After a season on the sideline, Kentucky's Patrick Sparks celebrated his return to the basketball court.
Sparks and Rajon Rondo -- Kentucky's new starting guards -- combined for 21 points and led a strong defensive effort to help the ninth-ranked Wildcats beat Coppin State, 77-46, yesterday in the season opener for both teams.
Chuck Hayes added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats, who are 87-15 in home openers, including 26-3 at Rupp Arena.
One of those three losses came three years ago to Western Kentucky -- Sparks's former team. Sparks played two seasons for the Hilltoppers, then sat out last season after transferring to Kentucky.
"That's in the past and is something I had to go through," Sparks said. "It feels good playing in a real game."
Sparks scored nine of his 12 points in the first half, when Kentucky took a 40-18 lead. He also added five rebounds and three assists with just one turnover in 21 minutes.
"Sparks hit some jump shots early and put us in a different mode," Coppin State Coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said.
Sparks and Rondo -- one of four heralded Kentucky freshmen -- keyed a defensive effort that forced 22 Coppin State turnovers. Rondo finished with nine points and five steals.
"He was outstanding on and off the ball," Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith said.
* CONNECTICUT 90, BUFFALO 68: In Storrs, Conn., Rashad Anderson scored 23 points and Josh Boone added 18 to lead the Huskies in the season opener for both teams.
The eighth-ranked Huskies began their defense of their NCAA title with overpowering post play and a crisp transition game. The sharp-shooting Anderson dominated from the perimeter, hitting 4 of 9 from three-point range.
The Huskies wasted little time putting this one away. Boone and Anderson combined for 11 points in Connecticut's opening 13-2 run. The Bulls got their first basket in the first minute then went scoreless over the next five.
* DUKE 88, TENNESSEE-MARTIN 46: J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing each had 20 points and the Blue Devils turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to beat the visiting Skyhawks in the first game for both teams.
Shelden Williams added 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Shavlik Randolph scored 11 for the 11th-ranked Blue Devils, who broke away after shooting just 32 percent in the first half.
"I didn't think we were playing poorly in the first half, we were shooting poorly," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
* WISCONSIN 77, PENNSYLVANIA 44: Mike Wilkinson scored all but two of his 19 points in the second half and Brian Butch had a memorable debut with 10 points and four rebounds as the 21st-ranked Badgers rolled at home.