What if there was really a fire in Rupp Arena?
Kentucky led by as much as 20 points in defeating Harvard. UK improved to 7-1. Its only loss this season came by four points to No. 3 Kansas. The Cats are ranked in the top 10.
Perhaps these indisputable facts led one media person to wonder aloud why UK Coach John Calipari was dissatisfied after Saturday’s victory. That media person asked Shai Gilgeous-Alexander if Calipari was too demanding.
“We all know his résumé,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Calipari. “It’s one of a kind. So whatever he’s asking of us or whatever his demands, it’s usually right. And we just need to follow his lead.”
Left unsaid was UK’s at-times curious shot selection against Harvard. Sacha Killeya-Jones attributed this to a big lead creating overconfidence.
“If we get up 20 points, there’s definitely times someone will say, ‘All right, this shot doesn’t really matter,’” he said. “‘I can take one real quick.’”
Experience will cure this problem, Killeya-Jones said.
In his postgame news conference, Calipari explained his unwavering attention to detail. He did not sound like someone who thinks improvement is inevitable.
“It’s just going to take time and I’ve got to demand it,” he said of his team’s development. “If you demand a lot, you get a lot. If you accept mediocrity, you’re going to get it every time, especially with young kids.”
To put it mildly, Calipari said the first half fatigued Killeya-Jones.
“Sacha got exhausted,” he said. “Sacha almost passed out in the hallway at halftime when he came off the court. I didn’t know who was behind me. I thought someone was going to get an ambulance.”
Killeya-Jones smiled while offering an alternate explanation of what happened.
“I didn’t almost collapse,” he said. “I was just tired. It was a tough little stretch to end the first half. Then I came into the locker room. I was, like, right behind (Calipari), breathing down his neck. And he said, who is this behind me? Sounds like an old man breathing.
“I was fine. I was just tired. I was winded. I’m in pretty good shape.”
What’s the buzz?
Play halted with 18:18 left in the second half when a fire alarm sounded. The 1-2-3 rhythm of the buzzing inspired the crowd to chant Go-Big-Blue.
“I was just hoping it would end quickly,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Because I didn’t want to get cold and have to get warm again.”
Killeya-Jones had a bigger-picture reaction.
“I was, like, man, what if there really is a fire in here right now,” he said. “We’d all be kind of stuck.”
Harvard alternated between man-to-man and zone defenses throughout the game. An early switch to zone seemed to slow UK’s momentum.
“We were trying to see if we could disrupt their rhythm,” Coach Tommy Amaker said. “Obviously, in an environment like this, they could really get it going.”
Changing defenses helped Harvard gain some control of the tempo, he said.
“But no matter what defense you play, they’re really just hard to keep off the backboard,” Amaker said. “I thought they did a tremendous job of that. Driving it, slashing to the basket and certainly attacking the glass.”
Gilgeous-Alexander said Harvard succeeded in disrupting UK for a while.
“I think, personally, it was getting to us a little bit …,” he said. “A lot of us are coming from high school. And a lot of teams don’t do that in high school.”
Referees slapped Kentucky with two technical fouls.
Nick Richards received one 55 seconds into the game. He had just dunked to end UK’s second trip downcourt.
“He said something,” Calipari said. “He came over and apologized. I mean, I said, ‘What are you doing? Why would you do that?’”
Calipari said Richards replied, “Coach, come on. I’m a freshman. I do stuff.”
To which, Calipari said he responded, “’Yeah, you’re right.’ There was a lot of freshman stuff out there today.”
Calipari received a technical foul with 15:47 left in the second half. The reason? Calipari said he objected to inconsistency in the calls.
“That’s my whole thing,” he said. “I’ve always been that way. If he’s not consistent, I’m going to let him know.”
RIP, Perry Wallace
Perry Wallace, who broke the color barrier in SEC basketball at Vanderbilt in the late 1960s, died this weekend. Calipari spoke of the courage it took for Wallace to break the barrier. He noted that C.M. Newton showed similar courage in integrating Alabama basketball shortly thereafter.
“I always wonder if I were put in that situation, would I have the courage to do the right thing?” Calipari said. “And a lot of times, the right thing is not popular. I would hope that I would. That I would go against the grain, which I’ve tried to do most of my career. But I don’t know.”
Kentucky equaled a season low with 10 turnovers. The Cats also had 10 turnovers against Vermont.
Going into the game, the Cats averaged 15.9 turnovers, which was the highest average for a UK team after seven games since 2009-10 (17.1 turnovers, on average).