It was not a work of art, but the Kentucky Wildcats shook off a slow start to beat Miami of Ohio by the score of 57-46. Junior Joe Crawford scored 18 points to lead all scorers. Randolph Morris posted 12 points and 10 rebounds and freshman Perry Stevenson blocked seven shots and altered at least that many more.
Miami took advantage of Kentucky's sluggish start early, jumping to a 16-6 lead on Monty St. Clair's three-pointer at the 11:33 mark. "I was surprised," said senior Bobby Perrry, "Especially in a home opener. It shows that they have some players and they came ready to play. Our shots weren't falling at the beginning. We just had to find our stroke. Thank goodness for Joe (Crawford). He really kept us in the game and played wonderful tonight."
The Redhawks managed to keep the Cats at bay for much of the rest of the half by controlling the glass and making the open shots. An Eric Pollitz layup at the 3:12 mark gave Miami its last large cushion of the night at 24-15. That's when Kentucky started to make its move.
In just over a minute back to back threes by Joe Crawford and senior Bobby Perry, along with a bucket and 2 free throws by junior point guard Ramel Bradley, and the Cats were within just a point at 26-25.
Kentucky would knot the game for the first time on a layup by freshman Jodie Meeks at the 1:32 mark, and Crawford would follow with a three to give the Cats its first lead at 30-27 just before half.
Kentucky scored the first ten points of the second half behind three buckets by Randolph Morris and a layup from Stevenson. The Cats appeared ready to put the game away but the Redhawks fought back gamely. Chipping away little by little, Miami was within two at the 9:44 mark after a basket by Doug Penno.
"Miami did a good job of getting back and stopping us from pushing the ball," said Ramel Bradley, who scored 12 points and dealt five assists, but also had six turnovers, "That led to a lot of us standing around on offense. We're used to pushing the ball and things flowing easily."
Stevenson would take over defensively and Crawford, Bradley and Morris provided the offense. The Cats pulled away at the end, finishing with its largest margin of the game.
For the game, Kentucky allowed Miami to shoot just 33% from the field, but in the 2nd half the Cats allowed the Redhawks just four baskets in 25 attempts. Defense clearly won this game for Kentucky. "I thought the Kentucky defense was important," Smith said, "Stepping up and holding them to 16 percent in the second half was what we needed to do because we weren't scoring very well. We weren't doing a great job of getting to the basket and we were in foul trouble. I was impressed with the way our guys raised their level of defensive intensity because they [Miami] were beating us on the boards in the second half."
Next up for Kentucky is Mississippi Valley State, a team that was crushed by #25 ranked Creighton on Monday. They also lost to Ole Miss on Nov 10 by a score of 72-49.