Kentucky basketball overcomes slow start to roll over LIU Brooklyn 104-75

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 23, 2012 

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Two days earlier, Kentucky Coach John Calipari had to call timeout against Morehead State to remind his players that they were a low-post team. No such reminders were necessary Friday night as UK dominated LIU Brooklyn around the basket en route to a 104-75 victory.

Kentucky scored a whopping 60 points in the paint. Combined with a 41-24 rebounding advantage, this paint job was impressionism.

It certainly made a big impression on LIU Brooklyn Coach Jack Perri. When asked about UK's effectiveness in the paint, he noted the 60 points.

"I think that answers the question," he said. "They obviously did a great job focusing on that.

"We talked about crowding the post. We didn't do a great job of doing that. We were late."

After a pause, Perri added, "I don't know if it would have mattered."

UK's size trumped — and thumped — LIU Brooklyn's advantage in experience. The Blackbirds started four seniors and a junior. So what? Freshmen Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein shot a combined 23 of 29. "A ridiculous percentage," Perri said. The three UK "bigs" accounted for 52 points.

"I think they were great," UK Coach John Calipari said of Noel and Cauley-Stein, his would-be Twin Towers.

Poythress and fellow freshman Archie Goodwin scored 20 or more points for the second straight game. Poythress, who made nine of 11 shots (as did Noel), equaled a career-high 22 points.

Even with all the post-up power offensively, Calipari cited Cauley-Stein's defense on LIU Brooklyn's slashing 6-foot-7 forward Jamal Olasewere.

"He was doing whatever he wanted," the UK coach said of Olasewere, "and Willie did a good job on him. It was great to see that ... he could guard an athletic four (power forward). ...

"That's when (the lead) went from 18 or 20 to 28 or 29, because you made about four plays in a row where he stopped him from scoring."

Goodwin flirted with a triple-double with 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a racehorse game that saw the two teams combine for 127 shots. UK scored a season-high total.

When asked about Goodwin coming close to recording UK's second triple-double ever (Chris Mills had 19 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds against Austin Peay in 1988-89), Calipari said he was unaware.

"If I thought that, I'd think 10 turnovers, too," he quipped. "So it's a quadruple-double."

Goodwin's night appeared to end early when Noel and Julius Mays helped him to the bench with 8:40 left. But there was little downside to this one as Goodwin returned later in the half.

UK improved to 4-1. LIU Brooklyn, which is seeking to become the first Northeast Conference team to make three straight NCAA tournaments, fell to 0-4.

The victory became so routine that many fans headed for the exits when LIU Brooklyn called time with 4:21 left. With the Cats ahead 98-68, they didn't even want to wait to see the century mark passed.

Maybe they knew something. UK didn't reach 100 points for more than two minutes. Noel did it with a post-up basket at the two-minute mark. That was part of UK's season-high 60 points from the paint.

Kentucky's 55-43 halftime lead was solely the product of a fast finish. The Cats scored the last 15 points of the half.

In the final four minutes, LIU Brooklyn missed all seven of its shots and committed two turnovers. The self-destructive debris included missing the front end of two one-and-ones.

UK trailed for much of the high-scoring half. Although eclipsing the previous high for points in the first half (51 against Lafayette on Nov. 16), the Cats also yielded a season-high number of first-half points (previous high: 36 by Maryland).

"That big 15-0 run kind of turned the whole game around," Perri said.

Seven dunks punctuated Kentucky's 38 first-half points in the paint.

But LIU Brooklyn countered with transition offense. After the Blackbirds scored five seconds following a UK basket, Calipari called time with 15:40 left to instruct. Kentucky is supposed to be a fast-break team.

"Early in the game, they they did what we want to do," Calipari said. "Miss or make, fly up the court. If nothing (in transition is) there, let's play."

Trailing by as much as six points in the half, Kentucky faced a 43-40 deficit entering the final four minutes.

Poythress (five) and Goodwin (six) accounted for 11 of UK's 15 points down the stretch. Each finished the half with 15 points.

Kentucky extended its lead to 20 by the first television timeout of the second half. The chances of an LIU Brooklyn comeback seemed to go from slim to none when leading scorer Olasewere went to the bench at the 18:01 mark with his fourth foul.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227Twitter: @JerryTiptonBlog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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