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Men's Basketball

Big Blue Madness 2023 Recap and Takeaways

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Kentucky Wildcats forward Zvonimir Ivisic (44) celebrates with guard Joey Hart (20) during the dunk contest during Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of hype surrounding this year’s edition of Big Blue Madness. Let’s be real, it has been very underwhelming in the last few years, but there was an element of anticipation that gave #BBM23 some life. Whether it was the debut of Zvonimir Ivisic or the hope of a surprise, big-name guest, the air was full of excitement in Rupp Arena.

Following the shows that the women’s basketball team, the cheer team, and the dance team put on for the BBN, it was finally time for some men’s basketball. The lights in the arena shut off, and the blue light sticks came out. A long list of recruits were in the house, and it’s safe to say that they had a lot to take in from the event.

Big Z is Finally Here and in a Kentucky Uniform

While his night ended after warmups, Zvonimir Ivisic finally got his first look of what it is like to be a Kentucky Wildcat, performing in front of the BBN. His night began with a warm welcome during the introductions. Then, in warmups, Ivisic was the spectacle everyone wanted to see. Towering over all of his teammates, he wasn’t hard to find, either.

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Big Z put on his own mini-dunk contest for the fans as he was throwing down monstrous two-handed flushes and even a windmill during warmups. While we didn’t get to see him in a scrimmage setting, it is a big, big sigh of relief to see him in blue and white. However, John Calipari announced that Ivisic will see his first game-like action at the Blue-White game at NKU on October 21st.

Joey Hart Can be a Contributor

It has been a big week for three-star freshman Joey Hart. The Linton, Indiana native really got things going at UK Pro Day. Unfortunately, Adou Thiero (who was held out of BBM, by the way) went down with an ankle injury. For Joey Hart, however, that meant an opportunity for him to step up. And step up he did.

At Pro Day, Hart made made three after three, and at the end, Calipari even mentioned how NBA scouts were asking, “Who’s number 20?” Well, as confirmed at Big Blue Madness, number 20 is one of the more fun players on this team. With some prime Vince Carter-like dunks, Hart won the dunk contest.

In the scrimmage, Hart had some good moments on defense as well, causing disruption and forcing misses. Over the course of three days, Hart proved that he will be a much-needed component of the 2023-24 team, especially early on as Kentucky is dealing with a few injuries.

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Flamethrower. Money. Automatic. Antonio Reeves.

In case it wasn’t obvious, the return of Antonio Reeves is going to be a tremendous get for Cal and this team. Reeves’ night began in the three-point contest where he was absolutely on fire. In round one, Reeves put up 26 points, the most of the entire competition. In the finals, he scored 20 points to Reed Sheppard’s 18 to win the event.

Reeves has now won back-to-back Big Blue Madness three-point contests, but perhaps his biggest moments came during the scrimmage. Reeves was all over the court. On defense, sharing the rock, even throwing down a big dunk. Of course, he was still knocking down triples.

Scoring 14.4 points per game and shooting 39.8% from three last season was definitely a big positive, and it looks like we’ll see similar production this season. Don’t be surprised if he is the team’s scoring leader, averaging around 18 points per game and shooting around 42% or so from three. He had a great season last year, but he’s looking even better. Watch out, college basketball.


The 2023 edition of Big Blue Madness was… something. While it was nice to see DeMarcus Cousins in Lexington once again, UK missed out on some big-time guests. Musical artists Lil Wayne and Lil Durk were rumored to make an appearance, but a rumor is all it was. And once again, the scrimmage was a recreation of what happens in your local YMCA at times. There were still some good things to take away from the event, however. The BBN should be excited for this upcoming season.

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Men's Basketball

Tre Mitchell’s Stepfather Gives Injury Update, “Ridiculously Painful”

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Kentucky Wildcats forward Tre Mitchell injury is still "ridiculously painful"
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Mitchell missed his third-straight game on Saturday, suffering a shoulder injury during the Ole Miss game, while also still trying to recover from a lingering back issue that kept him out two games prior.

His stepfather, Tony Bergeron, was on WPBK-FM on Friday, before Kentucky’s game against Alabama, where he gave an update on Mitchell. “I thought he came back a little too early (against Ole Miss), got hit, and sprained that shoulder like it was a football injury. The problem now is that it is ridiculously painful,” Bergeron said.

On a positive note, this may help Mitchell reach 100 percent. “He needs to just wait until his back is 100 percent,” Bergeron said. It’s clear that Mitchell hadn’t been himself while playing through the back pain, shooting just 35 percent (8-23) over the three games prior to his first DNP.

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With compounded injuries, it is best to just rest and recover fully until making a return. Kentucky will need Mitchell at his best for a post-season run.

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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State, Round 2: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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After a dominant win over Alabama, the Kentucky Wildcats will take on Mississippi State on the road.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

What a win on Saturday for the Kentucky Wildcats, who put up one of the best offensive performances in college basketball this season on Saturday in a 117-95 win over Alabama. Now they will go back on the road to take on a Mississippi State team in a quad-one opportunity.

With Kentucky coming out on top in the first matchup, back in January, Mississippi State will look to even the season series and defend their home court on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are playing some of their best basketball of the season, riding a five-game winning streak, including a twenty-point road victory over LSU, whom Kentucky just lost to.

Let’s look at the matchup.

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Interior Defense

Tolu Smith is arguably the best big man in the SEC. In the first matchup between these two teams, he certainly made his presence felt despite the loss, scoring a season-high 26 points on better than 70 percent shooting.

This time around will be a good test to see how an improved Kentucky defense handles a physical interior player. While improving and reportedly back at practice, Tre Mitchell is unlikely to play on Tuesday, so it will be up to the seven-footers.

Ugonna Onyenso is Kentucky’s most physical big, but Zvonimir Ivisic who just scored a season-high 18 points, gives Kentucky a higher offensive ceiling.

Rebounding Battle

Similar to the stereotypical SEC team, Mississippi State is a physical team that does well on the boards, ranking toward the top of the country in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and rebound margin. In the first matchup, Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs 30-29, that effort will need to be there again Tuesday.

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Josh Hubbard

Mississippi State’s equivalent to Rob Dillingham is Josh Hubbard. The sub-six-foot electric guard is a similar microwave-type player who just won his fifth SEC Freshman of the Week honor this season after scoring 32 points against LSU.

Scoring just three points on 1-11 shooting against Kentucky back in January, Hubbard is motivated to have a better performance. The priority in defending Hubbard is chasing him off the three-point line or pushing him back as more than 64 percent of his shots have been taken from deep. Similar to what Kentucky did to Alabama, make him finish at the rim.

Opposing Players to Watch

F Tolu Smith 6-11, 245 lbs

  • 16.8 PPG (9th in SEC)
  • 8.1 RPG (3rd in SEC)
  • 59.7% FG (1st in SEC)

G Josh Hubbard 5-10, 185 lbs

  • 15.3 PPG (10th in SEC)
  • 76 3PM (1st in SEC)
  • 7.9 3PA per game

G Dashawn Davis 6-1, 190 lbs

  • 6.2 PPG
  • 3.0 APG (17th in SEC)

Kentucky Basketball vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Time: 7 PM ET on February 27th
  • TV Channel: ESPN
  • Announcers: To be announced.
  • Location: Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi.
  • Online Stream: WatchESPN and ESPN app
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | MISS ST
  • Stats to Know: UK | MISS ST
  • KenPom: UK | MISS ST
  • Team Sheets: UK | MISS ST
  • Odds: DraftKings has yet to release the odds for the game, but check back on Monday evening. Despite a convincing win over Alabama, the projections are not in Kentucky’s favor. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats just a 40.9% chance at victory, with Bart Torvik right in line at 41%. EvanMiya and KenPom give Kentucky a slightly higher chance at the win, at 46% and 45% respectively.
  • Predictions: The projections have the game coming down to the wire. Bart Torvik and KenPom have Mississippi State winning by two points, 80-78 and 79-77. Haslametrics and EvanMiya have the Cats winning by just one point, 77-76.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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Recap and Takeaways From Kentucky’s Dominating Win Over Alabama

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The Kentucky Wildcats dominated Alabama in a 117-95 win.
© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Rupp Arena was rocking on Saturday when Kentucky faced no. 13 Alabama, and the Wildcats matched that same energy in a fun one. The Cats absolutely demolished the Crimson Tide by a score of 117-95, one of the best offensive performances ever.

Justin Edwards had his breakout game, finishing with 28 points on a perfect 10-10 shooting, and 4-4 from deep. Antonio Reeves added 24 points, Zvonimir Ivisic had 18, and Rob Dillingham poured in 16 to lead Kentucky in scoring to go along with an impressive 63% from the field and 54% from three-point range.

Let’s take a look at how the domination happened.

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Justin Edwards Has His Breakout Game

Saturday’s game against Alabama will be known as the Justin Edwards Game. After having a rough season so far going through many mental battles, Edwards finally had his breakout game, and BBN and his teammates were so happy for him. Finishing with a career-high and team-high 28 points, he added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Edwards went a perfect 10-10 from the field, and shot 4-4 from deep. That makes Edwards only one of three players in UK history with at least 10 field goal attempts with no miss.

Kentucky Shows Historic Offensive Performance

The offensive performance on Saturday was one for the ages. Kentucky’s 117 points were the most scored against an AP Top 25 opponent in UK history. Shooting 63% from the field, it was one of the more impressive performances, while also shooting 54% from three-point range.

Kentucky had 5 players in double figures. The assist-to-turnover ratio was top notch, with a 24:10 ratio. It was a performance that will be remembered for a long time

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Three-Point Defense Improves

Kentucky’s defense as a whole wasn’t the best, with allowing 95 points, but the Cats forced 16 turnovers and had 29 points off of them, while also having 7 blocks and 11 steals. The three-point defense was really impressive. Holding a team that attempts nearly 30 three-point attempts per game to just 17 attempts, it was certainly running Alabama off the three-point line. Alabama only made 6 threes on those 17 attempts, shooting 35%.

Making Alabama score in other ways besides three-pointers seemed to be an emphasis for Kentucky. They definitely succeeded at that on Saturday.

Kentucky had their best offensive performance of the season, and one that was against a top-15 opponent, and much needed in the final stretch of the season. Next, Kentucky will head to Mississippi State on Tuesday. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Check out the box score and highlight’s from Saturday’s win.

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Box Score

Highlights

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