After Kentucky defeated North Carolina 73-72 Saturday, All-American Terrence Jones could not suppress a wide smile when a reporter told him of Coach John Calipari's praise. The self-conscious smile stayed in place for several seconds.
"I'm not used to that," Jones said of praise from the ever-demanding Calipari. "I like it when he tells me what's wrong. It makes me play better."
Against North Carolina, Jones did not let poor shooting affect his performance. He made only five of 14 shots (one of five from three-point range). But his busy stat line included seven rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist.
"That was his best game of the year," Calipari said, "and he was challenged by (the competition)."
Coincidentally, his mother, Linda, and his 88-year-old grandmother, Pearl Mashia, attended the game.
"Oh, it's wonderful," Jones' grandmother said of the UK-UNC experience. "I couldn't hardly sleep (Friday night) thinking about it."
Jones' family planned to return to Portland, Ore., Sunday. His grandmother has to return to her job. She works as a foster grandparent at an alternative high school.
"They love me," she said of her students. "They don't want me to quit."
Doesn't get easier
Senior Darius Miller suggested UK's next game — Saturday at Indiana — means this season won't get any easier.
"I actually told some of the guys it'll be the toughest environment we'll play in," he said of 5:15 p.m. tipoff in IU's Assembly Center. "It'll be extremely loud. Their team feeds off that."
UK snapped a four-game losing streak at IU with a 90-73 victory two years ago.
'That's a rivalry'
The current UK-UNC contract expired with Saturday's game. The idea of the teams not continuing the series was hard for freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to believe.
"Of course we should keep playing," he said with an incredulous tone. "Of course. That's a rivalry, right there."
Kidd-Gilchrist, who posted career-highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds, suggested Kentucky get top billing if the series continues.
"We're the real blue, though," he said with a smile.
UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said he gave passes to 26 NBA officials. That's believed to be a record for a UK game, at least in recent seasons, he said.
That the NBA and its players' union reached a new collective bargaining agreement reduced the request for passes from 58.
Of the thought of trying to fit 58 NBA officials in Rupp Arena, Peevy said, "I was losing sleep."
Peevy also issued 309 media credentials. When UNC came to Rupp Arena two years ago, he issued 308 media credentials.
Former UK cheerleader Vicki Sageser and the man whose life she saved, UNC fan John "Toby" Tyler, attended the game.
Tyler changed his mind about not wearing UNC colors. He wore a powder-blue sweater as he watched from an end zone seat about 12 rows from the court.
He also wore a UK blue Santa hat. "For Vicki," he said.
Sageser and Tyler plan to stage a "CPR celebration" from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday at UK's W.T. Young Library.
Shoe must go on
Kidd-Gilchrist saluted the shoes UK wears: The Nike Air Max LeBron 9. Named for LeBron James, Nike produced special editions of the shoes for UK, Ohio State and Miami.
"I love LeBron James," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I do. He's a role model for us, too."
Coyle credits Barnhart
UK Deputy Director of Athletics Mark Coyle credited Mitch Barnhart for helping him become athletic director at Boise State.
"Mitch is so supportive," Coyle said of UK's A.D. "He puts you in situations where you learn. When you're talking to another school, you can say you've experienced that."
Coyle starts at Boise State in early January.
■ Calipari's record as UK coach when the opponent scores more than 67 points improved to 18-12. He's 54-1 when the opponent scores 67 or fewer points.
■ UK outscored UNC 36-14 in the paint, which was about at average (43.1-22.9). Despite the absence of a low-post anchor, the Cats have outscored every opponent in the paint.