Men's Basketball

Kentucky rolls over Pikeville, 116-68, in exhibition

The Kentucky bench, including, standing from left, guard Aaron Harrison forward Alex Poythress, guard Andrew Harrison and forward Marcus Lee, cheered their teammates the end of Sunday's exhibition game against the University of Pikeville. UK won, 116-68.
The Kentucky bench, including, standing from left, guard Aaron Harrison forward Alex Poythress, guard Andrew Harrison and forward Marcus Lee, cheered their teammates the end of Sunday's exhibition game against the University of Pikeville. UK won, 116-68. Herald-Leader

Judging by Sunday night's 116-68 exhibition victory over Pikeville, Kentucky will need platoons this season not only for substitutions, but to process all the hosannas.

Kentucky overwhelmed Pikeville with the attributes that inspire talk of historic achievement this season: size, speed, depth, talent. To all that, add selflessness. The Cats showed they know how to use those advantages.

What impressed UK Coach John Calipari most? "Twenty-nine assists," he said, "and in a game where guys could have tried to get their own. It's the only way this will work."

Among the cartoonish numbers favoring Kentucky was an 86-22 advantage in points from the paint and a 49-25 rebounding edge, both products of an immense size advantage.

UK also enjoyed a 58-12 advantage in bench points. Of course, UK's platoon system, born of the necessity of finding playing time for so many good players, skewed the bench-points statistics for surely the first of many times this season.

Of Kentucky's second platoon, Willie Cauley-Stein said, "They don't skip a beat other than a little experience. They're the same. Same personnel. Same type of players as on the first team."

Calipari, who has emphasized the need for a fast pace this season, saw his team pile up a 29-9 edge in points off turnovers. Perhaps more telling, Kentucky also ran off Pikeville scores. Ten times the Cats scored within 10 seconds of a Pikeville basket, once getting a second shot (a putback) within that time.

"There was one segment where we backed up a little bit, and we'll show them on the tape," Calipari said. "But short of that, I thought they were really good."

Six UK players scored double-digit points, led by Karl-Anthony Towns with 22 and Devin Booker with 16. Dakari Johnson added 13, Alex Poythress 12, Trey Lyles 11 and Cauley-Stein 10.

Pikeville was led by guard K.K. Simmons, who scored 28 points. "Honestly, I felt like the rim was a big ocean," he said.

Pikeville scrapped and played fearlessly in the first half. Kentucky led 67-40 at the break.

Kentucky's starting lineup (Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Towns, Cauley-Stein and Poythress) stood a cumulative 403 inches. That was 11 inches more than the lineup that started for UK's 2012 national champions. In fact, UK's starters were taller as a group than any of the program's previous eight NCAA Tournament champions.

So was the second platoon. Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, Lyles and Johnson stood a combined 394 inches, which equaled the total height of starters on UK's championship teams in 2012 and 1978.

Pikeville started no one taller than 6-foot-5. Pikeville Coach Kelly Wells expected his team to experience sticker shock at Kentucky's sheer size.

"We've been trying to do brooms and sticks and finish with contact," he said before the game. "But, again, the first time you see it, ..."

Afterward, he said, "We looked like middle school kids out there at times."

Kentucky, which enjoyed a 26-4 first-half advantage in bench points, used that height well. The Cats dunked 18 times, 11 of which came in a first half that saw Kentucky make 81.8 percent of its shots (27 of 33). Just as Secretariat ran each quarter mile faster in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, UK shot better and better as the half unfolded. The Cats missed only once in the final 12 minutes.

"They don't ever settle," Wells said in saluting the Cats. "They don't settle. I've never been a part of a team where we gave up 80 percent field goals in the first half. They don't settle for anything but dunks and layups."

The second half was more of the same, although Kentucky shot a more human 52.4 percent after halftime. Kentucky reached the 100-point mark with more than eight minutes remaining.

When asked what Kentucky weaknesses the game exposed, Calipari quipped, "Probably should have one more platoon. I would probably feel better with three platoons rather than two."

The decider

Pikeville planned to board a bus after the game and go to Knoxville. The Bears play at Tennessee on Monday night.

Pikeville Coach Kelly Wells said the SEC Network set Sunday night for his team's game at Kentucky.

"They kind of determine it," he said of SEC Network officials. "We're not in a position of leverage, that's for sure.

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