TU Crimson vs. UK Blue: Historic game proves to be learning experience for all

by Abby Ferguson
Sports Editor

Junior Barrett Meyer, No. 11, rushes down the court at Rupp Arena in the historic game versus the No. 2-ranked Division I Kentucky Wildcats. Ever since the last gamee 100 years ago, the record has remained 7-7. Transy's defeat last night moved the record to 8-7 in UK's favor

Imagine a modern-day David versus Goliath scenario — this was the case for the Transylvania men’s basketball team last night when they faced the University of Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

These two schools, whose cultures are deeply rooted in basketball, met for the first time in 100 years. The outcome ended the tied record of 7-7, making the new record 8-7 in UK’s favor.

The Pioneers started strong, with junior Barrett Meyer scoring the first two baskets of the night. Transy’s team continued to hang with the Cats throughout the entire first half, keeping the scoring gap at 14 points at halftime, with UK at 37 points and Transy at 23.

“We approached this game as a way to help the University of Kentucky to get ready for those early games in the season,” said Transy head coach Brian Lane.

The strong start for the Pioneers was exactly what they aimed to do and it is something they are taking away from the experience.

“The first half was a perfect scenario of what we wanted to do,” Lane said.

“I believe we came out with a lot more energy than they did and they overlooked us,” said junior Ethan Spurlin.

Six-foot-10-inch Anthony Davis, a first-year player for UK, proved troublesome for the Pioneers.

“I simulated (Davis’ height) in practice. … I brought out a broom and we shot over it for two days inside. I would have never dreamed that we would have that many shots blow up in our hands from the 3-point line,” said Lane.

Even with the loss of 97-53, the Pioneers are optimistic about the experience and are taking away positives from the contest.

“We came in tonight really excited. We were nervous, we came in tonight and as soon as tipoff started we were focused — we were ready to go. We played really hard and pretty good basketball,” said Spurlin.

Lane agreed.

“I thought our guys competed,” Lane said.

Kentucky was quick to “tip their hats” to the Pioneers for their determination throughout the contest.

“Hats off to Coach Lane and Transy,” said Kentucky head coach John Calipari. “I told those guys after, ‘Brian, you should be proud of them.’ They didn’t back away. … They made shots and played with unbelievable emotion. (They) played harder than us, got every loose ball, took charges, did stuff they had to do to stay in the game.”

After the game the Cats looked at their performance to evaluate what areas need improvement.

“There are 60 teams right now, maybe more, that we could not beat if we had to play today. Thank goodness we have another couple weeks before we have to play another real game,” said Calipari. “We’ve just got to be a better team together; we got to play off of one another.”

The Pioneers played a physical game against the Cats, but UK sophomore Terrence Jones saw this as a good test for his team.

“We needed that. … For them to have a chance, they were going to have to play physical with them being so undersized. … It helped us get better and we realize what we need to work on. That’s what the whole game was for,” Jones said.

Calipari sees this as an opportunity to strengthen his team.

“I think we thought we were going to win by 100. I was so happy the game was close; I’m so happy the start was what it was. … It’s a teaching tool, it’s a chance for me to talk to them,” said Calipari.

Overall, the Battle on Broadway left both teams with an experience they believe they can use to help them move forward to a more successful regular season.

“We came focused and we did what we were supposed to do. … We played extremely hard and we didn’t give up,” Spurlin said.

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Lane, Calipari coach with passion

Last night, I was lucky enough to have a seat in the press section at Rupp Arena—something I never thought would happen to me. And while most people were watching the action on the court, I was more intrigued by the coaching styles. As an athlete of many years, I’ve been coached by varying personalities with different styles, and watching the coaches last night was an experience.

While John Calipari and Brian Lane are both college basketball coaches with talented players and skill as coaches as well, they showed last night that they are two different coaches with two different approaches to the game.

With his Wildcat-blue dress shirt (sans tie) and dry-erase play board, Coach Cal started out the night with calmness and precision. He got his team together before the tipoff, going over strategy and plan.

Coach Lane stood his ground with his crimson tie, equally calm, surveying the court. But when game time arrived, he let his players orient themselves on the court rather than huddling them up just before tipoff.

The beginning of the game turned out to be misleading, however, when it came to the coaching attitudes. While both coaches were involved and animated, they each showed different attitudes and body language.

Head coach Brian Lane is No. 3 on the all-time wins list at Transylvania.

As opposed to his initial release of the players, Coach Lane was constantly out of his seat, pacing back and forth on the sidelines, watching the game unfold and offering looks and gestures to his point guards consistently. While he didn’t appear aggressive, he was definitely assertive. When one of his players did something Lane didn’t like, he stayed silent, rather than yelling across the court; but when a player did something praise-worthy, he was more than willing to cheer them on.

Lane also substituted many more players than Calipari, and more often, sometimes subbing in three or four players at a time. This allowed the team to stay fresh, as opposed to the Wildcats who seemed to tire out quickly at the start of the game.

He advocated a strong defensive style, as the Pioneers pressed hard against their opponents. But the team also progressed competitively on the offense, attempting a grand total of 38 3-pointers and making 12. Overall, Coach Lane stayed centered and supportive of his team, consistently offering direction.

On the other side, Coach Cal’s coaching style was more sporadic; at times, specifically when the Cats were up by a significant amount, he was sitting back in his chair, watching his players navigate the floor. But when one of his players lost the ball or there was a call by the referee he disagreed with, he was significantly more forceful in his gestures and words. While I never heard Lane’s voice way up on press row, I heard Calipari’s words several times.

Calipari’s philosophy for his team’s defense was man-to-man, representing an aggressive strategy in an effort to keep the Pioneers from scoring.

Coach John Calipari took over the UK men's basketball program in 2009.

The huddles during timeouts were significantly different for each team as well, even in their basic composition. UK’s huddle made almost a perfect circle around Calipari on the court, while Transy’s players formed a closer, more intimate semicircle, allowing for the players on the court to sit courtside for a break. Calipari also seemed to make the board a central part of the strategy during every meeting, gesturing to it quite often. While Lane used the board with his bright orange dry-erase marker, he exercised much more eye contact and vocal expression.

During halftime, the teams disappeared into the locker room; when they returned, the two teams and coaches did exactly the opposite of what they had done before the game: Calipari kept to himself and let his players get situated on the floor, while Lane huddled up and strategized.

However, the start of the second half did bring a more consistently aggressive Calipari, who was suddenly out of his chair and directing his players. He sat for short periods of time, but was usually back up on the court again within 45 seconds — until the Cats had a lead of about 20 points. Then he calmed down, and sat back in his chair.

The timeout with 16:08 remaining in the second half produced a significant example of the difference in coaching styles between Calipari and Lane. Lane allowed Assistant Coach Nate Valentine to take the lead and direct during the huddle, something I never saw Calipari allow.

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