Bearing down: UK outplays Pikeville, wins 97-66



UK Head Coach John Calipari made no reservations in his opening remarks on his team’s first performance.

“We really had no real fight or viciousness to our game,” Calipari said. “We didn’t really rebound. We did turn it over 15 times. Couldn’t make a three. Other than that I thought we showed some good signs.”

All of that followed a 97-66 win over Pikeville College in UK’s first exhibition game.

At the beginning of the game, UK was unorganized on defense, missing rotations and failing to rebound, and Pikeville gained a two-point lead in the first five minutes of the game.

“It’s not okay to start a game the way we started the game,” Calipari said. “The first half was the lowest hustle points that I’ve ever seen one of my teams have. We got beat to everything.”

And then Brandon Knight hit two shots, and order was restored.

With the Cats down 11-13, Knight hit a step-back three-pointer to give UK the lead. On the ensuing UK possession, he drove the length of the floor for a layup. After that, the margin only got wider as UK marched to win its first exhibition game.

“What (Knight) does, and what I like is he has a fight,” Calipari said. “When he saw we were dying he just took it and drove it, like ‘I’m going to do it.’ At times I’m going to let him just go. If no one else wants to do it, go do it all.”

But Knight wasn’t free of mistakes, either. Halfway through the second half, Knight tried to jump a pass and missed, leaving his man wide open for a three-pointer. Calipari immediately called a timeout, shook his head and buried his face in his hands.

Knight’s gamble may have been inspired by a previous play that did pay off. Earlier in the second half, Knight cut to pick off a pass, raced to the other end of the court and slammed it home.

“One of the things he creates for you is a problem with being able to stop him in transition,” Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells said. “We didn’t play John Wall, but I can’t imagine him being a whole lot more difficult to stop than he was.”

The alternating good and bad was indicative of the team, and the night, as a whole.

DeAndre Liggins finished with 18 points, but only six of those came in the first half, something he attributed to coming out without intensity.

“I didn’t have the energy at the beginning of the game, and Coach called me out on that a little bit, and I knew that,” Liggins said. “(Calipari) was very angry, but that’s what exhibition games are all about is getting better.”

Darius Miller, who Wells coached in high school, was aggressive offensively throughout the game. He earned a double-double in the final minutes when he grabbed a tenth rebound to go along with 21 points. But like everybody else, it wasn’t a complete performance.

“Darius did some good things and there were other times when he just stopped playing,” Calipari said. “You can’t do that with these freshmen because they are going to stop playing.”

Terrence Jones, who shined during the Blue-White scrimmage, picked up two early fouls and never found a rhythm. He finished with nine points, and a second-half alley-oop from Miller was about the only thing reminiscent of his performance at the scrimmage three days earlier.

But Calipari said as long as UK acknowledged its shortcomings, the improvement could begin.

“It’s Nov. 1, guys,” Calipari said. “As long as you don’t make excuses for how you played, as long as you accept you got out-toughed, out-worked, out-hustled. As long as you accept that we can work on it. If you want to come in and make excuses, then we got problems. And I think they all know.”