Goodwin, Polson diminish guard fears for Calipari


UK freshman guard Archie Goodwin drives to the basket against LIU at Rupp Arena on Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Photo by Scott Hannigan

By Les Johns | @KernelJohns

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UK basketball head coach John Calipari stomped, yelled and scolded the Cats over their defensive effort — both in the half-court and in transition.

Conversely, the Cats showed incredibly efficiency on the offensive end of the ball.

Friday night in a 104-75 win at Rupp Arena over LIU-Brooklyn, UK dished out 28 assists on 42 made field goals.

Those 28 assists were more in a game than any single performance of the last year’s national championship squad (high was 24 against Marist on Nov. 11, 2011).

The Cats had five players score double-figures and had four players dish out more than four assists — all without the presumed starting point guard in the building.

Transfer sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow has been the ultimate mystery this season. He has battled an illness causing him to drop seven pounds and missed plenty of practice and game time, playing just 10 ineffective minutes in the season-opener against Maryland.

As reports of his physical improvement circulated, Harrow abruptly went home to deal with what was described as a family issue.

In the meantime, former walk-on guard Jarrod Polson has emerged as a legitimate option and freshman Archie Goodwin has flat-out thrived in the point guard role.

“His (Goodwin) numbers were great. He’s a tough guard,” said LIU-Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri. ” He gets all the way to the rim both to his left and his right. He gets fouled a ton. He’s a talented kid and a big-time player.”

Friday night, Goodwin came precariously close to a triple-double, netting 22 points while adding nine rebounds and nine assists.

“He’s capable of this, but he’s learning,” Calipari said. “He’s a good athlete. He’s long. The one thing the dribble-drive gets you to do is play through bumps, and he’s playing through bumps as well as anybody.”

Goodwin feels he has transitioned to the role well so far.

“I think I am coming along well with it. I’m still listening to coach and he is still going to be on me everyday and this is going to help me a lot,” Goodwin said. “I have been to the gym a lot outside of practice and that is going to help me transition to the point guard easier.”

The team shares the ball well, and finds each other for open looks both in the paint and from long distance. They shot 42-of-62 from the field Friday for 67.7 percent and shot 7-of-13 behind the arc for 53.8 percent.

“We had 28 assists at 10 turnovers today. That’s huge,” Calipari said. “That’s a big number.”

With the team clicking so well, and with Harrow out of the loop for so much practice and playing time, it is clear it will take some time for him to make an impact.

“We want Ryan back. I think he’ll be in practice on Sunday and Monday and we’ll get started,” Calipari said Friday night. “At the end of the day, I would hope if it were your son, you would want me to deal with this the way I’m dealing with it.”

Calipari reported on twitter that Harrow did return to practice Sunday.

“Ryan went the whole way & looked good,” Calipari said in a tweet about the team’s first Sunday practice. “Best part was seeing the smile on his face.”

Harrow updated the fans about his status in a release from UK athletics.

“I’m feeling much better and it felt really good to get back on the practice court with the guys today,” Harrow said in the release that said he had an family issue to attend to.”Everything is good with that now and I’m excited about playing with my brothers again.”

How Harrow will be utilized is the big question mark now.

The Cats just ran through a three-game homestand against opponents they were designed to beat handily, and with the exception of the tussle against Morehead State that is precisely what they did.

Next up for UK are a pair of high-profile national television battles that will really tell the Cats a lot about themselves.

They travel to Notre Dame, who have won 38 of its last 39 contests at home, Thursday before hosting a very young, athletic and talented Baylor team Saturday.

Neither one of those contests are well-suited to try something new, like re-implementing Harrow to the point (or the lineup at all).

“If someone is better, he’s (Harrow) not playing,” Calipari said. “If he’s better, he’ll play in time. We need him back — need another guy — no question. Like everything else, you have injuries and things that go on.”

Even though he has returned to the team, the mystery will likely remain until at least after the Baylor game, when the Cats face a series of four lesser opponents leading up to the Battle of the Bluegrass against Louisville on Dec. 29.

In the meantime, the Cats will have to settle for the sharing, balanced-scoring, highly efficient offense led by Polson and Goodwin.

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