As a second game within 40 hours loomed, Kentucky Coach John Calipari chose not to make an issue of his team playing past midnight in its first-round victory Friday night/Saturday morning.
“Right now, I’m just worried about coaching my team in this next game,” he said of UK’s second-round game against Wichita State on Sunday afternoon. “They didn’t probably didn’t get to bed until 1 in the morning either. Ours was a little bit later than that.”
Dominique Hawkins said he got back to his hotel room about 2 a.m. Saturday.
“I didn’t go to bed until around three,” he said. “I made sure I ate and took a shower and laid down and watched a little TV.”
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In his news conference following Kentucky’s victory over Northern Kentucky, Calipari questioned the propriety of a game beginning after 10 p.m.
“We shouldn’t be playing this late, but that’s another issue for another day,” he said. That day clearly was not Saturday.
Hawkins and Isaac Humphries said that there were no ill effects from the late-night victory over Northern Kentucky.
“I feel it won’t affect us much because we have a full day to rest,” Hawkins said of Saturday. “And we don’t play until 2:30 or so (on Sunday). That will give us a little more of a break.”
Said De’Aaron Fox: “We’re all young. We ain’t tired at midnight.”
Michigan Coach John Beilein embraced the TV-dictated early-afternoon time for his team’s second-round game against Louisville. The tip is scheduled for 12:10 p.m.
“Glad it’s not 10 o’clock at night,” he told reporters, “and so are you.”
No one disagreed.
Of the made-for-TV late-night games, Beilein said, “on the day I wake up for a game, it’s like a long, long day.”
Beilein said his team would have a 7:45 a.m. wakeup. “We’ll have breakfast at 9:10, exactly,” he said. “… It’ll be perfect for us. And, hopefully, by 2:10 or something like that, we’re making travel plans for the next game.”
Beilein made sure reporters understood that he did not consider a victory over Louisville as a sure thing. “We’ve got to play really well because this is one of the five or six best teams in the country.”
Consistency to come?
Although Friday night’s victory suggested otherwise, Humphries said the NCAA Tournament will make Kentucky’s play more consistent.
“We all now kind of understand what’s riding on this sort of thing,” he said. “We know that if you don’t play, it’s the end of the season. With that added stuff, hopefully the consistency will come back because we all have that one goal.
“During the season, it kind of gets lost in the chaos of SEC play and traveling and that sort of thing. But, now, we all have the same goal.”
With all the fretting about inconsistent play and dependence on freshmen, Kentucky takes a 30-5 record into the game.
So UK has won consistently. The Cats’ winning percentage of .857 ranks in the top 10 nationally.
“I feel like we’re 30-5 because at times other people step up,” Hawkins said. “Like when Malik (Monk) is having an off night.
“There have been a lot of games where one player hasn’t been playing well. If everybody plays well together, we’ll have a great game.”
Experience figures to be a factor to watch. Wichita State, which is playing in its sixth straight NCAA Tournament, has it. UK does not.
“Being a freshman isn’t an excuse anymore,” De’Aaron Fox said. “… We’re basically sophomores, now. We’ve got to go out and play.”
When asked how his team’s experience might show itself, Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall said, “It shows itself in taking care of the ball. Being calm, cool and collected on the offensive end. Taking good shots after executing.
“On the defensive end, it comes in the form of communication and helping your teammates, and then helping the helper. By knowing where to go and then working really hard to be there at the right time.”
Oh, and one more thing. “Being a calm influence during those long media timeouts,” Marshall added.
2014: A good year
Marshall downplayed the notion that Kentucky’s victory over unbeaten Wichita State in the 2014 NCAA Tournament was devastating.
“It was a really great year,” he said. “I think I just turned 50. Maybe 51.”
He turned 51 on Feb. 27 of that year.
“I think we took a couple good vacations,” he said. “I went to Napa. I enjoyed 2014.”
▪ Kentucky has the chance to end the two longest winning streaks in Wichita State basketball history. UK’s victory in the 2014 NCAA snapped the Shockers’ 35-game winning streak. The current 16 straight victories is the program’s second-longest winning streak.
▪ Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson will call the game for CBS.