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Jamie Vaught: Wildcat fans might not be too crazy about the call, but sometimes a rule is a rule

No matter when you read this column, folks will still be discussing that infamous technical foul at the end of last Saturday night’s Kentucky-Texas A&M showdown.

If you were watching, you saw, it was a costly technical on UK’s Isaac Humphries when the 7-0, 260-pound freshman spiked the basketball on the floor in an emotional act of celebration. The call was just like the controversial college and pro football touchdown rule which penalizes excessive celebrations with a 15-yard penalty.

The technical foul, by the way, was issued by Pat Adams, of Mobile,Ala., who has officiated at several Final Fours.

Although the victim of an unfortunate technical foul call last weekend, Isaac Humphries has seen his playing time increase recently and coach John Calipari likes his physical play (UK Athletics Photo)

Although the victim of an unfortunate technical foul call last weekend, Isaac Humphries has seen his playing time increase recently and coach John Calipari likes his physical play (UK Athletics Photo)

And the social media went bonkers after Kentucky’s 79-77 setback to Texas A&M. It seems everyone had a strong opinion about that call. And I got involved by posting my feelings on the sticky issue on Facebook.

“Slamming the ball to the floor is an unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting a technical foul. I don’t like it, but you have to admit the official is right,” I wrote on Facebook.

Some agreed with me and some didn’t.

Replied Kentucky author Joe Cox, “Disagree totally. Referee’s job is to officiate the game, not to read the rule book like the constitution. In the same way that you could call holding on every play in football, there is a technical justification for the call. But a kid being excited, not arguing or taunting, should not be called there. Would’ve thought it was a garbage call the other way had it been made.”

UK fan Betty Lou Cochran added, “I feel bad for Humphries. He was playing pretty good ball. Understand them calling the technical but also think there should be a little gray area in there.”

Coming off the bench, Humphries played 20 minutes, and posted career-highs 12 rebounds and six points against Texas A&M.

Sportscaster Dick Vitale of ESPN wasn’t thrilled with the call. He tweeted, “My gut says ref should have passed on the T as it was not an act of unsportsmanship / better judgment should be used.”

Hours later, he then wrote another tweet, sympathizing with Humphries who played his heart out, and still believing no T should have been called.

Humphries tweeted the Big Blue Nation that “I will learn from this.”

While he has made a mistake, I still really don’t blame him. I possibly could’ve done same thing by slamming the ball. Who knows?

Like Vitale, Jay Bilas didn’t approve of the controversial ending, either. The ESPN broadcaster was there to cover the Kentucky game at College Station, Texas, along with Dan Shulman and Shannon Spake.

“The unsporting technical foul on Humphries was unnecessary and wrong, in my judgment. It should not have been called,” Bilas tweeted.

He also added that it was “a judgment call by the official. Rules do not require it to be called, nor not to be called.”

Well, as I added in my Facebook post, the referees could’ve easily overlooked this whole thing. Perhaps a poor judgment was made. But a rule is a rule.

Nevertheless, it was definitely a horrible episode. Oh well, Kentucky has moved on and is shooting for a nice seeding in
the NCAA tournament.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Humphries is definitely not afraid to be a very physical player. And John Calipari likes it.

“Well, he just fights. He goes after balls, and that’s all you want guys to do,” said the UK coach last week. “You’re not going to get them all, but try, attempt. He’s not afraid to contact. When there’s contact, he’s in the middle of it somehow, and it gives us what we need. He waited a long time to get this opportunity. Now he’s got an opportunity to play and he’s taking advantage.”

A Top 50 prospect by most major recruiting services as a member of the 2016 class before reclassifying to 2015, Humphries has gotten more playing time in the frontline in the past three weeks after injuries to Alex Poythress and Derek Willis, and is now averaging 10.4 minutes in 15 games prior to Tuesday night’s game with Alabama.

He has averaged 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 points, and blocked 15 shots. From the charity stripe, Humphries has hit 11 of 15 free throws for 73.3 percent.

Humphries, who just turned 18 last month, discussed his playing style.

“I just try to fight as hard as I can,” said the Sydney, Australia native moments after Kentucky’s 80-70 win over Tennessee last Thursday night when he grabbed six rebounds in 16 minutes. “I just want to go in and be aggressive and really attack the boards on defense and offense, because really, that is my job.”

During UK’s annual Media Day festivities last October, Humphries also talked about what he can bring to the squad.

“From playing in Australia, we’re a lot more physical, ” said Humphries, who loves to play the piano during his free time. “The refereeing
is different. We’re allowed different fouls. Once I came here, I realized it’s not as aggressive. But I still try to be aggressive in the post and I think the post is somewhere you need to be aggressive.

“I played rugby for a very good portion of my life so that kind of translates a little bit into being tougher than my teammates. I’m not crazy, though. I’m not one of those people that tackle people in the post. I just like to make it tough for them.”

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

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