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Fox leads Cats to opening win over Stephen F. Austin

By LARRY VAUGHT

De’Aaron Fox didn’t need long to show Kentucky fans that coach John Calipari could well have another special point guard.

He had 12 points and 12 assists — the most ever by a freshman in his UK debut — in Kentucky’s season-opening 87-64 win over Stephen F. Austin. Kyle Macy had the previous assist mark of 10 in his Big Blue debut in 1977.

Isaiah Briscoe, Julius Randle and Terrence Jones are the only players to debut with a double-double under Calipari.

Fox was 3-for-9 from the field but his court leadership was obvious from the start. So was his defense as he forced two turnovers in the game’s first five minutes.

Senior Derek Willis also came out on fire and had 10 quick points before finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, two blocks and one assist. Briscoe led UK with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

Freshmen Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk both went scoreless and reboundless in the first half and played only a combined seven minutes because of foul problems. Monk, who was only 4-for-14 from the field, finished with 10 points and Adebayo five points and just one rebound. Wenyen Gabriel had 10 points, all in the first half.

Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller, who was an assistant at Texas A&M last year, came away impressed with UK.

“I think coach Calipari has got the team advertised for sure. We like to hang our hats on playing defense, but we turned it over (28 times) about as much as we do in a week. They make you play one-on-one and they shrink that court. I never seen a court look so small. You cannot simulate their length and quickness on defense. They are going to have a lot of fun this year.”

Keller praised the way Tyler Ulis played last year as UK’s point guard.

“I thought Ulis was one of the greatest college point guards ever. He even knew where the refs and ball boys were. He could dominate a game,” Keller said. “But De’Aaron and Monk with their speed. Those three Cats (including Briscoe) on the perimeter … you have to guard them and last year you didn’t Briscoe. They are really good.

“Willis is the perfect stretch four for them. (Isaac) Humphries is better and Bam Bam inside. We cannot guard Gabriel. Coach Cal was just toying with us. He doesn’t know who to play. He is just picking based on who played well in the shootaround.”

2 comments

  1. Mike

    We had a lot of great play, and we can all see, this early in the season, how great this team can be.However, there are still some areas of concern as was the case for most of last year i.e., the bigs getting into foul trouble, sloppy passing into the rim for lobs, shaky FT shooting, defending the rim without fouling, 3 pt. offense and defense. Edrice made me feel during the game that he graduated with honors and at the head of the class in Briscoe school of FT shooting, We will have to improve our play if we are to beat MSU.

  2. TheProfessor

    The quality of opposition clearly took a giant step upward for this team last night. The early issues are obvious to all of us I believe, and Calipari mentioned them last night after the game. Bam’s propensity to fouling and his free throw shooting, team rebounding, and team interior defense.

    I will leave the individual issue alone. Team rebounding was not strong during the exhibition games against much smaller and weaker opponents, but last night, SFA exposed this issue for the world to view. On the offensive end, UK only got 33.3% of its misses as offensive rebounds. Calipari teams have averaged between 40% and 50% offensive rebounding rates, and 33.3% is essentially equal to the NCAA D1 average. At the defensive end, SFA grabbed 45.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds. This should be embarrassing for any UK team, against any opponent. Calipari teams have consistently averaged between 25% and 30% for opponent offensive rebounding rates. These factors yield more second chance points to opponents and fewer to UK.

    Calipari talked about this issue last night after the game, and I am confident that his team will hear about it again today, and tomorrow, and the next day. We need to see a reversal of the offensive rebounding rates against Canisius on Sunday. Tom Izzo’s teams are always strong on the Boards, and if this team does not get this fixed now, Tuesday night could be a long night on the boards.

    Interior defense should not allow an opponent to make 54.5% of their attempts inside the arc. Calipari teams have averaged holding opponents to 35% to 45% inside the arc, and consistently under 40% on overall shooting.

    The strongest area last night was overall defense, as influenced by 28 turnovers by SFA. In addition, I really liked the increased pace, 77 possessions, which is almost 10 possessions higher than Calipari teams have played over the last several years. He has talked about playing faster this pre-season, but he has talked that way every year but his teams always play at 68 to 70 possessions per game. I hope that an upper 70s pace continues through this season. If it does, this team will play at the highest pace for any UK team since the arrival of Tubby Smith in 1997-98 season.

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