Rapid Rewind: Cats make first impression

Nov. 1, 2010
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.
John Calipari spent part of his time at Kentucky's annual Media Day dissecting the finer points of the NCAA's new emphasis on defenders bumping their offensive counterparts. In his preferred Dribble Drive offense the mere thought of such a crackdown had the coach salivating.
If the Cats' first exhibition is any indication Calipari has good reason to be licking his chops. Kentucky's smaller, quicker squad took the ball right at Pikeville College, getting to the free throw line 56 (it made 44) times on its way to a 97-66 victory in front of 21,127 fans at Rupp Arena.
Darius Miller had 21 points and eight rebounds, while freshman Brandon Knight added 22 points and DeAndre Liggins 18 points and seven rebounds.
"If we learn from this it was a great game to play. If we don't learn from this, we've got to do it some other way. I've got to get them to understand. That probably means we have got to get meaner, which I don't like to do. You know what just happened, let's get better."
"Kentucky puts pressure on you. They're not a set-oriented team, or run and take perimeter shots. They're going to force you to guard them and they want to live at the free throw line. It's hard to defend." -- Pikeville coach Kelly Wells
"This is what exhibition games are about, getting better. Let's try to continue to get better. Let's try to be more scrappy and tough. We need more fight." -- Kentucky guard DeAndre Liggins
Darius Miller has been the man in the shadows his first two seasons at Kentucky but if the Cats are going to have a successful season the junior is going to have to step outside of his comfort zone and lead the way. It's only a single exhibition game but Miller showed glimpses of doing just that, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks while getting to the free throw line 12 times. That aggressiveness needs to continue moving forward.
Kentucky's speed and athleticism were just too much for Pikeville much of the evening, forcing them to foul the Cats or give up easy buckets. The Cats took advantage the way a superior team should, going right at the basket and drawing fouls, resulting in 56 trips to the free throw line.
Former UK walk-on Landon Slone suited up for Pikeville but did not have a storybook return to Rupp Arena. The guard did not start - although he entered the game just 93 seconds into the contest - and made only one field goal on the night. Slone, who left the program upon Calipari's arrival as head coach, finished with four points, a rebound and an assist while shooting just 1-of-5 from the field (1-of-3 from three-point range) and 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
Josh Harrellson got in hot water with his coach last week after some ill-advised comments on Twitter about the perceived lack of public kudos from Calipari. Coincidentally or not, Harrellson quietly went about his business in this one, hauling in seven rebounds, while adding three points and two blocks in 16 productive minutes.
52 - John Calipari was not particularly pleased with his team's fight and energy (although that may be more of a coaching tactic than anything else given it was the first exhibition game), but his smallish team still managed to snatch 52 rebounds even without their best interior player being in uniform. UK will certainly face much more physically imposing teams but it was a good sign they handled the glass against a team they should have dominated in that area.
Let's not go crazy or attempt to draw and lasting conclusions from this game, it's just not a realistic thing to do. But what we know is UK wants to play more up-tempo and utilize the Dribble Drive more this season, which if officials follow the NCAA's new emphasis on cracking down on hand checks and defenders bumping ball handlers could be a huge boon for the Cats.
Kentucky returns to the court Friday night for its final exhibition tune up against Dillard University at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.
Matt May is the football beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here. You can also follow "@TCPMAY" on Twitter for live updates.