By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky did just what it should have Wednesday night — it beat a winless team in easy fashion.
Freshman Tyler Herro led four Cats in double figures as UK (6-1) rolled 90-44 over winless Monmouth. Herro was 6-for-10 from the field, including 2-for-5 from 3-point range, and 4-for-5 at the foul line. He also had eight rebounds, four steals and one assist in 28 minutes.
Kentucky limited Monmouth to 2-for-16 shooting from 3-point range, a significant accomplishment for a team that has ranked among the nation’s worst in 3-point percentage defense.
Freshman Keldon Johnson had 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with three rebounds and two assists — he did have a team-high four turnovers.
Johnson felt UK’s defense, a point of emphasis for coach John Calipari, earned a B against Monmouth.
‘We are steadily improving, but finishing up the full 40 minutes and talking (needs work). If we get the defense, the offense will come,” Johnson said.
Calipari said he had been frustrated watching other top teams play on TV and play harder than what his team was. That made him decide to decide playing time on energy and effort. Sophomore Nick Richards did not play the first 15 minutes and finished with just nine minutes.
“Did you see us scramble and get to things,” Calipari said.
Kentucky was 10-for-24 from 3-point range after Herro and Quade Green both had two early to stake Kentucky to a safe lead. Green finished with 14 points and was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Reid Travis, P.J. Washington, Johnson and Ashton Hagans, who had not made a 3 this season, also made 3-pointers.
Calipari has insisted this could be his best 3-point shooting team at Kentucky.
“We need to take 18 to 24 3’s a game, but not 30. That’s too many,” the UK coach said. “Any time my teams historically have shot 30 threes, we don’t ever win. We just don’t. I don’t know why, the way I coach, the way the system is, the way we do this.
“The second one is, any time my teams scored 84 points, we never lost in 30 years. We did this year. You score 84 points and you lose? How about you lose by 30, no, no, 40, could have been 50. So again, what our teams usually are, we’re getting closer, but now we got to play better competition he every time we play. This next game (against UNC-Greensboro) is tougher, the game after that is tougher on the road, the next game at home is tough, the next game is really tough.
“And the next game is going to be ridiculously hard (at Louisville). And then guess what? We start in our league that’s my guess right now if there’s a stronger league in the country we’re one or two when you talk top to bottom our league.”
Kentucky’s two inside bullies — Travis and Washington — had so-so games. Travis had 13 points and six rebounds while Washington had eight points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Washington played just 19 minutes while Travis played 27.
Green and Hagans both had three assists for Kentucky while Johnson and Quickley had two. UK did get 28 points off 16 Monmouth turnovers.
“We just have to play defense and play together. We know there will be tough times but have each other’s back and stay ready.
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Redshirt sophomore guard Jemarl Baker once again failed to get in the game. He’s yet to play this season after being held out last year with a knee injury.
“Every day I look at the sheet and it says he’s out. He’s telling me his knee is feeling better, so at some point I’m going to look at that sheet and it’ll say ‘full (participation),’” Calipari said.