The two highly touted freshmen were fresh off a game in which they combined to grab 19 of Kentucky's 36 rebounds. Calipari issued a call to the rest of the Wildcats to step up.
"Unless Michael gets the ball or Anthony gets the ball, we are not getting the ball," Calipari said after an 86-64 win over Lamar last Wednesday. "We have other guys that are flinching going after balls, or ducking, or hoping Anthony or Mike will get it."
For the first 13:09 of the first half of a game against Arkansas-Little Rock in Freedom Hall, Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis weren't immune to the flinching or ducking. The smaller Trojans held a 21-16 lead at that point, their largest of the game, largely on the strength of a 15-12 rebounding edge over the towering Wildcats. UK (14-1) had given up eight offensive rebounds after allowing just 10 in 40 minutes in a 69-62 win over Louisville this weekend.
"They beat us to every ball and I think they had 10 offensive rebounds at the half," Calipari said. "They played really tough and aggressive and it's the same issue (we have had all season)."
In fact, UK allowed nine first-half offensive rebounds, eight of which came in that opening stretch that carried the Trojans to a surprising early lead. The Wildcats would eventually rally past Arkansas-Little Rock for a 73-51 victory in their annual game in Louisville, Ky., citing better effort in the second half as the catalyst, but their adjustments began with 6:51 left in the first half.
For the balance of the opening stanza, UK would allow the Trojans to grab just a single rebound. It would come on the offensive end, but the Wildcats had 14 boards to close the half and their dominance on the glass wouldn't end there. Kentucky did not allow a single rebound for the first 9:21 of the second half, grabbing 10 of their own in the process. All told, UK grabbed 24 of 25 misses during a baffling 16:12 period in which they exerted their dominance, turning a one-point deficit into a 10-point lead in the process.
"Everybody went out there and went after rebounds, 50-50 balls, dove on the floor for balls and everything," Davis said. "We became more aggressive and that's how we got the lead in the second half."
Davis, along with Kidd-Gilchrist, once again ended up being the driving force behind UK's 50-23 edge on the glass for the game. Davis ripped down 16 misses, while Kidd-Gilchrist had 10 in spite of sitting out nearly the final five minutes on Tuesday night due to a strained muscle in his chest that Calipari did not deem serious.
It marked the third straight game Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist had combined for at least 50 percent of the Wildcats' rebounds and the second consecutive outing in which UK out-rebounded its opponent by at least 26. In the games against Louisville and Arkansas-Little Rock, Kentucky committed a total of 40 turnovers and was lackluster in many other areas. However, the ability to close out defensive possessions and prolong offensive ones with rebounds has been a salve.
"I think when we get one shot and we rebound the ball, it's one less possession they could have had," Davis said. "A second chance can lead to a 3 and can change the whole complexion of the game. When they go one-and-done, we come down and score, then they come back down and miss and we get the rebound and score again, it kind of crushes them."
Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis form a particularly deadly rebounding duo because of how compatible their styles are. On defense, Davis stays close to the basket and grabs every ball in his area. Of his 26 rebounds over his last two games, 20 have come on the defensive end. Kidd-Gilchrist, on the other hand, is a terror on the offensive glass due to his tireless effort and athleticism. He has 11 offensive rebounds over his last two games.
With Terrence Jones slowly regaining his form and Calipari exhorting senior swingman Darius Miller to use his athletic 6-foot-7 frame to attack the glass, UK could become an even scarier rebounding team. Miller and Jones each had six rebounds against Arkansas-Little Rock, but it's Davis' attitude that there isn't a loose ball he shouldn't get to.
"We just try to come and get every rebound, especially me," Davis said. "Every time a ball goes up, the rebound is mine and I go get it."