Cats survive Commodores’ test



By Kyle Arensdorf

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UK basketball maintained its perfect record Tuesday night and is performing like the well-oiled machine we saw early in the season once again.

But one hitch in UK’s step, and its savior on Tuesday, continues to be the Jekyll-and-Hyde play of sophomore guard Aaron Harrison.

The Cats’ 65-57 victory against Vanderbilt was a glaring microcosm of that point.

After making “the shots” in last season’s NCAA tournament, Harrison was hailed as this season’s clutch shooter, one of UK’s leaders and perhaps its best NBA prospect.

But after a slow start to his season, failing to reach double-digit points in six of his first nine games, Harrison began to be overshadowed.

Not only was he failing to progress as quickly as his counterparts in the starting lineup, but he was being surpassed by several members of the second platoon as well.

He’s managed to turn around his poor play lately, however. Since that early stretch, Harrison has scored more than 10 points in seven of his last nine games, including netting 26 in a double-overtime win against Ole Miss.

Against the Commodores though, Harrison didn’t have a point going into halftime. In fact, the only two stats he managed in seven minutes of play were a rebound and a turnover.

Playing great is difficult to begin with, but playing at an all-time great level after you’ve struggled for most of the season is nearly impossible.

But despite his lackluster start, the 6-foot-6 guard didn’t waver.

Harrison’s 14 second-half points were more than any of his teammates scored in the entire game, and they came at the most opportune of times for UK throughout the half.

“Aaron basically threw dagger after dagger,” said head coach John Calipari.

Harrison’s most deadly dagger came during a possession with just over two minutes remaining in which he dove out of bounds to save a ball, then re-entered play to sink a corner-three that created an insurmountable seven-point UK lead.

He then hit two closing free throws with 33 seconds left when the game was just out of reach for the Commodores.

His brisk halftime turnaround is an anomaly, however, in the scope of his entire season.

For the most part, when Harrison is up, he’s one of the best guards in the nation. But when he’s down, he stays down.

It hasn’t thwarted the Cats thus far though simply because he’s not the primary scorer, or shooter, on the team anymore.

That moniker belongs to freshman guard Devin Booker, who continues to show an intensity and a finesse that Harrison just doesn’t possess when his off-games rear their heads.

Harrison has had more of the ugly Mr. Hyde showings recently than the good Dr. Jekyll outings, but those bad games are still about.

Just four days ago, he laid an egg in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and only managed two field goals in 23 minutes of play.

Time will tell whether Harrison will continue his aggressive play and climb in the ranks amongst his UK counterparts.

But despite a promising showing Tuesday against one of the worst teams the SEC has to offer, he remains in danger of being left behind.