John Calipari coaches from the announcers' table. (Photo by Jon Hale)
UK freshman guard Archie Goodwin may have a chance to win a game for his team this season, but he’ll have to hope for an improvement from his late-game performance in the Blue-White scrimmage.
Goodwin led all scorers with 32 points in the game but missed the first of three free throws with .1 second on the clock with his White team down three points. He made the final two free throws, but they weren’t enough for the White team to avoid an 89-88 loss.
“I’d love to have that free throw back,” Goodwin said with a smile after the game. “It felt good too. It rimmed out. I was hot. It’s just a part of the competitive nature. At the end of the day, it doesn’t mark down as a loss for us, so that’s the only important thing that matters.”
Goodwin’s personal pride may have been hurt with the free throw miss, but it was other shortcomings in the scrimmage that have UK head coach John Calipari looking for improvement.
Cauley-Stein defends Noel. (Photo by Jon Hale)
“We stopped playing. We don’t rotate. We don’t scramble,” he said. “Just an OK rebounding team. Other than that, I guess we played pretty good defense. Offensively, we haven’t figured it out yet.”
The game opened with the projected starting lineup of Goodwin, sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow, freshman forward Alex Poythress, sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer and freshman forward Nerlens Noel playing for the White team.
No one told the Wildcat reserves they were heavy underdogs in the matchup though as the Blue team of senior guard Julius Mays, sophomore guard Jarrod Polson, junior guard Jon Hood, freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein, senior guard Twany Beckham and practice player Tod Lanter jumped out to an early lead and led 46-38 at halftime.
Mays and Cauley-Stein combined for 24 points in the first half.
“It was all fun. I think we came out and got the jump on them early,” Mays said. “I think we were playing harder and executing a lot better than they were and defending better than they were.”
“That’s what we do every day in practice,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s like that. We play against them every day in practice. Me and Julius are like two of those seven guys who are going to get a lot of playing time, so we kind of had to go at them like that otherwise it was going to be ugly.”
Calipari, who spent most of the game sitting at the radio announcers table, juggled the lineups in the second half, moving Mays and Cauley-Stein to the White team and Harrow and Noel to the Blue team.
The lineups grew even more confusing late in the game as Harrow switched back to the White team after being fouled on a possible three-point play before he shot the free throw. Wiltjer also played for both teams in the second half.
While fans may expect the original White lineup to be the starting five, Calipari said after the scrimmage that’s far from a certainty. All the possible lineups have him considering his options.
“I told them at halftime, if you told me (I had to chose today) Julius would start and Willie would start,” he said. “I don’t know who else would start.”
Wiltjer combined for 28 points, 16 for White and 12 for Blue. Poythress scored 25 points, Harrow scored 20 points, 12 for the Blue and eight for the White.
Hood, who missed all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, scored 17 points, and Polson scored 13 for the winning Blue team. Noel finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six blocks. Cauley-Stein finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
“I thought Jarrod Polson played the best point guard in the first half,” Calipari said. “Jon Hood, that is the best he can play. He’s not listening to somebody tell him how to play, he knows what his game is now.”
“I was just happy to get back out there and play, and that’s why I never stopped smiling the entire time,” Hood said. “The other team had been on a big of a run and Jarrod looked at me, ‘Why are you smiling?’ Because I get to play.”
No player erupted for 52 points like Terrence Jones in the 2011 Blue-White game or 16 rebounds like Josh Harellson in the 2010 scrimmage, but the Wildcats showed glimpses of their promise.
Now Calipari wants improvement.
“Everybody sees we’re not as good as everybody is trying to say we are, and I’m good with that,” he said. “We are where we are. It’s Oct. 24th, and we’re playing like it’s Oct. 15th.
“Hopefully in a month, you’ll watch us and say, ‘Man, they really got better.’ And in another month you say, ‘Man, they’ve got a chance.’ And in another month, you say, ‘Man, they’re right there.’ That’s our hope. That’s what we want to do with this crew.”