Cats Blitz Asbury in Final Exhibition
Asbury likes to fly up and down the court and the Eagles weren’t going to deviate from its preferred style of play, not even coming to Rupp Arena.
Kentucky just likes it better, with the proof coming in a 156-63 victory.
“I told them you're not going to be able to run offense because they will just run and trap you, so you got to attack and that's what led us to playing that fast,” John Calipari said. “That doesn't happen that often.”
Actually, it’s never happened. The Wildcats overwhelmed the Eagles in UK’s in an offensive performance that would have rewritten the Kentucky record books had it not come in an exhibition.
UK surpassed the legendary first-half total of 86 points the 1996 team had vs. LSU in the first 20 minutes with 88 and reached 100 points less than three minutes into the second half. The Cats reached the record for scoring in an exhibition (127) with more than 11 minutes left, briefly went up by triple digits with more than nine minutes left and reached the regular-season record for points in a game (143) with more than five minutes left.
“When teams press and try to pick me up full court and bring another person, you honestly just attack,” De’Aaron Fox said. “Some people say pass through the press, but Cal always told us our best press attack is our speed. Sometimes you don’t have to pass. Sometimes you just dribble through and throw a lob and get a layup, so that’s what we did.”
All 14 Cats scored and eight reached double figures, led by Fox himself. The lightning-quick point guard – tailor made for the pace of Sunday’s game – racked up 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting in spite of playing just 17 minutes with the outcome well in hand. Mychal Mulder made a late run at catching him, capping his 20-point night with a final-minute slam that somehow one-upped a pair of devastating Malik Monk dunks among contenders for the SportsCenter Top 10.
As a team, UK had 29 dunks.
“I couldn't even tell you who dunked,” Calipari said. “I think I saw Malik do something crazy and I saw Wenyen (Gabriel) on the break go through guys and dunk, just long arms. And Bam (Adebayo) had a couple. Sacha (Killeya-Jones) had a couple. But if you stretch us out, I don't care who you are, if the court is stretched against us, whether you're trying to slow us down, a stretched court speeds us up.”
From start to finish, the pace was staggeringly quick, featuring 111 possessions. The record for most possessions in any game during the Calipari era at UK is 83. Considering Asbury’s game plan, it should come as no surprise that mark was eclipsed.
“The system we play, that was a product of the system,” Asbury head coach Will Shouse said. “I refuse to (play out of our system). It’s my fault. Could I play for us to lose by 50 or 60? Yeah, I probably could have manipulated that, maybe. I don’t know, they may have had their way with us anyway. I kept pressing, trapping and staying aggressive. I think that has to be the mindset to win the conference in our league.”
UK shot 66 of 96 (68.8 percent) from the field for the game, with most of the damage coming close to the basket or on the run. The Cats scored 116 points in the paint and 60 on fast breaks.
“When a team presses like that—any team that presses, not just this one, they give up a lot of points in the paint just because they’re getting up and down,” Fox said. “They don’t care if you score. They’re just going to come right back just as fast.”
Kentucky now shifts its attention to the regular season, which will tip off against Stephen F. Austin – which advanced to the round of 32 in last year’s NCAA Tournament – on Friday at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena. That begins a stretch of three games five days, making for important days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday following an off day on Monday.
“And we're really going to get after it because Thursday I got to back up because we play three games in five days, including travel,” Calipari said. “So, there are things we got to get done, and I think they know it. The things we're doing in practice are bringing out that will to win. But everybody's going to have to understand, you're responsible for you and how you play.”