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Men's Basketball

Recap and Takeaways From Kentucky’s Massive Win at Auburn

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Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Kentucky got a much needed signature win on Saturday night in Auburn, defeating the Tigers 70-59 in a game that Kentucky led for the entire game, and had total control.

Kentucky had an impressive performance, very much so on the defensive end, holding Auburn to just 18% from three-point range, and 30% overall on the night. Antonio Reeves led the way with 22 points, Adou Thiero with 14, and Dillingham with 11.

Let’s take a look at what made the huge win unfold.

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Defense Shows Drastic Improvement

Known as a poor defensive team, Kentucky has taken the defense to a higher level recently, but Saturday’s performance against Auburn was eye-opening. Kentucky held Auburn to 30% overall, 18% from deep. The defensive effort was on high all night, as Kentucky forced 11 turnovers, 6 of those in the first half. Reed Sheppard was big on the defensive end, having 5 steals to go along with 4 points and 5 rebounds.

Terrific effort defensively on Saturday night for Kentucky.

Antonio Reeves Adds To His All-American Campaign

Reeves has been an under-the-radar player this season, and a lot of All-American buzz surrounding him has grown recently. Reeves had his 20th double-figure game of the season, finishing with 22 points (3-6 3PFG), 5 rebounds, and 1 assist. He shot 40% from the field, and came up big with shots when Kentucky needed.

Reeves is averaging 19.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 1.6 APG on the season, shooting 49.8% overall, 43.7% from three. That makes him one of the top scoring guards in the country, and he keeps adding to that All-American caliber resume.

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Kentucky With Balanced Offensive Attack

Aside from Reeves’ 22 points, Adou Thiero added 14 points, with Rob Dillingham pouring in 11. Ugonna Onyenso has had an improved role recently, and he added 7 points. Calipari said after the game that he likes how Thiero and Onyenso played too. “Today, Ugo and Adou were unbeleivable, both of them. Played great.”

Kentucky didn’t shoot the best from three, but shot 44% overall, and got buckets when needed. The Cats got a massive win in the best defensive effort of the entire season so far, and Kentucky had weapons step up on the offensive end. Next up, Kentucky heads to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Check out the box score and highlights of the big road win below.

Box Score

Highlights

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Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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