Are the Kentucky Wildcats back on track after the Missouri Tigers win?

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Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a few days makes. After the LSU loss, most major pundits were ready to write this team off and had them headed into the NIT again. CBS’s Gary Parrish dropped Kentucky out of his daily “Top 25 plus one” rankings. But then came the road game against Missouri and the fighting Wildcats were back and now, it seems as if the ship has been righted. At least for now.

Kentucky played very well on the way to an 84-79 win at Mizzou on Saturday. The win must’ve felt like a 20-point margin for Wildcats fans, many of whom had to be worried back-to-back losses were coming, which would’ve been the first time that happened this season.

But the loss was dodged and now, for the mean time, plenty are believing Kentucky to be a top 20-caliber team yet again. UK was aggressive, active and overall looked like a completely different team from the one that failed to show up and play with heart in Baton Rouge on Wednesday night.

John Calipari’s club looked like the second-best team in the SEC, which is what it’s been the entire season, for the most part. This was just the second road win of Kentucky’s season, too. The Wildcats are now 16-5 and 6-2 in the SEC. A particularly important win, given Missour’s a quality opponenet and not a team that normally allows teams to score more than 80 on them at home.

The Wildcats were led by Aaron Harrison’s 21, but brother Andrew Harrison, the point guard, was vital. He had 14 points, just one turnover and was a steady hand throughout. It’s the kind of showing that Kentucky fans were watching and waiting for. Andrew Harrison’s been good this year, but also erratic. If he can play the way he did on Saturday in most games going forward, Kentucky’s issues and concerns will lie elsewhere.

James Young — for my money, the best offensive player Kentucky has — added 20, while Julius Randle put up 18 and had nine rebounds. This showing from Randle one game removed from his six-point performance against the Bayou Bengals.

 

Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Kennard is one of the main targets that John Calipari is going after and the pursuit is well deserved. Kennard has a chance to be the national player of the year and here is a look at his credentials.

Greatness Present: When you’re 17 years old and the likes of John Calipari, Thad Matta and Mike Krzyzewski are making personal appearances at your games, it’s probably a good sign your basketball career is headed in the right direction.

Such is life for the 6-foot-5, 180-pound junior, whose 40-point average ranks among the nation’s best. A unanimous top-25 recruit in the Class of 2015, Kennard has been attracting serious attention from the top basketball programs in the country.

Earlier this month, a couple weeks after Kennard torched Bellbrook (Ohio) with a school-record 53 points, Calipari watched him total 38 points and 10 rebounds opposite North Carolina-bound wing Justin Jackson at the Flyin’ to the Hoop Basketball Invitational in Dayton.

Greatness Past: Kennard averaged 27.1 points last season, capturing 2013 Ohio Division II Co-Player of the Year honors and earning Sophomore All-American status from MaxPreps.

Greatness Future: Kennard remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

So what did John Calipari do after the big Missouri win?  Went out recruiting.  Seems he had the time and the energy to watch the above mentioned Luke Kennard and Quentin Goodin on Saturday night.  You have to love the timing of the appearance as well.  Seems both players took unofficial visits to Louisville on Saturday but that may have been trumped by seeing Calipari.

UK Coach John Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua watched Class of 2015 target Luke Kennard score 45 points in a victory at the King of the Bluegrass Showcase in Louisville on Saturday.

Kennard also had 13 rebounds in Franklin (Ohio) High School’s 96-84 victory over Taylor County. The 6-foot-5 guard was 14-for-26 from the field and 15-for-18 from the free-throw line. It was the third time this season that Calipari has watched Kennard, who has narrowed his list to seven schools.

Mark Kennard, the player’s father, told the Herald-Leader on Friday that the family has not yet set up any official visits. They hope to have some of those trips scheduled in the next 3-4 weeks. Kennard has said he would like to make a college decision sometime this spring.

Sophomore guard Quentin Goodin had 21 points for Taylor County. It was the second time that Calipari has seen Goodin, who does not yet have a scholarship offer from Kentucky but has visited Lexington in recent weeks.

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