- Tuesday, December 29 2009 -
Hartford - 61 (Head Coach: Dan Leibovitz) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 104 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 3rd by AP and 3rd by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 57, Hartford 31
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|Long Beach State 86 - 73|||||Louisville 71 - 62|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Wall sets assists record in blowout
Perry Stevenson isn't likely to reach legend status by the end of his career but he will be forever entrenched in Kentucky basketball lore as the answer to a trivia question from this day forward.
The senior forward buried a free throw line jumper to give freshman sensation John Wall a school-record 16th assist in single game during the Cats' 104-61 dismantling of Hartford in front of 24,340 witnesses in Rupp Arena. Wall, who earlier this season had 14 assists, eclipsed the previous mark of 15 set by Travis Ford on Dec. 8, 1993 against Eastern Kentucky.
The record was part of a banner night for the Cats, who warmed up for their monumental showdown with hated rival Louisville by dispatching the overmatched Hawks. The Cats had 30 assists on the night, none more memorable than Wall's easy pitch to Stevenson for the record-setter.
"It means a lot because there is a lot of history at this school," Wall said of the record. "It feels great. My teammates did a great job of making shots and I did a good job of dealing them the ball right on time. This is not a record I could have gotten by myself so I have to thank my teammates for making shots."
Wall, who now has 98 assists in just 13 games, added nine points and helped set up a UK attack that featured seven alley-oop dunks in the first half alone against the diminutive Hawks. By the time he registered his 14th dime on Darius Miller's three-pointer from the wing in transition everyone in the building seemed to realize it could be a historic night. After lifting Wall for about three minutes, UK coach John Calipari sent him back into the game with strict instructions.
"In the end, I normally don't do it but they told me he needed two more for the record so I stuck him back in and ran everything I could to get him to pass it, get the two and get him out of the game," Calipari said. "I did it because it was a game where he could get 30 but he wanted to pass to his teammates. That's why I did it."
Wall's brilliant arsenal was on full display without him having to make himself the center of attention. The first assist came just 101 seconds into the game when he found Patrick Patterson near the rim for what turned out to be an old-fashioned three-point play. The final set-up for Stevenson sent the UK bench into jubilation with 4:40 remaining in the game. In between Wall logged six assists in the span of five minutes late in the first half, intermixed with a rim-rocking reverse alley-oop dunk of his own.
Perhaps more impressive than the sheer volume of assists was the way the freshman doled them out. The record involved eight teammates on the receiving end of a pass, included six lob passes and five three-pointers and accounted for 38 of the Cats' points.
"He had 16 assists and I don't know of anyone else who could have done that," sophomore forward Darius Miller said. "He played great, got everybody involved and made the whole team better. If you look at most of our shots they were wide open because everyone runs at John, so it makes everything easier."
When asked whether he knew who owned the previous record Wall acknowledged he hadn't looked at the record books but smiled when told it was Ford. In a slight twist of fate, the former UK fan favorite recruited Wall when he took the head coaching job at Oklahoma State. While Ford hasn't seen Wall up close this season you can count another opposing coach among the Wall admirers.
"Like everyone else I'm very impressed with John Wall, not just his ability, which speaks for itself, but I like the way he carries himself," Hartford coach Dan Leibovitz said. "He seems to be a good teammate, he seems to be respectful of the referees, respectful of the game and I think he has a bright future here and beyond. It all starts with him. In terms of ability he's one of the best talents I've seen."
Now the record books say so as well.
John Wall (#11) dunks
Daniel Orton blocks the shot of Milton Burton (#1)
Darius Miller (#1) drives