For the second time this season, tempers flared during a Kentucky-Arkansas game.
UK freshman Malik Monk, an Arkansas native who angered his home state by choosing to play for Kentucky, supposedly made slashing gestures at the Razorbacks’ bench.
Later, Arkansas player Dusty Hannahs floored Dominique Hawkins by thursting both forearms into the UK player’s upper body. The referees called a flagrant 1 foul on Hannahs.
Eighteen seconds later, Arkansas center Moses Kingsley bodied a driving De’Aaron Fox to the floor. The referees called a flagrant 2 foul on Kingsley,which resulted in his ejection.
UK Coach John Calipari saluted his teams’ poise in not retaliating.
“Your first response is to go after somebody,” he said. “They didn’t.”
Like several players and Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, Calipari said he did not see Monk make a slashing gesture, but would ask the player about it.
“If I would have seen it, I would have said something,” Calipari said. “He’s a good kid. This is all new to them. Nineteen-year-olds. ...
“No need for that, and there’s no place for that in what we’re doing and how we’re teaching at Kentucky.”
With reluctance, Monk acknowledged gesturing toward the Arkansas bench.
“I probably did,” he said. “Like I said, caught up in the emotions.”
“Emotions got the best of us,” Hannahs said of the players on both teams. “We were both playing for a championship, so people are very emotional. We had a couple plays you wish you could take back in hindsight.”
Kingsley said he had no complaint with being called for a flagrant 2 foul.
“Yeah, I probably deserved it,” he said. “I’m a man. I have to accept it. That happened.”
Emotions spilled over when Kentucky beat Arkansas in Rupp Arena on Jan. 7.
At one point, Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford appeared to step on Isaiah Briscoe after the UK player tried to take a charge.
Afterward, Arkansas’ Manuale Watkins put it plainly. “They don’t like us,” he said, “and we don’t like them.”
In his postgame news conference, Calipari declared, “My team will not be bullied.”
Arkansas’ aggressive style and Kentucky’s unwillingness to be pushed around made an incident in the second game anything but surprising.
“It’s really just a rivalry game,” Barford said on Sunday. “You take that game kind of personally, more than any other game.”
With an SEC Tournament championship won, Isaiah Briscoe saw Kentucky riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA Tournament.
“I think winning this was definitely a confidence booster for everybody,” he said. “We need to keep building and take this energy and keep it rolling.”
Calipari saw Wenyen Gabriel’s three rebounds in eight minutes as a good sign.
“We’re starting to build a bench that we know we can go to,” he said. “I felt Wenyen Gabriel is back on that path he was on earlier in the year.”
Kentucky got the ball more to Bam Adebayo in the post. His 17 points were the most he’d scored since getting 18 against Florida on Feb. 25.
“How many of you were so mad that they weren’t throwing Bam the ball (Saturday)?” Calipari asked reporters attending his postgame news conference. “Raise your hand.”
Not for the first time, Calipari pointed out that Adebayo does not get angry when no one passes him the ball.
The UK coach put this attitude in the context of sacrificing for the team’s good.