Wildcats Down Hoosiers 72-54

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- So much for slow starts. Kentucky cured its early-game ills in a flash Saturday and, in the process, got a little vengeance for last year's thumping by interstate rival Indiana.

All week, Wildcats coach Billy Gillispie had preached the idea of showing more energy out of the gate, considering two of Kentucky's three losses were the result of sluggish starts in which a ferocious comeback fell short.

This time, Kentucky got off to a 14-0 lead, and it was the Hoosiers who were forced to play catch up. They never did.

Josh Harrellson scored 15 points off the bench to lead four other Wildcat players in double-digits as Kentucky dominated Indiana 72-54 Saturday in the annual interstate rivalry between the two storied but struggling programs.

"From the tip-off, we set the tone," Kentucky center Patrick Patterson said. "We wanted to play hard defense and get off to a good start. We knew all their plays, what they wanted to do and what they could do, and we tried to take that away from them."

A year after Indiana greeted new Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie to the rivalry with a 70-51 blowout in Bloomington, the Wildcats returned the favor in Lexington for Indiana's new coach, Tom Crean.

Kentucky (7-3) won for the 29th time in 52 meetings between the two schools, and the Wildcats increased their record to 7-1 against the Hoosiers (5-5) at Rupp Arena. The game traditionally had been played at a neutral site, either Indianapolis or Louisville, but that changed two years ago due to a scheduling conflict.

Although the game was nationally televised, the two programs are in full-fledged rebuilding modes, particularly Indiana, which is returning just 30 total points from last year's team that dominated the Wildcats. A recruiting scandal that resulted in the ouster of former coach Kelvin Sampson and an NCAA-imposed probation have hampered the Hoosiers.

The Wildcats overwhelmed the Hoosiers from the opening tip, scoring the first 14 points of the game -- all from the paint, including four dunks.

"I think it was our defense that did it," Harrellson said. "Everyone was up-tempo and upbeat."

Kentucky stretched the lead to 32-6 with 8 minutes to go before halftime after back-to-back 3-pointers by Meeks and Harrellson.

The Hoosiers, known for their own second half comebacks this season that fell short, were able to shave Kentucky's lead somewhat. Two free throws by Verdell Jones made it 41-26 midway through the second half, and a flurry of fouls and fastbreaks at the end provided the final margin.

"It was encouraging to see the mentality that we played with during that time," Crean said. "We learned some valuable lessons through this."

Gillispie acknowledged the momentum wasn't there in the second half, but he said he'll take the combined effort any day.

"When you get a real big lead, a lot of things change," he said. "We fouled a little too much, didn't have great rhythm."

Five Kentucky scorers accounted for all but 12 of the points. Joining Harrellson in double-digits were Jodie Meeks (13), Patterson (12), DeAndre Liggins (10) and Perry Stevenson (10). Stevenson also led the Wildcats with 9 rebounds and 6 blocks, the most by a Kentucky player since he accomplished the feat last season.

Gillispie joked afterward that he encouraged Stevenson to get seven blocks and was disappointed that he didn't reach that total.

"I was looking for a stat sheet, but I couldn't find one," Stevenson said. "I said, 'Please let it be seven."

Devan Dumes led Indiana with 15 points.

While both teams were turnover-prone in the first half, combining for 36, the mistakes were lethal to the Hoosiers but barely fazed the Wildcats. Kentucky turned Indiana's 15 first half turnovers into 10 points, while the Hoosiers had nothing to show for Kentucky's 11 turnovers.

Indiana made just 37 percent of its shots -- and just 23 percent in the first half. It made just 4 of 20 3-point attempts and didn't get a single free throw attempt in the first half. The Wildcats led 36-13 at the break.

"We don't have starts like that at home," Dumes said. "So, we just have to start off like we're at home every night."

Even the early baskets that did fall for Indiana seemed to take massive effort. Tom Pritchard's second-chance layup in traffic gave Indiana its first points nearly 7 minutes into the game. A desperation 3-point heave by Matt Roth barely beat the shot clock buzzer.

Kentucky got a scare when Stevenson stumbled in traffic near the basket and ended up on his back. He lay still for about 2 minutes before limping off. He would return.

Gillispie said he was pleased in the effort and encouraged by what the future holds for his team, which barely resembles the one that lost 111-103 to VMI in the season opener.

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