But they did so largely without preseason All-America forward Terrence Jones, who dislocated a finger on his left hand in the first half, according to coach John Calipari.
Jones, who averaged 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game prior to Saturday, appeared to get hurt with 16:49 left in the first half. A trainer immediately took him off the bench to be examined. Jones re-entered the game four more times but never stayed on the floor longer than 2 1/2 minutes at a time.
He finished with no points and one rebound in 10 minutes.
Calipari said he didn’t know how Jones’ injury would affect his status for the team’s next game Tuesday against Samford. Kentucky sports information director DeWayne Peevy said Jones is day-to-day.
The Wildcats (9-1) didn’t have time to worry about missing Jones. By the time he got hurt, Kentucky was ahead 10-0, and the lead never dipped into single digits.
Still, Calipari said he wasn’t thrilled with his squad’s performance.
“We just have a long way to go,” Calipari said. “What do we have to do to get guys to understand, let’s just be a vicious team? Let’s go out and fight, and we’re just not doing that right now. That game got rough again, and we had some guys that just ran for the hills. You can’t.”
Tennessee-Chattanooga (3-8) sent constant double-teams toward Kentucky’s post players in an effort to force the Wildcats to score from outside. The Mocs prevented Kentucky from abusing its size advantage; Jones had two field goal attempts from inside the 3-point line and freshman center Anthony Davis took only seven attempts from offensive sets.
But Kentucky responded with a season-high 12 3-pointers on 33 attempts. Seventeen of those attempts were in the second half. Doron Lamb led Kentucky with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Mocs coach John Shulman said of his defensive strategy. “What was our choice? Our choice was that or—do what? We really didn’t have a choice. I thought our double-teams in the post were really effective if we could get down there quick enough. I mean, they didn’t want any part of our doubles in the first half. They made a nice adjustment and spaced it a little better in the second half.”
Without Jones, Davis dominated the low post on both ends of the floor. He finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks and had a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) by halftime.
Calipari lauded Davis’ fourth career double-double in 10 games, but he also said he doesn’t expect the freshman to anchor the paint by himself.
“I hope not, because (Jones) is one of the guys we are counting on,” Calipari said. “I think he’ll be fine. We’ll see. Will he be able to play Tuesday? I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
The Wildcats opened with 13 unanswered points in their first game since a 73-72 defeat at Indiana last Saturday knocked them from the nation’s top ranking. The Mocs never came within single digits after that, and Kentucky cruised to its 40th consecutive victory at home.
Lamb, who finished 4 of 9 from behind the 3-point line, was one of five Wildcats in double figures.
Zlovaric Drazen finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Trailing 20-9, the Mocs were held scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes as Kentucky put the game out of reach.