Blue-White scrimmage as much about learning as the score

The Blue team won 101-74.

But the points didn’t really matter. Did they? Did it even matter who won at all?

After all, the Blue-White scrimmage was, indeed, just a scrimmage. Players switched sides during timeouts – it’s the beauty of reversible jerseys – and on several occasions, players held the ball as UK head coach John Calipari instructed from the sideline, or even as he came out halfway on to the court itself.

UK had the chance to try out some new sets. The blue team applied a full-court press, something Calipari has said he wants to consider using more often this year, throughout the first half. The blue side even threw in a sudden trap at the top of the three-point line.

It didn’t work, but that’s not the point. The point is in trying.

“That was one of the main points tonight, was to see how we were going to play and what we’re going to do with the team,” guard Darius Miller said, who scored 20 points on the night.

Calipari said some of the stuff was completely brand new to the players.

“We had not worked on switching. We had not worked on any trapping. We had not worked on any ball screens,” Calipari said. “So when it looked like we didn’t know what we were doing ‑‑ that’s right, we didn’t. We had no idea.”

But Calipari said he can use this scrimmage as a basis to start getting an idea of how to do those things.

“But also, you need a base to look at where you are,” Calipari said. “And I’ll watch this tape a couple of times and I’ll have a good feel of where we are and how we are going to have to do this.”

In front of 11,391 fans in Rupp Arena, the team got to work through new concepts for the first time. But it was an experience that can be beneficial.

“I want to know: When you’ve got numbers on your back, and the lights turned on, how you play now,” Calipari said. “And let’s put 10,000 people in the seats. Now how do you play? How do you shoot? How do you make free throws? It’s important.”

On NBA Opening Night, two players many expect to be playing in the NBA sooner rather than later filled up the stat sheet. Freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones showed that, with numbers on their backs and the lights turned on and 10,000 people in the seats, they could play some basketball.

Jones showed a little bit of everything on his way to 29 points and eight rebounds. Mid-range jumpers, alley-oop dunks, cross-court bounce passes in transition, strong post defense, applying full court pressure, spin and step-back dribbles that look highlight-reel ready – his reputation as a versatile big man was on display. At one point, Jones swatted a Jon Hood jump shot and ran the length of the floor to get on the finishing end of an alley-oop.

“(Calipari) wants me to drive, so that’s what I kept thinking in my head,” Jones said.

Brandon Knight turned up his game in the second half, pouring in 29 of his 37 points after halftime. Knight displayed an ability to finish around the basket, shielding the ball deftly from defenders as he drove the lane, and a solid outside shot.

Both played exclusively for the blue team, which seemed to favor potential starters, while the white team was comprised of mostly players seen as reserves.

Regardless of which color a player happened to be wearing, they were on the floor. The entire team played every one of the 40 minutes, as only 10 players were allowed to practice. (Enes Kanter was confined to the bench, although he did wear an Undertaker shirt, and former players Mark Krebs, Perry Stevenson and Wayne Turner were not allowed to participate after it had been announced they would be playing.)

“I think everybody got a little tired at one point in time without any subs,” Miller said.

And while the scrimmage was UK vs. UK, pitting teammates against teammates, it strengthened teamwork.

“I like the fact that you saw some camaraderie out there,” Calipari said. “Did you see it? You had to feel that they were like talking and passing and chest bumping.”

DeAndre Liggins scored a combined 15 points while playing for both the blue and white squads, and Darius Miller scored a combined 20 points. Josh Harrellson grabbed 26 rebounds on the night.

“I don’t think he’s ever done that in a rebounding drill, like by himself, with a zone,” Calipari said. “I don’t know what that means.”

And therein lies the meaning of the scrimmage. Things happened. But we don’t truly know what they mean.