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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 81, St. John's 59

By Jason King


LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky improved to 7-0 by defeating St. John's 81-59 on Thursday at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Here are some quick thoughts from the game.

How it happened: Defense and intimidation. Kentucky entered the contest averaging 10 blocks per contest. The Wildcats had that many in the first half. Five of them came from Anthony Davis, who swatted 8 for the game. As a team, Kentucky finished with 18. The Wildcats' length clearly rattled the the Red Storm, who missed numerous point-blank layups and failed to draw iron on many of their outside shots. Still, St. John's kept it close early on by taking as much time off the shot clock as possible on each offensive possession. The style kept UK from getting into a rhythm, but John Calipari's squad still managed to pull away in the second half. Kentucky's defense held St. John's to 31.7-percent shooting.

Star of the game: Terrence Jones had 26 points, but Davis was the most impressive player on the court. The freshman showed once again why many scouts believe he'll be the No. 1 player selected in the 2012 NBA draft. Along with his 8 blocks, the 6-foot-10 Chicago native scored 15 points and snared 15 rebounds. He could've easily had a triple-double if Calipari left him in a little longer. It should be noted that Davis' gaudy stat line came against a grossly undersized St. John's team that had little chance of stopping Davis down low. Still, his length, athleticism and motor are impossible to ignore. On one play he blocked a lay-up attempt by Nurideen Lindsey, sprinted down the court and slammed down an alley-oop pass from Marquis Teague.

Other notes: Calipari's father, Vincent, attended Thursday's game and sat behind the Kentucky bench. ... Former Wildcats standouts Brandon Knight and Tayshaun Prince were also in the stands. ... Kentucky's public address announcer asked fans to show their support for St. John's coach Steve Lavin, who is recovering from prostate cancer surgery and missed the game. The Rupp Arena crowd responded with a loud round of applause. ... Assistant Mike Dunlap coached St. John's in Lavin's absence.

What it means: Not a whole lot. Six of the top seven players for St. John's were either freshmen (four) or junior-college transfers (two) playing in their first true road game. Rupp Arena isn't exactly the most welcoming venue. Toss in Kentucky's glaring size advantage, and the Red Storm were doomed from the start. Still, Calipari had to be pleased with the intensity his players showed on the defensive end -- and not just in the paint. Lindsey and D'Angelo Harrison are solid players, yet they could do absolutely nothing on the perimeter thanks to the efforts of guards Doron Lamb, Teague and Darius Miller. Lindsey and Harrison entered the game averaging a collective 28.7 points; they combined for just 6 on Thursday.

What's next: There won't be a nonconference game all season as anticipated as Saturday's showdown between the Wildcats and fifth-ranked North Carolina. In Tyler Zeller, John Henson and James McAdoo, the Tar Heels have the size and depth to match up with Kentucky down low. The guard matchup should be a good one as well. Carolina certainly has the advantage when it comes to experience, but Roy Williams' squad hasn't looked all that sharp lately. The Tar Heels lost to UNLV on Saturday before squeaking by Wisconsin on Wednesday in Chapel Hill. Expect a fun, fast-paced affair that could end up being a preview of the 2012 NCAA title game.