Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - With so many freshman on the roster, maybe it wasn't surprising Kentucky got off to such a slow start in its first game.
Once the top-ranked Wildcats found their rhythm, however, it wasn't much of a test.
Julius Randle had 23 points and 15 rebounds in his college debut and Kentucky rolled in the second half Friday night on the way to an 89-57 victory over UNC-Asheville.
Randle is one of six freshman on the Kentucky roster who were high school All- Americans and all six contributed, though Wildcats coach John Calipari griped about some things.
Randle had 15 rebounds when he could have had at least 20, Calipari said. He said Randle "stopped playing" when shots went up and wasn't happy with how he distributed the ball.
"How about the back doors? Throw to the elbow, the guy on the wing," said Calipari. "How about three seconds on the clock, they take it out, throw it to the post, the guy spins and throws it to his man and he fouls. That was Julius."
"Now, let me say this: Their first college game. Their first college game," the coach said.
Among the other All-Americans, Marcus Lee had 17 points, James Young scored 11, Aaron Harrison added 10 -- two more than twin brother Andrew -- and Dakari Johnson scored five.
Sophomore Alex Poythress, a veteran among this group, contributed 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats (1-0), who trailed nearly to the midway point of the first half before pulling away.
"We still have a long way to go," said Randle. "We're nowhere near where we should be, but I think as the intensity and the competition keeps going up, I think we'll have guys rise to the challenge. We'll be fine, but we have to keep getting better."
Will Weeks had 19 points to lead the Big South Bulldogs (0-1) and Andrew Rowsey scored 12.
"We kind of had some mental lapses in the second half which allowed Kentucky to open the game up," said center D.J. Cunningham, who had eight points and 10 rebounds for UNC-Asheville. "We are young at the guard position, and we just will work with our younger teammates to teach them and help them grow and then we won't have those mental lapses."
Based on a widely-praised recruiting class, Kentucky has been picked by many to make another championship run out of the SEC.
That would be quite a turnaround from last season's team, which went 21-12 and fell in the first round of the NIT after losing all five starters from its 2012 national championship team to the NBA Draft, including top-two picks Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Wildcats will play Northern Kentucky on Sunday before their toughest early-season test: Tuesday's game against No. 2 Michigan State at the United Center in Chicago.
Poythress was blocked by Jaleel Roberts on a dunk attempt but got his own rebound and laid it in to give Kentucky its largest lead of the game until that point at 60-42.
Randle put back his own miss for a 71-46 Kentucky lead and grabbed another offensive rebound leading to a dunk that made it 75-48.
The Wildcats led by as many as 37 in the final minutes but it was much closer early on.
Kentucky, starting slow, trailed eight minutes into the first half thanks to a triple from Sam Hughes which gave the visitors a 13-12 edge. The game groaned at the start, too, as the teams were called for a combined 16 fouls in the first 11 minutes -- including 11 by UNC-Asheville.
Kentucky ended up taking 31 free throws in the first half, making just 17 to hold a 41-31 lead at the break.
Young hit a deep 3-pointer from the high right side to give Kentucky a 23-13 advantage, capping an 11-0 run spanning 2 1/2 minutes.
They went up 37-24 when Andrew Harrison found Lee with a no-look backdoor pass for an easy dunk. Weeks led all players with 15 first-half points and got the Bulldogs within 39-31 on a layup.
Kentucky was 30-of-48 at the free throw line ... The Bulldogs play at Western Carolina on Monday ... The Bulldogs went 16-16 last season and lost in the first round of the Big South Tournament as the two-time defending champions.