Kentucky fans might lament the end of the nation’s longest active streak of games making a three-point shot. But UK players reacted with a shrug.
Kentucky beat Davidson 78-73 in their NCAA Tournament opening-round game Thursday despite not making a three-point shot. So, several players said, what’s the big deal?
“We won,” said Kevin Knox, who missed his three shots from beyond the arc. “I don’t really find nothing wrong with the streak (ending). As long as we won, that’s all that matters to me.”
As with all things associated with UK basketball, the fans take pride in any accomplishment. The streak covered 1,047 games. Kentucky last failed to make a three-pointer on Nov. 26, 1988. To prove the basketball gods have a sense of humor, UK lost by a three-point margin – 63-60 – to Seton Hall in the Great Alaska Shootout.
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With UK missing all six of its three-point shots against Davidson, the nation’s longest active streak now belongs to UNLV, which had made a three in 1,040 straight games as of last weekend.
Knox saw making a three-point shot as no great accomplishment.
“It is just a jump shot,” he said in agreeing with a reporter. “The mid-range is not that far from it.”
Coach John Calipari and players claimed to be unaware that the streak existed until asked about its end at the post-game news conference.
“I had no clue about it,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It didn’t matter to me.”
Quade Green concurred. “I wasn’t paying attention to that,” he told reporters crowded around him in the locker room. “I think you all were.”
Wenyen Gabriel, whose seven-for-seven shooting on three-pointers in the Southeastern Conference semifinals last weekend electrified UK fans, said that getting in a perimeter shooting contest against Davidson was unwise.
“Our game plan was to get to the rim,” he said. “You’re not going to out-shoot a team like Davidson. So if we got in a shootout, I don’t think we would have won that.”
Davidson entered the game ranked 10th nationally with an average of 10.7 three-point baskets per game.
Calipari made light of the streak coming to an end. When told it had been 30 years since Kentucky failed to make a three-pointer in a game, he quipped, “I was nine years old then.”
But even though the three-point shot is not a primary weapon for this Kentucky team, Calipari said the Cats can’t go to the other extreme and not shoot threes.
“You have to make some shots,” Calipari said. “And I always say, you don’t have to make them all. You just can’t miss them all.”
Green converted his shoes into a tribute to his hometown of Philadelphia. He had such words as “Philly,” and “76ers” and “Eagles” painted on his shoes. He also had the city skyline, a favorite restaurant that served cheese steaks and the Wilson Project, which he calls home.
Green said he did not expect to wear the shoes again.
“This was a one-game thing,” he said.
When asked why he decorated his shoes, Green said, “Tournament time. My first tournament game. I had to go out and show my style a little bit.”
While waiting for Atlantic 10 officials to set up an awards table after the conference tournament finals, the Davidson team got a call.
“Steph Curry called,” Coach Bob McKillop said Wednesday. “FaceTimed. Facetimed with our bench, and it was game day for the Golden State Warriors.”
Of course, Curry led Davidson to the Elite Eight 10 years ago. He stays connected with the Davidson program.
McKillop pointed out that Wednesday was Curry’s 30th birthday.
Holtmann a finalist
The Atlanta Tipoff Club named Jessamine County native Chris Holtmann one of four finalists for its Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Award.
Holtmann coached Ohio State to a second-place finish in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes were picked 11th in a preseason poll.
With a 9-0 start in Big Ten play, Holtmann became the first coach in 95 years to win his first seven conference games. Ohio State also enjoyed its first top 10 ranking in four years.
His colleagues named Holtmann Big Ten Coach of the Year. He was the Big East Coach of the Year last season when he led Butler.
Other finalists for the Naismith Award are Rick Barnes of Tennessee, Jay Wright of Villanova and Tony Bennett of Virginia.
Spoils of victory
As the best-seeded teams in the afternoon and evening sessions, Gonzaga and UK used the locker room of the Boise State Broncos. It is clearly the best of the locker room options in Taco Bell Arena.
Gonzaga survived its opening game, beating UNC Greensboro 68-64.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey planned to travel to Boise for the second-round game Saturday if Kentucky beat Davidson, Associate Commissioner Herb Vincent said.