10 Things We Learned from Kentucky's Upset Loss at Notre Dame
On Thursday night, Notre Dame defeated Kentucky, 64-50, in the SEC-Big East Challenge.
The Fighting Irish took over late in the first half after switching to a zone defense, which shut down the Kentucky offense.
The Irish were the beneficiaries of a strong performance by junior guard Eric Atkins, who scored a game-high 16 points in the victory in South Bend.
Notre Dame moved to 7-1 overall, while Kentucky fell to 4-2 overall with the loss.
Here are 10 things we learned from Thursday's victory by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish over the Kentucky Wildcats.
Notre Dame's Jerseys Were Hideous
Let me just get this out of the way right now, Notre Dame's choice of having a blackout against Kentucky was a great idea except for the uniforms that its basketball team was wearing.
The all-black jerseys that the Irish sported were not only eyesores to view on the television all night, but the names and numbers on the jerseys were difficult to find.
The names and numbers were there somewhere on the jerseys, but you need binoculars to find them.
There is no doubt the Irish's black jerseys will go down in the ugly uniform hall of fame.
Experience Outplayed Youth
It was clear on Thursday night which team was chock full of senior leadership and which team did not return a starter from last season.
Notre Dame's veterans, led by junior Eric Atkins and senior Jack Cooley, took over the game towards the end of the first half and did not look back.
Once Kentucky fell behind in the game, its body language began to show that it was giving up, and it did not have the character to comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit.
There is no doubt that the young Wildcats players gained valuable experience on Thursday night, but how they respond in other big games this season will show just how much the team has developed.
Alex Poythress' Early Foul Trouble Took Him out of Entire Game
With 14:38 left in the first half, Wildcats forward Alex Poythress was called for his second personal foul.
From that point on, the freshman had very little impact on the game.
Poythress shot 100 percent from the field on Thursday night, but that was because he only had one shot, which came early in the second half.
With a game against Baylor at home on Saturday, Poythress will have to find a way to stay out of foul trouble against the talented big men of Baylor.
No One Could Guard Eric Atkins
Notre Dame's best player on Thursday night was guard Eric Atkins, who scored 16 points, which tied him most points scored in the game, along with Kentucky's Julius Mays.
Thirteen of Atkins' 16 came in the first half when the Irish were running away with the ballgame.
Atkins' impact on the game lessened when the win was secured by Notre Dame and it went to the big men to close it out.
However, in the time where Atkins was the impact player on the court, Kentucky could not guard him and left him open throughout most of the first half.
Julius Mays Single-Handedly Tried to Lead Kentucky Comeback
There was one player who stood out in the second half for Kentucky, and that was Julius Mays.
Mays scored a team-high 16 points and played a part in all but one Wildcats basket in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Mays drained three three-pointers and assisted on dunks from Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel late in the second half.
Although a comeback was out of the question for most of the second half, the senior guard did not give up and showed that he can be trusted as a leader for Kentucky.
2-3 Zone Shut Down Kentucky Offense
In the first half, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey switched his defensive strategy from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone and it was a success.
For the final eight minutes of the first half, Brey's Fighting Irish team only allowed nine points by the Wildcats, as they stopped any positive momentum that the Wildcats had in the first half.
In that same time span, Notre Dame scored 17 points and expanded its lead to nine points, a lead that it would never relinquish.
Kentucky Need a Productive Point Guard
Kentucky showed on Thursday night that it has plenty of weaknesses that need to be worked on in the coming days, but the one glaring weakness was at the point guard position.
Archie Goodwin started at the position and was effective in the early minutes of the game, but then he disappeared from the action.
Goodwin ended the game with three points and five assists, which are brutal statistics for a point guard playing for the defending champions.
The return of Ryan Harrow to the lineup did not help the Wildcats either, as the sophomore scored just two points in his nine minutes of action against Notre Dame.
If the Wildcats want to contend for the SEC title this season, they will need to find a point guard who is able to deliver on a consistent basis, something they failed to find in South Bend.
Nerlens Noel Was Nowhere to Be Seen
Nerlens Noel can not be missed on the court with his flat top hairstyle, but that was about the only thing impressive about the freshman against Notre Dame.
Noel ended the game with 10 points, with eight of those points coming when Notre Dame was in charge of the game and the center's impact was not able to be felt.
On the defensive end, Noel was unable to make his presence known against the Fighting Irish's senior big man, Jack Cooley.
Against Baylor on Saturday, Noel will face an even bigger challenge against Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, the Bears' dynamic duo in the paint.
Do Not Expect a Championship-Caliber Kentucky Team This Season
It is well known that Kentucky's incoming freshman class did not match the talent of the national championship winning class from last season, but no one expected the big dropoff in talent and cohesiveness that the Wildcats have shown so far this season.
Noel, Poythress and Goodwin were the three freshmen that coach John Calipari was looking to see big results from this season, but so far, those three have failed to show up in the team's two big games.
Against Duke and Notre Dame, the young Wildcats were beaten by battle-tested veteran teams who will have a huge impact on the national scene once March rolls around.
This may be a down year for Kentucky basketball, as it most likely will not contend for the national championship, but if it gets its act together, it could challenge for the SEC title with Florida and Missouri.
Kentucky Will Have to Rebound Quickly from Loss
The schedule does not get any easier for the Kentucky Wildcats as they host Baylor on Saturday.
The Bears will come into Rupp Arena as a hungry team that has had a few disappointing results this season.
Baylor last played on November 24, and it was upset by the College of Charleston on its home court.
With a week to dwell on their loss, Baylor will come into Saturday afternoon's game in Lexington looking to prove that it is able to rebound from a tough loss.
Kentucky will be looking to do the same thing, and it cannot overlook the talent on the Baylor roster. If it does overlook the Bears, it could be a long Saturday at Rupp Arena.
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