Good or bad, freshman big man DeMarcus Cousins is never boring. He gave Kentucky fans a bit of both extremes in Saturday's 92-63 victory over Rider.
On the plus side, UK Coach John Calipari noted how Cousins deferred to fellow freshman Daniel Orton as a second-half starter.
Calipari wanted to reward Orton after a 10-point, three-rebound first half. "But I want to make sure I bring DeMarcus along, too," the UK coach said.
So Calipari had assistant coach John Robic test Cousins' reaction to possibly sitting so Orton could start.
Cousins endorsed the move as well-deserved, Calipari said.
"A big step for our program," Calipari said with that decibel spike he uses to note emphasis. "Big step. That means they're starting to care for each other and they're starting to recognize when a player is playing well, leave him alone. 'I'm not worried about me.'"
Cousins excelled when he returned to the game. He scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, grabbed seven of his eight rebounds and got three of his five blocks.
But Cousins also had what Calipari called a "learning experience." It came early in the second half when he got benched after being involved in a near tussle for a loose ball.
After losing the ball on the post, Cousins went to the floor to try to retrieve it. A Rider player fought for the ball. Cousins got up first and stood over the Rider player.
No blows were thrown, but Calipari sent Cousins to the bench at the 13:02 mark.
"You do not talk to the official," Calipari said. "You're not winning (that argument). I will do that. I told him (Cousins), 'We will not get a call. Do you understand? We will not get one call.'"
That play punctuated a frustrating stretch for Cousins. He picked up two early fouls and went to the bench at the 17:10 mark of the first half.
Calipari attributed the quick fouls to poor defense.
"If you don't stay in your stance, you're going to foul," the UK coach said. "If you stop playing, you're going to foul."
If a player stays in the proper defensive stance, he can take a charge or block a shot.
Of this "learning experience" for Cousins, Calipari said, "All freshmen things you do."
Hooray for Harris
Calipari noted the contributions by senior Ramon Harris, who did not score a point.
"He played really well," the UK coach said. "He defended. He rebounded."
Calipari said Harris did a "fabulous job" taking a turn defending Ryan Thompson, Rider's top player. Thompson made only one of 10 shots and committed four turnovers.
"He made no baskets," Calipari said of Harris. "I told him that's fine. I'm not playing you because of offense. It's defense and rebounds. If you make a shot, you'll steal some of Darius (Miller's) minutes. If you don't make a shot, I'll still play you."
UK 1, Stallions 1A
UK basketball icon Kyle Macy had a choice to make. Either work the UK game as a commentator on the telecast or coach his Bluegrass Stallions of the American Basketball Association.
Macy chose to work the UK game. He said he has it written into his coaching contract that UK television work takes priority.
Besides, the Stallions' games he missed Thursday and Saturday were exhibitions.
■ John Wall led UK with 21 points. That made the Cats 4-for-4 in games in which their leading scorer was a freshman.
■ UK's 4-0 start is the program's best in five years. UK opened the 2004-05 season with four straight victories before losing at North Carolina.