By Jamie H. Vaught
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Even though Sunday night’s exhibition game saw Kentucky overwhelm NCAA Division II Clarion 108-51 in a blowout victory, a crowd of 20,099 had to be pleased with what they saw in Coach John Calipari’s eighth team at UK.
Said one UK faithful at the newly-refurbished Rupp Arena, “Wow. The Cats were fun to watch tonight.”
The Wildcats -- who surprisingly started three big men, instead of three from the backcourt –- were led by a balanced scoring attack with six players scoring in double figures. And it was sophomore guard and team leader Isaiah Briscoe who ran the show with game-high 11 assists in 22 minutes. The 6-3 product from New Jersey even shot well, hitting 3 of 5 shots from the field, including a three-pointer, and 4 of 5 free throws for 11 points after last year’s shooting woes.
“We all look up to (Isaiah) since we are all freshmen,” said 6-10 rookie sensation Bam Adebayo (pictured), who had a double-double with 14 rebounds and 13 points. “We go with whatever he goes with and just follow in his footsteps.”
Calipari praised Briscoe’s leadership as a floor general.
“I like the fact that we had 29 assists and everybody had some opportunities. But again, it starts with Isaiah Briscoe, and he's coaching De'Aaron Fox (who had 12 points and seven assists). He’s coaching these guys, he's talking. If you listen, you hear his voice more than you even hear mine, which is perfect, which is what I want.
“When you think of his game, if that's who he is, and make some 15-footers, he's as good as anybody in the country now. He's as physical, he's a beast. He defends and rebounds.”
Malik Monk, a 6-3 guard, is another freshman to watch out for. He gunned in team-high 15 points along with four assists and four steals in 19 minutes.
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Kentucky had 12 players who saw action with at least nine minutes in the game. That includes Calipari’s son, Brad, a freshman walk-on who scored six points, including 2 of 3 three-pointers, in nine minutes.
Calipari was asked what was it like to sit on the bench and hear the crowd roar, not once but twice, for his son.
“Well, I had my back to the first one. I kind of just turned and saw him shoot it and it went in. I was happy for him,” said the father. “And then the second one, which was kind of a lucky one, but he had the courage to try to shoot it. And I may even get a kiss from my wife tonight.”
A 6-0 sharpshooter, Brad spent the last two seasons at the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts after beginning his prep career at Lexington Christian Academy.
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After several upgrades over the past two years, costing $16 million, there is definitely a new look at Rupp Arena. The updates include the state-of- the-art center-hung video board and the ribbon boards.
Calipari took the time to praise the Rupp Arena officials with the new look in the 24,000-seat facility, which is now in its 41st year.
“It’s like a new arena. Sounds different. Looks different. The videos. It just presents the game even better. It really does,” said the coach.
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UK’s next game is Sunday, Nov. 6 when the Wildcats play host to Asbury in an exhibition contest. The matchup will be televised by the SEC Network, starting at 7 p.m.
Kentucky, by the way, will tip off its 2016-17 campaign on Friday, Nov. 11 with a home date against Stephen F. Austin. The SEC Network will also carry the game.
Photo by Chet White/UK Athletics