The Wildcats nearly duplicated their defensive effort against Kansas, holding Montana State to 19.7 percent shooting from the field and blocking 12 shots in an 86-28 romp Sunday at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky (5-0) set a new program record for fewest points allowed during the shot clock era dating back to the 1985-86 season. The Cats also matched the lowest points allowed in a half (11) during the shot clock era.
The visiting Bobcats remained on their halftime total of 11 points until Marcus Colbert’s basket at the 9:36 mark made it 65-13.
Kentucky has held its five opponents this season to a combined 28 percent from the field while blocking 49 shots. Its 12 rejections Sunday set a new season high.
“I loved how we defended,” UK coach John Calipari said. “We didn't look at the score, we just worried about each possession, and that's what you have to do in games like this.
“I hated that the score was that lopsided. But, again, I'm trying to I got a team here that I'm trying to deal with and make sure they're getting better. We didn't try to run it up… We didn't exactly knock it out of the park again, offensively, but we were so good defensively, it made it easy for us.”
Freshman guard Devin Booker scored a career-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor to lead the Cats. UK also got double figures from Aaron Harrison (14) and Dakari Johnson (13 points, 8 rebounds). Karl-Anthony Towns also filled his stat line with an eight-point, 10-rebound, six-block night.
Joey Frenchwood, a freshman guard, led Montana State (0-4) with seven points. In making three of his six shots, he was the only Bobcat to shoot 50 percent in the game.
Kentucky played its second consecutive game without junior forward Alex Poyhress, who was held out again with an illness. He is expected to return to action Tuesday against UT Arlington.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the day's highs and lows:
WHAT WE LIKED: Kentucky played with a “mean streak” on defense in a game where the Cats could have easily gone through the motions. In holding Montana State without a point for 10 ½ minutes to start the second half, they demonstrated that they’re buying into Calipari’s message that they could be a historically good defensive squad.
KEY MOMENT: Hard to say with a straight face, but from the moment these two squads stepped on the floor, the final result was a foregone conclusion. In the Bobcats’ defense, they have been on the road for 12 consecutive days due to an extended road trip that got re-arranged due to the blizzard in Buffalo that postponed their previous game. Perhaps an indicated of just how good UK is, the same Montana State squad “only” lost to future Wildcat opponent UCLA 113-78 in the season opener.
STAT OF THE DAY: Kentucky got 60 percent (52) of its points from the bench, led by Booker’s 18 and Johnson’s 13.
QUOTABLE: “It’s hard to simulate that length. Somebody told me the other day that Kentucky was the eighth-tallest team in the country, including the NBA.” – Montana State coach Brian Fish on the Wildcats.
UP NEXT: Kentucky plays host to the Sun Belt’s UT Arlington (3-1) on Tuesday at Rupp Arena in a 7 p.m. ET tipoff on the SEC Network.
UK coach John Calipari...
Montana State coach Brian Fish...