There are more newcomers than starters this season at Kentucky, but there were signs in Monday night's exhibition versus Bellarmine that they'd all been playing together for years.
There were several no-look passes, lots of pats on the back and chatter on defense.
"We are really close and we can read each other," said Victoria Dunlap, one of the five returnees. "It was fun."
UK made it look fun, downing the Knights 107-57 at Memorial Coliseum.
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Dunlap was one of four players in double figures with a game-high 22 points. She was one of seven to score eight points or more for the Cats, who put up more than 100 points for the first time since December 2005.
"We're so close," said Rebecca Gray, one of the six new players. "It makes it easy to play with people you know and care about. We got out there and worked hard, and it ends up being fun."
Gray, a Kentucky Miss Basketball from Scott County, added 18 points, as did freshman and reigning Miss Basketball A'dia Mathies, who started and admitted she was "kind of nervous."
Senior Amani Franklin added 15 points and nine rebounds. Junior point guard Amber Smith had nine points and six assists.
It was a different Kentucky than the one that struggled against Bellarmine last season, beating the Knights by just three points on less than 40 percent shooting, including shooting a paltry 6.7 percent from long range.
This year, UK made 51.2 percent of its shots (42 of 82) and found a variety of ways to score.
But Coach Matthew Mitchell cautioned against reading too much into a single exhibition against a young Bellarmine team.
"We can't have the mind-set that we've arrived or that we're clicking on all cylinders," Mitchell said.
But he admitted he did see an improved offensive team.
"When you have the ability to make shots and some people that can make some plays off the bounce," good things happen, Mitchell said.
The coach said he was a fan of the team's energy from the start when Dunlap scored the first eight points.
"They played with some enthusiasm and intensity, and that's going to be key for the long-term success of this team," he said.
UK used a 20-0 run in the first half to take control, and it held Bellarmine scoreless for more than eight minutes.
Dunlap said the team just did what its coach asked.
"Coach talked about us going out and having a lot of energy and us wanting to play for Kentucky and having pride in the team," said Dunlap, who also had 13 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots in 30 minutes.
As a team, UK managed to swipe the ball 22 times and force the Knights into 34 turnovers.
Central Hardin's Kylie Brady and Melissa Fitz had 13 points each to lead the Knights. Former Tates Creek standout Betsy Goodin added 10 points.
Former Kentucky player Brittany Edelen, whose scholarship was not renewed at the end of last season, is now playing for Bellarmine. Struggling with foul trouble, she scored four points on 2-for-11 shooting.
After her first game back since December, UK senior Lydia Watkins might have to spend more time on the bench.
With 1:25 remaining in the first half, the forward collided with another player and fell to the ground, grabbing her shoulder. Mitchell said it could be a separated shoulder, but they won't know until an X-ray on Tuesday.
Watkins had four points and five rebounds in eight minutes.
■ Kentucky opens its season versus Boston University at 11 a.m. Friday.
The unusual start time is because of a scheduling conflict with the UK men, who also play Friday. The women's team couldn't move its game because it also plays at home Sunday.
Because of the early start, the two will get the distinction of getting to play in the nation's first women's Division I game of the season.