Bam Adebayo is getting way better
Bam Adebayo rolled into the lane and made a baby hook with his right hand. Less than two minutes later, he duplicated the move, only this time using his left hand.
Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard also scored from the low block, while Malik Monk hit a three-pointer when Adebayo returned his feed in a classic in-and-out exchange.
“I like that we had a post presence,” UK Coach John Calipari said after Kentucky’s 93-59 win over Duquesne on Sunday night. “We forced it the last couple days in practice. And we put in some things to just make us throw the ball to the post.”
Monk said the Cats work on feeding the big men in the post every day in practice.
When asked why this attention had not manifested itself in earlier games, Monk said, “We’re so young. We don’t have that much trust in everybody yet. But we’re getting there. We trust more people.”
Adebayo, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, said he did not favor the left or right hook.
“I’m just trying to get better with both of them,” he said. “It’s not a left-or-right thing.”
During UK’s struggles to establish a post game last season, Calipari said a team without a scorer around the basket was “a fraud.”
Adebayo welcomed Calipari’s emphasis on the post game.
“You know, I appreciate it very much,” he said. “The ‘bigs’ are getting the ball more, so we’re getting more comfortable with our post position and scoring.”
Calipari improved his record in Rupp Arena as UK coach to 122-4. That’s a winning percentage of fugetaboutit (.968, if you don’t want it rounded off). The only non-conference loss was to Baylor on Dec. 1, 2012.
The other three home losses with Calipari as coach involved extraordinary circumstances: Elston Turner’s 40 points leading Texas A&M (Jan. 12, 2013), Florida’s 2014 Final Four team (Feb. 15, 2014) and an Arkansas team having the NBA talent of Bobby Portis and the startling athleticism of Michael Qualls (Feb. 27, 2014).
The 122 victories in Rupp Arena tied Joe B. Hall for the most by a UK coach. Hall had a record of 122-14 (.897) in Rupp.
“Yay!” Calipari said facetiously. Then he added, “The only thing here is Final Fours and national titles. It’s not league championships. It’s none of that.”
Calipari saluted the UK fans and the home-court advantage their enthusiasm creates.
“Every coach that’s been here has won big at home,” he said. “That means we have the greatest fans.”
Rick Pitino had a 107-7 record (.938) in Rupp. Tubby Smith had a 119-19 record (.862) in Rupp. Eddie Sutton had a 53-10 record (.841) in Rupp.
Let’s get physical
A hard foul by Duquesne’s Eric James sent Isaiah Briscoe to the floor.
“I don’t think the guy intended to hurt him,” Mychal Mulder said. “It didn’t look great.”
Mulder said he expected opposing teams to try to get physical with Kentucky this season. This follows a familiar theme in which opponents try to, if not intimidate, at least throw off a freshman-dependent UK team.
“That’s good,” Mulder said. “That’s good. I hope they do. I feel like we’re a physical group. I feel we can really thrive in that area.”
Kentucky will become No. 1 for the sixth time in Calipari’s eight seasons. The exceptions to UK’s rule came in the NIT season of 2012-13 and 2010-11.
UK began the 2012-13 season at No. 3. In 2010-11, the Cats were ranked as high as No. 8 and advanced to the Final Four.
Judging by last season’s final Ratings Percentage Index, Duquesne was UK’s best possible opponent in the Bluegrass Showcase.
Duquesne finished last season at No. 161 in the RPI.
Cleveland State and Tennessee-Martin, UK’s opponents on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, had final RPIs of 277 and 204.
Kentucky’s first opponent in the Bluegrass Showcase was Canisius, which had a final RPI of 225.
For perspective, Missouri, which finished last in the SEC, had a final RPI of 224.
Kentucky’s four opponents in the Bluegrass Showcase had a record of 55-74 against Division I teams last season.
Duquesne center Darius Lewis, who began his high school career at Tates Creek, lost 70 pounds in his first year of college. He came into the game ranked fifth on Duquesne’s career list with 84 blocks.
Lewis scored his only basket on a dunk with 19:07 left in the second half. He finished with four points and four rebounds.
▪ De’Aaron Fox missed three free throws. He began the season by making his first 21. Calipari joked that a change in hair style threw off Fox.
▪ Briscoe equaled a career high of four steals.
▪ Monk was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday.
Cleveland State at Kentucky
1 p.m. Wednesday (SEC Network)