Normally, Kentucky's Blue-White basketball scrimmage is not the stuff dreams are made of.
But for walk-ons Mark Krebs and Landon Slone, magic hung in the Rupp Arena air Saturday night as the Blue team beat the White team 86-81.
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Krebs and Slone, Kentuckians who tingle when they put on the UK uniform, found it difficult to put their feelings into words.
"After following it my whole life, it's really indescribable, the feeling you get," Slone said after his 14-minute stint for the Blue team. "I've wanted it my whole life."
Krebs, who contributed nine points and three steals for the White team, called it a "dream come true."
Apparently, Krebs, a junior from Newport who played 30 minutes Saturday, needed last season to wipe the pixie dust out of his eyes. UK Coach Billy Gillispie noted how Krebs needed to "change his mind-set," from just happy to be on the team to competing for playing time.
"I'm definitely more ambitious," Krebs said. "I need to play with more confidence."
Slone, the latest in a line of standout players from Paintsville (following John Pelphrey, Todd Tackett and J.R. VanHoose), has already made a winning impression on Gillispie despite this being the first semester of his freshman year. "He may be the toughest kid we have," said the UK coach, a Texan who prefers rawhide over peachy smooth. "There's no quit in him. He's tougher than nails."
As if on cue, Slone played on after diving for a loose ball and taking a Krebs shoulder to the face.
"Just being out there is the best feeling in the world," Slone said. "... I just want to help the team any way I can. Make defensive stops. Make three-pointers. If it's getting somebody water during a time out, that's what I can do."
While the walk-ons gave the scrimmage a feel-good glow, it was the veterans who made the biggest impression.
Jodie Meeks scored 32 points to lead the Blue team. That showed he's completely recovered from off-season surgery to repair a sports hernia. He drove with authority and hit five of 11 three-point shots.
Patrick Patterson added 17 points for the Blues, who appeared to be the starters, at least at this early juncture. Other Blue team starters were Michael Porter, who Gillispie had said led the point guard competition, and Perry Stevenson. The fifth starter was freshman Darius Miller.
Gillispie pooh-poohed the notion that the Blues' lineup carried any significance. But Ramon Harris, who played 14 minutes split between both teams as he recovers from a knee strain, said those veterans had played together and could be thought of as the leaders for starting positions. "That's basically what it is," he said.
Only Stevenson failed to score double figures. He had four points. Miller, who was hampered by foul trouble, and Porter scored 10 points each. Jared Carter came off the bench and had 11 points.
"Carter did a real good job," Meeks said. "Coach was very pleased with what he did."
Transfer Josh Harrellson led the White team with 16 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.
A.J. Stewart had 15 points, Matt Pilgrim 13 and DeAndre Liggins 10. Liggins, who did not enter the game until eight minutes had been played, also was credited with nine assists.
"He competed very hard, especially in one period when he was pushing the ball hard every single time," Gillispie said. "He's a very good passer. I thought he played extremely well."
That period of pushing the ball led to repeated baskets by Pilgrim. In one four-minute stretch, Pilgrim scored nine of his points.
"He can be a force offensively and defensively," Gillispie said of Pilgrim. The UK coach had no update on the appeal mounted to have the NCAA waive the mandated one year on the sidelines for transfers. Pilgrim came to UK after playing for Hampton the past two seasons.
Liggins, the presumed point guard of the future, did not play until coming into the game after the television timeout at the 11:58 mark. He immediately made his presence known by banking — yes, banking — a shot from the left corner.
What did it all mean? Well, Gillispie reclined in his seat much of the night. Also telling was Patterson not playing down the stretch.
When asked what he learned in the two hours, Gillispie said, "Not much."
Gillispie said the scrimmage reflected how players had been practicing. And UK practiced "extremely hard" earlier in the day, and "extremely hard and long" the previous two days.
Of his complaints, primarily about the transition defense and the post and perimeter play, Gillispie noted the date. Message received: On Nov. 1, there should be plenty of improvement to be made.
Fans did not flock to see Kentucky's Blue-White Scrimmage. And organizers apparently anticipated a much smaller crowd than, say, attended Big Blue Madness. Black curtains were drawn to block off the upper arena seating in both end zones and the sideline opposite the bench.
Officials could have curtained off the entire upper arena. At this point, only 10 people (not counting ushers) were in the upper arena on the bench side.
The crowd was announced as 9,291.