‘Bombs’ blow away Bears in season’s first exhibition

The date said 2007, not 1990. And the coach was Billy Gillispie, not Rick Pitino.

But Wednesday night, the UK basketball players did their best “Pitino’s Bombinos” impression, nailing 11 3-point field goals in a 99-64 win over Pikeville College in the first exhibition game of the season.

The “Bombinos,” Pitino’s first UK team, became notorious for living and dying by the 3-point shot. There are no clever nicknames for Gillispie’s first team, at least not yet, and while Gillispie said his team wouldn’t live and die by the outside shot, he does encourage them to shoot it.

“The open man takes the open shot here,” Gillispie said. “I want them to shoot (the outside shot).”

Using open shots from behind the arc, the Cats buried Pikeville early, led by Jodie Meeks’ 27 first-half points. The sophomore guard rarely missed in the opening minutes, making three 3-pointers, scoring nine of UK’s first 13 points.

At that point, UK led 13-9 just over five and a half minutes into the game. But the Cats hit five more 3-pointers during a 23-2 run that blew the game open.

During the charge, senior guard Joe Crawford and Meeks traded 3-pointers twice, stretching the UK lead to 27-9. Crawford then lobbed a pass to freshman forward Patrick Patterson, who laid it off the glass to push the lead to 20. Just minutes later, Meeks caught an inbounds pass behind the arc and poured in his sixth 3-pointer as the shot-clock buzzer sounded, pushing the Cats ahead 36-11.

Meeks would add his seventh 3-pointer later in the half, and the Cats went to the locker room with a 51-27 halftime lead. The sophomore guard didn’t hit a three in the second half but finished with 34 points to lead all scorers.

“I just took what the defense gave me and knocked down open shots,” Meeks said. “It feels good, but at the same time, it’s an exhibition game. It means nothing.”

For senior guard Ramel Bradley, who dished out a game-high nine assists, a hot hand like Meeks’ is a point guard’s best friend.

“Jodie was on fire tonight, and I just wanted to keep feeding him,” Bradley said. “It was amazing. It’s easier on me as a point guard. When guys make shots, I can worry about getting back and setting up the defense.”

Meanwhile, Patterson made his much-anticipated debut la the first half to an ovation from UK fans, and he didn’t disappoint. Patterson fueled the UK offense in the second half, scoring 13 of his 21 points to finish as the Cats’ second-leading scorer. He also led all players with nine rebounds.

“He’s as good as advertised, no question about it,” Pikeville head coach Kelly Wells said. “He’s a true talent. He’s a man-child down there.”

But the UK win didn’t come solely because of the Cats’ offense. Using full-court pressure and an aggressive half court set, the Cats forced 25 Pikeville turnovers.

Overall, Gillispie said he was impressed with the Cats.

“I thought they did a lot of good things tonight,” he said. “They’re trying hard and it takes time. If you always have great effort, and you always have every single guy on your team playing hard and with passion, you’ll continue to get better.”

Still, Gillispie had a laundry list of improvements for his team before they get back to action Saturday night, primarily defense and rebounding.

“We have a lot of obstacles in front of us,” Gillispie said.

For the remainder of this week, the Cats will hit the practice floor in preparation for their second and final exhibition game on Saturday.

“We’ll be much improved by Saturday,” Gillispie said. “I promise.”