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UK head coach John Calipari said the team would be sloppy at the beginning of the season and they would turn the ball over often. He was proven correct on Monday night.
The Cats turned the ball over 23 times in a 74-38 victory against visiting Campbellsville University in UKâ€™s first exhibition match of the season.
â€œWe had (turnovers) of all kinds â€¦ we had a lot of guys driving with the ball with no intention of getting to the rim, they were just driving to be a passer,â€ Calipari said. â€œNo one gets open when you do that. You have to make plays.â€
It only took 16 seconds for the Cats to get on the board, and they never looked back, taking a 36-11 lead into the half.
On the opposite end, UK used a suffocating defense to hold Campbellsville to a putrid 12 percent shooting in the first half. Calipari said at the beginning of the year he wanted to replace UKâ€™s â€˜3â€™ signs in the stadium with signs displaying the letter â€˜Bâ€™ for blocks. The Cats had 10 blocks in the game, with many of them coming from two or three players at a time.
Calipari said he still thought the Cats needed work on the rebounding end of the floor, though. While the Cats outrebounded Campbellsville by 10, they had a considerable size advantage to work with. Calipari said shots that didnâ€™t fall close to the rim gave them problems.
â€œOur guards didnâ€™t rebound very (well) today,â€ Calipari said. â€œI mean, every long rebound, they got, and those are supposed to be our guards.â€
Perhaps the player of the game for the Cats came from a senior who only got six minutes on the court. Forward Perry Stevenson didnâ€™t get into the game until late because he wasnâ€™t playing the way in practice he needed to, to deserve playing time, Calipari said. Once he got in however, Stevenson made the most of it â€” scoring 11 points while grabbing two rebounds.
â€œI was really happy for Perry Stevenson,â€ Calipari said. â€œInstead of pouting or anything, he just goes in and now he earns his space. Now all of a sudden he gets in that rotation.â€
Stevenson drove to the basket hard on one play late in the second half and elevated for what looked to be a dunk. Stevenson was met midway in the air but held on and made the basket. It was a play that stuck out in the eyes of Calipari and his teammates. Stevenson closed the game with a 3-pointer to give the Cats the 36-point victory.
It was a game the players had been looking forward to because they were tired of playing each other in practice. The Cats said it was good to finally get out on the court and get their first game under their belts, despite Campbellsville, an NAIA opponent, not being on the same level as UK.
â€œIt was a great experience seeing how everythingâ€™s going to be, playing in my first college basketball game,â€ said junior-college transfer Darnell Dodson. â€œIt was exciting.â€