Five wins to 2,000
Kentucky could soon become the first college basketball program with 2,000 wins. Last night's victory over UNC Asheville puts the Cats at 1,995.
Next game: Saturday vs. North Carolina (1,990 wins)
Earliest possible shot at 2,000: Dec. 21 vs. Drexel
LOUISVILLE — It was a foregone conclusion before tip-off: Unbeaten Kentucky routed winless North Carolina Asheville on Monday night.
The Cats won 94-57 in a game as predictable as the sun rising first in the commonwealth in Pikeville and last in Paducah. Kentucky had eight second-half dunks, none more memorable than a flying left-handed jam by freshman John Wall, who distinguished himself with a career-high 14 assists. That was one shy of UK's record (Travis Ford against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 8, 1993).
"I guess it means a lot," Wall said in continuing to be reticent about his growing pile of personal achievements. "I was just trying to keep my teammates happy."
He succeeded grandly, as the game's many gaudy numbers suggested.
Darnell Dodson equaled career highs of 15 points, six baskets and three three-pointers.
DeMarcus Cousins made a career-high eight free throws and posted a double-double (24 points and 10 rebounds).
Darius Miller tied a career high of three three-pointers.
Patrick Patterson added — ho-hum — 17 points and nine rebounds.
Kentucky improved to 7-0, its first such start to a season since 2003-04.
"We've been in six wars," UK Coach John Calipari said of the prelude to this breather. "Now we played in a game that hopefully built a little confidence."
Ever the demanding coach, Calipari saluted his team limiting its turnovers to a season-low eight (previous low was 15). But ...
"Eight turnovers isn't enough," the UK coach said. "You need 11 or 12. If you have eight turnovers, that means you're not aggressive enough."
When asked if he ever had a coach order more turnovers, Wall smiled and said, "No sir, I never had a coach say that."
Flashing a bit of wit, Wall said he asked Calipari, "Do you want me to get my turnovers back to five (a game)?"
No, Calipari responded.
In dropping Asheville's record to 0-6, Kentucky scored the first eight points, established a double-digit lead barely seven minutes into the game and held a 45-23 lead at halftime.
Despite those components of a snoozer, the first half contained some interesting moments.
■ Miller hit two three-pointers in the first 90 seconds. That put the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball within one of his career high.
Yet even with a proven hot hand, Miller turned down enough open shots to get a rebuke from Calipari easily heard around Freedom Hall. "Hey, Darius, shoot the ball!" the UK coach yelled.
"I heard it," Miller said after the game. "I think everybody heard it. I didn't know what to think except the next one I'd shoot it."
■ Wall is human. Asheville's Matt Dickey stole the ball from Wall near midcourt and sped to a fast-break layup while being fouled by UK's star freshman.
Wall later got revenge by stealing the ball (not from Dickey) and rose for one of his two dunks in the half. Wall equaled a career high of three steals in the half. He finished with a career-high six steals.
■ UK did not commit a turnover until less than 13 minutes remained in the half when reserve Ramon Harris had his pass inside blocked and intercepted by a defender.
Either Asheville is getting better or Tennessee is much better than Kentucky.
On Nov. 17, the Volunteers held Asheville to 2-for-26 shooting in the first half. The Vols led 66-14 at intermission.
Against Kentucky, Asheville matched the two baskets when Chris Stephenson scored on a fast-break dunk with 17 minutes left.
The Bulldogs surpassed the 14-point barrier at the 7:25 mark when leading scorer J.P. Primm hit from the top of the key over Harris.
Asheville's 23 points threatened its mark for most productive first half of the season (27 against Charlotte).
Within the first five minutes of the second half, back-to-back fast-break dunks excited the crowd. On the first, Wall threw a lob that Patterson slammed home. On the second, Wall's lob set up a dunk by Cousins, prompting an Asheville timeout with 15:31 left. UK led 62-30.
Cousins scored 15 of UK's first 21 points of the second half.
In that spree, Kentucky had five dunks in 98 seconds. The Cats ended up with eight second-half dunks.
"We've been on he (Wall) and Eric (Bledsoe) both to just throw it ahead," Calipari said. "Just give it up."