Though clearly superior in defeating Monmouth on Saturday, Kentucky gave its ever-anxious fans reason for concern. Because:
▪ Leading scorer Kevin Knox made only one of nine shots. The freshman also committed seven turnovers, the most by a UK player since Isaiah Briscoe had seven against South Carolina last Jan. 21.
“It wasn’t one of his better performances, but that’s fine,” UK Coach John Calipari said of Knox. “It’s good for the soul to go 1-for-9.”
By good for the soul, Calipari said he meant that such shooting can galvanize the mind toward making improvements. He then said he hoped Knox learned something about shot selection.
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“If you go 1-for-5, would you keep shooting jumpers?” Calipari said. “Or just keep going to the basket till they foul you or (you) get a basket?”
Clearly, Calipari would want a player to opt for driving to score or draw fouls. Knox chose to shoot jumpers.
“So you end up going 1-for-9, which is what he did,” Calipari said. “It’s a great lesson for him.”
▪ Kentucky committed 19 turnovers, the second-highest total of the season. UK had 22 against East Tennessee State.
“My guess is 10 or 12 of them are unforced,” Calipari said. “They’re not even forced turnovers. It’s not like they put us in a bad position. They were just ... we gave them the ball, and we’ve got to stop it.”
▪ Monmouth outscored UK 45-39 in the second half
“We started the second half — you ready? — no pass-shot, no pass-shot, one pass-shot, no pass-shot,” Calipari said. “And they had visions of being back in Vegas in the AAU. ‘My team is up 23. I’m just going to start shooting balls.’”
UK had one basket in the first four-plus minutes of the second half. In that time, Calipari made three substitutions.
“We’re still not capable of going 40 minutes,” the UK coach said.
With this, Calipari added a warning.
“I worry about us going into league play,” he said. “And every game is going to be up or down five (points). It’s not going to be 20. They’re all going to be wars. I’m not sure we’re ready to play a 40-minute game.”
‘Next man up’
Point guard Quade Green left the game early in the second half.
“He got poked pretty good in the eye,” Calipari said. “His eye is shut right now.”
A sprained left ankle sidelined Sacha Killeya-Jones. He did not practice two days in the week leading up to the game.
Calipari did not sound alarmed by Killeya-Jones’ condition.
“Doc said the kid wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “I said, fine. Next man up.”
That man was redshirt sophomore Tai Wynyard, who equaled career highs of 12 minutes and four points. His six rebounds doubled his previous career high.
New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, a native of Lexington, attended the game. So did new Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
Calipari tweeted a picture of himself with Boone and Cashman.
“I talked to them after (the game),” Calipari said. “We talked trades and different things.”
Calipari said he discussed Giancarlo Stanton with Boone and Cashman. “We’re going to get that one done,” he said as New York-based sportswriters chuckled.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey attended the game. Afterward, he planned to go to Newark to watch Florida play Cincinnati on Saturday night.
Former UK All-American Kevin Grevey attended the game as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers. Like Sankey, he planned to go to Newark afterward to watch Florida play Cincinnati.
Former UK assistant coach Barry Rohrssen also attended the game. Rohrssen was Manhattan’s head coach from 2006 through 2010. When asked what he was doing, he said he was “between successes.”
The video boards also showed Karl Towns Sr. and former NFL player Cris Carter at the game.
In noting more difficult games to come, Calipari said UK would next be playing “Virginia Tech, UCLA, Louisville. We have tough games.”
He pronounced Louisville as Lewis-ville, which prompted laughter in the postgame news conference.
Madison Square Garden was barely half full. The attendance was announced as 10,438. The Garden has a listed capacity for basketball of 19,763.