CRAWFORD | Debut of UK's Blue Platoons: 18 dunks, 22 layups, one impressive show
The University of Kentucky basketball team simply overpowered exhibition opponent Pikeville in its first exhibition of the 2014-15 season Sunday night, scoring 86 points in the paint in a 48-point victory.
Sunday, November 2nd 2014, 11:26 pm EST by
Sunday, November 2nd 2014, 11:45 pm EST
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Red Smith used to describe his writing style this way: “I like to get where the cabbage is cooking and catch the scents.”
That's still the best way. But when what's cooking is a 116-68 exhibition blowout, like the University of Kentucky handed Pikeville at Rupp Arena on Sunday night, I can pretty well get the gist off television, save the gas, and spend a few more hours with the kids before another school week.
Suffice it to say, whatever John Calipari is cooking in Lexington smells like it's going to be very good. Karl Towns is without question the best offensive big man he has recruited to Lexington. I flipped over to the game at one point and Willie Cauley-Stein took off from behind the three-point line, went baseline on a guy about seven inches shorter, blew past him on the dribble and dunked the ball about a step and a half later.
During the short time the media was allowed to watch practice several weeks ago, Calipari had his team running a drill in which the only outlet passes allowed were nearly to midcourt. A lot of Sunday night's game looked like that drill, with big men grabbing rebounds, firing the ball to midcourt or just past it, and someone dunking on the other end.
The Wildcats release on shot attempts because they're not worried about crashing the glass — or at least they weren't against a team with no one taller than 6-5. But the outlets were a thing of beauty, and the fast-breaks were entertaining. The Wildcats shot 81.8 percent in the first half, missing only six of 33 shots. Of their 27 field goals in the first half, 23 were layups or dunks. For the game, 40 of their 49 field goals were layups or dunks (18 dunks, for the record). Four were three-pointers. Five were jumpers. That's 80 points from point-blank range. They scored 36 off the fast break. They scored 86 points in the paint.
After Aaron Harrison put UK up 9-2 with a jumper, UK's next four field goals were dunks, then there were back-to-back layups, another dunk and a layup.
UK's final five baskets were dunks.
The transition is impressive, and so is the passing. UK dished out 29 assists on Sunday. Andrew Harrison had nine assists without a turnover, picking up where he left off at the end of last season.
Maybe you did the same thing — but about midway through this one I flipped over to the Discovery Channel to watch Nic Wallenda walking a high wire over Chicago. As I flipped back and forth between the two, it occurred to me that many think the only thing standing between Calipari and Kentucky's ninth NCAA title is the high wire he walks to keep players happy.
The problem is, people who suggest that don't seem to know much about the people he's coaching.
None of us knows how all this is going to work. We never do. We know he has tons of talent, but few can accurately see the pitfalls.
But in what little time I've spent around these guys, I don't sense the kind of latent resentment people seem to think can take this team down.
The fact is, and I've made this point here several times, if a kid can play 20 minutes a game and get to the NBA, all the better. The chances for injury are reduced, as are the chances for something to go wrong on the way to Draft night. Calipari's two UK platoons by now are well-known. He still has his skeptics, but there's no reason they can't work.
The biggest problem this team may have is a lack of competition come conference play. It can be tough to pick back up with tense games if you aren't regularly tested in conference play.
But that's a long way down the road. And Calipari's high wire has a large net underneath. And unlike Nic Wallenda's second walk Sunday, he's not doing it blind-folded. He's been down this road a few times, and while every season is new, every season he comes back with a little better idea how to build these things.
“Twenty-nine assists,” Calipari said. “And in a game where guys could have tried to get their own, it's the only way this will work — if they really want to share for each other. Twenty-five of what we would call ‘one mores.' I have a shot, but he has a better shot, we need to let that one go. You know, we did not settle for threes in the first half, we just did what we had to do. I'll tell you what, I've got to give it to them. They came out of the gate making shots and playing and they weren't afraid. We were just too big. What I'm happy with is that because we were too big, we threw the ball where we should have, in the post.”
So, this night of television watching the Wildcats was not, perhaps, very insightful. It's a victory over an undersized NAIA team; how much can you learn? I can't tell you how the cabbage smelled after UK's 48-point exhibition victory, but I can tell you it looked pretty darn good.
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