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LEXINGTON, Ky. – James Young couldn't wait to apply those tweaks to his jump shot, and the first one he made against UT Arlington told him it could be a good night.
The Kentucky freshman made sure of that early and often.
Young scored 26 points, including five 3-pointers, which helped No. 4 Kentucky put away the Mavericks 105-76 on Tuesday night.
The Wildcats' 6-foot-6 swingman made his first three from long range to jump-start an 8-of-14 shooting night and provide Kentucky's third different top scorer in three games. The career-best effort followed a meeting with coach John Calipari, video review and practice to change his mechanics from the fadeaway motion Young was developing back to squaring up.
"I felt like I was back to my normal way of shooting, and I was getting more comfortable with shooting it," Young said.
"We have a lot people who score, so if it's somebody's night we just try to give him the ball as much as we can. I guess tonight was my night."
Young's hot shooting rubbed off on his talented fellow freshmen teammates. Julius Randle added 22 points with 10 rebounds, Andrew Harrison scored 15 and Marcus Lee 10 as Kentucky started an all-rookie lineup for the second consecutive game.
Willie Cauley-Stein added 14 points and 10 rebounds as Kentucky (4-1) shot 35 of 69 (51 percent) to win its inaugural matchup against UTA (2-3). The Wildcats also earned their second consecutive win since losing to Michigan State a week ago as the top-ranked team.
Brandon Edwards' 24 points led the Mavericks, who were outrebounded 46-34 including 29-13 in the second half.
Leading just 42-33 at halftime, Kentucky's 13-5 run over 3:24 provided breathing room from UTA and the Wildcats steadily pulled away from there for their first 100-point game since beating LIU Brooklyn 104-75 last Nov. 23.
Reger Dowell added 20 points for the Mavericks, who shot 26 of 63 (41percent).
"The first half, I thought we did a great job to be able to outrebound them, it was definitely a positive for us," UTA coach Scott Cross said. "Of course, Kentucky responded well in the second half and absolutely mashed us on the boards."
Calipari used his first-year players for longer stretches this time and the combinations were effective in wearing down the fast and stubborn Mavericks. While standing around certainly was out of the question against a UTA squad that always seemed a couple of 3-pointers away from mounting a run, Kentucky quickly seized the tempo right after the break and sustained that energy from then on.
The Wildcats ended up with 18 assists and 28 second-chance points after tallying just nine in the first half.
"My whole thing was an energy level where you had Edwards just going and smashing the boards and just taking the ball out of our hands," Calipari said. "Well, you just can't have that. In the second half, I thought we played with some emotion."
Kentucky came in feeling pretty good after drubbing Robert Morris on Sunday night, where Aaron Harrison grabbed the spotlight away from Julius Randle with a career-high 28 points. His point total also marked a season best for the Wildcats and their crop of talented freshmen.
Though everything remains a work in progress, the Wildcats took a step forward in that game with good perimeter shooting while dominating the Colonials in rebounding and in the post — all of which pleased Calipari.
Kentucky followed that up against the high-scoring Mavericks, who had a two-game winning streak stopped Friday by Cleveland State but was averaging nearly 89 points per game thanks to 34 percent 3-point shooting.
Despite falling behind 19-8 behind Young's 13 points including 3-of-3 shooting from long range, UTA wasn't fazed by the deficit or Kentucky's numerous advantages in size and talent. The Mavericks managed a couple of baskets inside but stormed back into the contest with their strong perimeter game.
UTA was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the first half thanks to Brandon Edwards, who sank a couple and scored 10 points during a 20-9 run over 6:24 to bring the Mavericks 28-25 late in the half. Kentucky answered with a 12-0 over 3:25 for its biggest lead at 40-25 but UTA closed the half with an 8-2 spurt to enter the break down just 42-33 and pleased with its rebounding edge.
After that it was all Kentucky thanks to some chiding from Calipari to pick up the intensity.
"He gets on everybody about it," Andrew Harrison said. "If he's saying it, he's not just saying it just to say it. It's true, and you're going to see it on film the next day, so you better not argue with him."