When the lights went out at the Imperial Arena with just under three minutes left in the first half, a decision had to be made: keep playing or call the game. Kentucky was leading 45-27 at the time, so the easy choice would be to call it a night and go enjoy the Atlantis. Not this squad. Tony Barbee told reporters afterwards that the players refused to let the game be called.
“It was hard, the lighting was bad, there was no scoreboard, but it tells you a lot about this team,” Barbee said. “There was a debate going on between the coaches and the people running the event about not playing the second half. Our guys were like, ‘Let’s play. We want to play. We want to finish.'”
Quade Green said the team wanted to play so badly they were willing to do it by flashlights from fans’ cellphones.
“We just wanted to play in the dark. They’re going to have to turn their flashlights on and we’ll play out there. It doesn’t matter.”
Green, who spent two hours in the gym last night after a shaky Bahamas debut, said tonight proved how much this group just loves to play basketball.
“Everybody’s out there hungry and everybody wants to make it. They love basketball. That’s one thing I can say about everybody in this locker room. Everybody loves basketball, from the coaches to the players to the managers.”
Fellow sophomore PJ Washington agreed.
“We didn’t know what was going on. We just wanted to keep playing. Cal said they were going to call the game, but we were just like, ‘No.’ We wanted to keep playing…We just love to play the game of basketball.”
“We were just in the groove, like we’ve been saying for a while, playing against each other,” Tyler Herro said. “Playing against other competition, another team, was something we’ve really been looking for all summer.”
The power outage started shortly after Herro hit his third three, prompting the obvious joke that the freshman shot the lights out. Herro finished with 22 points off 7-10 from the floor, 4-5 from beyond the arc. Yesterday, he was 0-3 from three-point land, and credited today’s hot hand to — you guessed it — extra hours in the gym.
“Just getting to the gym early this morning, getting up shots, much like Quade did. I think spending time in the gym helped me get my shot together.”
When Herro’s hot, it opens up the floor for everyone, so PJ Washington said a priority going forward will be getting the freshmen the ball.
“We talked about him, like he’s shooting the lights out. I don’t remember him missing any of them. We’ve just got to let him keep shooting. We’ve got to keep finding easy ways for him to score. We’re confident in him.”
Exhibition games are rarely memorable, but tonight’s could go down in Kentucky Basketball history as a testament to this group’s competitive nature. Barbee has been on Kentucky’s staff since the 2014-15 season when the Cats went 38-1 and told reporters tonight that this group is the most competitive he’s coached during his time at Kentucky.
“They love to play,” Barbee said. “They love to compete. In the four plus years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a more competitive group. They compete in practice against each other almost to the point of fighting but it’s a good competitive. It’s just their spirit and they get along off the floor, but when they get a chance to compete against somebody, they’re playing to win.”