Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing 39 minutes for Kentucky on Tuesday prompted an obvious postgame question: Are you tired?
“Extremely tired,” he said.
When a reporter said he could not remember the freshman guard leaving the court, Gilgeous-Alexander said, “Neither do I. How many minutes did I play?”
Told he played 39 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander said, “Oh, interesting. I do not remember being off the floor.”
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A back strain sidelined starting point guard Quade Green and necessitated an almost opening tip-to-final buzzer performance from Gilgeous-Alexander. He filled his statistical line with 16 points and a trio of team highs: five assists, two blocks and seven rebounds.
“We found out (Monday),” he said of Green being unable to play against Texas A&M. “I just knew I was going to have to prepare my body to play so much.”
When asked how he much preparation he could do with only 24 hours noticed, Gilgeous-Alexander said he drank a lot of fluids Monday evening and Tuesday morning. He said he also took an ice bath and spent time in a hot tub.
One final question: If Gilgeous-Alexander had turned an ankle or got in foul trouble (he only had one foul), who would have been his backup?
“Ooooh,” he said as he pondered the question. “Probably Brad (Calipari). Brad. Yeah. He probably would have been. It would have been interesting.”
First in peace. First in war. And first in UK’s need for a leader?
UK Coach John Calipari declared PJ Washington as team leader.
“He has to take the leadership of this team,” Calipari said. “He has to do it, now. He’s the toughest guy. If a guy is not doing what he has to, you have the ability and the right … to tell him.”
Washington, a freshman from Dallas, seemed ready to lead.
“It just means I need to be more vocal on both ends of the floor,” he said, “and basically just be a leader all day every day.”
Washington became the likely leader designate when he tried to rally his teammates against UCLA on Dec. 23.
What motivated him to speak up?
“I just looked at the scoreboard and I immediately thought, we need to pick it up,” he said. “That’s what I tried to do.”
The desire to win moves him to lead, he said.
“I just stepped up because I hate losing,” he said. “That’s one thing I hate the most, and I’ll do everything the team needs me to do to win.”
Gilgeous-Alexander called Washington UK’s “attack dog.” Washington’s mix of size and skill makes him a difficult matchup, Gilgeous-Alexander said.
“He’s a good leader,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “He’s always positive. He’s always encouraging guys, trying to help us figure out what we need to do.”
When it comes to basketball play, Calipari prefers solid mid-America values.
“If you want to be tough, you can’t try to be cool,” he said. “You can’t try to be cute. You can’t try to be Hollywood. You can do those things, but you not a tough, focused, engaged player.”
Calipari was talking about Hamidou Diallo, who said he had toned down the acrobatics.
“Yeah, definitely,” Diallo said. “You’ve just got to play within the team and do what the team needs you do to win.”
In explaining Washington as would-be leader, Calipari asked a question: Which UK player usually caught the ball in the right position at the right time?
Calipari saluted the one reporter that responded, and with the correct answer: Washington.
“The rest of you were so quiet because you don’t know (do-do),” Calipari said jokingly (?) to the other reporters in the postgame news conference.
Perhaps no college team — ever — traveled as many miles in a month than Texas A&M did in November.
According to media notes, the team logged 17,764 miles on trips. The season began with a game against West Virginia on Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Nov. 10. Since then, the Aggies played in Newark, N.J., Los Angeles and Phoenix.
ESPN announced its first College GameDay show of the season will originate from Rupp Arena on Jan. 20. Later that night Kentucky will play Florida.
The regular crew of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will be hosts for the show, which will begin at 11 a.m.
It game against Florida will mark UK’s 15th appearance in a game played at a College GameDay site. North Carolina has the most such appearances with 17.
The seventh College GameDay in Lexington tied UK with Duke and Kansas for the most times as the host school. It will be the eighth straight season Kentucky is making an appearance on the show.
With an 0-4 start to the SEC schedule, it doesn’t get any easier for Texas A&M. The Aggies play at Tennessee on Saturday. … Kentucky next plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday.