De'Aaron attacks Arkansas en route to two of his career-high 27 points (photo by Chet White/UK Athletics)

De’Aaron attacks Arkansas en route to two of his career-high 27 points (photo by Chet White/UK Athletics)

Camp Cal ends on Sunday afternoon, one last long-form workout following Kentucky’s 97-71 win over Arkansas Saturday night in Rupp Arena. The man for whom the extended, concentrated holiday workouts is named is pleased with his team, so much so that he suggested a celebratory meal to punctuate their conclusion.

“I said, ‘Let’s go have a nice celebration and a dinner,’ ” the UK coach told the crowd assembled in Rupp Arena, and the UK radio network. “I said, ‘We’ll go to Malone’s.’ The guys said, ‘How about we go to Texas Roadhouse?’ Mitch (Barnhart, UK athletics director) likes it. Instead of $50 a plate, it’ll be $14 a plate.”

So instead of a place where your silverware comes wrapped in a white napkin, the Wildcats would rather head for the joint where they encourage you to throw your peanut shells on the floor.

Maybe this collection of basketball blue-bloods has the makings of a blue-collar team, after all.

It’s certainly a ballclub that got a little hot under that same collar when the Razorbacks’ Jaylen Barford played Christian Laettner to Isaiah Briscoe’s Aminu Timberlake, purposely (at least, it appeared that way on the in-house replays) stomping on Briscoe’s thigh during a scrum under the Arkansas basket.

“We’re like brothers so we take up for each other,” Bam Adebayo said later. “It brings us closer because nobody is going to come between us. We just fought harder. “

A little later Malik Monk took what appeared to be an elbow to the nether-regions. And after another dust-up at the Kentucky end of the floor, Calipari paid a visit to the free throw line in front of the Kentucky bench, where he animatedly lectured his players about how to handle themselves.

“What I was trying to teach when it got testy,” said Calipari, “you can’t respond. You just walk. Trying to get these guys to understand: stuff happens in a game. It gets heated. You just gotta walk.”

All part of the learning process, but likely something that wasn’t on the Camp Cal syllabus when the Christmas break began. It took a team like Arkansas to educate the Cats in the ways of an SEC team that overcame a slow start and didn’t succumb to the pressures of Rupp Arena.

In fact, the Hogs bounced back and took a 24-20 lead as the Wildcat offense ground to a halt, midway through the first half. Searching for answers, Calipari went to a four-guard lineup, with Mychal Mulder getting some clock. That combination ripped off a 9-0 run and Kentucky never trailed again.

It was a ragged game, thanks in large part to 51 fouls, 31 whistled on Arkansas. Six different Razorbacks finished with four fouls; two more with three. Malik Monk was in early foul trouble as well, one of the reasons the Arkansas native finished with just 12 points. Another reason – the Hog defense, which shaded itself toward the UK sharpshooter.

All that did was create space and driving lanes for De’Aaron Fox, who finished with a career-high 27 points and six assists.  “When things aren’t going (Monk’s) way and then it (turned) into one-on- one with my defender,” Fox said,”I think I won that battle a lot.”

Isaiah Briscoe chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds, draining 7-of-9 free throws. Derek Willis scored 15 points in just 19 minutes, draining 3-of-5 triples.

The game had its moments, including a fast break that, in a basketball world turned upside down, saw Adebayo finish a fast break not with another rim-rattling dunk, but by lofting an alley-oop pass to Monk, soaring in from the right side.

And, despite the fact that the Razorbacks seemed to be finding their way to the rim with alarming regularity early in the game, Kentucky outscored Arkansas in the paint, 24-4. The lessons learned at Camp Cal clearly seemed to be paying off.

“We still broke down a bunch and they’re a great driving team,” Calipari said. “Look. They’re 25 in the RPI. They’re 12-3. They’re gonna win games in our league. You know what I’m happy about? We don’t have to go down there and play them.”

No, they don’t. But other tough road trips lay ahead, including Tuesday night’s visit to Vanderbilt. It’ll be another opportunity for this young team to learn. And, if they win, maybe they’ll get to pick the restaurant again.

Whether it’s a five-star establishment or a diner – whatever they order will taste just fine, as long as they keep winning.

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