LEXINGTON, Kentucky — As top-ranked Kentucky figures out how to start games as effectively as it finished off Providence, the Wildcats can take heart in getting everybody involved.
Coach John Calipari had special praise for 5-foot-9 freshman guard Tyler Ulis, one of six Wildcats with six points in Sunday's 58-38 rout of Providence. Ulis' stat line included three rebounds and three steals, all of which helped turn things from a grind-it-out game into another runaway.
"Rarely do you see a guy walk in and just change the game. Like, change the whole flow of it," said Calipari, mentioning Ulis in the same sentence as fellow Chicago natives Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis, both former standouts under the coach. "He did that today."
Ulis, who wasn't available for interviews, contributed to an 18-7 run that helped Kentucky (7-0) pull away in second half and featured many contributors.
Post players Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns each had 11 points and six rebounds for the Wildcats, who shot 45 percent from the field.
Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Alex Poythress and center Dakari Johnson added six points each for Kentucky.
One second-half sequence in particular stood out as Ulis grabbed offensive rebounds seconds apart and made a jumper for a 39-29 lead with 9:26 left in the game. Ulis later assisted on Poythress' layup for a 44-29 lead that forced Providence to call timeout.
That play capped a run after Kentucky's 26-22 halftime lead was cut to 26-25 on Carson Desrosiers' 3-pointer early in the second. The Friars started just 2 of 12 from the field in the half en route to just 4 of 24 shooting (17 percent) and 11 of 39 overall (28 percent).
"I thought the biggest key today was Ulis," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "I thought he was very destructive with his ball pressure. We couldn't get into an offensive flow and a lot of that had to do with their length."
Desrosiers and Tyler Harris each had 10 points for the Friars (6-1), whose zone and athleticism built several small first-half leads and kept them close.
But Providence missed its final five first-half shots and was cold in the second. LaDontae Henton, the team's leading scorer coming in, was 1 of 8 from the field and finished with just three points.
Kentucky has passed the first in a series of tough non-conference tests in a month. That continues Friday against seventh-ranked Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Providence gave away a lot in length and depth to the Wildcats but gave no ground in the first half in forcing tweaks to the platoons.
Kentucky forced 18 turnovers overall for 21 points and outrebounded Providence 33-29, but it took some doing.
"It mainly helps with experience," Cauley-Stein said. "We are not going to bury everyone when it comes to tournament time. Anytime the game starts to get tough, we need to know who to have in the game. It also helps us see what matchups work and what lineups work best together down the stretch. These types of games are perfect for that."
ANY MINUTE NOW
Both schools went through a second round of warmups after introductions when the tipoff was delayed five minutes to allow for the end of ESPN2's broadcast between No. 24 Connecticut and Texas, which won 55-54 on Jonathan Holmes buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
BACK IN THE GAME
Kris Dunn and Jalen Lindsey returned to action for the Friars after missing the previous game against Yale with ankle injuries. Dunn finished with six points and six rebounds.
Providence: The Friars fell to 2-12 against the No. 1 team. Their last win over the top-ranked squad came against Pittsburgh on Feb. 24, 2009.
Kentucky: After entering the game having made 12 of his last 17 3-point attempts during three games, guard Devin Booker made 1 of 2 attempts for a total of five points. ... Kentucky made 12 steals.
Providence: Visits Boston College on Friday.
Kentucky: Hosts Texas on Friday in SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
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