The setting for his first game as Kentucky coach warmed John Calipari's heart.
"You know, it was neat to walk into an exhibition game and look up in the rafters, and it's packed," he said afterward. "I was, like, stunned."
Well, the attendance was 21,384, more than 1,600 shy of capacity, but let's not quibble.
Although Kentucky easily beat Campbellsville 74-38 in Monday's exhibition, the way the Cats went about it cooled Calipari's ardor.
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"Then I look up with six minutes to go, and we have 53 points," the UK coach said. "A running, pressing team!"
Too many turnovers. Not nearly enough authoritative drives to the basket. Too little coordinated defense.
On the plus side, Kentucky won while learning where it stands going forward.
"There was some good, some bad, some ugly, some nice-looking stuff," Calipari said before putting that into perspective. "But it was the first one out of the gate."
Kentucky, whose wings (Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson) were only an inch shorter than Campbellsville's tallest starter, dominated around the basket. The Cats needed that advantage in a game that reinforced the perception that this UK team will struggle to make perimeter shots. Kentucky made five shots outside 5 feet all night: two three-pointers by Dodson, a floater outside the lane by Miller, Dodson's spinner in the lane and a three-pointer by — of all people — Perry Stevenson with 10 seconds left to punctuate the romp.
Patrick Patterson, who left last week's Blue-White Game happy with his contributions from the perimeter, struggled. He made two of seven shots. Both baskets were dunks. He had no assists and six turnovers.
Not that it mattered in winning or losing. It mattered in terms of how the Cats must play basketball when the competition improves.
"Twelve days in, and we're not ready," Calipari said.
Campbellsville seemed shaken by its inability to look UK in the eye. The Tigers made only six of their first 42 shots. What concerned Calipari was, he saw too many open shots that Campbellsville missed.
"If they had 58 possessions, we guarded about 10 of them the way we wanted," the UK coach said. "We had a problem with the other 48."
Dodson led UK with 19 points. That followed up on his 26 points in the Blue-White Game last week.
Freshman DeMarcus Cousins and Stevenson chipped in with 11 each, with the latter getting kudos from Calipari for maintaining a good attitude while waiting until 5:42 remained to get in the game.
DeAndre Liggins, who earlier this pre-season drew raves from Calipari, didn't get off the bench. The UK coach suggested he might keep other players on the bench in Friday's exhibition against Clarion to see how they react.
Kentucky enjoyed a collective 23-inch height advantage among the starters. And it showed throughout the first half.
With scoring around the basket all but impossible, Campbellsville made only three of 25 first-half shots. The Tigers did not crack the seven-point barrier until 5:56 left.
Double-digit points remained out of reach until Jermaine Carter made two free throws with 1.5 seconds left.
At the other end, Kentucky had its way around the basket. Good thing because the Cats made only two shots outside of 3 feet throughout the opening 20 minutes.
The second half saw Campbellsville settle down and actually outscore Kentucky 24-21 during the first 14 minutes. Calipari cited fatigue.
Freshman point guard Eric Bledsoe excelled in the press and in open-court situations. He made two steals in the press. He also zipped to the basket undetected for a put-back of a missed free throw,
The half ended with a UK miss that drew cheers. After calling a timeout with 1.5 seconds left, Daniel Orton inbounded to Patterson at the opposite top of the key. Patterson redirected the inbounds to Dodson on the right wing. The crowd's anticipation gave way to a good feeling for the future after Dodson missed a floater. The crowd cheered in appreciation for the well-designed attempt.
It was something else to build on this night of laying a foundation.