Coming off an impressive victory against Duke in the Champions Classic, No. 2 Kentucky "took a big step back," according to its coach, with a sloppy 78-63 win over Wright State on Friday night at Rupp Arena.
"You tell me that looked like the No. 2 team in the country," Calipari said after his team dispatched the Raiders but failed to pull away from the outmanned opponent. "There's gotta be 20 teams better than us right now.
"I want us to just keep climbing. We took a big step back. Guys weren't listening. They just kind of broke it off and did their own thing."
Kentucky (4-0) got by on talent alone, never getting a serious challenge from Wright State. The Cats shot 53 percent from the field and placed five players in double figures, led by sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis with a career-high 21 points. Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe followed with 15 points, while fellow freshmen Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray each tallied 13. Senior forward Alex Poythress added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
But the stat sheet also revealed many concerns for Calipari. UK had only nine assists and turned the ball over 12 times. The Cats grabbed just seven offensive rebounds and blocked only one shot despite a massive size advantage. They had just five steals after recording nine against Duke.
Wright State (1-3) was held to 36 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Grant Benzinger, the son of former Cincinnati Reds first baseman Todd Benzinger, led the Raiders with 19 points. JT Yoho added 13.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...
HOW IT WENT DOWN:
As Calipari predicted following the Cats' nice showing against Duke, teams will begin to pack in their defense against UK's three-guard, dribble-drive lineup. Wright State did that to a certain degree of success, forcing the Cats to play a slower tempo and fouling on almost every possession in a game that featured a miserable flow. Kentucky's Ulis and Murray combined to hit 20 of 22 free throws while their teammates went 6-for-15 at the so-called charity stripe. Afterward, Calipari bemoaned the inability of Labissiere to consistently post up and suggested his guards may need to take more 3-point shots to loosen up the defenses they'll see. UK went just 2-for-10 from beyond the arc.
Ulis set a career high for the second consecutive game after posting 18 points against Duke. He was 5-for-9 from the floor, 10-of-12 at the line, dished out five assists and recorded two steals. "Ulis never panics, he never gets nervous," WSU coach Billy Donlon said. "He makes the right decision every single time. He doesn’t hit a home-run play unless it’s a home run. He never strikes out. When he comes off of a ball-screen, he never gets it wrong. And that’s really hard to guard. When he’s in transition, he never gets it wrong."
BY THE NUMBERS:
3rd - Career double-double for Poythress.
7 - Rebounds or more for UK's Marcus Lee in every game this season.
50 - Fouls called in the game, one for every 48 seconds of play.
119-5 - The Cats' record when holding the opponent to 63 or fewer points under Calipari.
616 - Days since UK's last regular-season loss.
"I like the rules. It makes you stay in a defensive position. If you don't, then they're calling fouls. I thought that, again, there was some pushing and shoving in the post that I was on, because it's not -- that's the rules. That's an absolute foul. And so there were a lot of fouls and there should have been." -- UK coach John Calipari on the teams combining for 50 fouls and 54 free throws.
Kentucky returns to action Tuesday, Nov. 24, at Rupp Arena against Boston University. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.