LEXINGTON, Ky. – Top-ranked Kentucky broke away from UNC Asheville in the second half and defeated the Bulldogs 89-57 at Rupp Arena before a sell-out crowd of 22,413 Friday night.
Asheville (0-1) led by one point three times in the first half and trailed by just seven early in the second half before Kentucky went on to the victory.
Sophomore forward Will Weeks led the Bulldogs with 19 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey contributed 12 points. D.J Cunningham just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats were led by a double-double from freshman forward Julius Randle with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Marcus Lee had 17 points as three other Kentucky players scored in double figures.
“First of all, congratulations to Kentucky, they have a fantastic ball club. As most of you saw and so did we, they have lots of big, long athletes and they are a load to handle. They are going to have a really good year,” stated first-year Asheville coach Nick McDevitt. “I thought we did a nice job, particularly in the first half of, I wouldn’t say controlling the pace, but playing the pace that we wanted to.”
The Bulldogs battled in the first half and led 13-12 halfway through before Kentucky scored six points off two missed free throws to fuel a 12-1 run and lead 24-14.
But Asheville refused to let the game get away from it. The Bulldogs kept the pace as Weeks scored 15 points in the opening half. Kentucky led 41-31 at halftime.
Weeks went 6-of-9 from the field in the first half.
Asheville scored the first three points of the second half and was within 41-34 before the Wildcats scored 10 straight points to race to a 51-34 lead.
Kentucky continued to build on the lead as it improved to 5-0 in opening-games under head coach John Calipari.
“I just told our guys in the locker room that for us to have a chance to play against world-class athletes, you have to be in world-class shape. This being game one, early November, we’re just not there yet,” added McDevitt. “We aren’t in good enough shape yet to play against world-class athletes for 40 minutes. I thought we did a nice job for about 24 minutes. I think there were about 16 or 17 minutes left in the game we were down seven and I thought we looked a little tired. They had some real easy possessions midway through the second half where we just didn’t have anybody near the rim.”
Asheville is back in action Monday night when the Bulldogs travel to mountain rival Western Carolina at 7 p.m. Monday’s game will be broadcast on WWNC Radio (570-AM).
Will Weeks scored in double figures for the 13th time in his career.
Andrew Rowsey started as a freshman guard. He’s the first freshman guard to start the first game of the season since J.P. Primm started against Belmont Abbey in the 2008-09 season.
D.J. Cunningham was credited with two blocked shots and now has 182 career blocks. He is in third place on the school’s all-time career list and needs nine to move past C.J. Walker (190) into second place.
Cunningham just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. He collected double-figures in rebounds for the 18th time in his career.