UK Men's Basketball

UK notes: Referees' calls encourage finesse — and it's not pretty

Kentucky's Alex Poythress (22) pulled down a first-half rebound in traffic. UK and foe UNC Asheville combined to rack up 52 fouls and 69 free throw attempts.
Kentucky's Alex Poythress (22) pulled down a first-half rebound in traffic. UK and foe UNC Asheville combined to rack up 52 fouls and 69 free throw attempts. Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky and UNC Asheville combined for 52 fouls and 69 free throw attempts in Friday night's opener to the 2013-14 season. Welcome to a new version of college basketball in which referees try to enhance finesse in the game by calling fouls.

UK's 89-57 victory showed that Phase Two — when the players and coaches adjust to reducing contact — needs more time.

UNC Asheville's 32 fouls equalled the most by a UK opponent in John Calipari's five seasons as coach. Morehead State last season and Baylor in the 2012 NCAA Tournament also committed 32 fouls against the Cats.

"I didn't feel we got an unfair shake," UNC Asheville Coach Nick McDevitt said. "They're hard to guard. ... It's just hard to contain guys that are that quick, that big, that athletic, that skilled. They are good."

What wasn't good was UK's accuracy in free-throw shooting. The Cats made 30 of 48 (62.5 percent).

Calipari called for more free time spent in the practice gym shooting free throws. But he was happy with Julius Randle making 11 of 13. Now Randle needs to invite contact to get to the line even more.

UK's 48 free throw attempts marked a high for Calipari's five seasons as coach. It eclipsed the 44 shot against Indiana on Dec. 11, 2010.

The first half showcased the new emphasis on finesse play and tightly called games. The referees called 31 fouls (19 against UNC Asheville),

Kentucky made 17 of 31 free throws in the first half. UK shot that many or more free throws in only six games last season.

The many fouls accentuated the need for depth. Fortunately, UK showed it had plenty of players available.

"I'm happy we're deep because it's going to play a part, no doubt about it," Calipari said. "... We're fine."


Kentucky's victory over UNC Asheville might beg the question: Why? Why does Asheville subject itself to a loss by a one-sided margin?

Of course, UK pays opponents a fee for their trouble. But Asheville's incentive extends beyond money.

"We have guys who want to play professional basketball," Coach Nick McDevitt said. "To play in these games, they get to compare themselves with Julius Randle, the Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress. So really quick, you get to see, here are some of the things I need to work on. I need to get bigger or stronger or shoot better or handle the ball better if I'm going to be a pro player like those guys."

Plus, if Asheville makes the NCAA Tournament, the likely first-game opponent is one of the better seeded teams. So playing Kentucky can reduce sticker shock.

Dick Gregory

Central Bank launched an effort Thursday to help injured UK fan Dick Gregory pay medical expenses.

Gregory, 73, broke three bones in his neck when he fell down seven rows of bleachers minutes before UK's exhibition against Transylvania.

Donations can be made at any Central Bank branch. Cash and checks (made out to Dick Gregory Fund) are expected, said Steve Kelly, director of marketing for Central Bank.


Van Florence's stomach surgery was successful at the Cleveland Clinic on Wednesday. He has been moved to a regular room. Florence, 67, was a long-time aide-de-camp for UK basketball coaches and later a key fundraiser for the UK athletic department. ... Larry Conley, who worked the UK-Asheville game, lamented that he won't able to watch Kentucky play Michigan State Tuesday. He's working the Missouri-Southern Illinois game that starts at the same time.

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