Sophomore Dakari Johnson continued being an early-season tower of strength against Buffalo on Sunday. His nine points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and inspiring effort helped Kentucky win 71-52.
"He fights," UK Coach John Calipari said in boiling down Johnson's contribution to its essence. "He tries. He runs hard. He's giving everything that's in his body, and that's all you can ask as a coach."
Johnson, who has grabbed 25 rebounds in 44 total minutes in UK's first two games, acknowledged his effort was something less as a freshman.
"I was kind of selfish at the beginning of year," he said. "Just thinking of myself. Later in the year, that's when (the thinking changed to) just going out there with my brothers and competing."
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Johnson said he fretted about playing time last season.
"I was listening to all the clutter, I guess," he said borrowing one of Calipari's favorite terms. "I kind of learned how you've got to compete no matter what the situation is."
Johnson's free-throw shooting continued to be an issue. He made three of six against Buffalo, that made him five of 10 in UK's first two games.
"The greatest thing is, who is that on?" Calipari said. "Him. You know what? He'll be in the gym tonight shooting free throws. He knows, 'If I want to play more and be in the game at the end, I've got to be able to make free throws.'
"And he's getting better."
Johnson made 44.7 percent of his free throws last season.
Dunk you very much
No play better showed Buffalo's fearless attitude than Justin Moss dunking on Willie Cauley-Stein with 6:21 left in the first half. It was an emphatic one-handed slam.
Early in the post-game news conference, Moss noted Buffalo's take-it-to-them approach. "We don't back down from nobody," he said in an almost friendly tone.
When asked if his dunk made that point, Moss graciously declined to rub it in. He smiled and said, "I guess you could call it a statement."
Johnson laughed out loud when asked about the dunk.
"After the game, people were, like, 'Oh, yeah, Willie, we ain't forgetting,'" he said before laughing again.
All in good fun, Johnson noted.
When asked how Cauley-Stein responded to the ribbing, Johnson said, "He was, like, 'He got me. He got me on that one.'"
Go Big Boo
The Rupp Arena crowd booed the introduction of Buffalo Coach Bobby Hurley, who once was an iconic player for Duke.
"It wasn't a surprise," he said. "It wasn't overwhelming. I think (Christian) Laettner might have gotten it worse."
Hurley complimented UK fans for their enthusiasm.
"The knowledge of the fans, too," he said. "They just know when to let the building explode. And then you got a couple of empty possessions just because of the crowd noise."
UK has sent invitation to NBA teams to attend another of its so-called "Combines" later this week.
Former UK All-American Kevin Grevey, a long-time scout for the Los Angeles Lakers, said he would not be able to attend the next Combine, which UK has scheduled for Thursday.
ESPNU televised UK's earlier Combine, which was staged in October.
Lamonte Bearden's floater in the lane with four seconds left set the final score and prevented Kentucky from a notable achievement.
The 71-52 victory gave Kentucky a winning margin of 59 points in its first two games. The Cats beat Grand Canyon by 40 in Friday's opener.
Only 16 times has a UK team won its first two games by a total of 60 or more points. The record is 116 points in 1934: a 55-8 victory over "Alumni" and a 81-12 victory over Oglethorpe.
Two Calipari teams have beaten their first two opponents by 60 or more points: In 2011 (60 points: 108-58 over Marist and 75-65 over Kansas) and last season (62 points: 89-57 over UNC Asheville and 93-63 over Northern Kentucky).