LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Sometimes, you just need to whomp somebody.
I don't know if Saturday night's 75-53 beatdown of Auburn will cure any of the University of Kentucky basketball team's recent ills. But there's no question, it was much-needed medicine.
If nothing else, you saw something that has been in short supply in recent weeks among these Wildcats -- smiles. After some tense weeks, Camp Cal, the Louisville loss, the Texas A&M OMG, hand-wringing and second-guessing, this team needed what happened in Saturday night at Auburn.
UK coach John Calipari had said he hoped his team could go down and "steal" a win. This could be described more as an assault.
Now, nobody will confuse Auburn with a good basketball team. The Tigers went 0-for-15 from three-point range, many of them makeable. They were bad. Doesn't matter.
For UK's players, this game served the same purpose as Crash Davis turning on the sprinklers the night before the road game in "Bull Durham." It wasn't exactly a night off -- but it was a night away from the stress and grind of trying to be the defending national champions, not to mention a night away from the palpable apprehension that comes with some games in Rupp Arena when the home team isn't rolling.
At Auburn, they'd been lying in wait. It was an Orange-out. It was a sellout. Charles Barkley was in the house. It was the one day of the year that Auburn cares passionately about basketball.
It didn't look like either team cared about scoring in the early going. UK opened the game 2 of 14. Auburn made just 3 of 20. The only things taking a whomping was the rims.
But once UK got going, it kept going. On his postgame radio show, Calipari noted, "We were here (ahead double digits) at Vanderbilt and nearly lost the game. So it's progress."
The greatest progress Saturday night was by Wiltjer. With Willie Cauley-Stein out of the lineup after a knee procedure, Wiltjer was used to flash into the high post and did his best job of the season distributing the ball. He dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds to go with 17 points. And Calipari was most pleased with those first two numbers, not the third.
"We just said we're going to get it to the middle and let (Wiltjer) make plays and he did," Calipari said. "And he's also coming up with rebounds. So now it's fine, even if he misses a shot you leave him in. . . . There's no tentativeness to his game."
Instead of getting a double-digit lead and letting the opponent back in, as they did at Vandy, UK's players used Calipari's pregame remarks about not being the type of teams to blow people away by 20 as motivation once they got a lead.
"We just kind of huddled together and said we need to start burying teams," Wiltjer said.
UK buried Auburn so badly that television viewers were treated to a five-minute monologue by Sir Charles in the second half, in which he said, among other things: "John Calipari is a friend of mine. There ain't one player on this Kentucky team that should go pro early."
Potential No. 1 pick Nerlens Noel might beg to differ. He delivered his usual across-the-board production, and flirted with a triple-double: 10 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin each had 12 points.
And they had fun doing it.
Auburn, on its big night, did not. They failed to make a three for the first time in 15 years. They couldn't have thrown it into a pair of Charles Barkley's pre-Weight Watchers pants.
What this means for the Wildcats is a big unknown. Might mean nothing. Or, it might mean a team that was clearly laboring under the Big Blue burden might feel a bit lighter and have their sense of fun in the game rekindled.
Whatever it means, it can't hurt.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
Monday, June 17 2013 1:07 AM EDT2013-06-17 05:07:51 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In some ways, this is going to be an arbitrarily framed discussion. But there is some reasoning behind its logic.The premise: Since the University of Louisville gained an equalMore >>
Since moving to a BCS conference of its own, Louisville has outperformed UK in a variety of sports in the postseason, despite being outspent by millions.More >>
Sunday, June 16 2013 4:03 PM EDT2013-06-16 20:03:21 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Football recruiting in June is a lot like the first precincts of an election. It's nice to win, but you're always wise to wait for those big late ballots -- particularly in DadeMore >>
A look at UK's stunning early football recruiting success, plus Tim Brando picks U of L to win the national championship and Charlie Strong runs down his depth chart.More >>
Saturday, June 15 2013 9:47 AM EDT2013-06-15 13:47:40 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The WDRB College Basketball Notebook has not had a Maker's Mark bottle created in its honor. But on the up side, you don't have to scramble to liquor stores all over the cityMore >>
WDRB's weekly college basketball notebook brings more than 2,000 words of notes of all kinds on Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky hoops, and more.More >>
Friday, June 14 2013 11:50 PM EDT2013-06-15 03:50:48 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville's best year ever has forced the Cardinals to re-arrange the trophy cases around the athletic department. The Cardinals have had to make room for that big crystal basketballMore >>
University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said the run his athletic program is on at present "is magical," but added "we're not going to gloat."More >>
Thursday, June 13 2013 4:42 PM EDT2013-06-13 20:42:56 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- ESPN is reporting that the University of Kentucky football coaching staff has offered a scholarship to a 13-year-old seventh-grader out of Indiana.Get ready. Cries of astonishment --More >>
ESPN reports that UK has offered a 13-year-old out of Indiana a football scholarship. It's sure to fire up debate again whether that's a good thing.More >>
Tuesday, June 11 2013 11:05 AM EDT2013-06-11 15:05:46 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You wonder what Tom Jurich has to do to receive an athletic director of the year award. He was passed over in favor of late Alabama athletic director Mal Moore for the SportsMore >>
UnderArmor gave out National Athletic Director of the Year Awards to four recipients. Tom Jurich of Louisville wasn't one of them.More >>
Monday, June 10 2013 2:53 PM EDT2013-06-10 18:53:18 GMT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- You've heard of the Louisville Slugger. Over the next couple of weeks, you're going to hear a lot about the Louisville Slam.No program had ever captured a Grand Slam of the NCAA's mostMore >>
The University of Louisville baseball program's roll to the College World Series puts the university's athletic program on uncharted ground.More >>
Monday, June 10 2013 10:02 AM EDT2013-06-10 14:02:16 GMT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WDRB) -- An abbreviated "Morning Line" before heading back to Louisville from the Music City.The University of Louisville did more than beat Vanderbilt to lock up a trip to the CollegeMore >>
U of L baseball drew about the same TV audience as the NBA Finals in the Louisville market, plus more weekend sports on TV and a look back at Louisville's four-sport run.More >>