Memphis's team as a walk-on.

Memphis sells out every game. 18,000 was there for the So.Miss game. Georgetown tickets were going for $1,600 a seat. Funny how SEC schools always sell-out when Memphis plays on the road. Coach Cal is right, you need Memphis financially more than Memphis needs you. Go play Auburn, who gives a damn.

J.P. Prince was recruited by Memphis. He would not commit early. Coach Cal offered 3 players a scholarship for one position, the first to commit got it. Chris Douglas-Roberts signed his papers without a visit. Prince was left in the cold. He signed with Arizona, and could not cut it there. You keep him, we are happy with CDR and Feb 23rd you will find out why.

mike#208050 writes:

One last thought for you Vols fans who think Memphis high school players are your salvation, A quick look at Memphis' roster will tell you how few we have from Memphis. The days of just recruiting only players you could drive to with one tank of gas ended with Dana Kirk. While there are great players in Memphis, we recruit nationwide, have lost several that commited to Memphis to the NBA before they played college ball and still have a #1 team in the nation to show for it.

Pearl put a lot of resourses & money in the Williams recruit and lost him. How can you blame any bright student athlete to not go to Duke if the opportunity is offered? Pearl was foolish to think he was even in the equation. Pearl desperately needs a win against Memphis to recruit there. To Cal, the fans and players the Vols will be just another game on the path to an undefeated season.

Coach Cal is the first coach in NCAA history to take two programs from non-BCS conferences to No#1 rankings. What has Pearl done but paint himself orange? What part of cheeze-head world did you dig him up from?

Feb 23 the vols will be "road kill".

Diggs writes:

Undefeated season?

Me thinks the East Arkansas poster is just a little full of himself. Enjoy it while you can. Last night was proof that someone else is gunning for the folks on top. Smile as you climb over folks on your way toward the top, you're probably gonna see them again on your way back down.

Diggs

NatiVol writes:

So sad little Memphis fans upset. Why is that? Because the Big East wanted Louisville and Cincinnati and not you? Who cares. I'll sound like I am arrogant because I guess I am a little when it comes to the SEC. Memphis is a great team, but we are the University of Tennessee. And keep throwing the past wins or whatever. What happened last year? Coach Cal and Pearl are disliked by all other fans other than their own. And Bruce will get a top class from here on out. I don't think anyone is worried because Tennessee will be just fine with Bruce. Enjoy CUSA play, should be a blast.

justbware#205283 writes:

Not only did Houston dominate KY, but UAB did too! That means you guys just lost to a team that is 0-2 vs. C-USA!! Now how bad is it?

justbware#205283 writes:

If it's not true, why even bother? Some Tiger fans don't know what they speak of either. Until this year, we did not sell out every game, but don't worry 'bout us VolCR! Just take care of your own business! You guys are supposed to be a top 5 team, yet you just got dusted by one of the worst teams in your conference! I guess I'll do my part and leave you guys to fume over your defeat.

mike#208050 writes:

VolCR..Dispite not signing that impressive list of Memphis talent, who is #1 this week? How many signed with UT, none? Your two best signees are transfer wash-outs from other schools. And you think you are a final four program with Tyler Smith and J.P. Prince? Who has UT signed out of Memphis that should have us worried about Bruce Pearl, the orange painted orange-rang-a-tang?

Some fans in Memphis did want to be in the Big East, that is true. So we played a few this season, Georgetown, UCONN, and Cincinnati and left them in the dust. Maybe the Big East should rethink the geography. Personally I don't want to be in the SEC, it is more fun to watch the Vols lose to Florida in football than to become a Vandy.

Come April when the payout comes from the NCAA tournament we can compare checks. Sweet sixteen appearences don't pay like a final four does. But UT has no first hand experience with that.

BTW how is that black paint on the seats working out for you at the TB arena? Does it rub off on your orange overalls? Bet you are still peeing in the stainless-steel troughs in the men's room though!

TIGRFAN IN KNOXVILLE

budrhon writes:

Ahh the Vols -v- Tiger match up already is heating up. I'm just glad to see these teams finally play over the last few years. During the Devoe era he refused to even play them, for good reasons though. UT will need to bring their "A" game into the Bluff City to take down the Tigers. Chism had better step up his game because he'll have his hands full dealing with Dorsey down low. Kentucky has already exposed a real weakness in UT's game (rebounding). Even the press was not always effective when you see all of the Dunks the Wildcats had courtesy of Mr. Patterson. Thus enters Derek Rose who may be the quickest Guard UT may see this season. I don't see Howell being able to guard him in a one on one situation, but Ramar or JuJuan might be more physically capable of guarding him. Either way this kid can go and is indeed the real deal. This one is already turning into a classic and we're still weeks away.

mike#208050 writes:

VolCR.. You also forgot to mention that the selection committee will probably take 7 SEC teams. That should help the rich SEC get richer. Those mid-majors need somebody to beat up on!

Tennessee is weak on defense in the middle. Even your own fans recognize that fact. Patterson ate your lunch, lit you up for 20 points. Is Tyler (the big ten wonderboy) a guard or a forward ????

By the way, "Buckets" and the boys in Memphis won big tonight. Memphis knows how to defend it's ranking. We are still no#1 and your team is still trying to figure out what hit them.

One last thing VolCR...you don't come to my office and complain about how much tax you pay and I won't come to your job and throw rocks at you while you mow the yard!

mike#208050 writes:

VolCR...Let's make up, I will do your short form for free. You couldn't afford to pay me anyway.

If Memphis wins by 30 ...you say our opponent is lousy and the league is terrible. When Memphis wins by 15... you say we were only up by 4 at the half. You are just to stupid to realize wins count, losses don't. You talk a lot better than your team plays.

You make smart remarks about our recruiting, our coach, our team, our fans. You dish it out but you can't stand it when someone knows more than you.

Let me break it down to the basics for you. This is a game of king of hill. You remember that game when you were a kid? Memphis is on top of that hill. Now if you want to be king, come on UT knock us off. Better pack a lunch.

mike#208050 writes:

VolCR.. you argue like a democrat. I bet you support Monica's ex-boyfriend's wife don't you? I don't care about the SEC and all that money? We are talking basketball. I am thrilled that I don't have to donate a $1,000 to buy a football ticket or pay $10,000 for a parking place. What UT fans are charged by the big orange money machine is disgraceful.

Memphis beat Tulsa by 15. Being up by 4-5 at the half means nothing. We don't run out of gas like your Vols did in Lexington.

Memphis is doing fine, and they are still #1 in all the polls this morning. I am sure you will enjoy tuning in to the final four watching the Tigers play or will you be taking your wardrobe out hunting? The Vols will probably be knocked out of the SEC tournament in the first round again.

The last two years Memphis made it to the Elite 8, have the VOLS ever got that far? Talk to your dumba** after Feb 23rd, geek!

mike#208050 writes:

Duke may not be braging about beating Temple but UT fans sure did!

Your mother is calling you to dinner. She has your sippy cup ready with your apple juice!

Good news for you, news report tonight says the government is sending out checks to everybody. Maybe this will tide you over until you can cut grass again.

Memphis is still #1 and a lot better than Kentucky. You better bring your "A game" Feb 23rd.

mike#208050 writes:

If I don't know what I am talking about, how is Memphis #1 in the nation? Aren't they undefeated against real competition (Georgetown, USC, Arizona, Oklahoma, UConn, Cincinnati)? How does UT measure up to that? Com'on how is it that you think you mighty vols are superior to Memphis? AP & Coaches poll voters dumber than you? You are also pathetic in your money argument. How does money matter?, opps I forgot the more money you have, the more football players you can buy. Or at least hire attorneys to represent their off the field activities. How is that working for you in basketball? How many players has that "orange-rang-a-tang" coach of yours landed in Memphis? Zero pal.

Maybe I forgot how bad you beat Temple, UNC-Ashville, La.Lafette and the other half a dozen slugs you have played. I should be in awe of the mighty power of the orange. You lost to Texas, bad and then lets not forget your outstanding post play at Rupp.

Please wear your hunting outfit to the FedEX forum, they will eat you alive. By the way, use the urinals not the sink, they don't have troughs in the men's room.

I want to appologize to you loyal Vol fans, it only this jerk I intend to offend.

Better take you box juice with you to the game, wouldn't want you to get too dehyrated from your own sweat.

mike#208050 writes:

Since there is obviously nobody but the two of us on this thread, I quit. I am tired of arguing with a donkey. Since you know who I am come see me. Or better yet let me hear from you on Feb 24 big mouth.

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