LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kevin Knox has been one of the shining stars for Kentucky during preseason workouts. When the lights came on, he didn’t disappoint.
The freshman forward scored 27 points to lead the Wildcats to a 103-61 win over Thomas More in the first of three exhibition games Friday night at Rupp Arena. Knox made 8 of 12 attempts from the floor and drained all 10 of his attempts from the free-throw line.
Although not the caliber of competition Kentucky will be seeing this season, Knox was glad to compete against another team.
"It was good to get out here and play against somebody else," Knox said. "We’ve been beating each other up for the last couple months so Coach Cal was big on us coming out here, being aggressive and making sure that we can take all the stuff we’ve been working on and put it against them.”
Overall, five players finished in double figures for Kentucky, which shot 55 percent from the field and collected 11 steals against the Division III Saints. P.J. Washington followed Knox with 15 points, Nick Richards scored 14 points and Hamidou Diallo chipped in with 12.
For the first time since the 2014 season, the Wildcats started five freshmen — Quade Green, Diallo, Richards, Knox and Washington. Returnee Wenyan Gabriel had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, giving the Wildcats a much-needed boost off the bench.
"I played with a lot of energy," Gabriel said. "As a team overall, we did pretty good."
"I thought he did pretty good," Calipari added. "His energy is what you need."
Unlike the Blue-White scrimmage last week, Kentucky didn't have any issues with cramps, but Calipari said the Wildcats are far from being in top-notch shape and used a press to help get his team prepared for the upcoming season.
"I just wanted to stretch (my guys) out," Calipari said. "This is really a freshman team. As soon as they get tired, they totally cannot be engaged and lose their focus on what they are supposed to do and they're just trying to hold on. You can't play that way. ... May staff is telling me we don't have a guy on the team that can play three or four minutes at a time. I challenged them a couple of times. I wasn't that bad, for me, but we need everybody to play a certain way and I've got to convince guys (that) here's how I need you to play for your team and for you. We're still not there yet."
Knox led all scorers with 14 points in the first half. Knox made four of six attempts from the field and added a block and a steal. Washington struggled early but tallied nine points in the opening half and
Green made two of Kentucky’s first three shots from long rang.e Green, Knox and Diallo scored 18 of Kentucky’s first 21 points. Green finished with nine points and added nine assists.
Thomas More coach Drew Cooper said Kentucky's speed and length was too much for his team to overcome.
'We couldn't stop them," Cooper said. "I think this will hold true all season long. You have to be perfect offensively, because if you give up a deflection, turn the ball over, take a bad shot and get a long rebound — it's a four-point or five-point swing in a heartbeat. If we were not perfect ofensively, it was two points (or) three points for them."
Richards was whistled for a technical foul at the 17:39 mark of the first half and picked up a pair of fouls within the first three minutes.
It didn’t matter as both teams agreed to a no foul limit before the contest.
Thomas More, which captured the Presidents’ Athletic Conference title last season, has 12 instate players on its roster, including all five starters.
The Saints struggled from the field and made just 16 field goals, including six in the opening half. Overall, Thomas More shot 30 percent from the field. The Saints connected on eight shots from long range, including six in the second half.
"It was different playing against all the tall guys," said Thomas More guard Damien King, who led the Saints with 13 points. "Going in the lane, it was like their players were trees out there. It is definitely different playing at a high level than what we are used to."
THOMAS MORE (61) — Horne 7, King 13, Callahan 9, Young 7, Clifford 3, Stone 5, Griffin 2, Davis 1, Baker 6, Bertsch 4, Stockwell 4.
KENTUCKY (103) — Green 9, Diallo 12, Richards 14, Knox 27, Washington 15, Killeya-Jones 4, David 2, Gilgeous-Alexander 9, Gabriel 11.
Gametracker: Morehead State at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Monday. TV/Radio: 98.1 FM, WBUL.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.