Cats use first half run to blow by Canisius


Sophomore forward Isaiah Briscoe (13) keeps the ball from Canisius during the game against Canisius at Rupp Arena on Sunday, November 13, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Wildcats won 93-69. Photo by Lydia Emeric | Staff 

By Chris Angolia

Sunday night, it looked as if UK basketball was in for a dogfight against a Canisius team that was in their first game under a new head coach. Regardless of the fact that it really was in a dogfight, UK used its overwhelming talent to grab control of the game in the second half and go on to win 93-69.

As a team with nothing to lose coming into Rupp Arena as 30-point underdogs, Canisius started off firing on all cylinders to start the game. And after jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead, the Golden Griffins had Rupp on edge early and coach John Calipari was forced to call a timeout.

“It’s the kind of start you want to kind of get off to here because you don’t want to play from the root and have them get on you,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said after the game.

Although the first half was not all pretty for the Cats who struggled to grab a lead that they could build off of, they were clearly falling victim to their youth. And as a young, inexperienced team, they struggled to find their game and any sort of rhythm trailing 31-28, until just over the four mark in the first half.

From that point on, the game completely turned when the Cats closed the half on a 17-4 run.

The run was orchestrated by sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe who dropped a career-high 21 points along with five boards and two assists in the victory. Briscoe had 7 of the team’s 17 during that stretch, and knew that as a veteran on a young Cats team, that they needed it.

“I could tell when we weren’t hitting shots and we came out sluggish,” Briscoe said. “I knew that I was going to have to keep us in the game the first half. In the second half everybody got loose and stuff and then we were just playing how we play.”

Moving forwards throughout the game, UK was able to finally crash the glass and make it difficult on the smaller Griffins to get their hands on any rebound. More specifically, Bam Adebayo was able to bounce back from a tough start with his first career double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The sluggish start can very easily bet attributed to the team’s youth, but when Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox got going, UK was hard to stop. And looking ahead to the rest of the season, veteran guys like Briscoe know and appreciate the challenge that Canisius brought to Rupp Arena.

“(The freshmen) will learn sooner or later,” Briscoe said after the game. “We have a big game on Tuesday so it was good that we were down in the first half early and it lets them get used to stuff like that.”

As the Cats started to pull ahead, Fox took his game to another level and finished with 21 points, five boards, and two assists.

What will be important when looking ahead, especially to games like Tuesday’s top-25 showdown against No. 12 Michigan State in the annual Champions Classic, is that the Cats avoid those sluggish starts. However, a team with as much talent as UK has, and its ability to flip a switch in an instant can only benefit them as seen Sunday night.