Sean Woods shook up Big Blue Nation during his media teleconference on Monday when he criticized Kentucky’s players for acting with a sense of entitlement at the BBN Cares WKYT telethon for Hurricane Sandy relief.
“They didn’t act like Kentucky basketball players,” Woods said of the 2012-13 team.
On Wednesday night, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and the bunch showed Woods that they are, in fact, Kentucky Wildcats, when UK defeated Woods’ Morehead State team, 81-70. It wasn’t quite the blowout we expected, though. Kentucky needed a second half surge and an insane amount of fouls to pull away from the Eagles to seal the 11-point victory.
Let’s talk about it…
It was an ugly first half for the Wildcats, one that had fans slightly worried about the 53-game home winning streak. After opening the game with a 6-0 lead, Kentucky turned the ball over five times on seven possessions and trailed Morehead State 16-6 after the first ten minutes. Morehead hung on to the lead until Kentucky regained it at 28-27 with just 1:46 left in the half. A jumper from Maurice Lewis-Briggs put the Eagles up 31-30 with 13 seconds left in the first but Archie Goodwin quickly responded with a sick crossover and finish to give Kentucky a 32-31 lead at the break.
Morehead State pulled ahead of Kentucky again in the second half, but foul trouble caught up to the Eagles early in the period. Kentucky found itself in the double-bonus with 14 minutes left in the game — 14 MINUTES!!! — and Kentucky capitalized on the free throws. In the end, UK shot 31-of-41 from the foul line to Morehead’s 14-of-16 at the stripe, while Morehead committed 32 fouls to Kentucky’s 12 in the game. There’s your storyline. Sean Woods’ ‘Hack-A-Cat’ gameplan didn’t pan out.
Before the Kentucky game… Morehead State 95 fouls, Opponents 58
Despite the significant differential in free throws, Morehead still could’ve pulled this one off if not for Archie Goodwin. Goodwin saved the Cats from defeat by scoring a career-high 28 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. He got to the basket at will, picking up a shooting foul on seemingly every drive, and knocked down 12 of his 17 free throw attempts.
He had this to say after the game: “That’s just one of the teams you can’t lose to, especially at a time like this. We came out in the second half, brought it together and we said we have to step it up and that’s what we did.”
Travel. No, correction. Foul.
This is not how a coach should talk to a player. If Woods knew his UK history, he’d know it’s not okay for a coach to lash out like that.
Afterwards, Woods said he was trying to calm his player down. Yeah. Right. And when I lock my bedroom door to watch Kate Upton’s YouTube videos, she is trying to sleep with me.
Put another tally mark in the Alex Poythress 20-point games column. Poythress’s 20-point night against Morehead was his third consecutive 20-point game of the season. I’m starting to believe he can score whenever he wants to, no matter who is in his way.
Calipari called it Archie and Alex’s night. He said, “We threw Archie the ball. We said, ‘We’re posting Alex and we’re posting Archie. The rest of you dudes get out of the way. If you want to win, you’ll figure out stuff to do.’ This isn’t brain surgery. Alex and Archie had it going, you keep going to him. My staff, the whole time, was saying, ‘You know it’s Archie and Alex’ “I know, I know. What do you want me to do? These other guys are out on the court. You should let them touch the ball a little bit.”
Foul. Morehead State, No. 20. Grabbing the jersey. Two shots.
Kentucky was without Ryan Harrow for the third full game this season. Harrow, who has been dealing with illness/personal issues since the season began, returned home to be with his family to tend to “family issues.” Calipari said Harrow’s mother is concerned about him and wants to make sure he’s okay. Cal expects Harrow back this weekend but he won’t rejoin the team before Kentucky’s Friday night game against LIU-Brooklyn.
As we saw tonight and in the last game against Lafayette, Kentucky will be fine without Harrow in its next game. But missing the three “cupcake” home games has set Harrow back in his development and progression at the point guard spot. These early regular season games are crucial for such a young team like Kentucky, and even though they’re winning, the Cats are missing out on the opportunity to work on developing a chemistry and rhythm with their point guard. If Harrow returns to game action next week, he’ll be thrown into the fire on the road at Notre Dame and at home against a top 25 Baylor team, and we’ll be wishing he had been around for Kentucky’s first five games.
With that said, we wish Ryan the best in overcoming whatever has kept him out lately and we look forward to seeing him back on the court soon.
Foul. Two shots.
Nerlens Noel posted another impressive stat line: 9 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 assists, 3 steals.
“It took us a little bit to get used to,” Noel said of Morehead’s tough style of play. “We started off shooting too many jumpers but at the start of the second half, coach really got into us and just really told us we have to toughen up. I think that’s what we did.”
Calipari said the team will do Thanksgiving dinner at his house (salad, I assume) and then there is a movie he wants them to go see. The movie? Lincoln. Are you surprised? No. Cal loves Lincoln.
Foul. Two shots.
After the game, Calipari told Kyle Wiltjer, “Kyle, you know I love you, but you’re not playing guarding that way.” He said if Wiltjer isn’t stopping his man, he’s sitting.
Before we part ways, let’s talk UK coaching search for a minute. Two sources have told KSR that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart told Kentucky he isn’t interested in the job. That leaves Sonny Dykes, Butch Jones, the mystery NFL name, and another unknown at the top of Kentucky’s list. You can expect to hear an update next week once college football’s regular season ends for the non-Big East schools. If you don’t hear anything new next week, that could mean Butch Jones is the name to watch. Jones and Cincinnati have two games left in the regular season, unlike the other candidates, so Kentucky would have to wait to an extra week to pursue Butch Jones.
Everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend. It’ll be a slow day on KSR here tomorrow but we’d still love to have you if you need a break from pretending to enjoy your in-laws’ cooking. We’ll be here waiting for you, because that’s what we do.