By LARRY VAUGHT
Andrew Harrison, the top-rated point guard in the 2013 recruiting class, admits helping the Cats finish a win over Louisville — his only shortcoming was missing free throws late in the game — helped his confidence and “kind of got the monkey” off the team’s back by beating a ranked team.
“You always have to believe in yourself as a player no matter who you’re playing against. It’s definitely a confidence booster for our team (to beat Louisville),” Harrison said. “Just like when Julius (Randle) got hurt, it was tie game and stuff. We all believed that we could still win. That’s growing up in itself. We’re trying to get better.”
He said he sensed the team “toughness” and team play got better against Louisville.
“Everybody getting the ball, everybody being able to attack and getting in their spots. I’m just happy for them all,” Harrison said.
Calipari said other than the missed free throws, Harrison did make progress against Louisville.
“What I liked when the game was on the line and the game was in the balance, he made good plays. How about the pass he makes to Alex (Poythress)? He could have tried to shoot that. That dunk basically put it to 10 and kind of put it out of reach,” Calipari said.
Still, the coach says his point guard has to get better just like Teague did two years ago.
“Like (Teague) really struggled, worse than Andrew. And he came around and he ended up being a national championship point guard. But it’s going to take time, and the games we played early were probably not fair, and they weren’t fair for Marquis. They really weren’t,” Calipari said. “Andrew has to get better. He’s got to have a better understanding of what we want and then do it. If he doesn’t, I’m not communicating well enough.”
During UK’s win over Belmont when the Cats struggled and Calipari turned to Polson to run the team, he put Harrison on the bench by him so he could explain what Polson was doing right.
“I’m just going to keep working with him because at the end of the day, I want Andrew to be the best point guard in the country. I don’t want there to be any question. He has the talent, he has the ability, he has the mindset, I’ve just got to keep working with him,” Calipari said.
Teammates noticed a difference in Harrison’s play against Louisville, especially late in the game. They saw grit and playmaking that was missing in losses to Michigan State, North Carolina and Baylor.
“He didn’t want to lose this game. This was a real big game for him, and he stepped up. He had Russ (Smith) guarding him, which is a good defender, and he knew he had to step up his game. And that’s what he did,” freshman James Young said after the Louisville win.
“He grew up a lot. I’m proud of Andrew, stepping up to the plate and making big plays down the stretch. It was good,” Poythress added.
There were no complaints about his body language or attitude against Louisville, maybe the first game that’s happened this year.
“I try to stay off Twitter and all that stuff, but hey, it comes with the territory,” Harrison said of the criticism. “I feel like we took some punches (against Louisville) with Julius going down and stuff. It just showed our resilience and that we can do anything.”