Jamal Murray had draped a towel around his neck. He hung his head. When he looked to answer a question, reporters could see eyes that were red and watery.
“My time here isn’t done,” he said after Kentucky’s loss to Indiana in the NCAA Tournament Saturday.
That was his ‘what-did-he-say?’ answer to what’s become a routine post-game question after Kentucky’s season ends. Will players return to UK for the following season or follow the new norm and enter that year’s NBA Draft?
What Murray meant by his time not being done was not a declaration of his intention to return to Kentucky for a sophomore season. It was an unwillingness to let go of Kentucky immediately after a painful and unexpected defeat.
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“I’m still going to be able to go to dinner with this team,” Murray said. “I’m still going to be able to play pickup (games), go to classes with some of them. Individuals. Three-on-three. Workouts.
“My time isn’t done. They are my guys. I live with them. I spend my time with them.”
New NCAA rules will allow players to go through the process of entering the NBA Draft without jeopardizing college eligibility. Even that new loophole was too much for Murray to ponder minutes after Kentucky’s season ended.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know. OK? I just want to enjoy my time here.”
As is customary after season-ending losses, Kentucky players declined to talk about future plans. Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe and Skal Labissiere also followed this custom.
Ulis vs. Yogi
The much-anticipated matchup of star point guards proved highly entertaining. Indiana’s Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Ulis each had their moments, in effect neutralizing the other.
Ulis led Kentucky with 27 points and indomitable will. He played 39 minutes, which was 14th time he’s played 39 or more minutes in a game.
Ferrell scored 18 points and had four assists and only one turnover in 37 steady minutes.
“He’s a great player,” Ferrell said of Ulis. “It was tough matching up (and) guarding him.”
Said Ulis of Ferrell: “He’s a great guard. He’s fast. He knows how to run his team. He’s experienced.”
Ulis got the better of Ferrell much of the first half.
But Ferrell came alive late in the half. More than once, he drove with purpose down the stretch. His free throw with 31.6 seconds left set the halftime score.
Ferrell credited advice from his father that was relayed through an Indiana assistant coach.
“He told him I wasn’t talking enough on defense and on offense,” Ferrell said. “So I just wanted to make a better effort out there and talk in the second half. And I think that talk kind of loosened me up a little bit.”
Youth not served
Indiana started two juniors and two seniors. Kentucky started three freshmen and a sophomore.
Indiana cited its experience as a factor.
“Guys had real confidence tonight,” said Collin Hartman, a junior. “And I think it’s helped having these older guys who have been through the process to feed down the knowledge.”
Ferrell, a senior, echoed the sentiment..
“We know exactly what we want to do on the court,” he said. “We can do it almost blind.”
Ferrell broke into a big grin when asked how it felt to beat Kentucky.
“It’s good, man,” he said. “I’m 1-0 against Kentucky, now. I get to go out as a senior with that win. Coach (Tom) Crean is 2-2.
“It’s pretty big, especially when Indiana and Kentucky aren’t playing in the regular season anymore. Now, we play on an even bigger stage where a lot more is on the line. So to get this win against such a great team as Kentucky, this is something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
New record holder
UK entered the game tied with UNLV for the longest active streak of games with a made three-point shot. Each had made a three in 974 straight games.
UK extended its streak to 975 games by making four of 16 shots from beyond the arc. Murray made only one of nine from three-point range.
The last time UK did not make a three was against Seton Hall on Nov. 26, 1988. UK lost by three points, 64-60, in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Ferrell’s sisters have become a regular presence near the Indiana bench. They wear T-shirts saluting their famous brother.
But on Thursday, they wore T-shirts that read “Yogi isn’t famous; he’s just my annoying brother.”
To which a smiling Ferrell said Friday, “I told them not to wear them again. … I guess now they think it’s a comedy show for them.”