No. 3 Kentucky beats Hartford 104-61 behind WallDec 30, 2009 - 3:40 AM By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky.(AP) -- Between the highlight reel dunks, table jumping hustle plays and freakish speed in the open court, it can be easy to forget Kentucky's John Wall is a point guard.
The freshman sensation provided a record-breaking reminder on Tuesday night against Hartford.
Wall dished out a school-record 16 assists as the third-ranked Wildcats crushed the Hawks 104-61, a virtuoso performance that even left coach John Calipari a little stunned.
"He is a pleaser," Calipari said. "He will defer to his team."
And Wall's coach will defer to his players. When told Wall needed two assists to break the mark of 15 set by Travis Ford 16 years ago, Calipari sent Wall back into the game and kept running set plays until the record was his.
"I normally don't do it," Calipari said. "I did it because it is a game he could have tried to have 30 points but he chose not to and pass to his teammates."
There were plenty of good looks available. The Wildcats (14-0) shot 60 percent and made 14 3-points shots while posting their highest point total of the season.
It was an outburst keyed by Wall. While he's still a novice when it comes to Kentucky basketball history - he said he didn't know whose record he broke when asked after the game - Wall knows his role to is make sure everybody gets involved.
"I just tried to make the easy play," said Wall, who added nine points and four rebounds.
There were more than enough to go around for Kentucky, which matched the 14-0 start by the 1977-78 team by burying the overmatched Hawks early.
Darnell Dodson scored a season-high 19 points for Kentucky while DeMarcus Cousins posted his third straight double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds as the Wildcats took advantage of Wall's generosity.
"It was easy basketball all night," Cousins said. "I knew (the assist record) was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. I'm happy for John and I know the team is happy for him."
Joe Zeglinski led Hartford with 19 points and Milton Burton added 18, but the Hawks simply couldn't keep up with Wall while playing their first game in 18 days.
"I thought we got their `A' game and I think a lot of teams would have lost to Kentucky tonight," Hartford coach Dan Leibovitz said. "Kentucky is one of the best teams I've seen in all my years of coaching in terms of talent."
The Wildcats cruised even without guard Eric Bledsoe, who is nursing an injured left ankle. He is expected to be available on Saturday when Kentucky plays archrival Louisville.
The Wildcats hardly needed him against the Hawks.
Kentucky scored the game's first eight points and needed less than 4 minutes to build a double-digit lead.
Hartford managed to hang around briefly before Kentucky hit the gas pedal with a dizzying 18-2 run that featured plenty of highlight-ready plays.
Cousins started the run with a dunk off an alley-oop from Wall. Dodson followed with a 3-pointer and after Cousins hit two free throws things really got out of hand. Kentucky's next four field goals all came on dunks, three of them on alley-oops.
The most spectacular came courtesy of Wall, who took a feed from Ramon Harris, plucked the ball out of midair and twisted his body for a reverse dunk that brought the sellout crowd to his feet.
"I try that in practice all the time," Wall said. "It's just a little something I'm working on."
Kentucky roared to the half up 57-31 and the only drama over the final 20 minutes was Wall's pursuit of the assist record.
He didn't disappoint. Wall tied the record on a pass to Josh Harrellson then broke it when he found Perry Stevenson alone at the top of the key with 4:45 remaining.
"I told him to shoot it," Wall said. "He said 'What?' and I just told him to shoot it."
The crowd erupted as Stevenson's jumper splashed through the net. Wall received a standing ovation as he made his way to the bench at the next timeout while the student section chanted his name.
Calipari said the Wildcats wouldn't get caught looking ahead to their showdown with the Cardinals, and Kentucky looked focused throughout following a somewhat lethargic effort in a win over Long Beach State last week.
Wall led the way. He hit the court several times in the game's opening minutes and even jumped over two rows of chairs before landing on top of a table in front of the band in pursuit of a loose ball. The table broke after Wall jumped off, perhaps the only real mistake he made all night.
The Wildcats outscored Hartford in the paint 46-16, outrebounded the Hawks 41-24 and held a 12-0 edge in fastbreak points.
Though Wall has dominated at times this season, he hasn't been perfect. He entered the game averaging 6.8 assists per game, tops in the Southeastern Conference and second in the nation. But he also was averaging 4.3 turnovers.
The miscues disappeared against the Hawks. Wall gave it away just once and even that was debatable. Wall said he was trying to get control of a rebound when it was knocked loose.
"I think it should have been 16 and 0 (turnovers) but I'll take it," he said.
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
HARTFORD 31 30 61
KENTUCKY (3) 57 47 104 FINAL
HIGH SCORERS: HARTFORD - JOE ZEGLINSKI 19, MILTON BURTON 18,
MORGAN SABIA 16
KENTUCKY - DEMARCUS COUSINS 19, DARNELL DODSON 19,
DARIUS MILLER 16
Dec 29 8:46 PM
- NCAA BB
KENTUCKY (3) 57 HALFTIME
Dec 29 7:50 PM
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