LEXINGTON —The next one counts.
Kentucky wrapped up its three-game exhibition schedule with a 106-63 victory over Centre College Friday night. The fifth-ranked Wildcats open against Utah Valley State Friday, the first of three games in a five-game span to open the season.
Overall, the Wildcats reached the century mark in two of the three exhibition victories against three instate opponents. Despite the three blowouts, Kentucky coach John Calipari said the Wildcats aren’t in top-notch form.
“We just have so far to go,” Calipari said. “I didn’t think we passed the ball to each other in the first half. Everybody was trying to get their (points) a little bit and it just looked bad. We just got a lot of work to do to be able to feel a comfort level on the court.”
In the lopsided win over the Colonels, veteran Wenyan Gabriel led the Kentucky with 20 points and nine rebounds, followed by Quade Green with 18 points. Nick Richards came off the bench and tallied 17 points, while Kevin Knox had 15 points and P.J. Washington added 10. Knox completed a double-double with 11 rebounds and led the Wildcats in scoring with 19.3 points per game in the three exhibition victories.
Gabriel’s performance was his best outing of the preseason. In three exhibition games, Gabriel averaged 8.3 rebounds per game.
“Confidence played a role in this game,” Gabriel said. “The shots were there today and I was ready for the shots and I took them. I was just trying to bring energy to the team.”
Kentucky scored the first five points and led from start to finish against the undersized Colonels and closed out the first half with a big run to put the guests away. Centre trailed 28-22 at the eight-minute mark of the first half, but the Wildcats went on a 24-2 run the rest of the half and led 52-24 at the break.
The Wildcats were outrebounded 30-25 in a 92-67 exhibition win over Morehead State earlier this week, but Kentucky dominated the glass and held a commanding 52-17 edge over the Colonels.
Rebounding was a point of emphasis for the Wildcats following the win over the Eagles. Sacha Killeya-Jones collected nine rebounds off the bench.
“That was the emphasis in practice,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel made all five of his field goals in the first half and led the Wildcats with 13 points. P.J. Washington followed with 10.
Calipari started Green and Gilgeous-Alexander for the first time in three preseason games. The two freshmen are vying for the point-guard slot. Green made three of the team’s eight 3-pointers and dished out five assists, while Gilgeous-Alexander scored eight points.
Kentucky scored 56 points in the paint added 28 second-chance points.
Washington and Knox started all three exhibition games for Kentucky, an early indication the two freshmen are locked into two of five starting positions.
Calipari used three different starting combinations in wins over Thomas More, Morehead State and Centre.
Gabriel joined Green, Alexander, Washington and Knox in the starting lineup Friday night.
The Colonels were a common opponent for the Wildcats during the pre-modern era and the two teams played 46 times from 1906-29. Centre handed Kentucky its most lopsided loss in program history, an 87-17 setback on Jan. 28, 1910.
“Who was coaching that team?” Calipari said.
The two teams haven’t played since the 1949 campaign.
“What a night for Centre College basketball and Centre College,” Centre coach Greg Mason said. “This was an awesome night for Centre basketball and for our guys.”