Three things to watch for tonight at Rupp Arena when UK plays Lafayette:
1. Kyle Wiltjer’s shots. John Calipari said Thursday that if Wiljter can’t get his shots then the coach can’t keep the sophomore forward on the floor for as long as he might like. Translation: Wiljter is not advanced enough on defense and at rebounding. To be valuable, he has to score.
Wiltjer scored 19 points in the season-opening win over Maryland. He took nine shots, making six. More importantly, he got off six three-pointers, hitting four. Kentucky won 72-69. This past Tuesday night against Duke, the Blue Devils pressured Wiltjer on the three-point line. He ended up getting just five shots, making two. One of those shots came on a fast break. He got off just two three-pointers, making one. He scored five points. Kentucky lost 75-68.
Wiltjer wasn’t the reason UK lost, but Calipari said the Oregon native has to “step up” and “play harder.” The coach said he might have to call more plays to get Wiltjer involved on the offensive end.
2. Archie Goodwin’s balance. With Ryan Harrow still ailing, Goodwin will have to play the point. At least for the time being. He will be spelled some by Jarrod Polson, but expect Goodwin to start as he did Tuesday against Duke.
Calipari said that Goodwin played too fast against the Devils at times. The coach wants the Arkansas native to slow down some. But on the other hand, Calipari said his team needs to get more transition baskets. It needs to use its speed and get out and run on the break. Goodwin has to learn when to go slow and when to go. Calipari compared his development to that of Tyreke Evans, whom Calipari had at Memphis. But Brandon Knight was also a scoring point guard. Goodwin took 20 shots and made six assists in his first two games. Back in 2010-11, Knight took 26 shots with six assists in his first two games.
3. Keeping focus against a lesser foe. The Cats had two tough opponents from the ACC in their first two games. Now they face a decided underdog in Lafayette, a team from the Patriot League that lost by 11 points (76-65) in its season opener against St. Francis, then beat LIU-Brooklyn in overtime. (UK plays LIU-Brooklyn next Friday.)
It’s easy to get up for name opponents like the Terps and the Blue Devils. It’s not easy to be both motivated and focused when playing a team like Lafayette, whom Calipari expects to hold the ball at times. Kentucky fans are always expecting a blowout in these types of games. We’ll see how the newcomers react to those expectations.
By the way, get my updates and ask me anything tonight during the game on twitter @johnclayiv.