The Wildcats are coming off the most dominating offensive performance of the young season, a 52-point victory over Lafayette last Friday. Kentucky shot 65 percent from the field — the best single-game team performance in John Calipari’s tenure as head coach. Alex Poythress hit 9-of-10 shots, the third-best rate in school history, and Kyle Wiltjer drained a career-high seven 3’s. That dominance may have been a precursor for how this team will run going forward.
Morehead State comes to town this week, led by former “Unforgettable” Sean Woods. The Golden Eagles are coming off an 88-74 win over Lafayette and now face the Cats in the final game of the Barclays Center Classic. Morehead missed out on playing Duke, but suffered a 67-45 loss to Maryland last week.
PG: Archie Goodwin vs. Devon Atkinson
As Ryan Harrow continues to work his way back to a spot in the starting lineup, Archie Goodwin will retain the point guard duties. Obviously it hasn’t been a seamless transition, but the shooting guard is learning some versatility and he is holding his own running the offense. These next couple of games will be a great learning opportunity before things get real against Notre Dame and Baylor. Goodwin isn’t forgetting his role as a scorer however; he is still averaging 15 per game while playing a team-leading 99 minutes through three games.
Morehead’s point guard Devon Atkinson is the true centerpiece of the team. He leads the team in minutes played, assists per game, and contributes nearly eight points per. He is boasting a 2.22 assist/turnover ratio through the first four games as he continually looks to get his teammates the ball. Goodwin plays some good defense, so cutting the Golden Eagles off at the point guard position will go a long way to shutting down the entire team.
SG: Julius Mays vs. Angelo Warner
Julius Mays will get his third start of the season as Goodwin takes the place of injured and now homeward-bound Ryan Harrow. Mays has played second-most minutes on the team with 98, which is just 60 seconds behind leader Archie Goodwin. While he isn’t lighting up the scoring column with a 7-for-21 mark so far, the senior is doing more as a floor general. But just as it took Alex Poythress a game or two to find a groove, and Kyle Wiltjer an extra game to start sinking more three-balls, Julius Mays could find his comfort zone very soon.
If Devon Atkinson is Morehead’s No. 1, than fellow guard Angelo Warner is No. 1-A. While he doesn’t lead the team in the box score, Warner is contributing in multiple ways all while assisting the point guard in his duties. He plays third-most minutes on the team behind Atkinson and leader scorer Milton Chavis, and averages 7.5 points per game, four boards, nearly two steals, and is shooting 45 percent from behind the arc. He is a lot like Archie Goodwin in the fact that he isn’t scared to get dirty. A lot of shooting guards like to dance on the perimeter in clean air and hoist up shot after shot. Warner will be down in the trenches toughing it out.
W: Alex Poythress vs. Milton Chavis
Here may be the most interesting and dynamic matchup on the floor. Kentucky’s Alex Poythress has recently introduced himself to all of Big Blue Nation as a beast. A pure thoroughbred beast. He is the team’s leading scorer with 50 points while playing just the fourth-most minutes per game. Poythress has established himself as the high-motor Mr. Everything on this team, and there is no reason to believe those expectations will quell any time soon.
The Golden Eagles are currently paced by Milton Chavis’ 17 points per game, and he has been the team’s leading scorer in all four games (24, 10, 17, 18). As a junior, Chavis shot 53 percent and averaged almost eight points per game, but now as a senior it seems he has taken a new initiative. Chavis is earning the second-most minutes for Morehead with 23.5 per game — which makes that 17 point-per-game average a little bit more impressive.
F: Kyle Wiltjer vs. Drew Kelly
Last week Kyle Wiltjer was called upon to get back in a groove from behind the arc; he did not disappoint. Wiltjer got it going right from the tip, en route to a 7-for-11 night from deep. He was named SEC Player of the Week for his performance against Maryland — the first time he has earned the honor — and it is safe to say it did not go to his head. He will be matched up against a 6-7 forward who averages 17 minutes per game.
Drew Kelly is the starter on record, but plenty of guys get rotated in behind him, like Kahlil Owens and Maurice Lewis-Briggs. Kelly averaged 10 points and five rebounds as a sophomore, but has only averaged five and five so far this season. This Kelly is not the same kind of Kelly that Wiltjer faced against Duke (Ryan Kelly, who can step out and shoot from beyond the perimeter). Morehead’s Kelly will stick under the basket and look for points in the paint.
C: Nerlens Noel vs. Jason Holmes
Nerlens Noel will have a prime opportunity to assert his dominance over an inferior opponent tonight. Going against a 6-foot-9 center, Noel should have a double-double in the first half if things go according to plan. The big man had his best game against Lafayette last week, posting 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block. Noel has silenced the critics who say his offensive game is limited by averaging nearly 12 points per game to start the season.
For Morehead, the center position is not the strong suit. Not to completely overlook the senior Jason Holmes, but at 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, he is just a tad undersized to be a true center — but that seems to be Morehead’s modus operandi. Head coach Sean Woods had rotated 15 players into games so far, with 12 actually contributing to the stat columns. That is a lot of rotation. Holmes may get the start, but he has only averaged 14 minutes per game, so expect to see a lot of different small lineups.