Playing their first true road game of the season, the eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats have come to South Bend to tangle with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge.
The defending national champion Wildcats are 4-1 on the young season, thanks to wins over Maryland, Lafayette, Morehead State and LIU-Brooklyn. The team's lone setback came against another traditional power in Duke, and counting this game, it will face three tough non-conference foes, Baylor and Louisville being the others, prior to opening SEC play at Vanderbilt on Jan. 10, 2013. This is the 110th season of Kentucky basketball, and the program ranks first in the NCAA with 2,094 victories.
Notre Dame comes in sporting an impressive record of its own, as the team has won six of its first seven games, three of which have taken place at home. The only loss the Fighting Irish have suffered came against Saint Joseph's in Brooklyn, New York, and the their most recent win was a 92-65 rout of Chicago State on Monday. UND is 45-0 at home in the month of November under head coach Mike Brey, and the Irish have won 11 straight in South Bend, and they are 40-1 in their last 41 home games overall.
Kentucky owns a 42-18 advantage in the all-time series with Notre Dame, and the 'Cats have won 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Kentucky's new crops of talented freshmen continue to impress, as Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin scored 22 points apiece in leading the Wildcats to a 104-75 blowout win over LIU-Brooklyn last Friday. Goodwin nearly logged a triple-double as he also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out nine assists, while Poythress, who has tallied at least 20 points in each of the last four outings, also had nine boards in his 29 minutes of action. Nerlens Noel finished with a line of 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five blocks, while Julius Mays chipped in with 15 points and six helpers, and Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points and eight boards. As a team, Kentucky shot a blistering 67.7 percent from the field, which included a 7-of-13 showing from three-point range, while holding its overmatched opponent to 41.5 percent field goal accuracy. For the season, Kentucky is putting up 85.2 ppg while allowing 67.6 ppg. The team is hitting 55.8 percent of its total shots, which includes a gaudy 46.2 percent effort from beyond the arc, while its foes connect on just 39.1 percent overall, with a mere 28.4 percent of their three- point tries finding the bottom of the net. Goodwin (19.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.4 apg) paces the club at the offensive end, while Poythress (18.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is hot on his heels. Nerlens (12.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.6 bpg) and Kyle Wiltjer (12.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers.
Jerian Grant tied his career high with 22 points, and the Fighting Irish used a barrage of three-point baskets to push past visiting Chicago State earlier this week, winning 92-65. Notre Dame went 12-of-22 from beyond the arc in putting a total of six guys in double figures, the team shooting a sizzling 61.0 percent from the floor overall while logging a 36-30 edge on the glass. Chicago State shot just 36.1 percent from the floor, and fell to 1-6 on the year with the lopsided loss. Three different players for the Irish logged double-doubles in the win, as Grant added 10 assists to his stat line, Eric Atkins tallied 13 points and 11 helpers, and Jack Cooley generated 11 points and 11 rebounds. Cooley is averaging a double-double on the season with 14.3 points and 11.3 caroms per contest, while Atkins contributes 10.3 points and 6.7 assists per tilt. Grant (13.0 ppg, 4.7 apg) and Garrick Sherman (11.0 ppg) are both scoring in double figures as well for a team that nets 73.7 ppg while yielding just 59.7 ppg. UND is +7.0 in rebounding margin, but is -1.3 in the turnover department.