‘Crazy’ UK fans won’t steal the Cats’ joy, Cali­pari and Ha­gans say

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JERRY TIPTON

Ken­tucky de­feated Louisville 71-58 on Satur­day. All is right in the Big Blue Na­tion. But if Louisville had won ...

“All the fans were say­ing, ‘Don’t lose this one,’ ” Ash­ton Ha­gans said. “‘You can lose ev­ery game, but don’t lose the Louisville game.’”

This raised a log­i­cal fol­low-up ques­tion: How would fans re­act if Ken­tucky met this stated stan­dard? What if UK’s fi­nal record this sea­son was, say, 1-31?

“That’s a good one,” Ha­gans said with a soft smile. “I think they would be go­ing crazy, you know. I’m here for my broth­ers, and not the fans, so I’m not wor­ried about what they’ve got to say.”

But, of course, Ken­tucky fans al­ways have some­thing to say. What do they over­re­act to?

“Ev­ery­thing,” Ha­gans said. “Turn the ball over. They’re go­ing to be at you. If you don’t have a good game, they’re go­ing to be at you.

“But if you have a good game, they’re go­ing to be on the band­wagon.”

While not tak­ing the fickle over­re­ac­tion of fans to heart, Ha­gans said he was aware of their swings of emo­tion ex­pressed on Twit­ter and In­sta­gram.

“I just go on In­sta­gram and I swipe over and I see it,” he said. “But I don’t re­ally be into all of it.”

UK Coach John Cali­pari joked at the fans’ ex­pense af­ter Satur­day’s game.

“All sea­son our fans have bragged about these kids and talked about how good (they are),” he said face­tiously.

Af­ter UK de­feated North Carolina a week ear­lier, Cali­pari spoke of the need to pro­tect the play­ers be­ing influenced by the fans’ wild mood swings. Af­ter all, one sports mantra is to stay on an even keel, not get­ting too high nor too low. It’s never as good as it seems nor as bad.

“If we had won that game (against Se­ton Hall), we wouldn’t have all this crazi­ness, but this is Ken­tucky,” Cali­pari said in Chicago. “Good luck . ... Keep­ing the clut­ter away from them is part of what we have to do. We have the great­est fans in the coun­try. We do. But they also want to win ev­ery game by 25.”

In the Yum Cen­ter me­dia room, Cali­pari said he did not read tweets nor post­ings on Face­book.

“The fans that re­ally fol­low us, they know this is a process,” he said. Those fans know the play­ers’ metaphor­i­cal lamp of aware­ness might not go on un­til Fe­bru­ary or, in the case of the 2013-14 team, March.

“There’s also a small per­cent­age out there that are just crazy,” Cali­pari said. “I don’t pay any at­ten­tion to them. Now, here is the good thing. They will never steal my joy. They never will. I don’t lis­ten.”

BA­HAMAS REPRISE? WHAT IF ...

Herro mused about how dif­fer­ent the per­cep­tion of this Ken­tucky team would be if the

Cats had beaten Se­ton Hall.

“If we won that game, we’re prob­a­bly be top five in the coun­try right now,” he said. “We’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion. Like Coach says, we’re build­ing for March.”

TOUGH SCHED­ULE

The game was one of eight Louisville will play this sea­son against teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press pre­sea­son poll. Ken­tucky was No. 2 in that poll.

Other op­po­nents in that top 10 on Louisville’s sched­ule are No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Vir­ginia (two games), No. 6 Ten­nessee, No. 8 North Carolina (two games) and No. 10 Michi­gan State.

FREE-THROW DIP

Louisville came into the game on pace to set a pro­gram record for freethrow ac­cu­racy. The Cards had made 77.2 per­cent of their free throws. The pro­gram record is 75.2 per­cent set in 1974-75.

Ryan McMa­hon led the way. He had made 31 of 33 free throws. His 93.9-per­cent ac­cu­racy ranked sixth na­tion­ally.

U of L made 13 of 19 free throws against UK. That low­ered the team’s per­cent­age to 76.8.

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