Kentucky's Davis, Calipari sweep AP SEC honors
One day after its first loss in more than three months, Kentucky got back to winning.
The top-ranked Wildcats made a clean sweep of the awards Monday on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team. Freshman Anthony Davis was a unanimous choice for player of the year and newcomer of the year, while John Calipari took the coaching honor for the second time in three seasons at Kentucky.
Davis was joined on the first team by another unanimous selection, Vanderbilt junior guard John Jenkins, the only player to repeat from last year's All-SEC team.
The remainder of the first team included another Kentucky freshman, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and two players from Mississippi State, junior forward Arnett Moultrie and senior guard Dee Bost.
Led by Davis, a 6-foot-10 forward from Chicago, the Wildcats (32-2) romped through the SEC with a perfect 16-0 record. After a one-point loss at Indiana in early December, they won 24 straight games, a streak that finally ended Sunday with a 71-64 setback to Vanderbilt in the championship game of the conference tournament at New Orleans.
But Kentucky still earned the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament and finished No. 1 in the final AP poll for the eighth time. Three of those teams went on to claim the national championship, and this team certainly has a shot at adding to that list.
''I think our confidence is still here. We never lost any confidence,'' Davis said. ''We just got to go back in the gym and play hard in practice and get ready for the tournament.''
The freshman showed he was ready for college, even if it's just a one-year stopover on the way to the NBA. He connected on an astounding 64.2 percent of his shots (no one else in the SEC made more than 55 percent) and dominated at the defensive end with 4.6 blocks per game (doubling up the next-best player on the list).
Davis finished eighth in scoring (14.3 points a game) and second in rebounding (10.0).
''He's the darndest thing I've ever seen,'' Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ''What a terrific player. What an unbelievable, unbelievable player that kid is. Wow, is he good. And a great demeanor, great disposition. Wow. He is the real, real deal.''
So is Jenkins, a unanimous selection to the AP team for the second year in a row. The 6-4 junior was easily the SEC's top scorer (19.9 points), while ranking second in 3-point shooting (44.8 percent) and third in free-throw percentage (84.3).
In Sunday's championship game, still grieving from the death of his grandmother the previous week, Jenkins scored 17 points as the Commodores rallied with a 16-2 run over the final five minutes to knock off mighty Kentucky and claim their first tournament title since 1951. Afterward, he sprawled out on the court with his hands over his face, overwhelmed by the emotion.
''It's been really tough for me,'' Jenkins said. ''Just being out here with my teammates and the coaches has been kind of an outlet for me. To win the championship after 60-some years is incredible.''
Even with the loss, no one in the Bluegrass State is complaining about the job Calipari has done in three years at the helm. He quickly rebuilt a hallowed program that endured the short, tumultuous Billy Gillispie era, relying on a one-and-done recruiting philosophy that keeps bringing in the nation's top high school talent.
Calipari doesn't worry a bit that most of the guys he signs will be moving on to the NBA after a single season. He just goes out and recruits another all-star lineup. Kentucky's latest group of elite signees was led by Davis and the 6-7 Kidd-Gilchrist, who averaged 11.8 points and ranked sixth in rebounding (7.6).
While the Wildcats may be short on continuity, they've reclaimed their place at the top of the college basketball hierarchy. Calipari's record of 96-15 includes two deep runs in the NCAA tournament: a regional final in 2010 and the Final Four last season.
He's got high hopes for this group, too.
''I like my team,'' Calipari said Monday. ''This team has a little bit everything. We just have to fight through and realize that nothing in this tournament is given to anyone. Every game, we must play. Every game is a competitive game. If we think teams are going to be intimidated by us, you're crazy. That's how you get knocked out quickly.''
Mississippi State knocked itself out of what appeared a likely NCAA bid just a month ago, losing six of its last eight games. Still, the Bulldogs (21-11) were recognized for the individual performances of their top two players.
Moultrie, a 6-11 transfer from UTEP, made an immediate impact after sitting out the previous season. He led the conference in rebounding (10.6) and ranked fourth in scoring (15.8). In addition, he trailed only Davis in field-goal percentage.
The 6-2 Bost paced the conference in assists (5.3), was fifth in scoring (15.6), and played more minutes than anyone else, an average of nearly 36 each game.
Florida placed two players on the second team: guards Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal. They were joined by Vanderbilt swingman Jeffery Taylor, Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, Alabama forward JaMychal Green, and Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon.
The 64th annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a 12-member media panel representing each of the conference's nine states.
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