UK Men's Basketball

UK notes: Calipari wards off awards snub

NASHVILLE — When asked how he felt about his colleagues not voting him Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, John Calipari feigned anger.

"Oh, I was so mad," he said with a sarcastic tone. "Wait till I see those guys."

In a more serious tone, Calipari said he had been coaching too long to worry about such awards. SEC coaches voted Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt the league's Coach of the Year. Vandy finished two games behind Kentucky, a freshman-oriented team that Calipari guided to a regular-season championship at 14-2.

"I've done this so long, I'm not fazed," Calipari said.

The UK coach saluted Trent Johnson, who helped LSU salvage some pride with its only two league victories in the last two weeks. "That's incredible to do that," he said. "That's coaching."

Calipari noted how first-year Coach Mark Fox made Georgia competitive. "Unbelievable job," he said. "Georgia would probably win the West (the SEC Western Division).

"A lot of guys deserved it. And I'm fine with that. Awards, as you get older, don't mean as much."

Inglorious farewell

South Carolina guard Devan Downey finished a glorious career with a whimper. Down the stretch of a 68-63 loss to Alabama, he missed his final six shots. His only miss at the free-throw line in seven attempts came with 18.3 seconds left and robbed the Gamecocks of a chance to tie the score.

"I just didn't make the plays," said Downey, a three-year all-SEC performer who gained a reputation as one of the league's best clutch players. Of the free throw miss, he said, "I think I'm a pretty good free-throw shooter (85 percent in league play). I just missed."

When asked if he felt the responsibility of getting South Carolina the victory, Downey said, "I always feel it's on my shoulders."

It came as small consolation that Downey's 21 points enabled him to pass the 2,300 mark in a college career that began with one season at Cincinnati and then three for South Carolina. He finished with 2,304 points.

Only four SEC players have scored more points as college players: Pete Maravich (3,667), Allan Houston (2,801), John Stroud (2,328) and Chuck Person (2,311).

'Purple and gold proud'

LSU forward Tasmin Mitchell needed 21 points against Tennessee to become the 23rd SEC player to score 2,000 in a career. He scored 10.

Part of two SEC championship teams in his LSU career, Mitchell suffered through the Tigers' 11-20 season as a senior.

When asked if he regretted the decision to return to LSU this season rather than enter the NBA, Mitchell said, "No, I don't regret at all coming back. I wouldn't change the decision for the world. I'm glad I came back. I think I grew as a man and as a player.

"Just because the win-loss margin wasn't how we wanted it to be, I don't regret coming back and playing for Louisiana State University. I wear my purple and gold proud."

Mitchell said he became a better person in terms of how to deal with adversity.

"Not getting too overwhelmed and frustrated," he said. "I kept my head like a grown up."

Although he said he had no regrets, Mitchell sounded ready to move on with his life.

"Work out, make it to the NBA and play in the NBA," he said of his plans. "That's it. I want to make me some money doing this."

Win equals No. 1

When asked if he believed a victory over Alabama assured UK of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Calipari said, "Yeah, I do. And a loss, a lot of stuff is going on right now. High twos can win their conference tournaments and blow by you."

Cheers for UK

The biggest cheers during South Carolina's game against Alabama came when the large screens atop the scoreboard hanging over center court showed somebody related to Kentucky.

The first cheers were for Patrick Patterson, who sat with his teammates behind one end line and watched the game.

The second cheers were for John Wall, who acknowledged the fans with a wave.

Kentucky fans made for a noisy segment of those in attendance for the first round of the SEC Tournament.

If Alabama took offense at the fans reacting louder to the screens than to the action on the court, Mikhail Torrance did not show it.

"They're a top three, top five team," he said. "They deserve that."

The fans cheered themselves when the screens showed Kentucky fans.

Etc.

DeAndre Liggins and Darnell Dodson did well at the practice Thursday, Calipari said. ... Scotty Hopson made none of his eight shots against LSU (four from three-point range). In three games in Bridgestone Arena this season, he's made one of 18 shots (zero of 10 from beyond the arc).

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