Loud cheers erupted when Kevin Knox made a free throw with 7:55 left in the second half to put Kentucky ahead by 16 points.
“I heard the cheers,” he said after UK defeated East Tennessee State 78-61 on Friday night. “I was wondering why it was so loud, to be honest. I made one free throw, it’s not that loud. They just clap. But everybody was screaming.”
It was loud because Kentucky had not made any of its previous eight free throws.
As loud as the fans cheered Knox making his free throw, they sighed when he missed the second.
By the end of the game, Kentucky made only three of 15 free-throw attempts.
“That’s horrible,” said Knox, who made only one of his four foul shots. “(UK Coach John Calipari) got on us about that. That’s not needed for this team.”
Indeed, Kentucky under Calipari has emphasized drives to the basket. Calipari has singled out Knox to look to drive and draw fouls instead of being only a jump shooter.
“We’re so aggressive, we’ve got to get to the line,” Knox said. “We’ve got to be able to knock free throws down. We’ll definitely fix that tomorrow.”
Teammate PJ Washington missed all five of his free throws.
“Man, I couldn’t hit a free throw tonight,” he said. “I don’t know what it was. I guess I’m just going to get in the gym tomorrow and work on it.”
Sacha Killeya-Jones did not shoot a free throw. He had made four of nine free throws this season. In his career, he’s made 10 of 24.
“Mostly mental,” Calipari said of Killeya-Jones’ struggles. “There will be games he makes every one. Then when he misses one or two, he can’t make any. It’s just mental.”
Not for the first time, Calipari suggested that UK players were not playing with a collective effort.
“Guys went out and (thought) ‘I’m just going to go get mine,’” the UK coach said. “And when you do that, you just don’t look like a very good basketball player. You look like, ‘Does he really get it?’ We had a lot of that kind of play.”
Calipari suggested the UK players tried to make spectacular plays rather than fundamentally sound plays.
“Even in the end, I mean, how about just make easy plays?” he said. “There’s a lob. ‘But I got to do a wraparound.’ Why would you do that? ‘Because I had to show everybody this wraparound. They don’t know I have this in my repertoire.’”
On Thursday, Wenyen Gabriel kind of said it might be difficult for Kentucky to be excited to play East Tennessee State three nights after the excitement of playing Kansas.
“Those are the type of games we really live for, those big games,” Gabriel said. “All of us. We’d want to get right back under the (bright) lights. But we know we need these games, too.”
Why play UK?
What amounted to a three-for-one tradeoff led to East Tennessee State playing at Kentucky.
“I didn’t want to play Kentucky,” Forbes said.
Scheduling concerns persuaded him to play the game.
“I have a hard time getting games …,” he said. “We’re going to get to host three games (against Delaware Sate, Troy and Fort Wayne). It’s an opportunity for us to get home games, and I can’t pass on that.”
Playing at UK and the three home games are part of the Adolph Rupp Classic.
“I’m very thankful to Coach Calipari and the University of Kentucky for giving us that opportunity because scheduling for me is really hard, especially for getting home games,” Forbes said. “That was a big plus.”
Calipari moved within three of 700 “on-court” wins, UK said. That counts victories that the NCAA later ordered vacated. … Former South Carolina standout BJ McKie is an assistant coach for ETSU.
Troy at Kentucky
8 p.m. Monday in Adolph Rupp Classic (SEC)