To borrow one of Kentucky Coach John Calipari's terms, Vanderbilt point guard Jermaine Beal does not attempt many "hero plays."
Beal, a well-tested senior, offers no verbal frills nor flourishes when asked to describe his role for the only unbeaten team in Southeastern Conference play.
"Mainly, all I do is carry out all my assignments," he said. "I bring the ball down court. I pass the ball, get the ball to where it needs to go, and try to defend to the best of my abilities.
"At the end of the day, hopefully, our team can get a win."
Heading into Saturday's game at Kentucky, Vandy has gotten only wins through five SEC games. That hasn't happened to the Commodores since 1965-66.
Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings credits Beal's "steadying influence" for the good start. Heading into a challenging week with games at Tennessee and at Kentucky, Stallings said Beal's play can make a big difference.
"If he doesn't play well, we'll have a hard time winning either game," the Vandy coach said on Monday. "We have a hard time winning any game when he doesn't play well. He's very important to the team. I know other guys get a little more hype and attention. No one is more important to the team than Jermaine."
Beal got the week going well by scoring 25 points and not committing a turnover in 38 minutes in an 85-76 victory at Tennessee.
"I'm thrilled for Jermaine," Stallings said on Thursday. "He was a very key reason that we won the game. His play was really phenomenal. Besides the points he scored, he didn't have a single turnover ... and that's really impressive against their defense because they are very good defensively. I'm happy for him, and I'm happy for our entire team. We needed to play a game like that, to win a game like that, and I'm really proud of them."
Now the Commodores will seek to win at Kentucky and become the first Vandy team to win at UT and UK since 1973-74. Vandy has never won at UT and at UK in back-to-back games.
That distinction would be important to Beal. "A lot of times folks say Vandy's only a good home team," he said before adding a cautionary note. "We know Lexington's going to be very hostile. We know it's going to be a tough game."
Meanwhile, Beal quietly goes about playing an efficient point guard. Through five SEC games and 170 minutes, he's committed only eight turnovers. He's led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio the past two seasons.
Yet, the SEC coaches did not name him to either the first- or second- all-league teams this pre-season.
"It's fine," he said. "I don't have any control over what other coaches feel about me. It is what it is.
"I don't have anything to prove. The only thing I want to prove is that I'm a winner and I go hard in everything I do."
His focus — and Vandy's focus — is on not getting "big-headed" over the good start to SEC play, Beal said.
When he signed with Vanderbilt, his friends in DeSoto, Texas, wondered why.
"Everybody said who and what is Vandy," Beal said. "They know who Vandy is now.
"That's the one thing I wanted to do at Vandy. I wanted to leave a trademark and like a stamp on the program."
In a light-hearted exchange with reporters Thursday, Stallings suggested that a call from President Barack Obama earlier in the day might have distracted UK in its game at South Carolina Tuesday night.
When a reporter suggested that South Carolina proved UK was beatable, Stallings said:
"Oh, I don't know. They probably got caught on the right time, the right night. How hard would it be to get a group of 18-21-year-olds to focus after the President of the United States calls you that day? That was almost like a setup, I think. I'm not sure the president wasn't for South Carolina.
"I don't know how John could have possibly gotten them to focus in on that game. That probably makes our job that much harder, because their edge is going to be way up. They're good enough as it is, we don't need them to be any edgier than what they would have been naturally."
When someone asked if he wished Obama would not call Vandy's team, Stallings said:
"No, but he can call them again if he wants to, though."
'GameDay' sold out
Tickets to ESPN's College GameDay on Feb. 13 have been sold out, UK said in a news release Thursday, citing Ticketmaster. The event will take place at Rupp Arena on Feb. 13 from 11 a.m. to noon, before the Kentucky-Tennessee game, which is scheduled to tip-off at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Tickets to the show are not good for admission to the game.