LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Maybe Kentucky should think twice about scheduling VMI in the future.
In their last visit to Rupp Arena a decade ago, the Keydets made 14 3-pointers and defeated the Wildcats 111-103 in an offensive shootout. They were equally impressive Sunday night and topped that number but this time, Kentucky used its length and free-throw shooting to offset a potential upset.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats (3-1) overcame Bubba Parham’s 35 point-effort, a performance that included 10 shots from long range, and posted a 92-82 triumph at Rupp Arena. Overall, the Keydets made 19 shots from long range, a Rupp Arena record for opponents and Kentucky coach John Calipari was simply glad his team got the win.
“He made some crazy ones now,” Calipari said of Parham. “It's a great lesson. It's a great lesson in that we still won. Like I told the guys after, when somebody makes 19 threes, you win that game? I don't care who it is. They made 19 threes and we won the game. … this was a big deal and when their kid, Bubba, Bubba goes nuts, believe me, his grandchildren will be watching that video.”
VMI coach Dan Earl said Parham had an “outstanding game” and “it helped that Parham went crazy, hit a bunch of shots and was drawing a lot of attention.” Parham said he was taking advantage of the opportunity.
“I saw a few go in early and my teammates kept (feeding) me the ball in the right spots and I was able to knock them down,” Parham said. “I was in a groove and I’m a rhythm shooter. Once I hit a couple, see them go in, everything was good from there.”
Although Parham was the star, Kentucky used its size and experience in the post to overcome Parham’s career night. Veterans PJ Washington, Quade Green and Reid Travis combined for 58 points, paced by Washington who finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
“What it shows is motor — it shows motor,” Calipari said. “If I'm PJ, I'm rebounding against nine players, their five and four of ours. That's just me. And what a great thing to be selfish about, wouldn't you say? Go get every one. … that's that next level for he and Reid (Travis), EJ (Montgomery) and even Nick (Richards).”
Calipari said the veterans proved to be the difference in what could have been a second setback for his squad.
“There's some guys that really didn't play well, they better be happy for PJ, happy for Reid, happy for Quade, hugging those guys,” he said. “When you play well they hug you. That's a learning process too. If I don't play well I'm mad. We won. We won a game we easily could have lost.”
In addition to the veteran leadership, the Wildcats held a 43-22 edge in rebounding and converted 13 miscues into 23 second-chance points. Kentucky also made 29 free throws on 35 attempts to keep a safe distance between the two teams.
“Their size killed us,” Earl said. “We fouled them a ton and their size got a hold of us and they were able to pull the game out.”
Calipari also liked the way his team responded against VMI’s zone defense and fed the post, creating easy opportunities underneath.
"We knew the advantage was high, so we just tried to bring it in and give the ball to Reid (Travis) or even E.J. Montgomery and just tried to go in and get the ball up to get the rebound,” Washington said. “We felt like we were a lot better and that's what we did. They were making shots, so we just had to make stops."
In moving forward, Calipari said the Wildcats have to make strides on defense, especially when it comes to guarding the perimeter.
“If we go into a league and we cannot guard the three, we're going to have problems,” he said. “So but thank goodness, what's the date? Is this still November? Tell me it's still November. Is it barely? What is it? Okay.”
Kentucky freshman forward EJ Montgomery made his first start of the season and finished with three points, three rebounds and three blocked shots. Montgomery started in place of Travis, who came off the bench and finished with 22 points and six rebounds.
Calipari isn’t sure what he will do after reviewing the tape, but added he’s not concerned who is starting four games into the season.
“Who cares who starts? Especially right now where I'm just trying to figure out this team,” Calipari said.
KUDOS FOR QUADE
Calipari was pleased with Green’s performance. The sophomore finished with 17 points off the bench and connected on three of the team’s five 3-pointers.
“I think he's really playing hard,” Calipari said. “He's really defending, he's trying. And then he has a knack offensively for making baskets. And if you put it in his hands he'll normally, as long as it's not against a set defense, if that ball moves and he gets it and it's a two-man game, something good is going to happen and late in the game he will make a shot and he will make free throws. He's proven that. So he's doing what we're asking. He's doing better every day. And in practice right now my guess is he's working harder than anybody else.”
Green said he’s more confident on the court and becoming “more of a leader.”
“I’m just competing, getting in the gym with my teammates,” he said. “I had to change myself in order for my game to change."
Gametracker: Winthrop at Kentucky, Wednesday 1 p.m. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21