By LARRY VAUGHT
Several times during Kentucky’s 97-71 win over Arkansas, tempers flared on the floor and even when teams were leaving the court for timeouts.
Once Kentucky coach John Calipari went on the court to huddle his team around him.
“My thing is, look, games are going to get heated. They’re going to get testy, and we do not respond. That’s how we are. And these kids are so young, their first reaction is they get bumped or pushed and they want to push back,” Calipari said.
“You can’t. You put your arms up and you walk away. It was a great lesson. Look, Arkansas is a terrific team. They’re 25 in the RPI. They’ve played well. They have a great record. 12-3 now. And they’re a physical team, and so are we, and it got a little testy, but that’s what it is.
“These guys all like those guys. Like Malik (Monk) knows them all. He didn’t have any issue with anybody on that team. So we shot the ball pretty well. Didn’t shoot it well from the three, but Derek did, which was good for us.”
Actually, it was a brief scuffle early in the second half that seemed to inspire UK and the Rupp Arena crowd.
“My team won’t be bullied. This isn’t that kind of team. The issue is it gets you more focused, sharper, and more disciplined. That’s what good teams are. You’re not going to bully us into a loss,” Calipari said.
“That’s not how these kids — you think about who is on this team. So they’ll fight back. But, again, these are all teaching moments. I’ve got all freshmen and sophomores, teaching moments. You don’t respond that way. This is how you respond. ”
Freshman center Bam Adebayo didn’t mind the physical play.
“We’re like brothers so we take up for each other. It brings us closer because nobody is going to come between us. We just fought harder,” Adebayo said. “They were just playing physical. I mean it was just ticky-tacky stuff. We kept level heads and we came out with the W.”
Freshman guard De’Aaron Fox had a career-high 27 points and was not distracted by the “chippy” play.
“The way that we grew up, I wouldn’t say we’re not going to get bullied or start anything. I just know since we’ve been on campus we’ve grown as a family. We’ve got each other’s back. Just know that at any time, if anything happens you just know your teammate has your back,” Fox said.
“Just because guys have been in college longer, they’ve had the weight room longer, they have the bodies for the college game. Sometimes they’ll think freshmen aren’t ready to play hard and bang. Some scouting reports are just be physical with a younger team, but we’re just showing teams we can play physical too. You see those guys, everybody’s big. It’s different from the high school game, but I think we’ve adjusted to the physicality. I think we’ve been playing well through it.”