Young Kentucky holds off Maryland comeback at Barclays
At a time when power and heat have been hard to come by, Kentucky's rubbing-sticks-together 72-69 victory over Maryland provided plenty of electricity and fire in college basketball's debut at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Friday night.
The billion-dollar palace, virtually empty for Morehead State's messy 77-74 victory over LIU Brooklyn in the first game of the doubleheader, suddenly lit up in a tournament-style atmosphere, complete with all 17,732 seats filled for the wild nightcap.
Though Kentucky led by as many as 17 points early in the second half, Maryland four times crept into the lead in the final six minutes, and the victory wasn't sealed for Kentucky until Maryland's Pe'Shon Howard bounced a long two-pointer off the rim at the buzzer. Kentucky's Jarrod Polson converted both free throws with 7.7 seconds left for a three-point lead.
Kentucky's basketball factory again appeared capable of rending the cliche "freshman mistake" to be an oxymoron. The school's steady flow of polished first-year players, just passing through on their way to the NBA, continued capable of blurring the line between college and pro ball.
Polson, a junior, turns out to be his team's most experienced member, and lent 10 crucial points and three assists. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led Kentucky with 19 points, 12 of those on 4-for-6 three-point shooting.
Still, most of the heavy lifting, the high-flying and sharp-shooting was coming from the youngest lads on the team, the four super freshmen.
Nerlens Noel, the nation's top recruit from Everett, Mass., led Kentucky with nine rebounds. Seven-foot Willie Cauley-Stein blocked four shots. Guard Archie Goodwin scored 16 points and added two assists. Forward Alex Poythress added seven rebounds and eight points.
Maryland's leading scorer (23) and rebounder (12) was 7-1 sophomore Alex Len, and freshman Charles Mitchell had 10 rebounds.