John Clay: Transy proves more than a punching bag for Kentucky

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 3, 2011 

You could have called this the Goodwill Game.

"Our whole intent was to help Kentucky get better," said Brian Lane, the Transylvania coach.

It wasn't to win the basketball game, though no doubt if it had somehow been done, the Pioneers would have the taken the W, framed it, and hung it on a wall in the Beck Center.

"When we were ahead 11-4," Lane said, "I was hoping for a power surge to knock out the lights so we could spend a little more time with that lead."

It wasn't to dream that the Division III school from Lexington would somehow find a way to shock the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, which also happens to hail from Lexington.

"It was never our intention to think we could win," said Lane.

Transy didn't win, of course, losing 97-53 to Kentucky, but in this "friendly" the score was inconsequential.

"If they had gotten to 100, they would have hurt my feelings a little," joked Lane.

Instead, Transylvania's intention on this night was to be what the opponent of a top-flight Division I college basketball team for an exhibition game should be: a well-coached, well-organized team of representative talent that will give the home team something to take back to practice the next day and put to good use.

Mission accomplished.

"We've got a long way to go," said Kentucky Coach John Calipari, who later added, "I was hoping this was going to be easy, but it's not going to be easy."

But first, a few words on how neat this game was. This was the first time Kentucky and Transylvania had met in a quasi-real competition setting in 100 years. We're talking two schools that are within walking distance of the other. There was a great dinner with the two teams Sunday night at Keeneland. There was fun and pride and cheers from both sides on Wednesday night.

"It was neat that there was so much respect from the Kentucky fans for our guys," said Lane.

Indeed, some of the biggest cheers of the night came when Transylvania players scored, especially early when the Pioneers were building that seven-point lead, when you could feel the TU fans in attendance thrilled to see one of their Pioneers rip the nets on the Rupp Arena floor.

"I'm going to take away the first half," said Lane when asked what he would remember from the night. "We followed the game plan and we didn't let them drive to the basket."

Calipari learned his team needs a lot more work. It is young. It is talented. It is a long way from meshing.

The difference on this night, in Calipari's own words, was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who plays with an intensity uncommon and almost unorthodox for such a young freshman.

You'll read nothing entirely new here about Kidd-Gilchrist's game. He is just everywhere, doing things that stuff the stats sheet. He's probably not going to lead your team in scoring, or rebounding, or assists, but he's going to be near the top of the leader board in all those categories.

"This team," said Lane of UK, "will be very, very good."

See, that's the thing. Brian Lane may coach at Transylvania, the same school where his father Don coached so many years before, but Brian is a Kentucky fan, too.

Afterward, the Transy coach talked about how when he was an assistant coach in Division I, on more than one occasion his team lost to an eventual national champion.

"I coached at the Division I level for 10 years," he said. "In '92 we played the national champion, Duke. In '93, when I was at South Carolina we got beat by the national champion, North Carolina. In '95, we got beat by the national champion, UCLA.

"I would love, this year, to have been beat by a national champion."

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com.

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