What’s going on with Kentucky’s slow starts?
If the three-knockout rule was in effect, Saturday’s Kentucky-Vanderbilt game would have ended with 10:50 left in the second half. That’s when Nick Richards got knocked down in a rebound situation. While sitting on the floor, he stretched out his arms in a what’s-going-on gesture.
Thirty-six seconds earlier, Richards landed awkwardly after jumping for a fast-break lob. He fell to the floor clutching an ankle, but did not appear injured.
Less than two minutes earlier than that, Vandy’s Matthew Moyer inadvertently elbowed Richards in the face as they were on the floor scrambling for a loose ball.
En route to a 56-47 victory over Vanderbilt, Kentucky’s medical staff also attended to Ashton Hagans. He went down with 5:05 left in the game. He had scored on a driving layup, then stayed down and had to leave the game. He returned and finished a team-high 33-minute stint.
Afterward, Hagans said he felt pain in “my butt bone.”
But the prize for an injury to a sensitive area went to Keldon Johnson, who was still able to joke about the low blow he took.
“You know Keldon’s a funny guy,” Hagans said. “We knew he was good after ... that. He was laughing.”
Johnson smiled broadly when asked about how Hagans’ description of his temporary discomfort.
“I’m fine,” he said.
When asked if his voice took on a higher pitch as a result of getting hit, Johnson laughed and said, “Maybe a little bit.”
UK guards Immanuel Quickley and Hagans shot the ball well.
Quickley made four of nine shots, including a season-high three three-pointers. That made him seven for 13 from three-point range in the last three games.
Why the good shooting?
“Confidence in my work,” he said before adding, “Trusting in God, believing in God. ... Just to know He has my hand, and He knows what it best for me.”
Hagans made seven of nine shots, although Calipari suggested this did not reflect a Steph Curry-like demonstration of shooting.
“He had a runner, and the rest were layups,” the UK coach said. “So take layups.”
Hagans, whose three steals gave him 22 in the last five games, was asked if his 7-for-9 came in a glorified layup line.
“I’m going to count it as a good shooting night,” he said. “I’m just glad I’ve got it clicking on the offensive end right now.”
In UK’s last four games, Hagans has made 21 of 36 shots.
No matter what happened in the game, it was all but guaranteed to be a record night in Rupp Arena. The record: Most hard hats worn in one location.
Working with UK Sports and Campus Marketing, Bullard (a construction company based in Cynthiana) placed about 10,000 hard hats at seats in Rupp Arena’s lower bowl.
Fans were asked at halftime to put on the helmets to set the record. Incidentally, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Bullard inventing the construction hard hat.
Representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records attended the game to verify the record. The Guinness representatives planned to count the number of people wearing hard hats. Because a condensed area of people is easier to count, no hard hats were placed in the upper arena, said Nathan Schwake, UK’s Associate Athletics Director for Marketing & Licensing.
Brad Tucker, whose title with JMI is “Manager, Operations & Affiliate Relations,” said the quest for a hard hat record had a history.
UK and Rupp Arena set a record for loudest crowd in the game against Kansas on Jan. 28, 2017.
Later that season, perhaps inspired by the event, Kansas broke the record in a home game against West Virginia.
UK bucked a trend in conference play. “Alabama lost at home,” Calipari said. “Florida lost at home. Mississippi State lost at home. Someone else (Arkansas) lost at home.
“We didn’t lose at home. It looked ugly early, but now we move on to Georgia.”