With his team already hopelessly behind and headed toward an 88-56 loss, Samford Coach Bennie Seltzer was heard telling his players in the first half Tuesday night that they faced the worst Kentucky team he'd seen.
Afterward, Seltzer tried to downplay the comment.
"I said they're not that good," he told reporters. "I can't remember what else I said."
A moment later, Seltzer seemed to recall. He said he was trying to get his players to believe they could beat Kentucky.
"It was all motivating," he said. "Letting these guys know, 'Yeah, they're human' and there's no need to go out there and be afraid."
Seltzer made it clear his post-game response was a clarification, not a correction.
"They're still not as good as some of their other teams," he said. " ... You know, there is no John Wall. There is no Eric Bledsoe. There is no DeMarcus Cousins.
"I don't want you guys to take that out of context. Not to say their guys aren't very good. I was talking to my team. ... It had nothing to do with Kentucky, to be quite honest with you."
UK Coach John Calipari made light of Seltzer's sweeping comment.
"Oooh," he said. "I haven't seen all the Kentucky teams, but I can't imagine there weren't a few that were worse than us."
Willie Cauley-Stein likened Seltzer's comment to "a slap in the face." But, he added, the Kentucky team had heard similar sentiment for several weeks.
Added Kyle Wiltjer: "We really need to use that as motivation. It's embarrassing (to have) anyone saying that. So we just need to work hard and become a better team."
Seltzer, a first-year head coach, suggested he needed to be more mindful of what could be overheard.
"I guess as a new coach, I have to be careful with all these ears around me, especially when we play at Kentucky," he said. "They are a good team. They are a very good basketball team. Quote me on that."
If the second half exposed UK as an ill-conditioned team, Cauley-Stein must be a fitness freak. He scored 11 of his 12 points and grabbed 10 of his game-high 12 rebounds after halftime. He also got three of his four blocks and his only assist in the second half.
"When I'm out there, I don't think about it," he said of his fitness. "I'm just playing."
Calipari declined to cite Cauley-Stein's second half as exceptional. Instead, the ever-demanding coach noted Cauley-Stein's pedestrian first half.
Wiltjer made three of nine shots, which included one of five from three-point range. That made him six of 27 in the last three games, and four of 27 from beyond the arc in the last five games.
"I'm just going to keep working hard, going to the gym extra," Wiltjer said. "And just try to work myself out of it."
UK/U of L
Samford's loss to Kentucky mirrored its earlier loss at Louisville.
The Bulldogs trailed 45-14 at halftime in Rupp Arena, and 42-13 in the KFC Yum Center. The final scores were 88-56 against UK and 80-54 to Louisville.
Louisville outrebounded Samford 53-28. UK won the boards 41-25.
Samford outscored U of L 41-38 in the second half. Calipari sounded alarms because UK only outscored Samford 43-42 after halftime.
"Same thing," Seltzer said of the two games. "(A big halftime deficit) "took the pressure off. We have a lot of young guys on the team. Playing in that environment is new for these kids."Three sophomores and six freshmen were among the 10 starters in the UK-Samford game.
A technical foul on Seltzer came right after an over-and-back call against Samford. The two were not related, he said.
"It was brewing way before that," he said. "The ref said something to me I don't think I should repeat. I don't think he should say those words.
"But, hey, I'm a rookie coach and I have rookie players."