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Rewind: UK flashes talent in opener

Exhibition Game #1
Nov. 1, 2012
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.

Ryan Harrow made a move to the basket in Kentucky's exhibition opener (TCP/Matt McCarty)

Willie Cauley-Stein defended a 5-foot-2 guard. Nerlens Noel left his feet every 20 seconds. Archie Goodwin proved he won't be shy about taking shots.

Those were just a few of the early impressions from Kentucky's first exhibition game, ones that mean little to nothing in the broad scope of the season. Still, there were signs of another athletically superior team with plenty of room to grow as the Wildcats steadily pulled away from NAIA power Northwood for a 93-61 victory.

Goodwin scored a team-high 22 points and dished out five assists while looking like the Cats' most polished and effective offensive player. Noel shook off a slow start to finish with 17 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, while Ryan Harrow added 15 points, five assists and four steals.

Kentucky shot 61.4 percent for the game and held the Seahawks, coached by Rollie Massimino, to just 36.2 percent.

“I will tell you that we were better than I thought we'd be.”

“Are you kidding me? I wouldn't lose a game for 5 years.” – Northwood coach Rollie Massimino, on what he could do with the amount of talent on Kentucky's roster

“It's going to take some time because everybody was the best player on their high school team and then you have me and Kyle (Wiltjer) coming back so we are just trying to figure each other out.” – Ryan Harrow, on challenges of playing together this early in season

Archie Goodwin's statistical line may have been the most impressive on Kentucky's side of the ledger but it was Nerlens Noel who made the most lasting impression from the first outing against another team. Noel started a bit slow but found his stride midway through the first half and flashed moments of brilliance in the second half. Noel finished with 17 points (on 8-of-9 shooting), 11 rebounds and four blocked shots but it was his athleticism and grace bounding all over the floor that stood out the most. Noel might not be Anthony Davis but he certainly looks the part of a difference maker for the Cats.

Tyrone Davis stands 5-foot-2. He's a guard for Northwood and easily the shortest player Kentucky's players will suit up against this season. “He was short,” Goodwin said. “I didn't realize he was that short. Coach said he was 5-2 but I think he was literally 5-2, so he was short.” The size differential provided unique challenges but also created a moment where Willie Cauley-Stein, all 7-feet of him, blocked Davis' shot at about shoulder level. “I should have just took it,” Cauley-Stein said. “I was almost in shock. I should have just took it. I don't know what happened. Pretty close (to easiest block ever). Maybe playing my little cousin or something (was easier).”

Julius Mays' game has been described by more than one person as 'old man's game', which in his case is a compliment. The senior doesn't wow you with athleticism, although he's got more than enough to hold his own, but he does all of the little things that help win ball games. Sound familiar? It should, that's what Darius Miller brought Kentucky last season. Mays made both of his three-point attempts, was steady with the basketball when he had it in his hands and produced four steals, all while showing a crafty side to his game that will play well with all the athleticism around him.

17 – John Calipari always insists turnovers aren't the worst thing for his teams because it means they are being aggressive on the court. He also points out that they almost always have balls 'flying all over the place' early in the season as a new cast of characters must figure out how to play the 'Dribble Drive' and what their new teammates' strengths and weaknesses may be. Calipari won't be happy about 17 turnovers but it's to be expected at this point and will almost assuredly improve as the season moves along.

Exhibition games are terribly difficult to judge or draw any conclusions from but they do help establish a baseline from which to work as the season goes along. This team clearly has a longer way to go to reach its potential than last season's but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot to like about this group, its versatility chief among them. It will be interesting to see how this group develops and at what pace moving forward.

Kentucky (0-0) will return to the court Monday, Nov. 5 for its final exhibition game against nearby Transylvania University in an 8 p.m. tip.

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