Online Now 533

Rewind: UK fights off Morehead

Nov. 21, 2012
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.

Archie Goodwin scored 28 points in Kentucky's 81-70 victory (Photo by Darrell Bird/TCP)

John Calipari didn't think he team was ready for an opponent that played physical pressure defense and his fears were realized for much of Kentucky's pre-Thanksgiving test against Morehead State.

The Eagles took the fight to Kentucky throughout, leading by as many as 11 in the first half before fatigue and foul trouble doomed them over the final 10 minutes, allowing the Wildcats to pull away for an 81-70 victory in front of 21,897 at Rupp Arena. Kentucky made 31-of-41 free throws in the game.

Archie Goodwin scored a career-high 28 points, while Nerlens Noel added nine points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. Goodwin had to be carried off the floor on the back of teammate Julius Mays with a minute left with what appeared to be cramps.

Kentucky jumped out to a 6-0 lead, forcing Woods to call a timeout to settle his troops. The Eagles responded with a 16-0 run that saw Kentucky fail to score on 10 consecutive possessions – five turnovers, five missed shots – during a span of 5:50 that led to Calipari calling a timeout of his own. The Cats then rode Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress during a 14-2 spurt of their own to take a 32-31 lead at halftime.

“Isn't it nice that we were down and had to fight back? And how about the second half? They didn't go away, and I think we got down 6 again and we had to come back. It's good for us. It's what this team needs. There are games you may be up 25, but what do you learn other than okay we got stats and nice stats and all? This is how you learn. Let a team come in and bang you around and do their thing, you know?”

“We put ourselves in some situations where we were more foul prone as a team. We're never going to blame a game on a ref for the foul discrepancy or anything. We're not going to cry over that. It was a hard fought game, a very physical game and we just have to be more disciplined in where we place ourselves. – Morehead State forward Drew Kelly, on the Eagels being whistled for 32 fouls

“They were a lot more aggressive than I thought they were going to be. From the start of the game they were in your face. That's something that didn't bother me because them playing that close to me enabled me to get into the lane a lot more than if they would have sagged off more. It played right into my game.” – UK guard Archie Goodwin, on Morehead State's pressure defense

Archie Goodwin was so tired from a tougher than expected victory over Morehead State he needed a little help off the floor. Enter Julius Mays, who scooped up the freshman guard, put him on his back piggy-back style and carried him to the bench. Goodwin's exhaustion was understandable given he continually attacked the Eagles' defense on the way to 28 points and 17 trips to the free throw line. The freshman guard also added six rebounds, four assists and three turnovers with only four turnovers despite having to play a bit out of position at point guard.

Having seen enough of his team being pushed around by the smaller, scrappier Eagles, John Calipari knew where his team needed to go to stop the bleeding. When Milton Chavis three-pointer gave the Eagles a 23-12 lead with 6:09 remaining in the first half Calipari called a timeout and had a simple order for his team: feed Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin the basketball. Poythress immediately responded, posting up on the right block before taking and entry pass from Julius Mays that he turned into a dunk. On the next possession Poythress bulled his way through the lane for another bucket to spark a 14-2 run that got the Cats back in the game. Those two field goals were part of eight points the freshman forward scored in just over four minutes during that stretch.

Nerlens Noel continued to be the Kentucky player who has his hands in everything at a time when coach John Calipari has all but begged for that type of effort and hustle from his young team. Noel finished with a line of nine points, 11 rebounds, six blocks, four assists and three steals, but it was a series of little things he did that once again stood out. The freshman forward twice poked the ball free in the post during a 16-2 second half run that changed the tide of the game, and routinely made the right passes to open teammates cutting toward the basket for easy hoops. Those plays were intelligent, savvy plays that belied his youth.

32 – Morehead State's game plan is to play a pressure style of defense that often lends itself to fouls being called but even by their standards it was a long night. The Eagles came into the game averaging 24 fouls per game and 24 opponent free throw attempts but saw those numbers balloon to 32 fouls that resulted in 41 free throw attempts by Kentucky. The Cats made 31 of their attempts, including 21-of-27 in the second half as they put the gritty Eagles away.

John Calipari's favorite phrase so far this season has been 'winning and learning' and there was certainly a lot of learning that went on during this particular win. Young teams need to see a lot of different styles of play early in the season and Calipari has always mandated that assistant coach John Robic construct the schedule in such a way that his teams do just that. This win wasn't pretty, especially through the first 25 minutes, but it will undoubtedly pay dividends down the road.

Kentucky (3-1) will have only one day off – Thanksgiving – before returning to the court against LIU-Brooklyn at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23.

Already have an account? Sign In