Julius Mays, who along with Willie Cauley-Stein keyed a second-half blowout Monday night, crumpled to the floor after taking a shot with 6:06 left. By then, Kentucky's 74-28 exhibition rout of Transylvania needed only punctuation. The sight of one of UK's few experienced players on the floor and clutching his right knee made for a question mark.
"More scary than anything just because it's the knee," a smiling Mays said afterward. "There's no more redshirts for me. So it was more scary for me."
Mays, a transfer graduate student who said his knee buckled as he came down on a defender's foot, expressed gratitude for UK's day off Tuesday and downplayed any speculation that he'll miss the season opener Friday against Maryland.
The Cats limited Transy to 10 points in the game's final 26 minutes.
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In one stretch, UK outscored Transy 52-8.
"There are some Division I teams we could beat," Coach Brian Lane said of his Pioneers, who returned four starters from a team that went 23-5 last season. " ... Certainly we're not going to beat that Division I team."
Lane said he apologized to UK Coach John Calipari for not presenting more of a competitive challenge.
"I told Coach Cal, 'Sorry we weren't able to score more points for you,'" Lane said. "'But you had something to do with that."
Lane lamented going second against Kentucky this exhibition season. The first opponent — Northwood this year — had the advantage of playing a UK team more unsure of itself and lacking a sense of how it must improve.
"That why last year I lobbied hard to play first," Lane said. " ... I saw an energy from those guys that maybe wasn't there the other night (against Northwood)."
The energy took a half to present itself. But after Calipari sat Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiltjer to start the second half, inserting Willie Cauley-Stein and Mays in their place, the Cats buried Transy in a 45-8 avalanche.
When asked to explain the difference in first half and second half, Cauley-Stein said, "Just effort."
Much like the exhibition last year, Transy was competitive for a half. Kentucky did not take a double-digit lead until the second half.
UK scored the game's first five points. Transy missed its first five shots and did not make a basket until the 14:16 mark (the second field goal came more than two minutes later).
Yet, the makings of a blowout failed to coalesce.
Turnovers contributed to UK's failure to overwhelm Transy. The Cats committed nine turnovers before the third television timeout. So a nine-point lead less than seven minutes into the game never expanded.
Transy got as close as 17-16 when Brandon Rash, an all-league pick last season, drove on and dunked on Cauley-Stein. That prompted a UK timeout with 8:28 left. Calipari re-inserted three starters: Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress. Wiltjer, Mays and Cauley-Stein took a seat.
"That was something special," Lane said of the dunk before adding, "I think from that point on, we didn't score very many times."
Calipari shook up the lineup to start the second half. He sat Wiltjer and Harrow. Cauley-Stein and Mays started instead.
Cauley-Stein drove and pitched to Mays, who hit a three-pointer. That marked the first of three three-pointers in less than three minutes for Mays, who pulled up on the break on the third and swished the heat-check shot.
After the first of the three-pointers, Cauley-Stein made a steal and played pitch-and-catch with Mays on a break with the latter lobbing a pass that the former dunked.
The rout, though delayed, was on.
Transy will realize about $50,000 from the exhibition. That includes a $20,000 guarantee, plus another $25,000 to $30,000 raised at a dinner Sunday night.
Transy used the $15,000 guarantee from last year's exhibition to finance a trip to Canada for its men's and women's teams. The money from last night will help continue the scheduling goal of having a game that requires a flight every other season, Lane said. The Pioneers plan to play on the West Coast during the 2013-14 season, the Transy coach said.
Dave O'Brien and Dick Vitale will call UK's season opener against Maryland on Friday. ... Looking a bit further ahead, unabashed UK critic Bob Knight will be part of TV crew working UK-Duke game on Nov. 13. He will join Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale.
The Hurricane Sandy telethon has been expanded to 7-9 p.m. Wednesday.
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