Gary B. Graves
James Young was among many Kentucky players painfully aware they had to do better after letting one get away against Baylor last week.
The freshman guard's improved shooting against Boise State on Tuesday night played a big role in helping the 11th-ranked Wildcats snap back from that frustrating loss.
Young scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half and Kentucky used solid defense to hand Boise State its first loss, 70-55.
"I got some extra shots before practice," said Young, whose 7-of-15 shooting included all four of Kentucky's 3-pointers. "I got here before a couple of guys and got more shots up, and I think that's what really helped."
The Wildcats (8-2) ended up making 27 of 51 from the field (53 percent) and outscored the Broncos 44-24 in the paint, a statistic also indicative of their defensive improvement.
There certainly was room for it after Kentucky was outrebounded by 16 in losing 67-62 to No. 14 Baylor last Friday in Arlington, Texas.
The Wildcats bounced back by dominating the Broncos (8-1) 43-27 on the glass.
Kentucky held the nation's No. 2 offense 37 points below its average, limiting Boise State to 8-of-35 shooting in the second half and 22 of 69 overall (32 percent).
"We had pressure on the ball," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We picked up. We're trying to figure things out as a team, how we have to play. I wish we had played that way (before), with that kind of pressure on the ball."
Kentucky 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein matched his career high with nine blocks while adding seven rebounds and six points in 25 minutes.
Julius Randle had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, while guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison each scored 13 points and combined for seven rebounds.
Add in more switching than usual by the longer, taller Wildcats, and the result was an effort that helped deny Boise State its first 9-0 start.
Anthony Drmic scored 18 points and Derrick Marks had 14 as the Broncos made just five 3-pointers after averaging 8.2 per game coming in.
"I knew coming in here we would have to play an A-plus game, a perfect game," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "We have to play the right way against them, and we slid away from that a little bit. ... We have to beat them with our ball movement and player movement. We got away from that just enough that we couldn't score."
Miffed at being beaten on the glass for the first time this season and wilting in the final 13 minutes against Baylor, the Wildcats got back on track by displaying more aggression and energy, just what they needed with another test looming on Saturday at No. 18 North Carolina.
Cauley-Stein was up to the challenge from the start, blocking five shots in the first half while debuting a new blonde hairdo. Calipari joked that with hair reminiscent of Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, he had to come out and play with similar aggression.
The sophomore did that, but said his motivation to dye his hair had more to do with boredom than anything.
"You got to ball, and that's what he said today," Cauley-Stein joked.
Kentucky played hard throughout but began to take control late in the first half of an up-tempo game. That was necessary considering all of the offensive threats the Broncos of the Mountain West Conference posed.
Boise State returned its entire starting lineup from last year's NCAA tournament squad and entered with four of them averaging in double figures. The Broncos led 14-13 and stayed within reach of Kentucky before the Wildcats answered with improved intensity that helped them control the boards and the inside.
Young's 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc en route to 17 points in the first half provided a necessary boost offensively as Kentucky made 17 of 31 from the field (55 percent) in leading 41-31 at halftime.
Kentucky eventually widened it to 19 points with 8 1/2 minutes remaining as Boise State missed 19 of 23 shots, some of which were altered by Cauley-Stein and Randle.