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November 7, 2011

Effort keys Cats' offensive explosion

Kentucky's starters made their first 26 shots in Monday night's exhibition game against Morehouse, and finished a sizzling 31-of-34.

At one point in the first half, the Wildcats had as many three-point field goals (six) as Morehouse had points. UK had 69 first-half points by the team the Maroon Tigers cracked double-digits.

"I'm used to the New England Patriots doing that, but I've never seen a basketball team do that," said UK walk-on Sam Malone, a Massachusetts native who logged seven minutes Monday.

The final score was Kentucky 125, Morehouse 40.

But the margin hardly mattered.

What UK coach John Calipari wanted to see was an improved effort from his team after its 97-53 win against Transylvania in last week's exhibition opener.

He got it.

"We were better," Calipari said. "That's what I was looking for. I was looking for more intensity. (Morehouse was) a little more athletic, a little bigger (than Transylvania), and I wanted to see how we came out of the gate. And I thought we came out of the gate really strong."

Kyle Wiltjer led all scorers with 26 points, and Terrence Jones (22 points), Anthony Davis (21), Doron Lamb (12), Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11) and Darius Miller (11) also had double-digit points.

"We played really well," Calipari said. "That's why the score was what it was. I mean, Morehouse lost to Georgia by 24. They came in, and I'm telling you, they were excited. They were screaming in this hallway (outside the locker room). They were jacked up on the court, and we hit them in the mouth to start the game."

Some of the credit for Kentucky's blazing start - went to Kidd-Gilchrist, whom Calipari inserted in the starting lineup in place of Lamb. His energy was infectious early, and he scored seven points in the game's first three minutes.

"He makes plays (in) transition," Calipari said. "He gets to the rim. He'll pass it; he's a willing passer. He wants us to win, so he'll make that extra (pass)."

Kentucky's effort led to a game that provided your pick of absurd statistics.

The Cats had more points in the paint (66), off turnovers (49) via fast break (33) and off the bench (48) than Morehouse had overall. Kentucky's average possession lasted 13 seconds.

UK had a 47-31 edge on the backboards, had 17 steals and blocked almost half as many shots (seven) as Morehouse made (15). The Cats shot 72.7 percent from the floor. The Maroon Tigers shot 22.7 percent.

Those jaw-dropping numbers, the Cats said, largely were the result of a newfound practice focus on effort and toughness. Calipari had coaches and managers pound his players with pads, forced them to take charges and dive for loose balls and instituted one-on-one rebounding drills that required the loser to sprint on a treadmill at 14 miles an hour.

"We weren't too happy with the last exhibition game," guard Jarrod Polson said. "Obviously we won, but we know we could have played a lot better, so we looked at some of that film and just really had good practices (leading up to) this game."

Calipari experimented with a full-court press and with a zone defense. Mostly, though, he was looking to see if his team had taken lessons to heart from its first exhibition. He declared that it had.

"We're ahead in some cases, but we're behind in others," Calipari said. "But you saw the toughness was better, the defense was better - all the things we had worked on."

Morehouse Box Score

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