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UK players have had 20 days to think about the 40 points that Texas A&M guard Elston Turner scored against them at Rupp Arena in an upset win.
They’re ready for a second chance.
“We definitely owe them something,” said freshman forward Nerlens Noel. “We’re definitely a different team than when we played them last.”
“A guy that scores 40 on a team as good as we are, that’s just an embarrassment to our team,” said freshman guard Archie Goodwin. “We shouldn’t let that happen.”
Texas A&M and UK have seen their trajectories go in different directions since a late run propelled the Aggies to an 83-71 win on Jan. 12.
The Wildcats have won four of their five games since that defeat, including a win at No. 16 Ole Miss on Tuesday.
The Aggies lost their next four games after upsetting UK before earning a 55-49 overtime at Mississippi State Wednesday.
Turner has experienced his own struggles since his career-best performance in Rupp Arena.
He followed his 40-point game with a four-point performance versus Florida. In the five games following his outburst, Turner has totaled 52 points. Turner made six threes versus UK but has only hit six threes in the five games since.
“I haven’t seen them play because I don’t care to watch them, but I’ve heard that he hasn’t been doing as good as he did against us,” Goodwin said. “That’s expected because a lot of people have their highlight games against us. It’s something that we’re not going to let happen again.”
UK head coach John Calipari was noncommittal about the defensive strategy his team will use against Turner Saturday, but Goodwin thinks he will guard Turner for the majority of the game.
He’s eager for the opportunity.
“I think we all feel like we owe them,” he said. “We’re going into this game probably (with) a little bit more emotion than we have in the other games just because we know that we shouldn’t have let them come in here and do what they did.”
Goodwin thinks he is developing the skills that will allow him be the lock-down defender UK has searched for all season.
Calipari doesn’t think he is there yet.
“Except for Nerlens (Noel), (we) are guys that when they make an error they don’t have the discipline to move on to the next play,” Calipari said. “So if (Goodwin) takes a bad shot, turns it over, slips and falls, and is guarding their best player, he will get lost on a scree, a shot will go up and he won’t block out, or he’ll leave his feet and get fouled. It’s where he is, where Ryan (Harrow) is, where Alex (Poythress) is. We have a team full of guys like that.”
Goodwin and his teammates will look to not only shut down Turner Saturday, but also build on the momentum of their first win versus an RPI top-50 opponent this season.
“It’s going to be big for us to get this win and keep this thing going the way we want it to so we can really, really completely turn that corner and just really make our own identity for who we want to be and how far we want to go,” Noel said.
Saturday will not be UK’s first chance to follow an impressive road performance with another good outing. After a second-half blowout led UK to a win at Auburn, the Wildcats attempt to carry the momentum to Alabama did not go as planned.
After playing well for most of the first half, UK collapsed in the second half, losing their second Southeastern Conference game.
Calipari is hoping for a different outcome Saturday.
“Last time we came off a good game or a good second half, we come out and start the game good and they make a run at us,” he said. “That’s the other thing we have to learn: when the other team makes a run — I’ll say it again — you take a great shot every time down.”
Goodwin thinks he and his teammates learned a lesson in not following up the Auburn win with another impressive performance.
“We know that we’re not getting ahead of ourselves because we know we’ve already had too many games that we should have had in the beginning that we lost, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us going out and competing like we did (at Ole Miss) and just going out and trying to make statements.”
The biggest statement for Goodwin Saturday would come in shutting down Turner and avenging the most glaring loss on UK’s NCAA Tournament resume.
He’s making no effort to hide his enthusiasm to get that chance:
“I can’t wait to play him, because I know that I’m going to let it happen again.”
You can read more from Calipari’s Friday news conference on the KyForward UK Sports Notebook Tumblr.