Kentucky lastly earns a reward | Sports activities
The children were happy on Saturday. Yes, some of these kids will be making millions of dollars playing basketball in a few years, but for now they’re still kids.
These University of Kentucky kids have been in need of positive reinforcement for a few weeks now. You needed something good for her.
Most of all, they had to win a basketball game.
They have been high level basketball players for a number of years in their young life and have been treated as such.
But that didn’t guarantee them anything in Kentucky this basketball season.
None of these wildcats had a normal basketball experience in Kentucky. They didn’t have the summer of prep, practicing, playing pickup games together, and spending legitimate time together as teammates.
With 3,075 fans admitted to a reduced capacity Rupp Arena, the UK team certainly hasn’t had the energy, noise, emotional and psychological boost that around 20,000 wild British fans can provide in a close match.
This crew didn’t get much in the rewards department for their efforts.
They were still fighting in games – they didn’t stop – but they just weren’t very good.
What this British team needed most was just seeing that the numbers on their side of the scoreboard are bigger than the other.
The Wildcats had this thrill, 82-80, over Auburn on an early Saturday afternoon.
The look on the face of British trainer John Calipari was relieved, as was the frustration of the past few weeks.
“We’ve been making progress for three weeks but you have to have a reward in the end,” said Calipari. “And so, because of all the hard work, all the extra conditioning they do and shots and then sacrifices for the team, you have to have a reward and win somewhere.”
This reward, however small it may seem, was the sixth win of the season. It is the day before Valentine’s Day in mid-February.
Before the UK gave a tip on Saturday, the NCAA tournament selection committee announced its top 16 reveal and put the first look at the top 16 seeds as they would be if the college basketball season ended today.
Obviously Britain was nowhere to be found in this listing. Kentucky does not appear on an NCAA tournament list unless it wins the SEC tournament.
The Wildcats have been too busy this season to see if they can just score.
What happened in that game, perhaps for the first time this season, was a couple of players came up for Kentucky and got to take advantage of it.
Brandon Boston Jr. found a top-notch shooting range for a greatly improved 3-point jumper. Boston finished with 17 points, making 5 out of 8 out of 3. Boston also had four steals and passed for three assists.
Isaiah Jackson earned his battle scars in this matchup, scoring a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and was generally in the thick of the action throughout the game.
He made 5 of 8 shots from the ground and 8 of 11 free throws.
“He brought everything, he brought the rating, he brought the intensity, the rebound and the defense,” said Boston of Jackson.
Boston has figured out more with every game, practice, and shooting lesson he’s been in recently, what to leave behind.
“He plays for his team,” said Calipari. “Everything that you saw early on, which was like an AAU game, you don’t see now. Now he plays for his teammates. “
One of Boston’s teammates, who wasn’t even in the squad last year, came through big.
Davion Mintz had sales that led to the Auburn basket, which hit 77-77 with less than a minute of play.
Mintz forgot the mistake and hit a 3 that put Great Britain in the lead 18 seconds later.
This was also a turning point in Britain’s development.
“The ones he made today are daggers,” said Calipari.
“It takes a unique guy, and I’ll tell you why: you can’t be afraid of missing the shot. That’s the one who will make it. “
In a season that has been lost so many times, the UK found out a lot about themselves on Saturday.
The Wildcats also found the sixth win, which looked like something out of reach.
Perhaps no British team in many years needed a reward as much as this against Auburn.