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Rewind: Wiltjer works Lafayette

Nov. 16, 2012
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer had 23 points in the Cats' victory (Darrell Bird/TCP)

Coming off two emotional, intense games to open the season Kentucky had no issue staving off a letdown, jumping all over Lafayette in the Wildcats' home opener.

Kyle Wiltjer connected on seven three-pointers, including a flurry of four in a stretch of 2:51 late in the second half, to lead the Cats to a 101-49 victory in front of 21,360 fans at Rupp Arena. Wiltjer finished with 23 points and was 7-of-11 from long range.

The Leopards were without the services of star forward Dane Trist, who injured his ankle in the team's shootaround earlier in the day. The 6-foot-9 Australian was averaging 23.5 points per game and coming off a 30-point performance against LIU-Brooklyn.

Kentucky put matters to bed relatively early with a 24-2 run in the first half that featured a heavy dose of crisp passing and easy buckets at the rim. By halftime 12 of the Cats 20 made field goals came via dunks or three-pointers, leading to a 64.5 field goal percentage.

on the skills of forwards Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein
“I've coached all kinds of ways over 20-something years. I've never had two guys like this in the post. I've had DeMarcus Cousins but he wanted to shoot threes. Now you have these two guys and they're truly post players. I have two of them, so we've got to play that way. Force you to double (team) them and then we'll kick it out and shoot threes.”

“I don't know what to say, the roof started caving in on us.” – Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon

“He's an assassin, a sniper. He gets the ball in the rim. It's amazing how effective (a scorer) he is on the perimeter.” – Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel, on teammate Kyle Wiltjer's shooting performance

A day earlier Kentucky coach John Calipari took aim at motivating Kyle Wiltjer through the media, telling reporters that is the sophomore forward couldn't find ways to get his own shot and play with more sense of urgency then he would see a decrease in his minutes. Wiltjer apparently got the message, cashing three-pointers on two of the Cats' first three possessions and adding a step back fadeaway jumper to show a different side of himself. Later, Wiltjer hit four three-pointers in a span of 2:51 to push his total to 23 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists.

Kentucky opened the game with a turnover before connecting on three-pointers on each of the its next three possessions, two coming from Kyle Wiltjer on Julius Mays' assists and then the final one when Wiltjer returned the favor by finding Mays for a clean look. The Cats would go on to make 11-of-19 from beyond the arc because their spacing was improved, both in the halfcourt and in transition. The hot shooting night lifted the Cats' season three-point percentage to 50 percent (21-of-42).

Julius Mays has been hailed as the steadiest player on the Cats' roster by Calipari and it showed yet again on a night where scored just five points. Mays played a lot of point guard because of Ryan Harrow's continued absence and turned the role into a 10-assists, zero turnover effort while adding three assists and two steals.

39 – Kentucky's defensive effort drew a so-so review from Calipari, who said his squad played six minutes of sustained defense. But there is truth in the numbers, which saw Kentucky force 28 turnovers, nine more than in its first two games combined. Those turnovers – 15 of which were UK steals – were turned into 39 points, 16 more than the first two games combined.

Not a great deal can be gleaned from the final score because of the considerable drop off in competition from the first two games but there were definitive signs of improvement, especially as it pertains to the Cats' ability to process what the coaching staff is telling them in practice and quickly implementing that into a game setting. If that intellectual growth continues it will pay major dividends I the physical performance as well.

Kentucky (2-1) will welcome a familiar face back to Rupp Arena when former 'Unforgettable' Sean Woods brings his Morehead State squad in for a 7 p.m. tip on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

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