John Calipari hopes Kentucky’s 76-66 victory over Florida on Saturday sent a message. Not to the Southeastern Conference or to the 13th-ranked Gators. The UK coach wanted the message sent to point guard De’Aaron Fox, who sat out the game because of a bruised knee.
“I really wanted us to play the game without him,” Calipari said. “For us and for him.”
A victory over a ranked opponent with Fox sidelined and leader Isaiah Briscoe hindered by fouls helped the team, Calipari said. The message: “You can still win if you’re playing the right way.”
When asked what message he hoped the victory sent to Fox, Calipari said, “Well, just, he watches and you better step on the gas. We defended. We defended.
“You know what we guarded pretty good? Pick and roll. We guarded (better) because we fought over every pick and roll, and then we switched a couple times and we went back to fighting over. No one died in any screen.”
The inference was Fox had gone under screens or got caught on screens.
“I mean, OK, now, this is what it is when we’re doing it the right way,” Calipari said.
Judging by postgame comments, Fox’s absence did not command the attention of either side.
“I think we did that in the (first) Georgia game, too,” Malik Monk said of playing without Fox. “… So, I mean, it was the game thing, kind of.”
Florida Coach Mike White said he learned Fox was sidelined at the opening tip.
“Honestly, I said, OK, and that was really it,” he said. “He’s obviously a terrific player, and we really struggled to guard him in Gainesville. Our game plan, it didn’t change much. It’s just a matter of different personnel. That’s all. We scout 10 guys. We have nine to lock in on. That’s all.”
There was a 43-rebound reversal in the two Kentucky-Florida games. The Gators enjoyed a 54-29 advantage in Gainesville. UK had a 48-30 advantage in Rupp Arena.
“We got beat to every 50/50 ball,” Calipari said of the first game. “We got shoved and pushed and we accepted every block out. And they just manhandled us.”
White said Florida did not back off its rebounding effort in the rematch.
“Did we not play as hard as we did in Gainesville?” he said. “Absolutely not. That’s not the case. My guys were playing all over the floor. Diving on the floor. We got bumps and bruises. It was a hard-fought, physical game. A bunch of guys just left it out there.”
White credited Kentucky. Calipari reminded reporters that Florida lost its most physical player, John Egbunu, to a torn ACL.
When asked what a third Kentucky-Florida game would like, Calipari said, “A war.”
It was not a prospect the UK coach seemed eager to realize.
“I hope we don’t have to face them again,” he said. “Because they’re that good.”
‘Friends and competitors’
On the high school level, Gator KeVaughn Allen’s teams beat Monk’s teams four times. Two of those games were in the state championship finals. Monk’s teams did not win once against Allen’s teams.
Then Allen and Florida beat Monk and Kentucky earlier this month.
“You had to bring that up,” Monk teased a reporter. “Yeah, it was revenge.”
Monk said he and Allen were teammates on the AAU level. They speak regularly. “So I’ve known him all my life,” Monk said. “I talk to him like every other day.”
Of his relationship with Monk, Allen said, “We’re friends and competitors.”
Canyon Barry made 42 straight free throws during the season. The streak ended when he missed a free throw at Auburn on Feb. 14. He made 11 of 12 in that game.
That was Barry’s only missed free throw since Jan. 7. In that span, he had made 49 of 50.
Barry went into the game ranked 16th nationally in free-throw accuracy (89.9 percent). He made only one of five shots and did not get to the foul line.
The NCAA record for most consecutive free throws made is 85. Darnell Archey of Bulter made 85 straight from Feb. 15, 2001, to Jan. 18, 2003.
The single-season NCAA record belongs to Gary Buchanan of Villanova. He made 73 straight from Nov. 17, 2000, to Feb. 12, 2001.
An edition of ESPN’s College GameDay show will originate from Chapel Hill, N.C., next season. It will be centered around the Duke-North Carolina game later that day.
That will mark the ninth time GameDay was part of a Duke-UNC game. That’s the most common matchup in the show’s history.
North Carolina will make its 17th appearance in a GameDay game. That’s more than any school. UNC will be the host school for a sixth time, tying Kentucky for the third most. Duke and Kansas have been hosts seven times.
Duke will be the visiting team in a GameDay game for the eighth time. That ties Kentucky for second most. Only North Carolina has more: 11.
Tough act to follow
For the father of Mychal Mulder, the Kentucky-Florida game had a tough act to follow. Before going to Rupp Arena, Randy Mulder visited Coolmore farms in Versailles.
The elder Mulder said he petted Triple Crown champion American Pharoah and toured the breeding facility.
Vanderbilt at No. 11 Kentucky
9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)