No. 3 Kentucky beats Hartford 104-61 behind Wall
By WILL GRAVES
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Freshman point
guard John Wall set a school record with 16 assists and No. 3 Kentucky
crushed Hartford 104-61 on Tuesday night.
Wall added nine points and four rebounds as the Wildcats (14-0) matched their best start in 32 seasons.
Wall broke the record of 15 assists,
set by Travis Ford against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 8, 1993, on a pass
to Perry Stevenson that put Kentucky up 97-56.
The Wildcats shot 60 percent from the field and made 14 3-pointers.
Darnell Dodson scored a season-high
19 points for Kentucky while DeMarcus Cousins posted his third straight
double-double with 19 points and 12 boards.
Joe Zeglinski led Hartford (2-10) with 19 points and Milton Burton added 18.
The Wildcats played without guard
Eric Bledsoe, who is nursing an injured left ankle. He is expected to
be available on Saturday when Kentucky plays archrival Louisville.
The Wildcats hardly needed him against Hartford.
The Hawks, who hadn’t played in 18
days, were simply overmatched from the opening tip and spent most of
the game as bystanders as Wall went to work.
Kentucky scored the game’s first eight points and needed less than 4 minutes to build a double-digit lead.
Hartford managed to hang around
briefly before Kentucky hit the gas pedal with a dizzying 18-2 run that
featured plenty of highlight-ready plays.
Cousins started the run with a dunk
off an alley-oop from Wall. Dodson followed with a 3-pointer and after
Cousins hit two free throws things really got out of hand. Kentucky’s
next four field goals all came on dunks, three of them on alley-oops.
The most spectacular came courtesy
of Wall, who took a feed from Ramon Harris, plucked the ball out of
midair and twisted his body for a reverse dunk that brought the sellout
crowd to his feet.
Kentucky roared to the half up 57-31 and the only drama over the final 20 minutes was Wall’s pursuit of the assist record.
He didn’t disappoint. He drew within
one before Kentucky coach John Calipari took him out with about 12
minutes to go. He returned with 7:53 remaining, tied Ford’s record on a
basket by Josh Harrellson then broke it a few moments later when he
found Stevenson at the top of the key.
The crowd erupted as Stevenson’s
jumper splashed through the net. Wall received a standing ovation as he
made his way to the bench at the next timeout while the student section
chanted his name.
Calipari said the Wildcats wouldn’t
get caught looking ahead to their showdown with the Cardinals, and
Kentucky looked focused throughout following a somewhat lethargic
effort in a win over Long Beach State last week.
The Wildcats outscored Hartford in the paint 46-16, outrebounded the Hawks 41-24 and held a 12-0 edge in fastbreak points.
Though Wall has dominated at times
this season, he hasn’t been perfect. He entered the game averaging 6.8
assists per game, tops in the Southeastern Conference and second in the
nation. But he also was averaging 4.3 turnovers.
The miscues disappeared against the
Hawks. Wall gave it away just once and looked in total control while
guiding the Wildcats to their highest point total of the season.
Updated December 29, 2009