Cats rip Kentucky State 118-63

Kentucky had little trouble with Winston Bennett's Thorobreds in a warmup for Tuesday's highly-anticipated showdown with Duke...

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Kentucky gave Winston Bennett a standing ovation. Then it gave him the worst beating he may ever suffer in his coaching career.

The former UK standout returned to Rupp Arena with his Kentucky State squad on Saturday, but the Division II Thorobreds were no match for the 10th-ranked Wildcats, who rolled to a 118-63 blowout.

Marquis Estill soars over a KSU defender for two of his game-high 21 points.

It marked the most lopsided victory (55 points) in Tubby Smith's career, and the highest point total for the Cats during his five years in Lexington.

Bennett chalked the day up to too much Kentucky, but a good learning experience for his team and a memorable personal moment.

"I thank God for the opportunity to come back home, because this is my home," said Bennett, who played for Kentucky from 1984-88, spent four years in the NBA and served as an assistant under Rick Pitino during the 1996 championship season. "It certainly was an emotional moment for me. The fans gave me a standing ovation. This is the greatest place in the world. They never forget you here."

Sophomore center Marquis Estill led Kentucky with 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field. Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans followed with 18 and 17, respectively, while Gerald Fitch (12) and Erik Daniels (10) also struck for double figures.

The Cats shot 60 percent from the field and racked up 33 assists (both season highs) and placed 14 of 15 players in the scoring column. Freshman guard Rashaad Carruth was the lone scoreless player, failing to take a shot in his nine minutes of action.

"It was a good opportunity for us to come in and get a lot of guys playing time," Smith said. "I thought today we were really on track. We've been playing better, and today was a good indication.

"I like the way we're passing the ball with thirty-some assists.... It shows the unselfishness of our players, and that the guys appreciate each other and trust each other. That's going to be a key ingredient to the success of this team because we've got a lot of people who can score.

"We're also shooting the ball well, so hopefully that will put us on a high as we leave to go play Duke."

Kentucky (6-1) faces the No. 1 ranked Blue Devils on Tuesday in the Jimmy V. Classic at the New Jersey Meadowlands.

Following Saturday's game, there was more talk of Duke than of the game which had just concluded.

Cliff Hawkins speeds down the floor after recording one of his five steals.

"Since our first loss, we've shown progress in every game," senior guard J.P. Blevins said. "It's good to keep that going into Tuesday's game against Duke. We're really looking forward to playing those guys, showing everybody what kind of team we have."

"This was a good game for us to have before playing Duke," Prince said. "We got to play a lot of people, everybody was scoring, so we'll have some confidence going into that game."

"I'm pretty excited," said Bogans, adding that he found it "pretty funny" some members of the national media have been labeling Duke as invincible. "We'll just have to see about that."

As he did in last weekend's win over North Carolina, Prince ignited the Cats with another hot shooting display out of the gates. He scored the team's first five points as UK raced to an 11-2 lead.

The Thorobreds pulled within 17-14 at the 12:06 mark before Kentucky went on a 30-5 run to take command. Estill delivered nine points in the spurt, and sophomore point guard Cliff Hawkins energized the crowd with three of his career-high eight assists and two of his five steals.

Kentucky took a 55-32 lead into the half. The Cats opened the second period by scoring on their first 11 possessions, hitting 15 of their first 17 shots during a 34-6 run.

The margin swelled to 57 on a layup by Josh Carrier, assisted by walk-on Cory Sears, with 1:46 remaining. Sears found his way into the scoring column with a scoop shot for the Cats' final points. Fellow walk-on Matt Heissenbuttel also added a basket and assist down the stretch.

Kentucky held the Thorobreds to 41 percent shooting from the field and forced 29 turnovers. The Cats also held a commanding 51-29 rebounding advantage, led by seven from Gerald Fitch. Bogans added six rebounds and six assists to his impressive line.

Kentucky State had no players in double figures. Nabil Boudissa led the Thorobreds with nine points and 11 rebounds.

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