After Kentucky beat Grand Canyon 85-45 Friday night, Coach John Calipari suggested the second half should give those who lavish praise on the Cats second thoughts.
"Didn't look like two No. 1 teams out there," he said.
UK dominated the first half in taking a 43-16 halftime lead. But Grand Canyon did a better job of competing in the second half.
"It got physical and it became a little bit of a fight," Calipari said of the difference in the two halves. "And we had guys not able to make plays when it got physical. And that's going to be an issue for us."
Calipari lamented that UK's big men, who dominated in the first half posted up a bit farther from the basket in the second half.
"Seven feet from the basket," he said. "So we ran from the 'physicality.'"
Grand Canyon Coach Dan Majerle said his players needed a half to get used to UK's immense size.
"The first 20 minutes, maybe we were a little shell-shocked with their length and their size," he said. "And we just couldn't score. We just couldn't finish."
Grand Canyon spread the floor more in the second half and got driving lanes to the basket.
But overall, Kentucky's big men were more than sufficient to win the opener. The Cats out-rebounded Grand Canyon 51-21.
"They destroyed us" on the boards, Majerle said.
Player to coach
Majerle's path from pro player to college coach involved a few twists and turns. After he retired as a NBA player in 2002, Majerle worked as a television commentator, first for TNT and later ESPN. When the Phoenix Suns hired a former teammate, Terry Porter, as coach, an invitation to join the staff followed.
"I loved the competition again," Majerle said of his 51/2 seasons as an assistant coach. "I mean, TV was a good thing to do. But you kind of missed the competition. Getting back into coaching kind of gets that fire back, and you're able to fight for something with a bunch of guys."
Phoenix sports icon Jerry Colangelo figured in Grand Canyon hiring Majerle as coach last year. Colangelo, a special assistant for Division I athletics at the school, asked about Majerle's interest in the job.
"It's right down the street and it's Phoenix and it's a growing Division I program ... ," Majerle said of his reaction. "I jumped at it."
Colangelo, who is also managing director of the national team in USA Basketball, helped create Grand Canyon's Colangelo College of Business.
"He's one of the big reasons we were able to get to Division I," Majerle said of Colangelo. "He kind of spearheaded the whole thing."
Grand Canyon began its second season in a four-year process of moving from Division II to Division I.
When asked to compare the satisfaction he got as a player to that of a coach, Majerle said, "It's different. When you play at the highest level, there's nothing you're ever going to do to match that. The trick is to find something close to that, and coaching is. You get to try to achieve something with a bunch of other guys with like-minded goals. ... To me, it's a lot of fun."
Does the "Majerle" name help in recruiting?
"It does with parents, not so much with kids," the Grand Canyon coach said with a chuckle. "Kids don't know a whole lot about me, but parents still know.
"That thing YouTube kind of helps."
Majerle, a three-time NBA All-Star, said he does not get on the court with his players.
"I don't play," he said. "I have little shooting contests with them. That's my big thing. When recruits visit, I usually challenge them to a game of H-O-R-S-E. Unfortunately, I haven't lost yet."
"I've got to start recruiting guys who can beat me." he said.
"One thing I can still do is shooting. As you get older, you can't move. You can't do things you used to do. But shooting never goes away."
The game was part of what UK calls the Cawood Ledford Classic. Besides Grand Canyon (No. 269 in Ken Pomeroy's pre-season rankings), Kentucky will play Buffalo (No. 141), Montana State (No. 327) and UT Arlington (No. 238) in the event.
Deputy Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy said schools have an option each season of playing 29 games or 27 plus a so-called exempt event. The Cawood Ledford Classic is an exempt event, so UK will play 31 games this season.
Next season UK is playing in an exempt event affiliated with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. As part of the event, UK will play South Florida in Miami.
Young and Rex-less
Former UK All-American Rex Chapman was on the Grand Canyon broadcast team last season. He was arrested in September for allegedly stealing more than $14,000 in merchandise from an Apple Store.
Grand Canyon Coach Dan Majerle
Kentucky Coach John Calipari on the game
Coach Cal on his 2015 recruiting class