DAILY DISH: What we learned from Kentucky’s 79-65 win over Providence

Julius Randle and the 'Cats were too much for PC to handle inside. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin III)

Julius Randle and the ‘Cats were too much for PC to handle inside. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin III)

Editor’s Note: Sunday was a banner day for, as intrepid reporter Kels Dayton made his first trek to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to sit on the floor, inadvertently be on TV all night, and ask John Calipari and Ed Cooley annoying questions after the Providence-Kentucky game. Here’s what we learned from the BK:

Kentucky manhandled Providence on the interior en route to its 79-65 win. Not that it was much of a surprise. The Wildcats’ size and athleticism down low was simply too much for PC to handle, and the Friars struggled to get anything going against the quick, long Kentucky defense.

Freshman stud Julius Randle put up 12 points and grabbed 8 bounds, but an amazing near triple-double from sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein (15 points, 9 blocks, 8 rebounds) was the difference for the Wildcats.

Watching Kentucky from my courtside seat (ohhh–humble brag), it was easy to see why this team is regarded as a national championship contender despite their entire rotation not being old enough to know who Mr. Feeney is. (Scary, I know).

The ‘Cats big men are gifted offensively, crazy-athletic, and a load to handle in the paint.

Kentucky shot 64% from the field (27-of-42) and absolutely shut down the Friars on the other end, holding Providence to a paltry 31% (19-61). Big man Kadeem Batts struggled against the quartet of Randle, Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson, shooting an awful 3-for-14. Tyler Harris (4-for-13) and Bryce Cotton (7-for-21) weren’t much better.

PC coach Ed Cooley said it wasn’t as much the skill of the UK bigs that hurt the Friars. It was just their size.

“They’ve got a lot of length out there,” Cooley said. “It doesn’t take a lot of skill if you’re seven feet to go and get a ball. Me and you wouldn’t know that though,” he said.

And when he said “me and you,” he was talking to me. Did I mention I was courtside at the Barclays Center?

Cooley also dropped the bomb that PC fans were desperately hoping they wouldn’t have to hear. The coach said he doesn’t expect sophomore point guard and program-changing recruit Kris Dunn to return to action any time soon.

“Dunn is in a lot of pain. He is really, really hurt right now, and I don’t expect him back any time soon,” Cooley said.

The injury to Dunn forced senior Bryce Cotton to play the point, though Cooley said that spot isn’t unfamiliar to him. He did admit that not having Dunn was a huge factor. “We feel we built a team, but unfortunately not having Dunn tonight really hurt us.”

Asked whether or not this version of the Friars is still good enough to make a run in the Big East, Cooley replied: “We’ll see. I can only coach the guys I have on my bus. If there are only five guys, that’s who we’re going to go with.”

On the Kentucky side, things were a lot more cheery.

John Calipari said Willie Cauley-Stein is playing “harder, longer,” and that’s the biggest difference in his game this year. Though Kentucky didn’t dominate the glass like they had done earlier in the season, Cal was blunt about the reason why.

“We made all the shots,” he said. “There weren’t a whole lot of misses. There weren’t a whole lot of chances to get offensive rebounds.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of the postgame presser was when¬†Coach Cal said he’s never coached a team as inexperienced this one. Sure, his recent Kentucky teams have been freshman-dominated, especially that 2012 National Championship bunch led by Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilcrhist, but Cal said that at least that team had sophomore Terrence Jones and senior Darius Miller.

With this group, Calipari said he’s going back to “eighth grade” stuff. He’s making them do wall sits because, “I couldn’t get these guys to sit down in a defensive position for more than five minutes.” He also said they’re holding their hands behind their backs and doing defensive slides, and that it is an “a-ha” moment for some of his players.

“It’s like, ‘no one’s ever taught you this before?” Calipari said. “I’m sure anyone in this room who has played basketball remembers doing those types of things. But that’s who we are right now,” he said.

“We’re doing eighth grade stuff because that’s where we are right now.”

Two other quick notes: Cal said that he told his players that they have to work harder and do more than they’ve ever done before to have success at the college level.

“Everything you’ve done to get to this point, to get to Kentucky, you have to put that away now,” Calipari said. “Because there are guys who are just as big as you, just as quick as you, and just as skilled as you are. So you have to do more to get to where you’re trying to go.”

“It’s the same with me,” he said. “I didn’t get this job by playing all freshman, but I have to change things now that I’m here.”

Coach Cal said it was a learning process for him and that the players understand that they have a chance to be “really special if we get this right.”

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