By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky was down to seven scholarship players for Tuesday’s game but still beat Texas A&M 74-73.
Quade Green and Tai Wynyard were both out with back injuries — Wynyard also missed Saturday’s game at Tennessee. Jarred Vanderbilt (leg) and Jamarl Baker (knee) have not played all year.
Kentucky coach John Calipari reminded his players before the game that when he was coaching at UMass his final season — “the year we beat Kentucky” — that he basically played five players.
“Two guards played 39 minutes, everybody else played 37. I told them that before the game. After the game, I said, ‘You three or four that played the game every minute, how do you feel? I love it. Would you like to do this every game? Yes. So the rest of you can stay hurt. They’re fine,’ Calipari said.
“Guys would like to play every minute of the game. The zone, we did some half decent stuff. But we went man, they’d score five straight times. It was, like, you know, thank goodness I have Tony (Barbee) on the staff, taught me some zone stuff, and I have the courage to do it. ”
Calipari joked that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who played 39 minutes, asked Green if he was going to be hurt again next game.
The coach couldn’t help laughing even as he told the media that.
Gilgeous-Alexander played 39 minutes with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and one steal. He said was “extremely tired” after the game.
“The last five minutes of the game my legs felt like noodles but I had to push through it,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after the game. “I drank a lot of fluids, got in the steam shower this morning because I’m sick. I stretched before the game. It started last night. I drank a lot of fluids last night to make sure I was ready for tonight.”
Gilgeous-Alexander had a cough and said his nose was a “little stuffed” but he knew what was expected.
“We just had so much adrenaline because the game was close and the time was ticking down. We just tried to stick to the game plan and just get easy baskets and get stops on defense,” he said. “I’m really tired now, so I’m going to get a good night’s sleep and probably spend some time with my family.”
Hamidou Diallo, who had 18 points and scored 10 straight UK points in one four-minute span in the second half, said UK did not feel short handed.
“I feel we have the best players in the country on our team. When a couple of guys go down or a couple of guys are injured, I feel like we can still battle out and come out with a ‘W.’ That’s what we did today,” he said after the game.
P.J. Washington had 16 points and maintained the high level of play he’s had in SEC play.
“It just shows that we have fight in us and in the second half we were ready to win the game. We just played hard and we kept pushing and we obviously came out with a victory,” Washington said. “That’s a stepping stone for us and we need to keep stepping in that direction.”