By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember that John Calipari said Kentucky’s six-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas was about far more than winning. Yet what Kentucky did Sunday in Nassau during a 74-49 win over Puerto Rican National Team Reserves certainly gave a glimpse of just how much the Wildcats could win this year with a roster loaded with talent, size and experience.
Aaron Harrison had a game-high 15 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had a team-high seven rebounds and 10 points to lead what likely will be a balanced UK attack all season. Alex Poythress had 10 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes.
Freshman guard Devin Booker scored nine points, including the first 3-pointer of the game. Marcus Lee also scored nine points and pulled off six rebounds, with Dakari Johnson adding six rebounds and six points. Freshman point guard Tyler Ulis had just two points, but dished out a team-best five assists and had two UK’s 11 steals.
A 10-2 blitz to end the half that vaulted the Cats to a 38-31 lead and showed what could lie ahead for this team.
Aaron Harrison had a steal that led to an assist from Andrew Harrison to Devin Booker for a dunk. Then Andrew Harrison put a move on that led to a slam by Alex Poythress followed by a putback by Andrew Harrison. To cap off the half, center Dakari Johnson created a steal and then finished the play with a slam in transition.
“Calipari has a lot of different options. You may see him do a lot of things,” said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. “They are still trying to figure out how to play and what they can be. Nobody knows how to work out a playing rotation with 10 really good players like they have. There is nobody in the country with more talent. It will be a challenge to find the right chemistry.”
He’s right. Calipari has never had this kind of depth — Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles are not playing yet as they recover from surgeries — and never had to figure out how to balance a playing rotation this deep.
But what fun it should be for him.
“They are a work in progress, but they could be a really good defensive team, too,” Bilas said.
That must be a scary thought for opponents because the Cats are loaded with offensive weapons, especially if Andrew Harrison runs the point as a sophomore the way Calipari thinks he will after learning last year what it takes to succeed at this level.
Bilas liked what he saw from Andrew and his brother, Aaron.
“They are lighter, quicker. There is no more body language issues,” Bilas said.
Freshmen Booker, Towns and r Ulis all had their moments. Calipari had to love that Ulis drew a charge early in the game — “That’s what he can do. He has great vision and understanding of the game. He knows the pace. You can see him playing a lot of minutes and being on the court with Aaron and Andrew Harrison at the same time. He is a big-time point guard,” Bilas said — or the way Towns put in a jump hook and followed that with a dunk — “He’s a big-time player who has every move,” Bilas said. “For a big guy, he’s really a good passer and he’s only going to get better.”