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Run & Gun in the Sun: Cats Win Maui Opener

Like I was saying, "Defense will be the ...", uh.

OK, so like I was saying, "Offense will be the Cats' calling card this week in a run to the Maui Invitational title.

Well, something like that.

In what was actually a fun game to watch, Kentucky ran and shot (and made) and passed and ran some more in a thrilling 87-81 win over Depaul.

That looks nice, doesn't it? 87 points against a major conference opponent? Been a while, it seems.

To put that number into perspective, last year's Cats scored as many as 87 points exactly one time ... in the Blue-White scrimmage against itself.

This one looked like a laugher for the first 8 minutes. A roaring start in front of the loud, pro-UK crowd in Hawaii had Big Blue Nation thinking blowout, but Depaul -- deep with athletic forwards on the roster -- found a full-court game and showed just how mild these Cats' defense can be.

It took man-sized efforts from Ramel Bradley (16 points, 5-of-11 FG), Randolph Morris (20 points, 9 boards) and Joe Crawford (13 points all in 2nd half, 5 assists) to keep the Cats from folding. Luckily, the juniors kept up the pace, answering the call after the Blue Demons took a brief lead in the second half.

It's hysterical to see a cadre of Kentucky fans -- many of whom have whined and pleaded for six years or more about the pace of Tubby Smith's offense -- complaining that the Cats allowed Depaul to shoot 53%. It just proves that there really are some in the UK fanbase who really can never be pleased.

Bradley doesn't work the floor like a traditional point man, and that freaks some people out. To me, so long as the team is scoring and the turnovers are under control, then I could give a rip who runs what. The fact is, Bradley is as ballsy and attack-minded as Rajon Rondo was timid and "controlled." And this team, and the fans, need that.

Morris, whose chance to show his game I wrote at length about over the weekend, was a bit of a mixed bag. He got his chances, and converted more than a few. His newfound attention to rebounding could prove the difference between wins and losses all year if he keeps it up. His interior defense, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired.

My best (and first) guess is that Morris is so expecting to get fouls called, and he's so aware of what that means to his time on the floor and his team's success that he just lets guys score rather than get called for a stupid foul. That's logical.

But there were multiple occasions where Morris basically did nothing and Crawford's man -- the NBA prospect Sammy Mejia -- was more or less free to roam after beating Joe on the dribble.

But nit-picking is for offdays, and in this tournament, there are none!

A few other notables ...

  • The second unit, comprised mostly of the freshmen and Woo, looked strong in the first half after the first team gave up a big Depaul scoring run. Playing time diminished greatly in the second 20 minutes, however.
  • Frosh Perry Stevenson struggled with Depaul's beefy front line (two guys listed at 290-ish pounds) and played sparingly after the first 12 minutes or so. Still, he had 3 rebounds and a dunk.
  • Woo had 8 points, including a jumper AND a three-point play. Seriously, that all actually happened.
NEXT UP: Kentucky faces UCLA at 9:30 pm ET Tuesday on ESPN2.