Former Kentucky football All-American Derrick Ramsey returned to Lexington Tuesday night as Coppin State's athletics director. Seldom has the visiting A.D. shook so many hands and fielded so many well wishes.
"This is home for me," said Ramsey, who became A.D. at Coppin State in 2008. "I'm just on a sabbatical."
Ramsey, who starred for UK in the 1970s, said he had kept his home in the Lexington area.
The game came about after UK Coach John Calipari spoke with Coppin State Coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell. Ramsey tried to help things along by speaking with his UK counterpart, Mitch Barnhart.
"I have my challenges," Ramsey said. "At a small institution, money is always an issue."
UK paid Coppin State $90,000 to walk the plank.
Ramsey was athletic director at Kentucky State until joining former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's cabinet in 2004. He considered going into coaching, but believed being athletic director better suited his take-charge personality.
"I just love building, developing and creating things," he said. "Coaching is too one-dimensional."
He didn't want to think solely of football.
"My quarterback days," Ramsey said. "There's something about being in charge. It's great when things are going well. When it's not, you get all the arrows coming your way."
Miller, Vargas spark UK
Former Rupp's Runt Larry Conley, who provided commentary for the Fox Sports telecast, said Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas are "two critical guys" to Kentucky's success this season.
"(Calipari) knows what he's got with all the other guys," Conley said in a pre-game conversation. "He needs marked improvement from Miller and a little more leadership."
After a pause, Conley added, "I'm not sure his personality lends itself to that."
An improved Vargas could give Josh Harrellson rest and offer a presence around the basket, Conley said.
Kanter equals 8 wins
Conley saw Enes Kanter as the difference in eight more victories for Kentucky.
"They'd get back to that 30-win range," he said. "Without him, they really have to play well."
Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled Kanter permanently ineligible because he received $33,033 in excess of permitted compensation for expenses in the third year he played for a professional team in his native Turkey. UK is appealing that decision. A ruling on UK's appeal is expected sometime in January.
Coppin State played without its leading scorer, guard Michael Harper. Harper contracted food poisoning sometime Monday or Tuesday.
Harper is averaging 15.3 points. He also leads the team with 14 steals.
When asked how much it would hurt Coppin State to play without Harper, Ramsey said, "A bunch."
But Mitchell shrugged.
"I'm not one to give excuses," he said. "He was sick. I'll leave it at that."
Led by Lamb
Coming off a career-high 32-point game in which he made 11 of 12 shots, Doron Lamb did not let his offense dictate his performance against Coppin State.
He made six of 11 shots (two of five on three-pointers) and scored 17 points. But it looked like a slump compared to his game against Winthrop.
"I know, I know," he said with a smile.
Calipari noted how Lamb grabbed five first-half rebounds and stayed active despite missing a few shots.
"So you leave him in the game," said Calipari in a tone that suggested that example applied to all players. "If you can't come up with balls, I can't keep you in the game."
UK equaled a season-high of 21 assists. Calipari attributed the large number of assists to Coppin State playing mostly zone to cut off driving lanes. Brandon Knight had a career-high eight assists. DeAndre Liggins' six assists gave him 15 in the last two games. ... UK next plays at Louisville at noon on Friday.