But then, Obinna Oleka threw the ball away, Sam Cunliffe missed a layup, and Tra Holder committed an unforced turnover, all before two and a half minutes had elapsed.
Those mistakes allowed Kentucky to jump out to a 12-5 lead in the Atlantis Showcase (held in Nassau, Bahamas) and the Wildcats never looked back, cruising to a 115-69 victory over an overwhelmed Arizona State team. The loss dropped the Sun Devils’ record to 4-3 to close the opening month of the season.
Leading 17-10 with a little under 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Kentucky went on a 12-2 run to open up a 17-point advantage against Bobby Hurley’s team. That lead was extended to 58-30 at the halftime break, extinguishing for good any hope that might have been left on the Arizona State sideline.
The second half looked more like an open practice or a fan fest for both teams as alley-oops and highlight-reel slam dunks were more common than any fundamental basketball moves.
The Wildcats opened the final stanza on a 12-0 binge to take a 70-30 lead, and things didn’t get much better from then on. The game came to a merciful end with a 115-69 scoreline.
Cunliffe was the lone bright spot in this one as the freshman wing poured in 14 points and grabbed four rebounds. He finished the contest with a trio of three-pointers, including one to start the game that gave the Sun Devils their only lead of the night at 3-2.
Every Kentucky starter finished the game scoring in double figures, as did senior forward Derek Willis, who came off the bench on Monday. Malik Monk finished as the game’s leading scorer with 23 points.
The top-ranked Wildcats improved to 7-0 with the victory.
The Maroon and Gold now return home, where they will face UNLV on Saturday night in Tempe. Tipoff is set for 6:00 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.