Kentucky is going through some major growing pains at the point guard position early in the season…
Take 3: UK vs. Notre Dame
Kentucky was lousy on offense, shooting a season-low 40 percent from the field and scoring the fewest points since Coach Cal arrived in Lexington. The Cats scored fewer points in this game than they did in halves against Lafayette (51) and LIU-Brooklyn (55) earlier this season.
UK went 4-for-14 from beyond the arc, missed six of 14 free throws and turned the ball over 12 times in a slow-paced game. Outside of senior guard Julius Mays, who had a team-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, nobody really played well on the offensive end of the floor. And we're not talking about going up against the vaunted Syracuse zone or Louisville's scrambling pressure here. This was Notre Dame. Not exactly who you think of when it comes to tenacious D.
Meanwhile, the Cats' defense was also lacking. Notre Dame was shooting at more than a 55-percent clip for most of the game before cooling off late and finishing at 48 percent. The Cats looked like a Tubby Smith ball-line defense team, allowing the Irish to take 15 mostly uncontested 3-pointers, eight of which found their mark. Kentucky finished with only 11 forced turnovers and three blocked shots, numbers that should never be seen with the type of length and athleticism the Cats possess.
2. No-Show for Poythress? Last year, we witnessed the bizarre Terrence Jones performance in UK's early-season loss at Indiana. Was this the Alex Poythress version?
Kentucky's freshman forward seemed to drift aimlessly through this game, picking up bad fouls along the way. He still played 23 minutes, but finished with only three points, took just one shot from the field, and pulled down a season-low two rebounds. Notre Dame had four guards who pulled down as many (or more) rebounds than Poythress in winning the battle of the boards 33-27.
Calipari was clearly frustrated with Poythress in the postgame interview, saying, simply, "He didn't compete."
Kentucky fans are generally forgiving of an "off night" for their Wildcats, but it's hard to overlook a game where the effort didn't seem to be there. To be fair, this could be said about most of the UK players on this night, but when you're 6-foot-7, 240 pounds and tabbed as a preseason All-American candidate, you're held to a higher standard. This team isn't deep enough to absorb a night like that from Poythress.
3. Point Guard Woes: Calipari appears determined to forge ahead with Archie Goodwin in the Tyreke Evans-type point guard mold, but Thursay was another reminder that this will be no easy transformation.
Let's face it. As of now, Goodwin is a talented slashing wing getting a crash course at point guard. One night he can come out and flirt with a triple-double, and the next he can go 1-for-7 and finish with three points.
"They sagged in and were making Archie pass the ball, and he didn't want to," Calipari said. "That's when he shot a couple off the shot clock."
"They basically left everybody and said we're going to go guard him," Calipari continued. "That's the first time he's faced it, and he didn't do well. You have to be a willing passer when they're in those situations, and he wasn't. I took him out late in the game because I said ‘If you're not going to pass the ball the way they're playing you, I can't have you out on the floor."
Unfortunately, no one else was there to take up the slack against Notre Dame. Jarrod Polson could not summon his Maryland heroics in 16 minutes off the bench, and Ryan Harrow, back after missing the last four games with personal issues, looked rusty on both ends of the floor. He was 1-for-4 from the field and got beat numerous times on defense in only nine minutes of action.
As of now, the Cats have no point guard, something that's almost unthinkable with Calipari's golden touch with the position.
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