NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Kentucky showed its age — or lack thereof — and not much else in losing 64-50 at Notre Dame Thursday night.
In their first game on an opponent's court this season, this edition of the Kiddie Cats seemed to forget their identity as a low-post team. When Notre Dame's three-point shooters warmed up in the second half, the festive crowd that cheered the recognition of Notre Dame's No. 1-ranked football team at halftime had something else to celebrate.
"What disappointed me was we didn't compete," UK Coach John Calipari said. "They beat us to balls. They beat us around the basket. We didn't execute. We didn't play together. There were a lot of things that went out the window."
Notre Dame's lead grew to as much as 20 midway through the second half as UK stared at only the second defeat by double digits in Calipari's four seasons as coach. The first was the 84-67 loss to Kemba Walker-led Connecticut in the 2010 Maui Invitational.
"They ground us up," Calipari said. "That's how we normally play when we get up."
No. 8 Kentucky fell to 4-2, which coincidentally matched the start by the previous Calipari-coached UK team the Cats are most-often compared to: the 2010-11 edition.
Julius Mays, who fueled a mild second-half comeback with three three-pointers in a two-minute span, led UK with 16 points.
"We just got out-competed from start to finish," he said.
Conversely, Notre Dame exulted in what was anything but a routine victory (never mind that the Irish improved to 65-1 in their last 66 non-league home games).
"What a fun night," said Coach Mike Brey, who noted Notre Dame's night-and-day advantage in experience. "We really prepared like an experienced team the last few days. I thought we played like an experienced group."
Notre Dame held UK to 50 points, which marked the fewest scored by a Kentucky team since a 73-46 loss at Kansas on Jan. 7, 2006. UK came into the game averaging 85.2 points.
"We defended excellently for 40 minutes," Brey said. "and really got into an offensive rhythm when we needed to. ... Our guards were fabulous controlling the tempo of things."
Point guard Eric Atkins led a balanced Notre Dame attack with 16 points. Jerian Grant and Jack Cooley added 13 each. Freshman Cameron Biedscheid added 10.
Kentucky trailed 36-25 at halftime. That marked UK's largest deficit since falling behind 41-28 at Mississippi State last Feb. 21. The Cats won 73-64 in Starkville.
To rally here, Kentucky needed better shooting, defense and rebounding.
Notre Dame outrebounded UK 18-11 in the first half. Putbacks contributed to a 55.6-percent shooting half for the Irish. Cooley's putback with 23.9 seconds gave Notre Dame its largest first-half lead at 36-23.
Jarrod Polson's heavily contested, double-clutch scoop at the buzzer set the halftime score.
Kentucky made four of its first five shots and took a 12-6 early lead.
Then the Cats made only one of their next nine shots. Notre Dame mixed zone and man-to-man.
Foul trouble contributed to UK's quandary.
Alex Poythress went to the bench with his second foul at the 14:33 mark. Archie Goodwin picked up his second with 4:35 left.
Notre Dame didn't hurt Kentucky with three-point shots in the first half. The Irish made only three of seven.
To begin the second half, Kentucky appeared more inside-oriented.
But making only one of five shots to begin the half (all from the paint) mitigated the shift inside.
A three-point avalanche early in the second half enabled Notre Dame to assume a 55-35 lead with 10 minutes left.
The Irish made four of their first six shots from beyond the arc. The fourth — a semi-desperate heave to beat the shot clock by Grant over Poythress — put Notre Dame ahead 53-35. That prompted a UK timeout with 11:22 left.
Calipari went small with Polson replacing Poythress. Until later this season, he can't go experienced in a setting like this.
The UK coach lamented the difference in this beating and no-quit grit the Cats showed in the 75-68 loss to Duke earlier this month.
"My whole thing is you can play poorly," Calipari said, "but you can still defend and compete. In other words, two teams just battling each other, and Notre Dame wins. That's not what happened.
"This was Notre Dame throwing around Kentucky and winning by as much as they needed to win by."
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com