BOZICH | Kentucky rolls Missouri -- loses #1 rating (in Pomeroy)
After a pair of strange overtime victories last week, Kentucky looked like the best team in the nation again, punishing Missouri, 86-37, Tuesday night in Rupp Arena.
The only strange development of the night is that for the first time since Nov. 18 Kentucky lost it's Number One rating in Ken Pomeroy's computer rankings. Apparently, the formula was more dazzled by how efficiently the Cavaliers beat Clemson, 65-42, Tuesday. (The link.)
The Wildcats never trailed, not for a single second while winning their third SEC game and 16th this season.
"They got what UCLA and Kansas got," Calipari said. "That's what they got. That effort.
"What I said before the game is, if they give a great effort, I'm going to give them off tomorrow. Kind of like what we did for Christmas. You're going to have three, four days off. And they went nuts.
"So I said, we're going to have -- now I took that back and I said, we are practicing tomorrow -- but I did say that prior to the game."
They made three-point shots – eight of 18.
They shared the basketball, earning assists on 13 of 27 field goals.
They pounded Missouri on the glass, 46-27.
They attacked the basket, shooting 30 free throws to Missouri's eight.
They defended as if they understood that ESPN had coach John Calipari wired for sound and they didn't want to get called out on national television. Missouri shot 27.1 percent, missing 17 of 18 three-point attempts.
Tod Lanter and EJ Floreal played. Derek Willis made his only three-point attempt.
They looked like the unbeaten team that prompted former Kentucky star Anthony Davis to guarantee the Wildcats would win the 2015 NCAA title the other day.
Andrew Harrison scored 15 seconds into the game. Karl-Anthony Towns followed with a dunk. It was showtime from the first bounce.
A Devin Booker jumper less than four minutes into the game put UK ahead 8-6 and the game was never tied again. The Wildcats scored 12 straight points to push their lead to 24-10 – and from that moment Dick Vitale had his work cut out trying to retain his ESPN audience outside the Big Blue Nation.
Missouri huffed and puffed to score 18 points in the first half. (Kentucky had 41.) It was more like what the world saw from Kentucky when the Wildcats smacked Kansas in November and UCLA in December. It was also the seventh time this season the Wildcats limited an opponent to less than 20 points in the first half.
This one was so easy that there was more talk about John Calipari's two platoons than there was about why Ole Miss and A&M were able to drag the unbeaten Wildcats into overtime.
Calipari bumped Dominique Hawkins into the starting lineup with the Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Towns. Why?
"After the last game I just said I'm going back to 10," Calipari said. "Then the question became, would it be Derek (Willis) or Dominique (Hawkins)? Dominique had played better in practice, and he deserved the opportunity and he did well today. I mean, he belonged in the game. His energy was great, he drives over the middle -- missed a couple jumpers, but he's shooting the ball well in practice. he just hadn't been in the games enough.
"I thought our defensive intensity, because of the platoons, was back to where it was. No one got hurt today. Everybody helped themselves as a player and they helped our team. The only thing that gets in the way is the ego. You should be playing more - and why aren't you shooting more - and this is crazy - and it's all ego. Everyone helped themselves, their deficiencies today were off the charts."
The Wildcats shot the ball with poise and confidence from distance. Aaron Harrison made five of seven three pointers while leading Kentucky with 16 points. Towns had 12 points along with 10 boards and five blocks. Cauley-Stein was Kentucky's second-leading scorer with 13.
Now Kentucky needs to show it can overpower a first-division Southeastern Conference team on the road. On Saturday, the Wildcats visit Tuscaloosa for a game at Alabama that tips at 4 p.m.
The Crimson Tide had won their last six games, including their first two in the SEC, before they were stopped at South Carolina, 68-66, Tuesday night. Ken Pomeroy's computer formula puts UK's win probability at 82 percent, although Alabama is 10-0 at home this season.
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