For at least the third time this season, Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist crumpled to the floor in pain and stayed there for several minutes. Then he rose like Lazarus and continued playing.
"I didn't mean to do that," Kidd-Gilchrist said of the latest scare he threw into UK fans during the 83-74 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.
With 3:17 left in the game, Vandy's Jeffery Taylor missed a three-point shot, then collided with Marquis Teague hard enough to send both players stumbling backward. Replays showed Kidd-Gilchrist jockeying with Vandy center Festus Ezeli for rebounding position, then collapsing to the court. He clutched his left knee as medical personnel arrived.
"Banged knees," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "It hurt really bad."
Kidd-Gilchrist re-entered the game with three minutes left. Seventeen seconds later, he picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench.
UK Coach John Calipari acknowledged his surprise at Kidd-Gilchrist's quick recovery.
"I said, 'Is Michael OK?'" Calipari said. "The answer was, 'Yeah, he's ready to go.' I went, 'What?!' ... I said, 'Run up and down the court.'
"I wanted him to run to see that he wasn't fooling me. I'm like ... 'Oh my gosh, OK, go back in.'"
Freshman point guard Marquis Teague committed turnovers on three of UK's first five possessions. That got him a seat on the bench with 16:22 left.
He returned with 14:18 left and committed only one turnover the rest of the game.
"I knew he'd be fine," teammate Anthony Davis said. "He just had to get his head together."
For the second straight game, and the third time in the last four, Darius Miller went from famine to feast on offense. After making little impact as a scorer, he started making shots down the stretch.
This time, he scored his first basket with 9:58 left and finished with nine points.
"I was upset with him in the first half because I thought he passed up two shots," Calipari said. "And he did because he was 0-for-5 (shooting in the first half). I said, 'That's the old you. You've got to keep shooting. You can't keep doing that to your team.'"
Miller denied that he let missed shots make him hesitate.
"Probably a problem in the past," he said. "As of now, I definitely don't feel that way."
Calipari suggested a noon tip-off as a reason for UK falling behind 4-0 and 13-9 in the early minutes.
"I just felt our (pre-game) shootaround was just so-so," he said. "And I felt at the pre-game, when I talked to them before they went on the court, I didn't like the stare I got from two or three of the guys."
Calipari mentioned Terrence Jones by name, saying, "You've got to be ready to play every game. You've got to figure it out."
Then, looking ahead, the UK coach said, "Here is what the deal is: Noon games (are) hard to play. So? Guess what, in New Orleans (at the SEC Tournament), when will we be playing? Noon. OK. Then in the NCAA Tournament, probably noon. We play early games. So, be ready for it. You can't use that as an excuse."
UK's game at Florida next Sunday tips off at noon.
Charge to block
With 12:05 left, the referees called Eloy Vargas for charging into Steve Tchiengang. After a brief consultation, the call was changed to blocking on the Vandy player.
"I didn't wait around for an explanation," said Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings, who retreated to the far end of the bench area when the referees reversed the call. "It wasn't going to be anything that was going to make me feel any better."
Stallings said one of his assistants was told that Tchiengang was standing in the block-charge arc under the basket.
To prevent Stallings from protesting too vehemently, forward Jeffery Taylor got between the coach and the referees.
"It was funny," Taylor said. "I thought it was a little odd that you were going to change your call right then. Coach got a little frustrated with it. Some of the guys wanted to go over there and calm him down so it didn't snowball."
Miller compared UK's current freshmen favorably with recent incoming classes.
"They bought into Coach's system really early," he said. "... Other teams had egos at first. They definitely let go (of egos) toward the end of the season. It just happened earlier (this season)."
Vandy credited UK's skill, but questioned its own resolve.
"I didn't offer much of a resistance," center Festus Ezeli said of Anthony Davis' big game.
Added Stallings: "We blocked him out twice in the game. Twice. Now, that's not very many given that he is at the rim all the time. One time it was a freshman guard, and the other time it was a senior guard."
■ Davis blocked five shots to increase his total to 138. That moved him within three of fifth place (Alvin Jones, Georgia Tech) for any freshman. He also moved past Nazr Mohammed (135) for 10th place on UK's career list and within two of Shaquille O'Neal (140 in 1990-91) for sixth most by any SEC player in a season.
■ John Jenkins' 18 points moved him past Barry Goheen (1,509) and Tom Hagan (1,514) on Vandy's career list. Jenkins increased his total to 1,525.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com