LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Tyrese Maxey had a breakout performance in Kentucky’s season-opener and it took five games for the freshman guard to duplicate the outing against Michigan State.
Maxey scored 21 points — five shy of his career high — and the Wildcats made a season-high 10 3-pointers in an 81-56 victory over Lamar on Sunday night.
The freshman guard made a career-high four 3-pointers, surpassing three he made in the Wildcats’ opening victory over Michigan State.
Since that time, Maxey, who scored 26 points in the the opener against the Spartans in the Champions Classic, has been building his own confidence, especially behind the scenes.
“I’m confident in myself,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to make the next (shot) no matter if I miss. I’ve put in too much work to have that same kind of thought process after a miss. Every time I shoot, I think it’s going in.”
Ashton Hagans added 15 points for Kentucky (5-1). Immanuel Quickley had 11, and Nick Richards added 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks. Davion Buster led Lamar (4-2) with 19 points.
Kentucky opened and closed the first half in impressive fashion. The Wildcats raced to a 15-0 lead and closed with a 22-2 run. The scoring spree came after the Cardinals tied it 19 with 8:52 remaining.
“We played better today,” Calipari said. “(We did) a lot of good stuff today. A lot of good stuff. Of the teams we've played, other than Michigan State, this team was as good as any of them, if not better than most of them or all of them. We played better.”
Maxey sparked the decisive spree with four 3-pointers and led the Wildcats with 12 points in the half. Lamar managed just one field goal in the final 8 minutes. Calipari said Maxey’s treys “stretched the game out.”
“Like, those baskets (were) like bang, bang, bang,” Calipari said. “He knows, if it's in transition, he can take it. Like, if we throw it ahead and he's open in transition, don't drive it, just shoot that ball.”
Avery Sullivan added 11 for the Cardinals, and followed with 11 and T.J. Atwood added 10.
Lamar coach Tic Price coached at Memphis for two seasons from 1997-99 and was replaced by Calipari. Price went 30-27 in two seasons, while Calipari compiled a 214-68 record in his nine-year tenure with the Tigers.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have struggled from the 3-point line this season and had made just 19 in the first five games, including seven in the past two contests. Kentucky surpassed that mark with seven 3-pointers in the first half against the Cardinals. Kentucky made it hard for Lamar in the paint and had 13 blocks, with Richards and EJ Montgomery combining for 10 of those.
“I liked the fact that we blocked shots today,” Calipari said. “And I told the guys, how are we not blocking shots? We should be one of those teams in our league.”
Lamar: The Cardinals are in the midst of four straight road games, including three in a seven-day span. Lamar returns home on Dec. 7 and will take on Rice, before closing the calendar year with three road games. Lamar fell to 0-4 overall against the Wildcats. The Cardinals shot just 33% from the field and made just 21 of 64 field goals.
Kentucky has racked up three straight victories, including two straight blowouts, since a 67-64 loss to Evansville on Nov. 12. The Wildcats figure to remain No. 9.
Lamar: At UAB on Tuesday night.
Kentucky: Hosts UAB on Friday night.