Kentucky never trailed in a wire-to-wire 91-68 exhibition victory over a team from Argentina, San Lorenzo de Almagro.
But that seemingly seamless victory masked one of the oddest Kentucky games in decades.
The lights went out late in the first half Thursday night at the Atlantis Resort’s Imperial Arena. With the floor only dimly lit (think a smoky bar at closing time), the teams left the floor early with the promise of playing a 22-minute second half.
That surely would have been a record for longest half in basketball history.
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Instead, it was decided to play a regulation 20 minutes. Fortunately, the lights came back on full strength four minutes into the second half.
No matter the watts being generated, UK’s control of the basketball never dimmed.
Kentucky never trailed in improving to 2-0 on this exhibition series. That meant that the Cats had trailed for only 55 seconds in the first two games.
Quade Green, who made only one shot on Wednesday, did not miss on Thursday. He made all four of his shots, including a three-pointer. He finished with 10 points.
Freshman Tyler Herro led Kentucky with 22 points. PJ Washington added 15, Keldon Johnson 13 and Reid Travis 11.
But the real hero may have been perseverance and ability to adjust under unusual circumstances.
One of the stranger UK games began with good shooting. Kentucky made its first five shots to take an immediate lead.
Green, who suffered through a 1-for-11 shooting game on Wednesday, contributed two baskets to the fast breakout, The first seemed a called play from the top of the key.
Kentucky kept shooting well. Herro, who thrilled fans with fundamental basketball plays on Wednesday, got them excited again. This time with shooting. He made five of his first six shots, including 3-for-3 from three-point range.
The last of those shots put Kentucky ahead 45-27 with 2:58 left.
A few seconds later, the lights went out. After about 10 seconds in pitch darkness, enough lights returned to give the Imperial Ballroom a smoky feel.
It was decided to have the teams go the locker room so the issue with the lights could be addressed. It was hoped that the teams would play a 22-minute second half.
However, Calipari came down from his seat eight rows from the floor. He told the crowd that the game could continue under unusual circumstances.
A person on both sidelines would be a de facto scoreboard operator. This person would flip cards to adjust the score. The public address announcer would call out the time: “10 seconds left on the shot clock.”
“We’ll play as long as it looks OK,” Calipari told the crowd. “You’ll be the only ones to see the game.”
The fans cheered.
“Hopefully, the other team will accept this is how we’ll have to finish the game.”
San Lorenzo de Almagro apparently agreed because the game resumed after the premature halftime break.
With 16:01 left, the lights returned to full power. The scoreboards were lit up. And it became easier to see that Kentucky was the superior team.