LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky’s second exhibition game at Imperial Arena in the Big Blue Bahamas Tour will be one to remember.
The Wildcats defeated San Lorenzo De Almagro 91-68 Thursday night but played most of the second half with a makeshift scoreboard and lights powered by generators at the Atlantis Resort. The power went out at the 2:53 mark of the first half with the Wildcats leading 45-27.
Freshman guard Tyler Herro came off the bench and paced the Wildcats with 22 points. Herro knocked down four of the team’s seven 3-pointers in the contest and tallied 15 points in the first half.
“My teammates put me in a good position and we were more relaxed as a team,” Herro said on the SEC Network. “That was a big difference today from Wednesday. … We all believe in each other to make plays. I'm just going out there (playing hard) and trusting in what I have been doing (in practice).”
PJ Washington scored 13 points in the second half and followed Herro with 15 points. Keldon Johnson scored 13, Reid Travis had 11 and Quade Green and Nicholas Richards chipped in with 10 points each as six players finished in double figures. Immanuel Quickley had six points and Ashton Hagans rounded out the team’s scoring with four points.
In the first two games of the tour, Herro leads the Wildcats in scoring with 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the floor. Richards has tallied 29 points in the first two games and has missed just two field goals on 13 attempts from the field.
Kentucky was without freshman E.J. Montgomery who sat out the game because of lower back issues. Jemarl Baker, a sophomore also missed his second straight game because of swelling in his knee. Montgomery scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in Kentucky’s 85-61 win over the Bahamas National Team in the exhibition opener on Wednesday night.
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee responded to a comment regarding Kentucky’s coaching staff Thursday. After heralded recruited J.D. Jeffries back out of his commitment to Kentucky, his father Corey Jeffries accused the Wildcats’ staff of being unprofessional after his son changed his commitment. Corey told a radio station in Memphis he was referring to Barbee.
“I’m not responding to the comment in general … I’ve worked for (John Calipari) for a long time, I’ve recruited a lot of players for Cal, including a lot of the guys on this team,” he told reporters Thursday. “You’d be hard-pressed to find any players we’ve ever recruited, even the ones who decided not to come to Kentucky — a player or parent — who would say that we were ever unprofessional in our recruiting.
“The way we approach recruiting is this is about the kids and their families and what’s best for them. Not about what’s best for us. Cal’s said it a million times: Kentucky is not for everybody. It takes a special breed to want to play here.”
PAYNE, TYRA VISIT
Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne confirmed to reports in the Bahamas that he met with University of Athletics Director Vince Tyra about the school’s head coaching vacancy last spring.
The Cardinals eventually hired Chris Mack for the job and Payne wished the school well.
"We spoke," Payne said. "Have a lot of respect for him, wish him well. He made a decision on the coach he wanted. I think that was pretty much done beforehand. No hard feelings at all. Louisville is a great university. It’s my university where I went to school, and I wish them well. The state needs Louisville to be good.”
Payne was a member of the school’s 1986 national championship team and has been at Kentucky since the 2010 season. Although Louisville passed on his services, Payne is hopeful an opportunity will become available in the future and is focused on his job with the Wildcats.
"The first thing for me is just taking care of what’s in front of me and what’s in front of me is the University of Kentucky," Payne said. "Hopefully that’s on the athletic director and an administrator to look at me and do some homework and say, 'That’s the type of man I would want to lead my program. He loves kids, he wants to do it the right way, he teaches character, teaches work ethic, understands the importance of academics.
“That’s more important to me. Worrying about that does me no good. I have a great job, I love what I do. I’m around some special kids every year, not just this year, every year. I get to identify character kids and go from there with it.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21