Sharing the ball in the game and sharing a feeling of satisfaction afterward. It took a while for Kentucky to find that one-for-all groove against Boston University on Tuesday night. But once the Cats got it, they wanted to ride it the rest of the season.
"I say it's the team we need to be all year," Terrence Jones said after Kentucky beat Boston 91-57. "That's when we play best: when everybody's involved and everybody's having fun and everybody's having the same opportunity."
It took a while for UK to find the team play so achingly missing in what Coach John Calipari termed a display of selfishness against Connecticut last Wednesday on Maui. But when it came, it came with a convincing crunch. The Cats outscored the Terriers 28-5 to start the second half. Along the way, UK made eight of their first nine three-point shots after halftime with five players making at least one.
"All I can say is that must be one heck of a halftime speech," Boston Coach Patrick Chambers said facetiously. " ... That spurt in the first five minutes of the second half was crushing. Absolutely crushing."
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UK players said Calipari delivered no fiery rhetoric at halftime. Assistant Coach John Robic, who substituted for the grieving Calipari at the post-game news conference, said the coaches simply reminded the players of how they should play.
"We still didn't communicate very well" in the first half, Robic said. "In the second half, we were much better sharing the ball and making the right plays. You can see that by the 21 assists."
Thirteen of that season-high total came after halftime. In the last two games, Kentucky totaled 16 assists.
Terrence Jones, who joined Josh Harrellson in posting double-doubles, credited Brandon Knight's point guard play.
"He got us more involved," said Jones, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds. "He penetrated and kicked passes out. It made everything a lot easier. The whole game started flowing our way."
Knight led UK with 23 points and a career-high six assists. Harrellson added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Jarrod Polson joined the fun, scoring his first points by making two free throws with 24.7 seconds left.
Kentucky (5-1) plays again Saturday at North Carolina.
John Holland led the Terriers (4-4) with 20 points. But he scored only six in the game's final 26 minutes.
"I think he just ran out of steam," Chambers said. "He played a lot of minutes. They're big and strong. They wore us down."
Thanks to Holland, who scored 14 of his team's first 21 points, Boston stayed close. Kentucky never established a double-digit lead in the first half.
The Cats did pass early and often. The game's first basket came on a jump-pass by Darius Miller that netted a layup for Jones.
Later, DeAndre Liggins leaped high for a cross-court pass and delivered a touch-pass to an open Knight, who swished a three-pointer.
Kentucky got credit for eight assists on its 15 first-half baskets.
As the second half began, Kentucky blew away Boston. By the first television time-out, UK had outscored the Terriers 18-3 to establish a 58-36 lead.
In that span, Kentucky hit three-pointers (Liggins, Knight and Miller), held Boston to one basket and used the defense to get out on fast breaks.
Miller capped the run with a three-pointer, his first basket of the game.
The referees hit BU Coach Patrick Chambers with a technical foul. He smiled.
Nothing changed as the half unfolded. A Doron Lamb three-pointer pushed the lead to 68-38, making it a 28-5 run to open the second half.
"It's crushing," Chambers said of Kentucky's flood of three-pointers. "At first, the basket looks like a golf ball. Then it opens up to a nice big ocean.
"But they took good shots, good open uncontested threes. At the other end, we were taking contested threes."