Good afternoon, friends. How ’bout that basketball game? John Calipari still believes his basketball team is mentally soft and out of shape, and it shows, but the Cats still managed to roll past Portland, 74-46, to improve to 6-3 on this young basketball season. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress combined for 30 of UK’s points while Nerlens Noel set a career high with seven blocks and Archie Goodwin threw down a lot of dunks. Archie also dished out four assists to make it six straight games with at least four dimes.
Let’s talk about it…
Kentucky still lacks a point guard, but we saw glimpses of one this afternoon from Ryan Harrow. He played well off the bench in 25 minutes of game action and posted UK career highs with eight points, four rebounds and six assists. Harrow’s emergence impressed Coach Cal, who said afterwards that he’s happy for Ryan and the way he played. There were two lapses of his old self in the game, though, and Calipari had to pull Harrow to keep him from reverting back. “I absolutely jerked him out of the game,” he said. “The other parts of the game, I thought he did fine.”
It’s clear this team’s best offense is with Archie Goodwin at the two or three, not at point guard, so he can get out ahead of the break. Harrow called Goodwin unstoppable on fast breaks and said he looks to get him the ball. “I’ll find him,” he said of Goodwin. “I’ll find anyone if they’re open.”
Harrow thinks the flow is better when he’s running the point because of the contrasting styles of play between the two guards. Harrow said Goodwin has more of a scoring mentality, while he likes to distribute the ball and get everyone looks.
One more Harrow note: He sent Calipari a text message earlier this week and thanked him for how hard he is pushing him. Calipari told him he’s making strides.
Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress scored 15 points each to lead Kentucky in scoring. One leads the SEC in field goal percentage; the other is still way too out of control. Goodwin is so fun to watch and so good at getting to the basket, but he has to learn to pull back on the reigns when it’s not there. The lower-your-head-and-drive tactic will only work for so long.
On a related note, Goodwin’s dunk in the final minutes of the game was soooo nasty. Poor Portland has gotten crammed on two years in a row now. Don’t do ’em like that, Archie.
I love how Coach O looks directly up to the big screen to see if the cameras were on them. Don’t worry. No one saw it.
Nerlens Noel limped off the court early in the game with a lower leg contusion. Nerlens said the injury was tendonitis in his knee and it came during warm-ups. He called it no big deal, just soreness from playing a lot.
Kyle Wiltjer Slump Watch: 1-for-3 on three-pointers; 5-for-8 overall. I think he’s out of it.
Wiltjer put together a pretty good game against all the familiar faces on the Portland bench. He scored 12 points and added two assists and three rebounds. Afterwards, Coach Cal told the radio show crowd that he heard them give Kyle a round of applause for the way he rebounded. He said, “He finally rebounded! We’re happy with three! That’s just where we are right now.” Calipari also said he had to pull Wiltjer three different times for not going after loose balls. That led to another long spiel on how his team is out of shape and needs conditioning. You know how that one goes.
Once again, Coach Cal is disappointed with the way his team started the second half. He mentioned using a different starting five out of the half to see if they can do better. It’s either that, or find something different to make them play aggressive. “We’ve lost the first five minutes of the second half in every game,” he said.
Calipari: “We’ve made strides, but we’re still not where we need to be.” He thinks if conference play started tomorrow, Kentucky would finish last. “Florida is about 35 points better than us right now,” he said. “Maybe 40.”
Right now he’s pushing his guys to be in that top tier of college basketball teams. He thinks there are 8 to 10 teams that are better than everyone else in the country. He asked the players if they want to be one of those teams and what they need to do to get there.
“We may have some of the better players in the country, but not right now,” he said.
Next week is finals week for UK students so the team will have Monday off and then they’ll return to practice Tuesday evening after final exams. The next game is a week from today against Lipscomb and then it’ll be time for Camp Cal. “Three-a-days after Lipscomb,” he said with a smile. “Eat, sleep and play basketball.”
That’ll do it for now. I’ll leave you with a photo of the 1996 team with Santa Claus…