No. 1 Kentucky pummels Montana State 86-28
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) For the second time in three games, top-ranked Kentucky demonstrated how dominant it can be when it plays tight defense.
Just ask overmatched Montana State, which went scoreless for more than 13 minutes Sunday night.
Devin Booker scored a career-best 18 points, Aaron Harrison added 14 as the Wildcats raced to an 86-28 victory.
A game in which Kentucky (5-0) finished just 29 of 67 from the field (43 percent) was offset by a stifling defensive effort that forced Montana State (0-4) into 21 turnovers and held the Bobcats to 20 percent shooting. The Wildcats also held No. 5 Kansas to 20 percent in Tuesday's 72-40 rout in Indianapolis.
Opportunities were hard all night for Montana State, which went scoreless for the final 2:48 of the first half until 9:36 remained to make it 65-13.
Joey Frenchwood's seven points led the Bobcats.
''It's hard to simulate their length and understand that,'' said Montana State's first-year coach Brian Fish.
Fish added: ''He (Kentucky coach John Calipari) had those guys playing really hard. You feel helpless because you don't know what to attack.''
Booker's second straight double-digit game helped Kentucky regroup from a 1-for-13 shooting start as the 6-foot-6 freshman guard scored 12 in the first half including a pair of 3-pointers. He finished 6 of 8 from the field and three from the behind the arc just two nights after scoring 15 points in Friday night's win over Boston University.
''Last game it was finally good to see one go down, so that made it a lot easier,'' Booker said of his shooting.
Dakari Johnson had 13 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky, which dominated the boards 53-35 and blocked a season-high 12 shots.
The Bobcats were rested after Friday's game at Buffalo was postponed following more than five feet of lake-effect snow that fell in the city. Despite its record including a 35-point, season-opening loss at UCLA, Montana State has also played well in close losses at Grand Canyon and Cal State-Northridge.
Things were close through 4 1/2 minutes as both Kentucky platoons combined for the cold start, including six misses from beyond the arc. Montana State's zone defense deserves credit for forcing the Wildcats into more perimeter shots than they wanted despite getting good looks.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they couldn't take advantage on the other end when they actually made it past midcourt. They made one of their first two attempts for a 2-1 lead thanks to Kentucky's misfires, but otherwise struggled to get the ball up court to create shots against the longer Wildcats.
''I loved how we defended,'' Calipari said. ''We didn't look at the score and we just played every possession. That's what we have to do in games like this.''
AT LEAST HE WASN'T LATE
Social media had a field day with Calipari noting his daughter Megan's 25th birthday on Saturday, one day early as it turns out when she tweeted ''awkward.'' Calipari opened his postgame by insisting that he knows her birthday but joked that during the season he often doesn't know ''what day of the week it is, what day of the month it is. ... And why did that go all over the world?''
Known more for his offense, 6-11 Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns blocked a career-high six shots along with grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring eight points. He had five blocks against BU.
Montana State: The Bobcats fell to 1-3 all-time against Southeastern Conference teams.
Kentucky: The Wildcats were just 7 of 26 from 3-point range after entering the contest having made 20 of 59 (34 percent) from behind the arc in their previous three outings. ... Guard Dominique Hawkins made his second consecutive start with Alex Poythress still sidelined by an illness.
Montana State: Hosts UT-Arlington on Friday.
Kentucky: Hosts UT-Arlington on Tuesday.