John Wall scored 19 points and No. 3
Kentucky pulled away in the second half for an 86-73 victory over
weary Long Beach State on Wednesday.
DeMarcus Cousins shook off early foul trouble to finish with 15
points and 10 rebounds as the Wildcats (13-0) continued their best
start in more than 30 years.
For the first 30 minutes it looked like Kentucky had partied a
little too hard after celebrating the program's 2,000th win on
Monday night. The Wildcats led just 58-55 before using their size
to outmuscle the 49ers down the stretch.
Stephan Gilling and Larry Anderson led the 49ers with 15 points
each, but Long Beach State (6-6) looked tired in the final minutes
barely 36 hours after dropping an overtime decision to Loyola
Marymount and then flying crosscountry for a game that started at
10 a.m. PST.
The 49ers, however, didn't make it easy for the Wildcats to
begin the march to 3,000.
Kentucky struggled with foul trouble in the first half, as Wall,
Cousins and Patrick Patterson missed significant stretches after
picking up two apiece. Even when the trio returned in the second,
it took time for Kentucky to assume control. Long Beach even took
the lead 46-44 on a putback by T.J. Robinson before the Wildcats
started to wake up.
Eric Bledsoe, playing on a sore ankle, hit a 3-pointer to put
Kentucky ahead, and Wall followed with a couple of free throws.
The 49ers rallied to tie it at 51 before Kentucky's defense
started to wear on them.
Cousins, who received a technical foul less than 3 minutes into
the game and was forced to sit out the rest of the first half,
sparked a 12-4 surge with the kind of energetic play that has
gotten him into trouble at times.
He scored five points during the burst and provided a defensive
presence around the basket, forcing Long Beach to miss a handful of
easy shots and go nearly 3 minutes without a field goal.
Long Beach went to a zone in hopes of saving its legs, but Wall
exploited it for a 3-pointer that put Kentucky up 73-62, and
Cousins followed with a layup. Darius Miller knocked down an open 3
to make it 78-64 and the Wildcats were finally in the clear.
Kentucky's start is the best since winning the first 14 games
during the 1977-78 season. The Wildcats won the national title that
Patrick Patterson added 15 points and 11 rebounds while Bledsoe
finished with 11 points and five assists. Robinson had 13 points
and 15 rebounds for Long Beach State.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Tuesday he was relieved the
run to 2,000 wins was over, and he was happy to finally have a full
complement of players after guard DeAndre Liggins finally worked
his way out of trouble.
The Wildcats needed that depth in the first half with all the
foul trouble, but it still wasn't pretty. Kentucky managed just 12
points over the final 8 minutes with their top three scorers
watching from the sideline.
The game was Long Beach State's fourth against a ranked
opponent. The previous three losses - to West Virginia, Clemson and
Texas - were all by at least eight points.
Yet the 49ers hardly seemed intimidated playing their second
game in barely 36 hours.
Long Beach State caught a redeye following an 85-80 overtime
loss at Loyola Marymount on Monday night, arriving in Lexington
around 9 a.m. EST Tuesday.
The 49ers didn't exactly look jet-lagged early. Gilling, who
entered the game seventh in the nation in 3-pointers per game,
knocked down three in the first half alone. The toughest may have
been a contested shot from the top of the key that banked into the
basket just before the shot clock expired as the teams headed to
the half tied at 37.