Frustrated by the way his undefeated Kentucky Wildcats were playing, Coach John Calipari told them he hoped they would lose.
They almost did.
But Karl-Anthony Towns redeemed himself after drawing a technical foul for hanging on the basket and the ire of his coach by hitting a go-head jump hook with 1:30 left and grabbing a clutch offensive rebound against Louisiana State in the final minute to help No. 1 Kentucky stay unbeaten, 71-69, on Tuesday night.
"I'm proud of Karl because he came back and grew up," Calipari said. "Now I doubt — ever in his life — will he chin-up on a basket, ever again. But that's why I looked like an idiot on the sideline and why I refused to call timeout. I even said, 'I hope we lose. Watch this!' "
Calipari explained he wanted to make sure his team won't lose elimination games in March over senseless fouls, so even as his assistants pleaded with him to call timeout, he just watched and joined in the ear-ringing frenzy at the sold-out Pete Maravich Assembly Center during a stunning 21-2 Louisiana State run that gave the Tigers a 66-60 lead.
"I'm not worried about losing" at this point of the season, said Calipari, whose team improved to 24-0, and 11-0 in the Southeastern Conference. "This is about us getting better."
As the Tigers stormed in front, Towns squirmed uncomfortably on the Kentucky bench, waiting to redeem himself.
"It was a momentum changer. I can't be doing that," said Towns, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. "During moments like that you think about your brothers and how much they've given you. You give everything back. I was more than happy to repay my brothers' efforts."
It was only narrowly enough. Keith Hornsby had a shot to win it for Louisiana State in the final seconds, but his off-balance three-point attempt bounced off the outside of the rim.
Willie Cauley-Stein scored 15 points for the Wildcats, who can tie a school record for the best start to a season by winning at home on Saturday against South Carolina. Devin Booker added 14 and Andrew Harrison had 13 for the Wildcats.