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By LARRY VAUGHT
What’s wrong with Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow?
That’s an important question that has yet to be answered, but it was obvious in UK’s 75-68 loss to Duke in Atlanta Tuesday that the Wildcats need the sophomore who transferred from North Carolina State last year on the court. He missed the game because of an unknown illness that has zapped him of his strength. He had blood work done Monday, but UK coach John Calipari said after the Duke game that there was still no explanation on what was wrong.
Harrow did not practice Sunday or Monday, so Calipari left him in Lexington rather than even bringing him to Atlanta where numerous hometown fans — Harrow played at Walton High School in nearby Marietta, Ga. — came to Tuesday’s game to see him without knowing he was not at the game. “I’m disappointed, but I knew he wasn’t making the trip. A lot of other folks who wanted to see him play who are here didn’t even know he wasn’t playing until they got here,” said Joy Goydish, Harrow’s high school coach.
Calipari said Harrow “tried to work out back home” Tuesday with UK’s strength and conditioning coach to “see if he could get going” and start feeling better.
“We just don’t know (what is wrong),” Calipari said. “I feel for the kid. He wants to play. I should not have played him at Maryland (in UK’s opening win last week). That was dumb of me.
“We need him. It hurt us today (not having him). But I want him to be healthy before he comes back. It’s just not fair to him to not do that. Until he can bust it in practice, he’s not coming back.”
His mother, Fern Matthews, lives in North Carolina but she is in Lexington with him. “Ryan is trying to get over the fatigue feeling.His energy is just gone. I am staying with him to make sure he is resting, eating well and full of fluids,” she said via email Wednesday.
Goydish says his concern is that Harrow had a similar problem his senior year in high school when he was doing his best to gain weight and strength.
“He gained eight to 10 pounds of muscle. Then during the season got some kind of bug and lost about 13 pounds. He’s not big enough to be able to afford that,” Goydish said. “I know how hard he’s worked, but I worry about him. I wish he was here playing, but I am glad they are going to get this figured out and make sure he’s 100 percent before they do play him.”
With Goodwin sidelined, Calipari basically turned the point over to freshman Archie Goodwin, a more natural off guard. He was at times brilliant. Other times he was out of control and forced plays.
“He did good,” Calipari said of Goodwin after he scored 16 points and offset four turnovers with four assists in 37 minutes of play. “He reminds me of (former Memphis star) Tyreke (Evans). He will not always make the right decision, but he can break you down and score. He has to learn the position and had to do it against Duke on national TV.”
Junior Jarrod Polson was the game-saver in UK’s win over Maryland with 10 points and four rebounds. Against Duke, he had just one rebound and one turnover in only 12 minutes of play. He did not get off a shot and committed three fouls. “It really was not fair to play Jarrod more in this game,” Calipari said.
That’s because the bigger, more athletic Duke guards were able to take advantage of him on defense — and Seth Curry did the same to Goodwin while scoring 23 points — and keep him from getting the offense going with their physical play.
Curry didn’t hide that the game plan was to take advantage of Harrow’s absence and go after Goodwin, Polson or Julius Mays if he was at point guard.
“We wanted to jump all over their guards. They had guys filling in and we knew they did not have much experience (at point guard). We had to jump all over them,” Curry said.
They did, too. But now Kentucky will have a more realistic stretch of games to let young players improve and see what adjustments it can make until Harrow returns. The Wildcats host Lafayette Friday and will entertain Morehead State and Long Island next week.
“We have to find one more guy until Ryan gets back. I probably could have played Jon Hood more, but it would not have been fair to stick Hood in a game like this,” Calipari said. “We have games coming up I’ll have a chance to do that.”
However, what UK needs even more is a healthy Harrow, a player who ran the point one year in the ACC and got to go against Marquis Teague daily in practice last year. That’s why figuring out what is wrong and getting him healthy could be the biggest task — and one Calipari has little or no control over — facing this team in the next few weeks.