The Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated Indiana University of Pennsylvania 86-64 in their final exhibition game. Senior forward Reid Travis led all scorers with 22 points to go with 14 rebounds in his second consecutive double-double. Sophomore forward PJ Washington also finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds, while freshman guard Tyler Herro got back on track with 17 points, including 5-7 from three.
It wasn’t their best performance, but the Cats still pulled off a 22-point defeat against a well-coached, hard-nosed basketball team in IUP.
But instead of thinking about what could be a special basketball season, especially with the highly-anticipated Duke matchup coming on Tuesday, the Big Blue Nation found themselves daydreaming of the sweet sounds of “TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOWN, KENNNTUCKKYYYYY!” coming out of the Kroger Field speakers tomorrow afternoon.
The basketball team has taken a (brief) backseat to football, especially with Kentucky in contention for the SEC East crown. And they’re perfectly fine with that.
“I’m happy for Mark and his staff,” said head coach John Calipari. “I’m happy for those players. I’m so happy the guys that came back can say it’s an experience that I’ll live with the rest of my life. They’re a team that feels good and confident about themselves.”
And Coach Cal didn’t stop there. He went into the specifics, talking about wide receiver Lynn Bowden asking to return punts, tight end CJ Conrad asking for the game-winning catch opportunity on the final play, and quarterback Terry Wilson finding confidence.
In his own words, the football Cats are “balling.”
“I mentioned Mark has empowered the team,” he said. “When your wide receiver comes up to you and says, “Let me run this punt back,” and you go, “Go ahead for it kid, go.” They didn’t do it to be selfish. Someone else told me that the tight end, they were going to change a play and he said, no, no, you run it, I’ll make this catch. I’m happy for their quarterback, how he played — I mean, these guys are balling now and Georgia’s really good, like Georgia’s really good. You ready for this? We’re really good too. Our defense, woof. So it should be a great game. We’re not going to practice around that time because I know I want to see it and I’m imagining our players will want to see it so they get a chance to go over.”
Even IUP coach Joe Lombardi got in on the football fun, saying Reid Travis could probably line up on the defensive line and wreak havoc against the Georgia offense.
“Reid Travis, Holy cow,” said Lombardi. “I’m just glad at the end of the day nobody got hurt. If Mark Stoops was here, he probably wants to stick him in the middle of the line tomorrow. He could be a run stopper, I know that much.”
Is the basketball team surprised by all of this positive attention on the football squad?
“Not really, they earned it,” said Tyler Herro. “They’re ranked ninth in the country, so with a win tomorrow they’re going to be ranked even higher. It’s good to see everybody supporting that, big game coming up. Hopefully they’ll come out with a W tomorrow.”
Travis said the excitement around the football team is “the way it should be.”
“I love it, I’m a big football fan,” said Travis. I’ve been to a couple games and watch those guys work. I don’t know too many of them personally because I just got here, but I have a lot of respect for them. You can call it a basketball school, whatever you want, but what they are doing is really something special. I love that there’s excitement around football, that’s the way it should be.”
Kentucky wing Keldon Johnson said he’s going to do whatever it takes to be in attendance tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m gonna try to be there, I’m gonna try to be there for sure,” he said.
“Hopefully, if (Coach Cal) lets us,” adding that he predicts a 21-10 victory for the Wildcats.
We’ll move our focus to Kentucky vs. Duke next week. For now, though, this football team deserves our undivided attention.