UK-Coppin State: 'Cats take season opener, 77-46

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- New guards Patrick Sparks and Rajon Rondo combined for 21 points and led a strong defensive effort to help the ninth-ranked Wildcats beat Coppin State 77-46 on Saturday.

Chuck Hayes added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats, who are 87-15 all-time in season openers, including 26-3 in Rupp Arena.

One of those three losses came three years ago to Western Kentucky - Sparks' former team. Sparks played two seasons for the Hilltoppers before transferring to Kentucky last season.

Sparks scored nine of his 12 points in the first half, when Kentucky took a 40-18 lead. Sparks also added five rebounds and three assists.

He and Rondo - one of four Kentucky freshmen - keyed a defensive effort that forced 22 Coppin State turnovers. Rondo finished with nine points and five steals.

Coppin State played without Kelvin Green, the team's top returning scorer, who is a Seventh-day Adventist and observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

Kentucky went just 11-of-32 from the field in the first half, but made 6-of-13 3-pointers - including three by Sparks - to seize control.

During the first 12 minutes, Coppin State missed 11 of 12 shots and committed eight turnovers to fall behind 22-6.

Kentucky opened the second half with a 10-2 run that included three dunks by Rondo - one off an alley-oop pass from Sparks - that put the Wildcats up 50-20.

Kentucky led by as many as 40 points in the second half.

Antwan Harrison led Coppin State with eight points and five rebounds. The Eagles went just 1-of-12 from 3-point range and shot 33 percent from the field.


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