UK gets a first-half scare, but wins against Penn


in the first half of UK’s win over the Penn Quakers at Rupp Arena on Jan. 3, 2011. Photo by Britney McIntosh

It was 16 minutes into the game. UK was down 12. Against Penn.

“We came off the Louisville game, we were pretty hyped, and I think we downgraded our opponent,” Josh Harrellson said. “We came out like we were going to run them over. I mean, it’s Penn, (an) Ivy League team.”

That Ivy League team came out firing in building a lead that started to worry the players a little bit.

“It kind of shocked us and surprised us,” Darius Miller said.

The crowd came alive, though, when UK started to cut into the lead. UK went on a 12-0 streak to grab a one-point halftime lead and eventually did run that Ivy League team over in the second half on the way to an 86-62 victory.

“We weren’t scared. We knew we were going to win the game,” Doron Lamb said. “We knew we just had to dig in. In a TV timeout, we huddled and we wanted to dig in on defense.”

The defense came, as UK started forcing turnovers, blocking shots and closing on shooters. The run to close the half included two blocks and two forced turnovers.

But the offense allowed them to run away with the game. UK made 21 of 24 field goals in a stretch spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second half on the way to the win.

“We had guys, they stepped it up in the second half,” head coach John Calipari said. “They just stepped on the gas.”

Freshman Brandon Knight was stepping on the gas the most. He finished with 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting, with four assists and zero turnovers.

Another was Harrellson, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, who scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had six blocks. Penn had no answer for his size, and once their advantage shooting the ball from outside evened out, UK ran away with the game.

In the opening minutes, Penn built a lead from behind the arc. The Quakers made 7 of 9 threes, while UK missed its first six.

“The first half, we left corner (shooters), which we never do,” Calipari said. “We gave them I think four first-half looks in the corner with no one (guarding). We left them, and I was going bananas.”

But the Cats reversed their shooting touch – after starting 0-for-6 on threes, they went 7-of-8 in stretching the lead – and the game slowly crept toward the expected margin of victory.



John Calipari

Calipari, part 2