Morehead St.-Kentucky Preview
Following a dominant win, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel said he could see the potential of his inexperienced team.
Noel and the eighth-ranked Wildcats will try to keep working toward their lofty expectations when they continue their homestand - part of the Barclays Center Classic - on Wednesday night against Morehead State, which is coached by former Kentucky star Sean Woods.
Kentucky (2-1) has only one returning contributor from last season's national championship squad, sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, but the Wildcats are once again stocked with talented newcomers. As perhaps expected, though, there are some growing pains for the young team, which opened the season with a pair of challenging games.
The Wildcats, who were ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, took a hard-fought 72-69 win over Maryland on Nov. 9 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center then fell 75-68 to then-No. 9 Duke in Atlanta on Nov. 13.
They didn't have as much of a challenge in their first game at Rupp Arena, blowing out Lafayette 101-49 on Friday. Wiltjer hit a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points, while freshman Alex Poythress had 22 on 9-of-10 shooting, topping his 20 points against Duke.
Kentucky shot 64.5 percent (40 of 62), was 11 of 19 from 3-point range and had 23 assists, nearly matching its total from the first two games.
"The sky's the limit," said Noel, who had 15 points and seven rebounds. "It's not going to be long before things are clicking."
The Wildcats will get a brief opportunity to improve their game before facing another pair of potentially difficult matchups. After facing Morehead State (3-1) and LIU Brooklyn on Friday, Kentucky heads off to Notre Dame for the SEC/Big East Challenge on Nov. 29 and faces No. 24 Baylor on Dec. 1 in Lexington.
"We are trying to get better, make strides to progress so that we can be good," Poythress said. "That is all that really matters."
The Wildcats might get the chance to add point guard Ryan Harrow back into the mix. The North Carolina State transfer has missed the past two games with flu-like symptoms.
Kentucky is seeking to extend its 52-game home win streak, the longest in Rupp Arena history. Morehead State is 0-9 all-time against the Wildcats and lost 75-59 in the most recent matchup on Nov. 13, 2009, in Lexington.
This will be the Wildcats' first matchup against the Eagles with Woods at the helm.
Woods, who played in 91 games for Kentucky from 1989-92 and had his No. 11 retired, is in his first season at Morehead after four seasons at Mississippi Valley State.
The Eagles have a recent win over a Top 25 team, upsetting then-No. 14 Louisville in their 2011 NCAA tournament opener. They lost 66-60 to No. 12 Murray State during Ohio Valley Conference play Jan. 18.
Like Kentucky, Morehead is also coming off a win over Lafayette, defeating the Leopards 88-74 Sunday. Senior forward Milton Chavis, the only Morehead player averaging in double figures at 17.3 points per game, scored a team-best 18.