UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball: Cats smother Georgetown 121-52 in exhibition

The Kentucky bench reacted as forward Derek Willis sank the last shot of the game Sunday in the Wildcats' 121-52 victory over Georgetown College in Rupp Arena. It was the Cats' final exhibition game. They open the season Friday against Grand Canyon University, coached by former NBA player Dan Majerle.
The Kentucky bench reacted as forward Derek Willis sank the last shot of the game Sunday in the Wildcats' 121-52 victory over Georgetown College in Rupp Arena. It was the Cats' final exhibition game. They open the season Friday against Grand Canyon University, coached by former NBA player Dan Majerle. Herald-Leader

The way Kentucky flicked away NAIA competition this preseason, Georgetown Coach Chris Briggs suggested the Cats could make a NCAA championship a mere formality and even take on basketball's heaviest weight division.

"I just told the guys in the locker room, they could have beaten some NBA teams tonight," Briggs said. "No doubt in my mind."

UK Coach John Calipari feigned unhappiness with Briggs' NBA-sized contention. But he didn't look or sound annoyed.

With Briggs standing in the rear of the news conference following UK's 121-52 burial of Georgetown Sunday night, Calipari pretended the Georgetown coach meant to burden the Cats rather than pay high tribute.

"Coach, did you do that to me?" he said with a light-hearted tone. "So he said we're going to have 40 wins, and win by 25, right?"

Turning more serious, Calipari said, "No, this will be a process."

Calipari recalled how one of his Massachusetts teams with a tight-knit rotation of savvy players routed a much deeper, more athletically-gifted Arkansas team in a Tip-Off Classic. Another of his UMass teams rode Marcus Camby's individual brilliance to a victory over eventual national champion Kentucky.

"So there are going to be games that playing this many is going to be hard," he said of UK's 10- or 12-player rotation.

The romp over Georgetown wasn't one of those games. For instance, Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison fouled out with 7:58 left in the second half Sunday night. In another game, that might have spelled trouble.

With no need to disrupt his platoons, Calipari merely sent Dominique Hawkins into the game and the onslaught continued uninterrupted.

As they did in beating Pikeville by 48 points the previous Sunday, the Cats smothered Georgetown to complete one of the most dominating preseasons in memory.

Seven UK players scored double-digit points, led by Aaron Harrison's 17. Alex Poythress added 15, Trey Lyles 14, Karl-Anthony Towns 13, Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein 12 each and Devin Booker 11.

Kentucky had 19 dunks and 12 three-pointers. Georgetown had no answers and no chance.

"We had the same problems the rest of the country is going to have the rest of this year," Briggs said. "Those guys are unreal."

The second platoon sparked Kentucky to a 60-24 halftime lead. Ignited by Booker, UK 2.0 scored 11 points in less than two minutes to give the Cats an early 16-2 lead.

Booker twice stole inbounds passes to fuel the run.

"I'm just really pleased with — this is going to sound silly — the first three minutes of the game, the way we played and came out ready," Briggs said.

Three turnovers before the first television time helped prevent UK's first platoon from burying Georgetown from the start.

But UK 1.0 got into the flow on its second stint on the court. The nominal starters scored 16 points in a span of two minutes and seven seconds. That put the Cats ahead 32-7.

Georgetown did not reach double-digit points until Noah Cottrill made a three-pointer with 7:48 left. Georgetown had averaged 108.7 points in its first three games, all presumably against competition well below NBA caliber.

Kentucky dominated around the basket, outrebounding out-manned Georgetown 30-14 in the first half and 54-26 for the game. Another sign of UK's dominance was Georgetown's shooting from two-point range: four of 21 in the first half, seven of 31 midway through the second half and 13 of 48 for the game.

Georgetown had no inside presence, which helped explain no free throws until 5-foot-11 freshman Darion Burns (fouled while trying to navigate UK's press) got to the line with 3:37 left in the first half.

Kentucky also dominated from the perimeter, making 12 of 27 three-point shots.

Quite sensibly, Briggs put his team in a zone and hoped, as he said, "they miss those (three-point shots) because they're not going to miss dunks."

UK made all 19 of its dunks.

Overall, 10 UK players scored in the first half, and 13 in the game. Eleven UK players had assists with more than 12 minutes left, which was a good start toward a 32-assist night. That gave UK 61 assists in its two exhibition games.

Kentucky reached the 100-point mark on a Johnson putback with 8:14 left.

More than few fans headed up the aisles and toward the exits during the third television timeout. Those fans missed a 56-second stretch that saw two dunks by Cauley-Stein and one by Poythress.

"Honestly, I don't see how they're going to be beat this year," Briggs said. "I hate to say that."

Johnson said much the same thing.

"I don't think we can lose," he said. "That's my mindset."

When asked to clarify if he meant to suggest a 40-0 record, Johnson said, "Oh, no!" before laughing. "I'm not saying we're going to go undefeated. I'm just saying we're going to go out there and compete our hardest each and every day."

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