John Calipari is in control. He sensed that he’d get no flack from the 15,000 fans at the Yum! Center last night for sitting his three best players in the second half. Never mind that two of them (Francisco Garcia and Edgar Sosa) were products of U of L, and that the other was from UK-nemesis Florida (Al Horford). No, it seemed like Calipari wanted to give the UK Pros a chance to win. They made it close, but didn’t pull it off against the rest of the Dominican team. The final was 91-86.
Maybe Calipari knew this crowd needed a close game to get excited about something other than a young lady winning pizza for a year by hitting a shot from the top of the key. Or seeing Sam Bowie on the sideline. Here’s some highlights from the action:
1. Lights Out: The teams played the first quarter in semi-darkness, using the scoreboard lights for visibility, when the main lights refused to come on. The delay gave Calipari a chance to address the crowd. One fan yelled “If Pitino was here, they’d have the lights working.” In the lockerroom later, DeMarcus Cousins said he thought Pitino had something to do with the light problem.
2. Best Player, Best Shoes: Rajon Rondo in his flashy neon shoes. Close second – John Wall. I think Francisco Garcia was the best shooter in the house, but he sat on the bench the whole second half.
3. Best t-shirt: UK fans are sporting this — “I Still Hate Laettner.”
4. Lonely Louisville Fans: After a U of L fan in a red shirt got booed after getting some dancing time on the arena TV screen, Sosa grabbed one of the t-shirts the Papa John’s street team was passing out and tossed it to him. Another fan protested a call that went against the Dominicans, only to be greeted with “Sit Down Red Shirt” from an entire section of fans
5. Worst Shoes, Worst Performance: Josh Harrellson heroically kept a drunk driver from slamming into his friends at a Lexington bar recently, but he wasn’t at his best last night. He wore some awful gray shoes. Worse, as the selected pro shooting for fans hoping to win pizza, he bricked five three-pointers in a row at halftime.
6. Why the Pros Lost: Poor coaching? Hardly. Though Joe B. Hall argued a call (with a smile on his face) for the benefit of the crowd.The Pros missed 18 of 19 from three-point range and 21 of 52 free throws. Their defense was spotty, at best.
7. Hit a Wall: With an opportunity for an unguarded slam on a fast break, Wall bounced it off the back of the rim.
8. Cousins: Calipari said the Pros were talking some trash, especially Cousins, who remains a thug in the minds of U of L fans. He nearly got into a fight with a Dominican player.
9. No Love for Fischer: Greg Fischer grabbed the microphone and was greeted with a smattering of boos from a crowd that seemed to associate him with U of L. He picked a bad time to try to promote international harmony and made a pitch for WorldFest, coming up in a few weeks. Maybe he should have done something to promote that Louisville-Lexington business partnership.
10. Press to the Floor: Promoters of the game did little to accommodate the media, assigning most to spots on the floor.