WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Cats survive record-breaking shooting performance

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari expected growing pains. Welcomed them even. Told anyone who would listen it would take time for Kentucky (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) to embrace and understand his "dribble drive" offense.

Turns out, scoring points might be the least of Kentucky's worries.

Though the Wildcats were never really in danger during a 102-92 win over Sam Houston State in the Cancun Challenge on Thursday, Calipari was hardly in the mood to celebrate after his team let another opponent stick around thanks to a lackluster defensive performance that at times lacked energy, effort and intensity.

"They have no urgency defensively, none," Calipari fumed after his team improved to 3-0.

Watching Sam Houston State put together a record-setting performance from behind the arc, it was hard to argue.

The Bearkats made 18-of-38 3-pointers, including 11 by senior guard Corey Allmond, to keep things interesting deep into the second half no matter how hard Calipari tried to get the Wildcats to ramp up the defensive pressure.

He called timeouts. He pulled players out. He yelled so loudly his voice echoed off the Rupp Arena rafters.

None of it slowed Allmond, whose 11 3s were a Rupp Arena record.

"I knew I was going to get a lot of open looks because of the fast pace they play," said Allmond, who finished with a career-high 37 points.

Sometimes, Allmond didn't even have to be open. During one sequence in the first half he knocked down an off-balance double-pump 3-pointer with Kentucky guard John Wall draped all over him and then followed it up with another one from the corner in which he somehow got the ball over the outstretched hands of 6-foot-9 Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson.

"Sometimes we didn't bring it a lot on the defensive end and other times we just messed up on a lack of communication," Kentucky forward Darius Miller said. "We didn't play how we wanted to."

There were bright spots for the Wildcats. Freshman center DeMarcus Cousins led Kentucky with 27 points and 18 rebounds and Patterson added 20 points and nine boards. The Wildcats shot 60 percent from the floor and dominated the lane, outscoring the Bearkats 48-18 in the paint. Wall finished with 21 points and six assists and Eric Bledsoe scored 19 points for Kentucky.

Still, it wasn't exactly the kind of crisp performance Calipari was looking for after Kentucky narrowly escaped an upset bid by Miami (Ohio) on Monday, when Wall hit a last-second jumper to lift the Wildcats to victory.

There were no such heroics necessary this time, but the joy felt during Wall's dynamic debut was replaced with a sense of unease as Kentucky allowed another team to light it up from behind the 3-point arc.

Calipari called Miami's performance -- the RedHawks made 15-of-26 3-pointers -- somewhat of a fluke and said he was "ecstatic" after the Wildcats rallied from an 18-point deficit to win.

He wasn't quite so cheery when Kentucky failed to put away the Bearkats. Neither was his team after enduring a tirade from their coach that Cousins called a "10" on a scale of one to 10.

"We're not doing like we're supposed to," said Wall. "We've still got a lot of work to do. Until everybody takes pride in it, we're going to be struggling."

Cousins played with the kind of effort he admits he's lacked at times.

"In high school I would come out running and walking up and down the court and when I felt like playing, I did," Cousins said. "Coach Calipari changed my mentality and I started to play a lot better. I just turned it up a notch."

His teammates appeared to follow suit when the Wildcats opened the second half with a 7-0 run to push the lead 60-42. Yet they simply couldn't get free.

Every time the Wildcats appeared to be ready to break it open, they would commit a turnover and the Bearkats would answer with another deep jumper.

Sam Houston State pulled to 81-73 with 6:58 remaining before one last burst by the Wildcats pushed the lead to 94-77. The Bearkats never got within 10 the rest of the way. Still, it felt closer than that.

"If we don't do better defensively, folks, we are in trouble," Calipari said. "Do you think we can score 100 against everybody? Because we're going to have to. They are going to score 100 against us."


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