John Clay: Kentucky basketball's offense looks just fine without Ryan Harrow

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 23, 2012 

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Let's crunch some numbers.

Kentucky shot 67.7 percent from the floor Friday night in its 104-75 win over visiting LIU-Brooklyn in Rupp Arena. The Cats shot 69.7 percent the first half, 65.5 the second half. That's the third straight game out of the five played in this young season in which John Calipari's team has shot 50 percent or better.

Kentucky also had 28 assists on 42 field goals. Four Cats had five or more assists. Archie Goodwin led the way with nine, to go with his 22 points and nine rebounds. Julius Mays had six assists.

Two big men got in on the act, as well. Nerlens Noel dished five assists, and Kyle Wiltjer had five.

"That's a big number," said Calipari of the team assist total. "That's huge."

It should be noted, this was accomplished without the player we all presumed would be the starting point guard.

Which brings us to this question: Could the Cats be any more efficient if Ryan Harrow were running the point?

For his part, Calipari said he is happy with his point guard rotation, with Goodwin starting at the one, then being spelled by Jarrod Polson, who continues to get more playing time — 19 minutes on Friday.

"We want Ryan back," Calipari said. "Again, just at the end of the day, I think he'll be back tomorrow and I think he'll be at practice on Sunday and Monday, and we'll get started.

"But (after) the time away, now he starts down the totem pole. Like last, and he's got to work his way back. ... Then he's got to work his way with time to Jarrod. Jarrod is playing well right now. He's got to fight, and he understands."

In other words, right now Goodwin is the starting point guard, not so much through necessity as through production. The Arkansas native has shown not only a scoring knack, but a way to get the ball to his teammates.

Calipari has compared Goodwin to his former Memphis star Tyreke Evans. But Cal also had a scoring point guard by the name of Derrick Rose at Memphis. He had one here his second year in Brandon Knight. Others have compared Goodwin's game to Dwyane Wade's.

"I've heard that a lot," Goodwin said. "It's a nice comparison, but at the same time I'm nowhere near where he's at now. I still have a long way to go."

But he's making impressive strides, especially for someone who, before Harrow's absence, did not expect to be in this position.

"I'm pretty comfortable at it now," Goodwin said. "I'm a lot more confident at it, especially going into these last couple of games. I've had two pretty good games, and it has been helping me build confidence, and I know my teammates are going to come through for me, as well."

Same for Polson, who, given the last two years, was expected to be a mop-up player. Starting with his contribution in the season opener, Polson has been much more than that.

"Jarrod has been great ... as far as bringing energy and effort to us and getting us in the right sets when we need it," Goodwin said. "The way he's playing, it's not a surprise to us because we see in practice how he works every day. In the summer he was always finishing second to me in running, of course. The way he works, it's unbelievable."

"I have a lot of confidence in him," Calipari said. "There may be a game or two where he's going to get spot time because of the opponent we're playing. But that's few and far between."

So where does that leave Harrow, who after a 10-minute stint in the season opener has been out with an ailment that has sapped his energy and led to all sorts of speculation?

"I would hope if it was your son you'd want me to deal with this the way I'm dealing with it," Calipari said. "I'm going to coach him, and if someone's better, he's not playing. If he's better, he'll play in time.

"We need him back. We need another guy, no question. But, look, it's like everything else, you have injuries, you have things that go on as a coach. This is who we are, and I like my team."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226Email: jclay@herald-leader.comTwitter: @johnclayivBlog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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