Kentucky Downs Albany in Season Opener
Jamal Murray scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half, reserve Derek Willis got Kentucky going with a career-high 14 in the first and No. 2 Kentucky outlasted Albany 78-65 Friday night in the season opener for both schools.
Murray overcame an uneven first half to shoot 6 of 9 from the field after halftime and 8 of 15 overall, including several thunderous dunks that energized the crowd. He also had eight of Kentucky's 16 assists in his debut to help the Wildcats (1-0) stay safely ahead of the scrappy Great Danes (0-1).
Willis got Kentucky going with several career bests including scoring along with five rebounds. Marcus Lee and Tyler Ulis each had 12 points for Kentucky, which won the first of back-to-back games.
Peter Hooley had 18 points and Evan Singletary 17 for Albany, which got as close as 71-59 with 3:36 remaining.
Six-foot-11 forward Skal Labissiere added nine points and five rebounds in his debut for the Wildcats, who were ragged at times while trying to replace seven players that went to the NBA Draft.
Kentucky coach John Calipari warned that this group might be more of a work in progress than previous teams, especially last year's dominant collection that started 38-0 before losing in the Final Four to eventual runner-up Wisconsin. And to an extent he was right as the Wildcats committed 20 turnovers and were outscored 38-34 in the paint.
But they controlled the boards 34-28 and shot 56 percent from the field, more than enough to win their inaugural meeting against the Great Danes.
Albany was nonetheless competitive and play was even chippy at times against Kentucky's highly-touted freshmen.
Thanks to Willis, who was mostly lost in the shuffle behind that stream of prized players for most of his career, and Murray's second-half recovery, the Wildcats maintained a cushion.