Kentucky continued to show a record-breaking defense. Alas, for all the wrong reasons.
Three nights after surrendering 15 three-point baskets to Miami (Ohio), which set a record for a Kentucky opponent, the Cats gave up another 18 against Sam Houston State.
That UK won 102-92 Thursday night did not ease Coach John Calipari's befuddlement after watching the Bearkats break the Rupp Arena record for treys by an opponent. Guard Corey Allmond broke the Rupp record for threes by any player with 11. UK's Tony Delk had the previous record of nine.
When asked about UK's perimeter defense, Calipari lowered his head and shook it from side to side.
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"I just called the rules committee to see if they'd move the line back," he said in a bit of gallows humor. "This may be the worst defensive team I've had since 1988."
Kentucky made a season-high 11 three-point baskets. Eric Bledsoe, heretofore 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, hit five of seven.
But Sam Houston State's marksmanship buried Bledsoe's accomplishment and nearly neutralized UK's telling advantage in size.
For all of UK's scoring (all five starters in double figures), the swiss-cheese defense and sloppy ball handling (23 turnovers) marred this Cancun Challenge warm-up game. The Cats looked like they needed more warming up before heading to Mexico.
All of Sam Houston State's swishes disguised a UK opponent struggling from long distance. In its first two games, the Bearkats made only 12 of 42 three-point shots (28.6 percent).
Allmond, an All-Southland Conference pre-season selection, had made only four of 14 three-point shots in his first two games. Coach Bob Marlin predicted before the game that the 6-foot-1 senior would get hot. "He'll be locked in," Marlin said.
Allmond showed why he made a school record 99 three-point shots last season. At the end of the first half, he foiled John Wall's attentive defense with a double-clutch three-pointer.
"It's special because it's Rupp Arena," Allmond said. "At the same time, we came here to win. We didn't come here to lose or stay close."
Allmond needed only one half to tie the Rupp Arena record of eight three-pointers by a visiting player. No need to look up the record-holder. Nick Winbush of Miami (Ohio) made eight against the Cats on Monday.
Allmond needed a while to warm up. He made only one shot — a three-pointer — in the game's first 11 minutes.
Then he made seven three-point shots in the final 8:46.
"I think my off hand was messing around too much," Allmond said of his earlier shooting struggles. "I knew I'd get a lot of open looks because they like to press."
More than once, Allmond set up in transition and had time to set his feet, take a breath and shoot an uncontested shot.
"We had no sense of urgency defensively," Calipari said. "None."
After UK led 23-7 early, Allmond breathed life into the basketball axiom that says the three-point shot is the great equalizer.
Forward Preston Brown, whose status had been iffy because of a hamstring pull, came into the game with 11:05 left. Having missed his only two three-point shots this season, Brown hit two within 31 seconds of entering the game to start an amazing display of marksmanship.
Eleven of Sam Houston State's final 12 baskets of the half were three-pointers. Allmond had seven of them.
"We'd have liked to tempo the game a little more," the Sam Houston State coach said. "But they gave us open shots."
Kentucky extended its lead to as much as 19 points early in the second half.
Then Sam Houston State rode — what else? — three-point shooting to make it interesting.
Allmond's ninth three-pointer — which tied Delk's Rupp Arena record — reduced UK's lead to 70-57 with 15:03 left. That was also Sam Houston State's 15th three-point basket, which tied the record for treys against Kentucky.
That record fell when Allmond hit his 10th three-pointer with 12:19 left. That three, as UK failed to challenge the shot in transition, was Sam Houston State's 16th and prompted another timeout.
"I was so mad a couple times, folks, my head almost popped off," Calipari said. "... We're not playing winning basketball and it will catch up to us.
"Do you think we can score 100 against everybody? We're going to have to because they will score 100 on us."