Published November 16, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The early moments were as close as Lafayette could get against No. 3 Kentucky on Friday night.
The Leopards lost leading scorer Dan Trist to an ankle injury during their morning shootaround, leaving him watching their 101-49 blowout loss from the bench wearing a boot and needing crutches.
The 6-foot-9 Australian entered the game averaging 23 points and had poured in a career-high 30 against LIU-Brooklyn on Monday. Lafayette could have used him, though it wouldn't have made much of a difference against a Wildcats team that shot 65 percent and forced 28 turnovers.
"You need a post presence," Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon said. "You need somebody you can throw it in (the post) to. Dan Trist has been scoring the ball very well for us. I'm not sure he's going to be getting 20 points against Kentucky, but he gives us an inside presence and then he makes our outside (shooting) a little bit better.
"We are a much better team with Dan Trist. We're not Kentucky good, but we are much better."
Without Trist the Leopards were severely handcuffed in their first game against a ranked opponent since losing 86-41 to then-No. 6 Villanova on Nov. 20, 2010. Kentucky used a 24-2 spurt to take a 51-31 halftime lead before outscoring Lafayette 50-18 in the second half.
The Leopards shot just 40 percent and their only double-digit scorer was Tony Johnson with 13 points.
Kyle Wiltjer hit seven 3-pointers for Kentucky (2-1) and scored 23 points. Alex Poythress added 22 points and five rebounds to lead a good night for Kentucky's heralded freshmen class — Nerlens Noel added 15 points, Willie Cauley-Stein 14 and Archie Goodwin 13.
The Wildcats came out hot, hitting their first five shots and six of seven overall. Wiltjer started it with consecutive 3-pointers, Julius Mays (10 assists) added one of his own and Kentucky was on its way to its best first half this season.
The Wildcats ended up hitting their first five 3-point attempts and six of eight to highlight a 20-of-31 shooting (65 percent) effort in the first half.
Despite playing without their top scorer, the Leopards were unfazed by height and talent disadvantages and stayed close — albeit briefly. Levi Giese and Joey Ptasinski both sank 3-pointers, Alan Flannigan got an inside basket and Tony Johnson another off a Noel goaltending call.
That made it 15-10 but it was all Kentucky after that. A 7-2 spurt was followed by 15 unanswered points over a 3:34 span for a 37-12 lead. Lafayette rarely got closer than 20.
"I don't really know what to say, obviously the roof kind of caved in on us," O'Hanlon said. "I thought we did some good things in the first half. There were some loose balls we didn't come up with but I didn't think it should be a 20-point game at half. This is a team you're not coming back against and then I started playing some younger guys and they went on a huge run.
"Hopefully we can learn from this and move on."
With their tallest player being 6-foot-10 Ben Freeland, there was little the Leopards were going to do against the Wildcats' inside duo of 6-10 Noel and 7-foot Cauley-Stein to begin with. And other than a couple of sloppy stretches by Kentucky, Lafayette struggled to keep up athletically.
Losing the 6-9 Trist made things even tougher.
"Lafayette didn't have its best player and it might have been a different game," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "I was anxious to see him play against us because he can score. He's really smart."