LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — It was an easy night for Kentucky.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats (6-1) pushed their winning streak to six games with a 90-44 win over Monmouth Wednesday night, ending the opening month of the season on a high note after dropping a 118-84 loss to No. 3 Duke in the Champions Classic on Nov. 6 in Indianapolis.
“The energy was unbelievable and we just rode the guys that had energy,” Calipari said. “We are zeroed in right now defensively on what we have to do. Now we made some mistakes but effort and energy we scrambled, we didn’t stop as much … this is the best we played. And it’s because of what we did defensively.”
Kentucky guard Tyler Herro agreed with Calipari. Herro was one of the team’s top energetic performers and collected eight rebounds and five steals.
“We did a much better job (on defense), just communicating and talking,” he said.
Herro paced four Kentucky players in double figures with 16 points, two shy of his career high. Keldon Johnson had 15, followed by Quade Green with 14 and Reid Travis with 13.
Herro paced the Wildcats with 12 points in the first half, including eight in an 11-0 run that put the game away early in the first half. Herro made two 3-pointers and had a steal and an easy layup during the brief scoring spree. Herro collected four of Kentucky’s five steals in the opening half.
Kentucky knocked down a season-high 10 3-pointers, led by Green, who knocked down a career-high four shots from long range. Green and Herro combined for six treys, while six Kentucky players each connected on a shot from long range.
“This is the best three-point shooting team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Calipari said. “We need to take between 18 and 24 threes. I don’t — any time my teams historically have shot 30 threes, we don’t ever win. We just don’t. I don’t know why, the way I coach, the way the system is, the way we do this. But when you have a team like this they should shoot 18 to 24 threes. They really should.”
PJ Washington, Kentucky’s third-leading scorer (13.3 points per game) fouled out with 5:22 remaining and finished with eight points. Washington has scored just 14 points in the last two games after scoring 53 in a three-game stretch, including a career-high 25 in a win over North Dakota. Washington pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
NO MORE RICE
Monmouth coach King Rice, now in his eighth season with the Hawks, went 2-0 against Kentucky while he was a point guard at the University of North Carolina, but fell to 0-2 coaching against the Wildcats. Rice scored 22 points and dished out a career-high 13 assists in a 121-110 win in 1989 and tallied 14 in an 84-81 win a year later at Chapel Hill.
“Unfortunately it got a little rough out there for us tonight,” Rice said. “You feel bad for the kids a few minutes about that, but I think this is what college basketball is all about. You have to grow and our team needs to grow and sometimes you take lumps and it’s a lesson and you have to get (back up) anyway.”
Another former North Carolina standout — J.R. Reid — is in his first season as an assistant coach under Rice.
Kentucky defeated Monmouth 93-76 a year ago at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Kentucky’s Nick Richards and Monmouth guard Marcus McClary were high school teammates at the Patrick School in New Jersey. Richards finished with six points for the Wildcats, while McClary scored four for the Hawks.
Gametracker: North Carolina Greensboro at Kentucky, 1 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN2, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.