A Thanksgiving Week restart to the college basketball season was the perfect setting for the Kentucky Wildcats, as 10 different players made their debut in blue and white in a 81-45 win over Morehead State, the first game of the 2020 Bluegrass Showcase at Rupp Arena.
Four freshman – Devin Askew, BJ Boston, Terrence Clarke and Isaiah Jackson got their first college start along with Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr – as the No. 10-ranked Wildcats used its length on the defensive end to smother an overmatched Morehead State team that struggled offensively.
Freshman Lance Ware, Cam’Ron Fletcher and transfers Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin also saw quality minutes with former Kentucky Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen making his long awaited appearance in a Wildcat uniform, entering the game at the 4:53 mark. Allen, who missed all of last season due to injury, scored his first points on a three pointer with 3:34 left in the first half. Sophomore Keion Brooks, Kentucky’s lone returner from last season, missed the opener due to a calf injury.
The Wildcats jumped out to a quick 15-4 lead on a Mintz three pointer and extended the lead to 24-11 on an Askew three with 7:45 left in the half. Boston completed a traditional three-point play on a lay-up and free throw to extend the lead to 28-11 as Kentucky took a 45-26 lead into the locker room at the half.
After playing the first half without a shot attempt or rebound, Sarr came to life in the second half, scoring his first points on a lob dunk from Mintz and then hitting a pair of jumpers to finish 4-of-6 from the field for eight points.
Boston led four players in double figures with 15 points. Clarke and Askew finished with 12 each, while Mintz added 10. The Wildcats shot 57 percent from the field and had 18 assists.
While there are plenty of candidates for the MVP in the season opener, Clarke gets the nod for his ability to get to the rim and make things happen. With a quick first step, Clarke showed good judgement in driving to the basket and seems to have a natural ability to score the ball, showing a solid pull up jumper. He played all but 54 seconds in the opening half and also was impressive playing the point guard spot when needed.
As expected, Boston was also a scoring threat and Mintz, Askew and Allen all showed the ability to hit the three and extend the defense. The biggest surprise may have been Fletcher, who finished with nine points, including a three pointer.
Kentucky, 1-0, is back in action on Sunday afternoon against Richmond at 1 pm ET on ESPN.