LEXINGTON, Ky. – You might’ve forgotten, since Kentucky football has managed the difficult feat of staying relevant as the calendar turns to November, but basketball season is here. (We know you didn’t forget that.)
John Calipari’s 2016-17 Wildcats will host his alma mater, Clarion, in their first exhibition game. After seeing them play against each other at Big Blue Madness and in the Blue-White scrimmage, we’ll finally see all of Kentucky’s talented players together on one team tonight.
How will the three 5-star guards, Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk play together? Who besides the expected stars will step into a significant role this season? Maybe a guy like Mychal Mulder? We’re about to find out. Stay on this page and refresh it often for live updates from Rupp Arena.
* And they got more Brad. An even wilder eruption as the coach’s son swished a falling-down three and the foul. He missed the free throw, but what a night for Brad Calipari (and his proud papa). FINAL: Kentucky 108, Clarion 51.
* Brad Calipari is a fan favorite. Rupp Arena roared for his late 3-pointer, which stretched the lead to 105-50. Kentucky is up to six guys in double figures now, with Briscoe joining the party to get his double-double. Strong night for the sophomore guard. But this crowd wants more Brad.
* Kentucky really stepping on the gas now. The Cats lead 89-43 with 6:25 to go and five players are in double figures: Monk (15), Willis (13), Fox (11), Adebayo (10) and Killeya-Jones (10). Adebayo also has 13 rebounds, while Briscoe has 8 points and 10 assists. Not many nits to pick in this one.
* Hooboy. We finally got a good look at what might be Kentucky’s most dangerous lineup, and is it ever. Monk, Fox, Briscoe, Adebayo and Humphries checked in with 15:54 to go in the game and the Cats leading 55-26. Three and a half minutes later, that lead is 73-35. It was a blitz. Adebayo monster slam, Humphries hook, Briscoe and Fox slashing buckets. Humphries’ kick to Briscoe for a corner three capped it and Clarion needed a timeout. As long as one of those guards can hit from outside, this is just a devastating combination of size and speed for Kentucy. Goodness.
* Kentucky is stretching it out and Derek Willis is going off. Early in the second half, Willis went spike-block on one end, lob-dunk on the other. Soon after, a skied for a rebound and initiated the break, and a few plays after that climbed the ladder again for a huge dunk off a lob from Malik Monk. Willis looks super confident and has 11 points, 2 blocks and 2 rebounds in 14 minutes. The Cats lead 55-26, 15:57 second half.
* HALFTIME: Kentucky 40, Clarion 22. The Cats shot 55.6 percent and held the visitors to 26.7 percent in the first half. Monk and Willis (who ended the half with a nifty spinning layup) lead the way with seven points apiece, while Adebayo has nine rebounds already. The rest of UK’s first-half box score:
* Big cheer from the crowd as the Tai Wynyard mystery finally comes to an end (and coach’s son Brad Calipari enters the game with him). The redshirt freshman New Zealander made his long-awaited UK debut, checking in with 3:34 to go in the half. After enrolling last December, Wynyard was expected to play but never did. Then he suffered a fractured bone in his face in preseason practice this fall, thus missing Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White scrimmage. So no one had ever really seen him in action. Good news: he looks solid. The 6-10, 254-pound forward sank two free throws and a little turnaround jump shot in his brief appearance. Calipari’s son has not put up a shot yet.
* Malik Monk is a starter when the games count, I’m thinking. He has 7 points, 4 steals, 2 assists in 9 minutes. The Cats lead 40-20 with 3:34 to go in the first half after Monk swished a sweet pull-up jumper just inside the arc, ripped away a steal on the other end and sank free throws. Enjoy a couple of his highlights so far:
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 30, 2016
Monk with the steal. Bam with the finish! pic.twitter.com/yV3jQlalC2
— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) October 30, 2016
* Clarion, as you might imagine, has no one who can handle 6-10, 260-pound Kentucky freshman Bam Adebayo. He has 6 points, 4 rebounds and a block in his first seven minutes. The last of his boards and buckets came on a trailing fast break putback. I *think* he might be pretty good. The Cats lead 28-16, 7:53 first half. Calipari won’t be thrilled with the defense (which is supposed to be elite) so far. Clarion hit its first three 3-pointers and keeps hanging around.
* Briscoe looks great early: four assists, two rebounds, a steal and no turnovers. His last dish was a pretty drive and lob to Sacha Killeya-Jones for a slam. The Cats lead 24-14 with 11:52 to go in the first half.
* Oh, there is Malik Monk. He came off the bench with 15:53 to go in the first half and immediately drained a jumper, then fired ahead to Bam Adebayo for a big two-hand jam. Then fed the big man for a sweet baby hook. Monk had 3 points, 2 assists and 2 steals in his first two minutes to stretch UK’s lead to 20-10. I don’t think he’ll be coming off the bench for long.
* Little sloppy and an unexpected start to the scoring with Gabriel (4) and Willis (5) combining for the Cats’ first nine points, but Kentucky leads Clarion 11-7 with 15:54 to go in the first half after a little preview of the team’s speed: Briscoe with a board, leading the break, firing ahead to Fox for an easy layup. Still haven’t seen Monk, which is odd.
* Raise your hand if you had freshman Wenyen Gabriel in your starting lineup, much less scoring the first bucket of the (pre) season against another team. He did, and Derek Willis scored the second. Bam Adebayo already has a big block. It’s 4-0 Kentucky in a blink, and we’re off …
* It really is wild how much the new center-hung scoreboard (RIP Big Bertha) has transformed the game day experience at Rupp Arena. Check out the pregame hype video on it:
Quite a different experience: pic.twitter.com/ExnqLGhIKh
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) October 30, 2016
* STARTERS: Kentucky will start De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Wenyen Gabriel and Bam Adebayo tonight. Interesting that Malik Monk isn’t starting. He’s my pick to lead the Cats in scoring this season.