By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky figured to be too much for Tennessee-Martin to handle. But the Cats were far better than that as they routed UT-Martin 111-76 Friday night in Rupp Arena even though sophomore Isaiah Briscoe did not play again due to a back injury and Derek Willis left early in the second half with a thumb injury.
Kentucky still had six players in double figures — Malik Monk 26, Bam Adebayo 15, De’Aaron Fox 16, Wenyen Gabriel 15, Mychal Mulder 12 and Sacha Killeya-Jones 12 — and had a season high in points and field goal percentage (55).
Senior Dominique Hawkins, who hurt his knee Wednesday, had 6 points — all in the first half — and nine assists and rebounds. Monk also had 7 assists and Adebayo had 12 rebounds. Plus, Fox had 6 rebounds , 5 assists and 3 steals.
What makes this even more amazing is that UK actually trailed 16-15. After that, the Cats outscored UT-Martin 96-60 in the final 31 minutes. No wonder UT-Martin coach Anthony Stewart felt overwhelmed because his team shot 47 percent from the field in the first half and still trailed by 15.
“I was really impressed with their attitude and unselfishness. Generally teams that talented with that kind of accolades have egos or attitudes,” Stewart said. “I did not see any of that. They were making the extra pass. Playing for each other. The bench was up clapping. That was awesome. I was very impressed with that.”
Stewart said his team saw “up front and personal” why UK was No. 1.
“Those kids play very had and they play together,” Stewart said. “They are very, very talented. Their length was problematic for us. They make it hard to initiate offense, especially from the wings. We thought we possibly would have a chance with our maturity and older guys to have a chance against younger guys but it did not work out that way.”
Kentucky has now won its first six games by 21 points or more going into Monday’s game against Arizona State in the Bahamas. A stiffer test should come Dec. 3 in Rupp Arena against UCLA.