LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky had its best shooting night of the John Calipari era, blistering the nets at a 64.5 percent clip Friday in a 101-49 romp over Lafayette.
Sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, prodded by Calipari to start seeking his shot more often after scoring just five points over 32 minutes of action in Tuesday’s loss to Duke, led the Wildcats with 23 points and made a career-high seven 3-pointers on 11 attempts.
“He has to work hard to create the shot before he catches,” Calipari said of Wiltjer. “... So today, what he did, he saw gaps, raced to those gaps, and guys found him. And he made shots.
“He's not going to go seven for 11 from the 3 every time. But I believe he can go four for 11 or five for 11 every time. I believe that. I believe he's that good. But he can't do it jogging to his spot, or not being prepared to shoot.”
Calipari didn't have to twist Wiltjer's arm too hard. He responded with eight points in the game's first three and a half minutes, and his teammates kept looking for him as the game unfolded.
“It is always good as a shooter when you see some of them go down," Wiltjer said. "... “It was a great feeling. I really want to give credit to my teammates just finding me the ball. In new sets, we just really worked on spacing. It is great from Coach Cal teaching us where to go when we don’t have the ball so we are not just standing around.”
Wiltjer was far from a one-man show. Four other players, all freshmen, scored in double-figures for No. 3 Kentucky (2-1). Alex Poythress tallied 22, followed by Nerlens Noel with 15, Willie Cauley-Stein with 14 and Archie Goodwin with 13.
Kentucky, which improved to 51-0 under Calipari at Rupp Arena, racked up 23 assists on 40 field goals. Senior guard Julius Mays scored just five points, but dished out a game-high 10 assists with no turnovers.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, converted 28 Lafayette turnovers into 39 points.
“They’re more athletic than us," said Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon, "so it’s hard for us to get out there and pressure them, double-team them and turn them over. It’s not something we can do. I don’t know if maybe there are some other teams that can do that, but it certainly wasn’t going to be us chasing them.”
Noel once again earned Calipari's praise for his constant high effort, which yielded a team-high seven rebounds, four steals and one blocked shot.
"(Noel) was coming into every huddle. I was telling the team, give him a hand," Calipari said. "The guy's diving on the floor, playing with energy. Would the rest of you please look at him and try to do what he's doing or do you think just let him do that and you're not going to do it?
"We had Alex and Archie and Kyle combined for one rebound at halftime. What are you doing? Why is that? You think you're just the offensive machine and everybody else should dive on the floor and rebound and not you? It's all stuff that we're learning right now."
Kentucky led 51-31 at halftime over Lafayette (1-2), which played without its top player, Dan Trist. The 6-foot-9 forward had 30 points in the Leopards' win Monday over Long Island, but sprained an ankle during Friday morning's shoot-around at Rupp Arena.
Without Trist, Lafayette wore down in the second half. The Wildcats outscored the Patriot League visitors 50-18 after the break, including a 39-2 run that saw the lead grow to 60 before Calipari turned the game over to his walk-ons and reserves.
* It marked the first meeting between Kentucky and Lafayette. UK is now 9-1 all-time against teams from the current alignment of the Patriot League.
* Now in its 110th season of men’s basketball, Kentucky has a 94-16 record in home openers.
* Kentucky's field goal percentage was its highest since November 2008 when the Wildcats shot 68.8 percent versus Kansas State.
* UK's 28 forced turnovers were its most since recording 32 in a December 2004 win over William & Mary. The 15 steals were the most since recording 16 in a March 2009 game against Georgia.
* Jarrod Polson made his first career 3-pointer with 53 seconds remaining in the first half.
* Twany Beckham scored his first basket as a Wildcat. He had scored 94 points in two seasons at Mississippi State before transferring to UK.