LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach John Calipari reached a milestone when the Wildcats played their best game of the season.
Kevin Knox scored a career-high 25 points to lead No. 8 Kentucky to a 107-73 victory over the University of Illinois-Chicago on Sunday night to conclude play in the Adolph Rupp Classic.
The win gave Calipari his 700th career victory, three years after he notched his 600th. He is the 39th coach to reach the milestone. This squad, his ninth at Kentucky (6-1), starts an all-freshman cast and struggled in wins over Utah Valley State and Vermont before finally putting together a complete effort against the Flames.
“I feel we are getting better,” Calipari said. “We’re trending the right way and now we have to sustain it. … This was the closest to a 40-minute basketball game (we have played) this year.”
Knox led seven Kentucky players in double figures in one of the team’s best offensive showings of the season. Hamidou Diallo had a career-best 19 points, PJ Washington added 17 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 14.
Knox got most of his scoring in the post and missed just four attempts, all from long range. Knox said improving his inside game has been a point of emphasis in practice during the Thanksgiving break.
“That’s something we worked in practice prior to this game,” he said. “They really couldn’t guard us in the post and that’s something we took advantage of.”
More than a month into his first season with the Wildcats, Knox is getting more adjusted to the team’s offensive scheme.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable with my teammates and we’re all kind of clicking,” he said. “This was one of our best games of the season and we all just clicked. We were all making shots and played together as a team and we’re starting to figure everyone out.”
The Wildcats scored a season-high 52 points in the first half, paced by Knox’s 15. Diallo added 11, including a thunderous one-handed slam dunk. Gilgeous-Alexander came off the bench for 10 points.
Knox, Gilgeous-Alexander and Diallo combined for 14 of Kentucky’s 20 field goals in the first half.
“We played as good (as we’ve played this year),” Calipari said. “That’s the best we’ve played.
“We were efficient, we passed the ball, we made shots. We took one bad shot. Kevin Knox took one in the first half. Short of that, I don’t think we took a bad shot.”
Godwin Boahen led the Flames (2-3) with 17 points, followed by Tai Odiase with 15. Dikembe Dixon had 14 and Dominique Matthews contributed 12.
UIC: The Flames fell to 3-6 against Southeastern Conference opponents. UIC owns wins over Texas A&M (2001), Mississippi (2005) and Vanderbilt (2008). Flames guard Dominique Matthews is the younger brother of former Kentucky guard Charles Matthews, a sophomore at the University of Michigan. UIC collected six blocks against the Wildcats, including three by Tai Odiase.
Kentucky: Knox, Diallo, Richards and Washington have started all seven games this season. Richards had 25 points and 15 rebounds in an 86-67 victory over Fort Wayne on Thursday. Quade Green, Diallo, Richards, Knox and Washington started against the Flames.
UIC: The Flames conclude play in the four-game Adolph Rupp Classic at Troy on Wednesday before taking on rival Loyola of Chicago Saturday, the last of three straight road games for UIC.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have a six-day break before taking on Harvard on Saturday. It will be the Wildcats’ longest break of the season. After opening the season with seven games since Nov. 10, Kentucky plays six games during a four-week span in December.
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