LEXINGTON, Ky. — LIU-Brooklyn coach Jack Perri refused to use the difference in talent level between his small school and powerhouse Kentucky for a lopsided loss.
The Blackbirds led 43-40 with four minutes left in the first half but faded fast and lost to the No. 8 Wildcats on Friday night, 104-75.
"They're a lot more athletic. But we've got to compete at a higher level," Perri said. "I thought Kentucky did a really good job getting 50-50 balls in the first half, especially.
"I think they beat us 10-2 from my assistants' calculations," he said. "That's something that we have to get better at."
LIU-Brooklyn (0-4) matched Kentucky step for step, leading the defending national champions by as many as six points 32-26 with 9:22 remaining before halftime – all while the Wildcats (4-1) maintained a shooting percentage that remained above 70 percent until the final minutes.
Jason Brickman's layup with 4 minutes until halftime gave the Blackbirds a 43-40 lead, and it was the last basket the Blackbirds would score with a lead. Kentucky's Alex Poythress hit a pair of free throws with 3:30 left to spark a 15-0 run that the Wildcats took into halftime.
"It doesn't matter if they are big or small," senior forward Julian Boyd said, "you have to stick to the game plan and we just have to play better from here on out."
Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere each scored 22 points for the Blackbirds, who shot 42 percent overall.
Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin each scored 22 points Kentucky, which won its third in a row.
Fellow freshman forward Nerlens Noel added 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Kentucky. Julius Mays had 15 points and six assists and rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 for hot-shooting Kentucky, which finished 42 of 62 from the field (68 percent).
The Wildcats outrebounded the Blackbirds 41-24.
"Obviously not the outcome that we were looking for," Perri said. "We had about 17 minutes in the first half where we were up 42-40, 43-40 and that big run obviously turned the game around."
LIU-Brooklyn came at the Wildcats with quickness and scoring. The Blackbirds averaged 81.4 points per game last season and entered Friday's game at 80.7.
Boyd got his team started by scoring eight of their first 15 points, including three straight baskets to provide a 15-13 edge.
LIU-Brooklyn wasn't afraid to take it inside against Kentucky's big men, either.
Olasewere had a dunk and converted a three-point play after a drive on Noel. Boyd added baskets inside and outside and quick 6-foot guard Jason Brickman came off the bench to contribute a couple of shots en route to an eight-point half.
The result was LIU-Brooklyn's biggest lead at 32-26, creating some uneasiness among the Rupp Arena crowd of 22,221.
"That's why we wanted to play these kind of teams that would come after us, not be afraid, come in here with the attitude that they could win," Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
An 8-2 run helped the Wildcats tie the game at 34 and the teams traded baskets for several minutes before the Blackbirds took their final lead at 43-40 with four minutes remaining in the half. Kentucky closed with 15 straight points over the final 3:30 with the freshmen playing a big role – especially Goodwin, who scored six of his 15 over that stretch.
The Wildcats finished the half 23 of 33 (67 percent). LIU-Brooklyn shot 48 percent but missed its last seven.
Kentucky opened the second half with a 13-8 run over 3:54 to break the game wide open.