UK’s Mitchell lets two assistant coaches go

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell has decided not to renew the contracts of two womens’ basketball coaching assistants.

Shalon Pillow, who worked with the post players and has been on staff since the 2009 season, and first-year assistant coach Jeff House have been let go by Mitchell.

“He’s making some changes on the staff,” Kentucky spokesman Susan Lax said.

The two assistant coaching positions were posted on the UK jobs board on Friday, with the deadline to apply on April 11.

The Cats’ other assistant coach, Danielle Santos, will remain on staff, Lax said.

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UK’s Cauley-Stein hopes he can play in Final Four

INDIANAPOLIS — A piece of net tucked behind his left ear and crutches under both arms, Willie Cauley-Stein couldn’t stop smiling.

After injuring his ankle in the region semifinals, Kentucky’s sophomore center didn’t get to play in the championship win over Michigan on Sunday, but he tried to do his part from the Cats’ bench.

“I was trying to be live as I could on the bench over there, but this is crazy,” he said on the court at Lucas Oil Stadium just seconds after Kentucky advanced to the Final Four. “It’s a dream come true and it’s not even over yet.”

He did his part to celebrate with teammates, too.

“I jumped on one leg,” he said. “I just had to improvise; I felt like a pogo stick.”

Cauley-Stein, who didn’t expound further on the extent of his injury, said he’s going to do everything he can to play in the Final Four.

Is there really a chance he can play?

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I hope so. I really hope so. I’m going to go back to Lexington and get a bunch of treatment, a lot of ice, a lot of (treatment) and maybe, just maybe, this weekend I’ll be able to suit up or something.”

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Kentucky throwing selection show party

To celebrate its fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the opportunity to host the first two rounds next week, Kentucky is throwing a selection show party for itself (and hundreds of its closest fans) on Monday at Memorial Coliseum.

ESPN’s Selection Monday show will be shown live on the big screen with doors opening to the general public at 6 p.m. The show begins at 7 p.m. General parking will be available beginning at 4 p.m. in any “E” lot adjacent to Memorial Coliseum.

Concession stands will be open on the west side of the coliseum and brackets will be available. The UK ticket office will be open during and after the selection show for fans to purchase NCAA Tournament tickets.

UK has advanced to the Elite Eight in three of its last four tournament appearances, including two in a row. The Cats have earned a No. 2 seed the past two seasons, but likely will be a No. 3 seed according to ESPN’s latest Bracketology.

Charlie Crème has the Cats in the Stanford regional with No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 2 seed Duke, a team UK lost to at Rupp Arena in December.

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Amber Smith says ‘I’m a Lady Vol now’

There are more connections when Tennessee and Kentucky play than there are at some family reunions.

UK’s Matthew Mitchell began his coaching career there as a grad assistant under Pat Summitt in 2000. Cats assistant coach Shalon Pillow was a Lady Vol and helped them advance to two Final Fours.

On the orange side, Tennessee assistant Kyra Elzy left UK, where she worked for five seasons for her alma mater.

And most recently, Tennessee hired former Kentucky point guard Amber Smith (a 2012 grad) to be a graduate assistant on their staff.

Smith, who wore a bright orange shirt and khaki pants on the UT bench on Saturday, said she got over the strangeness of going up against so many of her UK teammates at the regular-season matchup in Knoxville. She spent a lot of time with friends like Samarie Walker and Bria Goss after the Cats’ upset win.

Asked how it would be for her when the SEC title game tips off on Sunday between UK and Tennessee, she smiled.

“I’m going for Tennessee,” she said. “I’m a Lady Vol now. … Definitely going for orange tomorrow.”

Smith said her allegiances are only split when the two teams meet.

“Other than that, I bleed blue,” she said. “I’m cheering for them when they’re not playing against the Lady Vols. … I want the girls to do well. I love them to death.”

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/03/08/3129496/uk-womens-notes-vols-vow-revenge.html#storylink=cpy

 

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South Carolina dominates SEC honors

As expected, regular-season champion South Carolina swept nearly all of the major Southeastern Conference awards on Tuesday.

By her peers, Dawn Staley was named coach of the year; Tiffany Mitchell was named player of the year and Alaina Coates was named freshman of the year for the Gamecocks.

Kentucky junior guard Jennifer O’Neill was named co-sixth Player of the Year with Coates.

There were no Kentucky players voted to the first team, but O’Neill and UK senior forward DeNesha Stallworth were both named second-team all conference

UK guard Linnae Harper was named to the All-Freshman team this season as well.

LEAGUE HONORS

Coach of the Year: Dawn Staley, South Carolina

Player of the Year: Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina

Freshman of the Year: Alaina Coates, South Carolina

Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Martha Alwal, Mississippi State / Jordan Jones, Texas A&M

Co-6th Players of the Year: Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky / Alaina Coates, South Carolina

Scholar- Athlete of the Year: Lianna Doty, Missouri

First Team All-SEC

Tyrese Tanner, Auburn

Jaterra Bonds, Florida

Theresa Plaisance, LSU

Martha Alwal, Mississippi State

Bri Kulas, Missouri

Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina

Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina

Meighan Simmons, Tennessee

Isabelle Harrison, Tennessee

Courtney Walker, Texas A&M

Second Team All-SEC

Jessica Jackson, Arkansas

Shacobia Barbee, Georgia

Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky

DeNesha Stallworth, Kentucky

Tia Faleru, Ole Miss

Valencia McFarland, Ole Miss

Alaina Coates, South Carolina

Courtney Williams, Texas A&M

Jasmine Lister, Vanderbilt

Christina Foggie, Vanderbilt

All-Freshman

Ashley Williams, Alabama

Jessica Jackson, Arkansas

Brandy Montgomery, Auburn

Ronni Williams, Florida

Linnae Harper, Kentucky

Raigyne Moncrief, LSU

Breanna Richardson, Mississippi State

Alaina Coates, South Carolina

Andraya Carter, Tennessee

All-Defensive

Tyrese Tanner, Auburn

Hasina Muhammad, Auburn

Shacobia Barbee, Georgia

Martha Alwal, Mississippi State

Elem Ibiam, South Carolina

Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina

Jordan Jones, Texas A&M

 

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SEC announces several tourney initiatives

The Southeastern Conference has launched several initiatives for the women’s tournament this week in Nashville, asking fans to support several charitable efforts that are close to home for some league coaches.

On Friday, fans are asked to wear purple to support the SEC’s We Back Pat initiative, which was started by former Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt and her fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The first 1,500 fans who arrive in purple will receive a “Fierce Courage” bracelet from Summitt’s foundation.

(This will present quite a quandary for Lady Vols fans on Friday should Louisiana State advance to face them in the quarterfinals.)

For the semifinals and finals, the SEC is encouraging fans to drop off new or gently used sneakers in support of Scouting for Shoes and INNERSOLE.

Drop-off boxes will be available at the main entrance of the Gwinnett Center. The first 500 fans to donate will receive a T-shirt.

INNERSOLE is a fund founded by South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley. It takes donations of new sneakers and provides them to children who are homeless or in need.

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Will the No. 4 seed please stand up?

Going into Thursday night, there was a three-way tie for that highly coveted fourth seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which starts March 5 in Duluth, Ga.

Even though each of the three teams, Kentucky, Florida and Louisiana State, all played Thursday night, the three-way tie remains with three games left to play. Oh, and Vanderbilt was added to the mix.

The fourth seed is key because it provides a double bye in the league tournament.

Remaining schedules for each team:

  • Florida (17-9, 7-6): at No. 4 South Carolina, at Vanderbilt, No. 16 Texas A&M
  • Kentucky (19-7, 7-6): at No. 16 Texas A&M, at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
  • Louisiana State (18-8, 7-6): Arkansas, Tennessee, at Alabama
  • Vanderbilt (18-8, 7-6): Alabama, Florida, at Kentucky

 

If a tie still remains after these final games, Florida would own the tie-break over Kentucky with its two wins this season over the Cats. UK would own the tiebreak over LSU by virtue of its win in Lexington last month. The Tigers beat the Gators in their one head-to-head meeting.

Vanderbilt has a win over LSU, but has yet to play UK or Florida yet. So there’s still a lot to be decided over the next week or so.

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Associated Press voters confused by Cats?

Associated Press poll voters seem to be having as hard a time figuring out Kentucky this season as some fans are.

In a quick perusal of the 36 ballots submitted this week by the poll voters,  two ballots had the Cats rated as high as No. 9 in the nation and one that had them ranked as low as No. 23.

Most voters (this one included) had the Cats somewhere between 12 and 16. Full disclosure: On my ballot, I have them ranked No. 13.

In the latest Bracketology put out by ESPN’s Charlie Crème on Monday, Kentucky is a No. 4 seed in Lexington, with a potential matchup against fifth-seeded California in the second round.

According to Crème, the winner would advance to South Bend, where a likely matchup with unbeaten Notre Dame would be on the horizon.

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O’Neill earns SEC Player of Week honors

It was a big week for Jennifer O’Neill and the Kentucky guard was honored with a Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honor for it.

O’Neill averaged 25.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the Cats’ wins over Ole Miss and at No. 8 Tennessee. In those two games, the junior guard shot 51.6 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from three-point range.

The Cats’ reserve leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.4), field goals made (107), 3-pointers made (43) and ranks second in assists (3.0). She leads the team with 18 double-figure scoring games this season. When O’Neill scores 10 or more points in a game, Kentucky is 16-2 this season. It’s her second player of the week honor this season.

Kentucky has a big game on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum, facing fifth-ranked and SEC leader South Carolina at 7 p.m. The Gamecocks beat UK 68-59 in Columbia on Jan. 9.

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Pinkett will miss Georgia game

Kentucky guard Bernisha Pinkett will miss Thursday night’s game at Georgia after being transported to the hospital during practice on Wednesday afternoon.

An emergency care unit was called to the Joe Craft Center to transport Pinkett, who was experiencing symptoms of her sickle cell trait during practice.

She was taken to UK Hospital as a “precautionary measure,” a UK spokesman confirmed to the Herald-Leader on Wednesday night.

The senior, who is from Washington, D.C., is not sickle cell positive, just positive for the sickle cell trait, Kentucky’s Susan Lax added.

The 5-foot-7 reserve did not make the trip to Athens, Ga., with the team and will rest at home instead, Lax said.

Pinkett has played in 122 games with eight career starts. She averages 4.4 points a game for No. 13 Kentucky this season and leads the team in three-point field goal percentage (46.9 percent) this season. She had a season-high 19 points versus Georgia Southern in November.

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