Coming off a 32-point blowout of No. 5 Kansas in their last outing, the No. 1 Wildcats found themselves in a highly-competitive game against Boston University for most of Friday night’s game at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky eventually wore down the pesky Terriers, grinding out an 89-65 win in moving to 4-0 on the season.
After breaking down many of the mistakes his team made, the UK boss stared at the stat sheet and came to a reckoning: “You shoot 58 percent, you have 24 assists and 13 turnovers, you win by 24 and we're all upset. So it probably means we're not bad.”
Boston (1-2) made nine 3-pointers, shot 90 percent at the line and hung within five of the much taller Cats on the glass, but could not overcome UK’s depth of talent. Two players who did not fare well in the Kansas blowout – shooting guards Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker – were the stars for the Cats on this night with 19 and 15 points, respectively. Booker also dished out a career-high seven assists.
Kentucky's Dominique Hawkins, a sophomore guard known more as a defensive specialist, got his first career start in the place of an ill Alex Poythress. He responded with seven points, an assist and a steal, as well as perhaps the highlight of the night, throwing down a dunk off a lob from Booker late in the second half that brought the Rupp crowd of 22,485 to a deafening roar.
Cedric Hankerson led the Terriers with 24 points on a night when he shot 5-for-9 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: For the second time this season, Kentucky did not have its “A” game and still managed to beat a hard-nosed, well-coached team by a decisive margin. Last week, the Cats overcame a five-point halftime deficit to knock off Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo squad. This game was somewhat similar with the Terriers taking the fight to the Cats and never looking the least bit intimidated. These two games didn’t look like much when the schedule was originally unveiled, but they may prove to be very beneficial to UK over the course of the season. The Cats got a lot of good work in against a tightly-packed zone defense, something they should expect to see often this year.
KEY MOMENT: Boston was within eight with 13:42 remaining when UK’s Andrew Harrison grabbed a defensive rebound, led the break and found Willi Cauley-Stein for a highlight reel lob dunk that energized the crowd and provided the Cats with the late surge needed to put Boston away. It began a 26-14 spurt that gave UK a cozy 78-58 lead at the 5:48 mark.
STAT OF THE DAY: The Cats forced the Terriers into 22 turnovers leading to 28 points, 16 off the break, which helped negate the BU zone.
QUOTABLE: "We weren't very good today, and what we looked like was a November team. The Kansas game, on defense, we looked like a January team. On offense, we looked like a November team. Today we looked like November. And it's what you have.” – UK coach John Calipari on how much work his team still needs to do in order to reach its potential.
UP NEXT: Kentucky returns the court Sunday in a 6 p.m. tipoff against Montana State. The Bobcats (1-3) were scheduled to play previous UK opponent Buffalo on Friday night, but the game was postponed due to the 7-plus feet of snow that has fallen in upstate New York. Montana State lost to another common UK opponent, Grand Canyon, 61-45, on Nov. 17.
UK coach John Calipari...
Boston U coach Joe Jones, Nate Dieudonne...