No. 1 Kentucky Set to Face Arizona State in Bahamas
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Kentucky is No. 1 in the country and has cruised through the beginning of its schedule with six straight wins of 21 points or more.
|Arizona State vs. Kentucky|
|UK||2016-17 Team Stats||ASU|
|.234||Opp 3PT FG%||.335|
Coach Cal would like to see that change.
“I told the fans (before practice) we need to be in a close game,” Calipari said, referring to the few hundred fans who came to watch the Wildcats practice Sunday afternoon.
His request, while on the surface seems odd, makes a lot more sense once it’s broken down. At some point Kentucky (6-0) will have a close game, and with its looming schedule UK will likely be in one sooner rather than later.
Essentially, the Hall of Fame coach wants to see what he’s working with.
“We need close games to see – alright, who and how do we finish a game?” Coach Cal explained. “Who do we finish with and how do we finish? Who can make the play? Who cannot – absolutely not – be in the game? But, until you’re in a close game you don’t know. … Believe me, I don’t want these kind of scores.
“I want the other team – at times I’d like us to shoot 32 percent and win. Like just God awful, can’t make a shot and still win the game. It’s important for them to know, you don’t have to make every shot to win a game. This is a long season.”
Coach Cal’s players, on the other hand, wouldn’t mind avoiding the close games and continuing with their current modus operandi.
“I mean, obviously, no (I don’t want a close game), but you learn a lot from that sort of environment and those close games. So in that sense, yeah,” Humphries said. “It’s an asset to learn from that sort of thing, but in our eyes, no, we don’t want a close game.”
When Kentucky takes on Arizona State (4-2) on Monday in the Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis Resort, it will face its second highest ranked opponent of the year, according to KenPom.com (No. 78). The Sun Devils are shooting better than 37 percent from 3-point range and are an experienced bunch that starts two juniors and two seniors.
Playing in a different setting with a water park, beaches and beautiful sights around every corner, there’s every excuse for the Wildcats to be a little distracted when they take the court against the Sun Devils. Alas, Mychal Mulder says it’s not hard to dial in and block out all the distractions.
“We all know why we’re here,” Mulder said. “It’s a cool experience to be able to come to the Bahamas and see all the sightseeing and the water park and all that. We know the primary focus and primary reason that we’re here is to get a W on the road. We’re all focused.”
And though each of Kentucky’s opening six games have come by wide margins, that’s not to say Coach Cal and the players themselves haven’t learned plenty about what they’re working with.
“I don’t have to use the board as much,” Calipari said. “Really a smart team. Some of them quick thinkers. Like Malik Monk, we got in the huddle and I said, ‘OK, we’re going to run this triangle out of bounds on the baseline.’ And he goes, ‘Zone or man?’ So he’s thinking. Some other guys don’t think as fast but they’re smart. You want quick guys that can move on a dime mentally, not just physically.
“They are a team that plays for one another, and they play hard. We compete. Even in this setting we compete.”
And the players have learned already that when they do get big leads or go on their big runs to not coast, but rather keep the pedal to the metal.
“When you get a team down like that it’s pretty easy to get complacent,” Mulder said. “You’ll notice that a lot with a younger group. But I think our group is really focused on staying forward, moving forward, staying aggressive when we’re up by a large margin and trying to push forward for a victory. Like Isaac said, we hope to beat every team by as much as we can, but close games and closer competition is when you learn different things about yourself, about your team. We just hope it will be a fun experience (Monday).”
The Nation's All-Time Wins Leader Returns to the Top of the Polls
Kentucky is the top team in the land according to the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Wildcats landed at No. 1 in both major polls on Monday. The Wildcats picked up 42 of the 65 first-place votes in the AP Top 25 and 20 of the 31 firstplace votes in the Coaches’ Poll.
UK and John Calipari have been tough to beat playing the role of the hunted:
• The Wildcats own an all-time record of 220-29 (.884) as the nation’s top-ranked squad
• UK has won 65 of its last 69 contests as the AP’s top team
• The Wildcats are 68-6 (.919) as the AP No. 1 team since Calipari’s first year at the helm, the best record in the country by a topranked team during that span
• In eight seasons under Calipari, the Wildcats have reached No. 1 in six of those seasons
• Calipari is 109-11 (.908) all-time as head coach of the AP’s No. 1 team
• Calipari has coached 120 career games as a No. 1 team, the fourth most in NCAA history, trailing John Wooden (228), Mike Krzyzewski (233) and Adolph Rupp (131)
• Among coaches who have owned a No. 1 ranking in at least 119 games, Calipari's winning percentage of .908 trails only Wooden (.952), and is ahead of active coaches Krzyzewski (.870) and Roy Williams (.849)
• Only Krzyzewski (193) has more wins as a No. 1 ranked coach among active NCAA Division I teams than Calipari
• Kentucky has lost just twice at home as the AP top-ranked team in the history of the program and just once in Rupp Arena. Both losses came by just one point
• UK has now been ranked No. 1 a total of 123 weeks since the AP started ranking teams during the 1948-49 season. Only UCLA (134) and Duke (129) have been atop the rankings for more weeks
Kentucky Explodes for 111 Points in Rout of UT Martin
Malik Monk scored a career-high 26 points, De'Aaron Fox added 16 and No. 1 Kentucky routed UT-Martin 111-76 on Friday night for its biggest victory this season.
The taller Wildcats overcame a cold shooting start and 15-14 deficit to the athletic Skyhawks before rolling to season highs in points and victory margin. Kentucky (6-0) shot a season-best 55 percent from the field by controlling the paint 54-28 and the boards 48-26.
Monk's 10-of-17 shooting led the way with Fox making 7 of 12 from the field. Monk has scored at least 23 points in three of his past four games. Wenyen Gabriel and Bam Adebayo each had 15 points for Kentucky, which won the game that was part of matchup of unbeaten teams in the Bluegrass Showcase.
The Wildcats started 4 of 10 from the field before finding their touch to hit 14 of 23 the rest of the first half to build a 15-point halftime lead. The defense kicked in from there to turn it into a rout with a little flash mixed in as Monk had consecutive dunks early in the second half.
• Kentucky swept the Bluegrass Showcase with a 4-0 record
• This was the third straight game that UK scored at least 50 points in the first half
• This is the fifth time in eight seasons under John Calipari that the Wildcats have opened with six straight wins
• Six Wildcats scored in double figures, the first time UK has done that since Feb. 21, 2015, vs. Auburn
• Kentucky’s 111 points are the most in the Calipari era and the most for the Wildcats since Dec. 30, 2002, when UK defeated Tennessee State 115-87
• Kentucky scored 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time since March 25 and 27, 1993
• At one point in the second half, UK was averaging 1.57 points per possession for the game. UK finished with 1.35 points per possession
• UK is on a current 42-game win streak at home, which is the second-longest in arena annals
• Bam Adebayo had his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds, career highs in both categories
• Dominique Hawkins drew his second straight start and distributed a career-high nine assists. He also scored six points and tied a career best with four rebounds.
• Senior Mychal Mulder tallied 12 points, coming on 4 of 5 on 3-point shots. It is the third game in a row he has made at least three triples
• Mulder had 23 points scored in his first 27 games played at Kentucky and 38 points scored in his last three games played
• Kentucky has won three consecutive games by at least 31 points for the first time since Feb. 2, 4, 6, and 8, 1954 (four consecutive games)
• UK scored at least 101 points in consecutive regular season nonconference games for the first time since Dec. 23 and 27, 1989
• The Wildcats had a rebounding margin of plus-11 or better in three consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 8, 11, and 14, 2014
• Kentucky forced at least 17 turnovers in each of their first six games of a season for the first time since 04-2005