Cats move forward with big plans for newcomer Ivisic

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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Two days following his collegiate debut, Zvonimir Ivisic is still the talk of the town.

After missing Kentucky’s first 16 games awaiting word from the NCAA regarding his eligibility, the freshman forward scored scored 13 points to help lead the No. 6 Wildcats to a 105-96 win over Georgia on Saturday night.

The performance drew applause from the Wildcats’ coaching staff, including assistant coach Chin Coleman.

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“To go through this whole process he’s been through and then just to finally have the opportunity to get out on the floor was probably an eruption (on his part),” Coleman said. “He made some shots early, and after that, it was kind of like shooting in an ocean. It’s good for him, (we’re) happy for him, really happy for him.”

Georgia coach Mike White was surprised by Ivisic’s outing.

“We knew he was very talented and skilled player but to anticipate him coming in and firing from the deep immediately, with the confidence level that he did, was something we did not see coming,” White said.

The addition of Ivisic to the rotation will give Kentucky an added weapon but could mean fewer minutes for other players. Coleman said coach John Calipari will make the right adjustments.

“You’ve got to think about it,” he said. “We’ve essentially coached five different teams this season already, right? Coach has done an unbelievable job with the moving pieces – who’s in, who’s out – and figuring it out. He’s the best at it for a reason and so he’ll figure it out.”

Kentucky (14-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) will play at South Carolina Tuesday night in the first of two road games this week. The Gamecocks (15-3, 3-2) have won nine of their 10 games at home and are coming off a 77-64 win at Arkansas on Saturday.

“They’re playing good right now and I think they have a lot of confidence,” Coleman said. “Winning produces confidence. And the fact that they’re they’re winning, they have a lot of confidence. They’re playing well and they don’t beat themselves.”

Moving up

Kentucky moved up to No. 6 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday.

The Wildcats are one of three SEC schools ranked in this week’s top 20 of the AP poll. Tennessee (14-4) is ranked fifth, while Auburn (16-2) made the biggest leap, climbing five spots and jumped into the top 10 for the first time this season.

UConn (17-2) is No. 1, followed by Purdue (17-2), North Carolina (15-3) and Houston (16-2). Kansas (15-3), dropped four spots to No. 7.

Wagner gets third SEC freshman honor

Kentucky freshman guard D.J. Wagner was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season.

Wagner averaged 12.5 points and six assists per game in wins over Mississippi State and Georgia last week. Wagner had his first double-double with 18 points and 10 assists in the win over the Bulldogs.

“My teammates and my coaches helping me out a lot,” he said. “Every time I would find them, they were getting shots, so it really wasn’t me. It was really all my teammates just making open shots and just making it easier by being open when I need it.”

Going into Tuesday’s contest at South Carolina, Wagner is averaging 12.8 points and 3.8 assists per game.