The eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will close out the Barclays Center Classic at Rupp Arena on Friday night when they take on the Long Island Blackbirds.
LIU has fought hard in the early going but it doesn't have a win to show for it. First it dropped a 77-74 decision to Morehead State, then it took Lafayette to overtime only to fall, 98-94. The Blackbirds went to 0-3 on Nov. 16 with a 91-74 loss to Maryland.
Kentucky started off the season by escaping with a 72-69 win over Maryland before dropping a nationally-ranked matchup with Duke, 75-68. The Wildcats bounced back with a pair of wins over Lafayette (101-49) and Morehead State (81-70) to move to 3-1. UK has now won 54 straight games at Rupp Arena, which is the longest active home winning streak in the nation.
The teams have met three times before in their histories, with the Wildcats claiming two matchups. All three games were played prior to 1948.
It's been an impressive start to the season offensively for LIU, as it scores more than 80 ppg, but the major problem for the team is that it hasn't been able to stop anyone, allowing opponents to shoot 51.8 percent from the floor for 88.7 ppg. The matchup against Maryland was the Blackbirds' biggest struggle to date, as they shot a modest 30-of-71 from the field, including 7- of-25 from three-point range. Julian Boyd tallied 22 points and eight boards to lead the team, adding on to an already stellar start to the campaign (18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg). Jamal Olasewere put up 16 points in a loss, which was a step backwards from his outstanding first two games when he put up 26 and 25 points. Jason Brickman (15.0 ppg) scored 14 points and dished out 10 assists, and his 8.7 apg ranks third in the nation.
The Wildcats have had plenty of success from the floor through four games, making more than 52 percent of theirs shots overall, and the story was no different in the 81-point effort in the win over Morehead State. Archie Goodwin led the way with 28 points, which is the most by a UK player this season and the seventh-most for a freshman in program history. Goodwin wasn't the only first-year player to shine, as Alex Poythress (20 points, eight rebounds) and Nerlens Noel (nine points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals, six blocks) also put together great performances. On the season, Goodwin (18.3 ppg) and Poythress (17.5 ppg) have shared duties as the team's go-to scoring option, while Noel (11.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3.3 bpg, 3.3 spg) brings great balance to the floor. Kyle Wiltjer (14.0 ppg) has had a fantastic start to the season from three-point range, making 13-of-24 attempts (.542).