Kentucky’s loss to Ohio State on Saturday will embolden future opponents, Coach John Calipari said.
“People smell blood,” he said. “They’ll come after us. That’s just how it is.”
Kentucky’s second league game is at LSU, whose star freshman, Ben Simmons, is widely projected as the first player taken in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
“It doesn’t get any easier from this point,” Calipari said.
To win at Kentucky next Saturday, Louisville must beat long odds. UK’s home record against non-conference opponents is 61-1 in Calipari’s seven seasons as coach. That’s a winning percentage of .984.
The lone loss came against Baylor, 64-55, on Dec. 1, 2012.
In that time, Kentucky is 6-0 against non-conference opponents ranked in the top 25: three victories against North Carolina, two against Louisville and one against Texas.
Night at the improv?
During Jamal Murray’s 27-point second half, it was hard to tell how much of the scoring came from strategy and how much was purely improvisation.
“Once somebody feels it, we understand it immediately,” teammate Marcus Lee said. “If we don’t see it, Tyler (Ulis) will see it or Cal will see it.
“We’re going to that over and over again.”
Ohio State Coach Thad Matta suggested that Murray’s scoring spree was not simply a player taking over and strategies set aside.
“Cal did a tremendous job of creating different ways for him to score,” Matta said. “Because it wasn’t the same way every time.”
Said Calipari: “Did we do stuff that much differently (in the second half)? Not really.”
Murray was not available. He did not appear at the postgame news conference because he had to catch a flight home for Christmas. Before he left, he spoke to event organizers.
“I’ve played here in Barclays Center before in the Jordan Brand Classic and had 24 points that day,” he said. “I felt good out there today.”
Lee had eight points and seven rebounds in the first half. He finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“We’d have been down 20 at halftime if not for Marcus Lee,” Calipari said.
Matta lauded the hustle of Buckeye freshman Daniel Giddens. He noted how Giddens hustled after a loose ball near the end of the first half.
“Daniel was laid out like Superman flying through the air to get that ball,” the Ohio State coach said. “We always tell our guys good things happen when you play hard, and that was definitely one of those things.”
Stats of the day
Murray’s brilliant shooting masked UK’s poor shooting. The freshman from Kitchener, Ontario, made 13 of 23 shots. He made seven of nine shots from three-point range.
The other UK players made only 12 of 40 shots. Not counting four dunks, the shooting accuracy from UK players other than Murray was eight of 36.
The other UK players were 2-for-10 from three-point range.
Isaiah Briscoe made only one of nine shots. His woes at the foul line continued. He made one of four free throws, dropping his accuracy for the season to 15 of 40 (37.5 percent).
The two coaches who won at the CBS Sports Classic hobbled to and from postgame news conferences.
Roy Williams, whose North Carolina team beat UCLA in the first game , stepped gingerly off the podium. As he hobbled toward the locker room, Williams came upon Calipari.
“You look like me,” Calipari said with a grin as he and Williams exchanged pleasantries. Calipari underwent hip surgery after the 2013-14 season.
Williams said he had arthroscopic surgery on both knees last offseason and might need further repair.
Matta walked with a limp. He said Ohio State officials have set up postgame news conferences so he does not have to step on and off a raised platform.
Matta did not disclose the nature of his discomfort.
UK fan Danny Gray drove from his home in Eddyville to watch the game against Ohio State. He said the trip took 14 hours.
“Hard to find anywhere to park,” he said. “Terrible.”
Unlike the drive, the parking problem didn’t figure to last long. Gray, 50, said he planned to drive back to Eddyville after the game. He hoped to arrive home by dawn Sunday.
So Gray planned to be in Brooklyn for about 20 hours. He arrived at 10 p.m. Friday and planned to depart about 6 p.m. Saturday.
His wife, Sara, declined to make the trip. “She said it was too far,” Gray said.