UK Men's Basketball

Interpretative dance: What was Cal saying to Richards via happy feet?

Nick Richards’ description of this Kentucky basketball team

Kentucky basketball sophomore center Nick Richards talks about the team’s identity as UK prepares Mississippi State on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Starkville, Miss. The Wildcats are 19-3 and have won nine straight games.
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Kentucky basketball sophomore center Nick Richards talks about the team’s identity as UK prepares Mississippi State on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Starkville, Miss. The Wildcats are 19-3 and have won nine straight games.

Although he already had two fouls, Nick Richards re-entered Kentucky’s game against South Carolina on Tuesday with 6:02 left in the first half. Fifty-seven seconds later, he picked up his third foul defending against a drive.

After Richards returned to the bench, things got interesting. UK Coach John Calipari stood in front of Richards and seemed to go into a Gregory Hines tap-dance routine.

“I really wanted to smile,” Richards said Friday. “But I knew I couldn’t because he would have gotten mad.”

Richards seemed unsure about what message Calipari wanted to convey with happy feet.

“I guess I’ve got to watch the film and figure out what he was talking about,” Richards said.

Richards seemed to suggest Calipari wanted better defensive technique as the opponent began the drive at the elbow area.

“I should have done my work earlier before I caught that foul,” Richards said before adding, “even though I didn’t think it was a foul.”

Besides trying to decipher Calipari’s interpretive dance, Richards said he used film study to assess the foul call.

“It’s not really like an aggressive foul,” he said. “It’s more like a little ticky-tack foul refs are just going to call.”

Richards, who picked up his first two fouls in three minutes of play, said he did not feel picked upon by referees.

“It happens to everybody that plays basketball,” he said. “What are you going to do about it?”

As for what message Calipari wanted to convey by dancing, assistant coach Tony Barbee was a profile in diplomacy. “I didn’t see it,” he said as reporters laughed.

‘Gut-wrenching’

On Wednesday, Mississippi State led LSU by eight points in overtime. LSU rallied to win 92-88 in overtime.

“Well, that was obviously a real gut-wrenching loss against a very good team …,” State Coach Ben Howland said after the game.

Howland suggested fatigue hurt State, which led by eight points in the second half. He blamed himself for playing Robert Woodard II and Tyson Carter too many minutes in the second half.

“They’re going to be desperate …,” Barbee said of the Bulldogs. “That probably stung, giving that one away on their home court.”

Saturday’s game is a sellout. State also plans a “white-out.”

Said Barbee: “Our guys are getting used to playing in those kind of environments on the road. We’re going to give them our best. And I’m sure they’ll do the same to us.”

Kentucky assistant basketball coach Tony Barbee talks about the team’s defense heading into Saturday’s game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss. UK has held its last five opponents under 40 percent shooting from the floor.

‘Psychology of schedule’

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla suggested significance in Kentucky playing Mississippi State three days after a difficult loss.

“It creates more of a sense of urgency for Mississippi State,” Fraschilla said. “I always talk about the psychology of schedule. A bad loss actually helps you win an important next game because you mentally regroup a little bit. I’d almost rather be Kentucky playing Mississippi State after a 20-point victory over LSU because the mindset changes.”

No surprises

When UK defeated Mississippi State 76-55 on Jan. 22, the Cats held State to a season-low point total. State made three of 20 three-point shots.

Fraschilla said he believed UK matches up well with State and will be knowledgeable about State’s abilities.

“I’m not doubting that at all,” he said.

Kentucky basketball freshman guard Ashton Hagans talks about UK’s first meeting with Mississippi State, a 76-55 win on Jan. 22 at Rupp Arena. The two teams meet again Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Starkville, Miss.

Keep eye on ‘Q’

In Wednesday’s overtime loss to LSU, Quinndary Weatherspoon led State with 27 points. State had not lost in two years when he scored 20 or more points.

The loss to LSU made State 22-3 in games Weatherspoon scored at least 20 points. By the way, “Q,” as the player is known, has made five game-winning shots in his career.

Road show

Lexington television station WKYT sent anchor Sam Dick on Kentucky’s road trip to Mississippi State. The station plans to air in March an one-hour special on what it’s like to travel with the Cats to an away game.

Etc.

It will be no surprise if ESPN announces Saturday that its College GameDay show will return to Rupp Arena next weekend when Kentucky plays Tennessee. GameDay originated from Lexington two Saturdays ago when UK played Kansas. … Carter Blackburn and Bill Raftery will call the game for CBS.

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