Labissiere Leads Cats Past NJIT
Skal Labissiere knew his second game with No. 2 Kentucky had to be better than his debut.
The 6-foot-11 freshman forward followed through with an offensive performance that NJIT couldn't stop no matter where he got the ball.
Labissiere scored 26 points, fellow freshman Isaiah Briscoe had a double-double and Kentucky ran away from NJIT 87-57 on Saturday for its second win in as many nights.
Seeking a strong tuneup with Tuesday night's showdown looming against defending national champion and fifth-ranked Duke, the Wildcats (2-0) succeeded behind a dominant effort by the 6-foot-11 Labissiere who made 10 of 12 shots from the field and all six free throws to nearly triple his scoring from the previous night against Albany.
A pregame chat with coach John Calipari prepared him to expect more opportunities.
''He told me they were going to try and get it to me more and just go out there and have fun,'' said Labissiere, who had nine points and five rebounds in Friday's 78-65 win over Albany.
After missing the opener with a bruised knee Isaiah Briscoe debuted with a team-high 12 rebounds along with 11 points. Derek Willis added 11 points and Marcus Lee had 10 as Kentucky won the first meeting between the schools.
Like Labissiere, Briscoe wanted to enjoy his time on the court and showed it on defense with 11 rebounds. His presence provided a more aggressive look for the Wildcats that paid off on both ends of the court and pleased Calipari.
''The biggest thing was, Isaiah makes us a different team,'' Calipari said. ''He has a winning attitude. He's going to do what it takes, he's going to play to win.''
NJIT (0-1) led twice early before being overwhelmed by the taller Wildcats, who dominated the boards 54-23 and held the Highlanders to 31 percent shooting.
Damon Lynn scored 19 points, Ky Howard added 13 and Tim Coleman had 10 for the Highlanders.
Much like Albany the night before, NJIT was unfazed by Kentucky's size and aura as it ran its Princeton offense to perfection early while building its only leads. Lynn had the hot hand from outside with three 3-pointers, while his teammates executed the back-door cuts and motion that the scheme is known for.
The Highlanders' hustle provided the very threat Calipari expected from the team that upset Michigan last season, but the Wildcats eventually adjusted on both ends. After allowing NJIT to make eight of its first 10 shots, Kentucky limited the Highlanders to 3 of 17 shooting the rest of the half and 6 of 28 in the final 20 minutes.
''We did cheat in that worked on Princeton for three days,'' Calipari said. ''My team had no idea why we were working on it. You can't show them (Princeton) today and then play the game tonight. They would've scored a hundred.''
Going to Labissiere under the basket helped offensively as the freshman frequently exploited his size. NJIT had no answer height-wise or otherwise to Labissiere, who continued finding shots.
''I thought we were actually contesting some of his shots, but he kept shooting over us,'' NJIT coach Jim Engles said. ''He's a special player and obviously with him, if you can throw the ball to him he can make a lot of things work. He is a terrific player.''