Kentucky Sports

UK routs Grand Canyon 85-45 in season opener

Kentucky Wildcats guard Andrew Harrison (5) pressured Grand Canyon's Royce Wooldridge, 22, as #1 Kentucky played Grand Canyon on Friday November 14, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats guard Andrew Harrison (5) pressured Grand Canyon's Royce Wooldridge, 22, as #1 Kentucky played Grand Canyon on Friday November 14, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Midway through the first half, an anxious voice could be heard calling out encouragement from the Rupp Arena seats.

"C'mon!" she implored. "We should be up by 50!"

Kentucky led 24-9.

It was a more-than-comfortable margin that reflected dominance and the beginnings of an opening-night rout. But when the standard reaches unreal, if not unprecedented, heights, there figure to be a lot of really unnecessary c'mons this season.

Kentucky began the 2014-15 season in a sufficiently one-sided manner with a 85-45 victory over Grand Canyon Friday night.

It marked Kentucky's second-largest margin of victory in a home opener in the history of Rupp Arena, which opened in 1976. The only larger margin came in a 108-58 victory over Marist to begin the national championship season of 2011-12.

Earlier in the week, SMU Coach Larry Brown spoke to the great expectations this UK season. Maybe he also wanted to add a bit of anxiety himself when he said of UK Coach John Calipari, "John should go 45-0 with that talent."

Calipari, who began his coaching career on Brown's staff at Kansas, suggested Thursday that Kentucky needed the kind of grounding that comes through adversity.

That must wait for another game, maybe Sunday against Buffalo.

Grand Canyon, in the second of a four-year transition from Division II to Division I, looked at the game as a way to score recruiting points.

"For the most part, we're young," said Coach Dan Majerle, the former NBA All-Star. "The guys haven't played together. So we still have a long way to go. Our whole deal is we want to play the best competition out there. And, obviously, we're doing that our very first game."

Kentucky players spoke Thursday of "the perfect stop," a practice drill in which the goal is suffocating defense for a full possession. "Probably the best part of practice," Marcus Lee said.

Kentucky had plenty of "perfect stops" in the first half.

In the first half, Grand Canyon had more of its shots blocked (seven) than shots that went in the basket (six).

That showed better than anything how Kentucky dominated. The Cats used smothering defense to lead 43-16 at halftime.

A men-against-boys difference in height also helped. Kentucky outrebounded Grand Canyon 51-21 and outscored the visitors 58-16 in the paint.

Grand Canyon, which scored 50 points in the second half of its exhibition game eight days earlier, went more than 51/2 minutes without a point. During that stretch, Kentucky built an early 19-6 lead.

After breaking the dry spell with a three-pointer, Grand Canyon scored only one basket in the next seven minutes. Another three-pointer reduced UK's lead to 38-14.

Grand Canyon made only six of 24 shots in the first half.

When asked what UK learned from its August games in the Bahamas and exhibition romps, Alex Poythress said, "Everybody's a fighter. Everybody's real competitive. Everybody likes to play."

Grand Canyon made only three of 18 shots from inside the three-point arc. UK made 13 of 28 shots from two-point range. To further made the case of inside domination, UK outrebounded Grand Canyon 27-12 and outscored the outmanned opponent 26-6 in points from the paint.

Andrew Harrison, who led UK with 16 points, got the onslaught started. He scored the game's first seven points, showing his versatility in the process. Harrison posted up Royce Woolridge to open the scoring (didn't Calipari say point guards don't post up defenders any more, at least in the NBA?).

Trey Lyles added 14 points, Willie Cauley-Stein 12 and Dakari Johnson 10.

Then Harrison followed with a three-point swish a drive by big man Tobe Okafor, the latter featuring a fake left and go-by right that brought a ooooh from the crowd.

Woolridge, the son of the late Orlando Woolridge, hit a pullup shot to reduce the UK lead to 10-6 with 16:02. Grand Canyon didn't see the ball go into the basket again until Woolridge hit a three at the 10:35 mark. He led the Antelopes with 15 points.

Kentucky's first-half lead grew to as much as 43-14 just before intermission.

"Everybody's tough, but they're not nasty about it," Calipari had said about UK's defensive intensity.

Kentucky did not maintain that kind of passion in the second half. Calipari started the second platoon, but re-inserted the first platoon less than three minutes into the second half.

Despite the c'mon from the stands, Grand Canyon got no closer than 23 points of Kentucky.

Photos: Game action, fans at the game


Grand Canyon Coach Dan Majerle

Kentucky Coach John Calipari on the game

Coach Cal on his 2015 recruiting class

Willie Cauley-Stein

Andrew Harrison

Tyler Ulis