What looked like could be a blow out, ended up being a nail biter as the Kentucky Wildcats beat the Maryland Terrapins 72-69 in the Barclays Classic in Brooklyn, New York.
The unlikeliest of Kentucky heroes, Jarrod Polson, hit two clutch free throws to put the Cats up by 3 to pull out the first win of the season. Polson was the star of the game, having a career night with 10 points in 22 minutes, 4 for 5 from the field, 2 for 2 from the line, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and ZERO turnovers.
The other star for the Wildcats was Kyle Wiltjer, as he shot his way out of the funk he had in the preseason, scoring 19 points on 6-9 shooting, while busting 4 from behind the arc. Wiltjer also hit 2 big free throws right before Polson eventually put it away.
The other storyline was the terrible rebounding by Kentucky, being outhustled by the Terrapins which led to a 46-34 disadvantage for Calipari’s Wildcats.
Archie Goodwin looked really good at times and also looked like he was in AAU in spots, but showed that he is Kentucky’s best player scoring 16 points, mostly with drives to the basket and getting to the free throw line. Goodwin finished 9-11 from the stripe.
Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress were huge disappointments and one has to wonder where Calipari goes from here with the starting lineup.
With Polson having a breakout game and Archie Goodwin showing he can run the point, one has to wonder where Ryan Harrow stands in the rotation. Harrow played 10 minutes with 0 points, 0-4 from the field, 2 assists and 1 turnover. At this point, does anyone wonder if Calipari’s harsh criticism is destroying Harrow’s confidence? He has a lot to prove to make me think he can handle the pressure of Cal and being the point guard at Kentucky.
Alex Poythress looked out of it again, only scoring 8 points in 23 minutes with 3 turnovers. With all the All American hype it is hard not to expect more from the freshman from Clarksville.
Nerlens Noel had a tough game offensively, but showed a lot of hustle, even though his hustle didn’t produce high end results. Noel finished with 4 points and 9 rebounds and the main thing I noticed about him is he definitely wants to win and gives everything he’s got, but I swear he has hands of stone. It seemed like when balls his his hands they would ricochet like dodgeball off a gym wall.
Willie Cauley-Stein looks ahead of Noel, but definitely needs to get tougher on rebounds. He finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds in 28 minutes.
Free throws were a struggle for both bigs, as they shot a combined 2-7, but the team as a whole wasn’t much better, as they finished a very under average 18-28.
Julius Mays didn’t shoot the ball very well, finishing 3-10 from the field, 1-3 behind the arc as he ended up with 7 points. I did like the leadership he displayed during the game, even one time grabbing the team and trying to motivate them to rebound.
All in all, it was a win, but there is definitely a whole lot to improve on before conference play.
I will dig deeper into the questions in the backcourt and if Jon Hood will ever get to play tomorrow right here on Nation of Blue.