Calipari, No. 1 Kentucky to meet former assistant Antigua
MIAMI (AP) Moments before Kentucky was to play Boston University earlier this week, Wildcats coach John Calipari had someone stationed nearby to give him a report on another game that was winding down.
He got the signal: Thumbs-up.
That meant South Florida won. Calipari won't need anyone to give him updates on the Bulls' next game, with South Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky on Friday in the Hoophall Miami Invitational, presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Bulls are coached by Orlando Antigua, a former Calipari assistant and the reason why the Kentucky coach has such an affinity for their program.
''I wanted to know that he won that game,'' Calipari said. ''Again, I hope he loses the next one. But after that I hope he wins them all.''
Kentucky (5-0) will be going for its 38th consecutive regular-season victory and its 39th straight win over an unranked opponent. It's clearly a very tall task for South Florida (1-4), yet it's still a chance that Antigua and his team seem to be savoring.
''I obviously have a lot of great respect for that program, and for Cal and the staff and the players there. But that's all the personal stuff,'' Antigua said. ''For us, it's another opportunity to go out and compete against a good team to see how we can continue to grow and mature.''
More than 8,000 tickets have been sold for the inaugural Miami event, and the Hall of Fame plans on being back in the arena that the Miami Heat call home in the future. The doubleheader also includes a matchup against Ohio State (2-2) and Memphis (2-2), the first meeting between those two programs since they met in 2007 with a trip to the Final Four at stake.
Antigua worked with Calipari at both Memphis and Kentucky, then leaving to take over the Bulls before the 2014-15 season. They remain in touch, speaking regularly by phone and keeping track of each other's games.
''O is my dude,'' Kentucky forward Alex Poythress said. ''We're always laughing and joking. I can't wait to see him when we go down to Miami. He's been one of my guys ever since he recruited me and I can't wait to see him again.''
The Bulls have lost their last 17 games against ranked opponents. It's also USF's first time facing a No. 1-ranked team since 2009.
''This opportunity is once in a lifetime, going up against some guys that are supposed to be the best,'' USF forward Chris Perry said. ''Going out there and just playing our hearts out, that's all we can do.''