UK Men's Basketball

With referees, Kentucky knows that a wrong can be a right

What did John Calipari see on final play of loss to LSU?

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talks about the final play in UK’s 73-71 loss to LSU on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, at Rupp Arena. The Tigers’ Kavell Bigby-Williams appeared to offensive goaltend when he tipped in the miss that gave LSU the win.
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Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari talks about the final play in UK’s 73-71 loss to LSU on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, at Rupp Arena. The Tigers’ Kavell Bigby-Williams appeared to offensive goaltend when he tipped in the miss that gave LSU the win.

Basketball continues to trend toward more stoppages of play so referees can go to a sideline monitor. Next season the NBA will experiment with allowing coaches one challenge of a call per game. And for the first time the NCAA will allow replay reviews of goal-tending or basket interference calls in the final two minutes of second halves or overtime periods.

It can be assumed everyone welcomes a greater chance at accuracy. But before Kentucky fans applaud these nods to athletic correctness, they should keep something in mind. The importance of making correct calls — which Coach John Calipari says trumps concern about reviews lengthening the time of games — could sometimes work to UK’s disadvantage.

Here are three examples to ponder:

Kentucky could have — would have? — lost to Mississippi State in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament finals had the referees had the option to go to the monitor. UK trailed by three points with 8.2 seconds left in regulation when Eric Bledsoe stepped to the foul line. He made the first of two free throws, then intentionally missed the second.

John Wall ran into the lane and got in position for the rebound. Ultimately, DeMarcus Cousins’ put-back sent the game into overtime, where UK won 75-74.

But by rule, no player in Wall’s position beyond the foul line can enter the lane until the free throw hits the rim.

When asked last week if he would have acted like a pro football coach and thrown a challenge flag, then Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said, “If I had the opportunity, I’d have thrown two flags. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to throw them.”

The missed call cost unranked Mississippi State a victory over No. 2 Kentucky and the NCAA Tournament bid that goes to the SEC Tournament champion.

When asked how long it took him to get over a game dramatically altered by a missed call, Stansbury, now the coach at Western Kentucky, chose his words carefully. “I remember the losses a lot more than the wins,” he said. “Put it that way.”

Arguably the most egregious missed call of the last 40 years that helped Kentucky came in the 1988 UKIT finals. With UK leading by one point and three seconds left on the clock, Charlotte guard Byron Dinkins made a sharp cut and had only to receive an inbounds pass at the basket to make a game-winning layup.

But on the catch, UK’s desperate defender, Ed Davender, pushed Dinkins out of bounds rather than concede the layup. The referee called walking on Dinkins. Kentucky won.

Jeff Mullins, who was the Charlotte coach, needed no prompting last week to remember a play that happened more than 30 years ago.

“It would have been very nice” to have thrown a challenge flag, Mullins said. “The question is, even with (a challenge flag), would I have gotten the call that night?”

Speaking of Rupp Arena, a non-call helped Kentucky beat visiting Texas A&M 74-73 in the 2017-18 season.

With UK ahead 74-73, A&M big man Tyler Davis got in position near his offensive basket. A long desperation pass sailed over his head and out of bounds.

Replays showed the UK defender, Wenyen Gabriel, with an arm across Davis’ chest. That could have hindered and/or distracted Davis as he turned to try to catch the pass. Afterward, then A&M Coach Billy Kennedy described Gabriel’s defense as a “bear hug.”

Reflecting on the play, Kennedy saw no foul on Gabriel as a judgment call. And so far, reviews have not included re-assessments of such plays as block/charge or non-calls like the one when Virginia’s Ty Jerome appeared to double dribble in this year’s Final Four game against Auburn.

“That’s that gray area,” Kennedy said. “Some people would say he (Gabriel) didn’t foul him. It gets back to individual viewer and how they see it. If (the referees) see something totally different, you just have to live with it.

“If you coach long enough, it usually balances itself out.”

Where are they?

Former UK guard Aaron Harrison is playing on the Celtics’ summer league team. Last season he played on a pro team in Turkey, where he averaged 14.6 points and made 41.9 percent of his three-point shots.

Former LSU guard Keith Hornsby, the son of musician Bruce Hornsby (his hits included “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain”), has played the last three seasons with the Texas Legends of the NBA’s G League. In that time, he’s made 43.6 percent of his three-point shots. He’s playing for the Portland entry in the summer league.

Not easy

No matter how accomplished a college player is, it can be difficult to make it in the NBA.

For example, former Florida standout Chris Chiozza finished his college career as the Gators’ career leader in assists (571) and fourth in career steals (191). As a senior, he led the SEC in assists (6.1 apg). As a junior and senior, he led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4 to 1 as a junior, 3.4 to 1 as a senior).

Last season Chiozza split time between two G League teams, Capital City and Rio Grande Valley. He averaged 13.2 points, 7.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He made the G League All-Rookie Team.

Then there’s Thomas Robinson, who led Kansas to the 2012 national championship game. UK beat the Jayhawks in the finals despite Robinson’s 18 points and 17 rebounds.

Robinson was the Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American that season.

Now 28, Robinson is playing for the San Antonio Spurs’ summer league team. Last season he split time between the Beijing BeiKong of China’s pro league and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA’s G League.

Notable Knick

Former UK player Kevin Knox made New York Knicks history last season. He became the youngest player in franchise history to play in a game: 19 years, two months and six days.

Son also rises

Former Florida coach and present Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan’s son is participating in the NBA Summer League. Billy Donovan III is one of eight “guest coaches” for the Spurs’ team.

The younger Donovan is an assistant coach for the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s G League affiliate.

Charity auction

A charity raffle with a prize being a picnic table made from Rupp Arena bleachers begins Monday and runs through the end of the month. Each $10 donation to Arbor Youth Services earns a raffle ticket.

Donations/entries can be made at

Since 1976 Arbor Youth Services has provided a safe and supportive environment for unaccompanied youth (birth through 24 years of age) who have suffered abuse, neglect or are at-risk of being victimized and may be homeless.

New trainer

If this escaped your attention, there will be a new trainer for the UK men’s basketball team next season, UK announced Wednesday.

Geoffrey Staton, who has trained players on several levels (college, NBA and international), replaces Chris Simmons, who left in June to become head athletic trainer at Memphis.

Station worked with the USA U19 World Cup team coached by John Calipari two summers ago. As for NBA experience, he’s worked for the Phoenix Suns, and once was a summer intern for Charlotte.

Staton was the trainer for UK’s gymnastics and dance teams from 2008 to 2010. During that time, he received a master’s degree in athletic training from UK.

Defense first

While many (blush) may focus on offense and shooting, basketball also involves defense. An upcoming camp for children keeps its spotlight on defense.

Former UK player Dale Brown will hold what he calls a Defensive Skills Basketball Training Camp at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington on July 22-23. The camp is for players ages 7 to 16.

The camp is solely about the “fundamental principles of playing defense,” Brown said in a text message.

The camp has an $80 entry fee. Sign up at or by calling (404) 747-9364.

Happy birthday

To Bernard Cote. He turned 37 on Friday. . . . To Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He turned 21 on Friday. . . . To Antwain Barbour. He turns 37 on Wednesday. . . . To Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes. He turns 65 on Wednesday. . . . To longtime CBS play-by-play announcer Verne Lundquist. He turns 79 on Wednesday.

Looking ahead

With next week set aside for vacation/personal offseason, here are happy birthday greetings for July 18-24:

To Bam Adebayo. He turns 22 on July 18. . . . To Derek Anderson. He turns 45 on July 18. . . . To John Pelphrey. He turns 51 on July 18. . . . To Souleymane “Jules” Camara. He turns 40 on July 23.