In a game that made a mockery of this supposedly being the most wonderful time of the year, Kentucky sloshed to an 85-60 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday night.
The most interesting moment came when UK Coach John Calipari received two technical fouls and an automatic ejection. That marked what was believed to be the first ejection of a UK coach since referee Andre Pattillo threw out Rick Pitino from the 1996-97 regular-season finale in Rupp Arena.
Calipari's premature exit came with less than seven minutes left in a game that made the hymn Silent Night seem rollicking.
The first technical came with 6:44 left. Moments earlier, a UK player had driven the baseline and seemingly got knocked off balance as he shot. There was no foul called.
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Calipari stared at referee Mike Stuart, who stood across the court, as Mississippi Valley State's Kevin Burwell made one of two technical fouls.
Still standing across the court from the scorer's table, Stuart teed up Calipari again 18 seconds later. Before the second technical, the UK coach could be heard saying, "Are you going to make me scream or come over here like a man?"
As Stuart officially reported the second technical at the scorer's table, Calipari approached him and initiated an animated — and one-sided — conversation.
After the game, Calipari was not animated or informative on the subject of the technicals.
"All I can tell you is, I've done this 20-some years," he told reporters. "This was the first game I was thrown out of pro or college."
Not exactly. Calipari was thrown out of the game as Massachusetts coach on Feb. 24, 1996. His previously unbeaten Minutemen lost to George Washington.
In the Mississippi Valley State game, Calipari seemed angered that Stuart would not listen to the coach's complaint. "That's his prerogative," Calipari said. "I coach the game, and he blows the whistle."
A moment later, Calipari offered a light-hearted comment about the attire he wore in tribute to former UK coaches Adolph Rupp and Joe B. Hall, the latter honored at halftime.
"I wore a brown suit today," Calipari said. "Was Coach Rupp ever thrown out of a game?"
Mississippi Valley State Coach Sean Woods, one of the UK Unforgettables, did not come to Stuart's defense.
"I was in that same ref's behind because I didn't think he was doing a good job. We driving it and he doesn't give us anything. They're driving it, and we bumping and they're more physical than us. We shoot 10 free throws. they shoot 32. The last time I had that was when Coach Pitino got kicked out against Vanderbilt years ago.
That was in Pitino's first season as UK coach. In his post-game radio show, he famously noted that "panty hose" would be the proper attire in the delicate Southeastern Conference.
Kentucky (8-2) placed five players in double figures. Terrence Jones, who had only four points at halftime, led UK with 19 points. Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins added 16 each and Darius Miller and Brandon Knight chipped in with 14.
Mississippi Valley State, which doesn't play its first home game until Jan. 8, fell to 1-9.
Knight banked a buzzer-beating three-pointer from half-court to give Kentucky a 44-24 halftime lead.
Midway through the first half, that kind of lead at intermission seemed unlikely. The teams were tied at 20 with about eight minutes left.
Mississippi Valley State made six of its first 10 shots en route to an early 15-12 lead.
After a Kentucky timeout, the Delta Devils made three of their final 25 shots in the half. The visitors had only one basket in the final 8:38.
Lamb, who replaced Darius Miller at the first TV timeout, led the Cats with 12 first-half points. Knight added eight.
Kentucky tightened its control of the game as the second half unfolded. Back-to-back baskets by Miller extended the UK lead to 53-29 with 14:36 left in the game. His floater followed by a three-pointer prompted a Mississippi Valley State timeout.
Things got sloppy for a while. As Calipari sat with his chin in his hand, the Cats surrendered several layups.
But as if to prove no-help defense could work both ways, Knight and Liggins drove open lanes that looked like Nicholasville Road at 4 a.m.
Joe B. honored
Thirty-nine of his former players gathered at center court to honor Joe B. Hall, who turned 82 in November. The halftime ceremony came 25 years after he retired as UK coach in 1985.
The players that came the farthest were Scott Courts from Santa Barbara, Calif., and Bob Guyette from Paradise Valley, Ariz. Jack "Goose" Givens, the Most Valuable Player of the 1978 Final Four that Kentucky won, acted as spokesman for the players.
"We love you," he told Hall. "We appreciate everything you did to make us everything we are. And we hope you get into the Hall of Fame, which is exactly where you belong."
When Hall took the microphone, he thanked the players for what they did for him. He also noted how all UK players belong to the fans. Before the game, former player Winston Bennett noted how Hall was instrumental in bringing him from Louisville to UK.
"For the first minority kid to leave Louisville since Tom Payne, he was like a dad for me," Bennett said.
Former UK All-American Kevin Grevey credited Hall for bringing out the best in players.
"He pushed us to limits I don't think any of us thought we could get to," Grevey said. "It was the first time I ever put trust in a coach."