The Shagari connection
Smith was pleased with the way the junior guard played in the second half. Not only did he connect on five of seven shots, but he dished out all three of his assists, two of which went to 7-3 center Shagari Alleyne.
"Patrick has spent a lot of time with Shagari with the lob and you saw what he can do with it if he gets the ball that close to the basket," Smith said. "Our guys understand that is the pass that he can handle. He's gotten stronger and his stamina has improved."
"Shagari came to me and said he was ready to get better," Sparks, who played for his father, Steve, at Muhlenburg North High School, said. "We worked a lot on getting him into position to take the pass and then keep the ball high last year. He can't handle anything around his waist.
"He came in stronger this year, but anyone can take it away from him if the pass is low. I've played with big guys before and I know where to get them the ball. Obviously, he is bigger than just about everyone we play against. He has a lot of skills if you get him the ball in the right spot."
Upset about first half
Sparks, a two-year starter at Western Kentucky before transferring to UK, was the first to admit that he was upset with the way Kentucky played in the first half against Ball State. Kentucky shot just 40 percent and were outrebounded 21-19 as Ball State ended the half tied with the favored Wildcats.
"I was mad that the score was tied," Sparks said. "I was frustrated that we didn't come out and match (Ball State's) intensity. We wanted to play more up tempo and did that the second half. They took it right to us. We decided at the half that we needed to take better shots at the basket."
His 3-pointer gave the Wildcats the lead for good at 37-35 and over the next seven minutes he hit another trey and two more baskets and dished out a pair of assists to increase the lead to double digits.
"Sparks hit some big shots and did a lot of good things in the second half, but we expect that from a veteran player," Smith said. "He knows when to get us in our offense and makes good decisions."
"I felt comfortable out there tonight," Sparks, who scored 12 points in the season opener against Coppin State, said. "I started setting back screens and that allowed me some room for my shot. I just want to play. It was tough having to watch the guys play last year and it's nice to finally be able to contribute."