By Keith Taylor, The Winchester Sun
LEXINGTON — Aaron Harrison has moved past Michigan State.
The Kentucky freshman guard scored a season-low three points in a 78-74 loss to Michigan State in Chicago last week, but rebounded from the outing with an impressive performance in an 87-49 victory over Robert Morris Sunday night at Rupp Arena.
Harrison scored a career-high 28 points, connected on four of Kentucky’s seven 3-pointers and made all 10 of his shots from the free-throw line. Harrison tallied 19 points in the first half as the Wildcats put the Colonials down early and never let off the proverbial gas pedal to notch their third victory in four games.
Harrison had combined for 26 points in the team’s first two victories, but suffered a letdown at the United Center. After the loss to the second-ranked Spartans, Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted Harrison to focus on playing with the same intensity he displayed after making shots and wanted his shooting guard to “be energized because you’re playing basketball” instead of getting on a high after a made basket.
“It’s something that I really do need to learn and something that I really haven’t done in the past,” Harrison said. “It’s all about energy really (even) on the defensive end. The biggest thing is doing whatever you can to help the team win even if it’s not scoring the ball. I’m just trying to learn that. I learned that I have to figure out a way to help my team win.”
As for his perfect night at the charity stripe, Harrison said a renewed emphasis in practice played a big role in his ability to connected at the line.
“We all had to shoot 100 free throws before practice,” Harrison said. “We did a lot of work on that because that is an important part of the game.”
Harrison learned a bigger lesson on staying focused even during an off-night following Kentucky’s first setback of the season. Instead of hanging his head, Harrison rolled up his sleeves and made strides in the four days leading up to the contest against the Colonials. It showed.
“I was really happy for Aaron,” Calipari said. “Aaron has worked hard in practice and it carried over (into the game).”
Following the loss to the Spartans, Harrison admitted the setback was a low point for the team three games into the season.
“It was a big game,” Harrison said. “We all were disappointed and I was definitely disappointed in myself. I knew I could do more to help my team but we’re past it now.”
As a team, Harrison said the team spent a lot of time focusing on transition defense, a phase of the game that hurt the Cats in the setback to Michigan State.
“That was the main point in all of our practices,” Harrison said. “We wanted to make sure we focused on getting back back (on defense). We always have to make sure we’re focused on the little things. We could have done a lot better at it.”
Harrison was a big reason the Wildcats were able to repay the Colonials for last year’s loss in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament. Veterans Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson were all smiles following the contest.
“They were happy that we beat them by a lot,” he said. “Before the game, I heard a couple of guys saying they wanted hold them to 25 (points) or something like that. It was just a competitive spirit for us. All the freshmen, we were just all excited to get back on the court and regroup.”