KNOXVILLE — Heading into Saturday's game at Tennessee, Kentucky Coach John Calipari made a simple, bottom-line request: Compete. Apparently, only two players answered the call.
Calipari saluted Jarrod Polson, who made his first career start. He lauded Julius Mays.
The distribution of gold stars after UK's 88-58 loss at Tennessee ended there.
"He fought," Calipari said when asked about Polson's effort. "He and Julius fought. Two guys. Battled. Two guys."
Polson, a 6-foot-2 junior from Nicholasville, started in place of Ryan Harrow, who came off the bench for the first time since the Portland game on Dec. 8.
Polson scored a career-high 11 points. His previous high was 10 against Maryland in the season opener. His four rebounds were within two of Kyle Wiltjer's team high. Calipari noted how Polson benefited from competing against Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague in practice the past two seasons.
"He played against all the guys we had the last few years," the UK coach said.
Mays continued to be productive. His 12 points included 3-for-7 shooting on three-pointers. That made him 15-for-31 from beyond the arc in the last five games.
Earlier in the week, Calipari saluted Mays for giving his all.
After the loss at UT, Calipari said, "Julius is a veteran. (He and Polson) understand you can't put your head down. You have to compete."
Right and wrong
Guard Trae Golden led Tennessee with 24 points. Forward Jordan McRae added 15.
"We let him go right," Calipari said when asked about Golden. "If you let him go right, he's going to get 20."
The UK coach said he made that clear repeatedly during timeouts.
"Is anybody listening in this huddle?" he said.
Golden, a 79.5 percent free throw shooter, made 11 of 12 from the line. McRae, who had made only three of 20 three-point shots in the previous five games, made his only attempt from beyond the arc.
"(Golden) and McRae are hard-right drivers," Calipari said. "And they got to their right hand."
In explaining how UK failed to steer the players to their left, Calipari said, "When you're rattled, you can't think. When you're anxious and fearful, you can't think."
Golden mildly objected to the notion that he's best going to his right. "I feel my left hand is just as good," he said.
McRae, who made six of 11 shots after making only 15 of 52 the previous five games, seemed puzzled by the idea of pushing him to the left.
"I was hearing that," he said. "But I don't know what that's about."
No further review
While acknowledging the need to rethink how Kentucky will play without Nerlens Noel, Calipari said that reviewing the tape of this game will not be part of the process.
"This one, I'll burn the tape," he said. "I'm not watching this one. I had to sit through it."
UT Coach Cuonzo Martin resisted repeated invitations from reporters to crow about Tennessee achieving the largest victory margin over Kentucky in the history of the rivalry.
"I don't know going into a game what the numbers and percentages are," he said. "That's a quality opponent. At the end of the day, it was Tennessee winning a basketball game. That's the most important thing."
McRae acknowledged that a convincing victory seemed plausible.
"We were all thinking, it'd be great to blow them out," he said. "And it happened."
It took some tugging, but McRae noted that the Vols benefited from Noel's absence. "It was easier to get to the basket without him," McRae said.
Oh, those refs
With its rotation reduced significantly by Noel's injury, UK was whistled for a season-high 25 fouls. The Cats were also hit with three technical fouls: Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin and assistant coach John Robic.
Wiltjer refused to criticize the officiating.
"We never blame the refs," he said. "It's all on us."
Referee Doug Shows, who ejected Robic, has a history with UK. He was the official who ejected Scott Padgett at Tennessee.
Six feet away
Even though the contact was apparently unrelated to the torn ACL, Noel's crash into the basket support at Florida raised a question: How far off the baseline are basket supports supposed to be?
The NCAA requires basket supports to be at least 6 feet off the baseline. Florida spokesman Denver Parler said the basket supports at the O'Connell Center meet that requirement.
In another example of the quirkiness of Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym, the basket supports there are 15 feet from the baselines.