The 6-foot-11 Haitian standout scored 18 of his points in the first half, going 7-for-7 from the floor and 4-for-4 at the line to help stake UK to a 36-28 lead at the break.
"When you get him the ball in 7, 8 feet from the basket and he can turn and shoot, I don't know how you guard him," UK coach John Calipari said of Labissiere. "He's 7 foot and he raises that thing up.... Made free throws today. He's got to rebound more. And I told him the one thing that I can't do for him is teach him fight and grit. He's going to have to do that. But he made strides, he did good today."
Labissiere got some help from fellow freshman Isaiah Briscoe, who turned in a double-double in his first game at the college level. The 6-3 guard from New Jersey, who missed Friday's season opener with a bruised knee, scored 11 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Kentucky (2-0) held an overwhelming 54-23 rebounding advantage over the smaller Highlanders. In addition to Briscoe's impressive work, the Cats also got 10 points and eight rebounds from junior center Marcus Lee and nine points and seven boards from senior forward Alex Poythress.
NJIT (0-1), which made headlines last season knocking off No. 17 Michigan on the road, was held to 31 percent shooting (17 of 55) from the field. The Highlanders were led by guard Damon Lynn with 19 points.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some of the quick-hitters from UK's win...
NJIT was able to hang with the Cats for most of the first half, thanks to its quirky "Princeton-style" offense and a good display of early 3-point shooting, but the Highlanders gradually ran out of steam against UK's long, athletic defense. The Cats went on a 28-8 run midway through the second half to bury the visitors. The run included all 11 of Derek Willis' points, including a dunk and a trio of 3-pointers that whipped the Rupp Arena crowd of 22,671 into a frenzy.
Labissiere showed by many national recruiting observers tabbed him the No. 1 overall prospect and why many NBA scouts consider him to be a good bet to go either first or second in next year's draft. At 6-11, he has some of the best shooting touch Big Blue Nation has witnessed since Melvin Turpin starred for the Cats in the mid-80s. In addition to his 26 points, Labissiere also had five rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.
BY THE NUMBERS:
1st - Meeting between UK and NJIT on the hardwood.
1st - Career start for UK's Willis.
+31 - Largest rebounding margin of the Calipari era.
.214 - NJIT's field goal percentage in the second half (6 of 28).
"This is a good one, we got better. Now we got to go to Chicago and now the bright lights are on, and let's see what we are. We're going to learn about our team. That's why you play these kind of games, and we know how good Duke is, how good their players are, how good their coach is, how well organized. They will fight. We know, they're that good and we're going to find out what we are at this stage by playing a good team like that." -- Calipari on UK's next game.
Kentucky travels to Chicago for a much-anticipated matchup with No. 5 Duke on Tuesday in the Champions Classic. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Blue Devils (2-0) defeated Bryant 113-75 on Saturday behind a career-high 28 points from Grayson Allen.