Kentucky vs. Maryland: No. 3 Wildcats Survive Season Opener 72-69

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Kentucky vs. Maryland: No. 3 Wildcats Survive Season Opener 72-69
Jason Szenes/Getty Images

Despite getting consistently out-hustled under the glass, the UK Wildcats looked they they had this game wrapped up early in the second half. A 53-38 lead with 17:26 remaining (and a cold shooting Maryland team) most likely meant a solid season opening victory followed by the expected post game statements by Calipari about the huge amount of work left to do with this young team.

The Terrapins, however, had other plans, going on a second half tear that nearly gave them a shocking upset to start their season.

The Good

  • Nerlens Noel was not an offensive force in this game by any stretch (four points), but his defense and some great hustle plays definitely made his presence felt. He also lead all Wildcats with nine rebounds to go along with three blocks and two steals.
  • Jarrod Polson put the nation on notice that he is not just a human victory cigar that fans will beg to shoot the ball at the end of UK blowout wins. He came off the bench and ran the team with incredible poise and efficiency (10 points, three assists, no turnovers) and had a HUGE steal and basket with 3:30 remaining in the game to put the Wildcats up by four.
  • Anthony Davis may be gone, but 12 blocks by the Wildcats tonight means that UK's reputation for swatting opponent's shots out of the air is still alive and well.
  • The Wildcat bench outscored Maryland's 25-10 despite using two less players than them.

The Bad

  • The Wildcats were absolutely dominated on the boards. Not only were they out-rebounded by Maryland 46-34, but much of that margin was made by the Terrapins on the offensive end of the court. They beat Kentucky in offensive rebounds by a staggering 23-12 margin.
  • Turnovers may be typical in the early part of the season for a Calipari team, but that doesn't make it any less ugly to watch. The Wildcats turned the ball over 12 times to match their 12 assists.
  • Free throw shooting almost did the Wildcats in, especially down the stretch. UK shot 18-28 (64.3 percent) from the line compared to 16-21 (76.2 percent) for the Terrapins.
  • Maryland was 3-of-19 (15.8 percent) from behind the arc. As nice as it would be to chalk all of that up to great defense by Kentucky, many of those shots were completely uncontested. If the Wildcats were playing the Terrapins on an average shooting night for them, things would have gotten very scary.

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Jarrod Polson was a big reason UK came away with the victory over Maryland

The Weird

  • Drew Curtis (owner operator of and big time Kentucky fan) tweeted from the game that Maryland fans booed when it was announced that the UK basketball team had helped raise $1 million dollars for the Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Classy.
  • You know things are weird when people are fervently talking about football in Kentucky during a 1-9 season and while basketball is starting. That is all thanks to the rampant speculation about Bobby Petrino being a possible candidate for the head coaching position...and along with UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, making one of the greatest gifs in Kentucky Sports history (h/t Kentucky Sports Radio).

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