UK Men's Basketball

More important than winning or a ‘nothing stat’: What was value of UK’s three-point streak?

A streak of games in which a team makes at least one three-point shot is:

a.) a source of immense pride.

b.) a part of Kentucky basketball lore that fans hated to see end last spring.

c.) an entertaining bit of coincidence that carries little importance.

The correct answer may be all of the above.

Of course, Kentucky’s streak — which dated back to November 1988 — ended at 1,047 games when the Cats made none of their six shots from behind the three-point arc against Davidson in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Incidentally, Duke is third on the current active streak of consecutive games making a three-pointer at 1,022 games. The Blue Devils made 12 three-pointers (in 26 attempts) against UK on Tuesday. That equaled the second-most made by a UK opponent since Sam Houston State made 18 on Nov. 19, 2009.

The new streak leader is UNLV, which had made a three-point shot in 1,039 straight games going into Saturday’s opening game against Loyola Marymount.

Vanderbilt, which opened the season by making 10 of 30 three-point shots in beating Winthrop on Tuesday, is second at 1,032 straight games.

For UNLV and Vandy, the streak is important.

“There are many people where this streak is, like, more important than winning the game,” said Ray Brewer, the managing editor of the Las Vegas Sun and a longtime UNLV fan.

When the Rebels went late into a game last season without making a three-point shot, a debate arose about what was more important: the streak or winning the game?

“The consensus among the fans was have the streak continue,” Brewer said. “It’s the link from yesteryear to modern day.”

Brewer recalled his newspaper posted a story about Kentucky’s streak ending on its website. “The matrix on that were really good,” he said. “Like better than a typical UNLV story on line.”

Brewer reasoned that Kentucky basketball gives its fans many reasons to puff up with pride. For UNLV, the streak carries all-or-nothing importance. The Rebels haven’t advanced to the second weekend of an NCAA Tournament since 1991.

“It’s kind of what makes us think we’re still relevant,” Brewer said of the three-point streak.

Of course, Vanderbilt is synonymous with the three-point shot. At Southeastern Conference Media Day, Coach Bryce Drew said that he’d always loved the three-pointer. His knowing smile evoked memories of his buzzer-beating three-pointer that gave Valparaiso a 70-69 upset victory over Ole Miss in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

“It’s a great fit being at Vandy with their great history of three-point shooting,” Drew said. “We’ve talked about this as a coaching staff. We don’t want that record broken under our watch.”

During Vandy home games, the public address announcer will update the crowd on how many games the Commodores’ streak has reached.

“It’s always nice when it happens before the first media timeout,” Drew said. “We’ve never had to go into the second half (without a three-point basket). We might be sweating.”

Vanderbilt, UNLV and Princeton are the only programs that have made a three-pointer in every game since the rule was adopted in the 1986-87 season.

Drew said that Andy Boggs, Vandy’s assistant director of communications, is responsible for making sure the coaches know if the Commodores haven’t made a three-point shot.

“If it’s the last five minutes (and) we don’t have one, he’s got to come tell us,” Drew said.

Really? “No, no, no, no,” Drew said with a laugh. He was kidding.

“We’re not going to change a game (strategy) to do it,” he said. “But it’s something that’s nice when we do make it.”

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla mocked any and all three-point streaks. “It’s a nothing stat,” he said. He laughed derisively at the idea of a three-point streak having meaning.

When told that Kentucky had a 22-4 record in games it made only one three-point shot during its streak (and the Cats beat Davidson without making even one), Fraschilla said, “That’s my point.”

Opening night reviews

The Champions Classic made for a memorable opening night for this college basketball season. On the website FloHoops.com, sportswriter Adam Zagoria got opening-night player reviews from unnamed NBA scouts. Here’s a sampling:

Reid Travis: “His lack of athleticism really showed up. Too many finishes below the rim.”

PJ Washington: “He should’ve impacted the game when he was out there and he really didn’t.”

Keldon Johnson: “Lack of maturity showed up. . . . Seemed to kind of quit at the end of the game. . . . He’s got to become a more consistent perimeter jump shooter. I know he made his first three, but his other misses weren’t good at all.”

Duke freshman Zion Williamson: “That’s the hardest I’ve seen him play on both ends of the floor. . . . He’s too powerful for these college guys. I don’t know how any college team is going to guard him one-on-one.”

Duke freshman RJ Barrett: “He’ll end up being the best player in this draft. Versatile. Can score it three different ways. He can make the three-pointer. He can get to the basket. He can shoot the mid-range. . . . If he were to come out, I think he’s the best all-around talent this year.”

Duke freshman Cam Reddish: “Very good player overshadowed by the other two guys who are off the charts. Good athlete. Without a doubt one of the top freshmen in the country. . . . I think the biggest concern with him is does his motor run on every possession for every game? He seems to take plays off.”

Duke freshman Tre Jones: “Coach on the floor. Makes no mistakes. Gets the ball right where it belongs every time. He plays like a 32-year-old veteran.”

Kansas freshman Quentin Grimes: “Great debut. . . . Shot lights out. Handled it, passed the ball very well. He’s an NBA combo guard.”

Perspective

Kentucky’s 118-84 loss to Duke on Tuesday night raised a question: When was the last time a No. 2-ranked team in The Associated Press poll lost by 34 points?

Here’s two instances of a similar, if not exactly the same, blowouts: On Dec. 10, 2005, No. 2 Texas lost by 31 points to . . . Duke. Duke, which won 97-66, was ranked No. 1.

And perhaps the quintessential shellacking of a highly ranked team came in the 1968 Final Four. UCLA beat No. 1 Houston 101-69.

‘Pressure’

Former UK player Twany Beckham has written a book titled “Pressure.” The book, which he expects to be available on Amazon on Wednesday (incidentally his birthday), explores how athletes and non-athletes must deal with adversity.

For Beckham, the adversity involved injuries and rehabilitation from surgeries. He said the book also takes a look at a form of adversity that arguably is under-appreciated.

“Life after being an athlete,” Beckham said. “That was a completely new pressure I didn’t understand. You have to re-define yourself. I try to paint that picture.”

Beckham described that post-athletic guise as “now, I’m applying for jobs. I’m having to re-do my resume. It’s a completely different sphere of life.”

Among the people Beckham interviewed for the book was former UK teammate and roommate Kyle Wiltjer. An an author, Beckham examines the challenges Wiltjer faced learning to play with an array of star players and the reality of not being another of UK’s one-and-done players.

Big Blue Crush

Saturday’s football game served as a prelude to a competition between Kentucky and Tennessee in which there are no losers.

The 31st annual Big Blue Crush will be this coming week beginning on Monday. The Crush is a friendly competition between Kentucky and Tennessee involving blood donations. Whether Kentucky or Tennessee has the most donations, the competition enables blood centers in both states to build up stocks for the holiday season.

The Kentucky Blood Center and Medic Regional Blood Knoxville sponsor the Big Blue Crush. Donors must be 17 years old (or 16 with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 pounds.

Donors will receive a free T-shirt and be eligible for a raffle that has a prize of tickets to the UK-Louisville football game.

Blood centers in Lexington, Louisville, Pikeville and Somerset are participating.

More information is available at kybloodcenter.org or by calling 1-800-775-2522.

Kentucky leads the competition 17-12. There was one tie.

Happy birthday

To Dwight Perry. He turned 31 on Friday. . . . To Brad Calipari. He turns 22 on Sunday (today). . . . To Jason Lathrem. He turns 42 on Monday. . . . To A.J. Stewart. He turns 30 on Wednesday. . . . To Twany Beckham. He turns 30 on Wednesday. . . . To Jared Prickett. He turns 45 on Wednesday.

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