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Baskets hard to find for Montana State as No. 1 Kentucky soars to overwhelming win

Kentucky forced Montana State into 21 turnovers and 20 percent shooting to post a run-away win over Montana State (UK Athletics Photo/Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)

Kentucky forced Montana State into 21 turnovers and 20 percent shooting to post a run-away win over Montana State (UK Athletics Photo/Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)


Devin Booker scored a career-best 18 points, Aaron Harrison added 14 and No. 1 Kentucky held Montana State scoreless for several stretches Sunday night to race to an 86-28 victory at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats (5-0) finished just 29 of 67 from the field (43 percent), an output that was offset by a defensive effort that forced the overmatched Bobcats (0-4) into 21 turnovers and held them to 20 percent shooting.

Opportunities were hard all night for Montana State, which went scoreless for nearly five minutes in the first half and scored its first second-half points with 9:36 remaining to make it 65-13.

Joey Frenchwood’s seven points led the Bobcats.

“I loved how we defended,” said UK head coach John Calipari. “We didn’t look at the score, we just worried about each possession and that’s what you have to do in games like this. I hated that the score was that lopsided. But again, I’m trying to ‐‐ I got a team here that I’m trying to deal with and make sure they’re getting better.

“We didn’t try to run it up. I mean, think about it ‐‐ we shot 43 percent and 28 percent from the 3. We didn’t exactly knock it out of the park again, offensively. But we were so good defensively, it made it easy for us.”

Booker’s second straight double-digit game helped Kentucky regroup from an 0 for 10 shooting start as the 6-6 freshman guard scored 12 first-half points including a pair of 3-pointers. He had 15 in Friday night’s win over Boston University.

Dakari Johnson had 13 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky, which dominated the boards 53-35 and blocked a season-high 12 shots. It was also the second time in three games the Wildcats held an opponent to 20 percent shooting.

The Bobcats were rested after Friday’s scheduled game at Buffalo was postponed following more than nine feet of lake-effect snow that fell in the city. Despite its record including a 35-point, season-opening loss at UCLA, Montana State has also played well in close losses at Grand Canyon and Cal State-Northridge.

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Things were close through 4 1/2 minutes as both Kentucky platoons combined for the cold start, including six misses from beyond the arc. Montana State’s zone defense deserves credit for forcing the Wildcats into more perimeter shots than they wanted despite getting good looks.

“You know, we came in here and I thought we’d compete and play a little harder without using the excuse of being on the road 12 days,” said Montana State head coach Brian Fish. “I was really disappointed in our effort, but getting the chance to let these guys play in this place and play against (the top-ranked team in the nation).

“I don’t want to add pressure to Coach Cal’s team, but they are a very, very good team and I thought they played very well tonight. I knew if they played well, we’d be in trouble and they played well and the results were what I expected when they played that way.”

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they couldn’t take advantage on the other end when they actually made it past midcourt. They made one of their first two attempts for a 2-1 lead thanks to Kentucky’s misfires, but otherwise struggled to get the ball up court to create shots against the longer Wildcats.

The first-half results weren’t pretty as Montana State trailed 39-11 behind 5-of-31 shooting (16 percent) and 14 turnovers along with having eight shots blocked. The Bobcats’ first second-half basket drew mild applause from 22,384.

Junior forward Alex Poythress missed his second straight game due to illness but should return in Tuesday’s contest against Texas Arlington.

“He’ll practice tomorrow, so he should be good to go on Tuesday,” Calipari said.

From UK Athletics

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