A deep and talented Kentucky team ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press preseason top-25 poll. A Division III opponent at a decided height disadvantage.
The obvious unfolded in Rupp Arena on Friday night as Kentucky routed Transylvania 94-66 in an exhibition game.
Kentucky’s size was a dominant factor. This was reflected in a 62-24 advantage in points from the paint and a 52-18 rebounding edge. Transy had only four offensive rebounds. Combined with the Pioneers making only nine of 31 three-point shots, a lopsided UK victory was inevitable.
Reid Travis, the only UK player to start each half, posted a double-double: 12 points and 10 rebounds. But there was not singular offensive star. This was shown by seven UK players scoring double-digit points with not more than four points difference between them.
EJ Montgomery led UK with 14 points. Nick Richards, Quade Green and Keldon Johnson scored 13 apiece. PJ Washingon added 12 points and Ashton Hagans 10.
Always fretful UK fans could focus on Tyler Herro. He made only one of eight shots (0-for-4 from three-point range).
As Kentucky’s 49-30 halftime lead more than suggested, the Cats used their size to their advantage. That was manifested in a 34-10 advantage in points from the paint. Of UK’s 18 first-half baskets, six were dunks and eight layups.
Offensive rebounding also reflected UK’s superiority against a Division III opponent that started only one player taller than 6-6 (UK went with its three-“bigs” alignment to start the game). Transy did not get an offensive rebound until the 11:25 mark and had only three in the half.
With Transy making only four of 18 three-point shots (several from shooters wide open), it was all but impossible for Kentucky not to be comfortably ahead.
Of course, UK fans’ standard is high. When Nick Richards missed a free throw with 18:31 left in the first half, a fan could be heard muttering, “C’mon.”
If any fans needed something to fret about in the first half, there was this: UK missed all six of its three-point attempts. Herro missed all three of his.
Three-point shooting figures to be more important when an opponent can look Kentucky in the eye. But that wasn’t the case against Transy, which went into the second half with its lone starter taller than 6-6 — Aussie freshman Luke Schroeder — saddled with three fouls.
As Coach John Calipari suggested on Thursday, he started a different lineup for the second half. Montgomery, Johnson, Hagans and Herro joined Travis on the floor.
That unit didn’t last long. Richards replaced Montgomery at the 17:50 mark. Sixty-seven seconds later, Quickley and Green replaced Johnson and Hagans.
UK committed four turnovers inside the first five minutes of the second half.
But with Schroeder picking up his fourth foul on the first possession of the second half, Kentucky’s domination around the basket did not figure to stop.
Green gave UK its first three-point basket with 14:22 left. It wasn’t a swish. Green’s shot rattled off the rim, off the glass and around the rim again before gravity took it through the basket. But after 0-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc, Green’s basket drew appreciative cheers.
But a big lead (double digits for the final 33:50 and 20 or more the final 18:25) did not insulate the Cats from the discerning eye of the fans. With UK ahead 69-44 with less than barely six minutes left, a fan yelled in a pleading voice, “C’mon guys, defense!”
Exhibition: Indiana-Pennsylvania at No. 2 Kentucky
7 p.m. Friday (SEC Network)