No Payback: New Cats roll Robert Morris

Don't call it a payback, it's just different years. That was both coaches' message Sunday after Kentucky's 87-49 knockout of Robert Morris in a rematch of last year's headline-grabbing NIT victory by the Colonials that put an end to the Wildcats' humbling season.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Don't call it a payback, it's just different years.

That was both coaches' message Sunday after Kentucky's 87-49 knockout of Robert Morris in a rematch of last year's headline-grabbing NIT victory by the Colonials that put an end to the Wildcats' humbling season.

Freshman guard Aaron Harrison scored a career-high 28 points to lead the No. 1 Wildcats (3-1) while fellow freshman Julius Randle added 10 points and 15 rebounds from his power forward position to become only the fifth player in program history to begin a season with a double-double and the first since Reggie Hanson in 1989.

Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein added seven points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots on a night when UK held Robert Morris (2-2) to 23 percent shooting from the field and owned a 56-33 rebounding advantage.

"I never looked at last year's tape to prepare for the game," UK head coach John Calipari said. "I didn't want to see it. I've never looked at it, nor will I. That thing's over. This is a new team."

"Order has been restored," joked Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole, whose team posted a memorable 59-57 win over college basketball's all-time winningest program last March in Moon Township, Pa.

"Obviously, their talent is better than last year's team," Toole added. "Having a guy like Randle – last year they did not have a low-post presence that they could really hurt us with – so we had to make a choice going into today's game, were we going to try to take away perimeter guys or were we going to try to flood the paint. We opted to try to flood the paint because we thought we could slow Randle. Ten points and 15 rebounds isn't bad, right? (Smiles) But unfortunately, they were able to hurt us from the perimeter."

Harrison played the spoiler role, knocking down three shots from beyond the arc in the first 6:15 to stake Kentucky to a 13-2 lead. He finished the night 4-for-7 from 3-point range and 10-of-10 at the free throw line coming off a rough outing (1 of 7 FG, 0-5 3PFG) Tuesday in a 78-74 loss to No. 2 Michigan State in the Champions Classic.

"It was a good feeling, just to get out of the little funk that I had on Tuesday and get my confidence up," Harrison said.

It's a sign of growth that the UK coach would like to see continue for his young shooting guard from Texas.

"You can't be energized because you're making shots," Calipari said. "You've got to be energized because you're playing basketball, and if you happen to miss shots, it's OK... You're not going to be on your A game every night out, but what are you going to do to help us win?"

Like defend.

Kentucky's D had a vastly-improved showing as well, holding the Colonials to single digits until the 5:18 mark of the first half. By the time David Appolon hit the first of two free throws, the Cats held a commanding 28-10 lead.

"We were focused a lot on defense in practice," Harrison said. "We tried to come out with that mindset."

The Wildcats held Robert Morris to 6-of-30 shooting from the field in the first half.

"Obviously, with their size and their athleticism, there are times when you think you're open, and then you're not very quickly," Toole said. "… They just have so much more size and length on the perimeter, it makes it difficult to run your offense."

The lead grew to 44-20 at halftime as Harrison had racked up 19 points. Kentucky led by as many as 40 in the second half.

"We made strides. We got better," Calipari said.

NOTES:

• Kentucky used a starting lineup consisting of five freshmen for the first time in school history – Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Marcus Lee.

• Randle joined Cotton Nash, Dan Issel, Jim Andrews and Reggie Hanson as the only players to begin a season with four consecutive double-doubles. Andrews, a 6-foot-11 center, had seven straight to open the 1971-72 season.

• UK freshman guard Dominique Hawkins, the Bluegrass State's "Mr. Basketball" in 2013, scored his first four points with the Wildcats.

• The Wildcats have out-rebounded all four opponents this season by 12 or more.

• Kentucky continues the Keightley Classic on Tuesday as the Wildcats play host to Texas-Arlington. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

Facebook | Twitter| E-Mail |


AllWildcats Top Stories