Rewind: Kentucky eases past Pilots

Dec. 8, 2012
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.

Ryan Harrow had eight points and six assists in 25 minutes

Kentucky's issues won't get solved overnight but it turned in just enough flashes of potential in its latest outing to keep the critics at bay.

The Cats (6-3) took advantage of an extended run in the first half to gain a double-digit lead it never relinquished in beating Portland 74-46 in front of an announced crowd of 22,285 at Rupp Arena. Although UK's lead was never in danger it spent much of the game treading water before pushing the lead past 20 in the final five minutes.

Archie Goodwin finally got the home crowd to its feet with a trifecta of rim-rattling one-handed dunks in the closing minutes on his way to 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Alex Poythress added 15 points and Ryan Harrow eight points with six assists. The Cats also held Portland to 27.1 percent shooting for the game.

Kentucky used a 16-0 run in the first half to open a cushion that Portland was unable to cut into while shooting 25.8 percent from the field during a sloppy opening 20 minutes.

“My question to my team: There's eight or 10 teams that are better than all the rest of the team in the country. Do you want to be one of those eight or 10 teams? What are you willing to do to be one of those eight or 10 teams? I'm looking at everybody in the country saying we're probably 50 to 100 right now but we could be top 10, top eight. Those eight are the only ones who truly have a chance to win the whole thing.”

“Compared to two years ago, thinking back, I would say they seem a little more similar to that team. I think that's a fair comparison in terms of not hitting on all cylinders. Don't highlight that only quote, 'Coach says not hitting on all cylinders' because they are very good. I'd say the veterans they lost last year, they look a little younger but there are some similarities. I wish we had put some more pressure on them to see.” – Portland coach Eric Reveno, whose team has played Kentucky three consecutive seasons

“Ryan is going to be Ryan, he's going to be alright. It's all about getting his confidence back, coming and playing and being who he is and not try to be anyone else. When Ryan is being Ryan we could be a very good team.” – UK guard Julius Mays, on Ryan Harrow's importance

Ryan Harrow hasn't had the easiest first month of the season but he appears to be gradually coming along at just the right time for the Cats. The sophomore point guard once again saw his minutes increase – up to 25 in this game – and did a number of positive things in scoring eight points, grabbing four rebounds and handing out six assists against just one turnover. Harrow drew coach John Calipari's measured praise after the game but he will remain a work in progress as Kentucky tries to get more settled over the next few weeks.

The atmosphere inside Rupp Arena for the early tip resembled more of a church gathering during a sermon for much of the day and certainly wasn't helped by the Cats' slow start. Alex Poythress got things jump-started with a three-pointer from the right wing and then nifty move in the lane to key a 16-0 run that broke a 10-10 tie game into a comfortable lead for the Cats. Kyle Wiltjer followed Poythress' five points with five of his own, including a three-pointer that looked much better than the ones he had been hoisting in his extended shooting slump.

Nerlens Noel spent much of the pregame warmups on minutes before tip-off continually stretching his left leg, even showing a bit of a limp throughout the opening stretch of the game. Kentucky announced the freshman forward had a lower leg contusion that was causing the discomfort but you wouldn't have known it as the game moved along. Noel finished with seven points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots, pushing his season total to 32 rejections. By comparison, Anthony Davis had 39 blocks through nine games last season.

27.1 – Kentucky's offense was as inconsistent as it has been all season but the Cats were well above average on the defensive end of the floor, which is why the Pilots were never able to cut the deficit to single digits in the second half. The Cats blocked 12 shots and forced 18 turnovers while harassing Portland into shooting 27.1 percent from the field. That was both a season-low for the Pilots and also for Kentucky's defense.

John Calipari likes to tell people that there is no magic wand to just wave around and suddenly make Kentucky a dynamic team without weakness, so it's clear this is going to be a process in order to reach the level of expectation people have for the Cats. While there were still stretches that left you scratching your head there was also more consistent effort and steady play. That's where Kentucky is at right now.

Kentucky (0-0) will take the week off for final exams before returning to the court Saturday, Dec. 15 at 12:30 p.m. against Lipscomb.

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