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UK pros no match for Dominican team in exhibition game at Rupp Arena


John Calipari is still undefeated at Rupp Arena since taking the University of Kentucky head coaching job.

 

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On Monday, the Calipari-coached Dominican Republic National Team earned a 106-88 victory over a team of eight NBA players and UK alumni.

 

“When they introduced (Pros co-head coach Denny) Crum and it was a positive thing and when they introduced (Pros co-head coach Joe B. Hall) and the whole place went bonkers, now you just want to have a good game because that stuff there just shows what our fans are about,” said Calipari. “I just hope everyone enjoyed themselves.”

 

“It was a really good experience,” said pro-team coach Joe B. Hall. “I wish we had played a little better, but I think they played hard and without much coaching they did a good job. I was really impressed with several of the players’ attitude. I thought they really tried there at the last, but the baskets just didn’t fall.”

 

The UK pros led 38-35 with just over four minutes left in the first half, but the Dominican Republic team finished the half on a 19-8 run to take a 54-46 lead into halftime. The pro team, which had not practiced together before the game, never trailed by less than five in the second half.

 

The first-half rally was led by former University of Louisville star and Sacramento Kings forward Francisco Garcia, who finished the half with 19 points, including five three-point baskets.

 

Garcia finished with a game-high 30 points. Former UofL standout and Dominican Republic point guard Edgar Sosa added 29 points and six assists, though he also was called for nine fouls. Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford totaled 12 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists for the Dominican Republic.

 

The UK pros were led by Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, who totaled 28 points and 14 rebounds. Philadelphia 76ers guard Jodie Meeks scored 17 points, and Washington Wizards points guard John Wall scored 15.

 

While the former UK players came up short on the scoreboard, each of the eight players who returned for the game said they were happy to play in front of UK fans once again.

 

“It was great,” Wall said. “It felt like a regular game, just like we were playing a couple of years ago.”

 

“It (Rupp Arena) is just a fun place to be,” Meeks said.

 

The high-point of the game may have come before it even tipped off. Each of the UK players — including current center Eloy Vargas, who is playing for the Dominican Republic — received thunderous ovations.

 

Meanwhile, former UofL stars Garcia and Sosa and former Florida standout Horford were loudly booed by the pro-UK crowd.

 

Horford answered the boos with a “gator-chomp.”

 

“When I got introduced it was for the Atlanta Hawks, but obviously people here in Lexington remember me playing with Florida,” Horford said. “It was fun.”

 

Considering the sold-out crowd and raucous atmosphere, the UK pros each said they hoped the school could organize more events like this in the future. Monday’s game was not affiliated with UK.

 

“It’s definitely something we talked amongst ourselves about doing,” Mohammed said. “First we want to check with Coach Cal and see if he has anything planned. If he doesn’t, we’ll get something going, us coming back just kind of teaching the young guys, playing with the young guys or us doing something bigger or trying to have a weekend. But we’re going to sit and talk with him and figure it out.”

 

Photos by Mark Boxley

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