John Clay's notes: Security needs to do more to keep fans, players apart

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 15, 2014 

Random notes after a long night in Arkansas:

■ Michael Qualls was the star, slamming home a missed shot Lorenzo Charles-style to give the Razorbacks an 87-85 overtime win over Kentucky, but the hero of the night was UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua.

As the disappointed Cats left the floor of Bud Walton Arena, freshman guard Aaron Harrison stopped and entered into a verbal exchange with an Arkansas fan who had been taunting the Cats after the loss.

As captured by Herald-Leader photographer Mark Cornelison, the fan came onto the floor toward Harrison as the two were jawing back and forth.

In stepped Antigua, who got between the two before the encounter escalated out of control.

Where was the Arkansas security, you may ask? The photographic evidence shows security members were mainly bystanders. They witnessed the mini-incident without really making much of an effort to stop it.

On the one hand, if you've ever been close to the tunnel in college basketball arenas or college football stadiums, you know some pretty vile and profane language can be hurled at the players passing through.

On the other hand, Harrison is a freshman who must learn to keep moving in such instances. Don't stop and engage. There's no upside to doing that. As Neil Young sang way back when, "Walk on."

Just last week, Memphis Coach Josh Pastner got into it with Louisville fans as he was leaving the floor after the Tigers upset the Cardinals. Pastner said his players were being harassed by name-calling U of L fans and he wanted to set them straight.

When South Carolina fans rushed the court after the Gamecocks upset Kentucky back in 2010, UK center DeMarcus Cousins was accused of punching a South Carolina fan as he was trying to leave the floor at Colonial Arena.

Last season, after Virginia upset Duke, Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski was seen trading F-bombs with a particularly rabid Cavaliers fan who had stormed the court.

"We deserve that type of protection," said Krzyzewski afterward with regard to post-game security as a team is leaving the floor. "We always get yelled at. I've been called more things, about my mother or my kids; that's something that's happened for 25 years. That means nothing. Safety is something, and that's what I'm talking about."

Fans shouldn't be on the playing floor. And players shouldn't be engaging with fans. Security needs to be stronger.

■ Spin it anyway you want, but this Kentucky team is just not a good free throw shooting team, nor does it look like it will be a good free throw shooting team. We are 16 games into the season, after all.

In its four losses, Kentucky has made a combined 87 of 142 free throws for 61.3 percent.

■ Arkansas has not been kind to John Calipari. He has lost three straight games at Fayetteville, two in overtime.

■ After seeing Florida and Kentucky back-to-back, the consensus of the Arkansas media is that experience gives Florida the advantage at this point.

■ There was no flow, no rhythm to Tuesday night's game, just a ton of whistles. I'm all-in for the new emphasis on reducing contact, but the officiating Tuesday took it to the extreme. Sixty fouls. Eight-one free throws. That's not basketball.

■ Kentucky held the opponent to under 40 percent shooting (37.7 to be exact) and outrebounded the opponent by 18, but lost.

■ The way things are going, Indiana's students may start rushing the floor when the Hoosiers lead at halftime.

Indiana fans stormed the court after the Hoosiers beat previously unbeaten Wisconsin on Tuesday night.

■ Last year, Kentucky was 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the SEC after three conference games.

This year, Kentucky is 12-4 overall and 2-1 in the SEC after three conference games.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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