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Fast-break points from the Shaedon Sharpe watch:
21. Kyra Elzy. Not much has gone right in 2021-22 for the second-year Kentucky women’s basketball head coach.
20. A brutal stretch. Down to seven available players due to injuries and a key player’s suspension, Elzy’s Cats (8-7, 1-4 SEC) are mired in a four-game losing skid and entering a week when they will play three road games — at Auburn (Tuesday night), at Vanderbilt (Thursday) and at No. 12 LSU (Sunday).
19. A glimmer of positivity. Amid the gloom, two of Kentucky’s class of 2022 recruiting signees recently turned in stellar performances on big national stages.
18. Tionna Herron. In the ESPN-created Girls Basketball Invitational last weekend in Minnesota, Herron, a 6-foot-5 Kentucky signee from DeSoto, Texas, produced praise-worthy showings against the top-rated player in the country and the top-ranked team in the country.
17. Strong vs. the top player. In a head-to-head matchup against 6-7 Lauren Betts — the Stanford signee from Grandview, Colo., who is ESPN HoopGurlz’s No. 1 player in the class of 2022 — Herron scored 16 points and led her team to a 68-54 win Friday night.
DeSoto girls win 68-54 over Grandview (Colo.) and 6-7 Lauren Betts, the No. 1 recruit in the nation. Tionna Herron led DeSoto with 16 points on ESPN+.@SportsDayHS @DeSotoEaglesGBB @Tabchoops @espnW @MaxPreps @ihss_dfw pic.twitter.com/MjUWIwEdHR
— Greg Riddle (@DMNGregRiddle) January 22, 2022
16. Strong vs. the top team. On Saturday, Herron and No. 2-ranked DeSoto faced No. 1 Sidwell Friends School from Washington D.C., in a showdown of the nation’s top two high school girls’ hoops teams. DeSoto lost a late lead and fell 60-55 — but Herron had a team-high 19 points.
In a matchup of the top two girls basketball teams in the nation, No. 1 Sidwell Friends (D.C.) beat No. 2 DeSoto 60-55.
Tionna Herron led DeSoto with 19 points. 5-star junior Jadyn Donovan scored 25 for Sidwell.@DeSotoEaglesGBB @SportsDayHS @MaxPreps @ihss_dfw @Tabchoops
— Greg Riddle (@DMNGregRiddle) January 23, 2022
15. Saniah Tyler. Meanwhile, Tyler, the 5-6 UK point guard signee out of Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, scored 25 points to lead her team to a tense 65-61 win over traditional California powerhouse St. Mary’s in the MLK Classic in Stockton, Calif. It was the 51st-straight win for Incarnate Word.
had a blast while in Cali pic.twitter.com/LWrelbHGH6
— Saniah Tyler (@_saniah_tyler31) January 23, 2022
14. Criticizing Elzy. Whatever criticisms one has of the Kentucky coach and the competitive arc of her program, the perception that the Cats did not recruit well for 2022 — which I keep reading on Wildcats internet message boards — does not appear to hold true.
13. Shaedon Sharpe. The Kentucky men’s basketball coaching staff got its own criticism for not playing Sharpe — the No. 1-ranked recruit in the class of 2022 who early-enrolled at UK this month — in then-No. 2 Auburn’s 80-71 win over the No. 12 Wildcats on Saturday.
12. None-and-done? Obviously, the angst about Sharpe was ignited by a report that the 6-6 swignman is eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft. The idea that Sharpe might spend a semester practicing at Kentucky without ever playing in a game, then turn pro, unleashed ample fan agitation.
11. A sound decision. To me, the rationale for not throwing a player who has had mere weeks of practice into a road game the magnitude of UK-Auburn seems wise.
10. There would be a payoff. My hunch is that Sharpe will play for UK in 2022-23. However, even if he goes none-and-done, the goodwill Kentucky would engender from having helped him achieve his NBA dream would likely benefit the Cats’ program with future recruits.
9. Wendell Green. The former Eastern Kentucky Colonels and current Auburn Tigers point guard had 11 points, five assists, one steal and three turnovers in AU’s win over UK on Saturday. The 5-11, 175-pound sophomore from Detroit really hurt the Cats in pick-and-roll sets.
8. Oscar Tshiebwe. For all the virtues the West Virginia transfer has brought to Kentucky — and those are many — defending the pick-and-roll is not one of them.
7. Auburn. I continue to think Bruce Pearl’s crew is the best team in men’s college hoops — and the Tigers attained the No. 1 position in Monday’s new AP Top 25 poll.
6. Bodes well for Kentucky. Given how well UK was playing now-No. 1 Auburn (up 25-16) before Wildcats star freshman TyTy Washington left the game with an ankle injury with 8:21 left in the first half, Cats backers have good reason to be optimistic about the postseason tournament possibilities for their team.
5. Morehead State vs. Murray State. The Eagles and Racers are slated to face each other for the first of two regular-season meetings Saturday at 5 p.m. (EST) at Murray. If things break right, it will be a battle of Kentucky teams with unbeaten OVC records.
4. Morehead State. Preston Spradlin’s Eagles enter this week 6-0 in the OVC, 14-5 overall. Before the showdown with Murray, Morehead has a game Monday with Tennessee State and one Thursday at Southeast Missouri.
3. Murray State. Matt McMahon’s Racers enter this week 7-0 in the OVC, 17-2 overall. Before the showdown with Morehead, Murray has a game Monday with Tennessee Tech followed by a road rematch with John Pelphrey’s Golden Eagles on Thursday.
2. Part II. The second act of Morehead State-Murray State in 2021-22 will occur on Feb. 12 in Morehead.
1. Witnessing Kentucky basketball history. Now that Murray State has joined the wave of defections that has beset the Ohio Valley Conference with announced plans to exit for the Missouri Valley Conference, this winter could feature the final duel between two Kentucky schools for an OVC men’s basketball crown.