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Kentucky Basketball: Takeaways from exhibition opener vs Clarion

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Wenyen Gabriel got the start and made the most of it.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky Media Day Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats opened the exhibition season in style with a 108-51 win over Clarion.

UK dominated from the jump and were impressive in nearly every facet of the game. As a team, UK shot 61 percent and was led in scoring by Malik Monk with 15. UK had 51 rebounds, 29 assists and forced 26 turnovers.

Here is a look at out takeaways from the Cats’ big win:

Gabriel got the surprise start. Wenyen Gabriel started the game, along with Bam Adebayo, Derek Willis, Isaiah Briscoe, and De’Aaron Fox, giving the Wildcats a taller, longer lineup than some anticipated. There was speculation that freshman guard Malik Monk might start in Gabriel’s place, which would have given Kentucky a three-guard look.

The Cats did go with Fox, Briscoe, and Monk at the same time, making for “one of the most athletic backcourts in the nation,” according to Clarion Head Coach Marcess Williams. Williams also said “my favorite is Gabriel. I love that kid. He may be the best of them all.”

The 6’9” freshman from Manchester, New Hampshire, got a quick layup to start the game and also showed his versatility by hitting a long two early on and then a three pointer to start the second half. He finished up with nine points and a pair of rebounds.

Derek Willis becoming complete offensive machine. The senior showed some offensive moves we haven’t seen a ton of in the past. His spin-move into a layup with just a few ticks left in the first half was impressive to say the least.

And while we’ve seen Willis dunk before, he was throwing down lobs in the second half with authority. He hit a three earlier in the game, but it’s clear that his offense has really developed in the off season.

Lobs on lobs on lobs. Willis wasn’t the only one getting in on the lobs tonight. Briscoe had a pair of impressive lobs on back-to-back possessions; the first to De’Aaron Fox and the second off the backboard to Sacha Killeya-Jones that really brought the crowd to their feet in Rupp.

Add in another from Gabriel to Malik Monk toward the game’s end and there was plenty of material for the highlight reels. Malik Monk also has some serious hang time. The freshman guard had a couple of different takes where he penetrated and easily got to the hoop, seemingly floating in air while changing hands with the ball and finishing smoothly. His ceiling is extremely high.

Briscoe serves up a double double. The sophomore had a double double with 11 assists and 11 points. 10 of those points came in the second half. Lob after lob, the 11 assists would have been a personal high if tonight’s contest had been an official game and not an exhibition. He made a major impact on this game without looking to force the offense. He was completely fine with going with the flow of the game and letting others shine.

Bam is a grown man. He’s so big, so long, so athletic. He also had a double double, with 13 rebounds and 14 points. Several of his points were dunks, and a couple on put backs. He was clearly a man among boys whenever any of the Clarion defenders attempted to get in his way. He will undoubtedly be one of the most valuable players on this squad throughout the season and he showed why tonight.

Brad Calipari is going to shoot. Whenever Brad gets in, expect the three-balls to fly. He nailed two three pointers late in the game, one which banked in after drawing a foul. The crowd absolutely erupted each time. He shot two other threes that missed, all in the span of about 90 seconds.