The Wildcats (5-0) handled the Vikings in routine fashion despite playing without their leader, sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe, who was sidelined by a bruised hip and lower back after taking a flagrant foul in UK's win on Sunday over Duquesne.
John Calipari's latest highly touted freshman class picked up the slack as Malik Monk scored a team-high 23 points, De'Aaron Fox scored 16 points and dished out 11 assists, and Wenyen Gabriel added a season-high 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists off the bench.
The impressive collection of young talent prompted veteran CSU coach Gary Waters to compare Kentucky to Michigan's "Fab Five."
"They’re playing pretty well together," he said. "They play their roles well together. A lot of people make a big-to-do about five freshmen. If you look at those five freshmen, probably all five will be in the draft.
"When I look at their team -- I was fortunate when I was at Eastern Michigan to be able to play the Fab Five when they were all freshman -- (the UK freshmen) have the equivalency to be able to go out there and play like that. They’re literally a better defensive team. They don’t have the guard size that Michigan team had, but they do have the quickness and defensive ability that team had.”
Kentucky also got strong efforts from Bam Adebayo (14 points, 7 rebounds), Mychal Mulder (13 points) and Isaac Humphries (9 points, 9 rebounds). The Cats shot 52 percent from the field while holding CSU to 39 percent.
Rob Edwards pumped in a game-high 28 points for the Vikings (1-3), but his teammates combined to make only 14 of their 43 attempts from the field.
In this All Wildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some highlights from UK's victory...
WHAT WE LIKED:
Kentucky didn't miss a beat without Briscoe, who may miss another day or two with soreness. Senior Dominique Hawkins did a nice job in the starting role, matching Briscoe's typically strong defense until he was forced out of the game with a knee contusion. That injury gave Mulder an opportunity to play more minutes. The senior from Canada responded with a solid 13-point effort, knocking down three of seven from beyond the 3-point arc to match his career scoring high for the second consecutive game. Monk went 4-of-6 from deep, helping UK chart its best perimeter-shooting game at 9-for-24, 38 percent. The Cats also won the battle of the boards 47-36, and appear to have corrected some of the rebounding issues that dogged them in the first two games of the season.
Wenyen Gabriel, Kentucky -- The 6-foot-10 freshman wing had a terrific showing off the bench with 10 points, a game-high 10 rebounds, and six assists in only 26 minutes of action. Calipari said afterward that, of all his players, he gets more scouts asking about the long, athletic Gabriel than any other Wildcat.
BY THE NUMBERS:
6 - Cats matched or set new season-high scoring totals: Monk (23), Adebayo (14), Mulder (13), Gabriel (10), Humphries(9), and Wynyard (4).
25 - Season-high assist total for the Cats on 38 made buckets.
41 - Kentucky's biggest lead of the day.
56 - The most first-half points for UK in the Calipari era since a Jan. 23, 2010, game against Arkansas.
123 - Wins by Calipari at Rupp Arena, the most by any UK head coach.
"That's the first step to being good." -- UK head coach John Calipari when asked if he thinks his team is starting to enjoy playing defense.
Kentucky returns to the floor quickly after the Thanksgiving holiday, playing UT Martin on Friday at Rupp Arena in the final game of the Bluegrass Showcase. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.