SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Irish eyes were smiling, knowingly, as Kentucky freshmen Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin struggled here Thursday night. Each suffered what's commonly known as growing pains as UK lost 64-50 at Notre Dame.
Foul trouble limited Poythress's playing time. And when he was in the game, he had only one basket. He had as many turnovers (three) as points (three).
Worse, Notre Dame hit three-pointers over Poythress again and again.
"They went at him defensively," UK Coach John Calipari said.
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Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey acknowledged that intent, noting how Poythress has to adjust from being a high school power player to a collegian on the perimeter. Against Notre Dame, Poythress tried to keep up with junior Jerian Grant, who is 2 inches shorter, 37 pounds lighter and two seasons more experienced.
"That's a tough matchup for a young guy who's still making the transition to playing on the perimeter," Brey said. "Then have to guard Jerian Grant or even to be switched up on Eric Atkins. Those guys are veteran guards. They're good off the dribble."
As for Goodwin, he made one of seven shots and scored three points. So UK's two leading scorers (averaging a combined 37.4 points) scored six.
"He played out of control for the first time," Calipari said of Goodwin. "I think one shot hit the shot clock, didn't it?
"At the end, I just said, 'Get us shots. Don't worry about getting yourself shots.'"
Brey credited Notre Dame's ability to play ball-screens as a key in limiting Goodwin. He also noted how the Irish guards were strong and quick enough to stay in front of the UK freshman.
"He could never really turn the corner," Brey said.
Youth vs. experience
Brey expressed thanks for playing a freshman-dependent UK team in late November.
"I'm glad we played them now because they're really young and talented," the Notre Dame coach said. "They're going to be better in January and February."
Notre Dame's veterans, who had a combined 234 college starts entering this season, played confidently and effectively.
"It's so beautiful to watch," Brey said. "The way the guards were controlling things, you didn't have to do a lot of coaching."
Brey noted the Notre Dame atmosphere as an influence on UK.
"It can make you play a little fast sometimes, if you're young," he said. "It can make you take quick shots, if you're young. It can rattle you a little bit. I think it did that."
Calipari spoke of a live-and-learn approach that may have to wait until after Saturday's game against Baylor. The UK coach likened that to the second game in a NBA-ish back-to-back night schedule.
No easy fix?
When asked if Kentucky's problems were easy to fix, Calipari said, "It's tough coaching a new team every year. That's what's hard.
"This is part of what we have to deal with. Every team is new."
Twenty-two of the 30 NBA teams were represented at the game.
The shorter list of NBA teams not here was Knicks, Thunder, Bulls, Wizards, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Warriors and Kings.
Teams with more than one seat reserved were Bobcats, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, Hornets, Suns and Spurs. In all, Notre Dame assigned 29 seats for pro scouts and personnel.
No doubt, UK fans remember the phosphorescent green uniforms Baylor wore against the Cats in the 2012 NCAA Tournament East Region finals. When asked as the Bears warmed up how to spell "phosphorescent," Mike Lopresti of Gannett quipped, "B-R-I-G-H-T."
Baylor will not be wearing those bright uniforms against Kentucky on Saturday.
"Those likely won't be back until this post-season," Baylor spokesman David Kaye said in an email. "I've been told we're wearing our normal green road uniforms."
With black numbers on black uniforms, Brey acknowledged the difficulty in telling one Notre Dame player from another.
"That's all part of the plan," he said facetiously. "(Referees) don't know who to call a foul on. So I can move guys around. ... That's almost like our secret agent uniforms. You just don't know who's who."
Turning serious, Brey said of the black-on-black uniforms, "I tell you what, our guys love them and the guys we're recruiting love them. So I'm going to keep wearing them on the road."