CRAWFORD | Redundant systems keep UK rolling past Vanderbilt, 65 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Redundant systems keep UK rolling past Vanderbilt, 65-57

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AP photo. AP photo.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Let's talk redundancy. It's an engineering concept. It's a system that duplicates a critical component or function within an operation with the goal of making the whole thing more reliable.

Power goes out? No problem. Back-up generator kicks in. You get the picture.

The University of Kentucky basketball team has redundancy all over the place.

Key play of Tuesday night's 65-57 win over Vanderbilt in Rupp Arena: UK up four, with just over two minutes to play. Freshman Devin Booker shoots an open three and airballs it (yeah, I know). Booker has been the hottest shooter in the nation for three weeks. He's won SEC Freshmen of the Week so many times that one more and they'll name the award after him. Booker doesn't miss much, but he fired a blank on this big shot.

System failure.

So what happened? Aaron Harrison saved the rebound. He passed it back out. It went to Booker, who found Harrison in the corner, and Harrison nailed the three that proved to be the kill shot with 2:17 left in the game.

Redundancy. For the Wildcats, its a beautiful thing.

John Calipari patrols the UK sideline, pushing buttons, trying platoons, putting in different guys. Eventually, somebody works. They had a microphone on him Tuesday night. Not surprisingly, there was very little tactical discussion. Most of it revolved around his players having emotion, matching Vanderbilt's energy. The one second-half strategic discussion caught on microphone was a suggestion to guard Riley LaChance, the SEC's top-scoring freshmen, on switches. Good idea.

The Wildcats puttered around. They led by seven at the half. They got up by 12 midway through the second half. They led by only four with 2 1/2 minutes to play.

“We had some guys not play well,” Calipari said. “But that's what happens when you have a lot of guys. You just kind of scramble until you figure out ‘OK, who's got it going.' That's what I did in the second half and I just ran with the guys that had it going.”

That's a tough thing to deal with as an opposing coach. You've probably got a better chance at being served rotten meat at McDonald's than you do of eight McDonald's All-Americans stinking it up at the same time on the same night.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings went out of his way to point out that, for once, he has a younger team than Calipari. Sorry, coach, that line already has been used. What are you going to tell us next, that your team is everybody's Belk Bowl? Stallings did make a good point about the Wildcats, however.

“What makes them the best team in the country is they can have guys have off nights, they can have a poor shooting night," he said, "but you know, their margin for error is quite substantial.”

Calipari's challenge is to eliminate the off nights. He spent Tuesday night yelling at guys, prodding, pushing. You could hear it on the ESPN microphone.

If he took one platoon out for not playing hard enough, he told his players he wanted them mad at the other group, he wanted them to voice their dissatisfaction.

He had no trouble voicing his.

“Look, I have a vision of each of these kids, the best version of themselves,” Calipari said. “But they have to play extremely hard, they got to play with unbelievable energy and some emotion. They all know the plays that we're trying to get them to make. And they're capable of doing it. They're not machines, they're not computers, but I'm not, you know, I'm not backing up. I know what these guys are capable of and I'm holding them to that standard.”

They're not machines. But the sum of these redundant part can be a machine. If you broke college basketball games into 10-minute quarters, UK's scoring average would look like this: 17.7 points in the first, 18.3 in the second, 17.7 in the third, and 20.2 in the fourth. Its average margin in those: 5.1 points in the first, 8 in the second, 4.5 in the third, 6.6 in the fourth.

Those margins don't blow you away, but add them up and you've been ground to a pulp.

For Calipari and the Wildcats, the goal is to keep grinding.

Karl-Anthony Towns had a season-high seven blocked shots. Aaron Harrison had 14 points. Dakari Johnson had 10 on a sub-par night. Willie Cauley-Stein had 10 rebounds, probably a dozen deflections and six points, including a key 15-foot jumper late with Vanderbilt threatening.

LaChance, Vanderbilt's high-scoring freshman, led all scorers with 16.

There's one more redundancy UK fans by now surely are used to: Winning. The Wildcats are 18-0. It's going to get hard for sports writers to come up with new ways to present the lengthy run of victories.

But I doubt that Big Blue fans will ever tire of reading about them.

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