LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky freshman Eric Bledsoe scored 24
points while starting in place of John Wall, and the fourth-ranked
Wildcats opened the John Calipari era with a 75-59 win over
Morehead State on Friday night.
Patrick Patterson added 20 points - including his first career
3-pointer - to go with 12 rebounds, and Darnell Dodson scored 15
points as Kentucky (1-0) pulled away in the second half.
Kenneth Faried led Morehead State (0-1) with 17 points, but the
defending Ohio Valley Conference champions couldn't keep up even
with Wall sitting on the bench.
The highly touted recruit sat out as part of an NCAA suspension
for accepting improper benefits from his AAU coach. He's expected
to play Monday against Miami (Ohio).
Not that Kentucky needed Wall in the second half, as Bledsoe
dazzled a raucous Rupp Arena crowd with a series of breathtaking
Still, there were plenty of difficulties for the Wildcats, who
never trailed after the game's opening minutes but struggled to put
away the Eagles. Calipari stressed there would be growing pains as
Kentucky got used to the dribble-drive offense that he used with
great success at Memphis - and he wasn't kidding.
The Wildcats turned it over 24 times, made just four of 19
3-pointers and seemed to be indecisive while trying to decide
whether to take an open shot or get to the basket.
Kentucky led 33-25 at the half and as the Wildcats slogged their
way through the opening minutes of the second, the Eagles appeared
to flirt - albeit briefly - with following in the footsteps of VMI
and Gardner-Webb, small schools who pulled big upsets at Rupp.
Those losses came under former coach Billy Gillispie, who was
replaced by Calipari, now the highest paid coach in the country. He
was brought in to return the blue bloods to greatness, and although
he said before the game he wouldn't be surprised if the Wildcats
opened 0-5, there was little doubt how much his first night as the
coach of college basketball's all-time winningest program meant.
He stomped, he pleaded, he cajoled. He called a 30-second
timeout after Faried dunked to pull the Eagles within 52-39 with
about 9 minutes left, and slammed his fist a couple of times while
urging his team to go play ball.
Bledsoe, almost an afterthought given all the hype surrounding
the supremely talented Wall, wasted little time proving there's
more than one freshman guard on the team who can be a blur when the
ball is in his hands.
During one sequence Bledsoe fed a streaking Patterson for a
lay-up, then followed a few moments later with a breathtaking
coast-to-coast dash for another easy basket.
His best moment came later, when he knifed into the lane,
absorbed contact and flipped the ball over his head with his back
to the basket. The ball bounced off the rim several times before
falling through the net.
The sellout crowd roared its approval, and Bledsoe kept them on
their feet with another assist to Patterson on Kentucky's next
possession. He later hit a fadeaway from 17 feet while falling on
his backside, one of his few missteps.
Bledsoe walked off the floor to a standing ovation with 1:41
left and received some love from Wall. The two are expected to play
alongside each other when the Wildcats play the RedHawks on Monday,
part of a lineup that did little to dampen the high expectations
set out by one of the country's most demanding fan bases.
No. 4 KENTUCKY 75, MOREHEAD ST. 59
MOREHEAD ST. (0-1)
Stallworth 2-15 0-0 5, Shingles 1-3 3-6 5, Harper 5-11 1-4 12,
Peterson 2-6 0-0 4, Faried 8-12 1-2 17, Hill 2-6 0-0 6, Proffitt
1-3 0-0 2, Terrell 1-3 0-0 2, Goodman 2-3 0-0 4, Simmons 1-3 0-0 2.
Totals 25-65 5-12 59.
Miller 0-4 0-0 0, Dodson 6-14 1-2 15, Cousins 3-4 1-1 7, Bledsoe
7-14 9-10 24, Patterson 9-12 1-4 20, Harris 0-1 1-2 1, Krebs 0-0
0-0 0, Stevenson 1-2 2-3 4, Orton 0-1 4-6 4, Harrellson 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 26-52 19-28 75.
Halftime-Kentucky 33-25. 3-Point Goals-Morehead St. 4-24 (Hill
2-4, Harper 1-4, Stallworth 1-12, Goodman 0-1, Peterson 0-1,
Proffitt 0-2), Kentucky 4-19 (Dodson 2-8, Patterson 1-2, Bledsoe
1-5, Harris 0-1, Miller 0-3). Fouled Out-Cousins, Hill, Shingles.
Rebounds-Morehead St. 24 (Faried 7), Kentucky 43 (Patterson 12).
Assists-Morehead St. 11 (Shingles 5), Kentucky 12 (Bledsoe 4).
Total Fouls-Morehead St. 25, Kentucky 14. A-24,338. J-Lew, J-Lew