No. 7 Kentucky holds off Morehead State
by Kyle Tucker, USA TODAY Sports
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Sean Woods started the week trying to teach Kentucky’s young players a bit of history. Wednesday night, Woods and his Morehead State team taught the Wildcats a lesson about toughness.
Woods, whose name and jersey number hang in the Rupp Arena rafters, was welcomed with warm applause by the home crowd. There were no audible boos after his profuse apologizing for earlier comments about Kentucky players acting entitled and not knowing enough about legends past.
Wildcats fans were instead stunned at times as Woods’ team raced out to a first-half lead, trailed by one at the half, surged ahead to start the second half and was within striking distance down the stretch. The Eagles (3-2), assuming their fiery coach’s personality, never backed down from the seventh-ranked Wildcats (3-1) before falling 81-70.
Morehead pulled in front just after halftime thanks to consecutive Kentucky turnovers and a Jarrett Stokes 3-pointer. Wildcats coach John Calipari called a timeout just 42 seconds into the half, but the Eagles still led 48-44 with 14:10 to go.
Then Kentucky freshman guard Archie Goodwin slashed, freshman center Nerlens Noel scrapped, senior guard Julius Mays swished, and the trio sparked the Wildcats to a 16-2 run that regained momentum and gave them a 60-50 lead with 10:20 remaining.
During the comeback, Noel poked away consecutive steals and snared a key offensive rebound. Once again the team’s most consistent source of hustle, Noel stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, 11 rebounds, six blocks, four assists and three steals.
Goodwin scored four points during the run and 16 in the second half to help Kentucky put it away. His driving buckets — and 12-of-17 free-throw shooting — resulted in a game-high 28 points to go with his six rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Mays scored 11 points Wednesday night, but played a much more significant historical role. His back-to-back buckets capped the decisive run, including a 3-pointer with 11:17 to go that sent the crowd into delirium as it ensured the Wildcats’ streak of consecutive games with at least one trey did not die at 830 games (and 24 years).