Kentucky found itself in a tight game at the half with crosstown Division III exhibition opponent Transylvania, but the Wildcats outscored the Pioneers 47-10 after the break en route to a 74-28 win at Rupp Arena.
Five players scored in double figures for the Wildcats, led by freshman center Nerlens Noel with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. Senior guard Julius Mays added 14 and had buried four of eight 3-point attempts before leaving the game late with what appeared to be a potentially serious knee injury on his final attempt from long range. He was later deemed to have only a minor leg strain which will be monitored from day to day.
Kentucky opens the regular season on Friday against Maryland in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"We're still learning about ourselves," UK coach John Calipari said. "I mean, I thought we defended better... I like how we started the (second) half. I like how active we were. I liked how we were deflecting balls, how we were flying and spacing the court. I liked that. But look, we are what we are. I keep saying it. What is this, November what? We're a November 5th team."
That was evident in the first half when the Cats held a scant 27-18 lead at the break. Kentucky shot just 42 percent and had more turnovers (10) than field goals (9) in the first 20 minutes of action.
But UK took better care of the ball with only four turnovers in the second half and held the Pioneers to only five baskets the rest of the way in cruising to a comfortable win.
"We came out with a lot more energy," Mays said of the second-half performance. "We started getting more aggressive, scrambling, rebounding and running."
"We were able to handle the pressure early," Transylvania coach Brian Lane said. "Defensively, (the Wildcats) are just going to get better and better and better. I saw a couple of the edits from Blue-White to the first exhibition, and you could see just a different intensity level. They are just going to continue to get better and better as the season goes along."
Kentucky's long and active defense harassed Transylvania into 26.2 percent (11 of 42) shooting and 23 turnovers. Even more impressive to both coaches, the Cats held the 3-point shooting Pioneers to only 20 looks from beyond the arc with just three finding their mark.
Lane said UK has the potential to be as good defensively as last year's national championship squad due to its ability to close out on shooters.
"Last year, we got off over 35, 36 3-pointers," he said. "That was how we could stay in the game. This year, we couldn't get them off. We were trying to get 3s off, and they held us only to 12 in the first half.
"They close so well. If one guy makes a mistake, the next guy is there... Last year, we just had Anthony Davis that would block 35 shots. This time, it was the next one and the next one."
The Pioneers were led by senior forward Ethan Spurlin, a former Lincoln County (Ky.) High School standout, with 11 points and five rebounds.
* Kentucky also had Ryan Harrow (12), Willie Cauley-Stein (12) and Archie Goodwin (10) in double-figure scoring.
* The Cats shot 71.4 percent (20 of 28) in the second half.
* UK made nine of 10 free throws on the night.
* Mays also had a game-high five assists.
* Goodwin had a game-high six rebounds.
Cats roll past Transy in final tune-up
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