Cats Overcome Slow Start, Take UALR 73-51
Jan. 3, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted to watch the game film of the Wildcats' victory over Arkansas-Little Rock on the ride home to Lexington. Then, he had another plan for it.
"I'll watch the tape on the drive home just to get rid of it because I don't want to see it," he said. "The first 40 minutes will be that tape, then I'll throw it out the window."
Freshman Anthony Davis had 22 points and 16 rebounds, and the No. 2 Wildcats overcame a slow start with a big run that put away the Trojans 73-51 on Tuesday night.
But the final nonconference game was an ugly one all around for the 14-1 Wildcats, who played for the first time since beating then-No. 4 Louisville on Dec. 31 and moving up one spot behind top-ranked Syracuse.
Kentucky, picked to win its 45th conference title, will open its SEC schedule against South Carolina on Saturday at Rupp Arena and give its vaunted freshme a taste of the league.
"I heard it's very physical," Davis said. "The way we came out and played in the first half is not going to be acceptable in SEC play."
Darius Miller's 3-pointer with 11:03 left put the Wildcats up 45-35 and made him the 58th Kentucky player to score 1,000 career points. Kentucky used a 23-1 run to storm past the undermanned Trojans.
"In the beginning of the game, we came out and we had no intensity and we were very sluggish," Miller said. "We have to do a better job of coming out and taking care of business from the beginning."
Chuck Guy scored 19 points for UALR (5-11).
"I expected us to win. We played as hard as we could," Guy said. "They just picked up their intensity and hit big shots."
Kentucky trailed 34-31, after Guy made two free throws with 16:11 left, before the Wildcats took control.
"They had more energy, more intensity, more toughness than us," Davis said. "In the second half, we all got together as a group. Darius brought us together and said, `Let's step it up. Let's go out there and win.' We've got a big game coming up on Saturday to start conference (play)."
Davis' layup changed the lead for the eighth and final time just over a minute later. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit a 3-pointer, Davis added a jumper, and Miller made a 3 to join the 1,000-point club and give Kentucky a 45-35 edge with 11 minutes left.
It was 54-35 after Doron Lamb's layup with 8:35 to go. UALR went nearly 10 minutes between field goals before Courtney Jackson's layup.
Miller finished with 15 points, and Terrence Jones added 10 for the Wildcats, who also got 10 rebounds from Kidd-Gilchrist, who played 31 minutes despite having hurt a muscle in his chest.
"We don't know if it's a pulled muscle or what in his chest area. It was last game it happened," Calipari said. "We will check on him tomorrow, but I think he will be fine."
Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis have excelled, so far.
Davis blocked three more shots to give him 67 for the season and move him into a tie for 10th on the school's single-season blocks list with more than half the schedule to play.
Davis, who leads the nation in the category, came into play Tuesday night with as many or more blocks than 283 Division I teams.
UALR made the NCAA tournament last season, but graduated its top three scorers, including Sun Belt Conference player of the year Solomon Bozeman. Will Neighbour had picked up some of that void, averaging 18.3 points and eight rebounds over the last two weeks, but he injured his right shoulder in the final minute of a win at Denver.
Even with Neighbour out, UALR took it right to the Wildcats early, despite being a 28-point underdog. D'Andre Williams scored 11 points, and Jackson added 11 rebounds.
"That was a big concern without Will, he's a man," Williams said. "But you've got to believe."
They played like it.
Guy dove over the Trojans' bench into the second row to unsuccessfully save a loose ball, then nailed consecutive 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the first half. After the sophomore's second, he held three fingers out and pumped his hands in joy as he gave UALR a 30-25 lead, its biggest of the game, and had a 30-27 lead at the break.
With 14,747 in attendance, there were several thousand empty seats in Freedom Hall, which opened in 1956 and holds nearly 19,000. Kentucky plays an annual home game in the arena even though attendance has lagged in recent years because of lackluster opponents.
"It was nice to play here," said Miller, who grew up in Maysville, Ky. "There's a lot of tradition in this gym. It's nice to play different places, especially ones you know about."