Football overshadows basketball for a change



The streak stayed alive.

UK beat Portland for the second straight season, 87-63, on Saturday night.

For the first time this year, the basketball game was the after-party of the football game. The eRUPPtion Zone chanted, “UT sucks” before tip-off. Early in the first half, Rupp Arena’s PA announcer listed off some college football scores and then dropped in the UK-Tennessee score. The crowd gave a standing ovation. Matt Roark, the wide receiver-turned-quarterback, sat behind the Portland bench.

“I’m not the most famous Matt in Big Blue Nation tonight,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said when he came on the floor to promote an upcoming game against Duke. “How about Matt Roark?”

At the under-16 timeout in the second half, Roark was led onto the court to be the honorary ‘Y.’ Immediately after, UK got steals on back-to-back plays, each ending with thunderous dunks.

“It definitely lowers their confidence, especially throwing the ball away two times in a row and then us dunking on them,” Anthony Davis said.

After the game, head coach John Calipari cut off any questions to compliment the Tennessee win, calling it “one of the greatest wins in the history of the athletic department.”

The same can’t be said of the Portland win, although it did have its share of positives.

UK was paced in this game, taking place less than a full week before the showdown with North Carolina, by Terrence Jones, one of two Oregonians on the roster (Portland, for what it’s worth, which is nearly nothing, has one).

Jones was tied with Darius Miller for the team lead in scoring for the second straight game with 19 points.

UK took much better care of the ball, dishing 20 assists and turning it over four times, the fewest a UK team has committed since 1993.

There’s still things to work on. UK struggled staying with shooters coming off screens and yielded plenty of open threes that allowed Portland to stay in the game.

“Florida will take 35 threes against us and that means they’ll win by 108 if we don’t learn to guard a 3-point shooter,” Calipari said.

UK was outrebounded by one, but the margin was much wider for most of the game. Portland grabbed an offensive rebound on more than one-third of its opportunities. That’s something UK will have to shore up before North Carolina.

“If we don’t physically battle before the ball hits the rim,” Calipari said, “I don’t think we can win either of our next two games.”

But that’s the great part. UK is finally past the patsies. It’s on to St. John’s and the Tar Heels.