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November 2, 2011

Gilchrist comes off bench but plays like starter

The Kidd stays in the lineup.

That was the word from Kentucky coach John Calipari on Wednesday after his Wildcats dispatched Transylvania 97-53 in their exhibition opener at Rupp Arena.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gave the Cats a boost with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot in 25 minutes off the bench.

To hear Calipari tell it, Kidd-Gilchrist shouldn't get accustomed to a sixth-man role.

"I would say, looking at today, he's a starter, because you have to have him start the game," Calipari said. "Can't start the game like we did today. That's what I would say. I'll watch the tape and watch the game, but I think he solidified one (starting) spot with great intensity and fire, which is what we were looking for."

They didn't find it at the start.

Transylvania walked from its nearby campus, but the Division III Pioneers came out of the gate sprinting. Transy jumped out to an 11-4 lead. And when the Cats ran off a 13-0 run to take a 17-11 run, the Pioneers answered with back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 17-17.

"I was loving it," Calipari said. "It's a teaching tool."

Kidd-Gilchrist appeared to learn from the bench. He brought immediate energy in the first half, and though he picked up two early fouls, Calipari let him play again before halftime.

And Kidd-Gilchrist started the second half in place of Darius Miller, who started the game along with point guard Marquis Teague, shooting guard Doron Lamb and forward Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis.

Jones had 22 points and 12 rebounds, leading UK in both categories. Lamb scored 19 points. Teague had 14 points, nine assists and two turnovers and Davis blocked eight shots to go along with six points and eight rebounds.

But it was Kidd-Gilchrist, Calipari said, who was "the difference in what happened."

"We feed off Mike," Teague said. "When he came in the game, it changed the whole energy."

And if he moves into the starting lineup, Teague said, Gilchrist will "bring the energy from the jump, instead of waiting for him to come off the bench."

Kidd-Gilchrist insists he has no preference between starter and sixth man.

"It's great to know, but it doesn't mean anything," he said when told Calipari projected him as a starter. "I just want to win, to tell you the truth. So it doesn't matter who starts."

But Calipari said his team "can't start a game down," and he'd rather have Kidd-Gilchrist's energy at the start of a game than a few minutes into it.

"Again, I don't know who our starting five will be," Calipari said. "But I would guess after today Michael will be one of them."

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