‘No one can run with us.’ Short-handed Kentucky routs North Florida.

Many coaches — John Calipari included — frown on dependence on three-point shooting. What happens in the games the long-range shooting is off? Concentrate on what you can control: effort and perseverance.

Kentucky’s 86-52 victory over North Florida on Friday night could have served as Exhibit A in making that case.

For all the talk about an abundance of shooters on the roster, UK made only one of its first 13 three-point shots en route to 6-for-25 shooting accuracy from beyond the arc. Yet, Kentucky breezed to its fifth victory in six games to start the season.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Calipari said, “but here’s what I liked: We fought and we defended. That’s what we did. We scrambled. We played. We came up with balls and we flew.”

No doubt, it helped playing North Florida. Going into the game, the Ospreys (now 1-6) were ranked 244th in Division I by stats savant Ken Pomeroy. Kentucky was No. 16.

It helped that North Florida did not shoot accurately from three-point range, either: 7-of-31. Plus, the Ospreys committed 21 turnovers.

The miscues ignited Kentucky’s transition game. UK overwhelmed North Florida with a 28-0 advantage in fast-break points. The many finishes at the rim contributed to a 48-24 advantage in points from the paint.

“The way we run, no one can run with us,” said Oscar Tshiebwe, whose 12 points and 16 rebounds made for a fifth double-double in six games. “We run at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game. Most teams quit in the middle. When we see that, we’re going to score and score and score.”

The first half gave a hint at the emphatic answer Kentucky would give to anyone questioning how the team would fare when the three-point shots are not going in.

TyTy Washington made the team’s lone first-half three with 2:38 to go before the break. That gave UK its first double-digit lead: 31-21.

The familiar staples cited when the three-point shots are not going in — defense and rebounding — carried Kentucky.

UK outrebounded North Florida 24-17 in the first half and 50-33 for the game. That was no surprise given that Kentucky entered the game leading the nation in rebound margin (plus 20.4) while North Florida ranked 341st in Division I (minus 11.5 on average).

North Florida also committed a whopping 14 turnovers in the first half. That contributed to Kentucky’s 18-0 advantage in fast-break points.

As is fast becoming a familiar sight, Sahvir Wheeler repeatedly drove for left-handed layups in transition. He was UK’s co-leader in first-half points with eight.

The other UK player with eight points was a surprise. Freshman Daimion Collins, who started in place of Keion Brooks, also scored eight points.

If such a record existed, Collins might have broke it for immediate activity.

After jumping on the opening tip in place of Tshiebwe, Collins blocked North Florida’s second shot. His put-back dunk gave Kentucky its first points.

Before the first television timeout, Collins had also taken — and missed — his first two three-point shots and been called for charging.

The seemingly inevitable Kentucky halftime lead took shape down the stretch of the first half.

With North Florida ahead 16-14, Kentucky scored eight straight points to begin a 23-7 run in the half’s final 7:14.

Nothing much changed as the second half began.

After missing his first four shots (three from three-point range), Dontaie Allen made a three to put UK ahead 46-28 with 16:22 left.

As much as Kentucky struggled with shooting, North Florida did worse. The Ospreys made only a third of their shots (22 of 66).

Wheeler saw this as further evidence of a Kentucky team not dependent on shooting.

“That speaks toward our defensive mindset,” he said. “Not letting our offense dictate how we’re going to guard.

“We’re a really good shooting team. We’ve proven that. Tonight the shooting just wasn’t on target.”

Wheeler spoke of the variety of ways Kentucky can score. Yes, the three-pointer, he said. But also drives to the basket or floaters or mid-range shots or in transition.

Added Tshiebwe: “If we don’t shoot the three well, we can rebound and run. That’s one thing we do best.

“I don’t see anybody who can keep up with us the way we’re running and rebounding.”

Next game

Central Michigan at No. 10 Kentucky

When: 7 p.m. Monday

TV: None

Streaming: ESPN Plus and SEC Plus

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