Hamidou Diallo slowed by ankle injury, but fought through it
Hamidou Diallo, the hero of Kentucky’s second-round victory over Buffalo, picked up two fouls inside the first three minutes against Kansas State on Thursday.
Later in the first half, Diallo limped off the court and went to the locker room. He returned at the 4:11 mark. Then 54 seconds later, he picked up his third foul in a scoreless half when called for pushing off in an attempt to get an offensive rebound. UK fans booed and assistant coach John Robic used a derisive wave to express his view of the call.
“He called me for shoving,” Diallo said of the call. “My hands were in the air trying to go after the ball. He said I hit him with my body. We’re playing a physical game the whole game. For me to get my third foul like that, and a fourth foul on a rebound, I just feel I could have earned my fouls a little better.”
For all the booing and waving, the referees helped Kentucky. They called 16 fouls on Kansas State in the first half. Kansas State came into the game averaging 18.1 fouls. By game’s end, Kansas State had 30 fouls, which was a season high for a UK opponent.
Kentucky shot the double-bonus six times in the final 5:55 of the first half. That helped narrow the deficit to 33-29 at halftime.
“At the end of the day, I can’t blame the game on the referees,” Diallo said.
This echoed something UK Coach John Calipari said in the formal postgame news conference.
“If it’s allowed to be that way where there’s a lot of physical contact and stuff, then you’ve just got to play,” Calipari said. “However it’s being officiated, you’ve got to play.”
Kentucky had made 50 percent or better of its shots in the last four games. Then UK shot with 38.1-percent accuracy against Kansas State. That marked the third-worst shooting output for the Cats this season, and the worst since making 31.3 percent of their shots at Missouri on Feb. 3.
UK also made only three three-point shots, the second-fewest since Valentine’s Day.
Credit Kansas State’s defense, UK players said.
“Definitely tough for us to get into a rhythm offensively,” Sacha Killeya-Jones said. “… They just did a good job getting us out of our sets and making us play on their terms. They made us play longer (into the shot clock).”
Wenyen Gabriel also credited Kansas State’s defense. “Stopped our driving lanes,” he said. “and really clogged the paint.”
Ken Pomeroy, who proves that analysts can be computers even if players are not, had a bad night. He had given UK a 64-percent chance of beating Kansas State. He also said that Gonzaga had a 69-percent chance of beating Florida State. The Seminoles won 75-60.
Pomeroy also missed with Nevada having a 57-percent chance of beating Loyola. Michigan, which had a 62-percent chance of beating Texas A&M, followed form.
As for Friday’s games, Pomeroy gave Duke an 81-percent chance of beating Syracuse, and Villanova with a 73-percent chance of beating West Virginia.
The relative tossups were Kansas with a 54-percent chance of beating Clemson, and Purdue with a 61-percent chance of beating Texas Tech.
In terms of Ratings Percentage Index, Kansas State would have been a middle-ground team in the SEC this season. Eight SEC teams had a better RPI going into the NCAA Tournament than Kansas State’s No. 53. The eight are Tennessee No. 8, UK No. 10, Auburn No. 15, Texas A&M No. 29, Arkansas No. 30, Alabama No. 42, Missouri No. 43 and Florida No. 46.
SEC teams with a worse RPI were Mississippi State No. 73, Georgia No. 79, South Carolina No. 90, LSU No. 94, Vanderbilt No. 132 and Ole Miss No. 141.
As for the other two teams in the South Region, Nevada had a RPI of No. 17 and Loyola No. 22. That puts both easily inside the top half of the SEC.
Shrinkage to BBN?
The South Region might be in “Catlanta,” but an ongoing renovation of Philips Arena likely reduced the number of UK fans watching in person.
Because of a stack of luxury boxes across the court from the team benches, Philips had a listed capacity of 15,711. That made it the smallest arena in the NBA.
As part of a $192.5 million renovation begun last year, those luxury boxes will be replaced with seating that is expected to increase the capacity to 17,500.
Meanwhile, a black curtain covered the luxury boxes, leaving Philips Arena will no upper deck on one side.
Despite many empty seats in the upper deck behind one baseline, the attendance was announced as 15,616.
Here’s an odd combination: Kentucky was the best-seeded team in the South Region, and the Cats stayed at the lowest-priority hotel.
There’s a method to this oddity. Because reservations and planning must be done in advance, the highest-seeded team on Selection Sunday gets the top-priority hotel in a region, the second-best seed gets the next hotel on the priority list and so forth.
If a top seed loses, the team that advances out of that portion of the bracket assumes the hotel.
So in the South Region, Kansas State took No. 1 seed Virginia’s hotel. Nevada took No. 2 Cincinnati’s hotel. Loyola took No. 3 Tennessee’s hotel. And UK took No. 4 Arizona’s hotel.