LEXINGTON – Top-ranked Kentucky was less-than-impressive in its season debut at No. 1. Still, the Wildcats remained undefeated.
Freshman center Skal Labissiere scored 16 points to lead Kentucky past Boston University 82-62 on Tuesday night, one day after the Wildcats took over the top spot in The Associated Press poll.
Kentucky (5-0) struggled to put away the feisty Terriers early but outscored them 42-29 in the second half and took over down the stretch.
“I thought we defended really well the second half,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “We did a much better job the second half kind of guarding and wearing them down.”
Labissiere finished 7 of 13 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds.
“I missed a lot of easy shots,” he said. “We have been working on going against a zone (defense) a lot. I was more comfortable, but I just missed some shots.”
Labissiere provided a big boost for Kentucky, which scored 58 points in the paint against the Terriers’ zone.
“He really hurt us,” Boston University coach Joe Jones said. “Just his length – he reminds me of Sam Perkins. He has a very soft touch and is a very skilled player. He’s hard to guard. I really like him as a player and think his upside is phenomenal at the next level.”
Tyler Ulis added 15 points for Kentucky, and Alex Poythress had 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for his second straight double-double.
“He was a beast like we need him to be,” Labissiere said. “That’s what he can do.”
Jamal Murray scored 12 points and Isaiah Briscoe had 11. Kentucky, which spent all of last season ranked No. 1, closed with a 22-9 run.
Calipari was pleased with Labissiere’s performance, but wants to see the talented freshman keep improving as the season progresses.
“Skal did some good stuff,” Calipari said. “He is coming but he still has things he has to do.”
Labissiere understands what Calipari expects and doesn’t mind the extra nudge from his coach.
“He is always on me and pushing me,” Labissiere said. “I appreciate that from him. It shows how much confidence he has in me. I just have to listen. And the game is finally starting to slow down for me.”
Boston University (2-3) got 15 points from John Papale. Nathan Dieudonne and Kyle Foreman scored 11 apiece.
The Wildcats raced out to a 10-0 lead 3 minutes into the game, but Boston University settled down after making its first basket and kept the score close in the first half by hitting five shots from long range.
The Terriers led 34-33 with 2 minutes remaining in the first half, but the Wildcats scored the last six points of the period to regain the lead.
Labissiere paced the Wildcats with 11 points in the first half, followed by Murray with 10.
Kentucky: The Wildcats improved to 216-28 as the top-ranked team in the country and have won 61 of their last 64 games while holding the top spot. … Under Calipari, Kentucky is 63-5 as the top-ranked team in the AP poll.
Boston University: The Terriers fell to 0-5 against Kentucky. … Boston University missed its first four shots and didn’t score its first basket until the 16:55 mark of the first half. … Dieudonne, a graduate of Louisville Trinity, was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 2012.
Kentucky plays Friday against South Florida at the Hoophall Miami Invitational.
Boston University plays Saturday at Binghamton.