That crazy John Calipari. There's just no telling what that guy will do.
After two subpar performances against middle-of-the-pack (or below) SEC teams, Big Blue Nation wondered what in the world was wrong with the team that had dominated so easily during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Calipari decided that what his team needed was a player he hadn't even brought off the bench since Dec. 20.
What the Cats needed was more Dominique Hawkins.
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Not that Cal told we the media or you the fans this important nugget.
"I don't tell you guys everything," he said after Kentucky's back-to-basics 86-37 rout of overmatched Missouri at Rupp Arena.
A 6-foot sophomore, Hawkins made a surprising start and helped spark the Cats to easily their best performance in three conference games.
What Hawkins really did, and what Calipari really did, was get the Cats back in balance. Or get the platoons back in balance.
Since Alex Poythress tore his ACL in December, Calipari had been using a nine-man rotation with his two-platoon system. Trey Lyles, the 6-10 freshman, had moved up to first platoon, taking Poythress' starting spot. Then when Cal subbed, he'd leave one player from the first platoon in the game to play with the second platoon.
When asked about the strategy recently, Calipari said to go back to two platoons, he would have to play Hawkins or Derek Willis. And the coach said he wasn't ready to play Hawkins or Willis.
Saturday's 70-64 double overtime struggle of a win at Texas A&M obviously changed Cal's mind.
"After last game, I said I'm going back to 10," Calipari said. " Dominique had played better in practice and he deserved the opportunity."
Calipari didn't want to start Hawkins with the second group. That would have given that platoon two small guards in Hawkins and the 5-9 Tyler Ulis. Plus, by starting Hawkins with the first group, he could move Lyles back to the second platoon, which could use his offensive prowess.
It should be noted that the sample size is small and Missouri is a team in full rebuilding mode under first-year coach Kim Anderson, but Calipari's move worked like a charm at both ends.
After Ole Miss shot 49.2 percent last week at Rupp, Missouri shot just 27.1 percent. After Texas A&M outscored Kentucky by a shocking 38-14 in the paint, the Cats outscored Missouri 28-22. After the Aggies held their own on the boards with Kentucky in College Station, outrebounded by one, the Cats grabbed 16 offensive rebounds Tuesday to just 15 defensive rebounds for Mizzou.
"I thought the defensive intensity, because of the platoons, was back to where it was," Calipari said.
Hard to argue with that considering the Cats held Missouri to 18 first-half points, the seventh time this season UK has held an opponent under 20 points in the first 20 minutes.
Dick Vitale argues the point. The ESPN analyst who did the game is on record as saying he doesn't like the platoons and predicts they will be scrapped by tournament time.
His team up by 26 points at the break, and apparently feeling his oats, Calipari jabbed back at his old friend, pointing out that Vitale got fired (in the NBA) as a coach. Never mind that Cal got fired, too (in the NBA) as a coach.
Calipari told the media afterward he didn't know if he would keep the strategy Saturday when the Cats visit Alabama, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to change.
Hawkins finished with six points, three assists, two steals and earned compliments from his coach for his energy and on-the-ball defense.
"He belonged in the game," Calipari said.
Meanwhile, back to its 10-man rotation , Kentucky went back to looking like the Kentucky we saw pre-January. And that's a very good Kentucky.