It was late in the second half when the video board in Rupp Arena flashed the score from Charlottesville, the one that read Duke 69, Virginia 63.
The crowd cheered.
A Duke basketball victory eliciting an enthusiastic show of applause from a Rupp Arena crowd may be the next entry for News of the Weird.
There was a method to this madness, however. Duke's win was Kentucky's gain. The Blue Devils' victory over the No. 2 Cavaliers knocked Virginia from the unbeaten ranks leaving Kentucky as the one and only — the lone Division I unbeaten college basketball team in the nation.
"I think South Carolina is undefeated, and I think Princeton is undefeated," quipped UK Coach John Calipari after a 70-55 victory over Alabama improved his Cats to 21-0.
OK, the only unbeaten men's college basketball team.
"And I think our rifle team is undefeated," Calipari said.
Quickly informed that the UK rifle team, a perennial national power, had indeed tasted bitter defeat this season, Cal shook his head in disbelief.
So what are we to make of this?
Calipari said it doesn't matter.
That's not all together true. It does matter. Kentucky has all the necessary ingredients to do something that hasn't been done since Indiana's 1975-76 team ran the table. In UK's case, this would mean the iconic 40-0. That's 31 wins in the regular season. Three wins in the SEC Tournament. Six wins in the NCAA Tournament.
Saturday night brought win No. 21. It was a workmanlike win. Kentucky shot a season-high 58.5 percent. The Cats turned the basketball over just five times. They led by as many as 21 points. They were never really threatened.
And yet, "we were just a little bit off," Calipari admitted.
That is true. UK led 28-10 with 7:05 remaining in the first half. From that point on, however, Alabama actually outscored the home team 45-42.
Calipari's club never pushed the pedal all the way to the floor.
To be fair, there was no Trey Lyles. The freshman forward missed the game with an illness, and may not be back by Tuesday's game with Georgia, either.
The absence caused Calipari to mess with his platoons again. He started Dominique Hawkins with the first platoon, but kept it to a nine-man rotation. No Derek Willis. Cal isn't ready to put the sophomore in the game just for the sake of putting the sophomore in the game.
Then there was the Karl-Anthony Towns issue. The freshman began the game looking every bit the player that most NBA scouts believe he will end up being. Towns scored 12 points in the first 11:33. He made agile moves around the basket. He made power moves to the basket. He hit a textbook hook shot.
Then Towns basically disappeared. Foul trouble had something to do with that. Defensive lapses had something to do with that. Age has a lot to do with it. Towns remains a work in progress.
So is the team, actually. You know in his heart of hearts, Calipari wants to be the coach who goes 40-0. What coach wouldn't? But he also knows that 21-0 doesn't mean a lot. Not now. Virginia losing at home to Duke doesn't knock the Cavs out of anything. Now Tony Bennett gets to see how his team responds.
It would be the same thing for Calipari if Kentucky lost. He mentioned that just last week. When his 2008 Memphis team lost to Tennessee, it immediately turned it up a notch and ended up reaching the national finals. A couple of made free throws down the stretch against Kansas on that fateful Monday night and that team wins the national title.
Being unbeaten on Feb. 1 is great, of course, but being the team that goes unbeaten in the NCAA Tournament, the one left standing on that podium April 6, that's even better.
That's when you hear the real applause.