UK Men's Basketball

EKU-UK notes: Affable Karl-Anthony Towns learning to talk more on defense

Kentucky forward Alex Poythress scrambled for a loose ball with Eastern Kentucky guard Jaylen Babb-Harrison on Sunday.
Kentucky forward Alex Poythress scrambled for a loose ball with Eastern Kentucky guard Jaylen Babb-Harrison on Sunday. Herald-Leader

Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns is never short for words when talking with Kentucky's media corps. However, on the court, he's apparently been pretty tight-lipped.

Much to the delight of UK coaches, the loquacious Towns did more talking on the court during the 82-49 victory over Eastern Kentucky Sunday.

"He was more vocal on the court defensively," assistant coach John Robic said. "That was probably the best he's been, defensively, as far as talking."

Robic, who substituted for John Calipari in the post-game news conference, said Kentucky wants its big men to call out screens to guards so as to better defend pick-and-roll action.

"Our guards are telling the 'bigs,' talk to me. Talk to me. And the 'bigs' are telling them what to do. Whether it's go over the screen, under the screen. He's telling him how he's going to play defensively as a defender of the ball-screen.

"And I think Karl did that well."

In that, Towns followed the example set by Willie Cauley-Stein.

"Willie does it well all the time," Robic said. "I think it's starting to become a little bit contagious, which is nice."

Towns acknowledged he can be less talkative on the court than off.

"I may stay a little quiet," he said. "It hurts us. I've got to be more talkative, especially on defense. Defense is where all my social skills should come out."

Towns reminded reporters that he is a freshman. He's adapting to a new level and new teammates.

"I'm learning every day, especially learning what to call," he said.

When asked why he hadn't been more talkative on the court, Towns said, "I didn't want to be wrong."

Lee returns

Marcus Lee, who played only four minutes against Texas on Friday, re-emerged against EKU with 10 points.

"That's just the kind of team we are," he said. "When someone is really playing well, you're like, 'Hey, Coach, keep him in.' You're fine with it. You know you have the next game. I wasn't worried about it at all. I knew today would be a new game and everything would be different."

Flagrant One

The referees called Lee for a Flagrant One foul when his attempt at a block sent EKU's Timmy Knipp crashing to the floor.

"I just wanted to get the block," Lee said. "I didn't know I hit him that hard. I didn't know he fell till I looked down at him. I really didn't understand why they called that foul."

UK fans booed as the Flagrant One call was announced. That reaction was in stark contrast to the Flagrant One called on Jonathan Holmes of Texas against UK on Friday.

Knipp did not make much of the call.

"It happened so fast," he said. "I got up from it."

Knipp returned to the game.

Three-point history

Kentucky nearly made history again. But not the good kind this time.

It appeared UK would fail to make a three-point shot, snapping a streak of 908 games (the nation's second-longest).

With the crowd long-since focused solely on the three-point streak, Aaron Harrison hit one from in front of the UK bench with 2:55 left. The Cats had missed their first 10.

Towns hit his first three-pointer of the season and Derek Willis also made one in the final two minutes.

Before Harrison, Towns and Willis connected, the crowd could be heard anxiously calling for a three. On the possession before Harrison's trey, Dominique Hawkins threw a lob that Willie Cauley-Stein dunked.

That play typified the game. The Cats dunked 10 times off lob passes.

No mercy

After an earlier rout of an opponent, Calipari said he sometimes wished the other team scored a bit more often.

Lee did not embrace the notion of mercy.

"We're in a sport," he said. "We really don't know what nice is once we step on the court.

"We're just worried about getting better every day. We're not worried about what the other team is doing."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader