LEXINGTON -- Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder.
See if you can tell by reading the quotes below which came from the victorious coach and which came from the one on the short end of a 43-point blowout:
Quote 1: “I think we’d all agree that they’re better than they were one week ago.”
Quote 2: “We just have so far to go. I didn't think we passed the ball to each other in the first half. Everybody was trying to get theirs a little bit and it just looked bad. But we just got a long way to go. I'm not in a panic yet, I do have both feet on the panic button, but I'm not crazy yet.”
OK, if you guessed the first was from Centre College head coach Greg Mason, whose NCAA Division III team was on the unhappy end of a 106-63 score Friday at Rupp Arena and the latter came from John Calipari, leader of the fifth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, you win a prize.
Mason was ecstatic about the experience of taking on the Wildcats in the first meeting of the old state rivals since 1929. The Colonels had 19 wins against 25 defeats against various versions of UK, the ninth most of all schools in the nation including nearly half of the teams in the Southeastern Conference.
Included in that total is an improbable 87-17 shellacking in 1910 that still stands as the most lopsided defeat in the history of Wildcat basketball.
More on that later.
“What a night for Centre basketball,” Mason said. "What a night for Centre College. In the dictionary, nirvana is a state of perfect happiness, and that’s me right now and I think it’s our guys as well.
“Obviously we lost to a very good Kentucky team. I know that they’ve got a lot of learning to do, but eight of 14 from three, everything we tried to do we did well. They just devastated us shooting the ball, 52-17 on the glass. (I’m) just very, very thankful. Can’t thank Coach Cal, Dwayne Peevy and Kentucky Basketball enough for an amazing night for these guys up here and the guys in the locker room.”
And Calipari, despite seeing his team score the most posts of the preseason, found little to be happy about. He wasn’t impressed with the Cats performance even though his team:
--Shot 61.5 percent from the field, including 57 percent (eight of 14) from three-point range.
--Held an astounding 52-17 advantage on the boards against a comparatively undersized team. That helped fuel a 56-22 advantage in points in the paint.
--Were led in scoring by three players you might not have expected that kind of performance from. Wenyen Gabriel tossed in 20 points (to go with nine rebounds), 18 from point guard Quade Green (and five assists), and 17 off the bench from Nick Richards, who converted all six of his field goal attempts and was perfect in five tries from the free throw line.
Kevin Knox tossed in 15 points and grabbed 11 boards to record a double double.
“(M)an, Kevin Knox is really good,” Mason added. “Nick Richards was really good tonight. (Hamidou) Diallo, I think he’s got a gear that we didn’t see tonight. A lot of special players.”
Calipari had a different take.
“I thought Wenyen did some good stuff, shot some balls,” he said. “We shot the ball fairly well, but again, we got to be a team that really the ball zings and we get in that lane. And that means you got to play through bumps. In other words, you're going to drive, they're not going to just give you the drive, get the ball by them, they're going to body you a little bit, you got to go through the first one, get through the second body check and see what you have.
“But I know, you look at the stats and all that stuff, but I'm like I said, we got a ways to really get this right. But I'll watch the tape. I was more watching the game.”
The Wildcats let Centre rally early in in the second half to get within 22, but that was as close as the plucky Colonels would get. The margin was 30 with 13:34 to go, 40 at the 4:25 mark and 45 in the final minute.
The good for the Colonels: Centre hit on 47 percent of its shots in the second half after making only 30 percent in the opening 20 minutes. The Colonels were eight of 27 (six of 14 in the second half) from three-point range and committed 15 turnovers, the same number the Cats had.
Centre placed two players in double figures, Perry Ayers (14) and All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference first-teamer Tucker Sine (12).
The Colonels were broken in the latter stages of the first half, which Kentucky closed out on a 24-2 run. Centre didn’t score over the final 5:20.
Yet Mason was beaming in the post-game press conference, holding his six-month-old daughter, Lucy, on his lap, and Calipari was rubbing his face with his hand and promising to review the tape to see if his team was really as bad as he thought it was.
“This is one of the few games that we are the more experienced team,” Mason quipped before the game. He started three sophomores and two juniors while Calipari countered with four freshmen and Gabriel, a lightly used sophomore.
“I mean we had more loose ball recoveries than we had defensive rebounds,” Mason said. “We had 12 defensive rebounds for the game. There were a couple occasions the crowd was getting into it and loving (our) scrappiness. We got beat 43 points, but this was an awesome night for Centre basketball and for our guys. I think there’s a lot of lifetime memories that our guys can take from this.”
Mason said he intends to give his team the weekend off to recover from the excitement and pressure that comes with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a school with just over 1,000 students to play on the same court with the greatest college men’s basketball program of all-time.
Calipari said his team will likely practice twice a day Saturday and Sunday.
“I got a little frustrated with some of the guys' decision-making and I thought most of it was, I'm trying to get one, I'm trying to get mine,” Calipari said. “But I'll watch the tape. Sometimes I'm wrong. I think it was 1978, might have been '77.”
At any rate, now it gets serious for Kentucky. The preseason is over.
Games start counting beginning with next Friday’s game with Utah Valley. That tips off a string of three games in five games, culminating with an early showdown with Kansas on Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in Chicago.
“They don't even understand when we start Friday and it's for real, it's going to be up another level and the teams we're starting to play, whether it's Utah Valley and with a bunch of kids back and Vermont, a top-50, 60, 70 team, whatever they are, with all their guys back,” the Kentucky coach said. “They're hard games. Then you got to go play in Chicago, Kansas, I mean, this is, it's pretty heady stuff to throw at these guys right away.”
Now, about that 70-point Centre win back in 1910. The Colonels led by 50 at halftime, leading Calipari to ask some questions.
A reporter asked if Calipari had scheduled Centre this year primarily to seek revenge.
“Wow, they beat them by 70,” Calipari said. “How many points were scored in the game? Wow. Who was coaching that team?”
Calipari thinks it’s important to schedule some of the smaller state schools during UK’s exhibition season.
“Coach (Mason) was so appreciative and, but we are too,” Calipari said. “I mean, I want teams to come in and run all their stuff and out of bounds plays to try to score and get their kids to feel good. We try to leverage this program to help, to become involved in this state and what we do. And
Thomas More came in and had alums and they were cheering. And it was funny, when we played Morehead and they were cheering and you could hear them chanting in our building, which I think is kind of neat. But it's a way of helping different programs and this thing is kind of unique in that the seat I sit in, you cheat the position if you're not reaching out to help.”
Glenn Osborne served as Centre College’s sports information director for three years and in the same position at Transylvania University for 14 years. More recently, he was sports editor for KyForward.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @GlennOsborne07.