On average, Kentucky scored a point every 15 seconds against Asbury on Sunday night. That kind of rapid-fire offense had an ironic downside: The Cats did not have time to work on its post-up game.
With Kentucky beating Asbury’s pressing/trapping defense for layups and dunks, the ball was already in the basket before a big man could get position and call for an entry pass.
“The one thing we’re not doing right now is we’ve got to post the ball,” UK Coach John Calipari said after Kentucky’s 156-63 victory. “And you saw later in the game, I just forced them to throw the ball inside. You cannot play winning basketball unless you have a post presence.”
UK fans saw evidence of that last season. The Cats never established a post presence. At one point, Calipari said a team without a post-up game was a fraud.
Calipari does not need to convince the UK players of the importance of a post-up component to the offense.
“I don’t think people think our front court is as good as we think it is,” guard De’Aaron Fox said. “When those guys play big, I feel like we can’t lose.”
Teammate Tai Wynyard echoed the sentiment.
“Having both an inside and outside game is really huge,” he said. “If you have both aspects of the game, no one can really stop you.”
Although Kentucky posted up sparingly in the two exhibition games, the strategy has been emphasized in practice.
“He really wants to go to the ‘bigs’ this year,” Wynyard said of Calipari. “He knows we have a lot of good big-man talent. Definitely he wants to push it and get it in the post and try to make our team better.”
Besides the scoring in transition making the post game irrelevant against Asbury, Wynyard cited another reason for Kentucky not pounding the ball inside: Mercy.
“Today’s game was hard to post up, especially with the little guys,” he said of Asbury’s players. “I didn’t want to hurt them.”
A double-double was among the firsts for Mychal Mulder. He cited a driving dunk as another first.
“I don’t think I’ve had a dunk in Rupp other than the Blue-White Game,” he said. “All last year I went without a dunk. I think that’s my first year without dunking.”
Mulder’s 20 points and 11 rebounds was his first double-double for Kentucky.
“I was really trying to get the last two rebounds,” he said.
Mulder defined his role as hitting open shots (his four three-pointers were two more than he made all last season), finishing plays at the rim and defending.
“It’s important to hit shots,” he said, “but probably more important to play defense, rebound the ball, fight and battle.”
For Kentucky fans looking to pick a nit, there was this: Isaiah Briscoe picked up offensive fouls on back-to-back possessions before the first television timeout. He shoved a defender out of his path to the basket, then bowled into another defender.
Calipari has said repeatedly this preseason that he will want Briscoe and/or Fox on the floor at all times.
Later, Briscoe missed a wide-open layup. An Asbury turnover a moment later gave him a chance for a reprieve. Inexplicably, he did not dunk the second wide-open shot at the basket. Instead he laid it in.
“He got his his dunk in the first half,” Fox teased. “He’s done for the year.”
Wynyard wore a mask to protect a facial bone he broke in a preseason practice. It’s a hindrance, he said.
“They think I can see through it,” he said. “But I can’t really see through it. … It’s like goggles. Like looking through goggles.
“There was a lob I couldn’t see. It was like me grabbing at it blindfolded.”
Wynyard said he hoped to not have to wear the mask in another week or so.
Church and state
Asbury, a nondenominational school that espouses Christian values, does not typically play on Sundays.
In the early 1980s, the men’s soccer team won a berth in the NAIA national tournament. But the school turned down the bid because its team would have to play on a Sunday.
“Have we played on a Sunday? Yes,” Athletics Director Mark Perdue said. “It has to be an extreme circumstance.”
Coach Will Shouse looked around Rupp Arena 90 minutes before the tip and said with a smile, “This is worthy of an exception.”
It wasn’t the first time Asbury’s athletics director had been rooting for the visiting team in Rupp Arena.
He was the trainer for Marshall when the Herd played in the 1988 UKIT. “I thought that was the coolest thing,” he said.
Asbury had an allotment of 50 tickets for the game. Asbury bought an additional 50 tickets.
Asbury averaged 381 fans for its 14 home games last season. The school does not charge admission, Perdue said.
Stephen F. Austin at Kentucky
What: Regular-season opener
When: 7 p.m. Friday
TV: SEC Network