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Identity Crisis Over? Last Three Games Seem to Think So.

Wolfpack

This would look phenomenal on a t-shirt.

“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Take that Rudyard Kipling quote, and replace “wolf” with “Wildcat,” and you’ve got a pretty good reason as to why this team is currently enjoying a 3-game win streak, and fighting for first in the SEC.  Even just a couple weeks ago, Kentucky didn’t seem to know who they were as a unit, and really even as individual basketball players.  Cal had toyed around with a “Twin Towers” idea with Willie and Nerlens, and we’ve seen more starting lineups than Kim Kardashian Cosmo covers this year, so it’s pretty safe to say that, unlike previous years, the team identity has been something of a struggle.

But in having to overcome some adversity, and responding with a solid three game home stretch, the Cats have started to show who they are just in time for the postseason.

It all starts with the guards.

Archie Goodwin has been somewhat frustrating all season, but Coach Cal, and hopefully fans, and possibly Archie himself, have accepted that there are going to be a couple bonehead errors a game.  That’s just who he is right now.  But in learning to play through the “two ‘Oh-my-God'” shots per game that Calipari gives him, he’s becoming an efficient offensive option.  In the last three games, Goodwin is shooting right at 50% (18-36), and has done much better with three-point shooting than he has all season (42.8% in win streak, compared to 27% for the season).  Archie has become a guy who might make a mistake, but can now play through them.

Ryan Harrow is letting off the “scoring point guard” mentality, and becoming a distributor that also has to be guarded.  In the Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Mississippi State games, Harrow has a total of three turnovers.  Not per game.  Just three.  Pair that with fourteen assists and you’ve got exactly what this team needs.  And when he’s passing the ball well, he’ll find that lanes open up, which have allowed him to put up 15.7 points per game in that same span.

Wrapping up the guards, Julius Mays has absolutely become the team’s leader.  Not just on the court, where he’s averaged 14.7 points through the streak, but in the locker room, where he famously explained what motivated him.  Say what you want about next year’s team, they’re going to miss Julius Mays.

Willie Cauley-Stein has learned that his identity isn’t “Nerlens Noel’s Backup,” but “Willie Cauley-Stein.”  He’s put up great shots since the Wildcats started putting things together, making 17 of his 24 shots (71%).  And while he isn’t the natural shot-blocker that Nerlens is, he’s still averaged over four rejections a game, making him one of the more dependable assets on both sides of the floor.  He’s learning to slow down and be deliberate, and that not many people can match both his size and skill set.

Finally, Alex Poythress is learning that he’s a man.  He’s doing everything just a little better, from scoring (14.7 ppg), to rebounding, to simply taking better shots (a ridiculous 18-30).  He’s also taking better care of the ball, committing only one turnover in three games, compared to the 2+ turnovers per game that he’s averaged on the season.

So as the team’s identity begins to materialize, you have to think that it’s because each player is getting more comfortable with his role.  Nobody’s trying to be they’re not, and the dividends are pretty obvious.  As Cal says, they’re becoming their brothers’ keepers, and expanding their Wolfpack to include each other.

That just might be why they’re playing so well.

Article written by Corey Nichols

22 Comments for Identity Crisis Over? Last Three Games Seem to Think So.



  1. Butthead
    11:37 am March 2, 2013 Permalink

    It is in these hills where Juan Valdez and his trusty goat gather coffee beans every morning.



  2. Daz
    11:50 am March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Ryan Harrow isn’t as good as Sean Sutton.



  3. NotSatire
    11:51 am March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Nice mantra, works better for NC State.



  4. Daz
    11:58 am March 2, 2013 Permalink

    But let me add that they are both better than me or I wouldn’t be posting here.



  5. BravoBigBlue
    11:59 am March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Remains to be seen. The Misouri game/win was special for this team. Vandy and Miss St were far inferior opponents talent-wise and on our home floor. Today will reveal whether this Cats team has turned the corner or not. Tough, hungry team at home. We are going to have to outplay them to win. Will get no breaks at all.



  6. Ryan
    12:03 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Yea next years team is really going to miss molasses Julius. You’ve got to be kidding me, Julius wouldn’t even be a walk on for next years team.



  7. Daz
    12:03 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    #4, I played at Ky. ST. & I doubt Harrow could have backed me up.



  8. Inspired by Your Presence
    12:11 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    #’s 6 and 7-We are truly inspired by your presence. It is apparent by your negative comments that something went wrong when you were not recruited to play at UK. No Justice!



  9. Rixter
    12:14 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Is it possible that Noel’s injury was the best thing that’s happened to the team this year? Before, everybody was content to let Nerlens do everything. Now, everybody else has picked up their game, something that would not have happened with Noel on the court.



  10. Wiggins Rumor
    12:19 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Heard that on HOB there was a thread posted about a wiggins rumor that could potentially be good news. Anyone know anything?



  11. Steady
    12:23 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Archie Goodwin *eyeroll*.



  12. crazycatfan
    12:24 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    #9 – I’ve thought the same thing. Noel’s injury was the worst thing that could have happened to this team … and yet, may be the best thing, as far as “waking up” the rest of the players. Plus, they are all trying their best to win for their injured comrad.



  13. theSkinny81
    12:35 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    There are dorks, and then there is Corey Nichols…



  14. Big O
    12:36 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Logged on to comment but #5 said it best!! GO CATS!!!!



  15. TouchdownTommy
    12:41 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    3 wins at home and only one of which is a decent team does not equate to turning the corner. Road games, especially games at places like Ark, Fla, Tenn, are a whole different ball game.



  16. Bleed Blue
    12:42 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Hey everybody, if you commented on the Dave Telep video saying Wiggins wouldn’t sign with UK, then you saw me comment and give some good info I just created a Twitter account where you can follow me for info like this on Football and Basketball. Twitter handle is @BBN_Wildcats hope to see you following.



  17. UK Freshmen
    1:00 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    You must have read my previous comment:

    One sign of a poor team is when they think they’ve ‘turned the corner’ by only beating up 3 poor, weak teams at home.



  18. crazycatfan
    1:08 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    It’s their confidence level that is excelling, and that’s 90% of the game.



  19. kybigblue
    1:11 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    The Arkansas game will tell us more about whether they have finally come together as a unit. Ark is undefeated in the SEC at home. A win there would tell more than the wins at home.



  20. Just a fan
    1:39 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Awesome post. Hoping it shows up on the court today.



  21. Twin Condiments
    2:46 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    Corey,

    That T-shirt with the wolves on it…they sell 50 versions of it at the state fair each year.



  22. Razorback
    6:22 pm March 2, 2013 Permalink

    The cats showed who they are alright…