By LARRY VAUGHT
For the second time this season, Kentucky coach John Calipari sent players off the court before the game ended because he anticipated home fans rushing the court.
Vanderbilt fans did just that, too, Saturday after the Commodores rallied to beat UK 74-62 and drop Kentucky into a first-place tie with Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference title race.
With less than 40 seconds to go, Calipari sent players not in the game off the court just as he had done at Auburn earlier. He said he’ll do the same thing Tuesday at Florida if the Gators win.
“They’ll be ready to charge the court like these guys,” Calipari said Saturday about Florida fans. “And I’ll do what I did down at Auburn and here: You just tell the guys, ‘Go to the locker room. Go. Beat it. I’m not going to get anybody hurt. I looked at the coach, ‘Peace, brother. Good win.’ And I left.”
Calipari had the complete understanding of Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.
“I’m not a big fan of storming the court, and I’m not a big fan of opposing players being put at some risk and having somebody run into them,” Stallings said. “I saw what Cal was trying to do, he was trying to get his team out, which I understood and appreciated.
“I wanted to get over and shake his hand real quickly and almost be in a position to where, if I had to be helpful to him with his players, I could be. So he was able to get his guys out, and that was good.”
Stallings said his preference would have been for Vandy students to wait until Kentucky players and coaches had left the court before the stormed the floor.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited that they’re excited, but I think those of you that know me know that I’m about sportsmanship and I don’t want somebody on their team getting into a bad spot because of somebody from our side,” Stallings said.