Skip to content

No. 25 Kentucky loses by 30 to Tennessee in first game without Nerlens Noel

Feb 16, 2013, 4:01 PM EDT

Kentucky Tennessee AP

There was no glossing over the fact that Kentucky was going to have difficulties adjusting to the lack of star freshman Nerlens Noel in the middle of its defense. That being said, Saturday was ugly for the Wildcats, even with expectations being as they were.

Kentucky led for a total of 23 seconds against Tennesse at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, shooting just 36 percent in an 88-58 loss Saturday afternoon.

The absence of Noel is where the problems began for coach John Calipari’s team, but certainly not where they ended. Let’s begin with the obvious.

Without Noel in the middle, Kentucky looked like an NIT bubble team (at best) Saturday. The Wildcats were outrebounded by 13 and allowed Tennessee, a team that came into the game shooting 43 percent from the field on the year, to shoot 58 percent on the afternoon.

Kentucky defenders continued to work the Tennessee offense to the rim. The problem was, no Noel guarding the basket meant easy points.Tennessee took just twelve shots from outside the paint on Saturday and, because of that, shot 20-of-38 on the interior.

That forced Kentucky to collapse even further, which opened up the perimeter. The Volunteers hit nine of their twelve shots from outside the lane, including 5-of-5 shooting from three. Tennessee came into Saturday averaging just 63.7 points per game.

But Noel’s absence defensively doesn’t necessarily explain the offensive woes, too.

Point guard questions continue to linger in Lexington, especially after Ryan Harrow failed to score and fouled out in just 18 minutes on the floor. That came after Calipari started Jarrod Polson in his place. Polson finished with 11 points but no assists. And the problems move outward from there.

Polson was unable to guard Tennessee’s Trae Golden, who tallied 24 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor and 11-of-12 from the free throw stripe. Moving forward, how much of the defensive liability can be tolerated, especially considering the compromised interior?

With the lack of control on the perimeter, Willie Cauley-Stein fouled out after 23 minutes.

Alex Poythress was replaced in the starting lineup by Kyle Wiltjer, but that didn’t help to (excuse the ‘coach speak’) light a fire under him or any other applicable cliche. He, too, fouled out after posting four points. His lack of development is in part due to the lack of consistency at the point guard spot, but some of it could come down to effort especially considering his immense physical gifts and the flashes of dominance we have seen throughout the season.

There are a lot of pieces to this Kentucky puzzle. Taking Nerlens Noel out means it cannot be complete, but it is up to Harrow, Poythress, Wiltjer, Archie Goodwin, and others to prove how far this Wildcats team can go.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. Former Georgia Tech head coach recuses self from Syracuse’s NCAA hearing

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    bobby-cremins AP

    Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.

  2. Transfer guard dismissed from Minnesota program

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT

    Zach Lofton, Zach Lofton,

    Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.

  3. Long Beach State, head coach Dan Monson agree to contract extension

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Dan Monson AP

    Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.

  4. Buffalo-area programs to wear special jerseys for Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Big 4 Basketball Classic Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.

  5. ACC releases its preseason media poll, all-conference team

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.

  6. St. John’s loses key power forward to academic scandal at Junior College

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    lavin AP

    Keith Thomas was expected to start for the Johnnies.

  7. 2014-15 Season Preview: Toledo looks to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought and rep the MAC

    Oct 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Julius Brown (AP Photo) Julius Brown (AP Photo)

    The MAC is sure to be one of the more intriguing mid-major leagues during the 2014-15 season.

  8. Top 25 Countdown: No. 8 Texas Longhorns

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Isaiah Taylor (Getty Images) Getty Images

    How can Texas build off of last seasons surprising success?

  9. The American releases their preseason poll

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT

    Kevin Ollie AP

    Who would you pick in first, UConn or SMU?

  10. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics) Stanley Johnson (Arizona Athletics)

    CBT’s rankings of the best wings in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.

  11. Jeff Newberry throws down 360 dunk at Oklahoma State’s Hoops and Homecoming (VIDEO)

    Oct 28, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT

    Jeff Newberry

    The JuCo transfer guard is expected to have an impact in his first season in Stillwater.

  12. Jim Boeheim on Syracuse center DaJuan Coleman: ‘If we get him, it will be a bonus’

    Oct 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Jim Boeheim DaJuan Coleman AP

    The Syracuse big man was limited to only 12 games during the 2014-2015 season.

  13. Top 10 2016 recruit cuts his list to 10

    Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Derryck Thornton Derryck Thornton

    Arguably the top point guard in the junior class, and a consensus top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016 has narrowed his list of offers to just 10.

  14. Hawaii head coach, assistant coach fired

    Oct 28, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    Gib Arnold AP

    Gib Arnold was entering his fifth season at Hawaii

  15. Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes maintains the chip on his shoulder

    Oct 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    One of the nation’s top lead guards — on one of the best mid-major teams — is as hungry as he is entertaining.

  16. UConn guard injures right knee, out a week or so

    Oct 28, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The 6-foot-5 junior guard is looking to bounce back after a sophomore slump.