While swallowing blood from an blow to his lip, Perry Stevenson walked away from a rebound tussle. He did not turn around on the way to halfcourt.
"Hey," the fan yelled at the Ouachita Baptist team. "Don't y'all hurt our million-dollar player."
Stevenson, heretofore mostly given to deference, played like a million dollars in Kentucky's 94-72 exhibition victory Friday night. At least he put up million-dollar statistics.
Stevenson scored 16 points, grabbed 20 rebounds — yes, 20 rebounds — and blocked seven shots to give UK some semblance of a front-line presence. The Cats needed it because foul trouble limited All-America candidate Patrick Patterson to a cameo role.
Yet UK Coach Billy Gillispie called it "one of Perry's poorest performances in a long time."
"That sounds crazy when a guy gets 20 rebounds," Gillispie said. But Stevenson played poorly "as far as carrying out assignments," the UK coach said.
Watching (dissecting?) a game as only a coach can do, Gillispie saw Stevenson let his man catch the ball near the basket.
"He's too smart and too good for this to be happening at this stage of his career," Gillispie said. "Particularly with Patrick in foul trouble. ... He knows better than that. Hopefully, it's a good learning experience."
Gillispie categorized the entire evening as an ideal classroom, beginning with the time before the bell rings to start class.
The Cats must learn the "mental approach" necessary, Gillipsie said. "Just because you beat a team by 58 points on Monday and take Tuesday off, Wednesday and Thursday should be the most important practice days of your life if you want to get playing time. We had two or three guys who really didn't take that approach."
Stevenson's numbers stood out in a game that saw Kentucky get off to a slow start before putting away the Division II opponent in the second half.
The first half Friday night showed a great difference from the first to the second exhibition.
Kentucky played sloppily and without a lot of zeal in leading Ouachita Baptist 43-35 at intermission. That contrasted sharply with the crisp demolition of Missouri-St. Louis on Monday, when UK led 63-23 at halftime.
The Cats spent much of the first half in this exhibition game as if distracted by how to pronounce Ouachita (it's WASH-a-taw).
A troubling sign came early when Ouachita guard Rowan Ledbetter, a 5-10 senior who looked like he'd been lifted from an intramural game, dribbled down in transition and decided, oh what the heck, to launch an uncontested three-point shot. It made you wonder what happened to the pressure defense, that shove-the-initiative-down-the-opponent's throats, that Gillispie preached upon his arrival last year.
Gillispie signaled his displeasure by replacing UK's backcourt, putting in Darius Miller and Kevin Galloway for Michael Porter and Jodie Meeks.
However, a few minutes later, Ramon Harris threw a lazy pass against Ouachita's full-court press. Ledbetter, who was everywhere in a 15-point half, intercepted and set himself up for another open three-pointer.
"Coach Cyp (assistant Glynn Cyprien) tells you No. 10 can shoot," Gillispie said. "He can't go in a halftime 4-for-4 from three."
Actually, Ledbetter, who finished with 16 points, was 5-for-5.
"That's why you play exhibition games," Gillispie rationalized. "So I'm pleased with everything. The game went exactly the way we needed it to go."
About the time a nine-point lead evaporated, Gillispie tried walk-ons Mark Krebs and Landon Slone with Porter on the perimeter.
Krebs hit a three-pointer that put UK ahead for good at 27-24.
The lead grew to 37-27 late in the half.
Then the Cats got generous. Four straight turnovers helped Ouachita hang in there.
Kentucky's intentions of putting Ouachita Baptist away in the second half took a hit when Patterson picked up his third and fourth fouls before the first television timeout.
Patterson picked up his third when he fouled Brandon Rose's putback attempt at the 17:15 mark.
Less than a minute later, Patterson got his fourth foul when he reached to stop a drive by Ouachita center Daniel Maddox. That sent Patterson to the bench with 16:36 left.
After Meeks made two free throws to give the Cats a 55-43 lead, the Cats had their way against a tiring Ouachita Baptist team.
The lead grew to 32 points in the final minutes. Then the Cats provided another teaching tool as Ouachita Baptist hit five three-pointers inside the final three minutes.
"I totally despise how we finished the game," Gillispie said.
After the game, the UK coach had a simple message for the team.
"The only thing he said was see you in the morning," Patterson said.
When asked how that goodbye should be interpreted, Patterson said, "Most likely not good."