An all-around team effort pushed No. 10 Kentucky past North Florida 86-52 on Friday night in Rupp Arena.
The 34-point victory improves UK’s record to 5-1 in the regular season, the Wildcats have won five straight following their season-opening loss to Duke in Madison Square Garden.
Five Wildcats finished in double-figures on Friday, led by 14 points from both TyTy Washington Jr. and Dontaie Allen.
The two guards both hit two 3-pointers and combined for 11 makes against the Ospreys.
Allen, the sophomore guard, also recorded seven rebounds while playing a season-high 19 minutes.
“Dontaie, I told him, you can miss shots, if you fight, I'll leave you in,” UK head coach John Calipari said.
Despite scoring just two points and going 0-4 from the floor in the first half, Allen’s hustle earned him his second half playing time, where he did most of his damage.
“[Allen] missed shots, but he fought, and when we came in at halftime, the guys said, ‘that’s the way to fight Dontaie,” Calipari said.
Allen went on to shoot 5-8 in the second half, while UK as a team shot 53 percent from the field in the half.
“[Kentucky] doesn’t have a lot of shooters, but you have the right guys getting shots,” North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll said. “If you’re [Allen]...you got the greatest job in America, all you have to do is stand there and wait for the ball to find you.”
The main reason for the ball finding the hands of Allen and company on Friday was Sahvir Wheeler.
Wheeler, who came into the game leading the nation in assists, extended that lead against the Ospreys by dishing out 14 dimes while only turning the ball over on three occasions.
For the Georgia transfer, all Wheeler is focused on is finding his teammates and making the best decisions as the floor general:
“Building that trust, that comradery, when we get on the court, it’s comfortable,” Wheeler said. “It’s only going to continue to get better.”
Kentucky welcomed both Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware back on Friday. Both players have been out since the season-opener against Duke due to injury.
In Toppin and Ware’s limited return, the forward duo compiled a total of seven points, three rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.
UK was not back to full strength, however, as Davion Mintz missed his second straight game due to illness. Keion Brooks Jr. Would be unavailable as well, also reportedly due to illness.
When asked if he was worried about a sickness running through the UK locker room, Calipari was blunt:
“I am. My son was sick, three managers were sick. I wish I could make them take flu shots,” Calipari said.
Another player who made an impact in his limited minutes was Bryce Hopkins.
The freshman nailed two 3-pointers and two rebounds in eight minutes on the court against UNF. Despite being towards the back of the rotation, Calipari knows how vital Hopkins is to his squad and UK’s success:
“We need [Hopkins,] no question we need him...glad to see him make some baskets and defend the way he did,” Calipari said.
While UK was able to spread the love amongst the team on the stat sheet, they also denied UNF’s top scorer of having a big night.
Carter Hendricksen came into Friday’s game averaging 13.8 points a contest for the Ospreys. Hendricksen, a Mount Sterling, Kentucky native, played high school basketball for Lexington Christian Academy.
Despite the homecoming, Hendricksen was held to just eight points on 3-14 shooting, including 2-10 from deep.
Six games into the season, UK is averaging 83 points per game, while allowing just 61. While the Cats are shooting at an almost 50 percent clip through November and are dominating teams in every metric in the box score, it’s evident with coach Calipari that there is much to do as December approaches.
“We got a long way to go,” Calipari said. “I’m trying to figure out, how are we going to play late in the game? What are we trying to get done? When it’s winning time, what do we do?”
Another quick turnaround awaits UK, as they will return to Rupp Arena for game six of a seven-game home stand, this time against the Central Michigan Chippewas on Monday, Nov. 29. The game is set to tip at 7 p.m. E.T.