John Calipari opened with his post-game laundry list of needed improvements.
He started with defense and focused on defense. You have to be a good defensive team to win championships. This is not a good defensive team, said the Kentucky coach after his team's annual Blue-White Scrimmage.
What did you think he was going to say?
The final score was 126-104.
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Terrence Jones scored 52 points and there were lobs and dunks and no-look passes and vertical leaps and outrageous athleticism.
Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer each scored 27 points. Davis grabbed 13 rebounds. Wiltjer buried five three-pointers. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was energetic and hard-nosed and got a lot of different things done, scoring 21 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, making seven assists. Marquis Teague led both teams with eight assists.
There is little doubt Kentucky's fabulous foursome of freshmen will be as advertised.
The thing 12,134 could take away from Rupp Arena on Wednesday night was this: Don't sleep on the veterans.
Cal wasn't blowing smoke on Jones. The coach repeated through these first two weeks of practice that the sophomore might be the best player in the nation. Jones came out Wednesday as if to prove the boast. He drove. He jammed. He passed.
Most of all, the sophomore exhibited a better body and a biting determination.
"What I want to do," he said afterward, "is satisfy Coach."
Simple as that.
Thing was, among his veteran buddies, he wasn't the only one to show an upgrade.
Darius Miller scored 24 points, dished out six assists. The senior had just three rebounds, but with Davis, Jones, Wiltjer and Kidd-Gilchrist crashing the boards at both ends, the former Mason County star didn't really need to hang around the glass.
We all know the knock on Miller. He isn't always confident enough, aggressive enough, mean enough. But he's a senior now. He's been through the wars, physical and emotional.
"I think I'm a lot better now," he said when asked about his skill level this November compared to last November. "I'm more comfortable."
Doron Lamb said the same thing about his own sophomore self.
"I know I'm a lot better right now," said the New Yorker, but not in a boastful way. "I'm in better condition."
Remember, back in the summer, Calipari told a national writer friend that Lamb might be the best all-around player on the team.
He wasn't the best rebounder, or the best defender, or the best passer, or the best shooter — Lamb raised an eyebrow at that — but he was the most complete player.
This night, Lamb scored 31 points and made five assists. His radar was a bit off from the perimeter. He hit just two of eight three-pointers. But that will come. He's a terrific three-point shooter. We know that about him.
He also has an easy-going unaffected style that serves him well. On basketball media day, Lamb was asked about the Kentucky Effect that Calipari keeps talking about.
"I didn't know anything about it," Lamb said, "until I saw the signs up here in the (Craft Center)."
The kid's from Brooklyn, OK. There's his effect.
After the game, Calipari went into "coach effect" fixating on defense, saying his team has a long way to go and if you can't see that "you must be a football fan watching a basketball game."
Right on cue. It's a couple of weeks after Madness, so time to tone down the expectations a bit, at least at first. Time for realism. Time for some truth. This team has tremendous potential, and some grunt work to do.
But after all the pre-season publicity directed at yet another top-ranked freshman class, it was good to see the wily old graybeards — by that, we mean the two sophomores and a senior — are the ones showing the improvement.