Josh Harrellson’s face is a Kentucky map this week.
Broader than long, proud, blue, with a smile in the middle stretching from Henderson to Knott County.
Kentucky’s win at Yum! Center is different things to different people.
For Big Blue Nation, big dollar programs, a wrap on another Year of the Cat.
For UofL, schooled. Period.
For John Calipari, an approval ratings bounce likes of which the most ardent Tea Party pol would sell his soul. From say, 95 to 99 percent.
Cal approval high mark should extend beyond Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, February 6. Tennessee and Bruce Pearl come to Lexington February 8.
For Rick Pitino’s Cardinals the game was a test every college student dreads, the pop quiz. Nobody dressed in red and black was ready for what Kentucky brought, leaving the Cardinal pop quiz grade at D-minus that would be F except for Preston Knowles.
For gamblers who wagered big against the spread, UofL by 3, big payday.
For media experts, the 15-point shelling by the visiting team made red faces.
Epic battle? The epic part belonged to the MVP. In one afternoon the big kid projected to be Enes Kanter’s valet was being mentioned in a sentence with NBA Draft. The post-game might have been first time in 15 months Kanter’s eligibility went unmentioned.
Different things to different people.
DeAndre Liggins was the monkey wrench tossed into Louisville’s revved-up jet engine. From tip-off Liggins surrounded Peyton Siva, convinced UofL’s table setter there were three of No. 34. Then, Liggins turned to Knowles.
Pitino’s signature strategy — press a foe to play faster than it wants — didn’t work. Was met with uncommon composure, and Harrellson coming from the weak side.
Looking ahead. Kentucky’s win, Louisville’s loss are different things to different people.
Momentum. If Pitino’s assessment of the SEC as weak is accurate, UK should take a seven-game win streak to Georgia Saturday and grow it to 13 by time the Wildcats visit Oxford, Mississippi February 1.
Louisville’s lopsided loss at home coming off a long string of home-cooked cupcake wins, puts blood in the water for Big East beasts. Minus Rakeem Buckles, the Cards trip to South Florida and Villanova next week to find themselves.
Overall, beyond five-star Harrellson, this gratifying postscript. The Hate Week theme dialed up by media, and a newspaper photo of yappy DeMarcus Cousins a year ago for fuel, did not ignite where it counted, on Denny Crum Court.
No displays of attitude, jawing and trash, the intrastate tussle was spirited, tough, smartly played without woofing or cheap shots. At the end, handshakes that seemed genuine.
Too, an image of Cousins representing the UK-UofL series was like the word tweet symbolizing the cell phone industry. Rating somewhere south of ridiculous.
What will be remembered most around Kentucky along with Harrellson’s border smile? 2010 was Year of the Cat.
CALIPARI ON LIGGINS
When John Calipari came to UK he says he was told DeAndre Liggins needed to go. “They asked me to get rid of him,” Calipari said after the UofL game. “It wasn’t that he would leave, it was ‘get rid of him.’”
Why did he keep Liggins?
“Because I knew him from high school. I knew some of his issues and I thought I could get through to him.
“… I also am not afraid to take chances and have people say things about me, because it’s not about me. It’s about this young man. And I thought we could get him to play the way we wanted him to play, that we could win him over, that he had the things that I like to see in a player.
“ But he had to change. He wouldn’t go in a game (in 2008 for Billy Gillispie). I’ve had many players argue with me. I’ve had players not want to go in the game. … If there’s a minute to go, and the young man hasn’t been in and we’re up 25 and I go to stick him in, I’ll say, ‘Do you want to go in?’ If the young man says, ‘No, I don’t want to go in,’ I’m all right with that. You know why? Because I was that guy. I know how that one feels. ‘No, please don’t put me in with a minute.’
“Other guys, they could care less if it’s 12 seconds, I got that Kentucky uniform on, girls are watching, I’m in. I am in. So, I don’t worry about all that, I don’t worry about give and take. This is an emotional game; we play with a lot of passion. And it’s not over yet with DeAndre. It’s never over. … So, it’s a daily grind in this ( business). But you know what? It’s worth it. It’s worth it for me.”
KY. MR. FOOTBALL
A linebacker is Kentucky Mr. Football 2010. Lamar Dawson.
Boyle County’s LB has the body, 6-feet-4, 235-pounds, but also a name as perfect for his position as Elvis Dumervil was, or Joe Federspiel and Jim Kovach. Linebackers.
Mr. Football 2005, Micah Johnson aside, Dawson is the first linebacker to earn the honor since Kurt Barber at Paducah Tilghman in 1987.
From most reports, and despite not being a unanimous choice, Dawson may have the best credentials of all his Mr. Football brethren. Solid student, team-first, on-field versatility and a champion. In three varsity seasons for reigning state title holder Boyle County, Dawson-led teams posted a won-loss record for the ages, 43-1.
Coppin State director of athletics and UK football All-American Derrick Ramsey told Lexington Herald-Leader readers last week “My philosophy has been you either work hard for those four years (of college) or you work the rest of your life hard as hell. I understand the value of education and working hard.”
And so it goes.
You may reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com.