Blair, Kennedy regroup for back half of SEC play
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 00:01
With one coach heading a 6-1 SEC team coming off two straight conference routs and the other holding a team together in the midst of a four-game slide, head coaches Gary Blair and Billy Kennedy engaged the media Monday.
Blair’s women’s basketball team, which stayed put at No. 16 nationally after a two-win week, is preparing for a visit from Vanderbilt this Thursday. Kennedy’s men’s team has lost four in a row after winning its first two SEC games and will travel to Mississippi State Wednesday.
The women won at Mississippi State 81-33 and at home against Missouri 77-58. Senior guard Adrienne Pratcher (six made three-pointers) and freshman Peyton Little (five) provided the bulk of an arena-record 12 three-pointers Sunday against Missouri.
Blair said the perimeter success was a result of balance.
“We played as well as we could against Missouri,” Blair said. “The first half our kids were on fire. They were clamping down on Bone inside and she was kicking it outside. With Pratcher and Little hitting the threes I think we’ve got a great balance of inside and outside.”
Blair said Bone (averaging 17.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game) has emerged as the impact player many expected her to be, even if she didn’t do it on their schedule.
“Bone was the most discussed and cussed player we had last year,” Blair said. “Everybody expected Kelsey to come in and be the Danielle Adams type player and she’s had to wait a year to turn into that kind of player.”
The marked improvement in her performance from one season to the next can be found in transition, Blair said.
“Her game has improved in the transition offense,” Blair said. “She’s flying down the court because she wants the ball in a hurry before the double or triple team.”
Blair said Vanderbilt is an offensive-minded team, but scheduling favors A&M.
“We had the perfect scenario getting Missouri before Vanderbilt because they play the same style,” Blair said. “Missouri just doesn’t have the finishers Vanderbilt has.”
After a win in Kentucky — riding a 40-point long-distance shelling from senior guard Elston Turner — the men’s team has lost four straight games to fall to 2-4 in SEC play. Two of those losses — to Louisiana State University and Georgia — came from bottom-tier SEC units and Kennedy saw his team surrender 14-point leads in each.
Kennedy said his team has refused to quit.
“We have to continue to fight because there are a lot of good things going on in our program,” Kennedy said. “Our guys are sticking together and getting a lot of experience.”
Kennedy called this a “transition period.”
“Culturally, our base is building and getting stronger in some areas that you can’t see,” Kennedy said. “We will have seven new guys next year. When you have to restore your program with 13 new guys in two years, it takes time.”
Kennedy said his next opponent, Mississippi State, is dealing with the same issues as A&M.
“They are playing a lot of young guys and have had a lot of adversity and injuries but they are very capable of winning on their home court,” Kennedy said.