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KSR Today: The Mark Pope era officially begins

Drew Franklinby:Drew Franklin04/15/24

DrewFranklinKSR

The Big Blue Nation flexed its muscles as the best fan base in college basketball on Sunday. So many fans showed up to Mark Pope‘s Sunday press conference that Rupp Arena had to turn several thousand away because there wasn’t room for more. The crowd arrived early with energy to downtown Lexington. Four hours before Rupp’s doors opened to welcome Pope, chants of C-A-T-S CATS! CATS! CATS! CATS! rang out from the crowds forming on High and Vine.

By backing Pope with a packed house for a press conference, the BBN sent a message to the nation, saying Pope has the full support of The Greatest Tradition In College Basketball. The afternoon felt like a family reunion, too, as several players from the past walked out with Pope to show a unified basketball program. It was a special day to be a fan of Kentucky Basketball. Now, it is up to Pope to build a staff and a roster to match the fan enthusiasm. No pressure, Mark.

Watch Mark Pope’s Sunday press conference

Images from Rupp Arena

Aaron Perkins snapped over 100 photos for KSR yesterday. Head over to KSR’s Facebook page to see all of them.

KSR reacts to Pope’s introduction

After the press conference, Matt Jones hosted a two-hour postgame show featuring guest appearances from Ryan Lemond and me, plus calls from the Big Blue Nation. You can listen to the show on podcast here.

For KSR’s YouTube channel, the crew of Jack Pilgrim, Tyler Thompson, Zack Geoghegan, Jacob Polacheck, and Phoenix Stevens wrapped up the event from Rupp Arena. Watch their Rapid Reaction here.

Want more? Here are links to KSR’s Pope stories:

One more KSR nugget: how about that crowd pop for Matt?

BYU’s Aly Khalifa considering three schools

Mark Pope has a lot of phone calls to make as he builds his first Kentucky roster from scratch. “We are talking to all of the guys on the current team, all those recruited, and every player in the portal right now,” Pope told Rupp Arena.

One of those portal contacts is a familiar name. Aly Khalifa, Pope’s starting center at BYU, is in the portal and on Sunday, he named his top three schools. Khalifa is considering Kentucky, Louisville, and staying home with the Cougars. An excellent passer, Khalifa was critical to Pope’s offense in 2023-24.

“We are going to find the guys that fit here, the way we play, and the guys that will come here and understand what a gift it is to play here at the University of Kentucky,” said Pope.

Kentucky Softball beat No. 7 Georgia

While most of the Big Blue Nation was in Rupp Arena on Sunday, Kentucky Softball was at John Cropp Stadium, winning its series over 7th-ranked Georgia. The Wildcats went into Sunday’s game tied 1-1 with the Bulldogs in the home series but won the third game, 7-2, to take the series in Lexington.

Stephanie Schoonover threw a complete game, allowing only two runs to the SEC’s best offense. Schoonover struck out nine. Offensively, Kentucky was led by Rylea Smith‘s 4-for-4 day. Taylor Ebbs went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer to put UK on the board first.

Up next? A trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Wednesday to play the Hilltoppers.

Checking in on the SEC Baseball standings

Kentucky Baseball had Sunday off after beating Auburn in a Thursday-Saturday series at Auburn. Now, the Cats have the best record in all of the Southeastern Conference, winning 14 of the first 15 league games in 2024.

SEC BASEBALL STANDINGS (Through 15 games)
Kentucky (14-1)
Arkansas (12-3)
Texas A&M (11-4)
Tennessee (10-5)
Carolina (8-7)
Vandy (8-7)
Florida (7-8)
Georgia (7-8)
Mississippi State (7-8)
Alabama (6-9)
Mizzou (5-10)
Ole Miss (5-10)
LSU (3-12)
Auburn (2-13)

On Tuesday, Kentucky steps outside of the conference for a rivalry game at Louisville. The first meeting between the schools (after the Lexington game was canceled due to rain) is scheduled for 7 p.m. on enemy soil. We’ll have a preview of that game when Pope Mania settles down.

Kentucky Women’s Basketball added another commitment

Kentucky Women’s Basketball added another piece to its roster on Sunday, landing a commitment from Clara Silva, a 6-foot-6 center from Portugal. Silva originally committed to Virginia Tech, but flipped her commitment to follow Kenny Brooks to Lexington.

Learn more about Silva’s commitment to the Cats here.

Listen to Mark Pope, Kenny Brooks, and Nick Mingione on the radio tonight

The UK Sports Network has a busy Monday dialed up for its radio listeners. Beginning at 6 p.m., the BBN can hear from Kenny Brooks, Mark Pope, and Nick Mingione in that order.

Brooks, the new head women’s basketball coach, is up first; he’ll chat with Darren Headrick from 6-7 p.m. Pope will follow with his first conversation with Tom Leach from 7-8 p.m. Then, Mingione’s 30-minute show begins at 8 p.m. with comments on the SEC’s best baseball team and its Tuesday trip to Louisville. If you can’t listen, KSR will recap their comments here on the website.

KSR is coming up at 10 a.m.

We’re at KSBar and Grille to continue the celebration. Tune in.

Go Cats.

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2024-05-23