UK basketball notes: Physical battle ends with passive moment

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 15, 2014 

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — An overtime loss on a sudden, almost surreal play shook Kentucky, Coach John Calipari said after an 87-85 loss to Arkansas Tuesday night.

"If you care, it should shake you up a little bit," Calipari said.

Calipari described the game as a physical test of wills. "We beat the crap out of each other," he said. "It was hand-to-hand combat."

That made for an ironic finish. A momentary lapse by James Young allowed Michael Qualls to dunk a putback a fraction of a second before the final buzzer to decide it.

"The kid watched," Calipari said. "My kid watched. He's a freshman. That's what freshmen do."

Young, who led UK with 23 points, offered no excuses.

"It was my fault," he said. "I stopped playing at the last second."

When asked if he even saw Qualls coming from behind, Young said, "Honestly, I didn't."

Teammate Julius Randle cautioned reporters not to blame Young. In such a close game, there are lot of plays that can make a difference, he said.

Boss watches

John Adams, the national coordinator of referees, attended the game.

Not for any particular reason, he said. Just taking in a game on a swing that continues at the Alabama-Mississippi State game Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa, and then on to Connecticut at Memphis on Thursday.

UK did not like the way the game was officiated.

"We didn't get a lot of calls our way," Young said.

Cramps

Stress and anxiety can cause cramping, sports medicine specialist Dr. Ben Kibler said. "Anything that's a little extra burden on muscle activation" can induce cramps, the Lexington-based orthopedic surgeon said.

Cramps have become a problem for UK freshman star Julius Randle, who had to leave two recent games because of them. He missed most of the second half against Louisville on Dec. 28 and a portion of the second half at Vanderbilt last weekend because of cramping.

Earlier this month, former UK star Tony Delk said he believed stress and anxiety caused him to cramp as a senior.

"I don't think it's the most common thing," Kibler said. "It's usually not listed as one of the most common reasons (for cramping), but it can play a role in some people."

UK Coach John Calipari said Monday that he hoped Randle would practice to the point of cramping. Kibler, who is not treating Randle, said he could understand the value of hard practices in determining the cause of the cramps.

"You've got to get to the point where this is a problem (with cramping), then try to figure out what the problem is," he said.

Several factors are possible: muscle fatigue, lack of muscle endurance, low levels of potassium or sodium, stress among them.

"Really a moving target," Kibler said. "It's hard to nail it down."

Cats can't clear hurdle

Kentucky needed to beat Arkansas to achieve what has to be a rare achievement in college basketball. By winning, UK would have a winning record as the road team at every SEC school. Except Missouri, where the Cats play for the first time on Feb. 1.

Kentucky went into the game with a 6-6 record at Arkansas. The Wall Street Journal noted that Kentucky's record at the other SEC schools is 344-196, a winning percentage of .637.

Like church

Freshman Derek Willis said he gets a spiritual lift when he goes to UK's practice gym to do extra shooting.

"When you are in the gym alone, it's like going to church," he said. "Like talking to a counselor."

As he shoots, Willis can think about how he is doing on and off the court. "Just a really good peace of mind," he said.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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