UK Men's Basketball

UK men's basketball dominates Lafayette 101-49

Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein scored two in Friday night's home-opener against Lafayette in Rupp Arena. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein scored two in Friday night's home-opener against Lafayette in Rupp Arena. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

Kentucky Coach John Calipari told Kyle Wiltjer to create more scoring opportunities for himself ... or else.

UK's 101-49 victory over Lafayette Friday night kept or-else at bay for the time being.

Wiltjer got off a career-high 16 shots and scored 23 points (one shy of a career high) in Kentucky's home opener. He also had career highs in shots (16), baskets (eight), three-pointers (seven) and three-point attempts (11).

The busy game — not busy enough for the ever-demanding Calipari, who noted a second-half stretch when Wiltjer did not play hard — made the UK coach two-for-two in demanding individual player upgrades, and then getting them. Alex Poythress enjoyed a similar blossoming against Duke earlier in the week.

Wiltjer shrugged off Calipari's or-else ultimatum. "That just tells you you have to work even harder," he said.

For Wiltjer, the harder part comes before he gets the ball. Or before most non-coaching eyes are watching.

"He has to work hard to create the shot before the catch," Calipari said.

Wiltjer interpreted this as "a variety of things." For instance, moving without the ball and setting "big screens" that invite the defense to leave him open in order to cover the UK player trying to use the screen.

As for creating more scoring opportunities, that might also include a variety of post moves and Wiltjer's trademark set shot. The player said he had been working on shooting pull-up jumpers.

"Not just shooting standstill shots," he said.

Nerlens Noel, whose stat line of 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals got him another gold star (blue star?) from Calipari, put the or-else threat in perspective.

"What you've got to say to get guys playing hard," he said. "(Wiltjer) is a good shooter. So he has to shoot for us to have the best shot at winning."

UK's utter domination (52-22 advantage in points from the paint) and Lafayette's 28 turnovers also contributed to a feel-good victory three nights after the disappointing loss to Duke.

Kentucky (2-1) again played without presumptive point guard Ryan Harrow, who sat out a second straight game because of an unnamed energy-sapping illness.

Calipari expressed hope that Harrow might play next week.

More than evening the scales, Lafayette (1-2) played without its leading scorer, Dan Trist. He sprained an ankle in the shootaround earlier in the day.

That sidelined a player who averaged 23 points in the Leopards' first two games. In that time, he made 21 of 25 shots.

"He gives us an inside presence," Lafayette Coach Fran O'Hanlon said, "and then he makes our outside a little bit better. ... We are a much better team with Dan. We're not Kentucky good. But we are much better."

Kentucky, which shot with 64.5-percent accuracy, made its first five shots and never looked back.

With the first three baskets being three-pointers, part of a five-for-five blitz from beyond the arc to start the game, the Cats zipped to a 10-point lead barely six minutes after tip-off.

The margin grew to 20 with almost 10 minutes left in the first half.

Kentucky doubled Lafayette's point total as late as the 1:55 mark of the first half.

A fast-break pull-up jumper by Julius Mays with 2:18 left put UK ahead 48-24. That marked one of only two fast-break baskets for the Cats in the first half, meaning Calipari's goal of more transition offense failed to materialize until the second half.

Wiltjer shot and made two three-pointers in the first 67 seconds.

O'Hanlon noted how a taller, rangier Duke team could better defend Wiltjer.

"He's somebody you really have to be up on," the Lafayette coach said. "... You have to make him put it on the floor. We're a young team as well as Kentucky. We lost our poise certainly."

Kentucky got more of a transition game going early in the second half. Archie Goodwin's fast-break dunk put the Cats ahead 55-33 with 17:54 left.

A charging call — that bugaboo from the loss to Duke — re-appeared two minutes later and nullified what could have been the play of the night.

Taking a fast-break pass from Jarrod Polson, Goodwin rose for what appeared to be a flying one-hand jam. One problem: Lafayette's Jack Detmer planted himself at the right low post directly in Goodwin's path.

Though seemingly obvious, referee Mark Whitehead's charging call drew a vocal protest from the crowd.

Shortly thereafter, Kentucky went on a 39-2 run to take a 101-41 lead.

"Obviously, the roof kind of caved in on us," O'Hanlon said.

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