Give it to us. Hit us with it. Please.
Your University of Kentucky Wildcats just dropped their second basketball game of the season in a 64-50 loss to Notre Dame in front of a packed house full of white people in South Bend, Indiana. Kentucky’s 50-point effort is the lowest total in the history of the John Calipari era at Kentucky, just below the 55-point night in Houston against UConn in that one game back in 2011.
It was ugly. It was real ugly. It was arguably the worst overall performance we’ve seen since Billy Gillispie left.
Let’s talk about it…
It was the Archie Goodwin/Alex Poythress Show in Kentucky’s last three games, but the plug was pulled on that show on Thursday night in the Joyce Center. Goodwin and Poythress combined for just six points against Notre Dame after putting up 22 points apiece in the Cats’ last outing against LIU-Brooklyn. Archie played out of control against the Irish, throwing up shots aimlessly in traffic, one of which missed so bad it hit the top of the backboard. “I think one of his shots hit the shot clock,” Cal said after the game. “Archie was out of control. Out of control.”
Cal said he pulled Archie aside in the second half and told him to quit looking to score. “Get us shots. Don’t worry about getting yourself shots,” he told his point guard. He called it Archie’s worst game, even though he did have a game-high five assists.
We’re starting to see that maybe Archie isn’t cut out to run the offense. His shoot-first mentality kills the flow of the offense when the team needs to move the ball around and look for open shots instead. Archie, God love him, wants to lower his head and take it to the rack every single time he touches the ball. That gameplan worked against teams like Morehead State and LIU-Brooklyn when opponents couldn’t slow him down, but if Kentucky is going to be the team Cal wants them to be in March, Archie Goodwin isn’t the answer at point guard. Unfortunately, Ryan Harrow isn’t the answer either, at least for now. It’ll be interesting to see if Harrow can earn his way back into that starting role he lost during his “illness” over the past three weeks.
Speaking of Ryan Harrow, Cal wasn’t pleased with his effort on defense. When Kentucky cut it to 10 points late in the second half, Harrow left his man wide open in the corner and Notre Dame found him for a three-pointer. Calipari called it the play that broke Kentucky’s back. “We cut the lead to 10 and I said ‘We got them.’ Then we allowed the three,” he said.
Harrow only played 9 minutes in his first game back, behind Polson’s 16 minutes. Like Cal said earlier this week, Harrow is at the bottom of the totem pole.
One shot on the night from Alex Poythress. ONE SHOT ATTEMPT. THAT CAN’T HAPPEN!!! After four straight 20-point efforts, Alex Poythress scored three points on 1-for-1 shooting. ONE SHOT! He took one shot! Two rebounds!
It was clear from the beginning that Notre Dame’s plan was to take it at Alex Poythress. It worked. He picked up his second foul just five minutes into the game and took a spot on the bench for the rest of the half. When he finally joined the action in the second half, he dropped backed to the Alex Poythress we saw against Maryland and wasn’t a factor on either end. That can’t happen. Not from Alex.
Effort, effort, effort, effort… Kentucky has a lot to work on after this one but effort needs to improve more than anything. Talent doesn’t matter when the effort isn’t there. “What disappointed me is we didn’t compete,” Cal said of his team’s effort after the game. “My whole thing is, you can play poorly, but you still have to defend and compete.” Kentucky didn’t do that against the Irish. “I’m disappointed but, maybe after this, we get competitive and play physical.”
Cal pointed out that a lot of Notre Dame’s baskets came late in the shot clock. “We’d play for 25 and then foul; we’d play for 25 and lose a guy,” he said. “We didn’t defend them the way we have to defend.”
Two guys who did give effort — the only two — were Nerlens Noel and Julius Mays. Nerlens and Uncle Julius gave it 140% from start to finish while it looked like their teammates were sitting around watching. Uncle Julius played his best game as a Wildcat and showed no signs of quitting as he fought and fought and fought to try to bring Kentucky back in the second half. Mays scored a career-high 16 points and showed us exactly why everyone believes he is going to be this team’s leader.
Kyle Wiltjer can’t guard anyone. And we’ve accepted that. But Kyle can’t go 0-for-4 on three-pointers. When those aren’t going in, there’s really no reason for him to be in the game. It’s that simple. He did have two nice, strong drives to the basket but it’ll take more than that for him to keep his minutes up. He has to hit those open threes. Kentucky needs the Kyle Wiltjer from the NCAA Tournament last year, not the Kyle Wiltjer that is 2-for-13 in the last three games. He’ll come around, though. He’s too good not to.
Notre Dame shot 53% from downtown. I would’ve guessed somewhere closer to 85%. Those guys were lights out.
Matt and I were at the game so we couldn’t follow the television broadcast, obviously, but from what we’re hearing it was a lovefest for Notre Dame. I’m sorry we missed that. We were too busy celebrating Manti Te’o Night in the Joyce Center. Enough already. We get it.
We’ll close with this from Calipari: “We’re learning about our team. I didn’t expect us to come in and play out of our minds, but I expected us to compete. We didn’t.”
Time to move on and #BeatBaylor.
Keep the home streak alive….