JAMIE H. VAUGHT: Notes from Kentucky's 79-70 Win Over Harvard Saturday
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Some leftovers from Saturday’s Kentucky-Harvard basketball game at Rupp Arena:
--If you listen to UK coach John Calipari, you'd think the Wildcats didn't play very well. Despite the 79-70 win over Crimson, Calipari still wasn’t satisfied. As usual, the Wildcat boss demanded perfection from the seventh-ranked team, which improved its record to 7-1.
“We got some guys that should be better defenders who are just getting beat,” Calipari said after the ESPN-televised contest. “We hold them to 37 percent, but we don’t outrebound them the way we should (UK narrowly won the rebounding war by a 37-36 margin). I’ll have to go look at it and see what it is, but we make our free throws. There was good stuff, but I’m expecting more.”
As for free throws, Kentucky was hotter than usual, hitting 25 of 30 shots for 83.3 percent. Entering the Harvard matchup, the Wildcats were making only 63.6 percent of their free throws in the first seven games of the campaign.
Calipari also wasn’t happy with his team giving up a comfortable 20-point lead in the second half before Harvard made the final score more respectable. In the final 2:31 of the game, the Wildcats couldn’t find a field goal.
Calipari commented, “The issue with this team -- and it’s just going to take time and I’ve got to demand it -- if you demand a lot, you get a lot. If you accept mediocrity, you’re going to get it every time, especially with young kids. There are stretches that we don't play winning basketball.”
--Preseason All-SEC picks Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo led Kentucky in the scoring department by combining 14 field goals in 29 tries for a total of 39 points. The 6-9 Knox scored a team-high 20 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, tying for a team-high. He also has scored in double figures in every game this season. The 6-5 Diallo followed with 19 points.
--It was heartbreaking to learn that one of SEC’s pioneers passed away last Friday. Remember Perry Wallace at Vanderbilt back in the late 1960s? He was the first African-American hoops player to play in the SEC.
Ironically, Wallace, who reportedly died of cancer, was to be honored during this weekend’s SEC football championship festivities in Atlanta. Six individuals -- including Wallace and four ex-UK football players -- were honored with the Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award as they helped break the color barrier in the SEC five decades ago.
“Well, it's a sad day,” said Calipari when asked about Wallace’s passing. “I always say whether it's C.M. Newton or others, the courage that they had, and I always wonder if I were put in that situation, would I have the courage to do the right thing? And a lot of times the right thing is not popular. I would hope that I would. That I would go against the grain, which I've tried to do most of my career, but I don't know. “I mean, would I have the courage enough to say I'm doing right even though it's going to hurt my career? Or I'm doing right even though this is going to be the most uncomfortable thing that I could do, but I know it's right? And I'm going to do right? I don't know if I were put in that situation. “I know this. When (former UK player and athletics director) C.M. Newton was put in that situation, you know what he did (at Alabama and Kentucky). When they had players come in the SEC or Kentucky or other places, they had to have courage now. And they had to know -- I don't know at the time if they thought what they were doing was groundbreaking, but it was.”
Then-Crimson Tide coach Newton had the first black athlete to play at Alabama in Wendell Hudson. Many years later, Newton hired Tubby Smith, who became the first black head basketball coach at Kentucky.
After his playing days, Wallace was a law professor in Washington, D.C.
--Actress and Kentucky native Ashley Judd, who spoke about sexual harassment at UK campus on Friday, was among a season-high crowd of 22,922 who saw the UK-Harvard game. She also attended Calipari’s post-game press conference.
Interestingly, Judd has degrees from both schools. According to her official biography, she received an MPA (Master in Public Administration) from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2010. Her paper, Gender Violence, Law and Social Justice, won the Dean’s Scholar Award at Harvard Law School.
--If you watch the NFL games on Sundays, you would know about James Brown, the studio host of CBS’ The NFL Today. Well, Brown once was a basketball standout at Harvard during the early 1970s.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.
UK Athletics Photo by Chet White