UK Men's Basketball

UK's 86-28 win over Montana State its 5th-largest rout in Rupp Arena

Kentucky Wildcats forward Karl-Anthony Towns (12) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) combined to block a shot by Montana State Bobcats guard Marcus Colbert (22) as the University of Kentucky played Montana State in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, November 23, 2014. This is first half college basketball action. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Karl-Anthony Towns (12) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) combined to block a shot by Montana State Bobcats guard Marcus Colbert (22) as the University of Kentucky played Montana State in Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, November 23, 2014. This is first half college basketball action. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

Aside from a 5-foot-11 player somehow scoring in the thicket of tall Kentucky timber, there didn't seem to be anything remarkable about Marcus Colbert's reverse layup mid-way through the second half. Certainly a shot reducing UK's lead to 52 points was devoid of any competitive significance.

Yet, the layup hit Kentucky players like a buzzer-beater.

Freshman Karl-Anthony Towns remembered Colbert's basket in detail.

"I think it was a baseline opposite layup," he said in a tone that suggested he knew that's what it was. "We were very upset. We really wanted to keep them at zero the whole second half."

Kentucky came plenty close. Colbert's layup came with 9:35 left. In other words, Kentucky did not surrender a point in the second half's first 10 minutes and 25 seconds.

By then, the only remaining drama was what historic footnote would No. 1 Kentucky add to this season's blazing start.

The 86-28 victory over Montana State Sunday marked the fewest points scored by a UK opponent in the shot clock era, eclipsing the 32 points scored by Morehead State on Dec. 16, 1995. It was the fewest points by a UK opponent since Joe B. Hall's Cats won 24-11 when Cincinnati decided to hold the ball on Dec. 20, 1983.

Already this season, Kentucky posted the second-largest margin of victory in an opening game (85-45 over Grand Canyon) in the history of Rupp Arena and inflicted the most lopsided loss in Bill Self's 12 seasons as Kansas coach (72-40).

And the Cats aim for more history.

"We just want to be one of the best defensive teams ever," freshman Devin Booker said before adding, "I know that's a big statement."

That Kentucky overwhelmed Montana State, 0-4, came as no surprise. The Bobcats were in the midst of a "nightmare" — Coach Brian Fish's word — of a road trip. The rout in Rupp Arena came on the trip's 11th day and followed three earlier losses.

Still, a 58-point UK victory was remarkable. It was only the 14th time the Cats won by 50 or more points in Rupp Arena, and only the third time since 2003.

UK has won only four games by a bigger margin in the history of Rupp Arena, which opened in 1976:

■ 124-50 over UT Martin on Nov. 26, 1994.

■ 96-32 over Morehead State on Dec. 16, 1995.

■ 106-44 over Vanderbilt on March 5, 2003.

■ 101-40 over Tennessee on March 12, 1993 (the Southeastern Conference Tournament).

"I knew if they played well, we'd be in trouble," Fish said. "And they played well, and the results were what I expected when they played like that."

Any thoughts of an evening of competitive basketball evaporated well before halftime. The Cats led 39-11 at the break, and the margin would have been much larger had UK not missed its first 10 shots.

Six of UK's first 10 shots were three-pointers, a curious stat given how Montana State started two players shorter than 6-foot and no one taller than 6-8.

Montana State, which was ranked No. 329 among the 351 Division I teams by stat maven Ken Pomeroy, opened in a zone defense. "Because we knew man-to-man we couldn't stop them," Fish said.

Kentucky helped Montana State by shooting and missing threes.

"Every team is going to play us basically how they did," UK Coach John Calipari said. "They're going to sag in a zone, or they're going to sag in a man.

"And, so, we came out and ... everybody looked confused. So now we're taking threes, and then, all of a sudden, you miss them and it's contagious. We score one point in the first minutes. Come on. Are you kidding me?"

Montana State did not advance the ball past midcourt until its fifth possession. To be precise, the Bobcats did not get the ball past the free-throw line while committing four turnovers to start the game.

But UK's early misfires enabled Montana State to lead 2-1 on the one shot it got to the rim in the first seven minutes. It went in to put the Bobcats ahead with 17:41 left. That marked the first time Kentucky had trailed in 78 minutes and 38 seconds of game time.

After the first platoon missed eight shots, the second platoon's four-for-10 shooting looked great. Dakari Johnson's layup (UK's first basket) put the Cats ahead for good at 3-2 with 15:28 left. The first-half lead grew steadily, thanks in part to Montana State's five-for-31 shooting and 14 turnovers.

If anything, the second half was more lopsided as Kentucky tried for a shutout.

"I loved how we defended," Calipari said. "We didn't look at the score. We just worried about each possession, and that's what you have to do in games like that."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments