LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—DeMarcus Cousins scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead No. 5 Kentucky to an easy 94-57 win over UNC-Asheville on Monday night.
John Wall added 12 points and a school freshman-record 14 assists, while Patrick Patterson had 17 points and nine boards as the Wildcats (7-0) cruised during their annual appearance at Freedom Hall.
Sean Smith led UNC-Asheville (0-6) with 19 points, but the Bulldogs were hardly more than bystanders for most of the night against the bigger, deeper Wildcats.
Kentucky had little trouble getting out on the break, where Wall dazzled with a series of alley-oop passes to his teammates while adding a couple of highlight-reel dunks himself.
During a dizzying 29-6 burst midway through the second half the Wildcats converted five straight dunks—all on alley-oop passes from Wall.
Even better for the Wildcats heading into a showdown with No. 10 North Carolina on Saturday may have been their crisp ball-handling.
Kentucky came in averaging 18.6 turnovers a game, a number coach John Calipari attributed to his team’s inexperience as it learns his “dribble-drive” offense. The Wildcats gave it away just eight times against the Bulldogs while handing out 28 assists on 36 field goals.
It’s the kind of unselfish play Calipari has been preaching since the season began, though it came against the overmatched Bulldogs, who lost to No. 11 Tennessee by 75 points two weeks ago.
Kentucky didn’t come close to matching the Volunteers point for point, but showed plenty of flashes of potential.
Following a series of early season scares—including an overtime escape against Stanford in the Cancun Challenge finals last week—Kentucky played with the kind of dominance Calipari said would come as soon as his young squad started figuring things out.
The Wildcats certainly looked like they “got it” when Wall was on the floor. He looked for his teammates early and only tried to shoot when the opportunity was too good to pass up.
He kept feeding Cousins in the second half in an effort to help the freshman center shake off a somewhat lackluster performance in Mexico. Cousins had his way with the Bulldogs in the lane as Kentucky used its size to outrebound UNC-Asheville 44-31. The Wildcats found plenty of easy looks to go around and connected on 52 percent of their shots.
The Bulldogs at least got off to a better start than they did against Tennessee, when they made just two field goals in the first half while falling behind the Volunteers by 52 at the break.
UNC-Asheville had two baskets by the first media timeout, though the Bulldogs were never really in danger of making it a game.
Wall did his best to provide a little entertainment for what figures to be his only game at Freedom Hall during his collegiate career.
He threw down a wicked reverse dunk on a break and followed it up moments later with another slam after a steal. UNC-Asheville’s J.P. Primm didn’t even bother chasing Wall down the court, trotting once Wall got behind him as the Kentucky star swooped in for the jam.
Wall wasn’t perfect, however, botching an alley-oop pass from Miller, one of the few miscues on a night when the Wildcats hardly worked up a significant sweat while matching their best start since 2004.