Recap: No. 1 Kentucky rolls 85-45 in opener

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For most college basketball programs, a 40-point victory on opening night is a thoroughly-satisfying outcome.

Kentucky, of course, is not most college basketball programs.

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The No. 1 Wildcats coasted to an 85-45 win over the WAC’s Grand Canyon on Friday night at Rupp Arena, but there was a little bit too much coasting for their coach’s liking.

“First half was good; second half was not good,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “We never got in rhythm. We never made extra passes. We kind of reverted a little bit.

“But I expect some of that early.”

Kentucky raced to a 43-16 lead at the half, using its “Blue Platoon” substitution patterns of five players in, five players out at every media timeout. But the Cats were hit-and-miss in the second half, outscoring the Antelopes only by a 42-29 margin.

“It got physical and it became a little bit of a fight,” Calipari said. “We had guys not be able to make plays. They walked; missed 1-footers when things got physical. That's going to be an issue for us.

“So this is going to be a process just like last year was a process. It's not any different. We got a long way to go, you know, but we will see.”

There were bright spots for the Cats, including a team-high 16 points from sophomore point guard Andrew Harrison, 14 points from freshman forward Trey Lyles (pictured above) and a double-double from sophomore center Dakari Johnson, who posted 10 points and a team-high 13 rebounds in only 18 minutes of action. Junior center Willie Cauley-Stein added 12 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots.

Kentucky did not shoot particularly well, hitting just 48.6 percent (34 of 70) from the field, but the Cats outrebounded Grand Canyon 51-21. UK also blocked 10 shots in holding the Antelopes to 31.3 percent from the field.

Grand Canyon (0-1), coached by former Phoenix Suns star Dan Majerle, was led by Washington State transfer Royce Woolridge with 15 points, including a 4-for-4 night from behind the 3-point arc.

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:

WHAT WE LIKED: Kentucky came out aggressive and ready to play. The Cats raced to a 27-point halftime lead and looked every bit like the juggernaut many have forecast this season. The platoons were balanced once again with neither group looking much stronger than the other. Calipari made some tweaks to the lineup in the second half, usually to make a point to an individual player, but he didn’t have to deviate from the plan too often, as some have predicted he’ll be forced to do when the competition level increases.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Lyles showed glimpses of his enormous talent, a 6-foot-10 small forward who is equally adept at running the floor, playing around the rim or on the perimeter. The Indiana native scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in only 17 minutes of action. He was also a key part of the second platoon's strong defensive showing.

STAT OF THE DAY: Zero points allowed by UK’s second platoon -- Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson -- in the first half.

QUOTABLE: "The whole talk about going 45-0 or something, it’s not realistic. People put it on us so it puts an expectation on us that, if we lose a game, they can say, ‘Well, they should’ve went 45-0.’ That’s not realistic. Nobody on our team would even think that because we haven’t even been a team that long. It’s kind of annoying when people say that… Why even put that on a young group? It’s not realistic." – UK junior center Willie Cauley-Stein

UP NEXT: Kentucky has an NBA-like turnaround for a noon tipoff Sunday against Buffalo at Rupp Arena.

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