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By David Schuh | @KernelSchuh
The UK men’s basketball team came out fast against Lafayette College, overwhelming the Leopards 101-49 Friday night at Rupp Arena.
The hot shooting started early, as the Cats made three three-pointers in the first two minutes, two from sophomore Kyle Wiltjer.
Freshman Alex Poythress picked up right where he left off Tuesday against Duke, scoring 12 points in the first half on 5-5 shooting from the field.
In the second half, the Cats tightened up the defense, forcing Lafayette to 12 turnovers and 34 percent shooting from the field.
UK went on a 39-2 run at one point in the second half, vaulting the lead over 50 points.
In the absence of sophomore Ryan Harrow, UK’s guards picked up the slack well. The trio of freshman Archie Goodwin, junior Jarrod Polson and graduate student Julius Mays combined for 16 assists and only four turnovers. Mays led the way with 10 assists.
“He has a good feel for the game,” Poythress said of Mays. “He shows that you don’t have to score all the time to play good. He’s been playing for four or five years so he just knows where we are.”
Poythress finished with 22 points and five rebounds. He is now 18-22 from the field in the last two games and is UK’s leading scorer through three games. But, Calipari continues to push the freshman to play even harder.
“I want him to be the best version of him, not just play good,” Calipari said. “I know it’s hard, but you’ve got to force yourself mentally to do those things.”
Wiltjer received a standing ovation from the Rupp crowd after making four threes in a two-minute stretch in the second half. The sophomore ended the game with 23 points, going 7-11 from the three-point line.
“We knew the problem we were going to face with Wiltjer,” Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “He’s somebody you really have to be up on … getting into gaps is going to give him a lot of space out there.”
The Cats narrowly won the defensive rebounding battle (31-27) but limited the Leopards to only seven offensive rebounds, the lowest total of the season, albeit against a less formidable opponent than Maryland and Duke.
Freshman Nerlens Noel filled the stat line, totaling 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. Calipari praised his energy throughout the game and is using Noel as an example for the rest of the team.
“(Calipari) pushes me to play even harder so these guys can really step up and pick up their energy,” Noel said. “It’s not going to be long before they all start clicking.”
UK will have five days off before taking on Morehead State on Wednesday night at Rupp. Former Cat Sean Woods is in his first season as the Eagles coach. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised locally on Fox Sports South.