Sports

Halftime tips for Billy G

During his news conference after Kentucky beat Florida, UK Coach Billy Gillispie noted the beating his big man, Patrick Patterson, endures around the basket each game.

If only Gillispie had said that during his halftime interview with ESPN's Jeannine Edwards.

He would have made better use of the time. And we could have been spared another episode of the Edwards-Gillispie beauty-and-the-beast fandango.

Former UK All-American Kenny Walker, no stranger to the rough and tumble around the basket, warmed to that suggestion.

"Certainly that would be a great time" for the coach to lobby on Patterson's behalf, Walker said of the halftime interview. "If you do have a problem with the way the game's being officiated, just switch up the question a little bit."

What if the sideline reporter asks about something you don't want to discuss?

"Say 'We'll be all right with that. I'm more concerned too many people are hanging on Patrick Patterson,'" Walker said. "That's a way to get the word out there. But use it to your advantage."

Edwards declined to talk about the latest dustup with Gillispie, which she referred to as "another interesting interview."

At Ole Miss on Jan. 27, she asked about Jodie Meeks not scoring a basket in the first half. Gillispie called it a bad question. Then at halftime of the Florida game, Gillispie suggested (facetiously?) that Edwards knew more about UK's futile effort to contain Nick Calathes.

"Nobody likes doing halftime interviews," said Edwards, who noted how the interviews are part of the bargain for getting national exposure.

Walker vouched for the annoyance that comes with being interviewed at halftime.

"I don't think interviews should be done with coaches and players at halftime," he said. "Because you're in the heat of the moment. Every coach hates doing those interviews. Every player hates doing those interviews."

Walker suggested one reason coaches and players hate the interviews is because they don't want to divulge information in the middle of the game. So when the sideline reporter just does his or her job in asking about adjustments for the second half, the coach hears an invitation to give away the game plan.

"Do you think I'm that stupid to give away my game plan?" Walker said of the internal thought process. "(Most) people will take the high road and keep negative thoughts inside their head and just give some type of cliché answer."

Someone has to earn the right to pop off in that situation, Walker said.

For instance, three national championships (and a reputation for being contrary) gave Bob Knight a license to be rude. Charles Barkley rides his Hall of Fame career to much the same effect.

And Gillispie?

"When he wins a championship, I don't care what he says," Walker said. "He can say whatever he wants to say."

Wouldn't you know it: Edwards will work the sideline when ESPN televises Kentucky's game at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.Ratings by Rivals

The Web site Rivals.com regularly rates players and coaches. Here are a few highlights from the Feb. 2 update. Feel free to discuss among yourselves:

■ Rivals rated Jodie Meeks as the third-best shooting guard. The top two shooting guards were Jerel McNeal of Marquette and Lester Hudson of Tennessee-Martin. Marcus Thornton of LSU was fourth, Jack McClinton of Miami fifth, and Wayne Ellington of North Carolina was 10th.

Comment: Now I'd really like to watch Hudson play and look forward to watching Thornton when LSU faces Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Feb. 28.

■ Rivals rated Patrick Patterson as the third-best power forward. The top two were Blake Griffin of Oklahoma and Luke Harangody of Notre Dame.

Comment: No argument here, with Harangody's performance against Louisville on Thursday night and especially with Patterson hindered first by that finger injury and now an ankle injury.

■ No UK player among the top point guards. Florida's Nick Calathes was fourth, behind Jeff Teague of Wake Forest, Ty Lawson of North Carolina and Stephen Curry of Davidson.

Comment: Devan Downey of South Carolina was deemed the seventh-best point guard. That's scary.

■ Among centers, Rivals rated Jarvis Varnado the 11th-best. Hasheem Thabeet of UConn led the list.

Comment: See a note last week (Varnado had 17 blocks in his past two games against Kentucky).

■ Rivals rated Jim Calhoun of UConn as the best coach this season. Others of note on the top 25 were Rick Pitino of Louisville (eighth), Darrin Horn of South Carolina (16th), Billy Donovan of Florida (20th), Trent Johnson of LSU (21st) and Tubby Smith of Minnesota (22nd).

Comment: I'd rate all coaches tied for first.

Hodge's ejection

When Florida guard Walter Hodge stepped on Perry Stevenson, he was practically asking to be ejected from Tuesday night's game.

"The act of stepping on an opponent is considered 'flagrant' in the rule book," said Gerald Boudreaux, whose title is Southeastern Conference coordinator of men's basketball officials. "The penalty for a flagrant foul is two shots to the offended team and ejection of the player.

"The officials had two options, call the flagrant foul (as they did) or rule that 'nothing' happened."

Florida Coach Billy Donovan subsequently spoke to Hodge about the play. Donovan wondered about Hodge's intent. An accidental stepping on a player is one thing and a stomping is quite another.

"Well, nobody knows what Walter is thinking but Walter," Donovan said. "... The thing that made me feel a little bit better is at least Walter, right when it happened, went right back to apologize to the guy."

The physical nature of college basketball forced the referees to make a decision on the play, Donovan said.

"But I don't think they wanted to throw him out, but I think because of the nature of the play, really, it didn't even come down to Walter's intentions. It came down to they had to make a judgment call on it."

Donovan said he confronted Hodge about the play. The Florida coach called it an impulsive act that Hodge regretted.

"Walter is a great competitor, and he's a tough kid, but I have never seen anything that would indicate that Walter would do something like that," Donovan said. "... Sometimes a guy could lose his emotions for a second and re-gather them. You make a mistake there."

Donovan downplayed the importance the ejection had on the outcome. He noted that Florida led by four points when the referees ejected Hodge with 16:12 left in the second half. The lead grew to six points, where it stood with barely three minutes left. Plus, UK lost Patrick Patterson to a turned ankle with 9:06 remaining.

"It was really an unfortunate play," Donovan said of Hodge's ejection, "but, you know, really a play that didn't affect the outcome of the game."

UK fans probably wonder why wasn't Christian Laettner ejected for tapping a foot on Aminu Timberlake's chest in the famous 1992 NCAA Tournament game. The ejection was added more recently to further discourage unsportsmanlike acts.

Duke vs. Carolina

From the Kentucky perspective, Duke-North Carolina represents an opportunity to hope for mutual destruction.

But for most college basketball fans, last week's Duke-North Carolina game is a chance to celebrate the sport and the excitement associated with rivalries.

On his Sirius XM radio show (Basketball and Beyond with Coach K on Wednesdays at 2 p.m.), Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said the rivalry has no equal in basketball.

"Definitely, it's the biggest rivalry in basketball at any level, and therefore it puts it in contention to be the biggest rivalry of all sports," he said in a transcript provided by the show's promoter. "You have to talk about it, let's put it that way, in any discussion (of top rivalries)." Krzyzewski noted such factors as proximity (the schools are 8 miles apart) and each program's tradition of basketball excellence.

"No other rivalry has produced as many great players," Krzyzewski said. "And so the chances are you're going to probably have a pretty darn good game."

Krzyzewski said he and North Carolina Coach Roy Williams talk about how they are caretakers of the rivalry.

The game supersedes the coaches. "It's never about Coach K against Roy or Bill Foster against Dean (Smith) or a player against a player," the Duke coach said.

"It's about Duke and Carolina. And while you're in this rivalry, whether you're a player or a coach, you should understand your commitment to that game and treat it with the greatest respect. How do you do that? You do that by playing your butt off passionately, but also treating the game with dignity."

Don't give up ...

Registration has begun for The V Foundation for Cancer Research's eighth annual "Show Your Spirit!" campaign.

Companies, organizations, schools and individuals are asked to participate in the fund-raiser. A $5 donation by each individual gets them a "Don't Give Up ... Don't Ever Give Up" button to wear on March 19-20.

Corporations are urged to match employee donations. Through the support of ESPN and Nike, The V Foundation says that every penny of the $5 donation goes directly to fund cancer research.

Online registration (at www.jimmyv.org/showspirit/) starts the process for participation. Further information is available at www.jimmyv.org or by calling 1-800-4JimmyV.Orton chosen

In case you missed it, UK recruit Daniel Orton was one of 20 high school seniors chosen to play in the 2009 Jordan Brand Classic on April 18 in Madison Square Garden.

It's not clear whether the UK signee, who has missed all of this season while recovering from knee surgery, will be healthy enough to play in the game.

In its eighth year, the Jordan Classic features 20 of the best high school seniors in the country.

Past participants have included LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. Kelenna Azubuike, Joe Crawford, Rajon Rondo and Patrick Patterson all played in the game before coming to UK. This year's game will be televised on ESPN2 beginning at 9 p.m.

Pep rally set

The Tampa Bay chapter of the UK Alumni Club plans a pep rally at the SEC Tournament. The rally will be March 12 or 13 (depending on UK's first game) about four hours before tip-off.

It will be at the Tampa Convention Center. Cost is $15 (and $10 for UK students with a valid ID). There's no charge for children under 10.

The SEC Tournament will be played March 12-15 at the St. Pete Times Forum, two blocks from the Tampa Convention Center.

1,000 for Calathes

With his 33 points against Kentucky, Florida sophomore guard Nick Calathes became the 43rd Gator to score 1,000 points in his career. Calathes became the eighth-fastest Gator to join the program's 1,000-point club. Calathes reached 1,000 points in his 60th game. Ronnie Williams (1980-84) and Tony Miller (1970-73) needed 50 games to score 1,000 points.

Bama thanks fans

Alabama plans to thank its fans for their continued support this season with a series of coupons distributed during the final four home games.

The first 5,000 fans entering Coleman Coliseum for Saturday's game against South Carolina received a voucher good for one free admission to either the Feb. 21 game against Mississippi State or the Feb. 25 game against Arkansas.

For the final three home games against Mississippi State (Feb. 21), Arkansas (Feb. 25) and Auburn (March 3), fans can receive a coupon good for two free tickets to any upcoming home Crimson Tide baseball game for every $15 spent at the Coleman Coliseum concession stands.

Happy birthday

To UK reserve Josh Harrellson. He shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. He turned 20 on Thursday.

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