TAMPA, Fla. — Josh Harrellson's Tweet-Your-Way-To-Success tour continued Saturday with Kentucky's 71-63 victory over West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament.
Harrellson contributed 15 points and eight rebounds, which inspired another re-telling of how he got punished for a pre-season tweet complaining about Coach John Calipari, how the extra running got him in better shape and, voilá, he became a more productive player.
"No routine," he said of the punishment of extra conditioning. "Whatever Coach (Kenny) Payne wanted to do."
As reporters chuckled at the unintended pun, Harrellson smiled sheepishly and noted that Payne — not pain — was the UK assistant coach's name. "He took it to me," Harrellson said.
Another UK assistant, Orlando Antigua, noted how a higher level of conditioning translates into greater self-confidence.
"When you're fatigued, you can't think," Antigua said. "And you can't respond and react. He's not tired. He's a big, strong kid. Now, he's able to go out there and utilize those abilities."
Payne acknowledged being pleasantly surprised by Harrellson's blossoming. Yes, the coaches thought Harrellson would improve. But the Southeastern Conference leader in rebounding (8.8 per game), offensive rebounding (3.7 per) and field-goal shooting (59.9 percent)?
"Doing what he's doing now, I can't say I knew that," Payne said. "For whatever reason, he got it. When they get it, they're rejuvenated. When they embrace the work, that's gratifying."
Cal: UK tough
As if passing out a group diploma, Calipari made a pronouncement to the team after the game.
"He actually called us tough today after the game," Darius Miller said. "That's a big step for us."
Margin for error
More than once earlier this season, Calipari said the Cats' lack of depth made it imperative that every contributing player play well and/or give great effort.
In the two NCAA Tournament games here, Kentucky won despite sub-par scoring from Brandon Knight on Thursday (career-low two points) and Miller on Saturday (three points, which matched a season low and snapped a personal double-digit scoring streak of 10 games).
"I was still trying to play defense and keep my man off the boards," Miller said of his 36-minute stint.
Doron Lamb, a freshman from Queens, considered UK's advancement to Newark, N.J., for the Sweet 16 round as something of a homecoming.
"Oh yeah," he said. "I'll have a lot of people over there. That's close to my house, about 45 minutes driving."
Lamb, who matched a season-low with a third straight game of single-digit scoring, said he continues to play with the pain from an ankle sprained a week ago.
"It still hurts," he said. "But I have been fighting through it. I still get treatment, but I still have to fight through it."
Calipari improved his record against good friend Bob Huggins, the West Virginia coach, to 2-8.
"You hate to play against friends because I know what it feels like to get beat," Calipari said. "... You want to play against people you don't like. Beat them."
When asked if losing to a good friend made it easier to handle, Huggins said, "Maybe it'll be a little easier tomorrow knowing that he's still playing. It doesn't help today."
West Virginia guard Joe Mazzulla scored a career-high 20 points. When the teams played in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, he scored a then-career high of 17.
"I'd rather not score and win," he said. "So it was unfortunate. I wish I didn't get it today and we won."
Among active players, only David Lighty of Ohio State and Kyle Singler of Duke have played more games than Mazzulla. Lighty and Singler will play their 154th and 146th games, respectively, on Sunday. UK marked the 145th game for Mazzulla.
"He's very crafty, very smart," Antigua said of Mazzulla. "He lowers his shoulder and creates angles. He doesn't beat you with speed. He beats you with craftiness and angles."
Terrence Jones' 12 points and 10 rebounds marked his 12th double-double. That ties Chris Mills (1988-89) for the second most ever by a UK freshman. The most are the 20 by DeMarcus Cousins last season. ... Knight's 30 points increased his total to 609. The UK record for a freshman is 616, by John Wall last season.