LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Skal Labissiere scored 26 points, Isaiah Briscoe had a double-double and No. 2 Kentucky ran away from NJIT 87-57 on Saturday for its second win in as many nights.
Seeking a strong tuneup with Tuesday night’s showdown looming against defending national champion and fifth-ranked Duke, the Wildcats (2-0) succeeded behind a dominant effort by their 6-foot-11 freshman. Labissiere made 10 of 12 from the field and all six free throws to nearly triple his scoring from the previous night against Albany.
After missing the opener with a bruised knee, Isaiah Briscoe, another freshman, debuted with a team-high 12 rebounds along with 11 points. Derek Willis added 11 points and Marcus Lee had 10 as Kentucky won the first meeting between the schools.
NJIT (0-1) led twice early before being overwhelmed by the taller Wildcats, who dominated the boards 54-23 and held the Highlanders to 31 percent shooting.
Damon Lynn scored 19 points, Ky Howard added 13 and Tim Coleman had 10 for the Highlanders.
Much like Albany the night before, NJIT was unfazed by Kentucky’s size and aura as it ran its Princeton offense to perfection early while building its only leads. Lynn had the hot hand from outside with three 3-pointers, while his teammates executed the back-door cuts and motion that the scheme is known for.
The Highlanders’ hustle provided the very threat Kentucky coach John Calipari expected from the team that upset Michigan last season, but the Wildcats eventually adjusted on both ends. After allowing NJIT to make eight of its first 10 shots, Kentucky limited the Highlanders to 3 of 17 shooting the rest of the half and one free throw over the final 3:16 for a 36-28 lead.
Kentucky’s defense continued limiting NJIT’s chances in the second half, holding the Highlanders to 6-of-28 shooting.
Going to Labissiere under the basket helped offensively as the freshman frequently exploited his size. Labissiere made all seven shots along with four free throws to double his opening-game output in just one half.
NJIT had no answer for Labissiere, who continued finding shots after Friday’s nine-point debut. Add in Kentucky’s domination of the boards and Briscoe’s performance on both end, and the Wildcats survived back-to-back games with the dominating effort they sought.
NJIT: The Highlanders led 16-10 and 21-15 behind 8-of-10 shooting, but finished 9 of 45 after that. They made 5 of 19 from 3-point range.
Kentucky: After scoring a team-high 19 points in the opener, freshman guard Jamal Murray cooled off to shoot 3 of 13 for eight points including 1 of 10 from long range.
NJIT: Visits South Florida on Monday night.
Kentucky: Faces No. 5 Duke on Tuesday night at Champions Classic in Chicago.