With 8:19 left in the Kentucky/Arkansas game, John Calipari had seen enough. After the officials called a moving screen on a seemingly immobile EJ Montgomery, Cal threw up his hands and stepped towards the refs for an explanation. With his team trying to hold him back, Calipari continued to question Anthony Jordan and was swiftly ejected and escorted from the court. Arkansas’ Mason Jones hit three of four free throws to put the Razorbacks up 47-44.
Kentucky could have easily folded. Down three in an arena dying for a ‘dub, I think most of us expected it; however, with Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee manning the ship, the Cats went on a 15-2 run over the next four and a half minutes to take a 61-49 lead. From there, Arkansas — and the referees — tried to make it interesting, but Kentucky maintained control for the 73-66 win, the importance of which cannot be overstated following the loss at South Carolina earlier this week.
The way the Cats responded certainly makes it look like Calipari got tossed on purpose, but Payne is skeptical.
“I seriously doubt it,” he told reporters afterwards. “I wish if he had done it on purpose, he would have given me a heads up.”
According to DeWayne Peevy, Calipari refused to watch the stream of the game in the locker room because it was too far behind real time, so Peevy had to refresh the stats to give him updates. Calipari did not meet with the media afterwards, but his grin as he walked out of the arena was unmistakable, and he couldn’t help tweeting about it:
Couldn’t be more proud of the players and the staff and their will to win. As I walked off the court, @H23Ash said “We got this,” so I felt good walking off the court. Great win!!! pic.twitter.com/gnK5W91GcC
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 18, 2020
Hagans may have talked to Cal on his way off the court, but Payne did not.
“Nothing on the way out,” Payne said. “[He] probably wanted to choke a few referees.”
The UK Sports Network shared this picture of the team hugging Calipari after the win:
The players mobbed Coach Cal and teased him as he entered the locker room. pic.twitter.com/tql0riIimw
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) January 18, 2020
“When we got in he gave me a hug and said, ‘I’m proud of you, I’m proud of these guys.’ I just told him, ‘This is what you built. Overcoming adversity.'”
After Kentucky’s shootaround this morning, cameras captured Calipari running to the bus in workout gear as Arkansas students standing in line booed him from above. UK’s Twitter account shared that video as the Cats left Bud Walton with a win:
WE OUT!!! pic.twitter.com/XiJsy6cc0B
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 18, 2020
Big, big win.
UPDATE: UK’s video of Cal and the team in the locker room is a must-see.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 19, 2020