With apologies to Garth Brooks, who performs at Rupp Arena this weekend, the Blue-White Game Monday night showed that Kentucky will have friends in high places this season.
"You're talking about the best in the nation in one gym," freshman Karl-Anthony Towns said.
That did not sound like merely youthful enthusiasm given the many big men on the court. Dakari Johnson (13 points) ran the floor and did good work around the basket. Towns (20 points) displayed an inside-outside versatility. Trey Lyles (eight points and four rebounds) did much the same. Willie Cauley-Stein also had his moments with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Marcus Lee added three points, nine rebounds and three assists.
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"It's just scary to think the other team is actually a part of our team, too," Towns said of the no-losers quality of a Blue-White Game.
But, to borrow again from Brooks, Kentucky had friends in low places, too. Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who celebrate a 20th birthday Tuesday, scored 19 and 15 points, respectively. Maybe more encouraging on this night, they made 15 of 18 free throws.
Tyler Ulis made a big impression in the first half, never more so than when he threw a pass between Cauley-Stein's legs that netted Johnson a post-up basket.
"When you play with Tyler, you always have to make sure you're ready," Johnson said. "Because he's going to get the ball to you no matter what. He's just a crafty point guard, so you always have to be prepared."
Johnson, who could be a force around the basket in a possession-by-possession game, made only one of seven free throws.
"The main takeaway is free throws," he said in judging his performance. "That's just a mental thing, and I'll get better. I don't know what was going on tonight. ... It'll be better next time."
UK Coach John Calipari saluted Johnson's performance. "I thought Dakari played great," he said. "He just didn't make any free throws."
Freshman Devin Booker led all scorers with 22 points, and could have had more had he made more than four of eight free throws.
The game did not feature strict platoons. Mid-way through the second half, Calipari engineered a two-for-two trade, with Lyles and Towns going from the Blue team to the White, while Johnson and Alex Poythress went from White to Blue.
Poythress scored 20 points (12 for the Blue where he seemed more comfortable with the twins, and eight for the White).
The White team's free-throw shooting was more chilly than Rupp Arena, which lacked the body warmth to offset the air conditioning. Although the lower level was almost full, the upper arena was practically empty in the end zones and the top 10 or so rows along the sideline also unoccupied.
The White team made only two of 12 free throws in the first half and finished six-for-17. Towns led the Blue team with 10 first-half points. Cauley-Stein added nine.
Calipari was not satisfied, and probably would not want to be satisfied with anything in late October.
"A lot of one-hand catches, which drove me nuts," he said. "Which means they were playing sloppy. We've got a lot of things we've got to get done. Turned it over too many times, which is typical of trying to make hard plays."
As the basketball cliche puts it, no coach can teach height. That UK has plenty of, and Calipari spoke of putting it to use this season.
"The reality of it is in the half-court, we're hard to score against," he said. "You know why? You're not getting anything near the basket, so now you have to take jumpers. . . .
"I don't know if we're that bad offensively or if we're hard to score against. I think early on in the season, we're going to have to rely on our defense. We can really make it hard on the other guy to score."
With 3:51 left in the first half, a cheerleader fell to the floor and was taken off the court on a stretcher. She was moving her arms and smiling after the fall.
The cheerleader, Mercedes Laster, was not seriously injured, coach Jomo Thompson said. Laster is a junior from London.
Continuing what's becoming an annual custom, Calipari announced scholarships awarded to two students who attended the Blue-White Game.
This year's winners were Katie Wolf, a senior biosystems engineering major from Kearneysville, W.Va., and Han Curtis, a freshman from Franklin, Tenn., majoring in integrated strategic communications.
If Aaron and Andrew Harrison looked into the stands behind the baseline opposite the E-Rupp-tion Zone, they would have seen identical support.
Twins Abigail and Chloe Pfeiffer, 16, held up a sign that read "Twin power."
The Pfeiffers are from Lexington.