Dec. 28, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Senior guard Mike James poured in a season-high 29 points Wednesday night at Rupp Arena, but it wasn't enough as No. 3 Kentucky knocked off Lamar University 86-64 in men's basketball action.
The Cardinals lost to their second straight top five opponent, also falling 70-50 at No. 2 Ohio State last Tuesday, and now stand at 8-5 on the season. Lamar will play its final game before opening Southland Conference play this Saturday at 1 p.m. when it hosts Lyon College at the Montagne Center.
"We couldn't have played any harder," said LU head coach Pat Knight about his teams' effort. "This is just going to help us in conference. I thought we gave them everything we could. We made them keep their starters in until the end. I was really pleased with how hard we played and how much they competed. We don't need to hang our head; this is a team that I think has a chance to win the national championship. If my guys play that hard and compete like that I think we have a good chance to win our conference."
James scored 17 of his points in the second half as Lamar shot a solid 48.5 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the hole was too big to climb out of. UK (12-1) powered its way to a 44-28 halftime lead, and Lamar would get no closer than 13 points in the second half.
Freshman guard Marquis Teague buried a 3-pointer one minute into the game to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead, and Lamar would not score its first points until it was trailing 7-0. Anthony Miles hit a pair of free throws at the 18:02 mark to get Lamar on the board, and his jumper with 15:49 to play was the Cards' first field goal.
The Cardinals settled down, and after trailing 11-2, went on an 8-0 run to pull within a bucket with 13:59 to play. UK responded with a 9-0 run of its own to build a 21-10 lead with 12:07 on the clock. Kyle Wiltjer hit a pair of free throws with 7:56 to play in the first half that gave Kentucky a 27-16 lead, and Lamar would not get within single digits again.
James, who finished the game with 13-of-29 shooting, hit an array of shots in the second half that awed the crowd of 24,230. Included was a 3-pointer with 16:28 to play in the game that got Lamar within 13 at 48-35 and snapped a streak of 21 straight missed 3-pointers by the Cardinals.
"I knew, I think last year he had a game of 52, and I knew he could get hot like that," said Kentucky head coach John Calipari about James' effort. "A couple of them were tough shots, and a couple of them were terrific teardrops that he made. So he really played well. The whole team, they did what they had to to stay in there, but he came up big for them."
James had his previous season-high of 26 points just two games ago in Lamar's 87-81 win at Rice. He set the Lamar single-game record last season when he dropped 52 points on Louisiana College, but he wasn't entirely pleased with his effort.
"I played alright," said James. "At the end of the day, we came away with a good experience, but it wasn't a win. The main focus of the game is to win, and we didn't do that."
While giving away size and length to the Wildcats, Lamar more than held its own on the boards and in the paint. Both teams finished with 36 rebounds, and UK only had a slight 36-32 advantage in points in the paint. The Wildcats benefitted from 33 trips to the free throw line, making 27, while Lamar was just 12-of-15 from the charity stripe.
UK, which shot 49.1 percent from the field in the game, also hit 7-of-14 from long distance, including 4-of-6 aim from Darius Miller. Miles knocked down a second half trey for the Cardinals who finished just 2-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Miles was the only other Cardinal to score in double-figures, finishing with 11 points. The 6-foot-1 senior was just 2-of-10 from the floor, however, but did hit all six of his free throw attempts.
Tre Lynch came off the LU bench to score eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, and Osas Ebomwonyi added a team-high eight rebounds and four of Lamar's five blocked shots.
All five UK starters scored in double-figures, led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 18 points. Freshman sensation Anthony Davis notched a double-double for the Cats, finishing with 10 points, 13 rebounds and six of UK's 10 blocked shots.