No. 7 Kentucky starts slowly, then rolls past ETSU
LEXINGTON, Ky. — No. 7 Kentucky managed to bounce back from a tough loss to Kansas on Tuesday with a 78-61 victory over East Tennessee State on Friday.
That’s a good thing, right. Not in the eyes of coach John Calipari.
“I don’t want to get frustrated, but I did today because I thought guys got selfish,” Calipari said. “And I don’t know if it was selfish or they just don’t know. But I know this. A bunch of great guys that do want to please me and I’ve got to keep reminding myself of that, because I want them to be better every night out.
“Well guess what, they’re not machines, they’re not computers, they’re not going to do that.”
For the game, Kentucky did shoot 56.9 percent, including 9 of 16 from 3-point range. But Kentucky had 22 turnovers and converted just 3 of 15 free throws.
“We can’t play a 2-2-1, 1-2-1-1, a trapping zone, go back and play a 2-3, a 1-3-1 and let’s trap and let’s go man-to-man and let’s pay pick and roll five ways. You hear what I’m saying to you? These kids can’t do that,” Calipari said. “We’re playing man-to-man and we’re struggling at that. So it’s a step at a time and you can’t skip steps. I want to. I want us to be great right now. Guess what? Not happening, sorry.”
Kentucky freshman point guard Quade Green enjoyed a career night with 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Freshman forward Kevin Knox supported the effort with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Kentucky (3-1) blew open the game with a 9-0 run to start the second half, pushing the lead to 45-30 with 16 minutes left to play. Knox scored five of the nine points.
The lead grew to as many as 21 points at 67-46 with 6:52 to go.
East Tennessee State (1-2) got 17 points from freshman center Peter Jurkin, 11 from senior forward David Burrell. The Bucs shot just 32.4 percent and had 19 turnovers.
“My biggest nightmare coming in here was how we were going to get our baskets,” ETSU coach Steve Forbes said. “It’s their length, their size and their athleticism. You can’t just drive the ball at them. It won’t work. You don’t get clean looks.”
Despite being a 20-point underdog, East Tennessee State took control of the game out of the starting blocks, racing to an 18-8 lead with 11:57 left in the first half.
“We knew we caught them at the right time coming off an emotional game against Kansas,” Forbes said. “They were ripe for the picking.”
The Buccaneers built the lead on the strength of an 8-0 run over a two-minute span during which time they hit four of five shots. Devontavius Payne and Jurkin had 3-pointers, Burrell a dunk.
That would prove to be Kentucky’s lowest point, however, as Green single-handedly shot the Wildcats back into contention. The point guard scored 10 of Kentucky’s next 12 points to pull the Wildcats within three points at 23-20, forcing an ETSU timeout with 8:14 left before intermission.
Kentucky finally overtook ETSU for a 26-25 lead on a layup by freshman Hamidou Diallo with 5:23 before halftime.
UK led 36-30 at halftime.
NOTES: Kentucky is now 39-8 in games following a loss under coach John Calipari. ... For the second time this year, Kentucky’s starting lineup was all freshmen. ... Calipari is now three wins shy of 700 career coaching victories ... East Tennessee State returned only one starter from last year’s 27-win team that received a berth in the NCAA Tournament. ... Friday’s game was the 300th for Steve Forbes as a head coach. He is now 218-82.