St. John's can't stop Davis, No. 1 Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky.—Nurideen Lindsey summed up how hard it is to shoot over Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis.
"It's like shooting over a tower," the St. John's guard said. "He was blocking shots all over the place. It was tough."
The 6-foot-10 Davis scored 15 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had eight of a school-record 18 blocks in No. 1 Kentucky's 81-59 victory over St. John's on Thursday night.
"We were able to get into the paint at times, but he took care of the mistakes that happened on the perimeter," Red Storm assistant coach Mike Dunlap said. "I call those guys catchers, and he's a tremendous catcher."
Terrence Jones added 26 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (7-0), who head into a highly anticipated showdown with No. 5 North Carolina on Saturday on a high note after a stalwart defensive performance.
"The disappointing part for us were the turnovers -- 19," Dunlap said. "When you go on the road you have to take better care of the ball."
Davis blocked four shots before the first timeout, and Kentucky set the team record with Eloy Vargas' swat with 2:42 to go. Davis finished one block short of tying the individual mark of nine set by Sam Bowie in 1981 and matched by Andre Riddick in 1993.
God'sgift Achiuwa scored 18 points and Moe Harkless added 16 for the Red Storm (4-4) in St. John's first appearance in Rupp Arena since the 1985 Final Four when it lost to then-No. 1 Georgetown.
"`Gift did a good job when we were able to feed the post and go against (Davis), I thought that `Gift fared fairly well," Dunlap said.
St. John's was without coach Steve Lavin, who is recovering from prostate cancer surgery and has missed the Red Storm's last three games. Dunlap, who won two NCAA titles with Division II Metro State, paced up and down in the white tennis shoes Lavin and his staff wear.
His team played well early, relying on Achiuwa and Harkless on both ends and each had 10 rebounds, but they couldn't overcome the mistakes.
Kentucky didn't make any changes to its starting lineup with senior sixth man Darius Miller entering less than 3 minutes in as the Wildcats got off to a sluggish start. Harkless gave St. John's a 2-0 lead, the biggest deficit that Kentucky had faced at Rupp Arena this season.
The Wildcats committed five early turnovers and started 2 of 11 from the field to trail 5-4 before a 12-0 run with Davis heavily involved on both ends of the floor.
Davis pestered St. John's in the paint, used his quick hands to poke the ball away on the perimeter and simply jumped over the Red Storm for rebounds on both ends of the floor. The Red Storm also made mistakes in bunches, with 11 turnovers in the first half and eight more in the second.
Kentucky kept extending its lead by holding St. John's to 32 percent shooting, and the fans got a few final thrills when Doron Lamb threw an 18-foot alley-oop that Miller slammed with one hand that made it 74-49 with 3:49 left. Vargas tied, then broke the school record for blocks in a 48-second span to surpass the mark set against Morehead State on Nov. 20, 1997.
"We were fighting. We were right with them in the first half," guard D'Angelo Harrison said. "We had 19 turnovers, so that isn't going to win you games in the Big East -- or anywhere else you play."