<
>

Kentucky wakes up in 2nd half, finishes off ETSU

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari has no idea if center Enes Kanter will ever suit up for Kentucky.

The way the rest of Calipari's latest batch of hot shot freshmen played in the Wildcats' 88-65 win over East Tennessee State on Friday night, Kentucky might not need the 6-foot-11 Kanter to thrive.

Terrence Jones had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Doron Lamb added 20 points and Brandon Knight had 17 points and five assists as Kentucky (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) rolled by the Buccaneers in the second half.

"Our freshmen played well," Calipari said. "They've got to get steadier, got to get rougher and tougher."

Still, for a class that will forever be compared to the historic one that came before it, the new kids appear to be up to the task.

Kentucky made 13 of 26 3-pointers, turned it over just 10 times and responded when the defending Atlantic Sun champions pulled within 10 points early in the second half.

"I think we're the best team that can shoot 3s, that's what coach said, in the country," Lamb said.

Isiah Brown led the Buccaneers with 25 points, but East Tennessee couldn't match Kentucky's firepower even without Kanter.

The school is appealing an NCAA ruling Thursday declaring Kanter permanently ineligible because he received more than the necessary benefits while playing for a club in Turkey two years ago. Kanter can practice with the Wildcats while the case is on appeal and watched the game from the bench in a white sweatsuit.

Calipari said he respected the NCAA's decision even if he didn't agree with it and is hopeful the decision will be overturned.

"[Maybe] people will look at this in a common sense way and say the kid deserves better than this," Calipari said.

If Kanter can't play, Jones will likely be called on to be Kentucky's premier big man. It's not a role he envisioned when he signed last spring, but it's one he'll accept.

"I'll do whatever Coach wants me to do," Jones said.

Against the Buccaneers, it was a little bit of everything. His energetic play helped Kentucky break things open after the Buccaneers pulled within 50-40 with 18:11 to go.

Jones ripped off Kentucky's next 12 points starting his own personal run with a dunk, then hitting two jumpers before adding a layup while getting fouled. He hit the free throw then knocked down a 3-pointer as Kentucky's lead ballooned to 62-42. ETSU would get no closer than 17 the rest of the way.

"We showed pretty much that everybody can play," said Jones, who tied Cotton Nash for the second-most points by a Kentucky player in his debut. "We're going to try and bring toughness and play at both ends of the floor and just do all the little things Coach wants us to do."

The game was a rematch of last season's opening NCAA tournament matchup, a 100-71 Kentucky win.

Eight short months later, the stars that led Kentucky's renaissance in Calipari's first season on the bench are long gone. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe are in the NBA.

In their place step Knight, Jones and Lamb. While Calipari has cautioned it's not fair to compare this year's freshman crop to last year's record-breaking class, he knows comparisons are inevitable.

For a night at least, the new kids looked like they can hold their own.

"It's a different cast of players, but the three freshmen are fantastic," East Tennessee coach Murry Bartow said.

Knight, the latest in a string of top-rated high school point guards brought in by Calipari, was steady if not as spectacular as Wall. He didn't try to do too much -- a problem for Wall early in the season last year -- and was efficient, turning the ball over just twice in 32 minutes.

"I thought Brandon had a great floor game," Calipari said. "I thought he ran the team and he was in control, went when he should have, shot when he should have and that is amazing after the practices we've had."

Lamb came off the bench to drain three 3-pointers and make the Buccaneers pay for playing a 1-3-1 zone, the defense West Virginia used so successfully last March.

The Wildcats missed their first 20 3-pointers against the Mountaineers and never recovered.

There were no such problems on Friday night. Knight hit a 3-pointer barely two minutes into the game and the Wildcats were off and running.

"Last year ... we didn't make any shots and I kept telling them 'we're good shooters, we're good shooters," Calipari said. "This team, they make shots."