LEXINGTON, Ky. --- For all but about nine minutes here Saturday, Kyle Macy felt like it was the good old days at Rupp Arena.
Different colors, but that same feeling of success.
Kentucky closed the first half with a 13-4 run and opened the second with a 15-2 spurt, but Macy's Morehead State squad played mostly even with the No. 10 Wildcats the rest of the night in a respect-earning 94-75 loss.
Making his coaching debut against Kentucky in 1997, Macy watched as the Eagles trailed 48-20 at the half and saw the Cats record more blocked shots (8) than his team had field goals (6). Morehead State never challenged in that contest, falling 88-49.
This time around, the Eagles led on five occasions in the first half, including a four-point margin with 8:26 remaining. Guards Ricky Minard, Marquis Sykes and Chez Marks were routinely beating UK defenders off the dribble and finishing shots to keep the heavy underdogs in the game.
"Morehead's an improved team," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Very athletic."
Superior size and depth of talent proved to be the difference for Kentucky (2-1), which got 23 points from Tayshaun Prince, 20 from Keith Bogans and held a 48-30 rebounding advantage. The Cats' 48-28 edge in points scored in the paint nearly mirrored the final margin.
"It was good to play better tonight and get a win," Smith said. "We still didn't shoot the ball as well as I had hoped, but I still saw a lot of positive things."
The Cats shot 51 percent (36 of 71) from the field and racked up 25 assists, but hit only eight of 30 from 3-point range and committed 18 turnovers.
"We didn't feel like we played that well," Prince said. "There's a lot of things to work on. I thought we probably took some 3s too fast when we should have made an extra pass against their (2-3) zone."
"We still don't have everybody on the same page," Smith said. "...The chemistry is not there. You can tell. With 18 turnovers, there's not a smoothness or smooth flow to our offense at all."
The return of senior point guard J.P. Blevins from an ankle injury did little to improve the inconsistent UK offense. Blevins failed to score and recorded a modest three assists in 22 minutes of action. Backup Cliff Hawkins recorded eight points and two assists in 13 minutes.
Junior center Marquis Estill, making the first start of his UK career, contributed 10 points. Freshman forward Chuck Hayes added eight points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench.
"I thought Chuck Hayes had the best overall line of the night," Smith said.
Hayes was involved in the key run to help Kentucky take control of the game. He had six points in the spurt, and his two rebound baskets in the final minute of the first half sent the Cats to the locker room with a 47-40 lead, their largest to that point in the game.
"I thought we let it get away from us in that last 3:47 of the first half," Macy said. "We couldn't establish that tempo again in the second half... We didn't do the things to stop those runs or limit their possessions."
Prince and reserve forward Erik Daniels each scored four points in the run to start the second half. Hayes also energized the crowd of 19,774 with a steal which saw him dive head-long into the scorer's table, but have the presence to call time out as he fell.
"That's the kind of thing he does," Bogans said of his young teammate. "He brings a lot of energy to the floor. He does the things that coach wants to see and the fans want to see."
Kentucky led by as many as 25 following a Prince 3-pointer with 10:28 left. Morehead cut the margin to 18 on a Marks trey with 5:18 remaining, but could get no closer.
Minard, last year's Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, led the Eagles with 23 points on 8-for-20 shooting from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. Marks, a product of nearby Paris High School, added 21 on the strength of 4-for-5 shooting from long range.
Morehead shot only 39 percent (26 of 67) from the field, but was 43 percent (9 for 21) from beyond the arc.
"We don't have the size that Kentucky has, so we tried to utilize our speed by opening up the spacing on the floor and making them play defense," Macy said.
"We did a horrible job of defending the 3s once again," Smith bemoaned. "... If we're going to be a good team, we've got to do a better job on dribble penetration. We're just awful right now, so I guess it's back to the drawing board."