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January 8, 2013

A look at Kentucky's backcourt as SEC play begins

Kentucky opens Southeastern Conference play Thursday night at Vanderbilt. With the nonconference portion of the schedule complete, a look at the progress of the Wildcats' backcourt through 13 games.

Archie Goodwin
Key stats: 15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.8 apg

Goodwin - who has perhaps been asked to do the most of any player, what with switching from an off-ball position to point guard and back in the matter of a month - has been UK's main offensive player.

He leads the team in shots taken, points and turnovers.

He's also been a consistent producer because he doesn't rely on jump shots. He's been UK's primary attacker, slashing into the lane and getting close looks and contact.

In fact, he's getting to the free throw line at a higher rate than any Kentucky player under Calipari except DeMarcus Cousins:

Cousins: .73 FTA/FGA
Goodwin: .62
Anthony Davis: .60
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: .59
Alex Poythress: .58
Terrence Jones (2010-11): .52
John Wall: .53

For a team that can struggle to score in half-court sets at time, Goodwin's ability to get to the line is increasingly valuable - even if he is making less than 70 percent of his shots once there, a rate that needs to improve.

And he's going to have to get better at knowing the difference between taking contact and seeking it. Against Louisville, for example, his drives in the first half were ones that he had been getting whistles on all year, but the Cardinals' superior defense stopped him. But for UK, his ability to draw contact will help its efficiency.

Ryan Harrow
Key stats: 9.4 ppg, 3.4 apg, 14 steals

Harrow's strange start to the season has been nearly forgotten by this point: In his last five games, he's averaging 15 points on 49.2 percent shooting with 4.6 assists. He's shown the capability to drive against defenses, get his own shot, find others, and play solid basketball at the point.

Perhaps his most valuable attribute - and the one that makes him the most strikingly different from the recent Calipari point guard lineage - is his ability to protect the ball.

Even though he nearly doubled his season total in turnovers against Eastern Michigan (he had four in the game and five on the year before that), Harrow's turnover rate per 40 minutes is half that of any other Calipari point guard.



Julius Mays
Key stats: 9.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 30.8 3FG pct.

His exact role on this team wasn't known coming into this season, and he wasn't going to be expected to do too much.

So far his stat line suggests he's doing just fine: averaging 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game with 46 assists and 15 turnovers.

However, Mays is being used - a lot. He's averaging the second-most minutes on the team (32.1 per game) and has taken the third-most shots (107, behind Goodwin's 143 and Wiltjer's 121).

But he's not doing much with all those opportunities. He's primarily a jump-shooter and has made 34.6 percent of his shots.

Should Mays' role be pared back? Calipari said he still contributes to the team even if he's not making shots. That's true - his defense and positional flexibility have kept him on the court - but if he's going to be taking that many shots, he needs to make better use of them.

His minutes could go down now that Harrow is rounding into form, but Mays still needs to become more efficient as a role player.



Jarrod Polson
Key stats: 2.8 ppg, 1.2 apg, 13.4 mpg

Polson doesn't kill the team when he's in, but he's not helping all that much, either. The junior guard had his breakout game in the season opener, but he's averaging 2.8 points for the season with 15 assists and seven turnovers in 13.4 minutes per game.

All things considered, UK has found a neutral-sum backup point guard to help out with the backcourt rotation.

Coming Wednesday: A progress report on the Kentucky frontcourt.



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