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For the second straight game, they started slow. And for the second straight game, they finished fast.
The UK men’s basketball team ran away from Transylvania University, 74-28, Monday at Rupp Arena.
The first half was a sloppy one for the Cats. They held a nine-point lead, but committed 10 turnovers and had consistent difficulty running the offense. No player had more than two field goals, including a scoreless half from freshman guard Archie Goodwin, after posting 22 points Thursday against Northwood.
“We’re still learning about ourselves,” Calipari said. “These guys think they can do stuff that they did in high school. They can’t.”
The second half, much like last season against the Pioneers, was a contrast of the first — in UK’s favor. The Cats outscored Transy 47-10 in the second half. They finished the game shooting 59 percent from the field, much of which was aided by the dominant defensive half. And the Cats also forced 15 second half turnovers, leading to many transition buckets.
“I thought everybody played harder,” sophomore guard Ryan Harrow said. “Coach was really stressing me and Kyle (Wiltjer) having more energy, and I thought we did that today.”
Five Cats scored in double figures, led by 15 from freshman forward Nerlens Noel.
Graduate student guard Julius Mays hit four three-pointers, finishing with 14 points. Mays banged knees late in the second half, but said after the game he will be fine to play Friday.
“I’ve been around college for a while,” Mays said about his leadership role on the team. “I know what it takes and for me to be out there with those guys is good for us.”
The half-court offense was stagnant at times, but UK’s defense looked improved from last week. Calipari’s emphasis on three-point defense seemed to ring true, as they held the Pioneers to 3-20 shooting from behind the arc.
“Last year, we shot 35 or 36 three-pointers,” Transylvania head coach Brian Lane said. “We were trying to get three-pointers off tonight and we couldn’t get them off. They close so well.”
Now the Cats will look ahead to Friday’s first regular season game against Maryland in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Although the Terrapins aren’t ranked, they are an ACC school who will take advantage of the Cats’ preseason mistakes. But, at this point, UK is just a young team looking to grow one day at a time.
“We are what we are,” Calipari said. “We’re a Nov. 5 team.”