One low-post tussle popped off the headband of DeMarcus Cousins. Another knocked him to the floor, after which he rose, held up his arms and looked at a referee as if to say, where was the call?
That Cousins, who came to Kentucky with the reputation as an emotionally volatile player, seemingly took a no-foul-no-harm approach to the game against Drexel, impressed John Calipari.
"He never responded in a negative way," the UK coach said. "I told him after the game, 'You've grown, son. You have grown. For you not to respond, it's amazing.' "
As recently as November in Mexico, Cousins noted how difficult it would be for him to change the way he played. He said the emotional displays helped him play better.
Now, he's softened his attitude.
"Yeah, it's hard," he said of going from emotional player to a big man under control. "That's how I'm used to playing."
But Cousins has become convinced he's better off playing without the emotional outbursts. "To better myself and help my team," he said.
When asked whether he'd come to think NBA scouts might frown on emotional displays, Cousins said. "That, as well."
Fun and games
After UK achieved the program's 2,000th victory Monday night, the players celebrated into the wee hours of Tuesday. When asked how late he stayed up, Cousins smiled and said, "No comment."
Asked whether the whole team stayed up until 4 a.m., Cousins again smiled and said, "No comment."
Calipari noted the importance of rest with UK playing its second game in 36 hours.
"Hopefully, they got their rest last night," he said. "If they didn't, it'll show, and it'll be another lesson to be learned."
When a reporter noted that some players might have been out late, Calipari said, "Better not have been."
The UK coach said he had to teach the players how to have fun.
"We're trying to teach them what fun means," he said. "[Their] having fun and what we're talking about are two different things."
Calipari defined fun as playing high-quality basketball.
But he noted the importance of a relaxed, fun atmosphere.
"Any team not having fun looks tight," he said. "If you're having fun, you look loose. Whatever team is having the most fun will be the last man standing. Ten or 12 teams could be that team. Not 40. Having fun does not mean staying out all night."
Freshman guard Eric Bledsoe injured an ankle against Drexel. Calipari said Bledsoe told him after the game he'd be able to play against Long Beach State.
Tough games for 49ers
Long Beach State comes to Rupp Arena having played the sixth-toughest schedule to date, according to CollegeRPI.com.
Coach Dan Monson figures his team will have the toughest schedule in the nation after its next two games: at Kentucky on Wednesday and at Duke on Tuesday.
The 49ers have beaten UCLA and Utah State and lost to Notre Dame, West Virginia, Clemson (by only eight points) and Texas.
"I've been pretty pleased with how the guys have navigated the schedule until last night," Monson said. The 49ers lost in overtime to Loyola Marymount on Monday before taking a red-eye flight to Lexington. The team got to its hotel at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The most lopsided loss was Dec. 7 at Texas, a 107-74 drubbing.
"This is similar to Texas," Monson said of playing Kentucky. "We know we're outmanned. We're trying to get the guys to rely on each other more. At Texas, we didn't. When we got manhandled one-on-one, we kind of went on our own. We'll see if we've grown at all in the last 10 days."
Sophomore forward T.J. Robinson leads Long Beach State in scoring (17.0 per game), rebounding (10.7). He had 25 points and 13 rebounds against UCLA, 25 points and 15 rebounds against Clemson, and 22 points and 18 rebounds against Loyola Marymount.
Monson described Robinson as an intriguing player who uses guile to be productive.
"He's an unorthodox, left-handed kid who gets an angle," Monson said. "And people have trouble guarding him."
When asked whether Robinson played like former UK standout Erik Daniels, Monson said, "Very good analogy."