CRAWFORD | Six takeaways from Kentucky's 108-51 exhibition win o - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Six takeaways from Kentucky's 108-51 exhibition win over Clarion

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UK's Bam Adebayo slams home two of his 13 points in Kentucky's 108-51 season-opening exhibition win over Clarion. (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics). UK's Bam Adebayo slams home two of his 13 points in Kentucky's 108-51 season-opening exhibition win over Clarion. (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics).
Final stats from Kentucky's exhibition win over Clarion (click to enlarge) Final stats from Kentucky's exhibition win over Clarion (click to enlarge)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — By now we all know, observations drawn from an exhibition game aren’t worth a whole lot.

If you want to look at a stat or two, do it for entertainment value. Like Kentucky’s box score from Sunday night’s season-opening exhibition against Clarion (view it by clicking the box score to the right). Clarion is UK coach John Calipari’s alma mater, so the game falls under the dispensation of coaches doing their old schools a solid.

Kentucky, ranked No. 4 in the USA Today preseason coaches poll (the AP preseason Top 25 comes out Monday), scheduled Clarion for an early check-out, outscoring the Eagles 24-6 during a late first-half span on its way to a 108-51 victory.

The fun stats: UK held a 38-0 edge in points off turnovers. The Wildcats led 36-0 in fast-break points. The Wildcats scored 60 points on 17 layups, 10 dunks and three tip-ins. Not surprisingly, they shot 61 percent from the field.

Six UK players scored in double-figures, led by Malik Monk with 15. Derrick Willis and Bam Adebayo had 13 each, then Sacha Killeya-Jones and De’Aaron Fox added 12. Isaiah Briscoe had 11.

A few thoughts:

1). ISAIAH BRISCOE IS MUCH-IMPROVED OFFENSIVELY. I love the way Briscoe plays. A year ago, when Calipari needed toughness and defense, he went to Briscoe and got it. Want him to guard the opposing center? He’ll do it. He’ll figure out a way. He’ll hound the guy, fight for position, try to make deflections. He rebounds his position. The only thing he couldn’t do was make jumpers or free throws. He improved in those areas toward the end of last season, but his offseason work in this area is evident.

Briscoe played just 22 minutes Sunday but was 3-5 from the field and 4-5 from the line, finishing with 11 points. He also dished out a team-high 11 assists. And he continues to be a coach on the court for the Wildcats younger guards.

“Isaiah is more confident because he’s worked,” Calipari said. “He was five assists and one turnover at half, and I looked at him and said, ‘Score the ball, man.’ . . . He is the key to the team. It starts with Isaiah. He’s coaching De’Aaron Fox. He’s coaching these guys. He’s talking, if you listen, you hear his voice more than you even hear mine, which is perfect, which is what I want. It starts with him. He made the three. He makes the free-throws. Come one. When you think of his game, if that’s who he is, makes some 15-footers, he’s as good as anybody in the country now. He’s a beast. And he defends and rebounds.”

2). CALIPARI STAT OF THE NIGHT — ASSISTS. Of all the gaudy numbers UK put up, Calipari liked the assist total the best.

“The fact that we had 29 assists on 44 made baskets was really good,” Calipari said.

Briscoe led the way, but Fox added seven assist and Malik Monk four.

3). CARDINAL (FORGIVE THE TERM) SIN — GIVING UP THREES. This will be a theme all season with Calipari. Want to come out of the game? Give up an uncontested three-pointer. For a great many UK opponents this season, the only way to stay in the game will be to make a bunch of threes. So for the Wildcats, if they understand nothing else about what Calipari wants on defense, his players better understand the importance of defending the three-point line.

“We’ve got to get better defensively,” Calipari said after the game. “We’ve got to defend the three better. Our guys will learn, hands down and they make a three? I will take you out of the game. That’s an easy play.”

Kentucky gave up 9-20 shooting from three-point range (45 percent), 5 of 8 in the second half. It was about the only blot on the night for the Wildcats. But even those makes carried a high degree of difficulty.

4). FRONT-COURT SHOOTING. Kentucky’s front-court leaders, and I’m counting Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tai Wynyard and Isaac Humphries among this group, were 26-35 from the field. That’s 74.2 percent for those of you scoring at home.

And that’s difficult to deal with. Adebayo had 13 points on 6-9 scoring and collected 14 rebounds in 19 minutes. It wasn’t quite like watching a man amongst boys. It was like watching a man amongst less-athletic, much smaller men. We’ll likely see that quite a bit this season.

“What bothered me in the first four minutes is we didn’t post the ball,” Calipari said. “You can’t start a game shooting all jump shots. Come on. But we did a better job as the game went on. . . . You look at Bam. I’l tell you who else is really good, Sacha. Wenyen, Derrick, Isaac. We’ve got some guys with size who can play fours and fives and threes, and we’ve got those guards.”

5). FATHER-SON MOMENT. Calipari the coach said he nearly missed his son’s first three-pointer at the end of the game, which brought the team off its seats on the sideline. He didn’t miss the second. Brad Calipari pump-faked, then threw up a shot as a defender crashed into him. It banked in. And his father smiled.

“I had my back to the first one and I kind of just turned and saw him shoot it and it went in and I was happy for him,” John Calipari said. “And then the second one, which was kind of a lucky one, he had the courage to try to shoot it. I may even get a kiss from my wife tonight.”

6). PRAISE FOR THE RUPP RENOVATIONS. We’ll hear more about this, but Calipari joined the chorus of those who observed that the new video boards and other enhancements at Rupp Arena have transformed the storied venue.

“Let me say this to the Rupp Arena people,” Calipari said. “The scoreboard, the ribbon board, it’s like a new arena. it sounds different. It looks different. The videos. It’s like we’re, you know, it presents the game even better, it really does.”

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