A big debut by big man Marvin Stone gave No. 14 Kentucky yet another tournament date with Utah.
Led by Stone's 12 points off the bench, the Wildcats used an 18-4 run midway through the second half to put away Pennsylvania 67-50 Wednesday night in the first round of the Preseason NIT.
During the preseason, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith rated Stone one of the most promising big men he's ever coached. The 6-foot-10 forward-center from Huntsville, Ala., did nothing to dampen expectations in the season opener against the Ivy League champions, grabbing six rebounds and and handing out three assists.
Kentucky advanced to a second-round game with the 16th-ranked Utes, to be played Friday at Rupp Arena. The winner travels to Madison Square Garden in New York for next week's semifinals.
Friday's game will be a rematch of the 1998 national championship game, won 78-69 by Kentucky. Only senior center Jamaal Magloire and junior guard Saul Smith remain from that Kentucky team.
A swarming Kentucky defense, which mixed in liberal doses of a full- and half-court press, limited Penn to just 31.6 percent shooting from the field, 26.9 percent from 3-point range. For the game, the Wildcats outrebounded the Quakers 43-37.
Matt Langel and Ugonna Onyekwe each had 14 points for the Penn, with Onyekwe grabbing eight rebounds. Guard Michael Jordan, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season for the Ivy League champions, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with just five points on 2-of-14 shooting.
Pen coach Fran Dunphy said poor second-half shooting did in his team.
"(The offense) was very poor in terms of execution, but we did get the open looks. We just didn't get them to go down," he said. "Our offense was the biggest problem for us, and I give them a lot of credit for that...
"We had to play a very, very good basketball game to win tonight and we didn't do that."
Though their half-court attack frequently sputtered, the Wildcats got balanced scoring and rebounding from up and down their lineup. Magloire had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds, Tayshaun Prince had nine points and eight rebounds and Desmond Allison had 11 points and seven boards.
It was Stone who starred, though. With starting center Magloire in and out of foul trouble, the freshman was on the floor for most of the Wildcats' big second-half run, scoring four points, grabbing three rebounds and adding a blocked shot and an assist during that stretch, in which Kentucky built its lead from 38-36 to 56-40 with 8:03 remaining.
Stone made it 58-42 moments later when he went up to dunk, had the ball tipped by a Penn defender, and watched it go in the basket anyway.
"I guess it was just a good night," he said with a smile. "He got a piece of it and it happened to fall in."
Two minutes later, Stone added a no-doubt-about-it slam to give Kentucky a 61-44 lead bringing the fans out of their seats.
"I'm sure this will be a confidence-builder, but he plays on such an even keel" already, Tubby Smith said afterward. "This will put some pressure on some other guys to step up and play, to work harder in practice."
The Wildcats went up 15-4 in the first half, thanks to an 11-0 run, but tentative offensive play and mediocre shooting let Penn back into the game.
Trailing 21-13, the Quakers got five points from Onyekwe and eight points from Langel, including two 3-pointers, in a 13-2 surge that gave them a brief lead.
Langel, however, played most of the first half with two fouls and picked up his third early in the second half, forcing Dunphy to sit him for long stretches. He never regained his shooting touch, finishing 5-of-11 from the field.
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