Was that lob play really what John Calipari really wanted Kentucky to run down two to Gonzaga with 13 seconds left? In his postgame press conference following the 89-85 loss to the Bulldogs, Calipari explained that if the lob to the basket wasn’t there, he wanted the ball to go to Antonio Reeves at the top of the key. With Reeves tangled up in the lane, Reed Sheppard threw it towards the basket, where Gonzaga’s Ben Gregg snatched it before Adou Thiero could.
“The plan was, Antonio, if that lob wasn’t there and obviously it wasn’t, was to go to the top of the key,” Calipari told reporters. “But that didn’t lose us the game. The 18 offensive rebounds, 50 points in the paint. We thought we could guard them one on one, we probably needed to trap more.”
During his postgame conversation with Tom Leach, Calipari said the play was one Kentucky has run in the past with some success. He also doubled down on how his team had shot itself in the foot long before the failed lob.
“It’s a play that we’ve run in the past years where the top options are the lob or the pop-out and it was Antonio. They stole the lob. They stayed back but that didn’t cost us. I’m still disappointed with how we started the game. Come on. We’re better than that.”
“I told them after, we lost the game in the first half”
That play is just one example of how poor Kentucky’s execution was today. Gonzaga came out of the gates hot, building an 11-4 lead in the first three minutes. The Bulldogs led by ten at halftime, but the Cats whittled that margin to three in the first three and a half minutes of the second half. Calipari said he was proud of his team for responding, but reiterated that poor starts continue to cost them.
“The kids kept fighting. They just kept fighting. They never stopped and so — but it’s just tough. I mean, we’ve lost three games kind of like that where we have a chance and I told them after, we lost the game in the first half. That’s where we lost the game. And then we came back and fought and made it close but the first half was what cost us.”
With under a month left in the regular season, how does Kentucky fix its slow starts?
“You know, we keep on them about their intensity to start a game and the fight you have to have, especially at home. It was just disappointing that we got beat to so many balls. Just disappointing. I think we’re better than that.”
Tyrell Ward’s last-second shot lifts LSU over No. 17 Kentucky 75-74
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — While LSU’s Tyrell Ward was mobbed on the court by jubilant fans, including women’s basketball star Angel Reese, Kentucky coach John Calipari and the Wildcats could only watch the celebration while awaiting a brief video review of the frantic, last-second sequence that did them in.
Ward capped a 17-point performance with a short floater as time expired, and LSU pulled out a second straight comeback victory over a ranked team with a 75-74 victory over No. 17 Kentucky on Wednesday night.
“We wanted it more than them, plain and simple,” Ward said. “I would definitely say we’re finding more ways to win.”
The Wildcats nearly sealed a dramatic, last-minute comeback when Adou Thiero blocked Jordan Wright’s driving shot in the final seconds. Wright was able to push the ball back up in front of the rim, where Ward leaped to grab the ball and quickly release his decisive shot before he came down.
“Adou blocks it; I got to watch the tape and say, ‘Who did not grab that ball — the winning ball — who didn’t grab it and why?’” Calipari said. “Why not dive on the floor? Just tie it up and we win the game.”
Calipari lamented that an inability secure a number of loose balls cost his team the game.
“That’s all we talk about,” Calipari said. “If you’re not going to come up with 50-50 balls, you can’t win. … They toughed us for those balls, which were the difference.”
Ward’s basket sent jubilant fans pouring onto the floor as security officers scrambled to rope off an area around both benches in an effort to minimize mingling between spectators and the teams.
Reese threw her arms around Ward’s shoulders as she hopped joyously next to him, but Ward said he didn’t realize she was there.
“I blacked out as soon as the shot went in,” Ward said. “I can’t remember. I didn’t know nothing that was going on.”
Wright and Jalen Reed each scored 13 points for LSU (14-12, 6-7 Southeastern Conference), which erased a 15-point, second half deficit against Kentucky — one game after overcoming a 16-point, second-half hole in a 64-63 victory at then-No. 11 South Carolina on Saturday.
“Just so proud of our players,” LSU second-year coach Matt McMahon said. “Over the last week, we’ve seen the toughness that we need to play with. I think it has to be the foundation of your program.
“We really came together as a team and found ways to get it done,” he added. “It’s a special week, certainly something we can build on.”
Antonio Reeves scored 25 points for Kentucky (18-8, 8-5), which has now stumbled to five losses in its past nine games. Rob Dillingham scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half. His driving scoop as he was fouled with 53 seconds left, followed by his pullup jumper on the baseline with 13 seconds left, briefly gave the Wildcats a 74-73 lead.
“The last minute was not a work of art, but that’s on me and the guys found a way to win anyway,” McMahon said.
Kentucky closed the first half on a 12-1 run during which Reeves hit a 3 and fast-break layup. Justin Edwards’ 3 gave the Wildcats a 36-27 lead at the break.
Kentucky opened the second half with consecutive 3s by Edwards and Reeves to make it 42-27, but Derek Fountain’s layup shortly after ignited a 21-4 LSU run that included consecutive 3s by Wright and ended with back-to-back layups by Reed and Hunter Dean to put the Tigers up 48-46.
Reed Sheppard interrupted the spurt with a layup while being fouled and completed the 3-point play, but the game was tight from then on.
Kentucky: The Wildcats did not have any players other Reeves or Dillingham score more than nine points and were outshot 45%-44%. … Senior forward Tre Mitchell, who has averaged 12 points per game this season, sat out for the fourth time in five games with an ailing shoulder and back.
LSU: The Tigers are looking like an increasingly dangerous opponent as the conference tournament nears. They outrebounded Kentucky 38-30 and won a second straight game without guard Jalen Cook, who sat out with a hamstring injury that has caused him to miss three of five games overall.
Kentucky: Host No. 13 Alabama on Saturday.
LSU: Host Mississippi State on Saturday night.
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Kentucky Senate supports constitutional change to restrict end-of-term gubernatorial pardon powers
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The GOP-dominated Kentucky Senate endorsed a proposed constitutional change Wednesday to limit a governor’s end-of-term pardon powers, reflecting the outrage still burning over pardons granted by the state’s last Republican governor on his way out of office in 2019.
The measure seeks to amend the state’s constitution to suspend a governor’s ability to grant pardons or commute sentences in the 30 days before a gubernatorial election and the time between the election and inauguration. The restriction essentially amounts to two months of a governor’s four-year term.
“This proposed amendment would ensure that a governor is accountable to the voters for his or her actions,” state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the measure’s lead sponsor, said in a statement after the Senate vote.
The proposal sailed to Senate passage on a 34-2 tally to advance to the House. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers. If it wins House approval, the proposal would be placed on the November statewide ballot for voters to decide the issue.
The measure is meant to guarantee what happened at the end of former Gov. Matt Bevin’s term never occurs again in the Bluegrass State. During his final weeks in office, Bevin issued more than 600 pardons and commutations — several of them stirring outrage from victims or their families, prosecutors and lawmakers. Bevin’s actions came as he was preparing to leave office, having lost his reelection bid in 2019.
While presenting his bill Wednesday, McDaniel read newspaper headlines chronicling some of Bevin’s pardons. The Courier Journal in Louisville earned a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Bevin’s actions.
McDaniel also put the spotlight on the case of Gregory Wilson, who was convicted decades ago for the rape and death of a woman. Wilson was sentenced to the death penalty, but Bevin commuted his sentence to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. The state parole board recently decided that Wilson must serve out the remainder of his life sentence.
Another high-profile Bevin pardon was granted to Patrick Baker, whose family had political connections to the Republican governor, including hosting a fundraiser for him. Baker was pardoned for a 2014 drug robbery killing but later was convicted for the same slaying in federal court. He was sentenced to 42 years in prison. A federal appellate court upheld the conviction.
McDaniel has pushed for the same constitutional change to put limits on gubernatorial pardon powers since 2020, but he has so far been unable to get the measure through the entire legislature. On Wednesday, he called his proposal a “reasonable solution to a glaring hole in the commonwealth’s constitution.”
The proposal won bipartisan Senate support Wednesday.
Democratic state Sen. Reginald Thomas stressed there have been “no allegations, nor any innuendos of wrongdoing” regarding current Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s use of his pardon powers. Beshear defeated Bevin in 2019 and won reelection last year in one of the nation’s most closely watched elections.
“This is a reaction to the previous governor, Gov. Bevin, and his obvious misuse of that pardon power,” Thomas said.
The proposed restriction on gubernatorial pardon powers is competing with several other proposed constitutional amendments being considered by lawmakers for placement on Kentucky’s November ballot.
Ford and UAW reach local contract agreement at Kentucky Truck plant, averting threat of a strike
DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers union have reached a tentative agreement on a local contract at the company’s largest and most profitable factory, averting the threat of a strike.
The union said last week said that nearly 9,000 workers at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville would walk picket lines starting Friday if the contract dispute was not resolved.
But the UAW said in a statement Wednesday that a deal had been reached, ending the strike threat.
The tentative agreement addresses health and safety issues, ergonomics, the company’s efforts to reduce the number of skilled trades workers and other issues, the union said.
The plant, one of two Ford factories in Louisville, makes heavy-duty F-Series pickup trucks and the Ford Excursion and Lincoln Navigator large SUVs, all hugely profitable vehicles for the company.
A strike at the sprawling plant would have been the second in the past year. In October, UAW workers shut down the plant during national contract negotiations that ended with large raises for employees.
Workers have been without a local contract for five months, the UAW said.
It says there are 19 other local agreements being negotiated with Ford, and several more at rivals General Motors and Stellantis.
The strike threat last week came after Ford CEO Jim Farley told an analysts’ conference in New York that last fall’s contentious UAW strike changed Ford’s relationship with the union to the point where the automaker will “think carefully” about where it builds future vehicles.
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