Join us on KentuckyScout tonight for live discussion of the Wildcats' first exhibition game, a…
Wildcats roll 93-61 in exhibition opener
In a game that marked Rollie Massimino's first return to Rupp Arena since guiding Villanova to the 1985 national championship, Kentucky had way too much size for the preseason No. 1 squad in the NAIA ranks. The Wildcats held Northwood to 36 percent shooting from the field and picked up where they left off last season in blocking 11 shots.
Earlier in the week, UK coach John Calipari had challenged the Cats by labeling their defensive effort in the Blue-White Scrimmage and subsequent practice sessions as "awful."
"I think we (responded to the challenge)," said Noel, a 6-foot-10 center who blocked four shots on the night. "I've never been on a defensive team that was called awful... After he said that, we took it in a good way and responded to the criticism. The day after in practice, we were really pushing each other to really dig in and fight."
In addition to Noel, who many considered the best shot-blocker to come out of the high school ranks in a generation or more, Kentucky also got three blocks from Goodwin, two from Willie Cauley-Stein, and one each from Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays. By contrast, Northwood blocked only one UK shot.
Offensively, Kentucky shot 61 percent from the floor and placed all five starters in double-figures. The Cats also got 15 points from Ryan Harrow, 12 from Wiltjer and 11 from Alex Poythress.
The Cats were plagued by sloppy ball-handling and passing, though, committing 17 turnovers to go with only 15 assists on 35 baskets. Freshmen Goodwin (5) and Poythress (4) were the main culprits in the miscue column.
Still, Calipari seemed mostly pleased with the performance.
"We were better than I thought we would be, but way away from where we need to be," said Calipari, whose team has one more exhibition game against Transylvania before opening the regular season against Maryland on Nov. 9 and facing Duke on Nov. 13.
Calipari used dozens of different lineup combinations in the game, noting he still hasn't settled on a starting lineup. "I'm more concerned about who finishes," he added.
Kentucky, which returns no players who started a single game for last year's national championship squad, led Northwood 40-25 at the break. The Seahawks had played Michigan State on Tuesday, trailing by single-digits at halftime before eventually falling 85-57.
Asked to compare the Cats and Spartans, Massimino said "Michigan State is a little more physical, so to speak. I think Kentucky shoots the ball better... But they're very comparable.
"Kentucky's very big, very strong, and as John (Calipari) put it, it's only the beginning. They have a long way to go. Michigan State, some of those guys have been together, but they're two outstanding teams and two outstanding-coached teams. Both teams will be heard from, I'm sure, by tournament time."
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