Three hundred and sixty eight days ago, Boston U. came to Rupp Arena to take on No. 1 ranked Kentucky, which had at that time what many thought was the greatest collection of talent ever assembled on one team.
The Terriers gave the Cats all they wanted, trailing 40-35 at the half, and down only 66-57 with 8:29 to go, before UK finally pulled away for a 89-65 win.
Fast-forward one year, and just as Kentucky has ascended to No. 1 in the polls again, Boston U comes back to Rupp Arena, bringing many of the same players from last season. BU is tied as the most experienced team in college basketball, while Kentucky has the third most inexperienced team in D-1.
The Boston senior trio of Nathan Dieudonne (Kentucky Mr. Basketball and state champion at Louisville Trinity), Justin Alston and John Papale brought a wealth of basketball skill into Rupp Arena. Last year, sophomore guard Cedric Hankerson scored 24 points against UK, but he had an ACL injury in the spring and has yet to return. Could BU parlay last seasons’ strong showing into another even better performance in Lexington?
After a rocky start, down 10-0, BUs’ know how began to show; as the team fought back to take a lead with 3:40 left in the first half. Kentucky pressed for much of the first stanza and playing tight man-to-man defense forced the Terriers into 10 turnovers, but poor shooting by the Cats (18.2 percent on 3-point attempts and 40.0 percent from the foul line) allowed BU to hang close till halftime. Score 40-33.
Eerily reminiscent of the game last year, Boston was down 62-53 with 9:50 to go in the second half before UK pulled away for an 82-62 win. The Kentucky backcourt players, Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, and Charles Matthews combined for 41 points, 23 rebounds, 15 assists, and seven steals to fuel the win. Skal Labissiere finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots.
Kentucky is a very different team from last season, but against Boson U had a very similar result. Still in November, the Cats continue to invent this years’ team.
Random sights from Tuesday night at Rupp:
Stock rising: Charles Mathews aggressively grabbing two-handed rebounds on both ends of the floor (finished with seven total) will endear him to Coach Cal and get him more playing time.
Stock failing: Derek Willis had three good looks for 3-pointers in the first half and failed to connect. A 3-point shooter not shooting well will decrease playing time.
Loud cheer: “Unforgettable” John Pelphrey, in town to be the color analyst for the SEC TV broadcast, perhaps received the loudest applause of the evening when he was led out to make the “Y.”
Beast mode: Alex Poythress again had a double-double (14 points, seven of eight shooting and 10 rebounds).