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Rewind: Harrow sparks Cats' victory

Dec. 22, 2012
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.

Ryan Harrow had a career-high 23 points in Kentucky's win (Darrell Bird/TCP)

Ryan Harrow got off to a quick start and had by far his best game of the season in sending Kentucky into the Christmas break with a four-game winning streak.

The sophomore point guard had 23 points and four assists to spark the Wildcats to an 82-54 victory over an offensively challenged Marshall squad. Nerlens Noel also recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cats started the second half slowly yet again but used an 18-2 run to pull away, sending the Rupp Arena crowd home happy for the holidays.

Marshall led 20-18 but scored just four points over the final 11:44 of the first half, helping the cold-shooting Cats finish on a 15-4 run despite making just one of 13 three-pointers in the first 20 minutes. Julius Mays and Kyle Wiltjer missed all seven of their three-pointers, four of which were halfway down before popping back out.

“Oh, we got better. Whew. A couple of guys had lapses and those lapses will kill us in our league, but the reality of it is we got way better...We're a long way from home but it shows that this team has more upside than any team in the country.”

“It's been a while since we've been beat by 28. Obviously, I'm really disappointed in our second half. Too many easy baskets, lay-ups. We allowed Harrow to get off the schneid, a career night. We wilted a little bit at times, which is uncharacteristic.” – Marshall coach Tom Herrion

“Coach Cal said the good guy is one of the best point guards in the nation. The cool guy sucks. So, I don't want to be, I guess, a sucky player so I have to play aggressively.” – Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow

Ryan Harrow's growth and level of comfort continues to improve, and with it the entire performance of Kentucky's basketball team. Harrow scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, besting the 20 points he scored as a freshman at N.C. State against USC Upstate. The sophomore played a season-high 33 minutes and added four rebounds, four assists and three steals to his line. When the Cats couldn't get much going in the first half it was Harrow who scored 11 points and kept coming up with important plays whenever they needed them.

For whatever reason this Kentucky team has shown a nasty habit of coming out and laying an egg through the first few minutes of the second half, drawing coach John Calipari's ire on several occasions. The tendency showed itself again when Marshall scored the first seven points of the second half to slice a nine-point deficit to just two. But Kentucky answered the bell and righted itself after a Calipari timeout, ripping off a 20-3 run as it suffocated the Thundering Herd's offense. By the time Marshall finally found its footing with an 8-0 spurt of its own the Cats had already put the game away.

Nerlens Noel had been on quite a tear with his blocked shots and steals of late but in this game it was more about what the wiry freshman forward gave Kentucky from a physical standpoint. Playing against a Marshall frontcourt that is physically imposing and prides itself on turning the game into a wrestling match in the paint Noel did back down, scoring 11 points and adding 10 rebounds to notch his first career double-double. Noel only blocked two shots and had just two steals but it was more about how he handled himself against the type of big men he'll see against Louisville and then into Southeastern Conference play.

Jon Hood missed the game with what Kentucky officially called an upper respiratory infection in a pregame release. Hood, who had begun to show signs of being a nice piece off the bench in limited playing time, was not in Rupp Arena for the game. A source close to Hood told the junior swingman was actually battling a case of mononucleosis, which could lead to an extended absence.

Not every coach in America gives his basketball team a break for the Christmas holiday but John Calipari is a firm believer in allowing his players the opportunity to be with their families for a few days in order to recharge the batteries. To that end, Calipari explained the Wildcats' Christmas schedule. “(The players) leave after the game,” Calipari said. “They’ll be gone the 23rd, 24th, 25th. They’ll come back on the 26th at some point. So we’re giving them a good break. This has been an experience for them, so they need to get away and get their heads back and be with their families.”

There are still issues with this team – interior scoring, Archie Goodwin's reckless drives, Alex Poythress' motor, etc. - but you can see the pieces starting to become more clear in how it could all come together sometime during SEC play. There will continue to be bumps in the road but Ryan Harrow's emergence and the improved ability to handle physical play by most of the Cats provide more positive signs heading into the Christmas break and with the Louisville game looming.

Kentucky (8-3) will take a short break and then return to campus to begin preparations for its civil war with Louisville. The Cats take on the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29. The game will be televised by CBS.

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