Mark Story

After Duke debacle, state of Kentucky gets its hoops swag back in surprising ways

In Dwane Casey’s first game back in Toronto as Detroit head coach, the Pistons stunned the Raptors 106-104. The buzzer-beating victory gave Casey a victory over the franchise that fired him last year following a season in which he was named NBA Coach of the Year.
In Dwane Casey’s first game back in Toronto as Detroit head coach, the Pistons stunned the Raptors 106-104. The buzzer-beating victory gave Casey a victory over the franchise that fired him last year following a season in which he was named NBA Coach of the Year. Associated Press

Fast-break points from Bobby Petrino’s bank vault:

21. Duke 118, Kentucky 84. After the drubbing John Calipari’s Cats took from Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils in the Nov. 6 season opener, the perception problem for UK is the Wildcats can’t change their season narrative until they next play an opponent of similar prestige, North Carolina, on Dec. 22.

20. Getting Kentucky’s hoops swag back. The good news is that others with ties to basketball in the commonwealth are helping our state regain its basketball swagger.

19. Dwane Casey. After the ex-UK guard coached the Toronto Raptors to 59 wins and the Eastern Conference playoffs semifinals last season, he was fired shortly before being named NBA Coach of the Year.

18. Karmic revenge. On Wednesday night, Casey returned to Toronto for the first time in his new job as head coach of the Detroit Pistons. In a Hollywood twist, Casey’s new team rallied from 19 points down to beat his old one 106-104 on Reggie Bullock’s bucket at the buzzer.

17. It just meant more. Casey, the Union County High School product, said the best part from his epic “how do you like me now?” victory was how hard the Pistons players fought to get him the victory.

16. Players first. “They were pulling for me,” Casey said afterward of the Pistons players. “I appreciate that tremendously. It’s a players league. It’s about the players — it’s not about coaching. But again, it’s about human beings. And those human beings, they felt for me.”

15. Kentucky duo sinks Boston College. One of Wednesday night’s bigger men’s college hoops surprises came when visiting Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis — IUPUI — stunned Boston College of the regal ACC, 76-69. The outcome left a Kentucky high school with massive bragging rights.

14. Knott County Central bests BC. Two alumni of traditional 14th Region power Knott County Central combined to score 47 of IUPUI’s 76 points.

13. Camron Justice. Kentucky’s 2015 Mr. Basketball rifled in 29 points to lead IUPUI. The transfer from Vanderbilt hit all 13 of his foul shots and seven of 19 field-goal attempts.

Cam Justice in high school.JPG
Camron Justice of Knott County Central and Maci Morris of Bell County went on to become Kentucky’s 2015 Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball, respectively. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

12. Evan Hall. The former KCC big man hung a double-double, 18 points, 10 rebounds, on Boston College. The 6-foot-7 senior made eight of 16 field-goal tries.

11. Can’t hold the “Mayo.” On Nov. 10, Eastern Kentucky senior star Nick Mayo produced one of the best individual games by an in-state men’s college hoops player in years. In an 81-78 win at Chattanooga, the 6-9 Mayo poured in 40 points with 12 rebounds and two blocked shots.

10. Second-half barrage. As EKU rallied from 13 down, Mayo scored 35 of his 40 points in the second half. It was the first 40-point game for an Eastern men’s hoopster since Lavoris Jerry scored 41 against Eastern Illinois in 2001.

9. One-man run. At one point in the second half, Mayo scored 17 straight points. The Oakland, Maine, product then scored 10 of Eastern’s final 12 points.

Nick Mayo.JPG
Eastern Kentucky senior Nick Mayo (10) is the first Colonels player since 2001 to score 40 points in a men’s basketball game. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

8. A.W. Hamilton. Mayo made certain that the first career victory for the new EKU head coach, a Scott County product, was one for the ages.

7. Rupp Arena crowd size. On a night that featured wintry weather and slick roads — plus a 9 p.m. tip-off vs. a non-marquee foe — the announced attendance for Kentucky’s 96-58 win over North Dakota Wednesday was 18,555.

6. An empty feeling. UK attendance figures are the number of tickets distributed for the game, not the turnstile count. The only time I have ever been in Rupp Arena for a UK men’s hoops game where the crowd looked smaller than Wednesday night was last year’s hastily arranged exhibition vs. Morehead State (14,138).

5. Trick question. The last time UK announced a crowd smaller than 18,555 for a home men’s hoops game that counted in the record book? It was March 17, 2009, when UK drew 8,327 for its 70-60 victory over UNLV in an NIT first-round game that was played at Memorial Coliseum due to scheduling conflicts.

4. MTSU’s Kentucky ties. When UK closes its 2018 home football schedule against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, the Blue Raiders coaching staff will be heavy with ties to the commonwealth.

3. Rick Stockstill. The MTSU head coach spent much of his childhood in Georgetown before moving to Florida.

2. Tony Franklin. The Middle Tennessee offensive coordinator is a Caldwell County native, longtime Kentucky high school coach and an ex-UK assistant from the Hal Mumme era.

1. Tommy West. The Middle Tennessee defensive line coach was once the head coach at Clemson. He made his Tigers head coaching debut in Clemson’s 14-13 victory over Kentucky in the 1993 Peach Bowl.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

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