No. 7 Kentucky beats Harvard amid growing pains
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Despite a 79-70 win over Harvard, Kentucky coach John Calipari was not happy with his young team, which includes five freshmen in the starting lineup.
“There are stretches that we don’t play winning basketball,” Calipari said.
“We broke off plays. We got some guys that should be better defenders that are just getting beat. We don’t out-rebound them the way we should. I’m just expecting more.”
Kevin Knox scored 20 points and Hamidou Diallo added 19 as the seventh-ranked Wildcats (7-1) won their fifth consecutive game. Harvard, which has lost three straight, fell to 3-6.
Leading 59-52, Kentucky went on a 15-2 run to grab its biggest lead of the game at 20 points with 7:08 to play. Diallo had six of the 15 points in the run. But the final margin was only nine points.
“When you get up 18, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m breaking off now. I’m doing my own thing.’ That’s freshmen,” Calipari said. “But I told them, ‘You will not be in the game, and if we have to lose games because you’re going to sit out, that’s just how it is because we are going to play.’”
Kentucky shot 46.4 percent but did miss 12 of 14 attempts from 3-point range. However, the Wildcats were 25 of 30 from the foul line.
Kentucky got 12 points from freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
“They’re an outstanding team now, and I’m sure they’re going to get a lot better,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
“They play really hard. They’re unselfish. I just see this team as a ball club that has a chance to be one of the best in the country, if not the best. And I think as they continue to grow and get better, I can’t see why they won’t.”
Harvard was led by sophomore forward Seth Towns with 25 points. The Crimson shot just 37.1 percent and committed 15 turnovers.
The teams battled to a 42-37 halftime score after Harvard made a modest rally from a nine-point deficit with 11:13 to go before the break.
Kentucky got the bulk of its scoring in the first half from two players. Knox had 16 and Diallo added 11 as the Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field, but made only 2 of 9 3-pointers.
Harvard got 14 first-half points from Towns, who made 5 of 8 shots. The Crimson shot 41.2 percent, including 7 of 17 from 3-point range.
“We’re in the top 10 defensive efficiency in the country and I’m not pleased. Because I think we could be even better,” Calipari said. “Well, why don’t we try to be the best? You can’t be the best with all freshmen.”
NOTES: The Kentucky-Harvard game was a battle of youth. Of the 10 starters, five were freshmen for the Wildcats and four were sophomores for Harvard. Among the top substitutes, all eight were either freshmen or sophomores ... Only 20.6 percent of Kentucky’s field goal attempts this season are 3-pointers, the lowest rate in coach John Calipari’s nine years in Lexington ... Harvard returned 73.8 percent of its scoring from last season; Kentucky returned seven percent ... If Harvard can reach 20 wins this year, it will mark the sixth year in a row and break the Ivy League record it shares with Penn (1969-75).