Defense Locks Down Missouri as Cats Cruise to 16-0
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Aaron Harrison scored 16 points including five 3-pointers, and top-ranked Kentucky finally earned a conference victory in regulation by drilling Missouri 86-37 on Tuesday night.
After needing overtime to beat Mississippi and Texas A&M by nine total points, the Wildcats (16-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) had the overmatched Tigers (7-9, 1-2) under control by halftime with a 44-18 lead. The margin eventually reached 49 in the final minute as Kentucky rolled to its most decisive outcome since last month's 39-point rout of UCLA.
Harrison played a big role in that by making most of the Wildcats' eight long-range baskets. It was the second time in three games he has made at least five from behind the arc.
Willie Cauley-Stein added 13 points and Karl-Anthony Towns 12 with 10 rebounds as Kentucky shot 48 percent from the field. The Wildcats also held Missouri to a season-low 27 percent and outrebounded the Tigers 46-27 including 30 defensive boards.
Wes Clark and Keanu Post each had 10 points for the Tigers, who lost their second straight.
Kentucky improved to 7-0 against Missouri and earned its biggest win over the Tigers.
Most important for the Wildcats was reclaiming the swagger that had been missing in those close SEC wins. While coach John Calipari was happy with his team's resolve in gutting out those wins, he declared Monday that ''enough is enough'' and wanted his team to get back to dominating opponents.
Doing so required some lineup tweaks as Calipari started sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins in a quest for energy and defense. The defensive specialist finished with six points, three assists and two steals in 20 minutes.
Even better, the lineup shuffle yielded the desired effect on both ends as the Wildcats shot 50 percent in the first half and shut off many options for the Tigers, who made just 31 percent from the field and were outrebounded 22-13.
Kentucky earned a big halftime lead as a result, a big improvement from recent efforts that exposed vulnerabilities - especially on defense.
Shooting had been another concern since SEC play started for the Wildcats, who entered the game better from behind the arc (20 of 48, 42 percent) the past two games than inside (31 percent).
That wasn't an issue as Kentucky made 19 of 38 (50 percent) inside the line with Cauley-Stein even making a jumper that got a big cheer from 24,248 who came out for the late-evening start.
No overtime needed tonight. pic.twitter.com/fwj7dpsK3G
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 14, 2015