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November 6, 2007
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Joe Crawford scored 20 points and No. 20 Kentucky began the Billy Gillispie era with a 67-40 victory over Central Arkansas on Tuesday night in the opening round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.
The Wildcats (1-0) advanced to the second round Wednesday night against Gardner-Webb, which defeated Alabama A&M 69-55.
Crawford, a senior guard who started for Gillispie's predecessor Tubby Smith, was among the last players on the team to see action Tuesday, not appearing until 13 minutes in.
He was promptly whistled for palming but then started taking over the offense, going 7-of-11 from the field - including two dunks.
Sophomore forward Mark Coury cracked Gillispie's first starting lineup and needed less than 90 seconds to match his career high of four points as Kentucky got off to an 8-0 lead. Coury used a combination of jumpers and layups to account for 10 of Kentucky's first 12 points.
Coury finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bears missed their first nine shots, including five from 3-point range, and didn't score until junior center Landrell Brewer hit two free throws more than five minutes in.
Central Arkansas's shooting fortunes didn't improve much as Kentucky held the Bears to 20 percent shooting, including only 12 points in the paint compared to 38 for the Wildcats.
Kentucky led 34-20 at halftime despite shooting just 40 percent. The Wildcats picked up the pace in the second half with 56 percent.
It was a relatively quiet debut for freshman forward Patrick Patterson, a blue chip recruit from West Virginia who averaged 19 points in Kentucky's two exhibition games. Patterson started but had as many fouls (four) as points.
More impressive Wednesday was the other highly touted freshman, guard Alex Legion, who had six points and showed off his skills on one play with a steal that set up his fastbreak layup.
Durrell Nevels led Central Arkansas (0-1) with 10 points.
Gillispie, criticized by some fans after the team's first exhibition game for wearing a gray suit and yellow tie but no Kentucky blue, was more appropriately attired this time. He wore a dark blue shirt, with a bluish gray tie, underneath his charcoal suit.
The new coach, who led Texas A&M to last year's round of 16 before replacing Smith at Division I's all-time winningest program, was hardly an idle spectator in his debut. He knelt from the corner of the bench and often paced up to the edge of the coaching box to shout commands to his players.
After point guard Ramel Bradley was called for a technical foul early in the second half to give him four personals in the game, Gillispie spent nearly an entire timeout screaming at the referee. The fans, slow to notice the coach's tirade, roared approval when they finally did.
Gillispie also made substitutions on virtually every dead ball, often bringing in players for just one offensive or defensive play.
The winner of the four-team Lexington regional of the tournament benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer advances to the semifinals on Oct. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York. No. 3 Memphis, Oklahoma and Connecticut are hosting regionals.