Dame It!: Fighting Irish upend sluggish Cats

UK forward Nerlens Noel goes after the ball during the second half of the UK men's basketball game v. University of Notre Dame in Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, In., on Thursday, November 29, 2012. Photo by Genevieve Adams | Staff

By David Schuh | @KernelSchuh
dschuh@kykernel.com

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — UK head coach John Calipari has spoken not of wins and losses this season, but of wins and learning experiences. Thursday night in South Bend, he got plenty of teaching material.

The UK men’s basketball team lost to Notre Dame 64-50 in the second-worst loss of the Calipari era.

“I was very confident about our group on this night,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “We didn’t look at it as an upset. We’re good here; we’re so confident here.”

The capacity crowd at the Edmund P. Joyce Center attempted to rattle the young Cats in the opening half. After UK shot its way to an early 12-6 lead, freshman forward Alex Poythress picked up his second foul, sitting him down for the rest of the half.

The Irish took full advantage, going on a 30-11 run to open up an 11-point lead at halftime. UK shot just 1-8 from the 3-point line in the first half.

“We came out a little shell-shocked,” graduate student guard Julius Mays said. “We started playing their game and once we got into their game, obviously they’re better at it.”

Sophomore guard Ryan Harrow checked in seven minutes into the game but promptly turned the ball over on his first offensive possession. The Cats struggled on offense when Calipari used a three-guard lineup, especially when Notre Dame went to a zone for much of the half.

Senior forward Jack Cooley had eight points and seven rebounds at the break, helping the Irish dominate the paint over UK’s vaulted frontcourt.

From that point on, UK never got the lead under 10. The defensive pressure, particularly in the interior of Notre Dame, continued to bother UK. The Cats finished the game 19-47 from the field.

Mays tried to shoot the Cats back in it late in the half, but his three second-half 3s could only match those being made on the other end.

Poythress, battling foul trouble much of the night, attempted and made one shot during the course of the game. Goodwin, leading the team with 19 points per game, scored three points on 1-7 shooting.

“He was playing out of control for the first time,” Calipari said of Goodwin. “He hasn’t played like that all year. But he’s going to learn. That’s what happens when you take a young team on the road where they don’t lose very often.”

Cooley finished the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds, one of four Irish players in double figures.

UK struggled all night defending the 3-point line, allowing the Irish to shoot 8-15 from behind the arc with several shots that responded to UK’s second-half surges.

“Hopefully we’ll watch some tape and figure stuff out,” Calipari said. “The good news is we play in 36 hours.”