John Adams: Vols turn rivalry topsy-turvy

John Adams
Kentucky head coach John Calipari reacts after a foul was called on his team during the first half against Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Kentucky head coach John Calipari reacts after a foul was called on his team during the first half against Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Cuonzo Martin talks about a rout of Kentucky

A Tennessee fan was only a few yards past an exit portal when he turned to take another peek at the Thompson-Boling Arena scoreboard Saturday afternoon.

Sure enough, it didn't look any different from three seconds earlier: Tennessee 88, Kentucky 58.

Fans eventually will forget the score. They will simply remember the occasion as the "Big Blue Massacre of 2013." They also will remember it as the day the defending national champions looked so helpless in UT's presence, Kentucky coach John Calipari might as well have screamed "no mas" with 7:22 left in the first half.

By then, the Vols led 35-12. It was already apparent the Wildcats had lost more than star center Nerlens Noel, who suffered a season-ending knee injury four days earlier. Their will was gone, too.

"We just had passive guys who did not want to make plays," Calipari surmised.

Conversely, the Vols (14-10 overall and 6-6 in the SEC) played with aggression and aplomb. They out-shot, out-rebounded, and even out-shoved their 25th-ranked opponents while posting their largest margin of victory in a series dominated for the most part by Kentucky.

Only the pregame was normal. A smattering of Kentucky fans chanted "Go Big Blue." And Tennessee fans delivered their biggest boo of the season when Calipari was introduced.

But once the game began, UT vs. UK turned topsy-turvy. A Tennessee team that is averaging 63.7 points per game had 50 by halftime. The Wildcats had 26.

Coupled with a 69-52 loss to Florida on Tuesday, Kentucky has been outscored by 47 points in its last two games while falling to 17-8 overall and

8-4 in the SEC. UT is headed in the other direction with three consecutive victories and improved self-esteem.

"I mean, of course, you think to win," said UT's Jordan McRae, who had a busy stat line of 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. "We were all saying, 'if we could just blow them out,' and, you know, it happened."

It was as though the Vols were intent on making up for six consecutive losses to the Wildcats in one spectacular afternoon.

"This (UT) team hadn't beaten us in awhile," Calipari said. "Now, this was their chance to get that wounded animal.

"The way that we played, and the way that they played, even if we had Nerlens, we would have gotten beat — big."

When the lead climbed to 39, the Vols didn't lose their edge. Neither did the crowd, which was still roaring 21,678 strong long after the outcome was obvious. Only coach Cuonzo Martin's final substitutions offered relief for Kentucky.

"Even if they did score a couple of times in a row, then we'd get a couple of stops and score, too," said UT guard Skylar McBee, who was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers. "I think we did a good job of keeping our foot on the gas pedal."

One foot on the gas pedal, and one seemingly on the throat of an opponent that expressed little interest in fighting back — at least, not until the game was out of reach, as exemplified by an exchange of shoves between UT's Armani Moore and Kentucky's Archie Goodwin

"Don't do that now when you're down 30," Calipari said. "Why wouldn't you fight as the game is in the balance?"

Kentucky's lack of effort wasn't its only shortcoming. Following instructions wasn't a strength, either.

"We've got a couple of guys who aren't real coachable," Calipari said. "You tell them over and over what we have to do, and they do their own thing.

For example, Calipari repeatedly reminded his Wildcats not to allow UT guard Trae Golden to go right with the ball, and Golden repeatedly went right on his way to a game-high 24 points.

"I've done this for twenty-something years," Calipari said. "I've had this happen. The question is: 'Will they respond coming back?'

"And the only way you respond is you must change."

The Vols know all about change. They could see it on the scoreboard.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 24

VolInIndy writes:

Savor it for tonight and get up tomorrow and prepare for the next one our beloved Volunteers!

imw8n4u writes:

I haven't enjoyed a UT basketball game start to finish like that in a long time. Way to go team, now go and do the same thing to Florida!

formerflgranny writes:

Sorry adams that you had to toss out all the prewritten articles you had already wrote before this game. I know that hurt your ego but I think it is funny!!!!

cltvol writes:

So many haters of Coach Cal, but he calls it like it us. I think he said we would be very tuff to beat when the year started. Hoping we can keep our run going and prove him right

johnlg00 writes:

in response to cltvol:

So many haters of Coach Cal, but he calls it like it us. I think he said we would be very tuff to beat when the year started. Hoping we can keep our run going and prove him right

Cal can put out the BS with the best of them, but he can also tell it like it is. It isn't easy to do what he does, trying to deal with a whole squad of highly-decorated would-be all-stars. He has to be as much a lion tamer as a coach. He tries to recruit guys he thinks will be receptive to coaching and willing to do things like share the ball and play defense that they mostly haven't had to do before, but it is hard to change a guy's mindset overnight. Not all teams of all-star freshmen fit together as well as last year's bunch. It may be that some of this year's crop came in thinking last year was just the way it ALWAYS is at UK, so all they had to do was hop on board and ride that championship train.

JohnnyU writes:

All I know is it feels good to be on the other side of a butt whippin' for a change.

cltvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Cal can put out the BS with the best of them, but he can also tell it like it is. It isn't easy to do what he does, trying to deal with a whole squad of highly-decorated would-be all-stars. He has to be as much a lion tamer as a coach. He tries to recruit guys he thinks will be receptive to coaching and willing to do things like share the ball and play defense that they mostly haven't had to do before, but it is hard to change a guy's mindset overnight. Not all teams of all-star freshmen fit together as well as last year's bunch. It may be that some of this year's crop came in thinking last year was just the way it ALWAYS is at UK, so all they had to do was hop on board and ride that championship train.

Strongly agree,,very well put, @ least 4 or 5 of the cats are projected for the nba draft again,,but they are not very good as a team. This year's KY group and last year'a group are the two ends of the spectrum. Same talent level probably but coachability and cohesion are very different.

golfman1975 writes:

"This (UT) team hadn't beaten us in awhile," Calipari said. "Now, this was their chance to get that wounded animal."

One player down is not a wounded animal. The one & done teams he puts out there backfired this year. Just because you have the best players doesn't mean you have the best team. They still had All Americans everywhere, even the water boy, but we beat you and beat you good. Hope we see you in the SEC tournament.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I like the respectful comments about Cal on here but I still think he's wrong to go for strictly 5* athletes only. I'd say a disciplined mature 3* team will usually win. Fortunately we have some pretty darn good 4*s. I hope next year we'll have at least two 5*s here. counting Stokes. c'mon Stokes you don't need to play pro so young.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Cal can put out the BS with the best of them, but he can also tell it like it is. It isn't easy to do what he does, trying to deal with a whole squad of highly-decorated would-be all-stars. He has to be as much a lion tamer as a coach. He tries to recruit guys he thinks will be receptive to coaching and willing to do things like share the ball and play defense that they mostly haven't had to do before, but it is hard to change a guy's mindset overnight. Not all teams of all-star freshmen fit together as well as last year's bunch. It may be that some of this year's crop came in thinking last year was just the way it ALWAYS is at UK, so all they had to do was hop on board and ride that championship train.

I'll wager those uncoachable guys will be infinitely more coachable on Monday.

jt45 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

I'll wager those uncoachable guys will be infinitely more coachable on Monday.

LOL ! Suicide drills all day long I would imagine.

orangecountyvols writes:

As I mentioned on the other column about the game, no one doubts the skill and success of last year's Kentucky team. Great team.

Having said that, the thinking of bringing in the one and dones every year, with the NBA farm team lure..........came back this year to bite Cal.
If some of those stars stayed with the team longer than just one year, you'd see a really formidable team more than just what was evident with that N C group.

About the coaches. Notice how Cal blasted his players after the game, publicly. That should be great for team confidence going forward.

Colliervol writes:

Calipari caught lightning in a bottle last year. He will always go only as far as the talent will take him. Last year's team had enough talent to overcome his historically weak coaching. This one doesn't. Simple as that.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Calipari caught lightning in a bottle last year. He will always go only as far as the talent will take him. Last year's team had enough talent to overcome his historically weak coaching. This one doesn't. Simple as that.

Agree. You're in Memphis where you have been able to observe him for many years. It will be interesting to see how many of these guys he runs off. If they're planning to stay on for another year, they'll create a logjam in the "One & Done" system.

Does anybody know if Worldwide Wes is still affiliated with him?

That provisional national championship won't win Calipari very much support at Kentucky. I say provisional, because anything that ever happens at Kentucky is provisional for four years to see if the NCAA is going to come in and "vacate" it.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to ALWAYS_TIME_2_TROLL:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yeah like kentuck's win in football.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to formerflgranny:

Sorry adams that you had to toss out all the prewritten articles you had already wrote before this game. I know that hurt your ego but I think it is funny!!!!

sorry troll that u had to toss out all those screeches about how adams always trashes the vols. I know it hurts your ego but everyone else laughs at your comments.

wigmeister writes:

It was a great win despite what anyone says. To another post earlier, Stokes is not even close to ready for the NBA. He and Maymon will make a formidable front line next year. Hopefully Yemi will continue to get better, as well.

murrayvol writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

Agree. You're in Memphis where you have been able to observe him for many years. It will be interesting to see how many of these guys he runs off. If they're planning to stay on for another year, they'll create a logjam in the "One & Done" system.

Does anybody know if Worldwide Wes is still affiliated with him?

That provisional national championship won't win Calipari very much support at Kentucky. I say provisional, because anything that ever happens at Kentucky is provisional for four years to see if the NCAA is going to come in and "vacate" it.

WWW is a behind the scenes guy. You'll never see him in a restaurant with Cal. They will always be joined at the hip.

JC's problem with this team is not so much lack of talent as lack of leadership. His first 3 classes had Darius Miller and a couple of other guys who weren't "great players" but they were very good players, and more importantly good leaders, who could convince the one and done kids to give up personnal success for wins. Those guys are gone.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

I'll wager those uncoachable guys will be infinitely more coachable on Monday.

If not, they'll be a HECK of a lot more coachable on Tuesday! They still have great talent. Cal is still a great coach. If they had started the season without Noel, they would still be at least as good as they were with him before he got hurt. The other guys would have been better on defense without him because they wouldn't have learned to rely on him to erase their mistakes. No question his sudden absence hurt their confidence and boosted the Vols'. That may not have made a 30-point difference, but it probably would have made a 20-point difference. We forget now that the Vols only lost by 10 at Rupp with only about 15 minutes out of Stokes.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

As I mentioned on the other column about the game, no one doubts the skill and success of last year's Kentucky team. Great team.

Having said that, the thinking of bringing in the one and dones every year, with the NBA farm team lure..........came back this year to bite Cal.
If some of those stars stayed with the team longer than just one year, you'd see a really formidable team more than just what was evident with that N C group.

About the coaches. Notice how Cal blasted his players after the game, publicly. That should be great for team confidence going forward.

Good post. Though I have my own doubts about how often Calapari's formula will succeed as well as it did last year, there is a certain logic to it, and he is certainly the only the coach at perhaps the only school where it could even be tried year after year. I think most of those guys WILL be back next year, and they will have most of the ingredients of last year's championship team, i.e., all-star freshmen backed by, or leavened with, experienced guys who can help them over the rough spots in the season and in games. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if both the Vols and the Cats were top-ten teams next year.

It will indeed be interesting to see how these guys react both to the beat-down and to Calapari's words afterwards. If they crumble, it could be a serious blow to Calapari's experiment. If they came to UK because they were eager to embrace the challenge inherent in representing such a program, they will rise to meet it. If they came to jump on some championship train that was already in motion, they may not react as well.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

WWW is a behind the scenes guy. You'll never see him in a restaurant with Cal. They will always be joined at the hip.

JC's problem with this team is not so much lack of talent as lack of leadership. His first 3 classes had Darius Miller and a couple of other guys who weren't "great players" but they were very good players, and more importantly good leaders, who could convince the one and done kids to give up personnal success for wins. Those guys are gone.

Exactly. I think most of these guys will come back next year, but it is hard to say if they will have that kind of leadership even then. Wiltjer will be the most experienced guy back, but he may not have the personality to be the vocal leader they need. Mays might be a good candidate but he may be a senior this year. Does anybody know for sure what class he is?

BolivrBob writes:

Wounded Bird my arse. We have played with out our best player all season

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Exactly. I think most of these guys will come back next year, but it is hard to say if they will have that kind of leadership even then. Wiltjer will be the most experienced guy back, but he may not have the personality to be the vocal leader they need. Mays might be a good candidate but he may be a senior this year. Does anybody know for sure what class he is?

Most of these guys will come back next year because they won't have a choice.

With another complement of McDonald's AAs on the way the Big Blue Bus will be crowded. Many are called but few are chosen.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Most of these guys will come back next year because they won't have a choice.

With another complement of McDonald's AAs on the way the Big Blue Bus will be crowded. Many are called but few are chosen.

There are certainly strong arguments that most of this UK team, especially the freshmen, SHOULD come back for at least one more year, but you never know how pro personnel guys think about them. Today more than ever, the pros draft on the basis of potential.

For example, last year it was said that if he chose to come out after his freshman year, James Michael McAdoo of UNC would be a 1st-round draft pick. JMA is slim but quick and skilled, 6'10" or so, who can run the floor and has a nice touch out to 18' or so. But the kid started only a couple of games in the latter part of the season, averaged about 8 PPG and 6 RPG, topping double-figures maybe TWICE. Now, this year he is showing a nice well-rounded game with more finesse than power and it is clear to anyone that he is pro material, especially if he toughens up physically.

On this UK team, Goodwin, Wiltjer, and Poythress look like possible pros after this season, and you can't teach Cauley-Stein's 7' height. So if these guys decide that they want to go pro, I think somebody would draft them. I don't think that would be their best move, since all would still have noticeable gaps in their game and none has shown outstanding production consistently. Much better from a long-term perspective, both for them and for UK, for them to stay at least another year, but nothing is certain in the crazy world of college ball these days. Oh well, that's Calpari's problem, not mine.

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