By LARRY VAUGHT
No Isaiah Briscoe, no problem for Kentucky.
The sophomore guard didn’t play Wednesday against Cleveland State because of a pulled muscle in his back, but Kentucky didn’t miss him as the No. 1 Wildcats rolled 101-70.
“We are trying to do everything from the outside and that is hard against Kentucky because their guards enjoy coming out and guarding you,” Cleveland State coach Gary Waters said. “When you get guys enjoying playing defense that hard, you can have a lot of success.”
Unselfish play does the same. Kentucky had 25 assists on 38 basket and point guard De’Aaron Fox had another double-double with 16 points and 11 assists along with four rebounds and two steals.
Guard Malik Monk had 19 points in the first half when he made four 3-pointers. He finished with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting along with four assists and two steals.
“If the NBA had a different rule, they probably would be in there now,” Waters said. “They are pretty good players, especially Fox.”
Calipari said Fox had the “best floater” in the country and has to start using it more.
“I expected him to shoot the ball better, but defensively I did not know he could play that way,” Calipari said about Fox. “I knew he could play fast but had to be pushed. But his ability to find people and make the right play …
“Malik has a chance to be special. When I put him at point guard, he played like a shooting guard. But he plays defense.”
Freshman Wenyen Gabriel also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds to go with six rebounds and one blocked shot in 26 mintues.
“We don’t even talk about him and he has 10, 10 and 6. Now his hands are down on defense and he gets beat on straight line defense. I guess you can’t have everything,” Calipari said.
Waters wasn’t so sure that Calpari’s team doesn’t have everything — or will by Mach.
“My goal is to go out and play our kind of basketball. We get up in people and that was just not effective today because they are a pretty good team. You are ranked No. 1 for a purpose. They got chances to hold that a little bit. They have bodies, and big bodies,” Waters said.
“They want to score inside and you have to match that size. I don’t know if many teams can. Ask Michigan State. They tried and couldn’t and if they can’t, it’s hard. I know Calipari has got to really feel good about this group of kids and enjoys going to practice every day with them.”
Bam Adebayo had 14 po ints, seven rebounds and two assists. Calipari says his guards have to go to him more. Isaac Humphries had nine points and nine boards. Derek Willis had five points in the first 90 seconds and finished with seven points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.
“Derek showed signs of what he can do,” Calipari said.
Mychal Mulder came off the bench to score 13 points in 22 minutes and hit three 3-pointers. However, Calipari said his defense has to improve.
With Briscoe out, Dominique Hawkins got a rare start and forced two turnovers in only six minutes before leaving the game with a knee contusion. Calipari thinks he could be back for Friday night’s game.
Calipari said Briscoe may need a few more days to get back to playing.