After a rough, at times contentious game against Arkansas, Kentucky Coach John Calipari drew a metaphorical line in the sand.
“Let me say this: My team will not be bullied,” Calipari said. “This isn’t that kind of team.”
Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox saw the 97-71 victory over Arkansas as the extension of familiar scenario: Older, veteran team (Arkansas started three seniors and two juniors) tries to physically intimidate freshman-dependent Kentucky.
“Just because guys have been in college longer,” Fox said. “They had the weight room longer. They have the bodies for the college game. Sometimes they think freshmen aren’t ready to bang. Some scouting reports (say) just be physical, too.
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“You see these guys. Everybody’s big. It’s different from the high school game. But I think we have adjusted to the physicality.”
The physical nature of the game threatened to become violent in the second half when Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford appeared to step on Isaiah Briscoe. Fox came from nearby and shoved Barford.
“It gets physical, it gets chippy,” said Fox, who appeared reluctant to talk about the exchange. “It happened. We can’t take it back. People see it. We’re just moving on from that.”
Calipari said that physical play by an opponent should sharpen UK’s focus and make the Cats more disciplined.
“You’re not going to bully us into a loss,” he said.
The victory over Arkansas included sweet vindication for Calipari. He had said Briscoe needed to shoot the ball higher when driving to the basket. Even if Briscoe missed the shot, the ball on the rim created putback opportunities for teammates.
But Briscoe had continued driving and getting shots in the lane blocked. That happened again in his first two shots against Arkansas, then Briscoe tried it Calipari’s way. The result included putbacks for teammates and baskets for Briscoe.
“He’s so mad at me,” Calipari joked.
After the first two shots were blocked, “I said, ‘You get another one blocked, I’m taking you out,’” Calipari said. “So, now he shot them high.”
No, Fox said, Calipari was not above directing an I-told-you-so at Briscoe.
“He definitely did,” Fox said. “Cal’s going to gloat a little bit.”
‘Fastest 40 Just Got Faster’
Arkansas had outscored all but two of its opponents in fast-break points. The Hogs had scored 20 or more fast-break points in four games.
Kentucky had scored 20 or more fast-break points in two games: 21 against Arizona State and 20 at Ole Miss.
UK dominated Arkansas in fast-break points 24-4.
Going into the game, freshman Malik Monk had put up big numbers. None involved a double-double, which Calipari had noticed.
“He should be a double-double,” the UK coach said.
What about a triple-double, which backcourt mates De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe have gotten credit for this season?
“They don’t want me to pass the ball,” Monk said with a smile after the victory over Texas A&M. “They want me to score. That’s what they told me, so I’m going to score.”
Fox and Monk are the only SEC teammates to post triple-doubles in the same season.
Assist to Monk?
Although Monk scored 12 points, his lowest total since an opening-game 10 against Stephen F. Austin, he contributed.
“He probably helped me with my 27 points,” Fox said. “Just because I think there was a fake-pass to Malik, and the guy almost turned a circle to run toward him (leaving Fox open).
“He helped me out today even when he wasn’t making shots.”
Going into Saturday, UNLV had made a three-pointer in 990 consecutive games. UK’s streak of making at least one three-pointer was 989 games.
UNLV extended its streak to 991 games at Utah State Saturday. UK extended its streak to 990 games. Willis and Mychal Mulder made five of eight three-point shots. The other Cats made none of 12.
Arkansas made a three-pointer for a 921st consecutive game.