Cats honor Tubby, then roll past High Point


Jeff Houchin

Tubby Smith had a jersey retired in his honor Friday at Rupp Arena.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Kentucky honored one of its former coaches and then took care of business to close out the calendar year on Friday.

The Wildcats welcomed back former coach Tubby Smith, who led the school to it seventh national championship in 1998, retired a jersey in his honor and then collected their fourth straight victory with a 92-48 win over Smith’s High Point squad.

It was Smith’s first visit back to Rupp Arena since the 2006-07 season and he was showered with a loud roar and plenty of applause, while surrounded by family and friends on the court during the pre-game ceremony. Smith was given his rightful place in the rafters of Rupp and given a jersey by University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. Smith’s wife, Donna Smith, was chosen as the honorary “Y” during the second half.

“We were honored and pleased by the (ceremony) and having a banner raised in Rupp Arena,” Smith said. “I couldn’t be more happy and I was happy to have my family here with me to witness this moment. … There isn’t anything I can look back on and say this left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s always been a joy to come back to Lexington (and) this is a place my family calls home more than anywhere else. It (was) good to be back and be honored this way.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari admitted he got a “little emotional” during the ceremony and wanted Smith to know he was “loved” by the school’s fan base.

“He is just one of those gracious guys,” Calipari said. “… he doesn’t do stuff to get anything back. He just doesn’t. It’s kind of like when a guy has been doing something the same way for 35-40 years … that’s Tubby. He is who he is (and) and he’s a great basketball coach.”

Smith’s squad couldn’t keep pace with the Wildcats (11-2) who notched their fourth consecutive victory and did so in convincing fashion. Kentucky, which has scored 90 or more points in three of the past four games, knocked down 10 shots from the 3-point line and it was Kellan Grady who provided a lift from behind the arc with seven treys on 10 attempts. Grady connected on five long-range bombs in a 20-5 run by the Wildcats that put the game beyond reach by outscoring the Panthers 49-23 in the second half.

“He’s shooting the ball well and he’s confident,” Calipari said. “He knows if he does not shoot it, he’s coming out.”

Grady finished with 23 points and missed just four shots on 12 attempts. The display by Grady wasn’t a surprise to Smith, whose team played against Davidson last year.

“He did a good job,” Smith said. “… “He gets it off quick, he has good size and he’s an intelligent player, he knows how to get open. We lost him and he knocked down a bunch of threes.”

In addition to Grady, Kentucky placed four players in double figures. Oscar Tshiebwe and TyTy Washington scored 15 points each, followed by Davion Mintz with 10. Coming off a 28-rebound performance in his last outing, Tshiebwe finished with eight rebounds.

“When we make shots like we made today, we’re going to beat people and there’s going to be a big margin,” Calipari said. “We kind of wore them down … we were a little bit much. We played really good today.”

Gametracker: Kentucky at LSU, 7 p.m., Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.

High Point box