Kentucky (1-0) opened the second half with an 18-0 run to gain enough momentum to carry the Wildcats through the remainder of the opening half. However, fans expected Tuesday nights date with Kansas to be the Wildcats first test, not the season opener vs. Utah Valley.
"They will be an execution team", Calipari said.
"I told them after (Utah Valley), losing stinks", he said. Winning is fun. Even if you played bad, you better enjoy winning.
2014 - National championship game was the last time prior to Friday night that the Cats started five freshmen. Despite being outrebounded 39-38, the young Wildcats battled in the second half.
Point guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green, shooting guards Diallo and Jemarl Baker and wing Kevin Knox are now with the program, with Baker now sidelined with a knee injury.
"We're playing the second game against a NCAA Tournament-level team". "We came out in the second half fired up and put them away".
PJ Washington five, Quade Green four, and Sacha Killeya-Jones four points round out the scoring for Kentucky.
1st - Meeting between Kentucky and Utah Valley in men's basketball. "It certainly was - I thought - the difference in the game".
"I'll play as much as I have to to win a game", Calipari said. That's who I am, that's what I adapted to, and that's what I'm going to be the rest of the season. But we are what we are right now and we won a game.
Kentucky's second-half performance was a stark contrast to the opening half. All told, half of Vermont's six losses last season were to teams that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 - Purdue, Butler and Final Four qualifier SC. It feels much better.
Kentucky was stone cold in the first half and ended the half missing their final 15 shot attempts.
The run was capped by yet another steal by Knox leading to a layup by Gilgeous-Alexander and a jumper by Gabriel to make it 43-37. "So what he wanted me to be is just me".
Utah Valley (0-1) was led by Kenneth Ogbe with 12 points and Jake Toolson with 11. Gilgeous-Alexander and Knox each added four steals.
Freshman Hamidou Diallo also had a strong second half and played an important role in the Wildcats comeback, including a nasty left-handed windmill dunk that brought the Rupp Arena crowd to its feet.
Nick Richards paced the Wildcats in the first half with 8 points, as he was the only Wildcat that could buy a bucket early.
"I've always respected him". "... What he's doing in the WAC they're moving up, moving up, moving up, and that's what you try to do when you take over a program".
"Let's embrace it and know it's going to be hard to win these games", he said.
Wenyen Gabriel provided a spark off the bench for Kentucky with his hustle plays and rebounding.
It was a sloppy game though, the two teams combining for 33 turnovers, 23 missed three-pointers and 13 missed free throws.