LEXINGTON — This time John Calipari may have understated the obvious — something he’s not prone to do.
“We were better,” the Kentucky coach said.
Better? Try dominating.
Kentucky manhandled Morehouse College 125-40 here Monday night in its second, and final, exhibition game before regular-season play begins on Friday against Marist. This expected mismatch was no contest as UK roared to leads of 10-0, 18-2, 34-4 and 63-6 in the first half. By halftime UK¿had 74 points, the same total Georgia scored in both halves combined last week against the same team.
“We played Georgia on Friday. Didn’t play as bad as tonight, but the talent level was a lot different,” Morehouse coach Grady Brewer said in another obvious understatement.
Kentucky was so good that the five starters were 24-for-24 from the field in the first half. Overall, UK shot 72.7 percent (48-for-66) from the field. The Cats had seven players in double figures, led by freshman Kyle Wiltjer with 26 on everything from 3-point shots to dunks to a left-handed hook.
It was impossible for even Calipari to find much to nitpick about — even though he vowed he would be the time he got to watch the game tape.
“I think the (Anthony) Davis kid is special. And (Terrence) Jones. Here again, they shot 72 percent, so everybody looked good tonight. I believe my sister if she was playing and in Kentucky blue, she probably would have looked good,” Brewer said. “But I would come back. This is basketball country. If you have some competitiveness in you, you want on the stage and this is the stage.”
It certainly could be if the Wildcats continue to play like this. Davis had 21 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, four steals and three assists. Jones had 22 points, four rebounds, six steals and four assists. Between them, they were 17-for-17 from the field.
Point guard Marquis Teague passed the ball early and then went 5-for-6 from the field to score 12 points to go with seven assists.
Michael Kidd-Gilcrhist? Well, he was Kidd-Gilchrist with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and more hustle than one player should be allowed to have. Darius Miller had 11 points and seven rebounds. Only Doron Lamb, who lost the starting spot to Kidd-Gilchrist, came close to struggling because he was only 4-for-12 from the field and had 12 points. But he had six assists and four rebounds in this laugher.
“We played really well,” Calipari said. “That is why the score is what it is. Morehouse lost to Georgia by 24. They came in, I’m telling you, they were excited. They were screaming in this hallway. They were jacked up on the court. We hit them in the mouth to start the game. But they’re a good team. They’re not a bad team. It’s just that we were really good tonight.”
One play early showed what this team could be all about. Davis blocked a shot and got the ball to Kidd-Gilchrist. Davis took off like a gazelle running the court, Kidd-Gilchrist spotted him in front of everyone and quickly got him the ball for an easy dunk. That had it all — defense, hustle, unselfish play.
“We all get along that way. Nobody’s selfish,” Wiltjer said.
But that was just the start.
A few minutes later Kidd-Gilchrist made a steal and got knocked to the floor driving to the basket.
Three teammates — Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Davis — sprinted down the court to make sure he was okay. That spoke volumes about UK’s team chemistry.
Showmanship? How about when Teague faked going in for a layup and bounced the ball off the backboard to Jones for a dunk?
Yet less than two minutes later there went Jones, a preseason All-American, racing full speed to try and save a ball from going out of bounds — and doing it with a bounce pass back between his legs — and UK¿leading 54-6 with six minutes still to play in the first half.
Calipari wanted a better start than his team got in its 44-point win over Transylvania — and got it.
“That’s what I was looking for,” he said. “I was looking for more intensity.”
He got it, but warned there are big challenges ahead.
“We got the No. 1 ranked team in the country (North Carolina). We’ve got a team that’s been a top-five team (Kansas) the past couple of years. We have other teams on our schedule who are really good. Talented players,” Calipari said.
He’s right, but those other teams better know this — Kentucky is also really good and is only going to get better.