Kentucky slams UPike in exhibition opener

Top-ranked Kentucky looked every bit the part in the first of its two exhibition tune-ups for the upcoming season.

Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns led six Wildcats in double figures, scoring 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the floor in leading UK to a 116-68 romp over in-state neighbor Pikeville, the preseason No. 2 team at the NAIA level, on Sunday night at Rupp Arena.

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Another talented freshman, guard Devin Booker, followed with 16 points for Kentucky. Sophomore center Dakari Johnson had 13 points and eight rebounds. Junior forward Alex Poythress (12), freshman forward Trey Lyles (11) and sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein (10) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Cats.

Kentucky shot 65 percent from the field, including an eye-popping 82 percent figure in the first half, with the help of 18 dunks on the night. The Cats finished with 29 assists on their 49 field goals, highlighted by a nine-assist, zero-turnover night for sophomore point guard Andrew Harrison.

Asked what he liked most about about the performance, UK coach John Calipari said: “Twenty-nine assists in a game where guys could have tried to get their own. It’s the only way this (platoon system) can work, if they really want to share for each other. Twenty-five ‘one mores,’ I had a shot, but he had a better shot. We did not settle for 3s in the first half, we did what we had to do.”

Kentucky also held a 49-25 rebounding advantage and blocked 10 shots, including three rejections for the 6-foot-11 Towns.

“I think you’ll see that we’re not the only team that’s going to happen to,” said UPike coach Kelly Wells, who noted that this might be the biggest collection of raw talent he’s ever seen on a Kentucky roster.

“They don’t ever settle (for bad shots),” Wells added. “… I’ve never been a part of anything where we gave up 80 percent field goal in the first half. Everything’s a dunk or a layup. You and I make a conventional bounce pass and a chest pass, and there’s are lobs. We looked like middle school kids out there at times.”

The Bears did, however, get a monster performance from guard K.K. Simmons, who scored a game-high 28 points and buried six of nine from beyond the 3-point arc.

Kentucky continued with Calipari's "Blue Platoon" system designed to get 10 talented players the mintues they deserve this season. Each platoon played in five-minute intervals with five new players subbing into the game. The first unit featured twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Poythress, Towns and Cauley-Stein. The second unit featured Tyler Ulis, Booker, Lyles, Johnson and Marcus Lee.

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