LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — John Calipari saw flashes of what he wants from Ryan Harrow. The Kentucky coach hopes to hear more from the point guard, too.
Harrow posted season bests across the board Saturday as the defending national champions beat Portland 74-46 Saturday.
The Wildcats (6-3) won their second in a row following a series of losses that dropped them out of The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll for the first time under Calipari.
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Harrow, a sophomore transfer from North Carolina State, had eight points, six assists and four rebounds in 25 minutes. His first season at Kentucky had gotten off to a shaky start when flulike symptoms and an undisclosed family issue forced him to miss four straight games.
“I liked it,” Calipari said. “He had two lapses of his old self. I absolutely jerked him out of the game because he’s not playing that way.”
“The other parts of the game, I thought he did fine. Got to run the team a little better, like yelling out what we’re doing. But he was good. It was great to see. I’m happy for him,” he said.
Calipari is certain he needs a confident, poised point guard to win, and is counting on Harrow.
Harrow confirmed Calipari’s notion that he must be more vocal for Kentucky’s success. Because of his high-pitched, nasal voice, that may require a bit of extra work, Harrow said.
“When I need to run something, I’ve got to be a little more vocal,” Harrow said. “I feel like I’m yelling, but my yelling is like regular people’s talking. I guess I’ve got to scream until I go hoarse.”
Harrow said he’s still adjusting to a few things, among which was playing defense for every second the way Calipari expects. As the season progresses and Kentucky’s half-court offense develops under Harrow, he said he’ll have a more clear picture of when he should shoot and when he should yield to his teammates.
Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin each scored 15 points for Kentucky. Julius Mays added 13 points and Kyle Wiltjer had 12.
Wiltjer had struggled in Kentucky’s last five games, shooting 4 of 27 from 3-point range. He countered his slump with a different approach against the Pilots, opting for higher-percentage shots. He went 5 of 8 from the field and 1 of 3 from behind the arc.
Ryan Nicholas finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for Portland.
The Pilots (3-6) held court at Rupp Arena early in the first half, tied at 10 nearly nine minutes into the game. But Poythress scored two quick baskets to spark a 16-0 Kentucky run.
Portland closed the gap to 10 points early in the second half, but the Wildcats followed with a 9-0 run to help seal the game.
“I don’t feel like we did a good job of putting pressure on them all the time to exploit some mistakes that freshmen players will make,” Portland coach Eric Reveno said. “Whether it’s a certain action you’re running, or a certain matchup you recognize that you have a good opportunity to put a good player in a good position, I’m not sure we did a good job. That is on our coaches, not our players in terms of executing offense.”
Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel sustained a left leg injury and limped around in pregame warmups, but played 32 minutes. He finished with seven points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. The seven blocked shots were the most in a game for a Kentucky player this season.