UK Men's Basketball

Small lineup leads fast-breaking UK, 104-75

Brandon Knight dunked over Andre Smyth to give Kentucky its first double-digit lead over Windsor at 37-27 with 5:09 left in the first half Tuesday. Knight scored 25 points and was the leading scorer in the series.
Brandon Knight dunked over Andre Smyth to give Kentucky its first double-digit lead over Windsor at 37-27 with 5:09 left in the first half Tuesday. Knight scored 25 points and was the leading scorer in the series.

WINDSOR, Ontario — Kentucky Coach John Calipari took a call from John Wall on Monday.

UK's freshman All-American last season wanted Calipari to pass the word that — speaking point guard to point guard — Wall had been watching and liked how his replacement, Brandon Knight, was playing.

"He's fast," Wall told Calipari before adding, "but not as fast as me."

Perhaps not. But UK's 104-75 victory over Windsor on Tuesday provided further evidence that Knight will be fast enough (and skilled enough and bright enough and composed enough) to keep the Cats in good hands this coming season.

Knight scored 25 points, handed out nine assists and committed only two turnovers in 34 minutes. That made the freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the leading scorer for any team in the exhibition series here with an average of 24.3 points per game.

In those three games, Knight had 25 assists and only five turnovers. That's five turnovers in 94 minutes, which makes him Wall's superior.

"A tremendous player," teammate Josh Harrellson said. "He's very smart. Like Coach Cal said to us in the locker room, this might be one of the smartest teams he's ever coached."

At the nerve center is Knight, who might figure to commit turnovers given a freshman-oriented supporting cast. But that clearly wasn't the case in Canada where Kentucky's freshmen handed out 35 assists and committed only 14 turnovers in three games.

In each of the three games, UK committed exactly 14 turnovers. "While trying to score 100 a game," Calipari noted.

So Knight managed to run an up-tempo team while not committing pace-induced mistakes.

"He's a pretty good decision maker," Calipari said. "And he's playing pretty fast, which makes us fast."

Windsor, which met its goal of keeping within 30 points of Kentucky, came away impressed.

"He's fast," forward Andre Smyth said of Knight. "I've played against a lot of American guards and Canadian guards. In transition, he's unstoppable. You really can't guard him one-on-one. It has to be a team effort."

In his post-game news conference, Calipari reminded reporters that Knight is not a finished product. The player has to improve.

"He has to keep recognizing when they keep sinking the defense, what do I do?" the UK coach said.

Calipari also would like Knight to drive with more aggression to the basket. The UK coach said his long list of standout point guards — Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and Wall — drove to the basket with the intent of dunking. Only if necessary did they simply lay in the ball.

"He's got to get that mentality," Calipari said. "But he never played this way. He can go up and dunk it. He just doesn't play that way."

Ironically, it seemed getting his shot blocked ignited Knight in the rematch with Windsor. The figurative punch came when Windsor blocked Knight's fast-break layup.

Whether there was a cause-and-effect or not, Knight took over from there. On the very next UK possession, he threw down an emphatic fast-break dunk that made futile Smyth's attempt at a block.

That gave UK its first double-digit lead at 37-27 with 5:09 left.

Calipari noted the chemistry Knight developed with fellow freshman Doron Lamb, who also scored 25 points. Both weaved their games seamlessly with one of this team's relative graybeards, Darius Miller, who had 24 points.

Although playing its third game in 42 hours, UK got stronger as the game unfolded. The Cats outscored Windsor 21-8 in the first half's final six minutes to take a 53-35 halftime lead.

The lead crossed the 30-point mark in the second half. Miller, Knight and Lamb led the charge, each scoring his 20th point in a 22-7 run that put the Cats ahead 98-64.

When asked how a relatively inexperienced team like Kentucky could commit so few turnovers, Windsor Coach Chris Oliver had a simple explanation.

"I mean, talent is talent," he said. "Their ball skills, I don't think I appreciated it as much till I sat at courtside last night (when UK played Western Ontario) and watched how quick they were to the ball.

"Their guys play so much more basketball at a higher level. And you can tell in relation to our guys. Those guys are pretty experienced."

As Calipari noted, those who've quickly grown to appreciate how good Kentucky's young players are, especially its new point guard, include John Wall.

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