By the end of the first half, the dynamic freshman was on pace for just the second triple-double in school history. With his five blocks in the opening stanza, he was poised to threaten the UK record of nine swats. The final 20 minutes became Davis Watch 2011, with the 24,119 in attendance in Rupp Arena wondering which records would fall.
When all was said and done, he would fall short of both marks, settling for a still jaw-dropping 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks in an 81-59 win.
"Without him, we probably lose the game," Calipari said. "He changed everything about it. He blocked shots. He scored baskets, he rebounded tough rebounds. He came up with balls."
Davis paced the Wildcats' defense as UK set a school record with 18 blocks in moving to 7-0 on the season entering a highly anticipated matchup against North Carolina on Saturday. He had UK's first four on the night and his teammates rose to his example.
"It sparks the team, most definitely," Davis said.
His teammates responded with 10 blocks, nearly matching UK's NCAA-leading average on the season excluding the contributions of their defensive anchor. However, the players in home white weren't the only ones to feel the effects of Davis' presence. St. John's managed just 19-for-60 (31.7 percent) from the field and committed five shot clock violations. The Red Storm struggled to cope with the length of Davis, even though they had seen his impact on tape.
"It's like shooting over a tower," St. John's sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey said. "I watched him play a lot this season, but I didn't know he was as long as he is and athletic as he is until he caught a couple of the dunks and a couple of the lob plays. He was blocking shots all over the place."
St. John's managed just one more made field goal (19) than UK had blocks and Davis' eight increased his average on the season to 4.9. His learning curve on the defensive end has been minimal and he's immediately lived up to his reputation as a game changer.
"I'd like to take all the credit for that, how I teach," Calipari said. "But the reality of it is, that's him. He's a great shot blocker."
Calipari may have liked what he saw on Thursday from the UK defense, but he sees the offense as a work in progress, and that's putting it kindly.
"We're playing such a young team," Calipari said. "We haven't figured out each other yet, and it's going to take time. This team will be way better in March than it is right now."
The Wildcats' offense primarily came in one of three ways: fast breaks, lobs to Davis and Terrence Jones getting to the foul line. The sophomore forward had 26 points, hitting 11-of-16 free throw attempts to go with nine rebounds, four blocks and four steals, but he sees the same need for improvement as Calipari. Given a choice, though, Jones would much prefer to have the defense ahead of the offense at this point in the season.
"I think it's a much easier problem than it being the other way around," Jones said. "I think when do get it going (like UK did in a 108-58 win over Marist), I think we could be really dangerous."
Jones may have had one of his better statistical games in a Kentucky uniform, but Calipari is looking for him to improve in more intangible areas as UK faces two stern tests against North Carolina and Indiana over the next week.
"Terrence is going to have to play better these next two games," Calipari said. "It's not even about numbers. You've got to come up with balls. You've got to be the guy on the court, being where you're supposed to and you have to show leadership."
With the bright lights of CBS's first college basketball of the season on Saturday, Calipari is looking for Jones to step up. He has been through numerous battles even though he's just a sophomore, including two games against the Tar Heels a season ago.
"These next two games are vital because you cannot count on young players, freshmen, to go in there in these kind of games, the next two that we have," Calipari said. "The next two are going to be ridiculously hard for us to win, and so if we don't have that from him, it's going to be really hard for us, because again, if it's not him, you're counting on freshmen."