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Kentucky opens Gillispie era with romp of Central Arkansas

Lexington, KY (Sports Network) - Joe Crawford scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting as No. 20 Kentucky opened the Billy Gillispie era by upending Central Arkansas, 67-40, in the opening round of the Lexington region in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

Gillispie, who spent the past three seasons coaching at Texas A&M, inherited a Wildcats (1-0) team that finished 22-12 under Tubby Smith last season, including 9-7 in the SEC. The Wildcats also beat Villanova in the NCAA Tournament before succumbing to Kansas in the second round.

"It's always fun to win," said Gillispie. "We've got a long way to go, obviously, but winning is a lot better than losing. We're just making too many mental mistakes. Even though it's only our third contest, we shouldn't be making those kinds of mistakes. We have to have more effort and we have to have more thoughtful play."

Mark Coury added 13 points for Kentucky, which moves on to face Gardner-Webb on Wednesday. The Runnin' Bulldogs downed Alabama A&M earlier Tuesday.

Ramel Bradley chipped in with 10 points for Kentucky.

Durrell Nevels finished with 10 points and three blocks for the overmatched Bears (0-1), who shot a miserable 20 percent from the floor and will now face Alabama A&M in a consolation matchup. Marcus Pillow added nine points but shot just 3-of-17 from the field and had seven turnovers.

"Well, we struggled a little bit," said Central Arkansas head coach Rand Chappell. "Occasionally we got some good looks. When you get a good look, you need to knock it down. We just didn't make enough baskets to stay in the game."

Kentucky dominated from the opening tip. The Wildcats scored the first eight points in the game highlighted by three Coury buckets.

Kentucky slowly started to pull away from there. Perry Stevenson's dunk with 2:52 left in the half gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead, 27-16. Then, a pair of free throws by Crawford with under a minute to go staked Kentucky to its largest lead of the half, 34-20.

The Bears never really threatened to get back in things during the final frame. Coury's lay-in, with 11:38 in the game, put Kentucky on top by 20, 51-31.

Kerry Benson's three-pointer with under four minutes left extended the Wildcats advantage to a more than comfortable 64-37.

Kentucky cruised to the finish line from there, giving Gillispie his first win as head coach.

Game Notes

This is just the second year for Central Arkansas as a Division I team...The game was the first-ever meeting between Kentucky and Central Arkansas on the hardwood....The Bears were just 3-of-22 from long range.

11/07 01:27:47 ET