Three-Pointers: UK vs. Duke

Breaking down three takeaway points from the Wildcats' 75-68 loss to Duke on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome.

Three takeaway points from Kentucky's 75-68 loss to Duke on Tuesday in the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome:

A Rare ‘Good Loss?' Perhaps the most surprising reaction to this game, which marked only the third loss by UK in the last 592 days, is how well the Big Blue Nation took it. Let's face it, this program expects to win every game it plays, and at times in the past a loss like this would have set off something between significant aggravation and full-blown meltdown. For the most part, that didn't happen today, even though the loss came to the team the BBN loves to hate more than anyone not named Louisville. The majority of fans seem to believe that this was a good learning tool for the young Cats and have played their full confidence in John Calipari to mold a contender over time. I suppose that's what happens when your coach leads the program to an Elite Eight, two Final Fours and a national championship in three years. The veteran-laden Duke squad played fairly well and still had a difficult time finishing off a freshman-dominated UK team that played without its starting point guard. That's pretty much the same Blue Devil team you're going to see in March. But Kentucky? Nowhere close to it. And while there is no such thing as moral victories in the BBN, this was probably the closest thing to it. Perhaps the most positive-feeling loss we've seen in a long, long time.

The Real Me: Borrowing from The Who classic, fans are hoping today that they saw the real Alex Poythress last night. The freshman forward from Tennessee had been erratic in the two exhibition games and UK's opener against Maryland (much like Jimmy in Pete Townshend's Quadrophenia) but thanks to some constant prodding from Calipari, he went full "Beast Mode" against Duke with 20 points and eight rebounds. Those numbers didn't tell the whole story, either. Poythress made tough plays for most of those points, including a number of highlight reel dunks up, over and through Duke defenders. I can't recall the last time I saw a UK player make that many of those plays in a single game, not even last year's national player of the year and No. 1 NBA draft pick, Anthony Davis. If Poythress can bottle up that sustained intensity and take-no-prisoners approach, perhaps those preseason All-America watch lists don't seem so far-fetched any longer.

The Point Guard Question: Much of the talk today is focused around what the Cats will do long-term at the point. Ryan Harrow's status remains unclear due to what UK describes as an unknown ailment causing persistent fatigue. Archie Goodwin is getting the Tyreke Evans crash course, but has experienced some major growing pains in making the adjustment. For every great play the freshman from Arkansas makes, there seems to be an equal and opposite reaction lurking just around the corner. That should stabilize over time as he becomes more comfortable in the role, but how long will he have to carry the load? Some have surmised that Harrow may have mononucleosis, aka "the kissing disease," a virus which can cause fatigue for several weeks and months in some cases. I don't think it's time to jump to that conclusion, but the Cats must be prepared to soldier on without their expected starter at the point indefinitely. Coach Cal indicated in last night's postgame interview that he will likely extend the UK rotation by one to help keep the backcourt fresh. That means junior swingman Jon Hood should get the call for more minutes in upcoming games against Lafayette, Morehead State and Long Island.


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