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By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s struggling from 3-point range and played a season-low 17 minutes in Saturday’s win over Auburn. Yet Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin insisted Monday that he could not wait for Tuesday night’s game at No. 7 Florida.
“I love playing big games. These are the type of games that I feel like I was made for and I know this team’s made for. I feel like we’re going to go out there and get a win,” said Goodwin.
He still leads the Wildcats in scoring at 14.2 points per game, but in Southeastern Conference play he’s averaging just 12 points per game and hitting only 36.8 percent from the field. From 3-point range, he’s just 1-for-18 in SEC play.
“If I let things like this frustrate me, then I’ll never be the player that I want to be. So I don’t let it frustrate me,” Goodwin said. “I just try to find different ways that I can help myself and get a win. As long as we’re getting wins, that’s the only thing that really matters at this stage is getting wins. I think I’m doing all right. I’m just going through a stretch of not playing the best I can play, not playing to the best of my abilities, but as far as the overall season, I think I’m doing all right.”
Goodwin indicated he may have been “thinking too much instead of letting my natural reaction take over” in recent games.
“It’s just that sometimes I over-think things too much. As far as putting pressure on myself, I wouldn’t say I am. You don’t always have the game that you want. A lot of great players have stretches where they don’t play the games that they expect, but it’s something they work through and they get over,” Goodwin said. “I just have to react more, like I was doing more earlier in the season.”
Goodwin said he makes 3-point shots “all the time” in practice.
“It’s just a matter of me not thinking so much about it in the game and just letting it absolutely go, and it will go in,” Goodwin said.
Calipari wants Goodwin to “lose himself” in the team much like UK stars Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis did last year.
“That’s where he’s not yet. Anything that he does out there, it’s him doing it versus you’re doing this for the team. Lose yourself in the team. If you turn it over, run the guy down and block it. If you miss a shot, don’t worry about it. Don’t be selfish on defense, now go under a screen, give up a 3 or stop playing and not block out,” Calipari said.
“I watched Michael Gilchrist against Florida in the semifinal game in the (SEC) tournament. He played awful. He played as bad as Archie played last game, but he fought and tried and came up with the two winning rebounds. He turned it over, missed every shot, missed free throws, but he had lost himself in the team. You don’t worry about it, you just keep playing.”
Goodwin says he really has not watched Florida play because he doesn’t watch college basketball on TV. “Knowing I was going here, I used to watch the Kentucky teams. But now that I’m here, there’s no other team left that I want to watch. I might watch NBA ball, but as far as college ball, I don’t really watch it,” he said.
He’s also not concerned by the big margins Florida has won many games by.
“I could care less about who they beat by 30 and 20 because we’re not the team that they beat by 30 and 20. We’re a different team,”Goodwin said. “If we let something like that intimidate us, we wouldn’t be that confident in ourselves and that would be the thing we do. We don’t worry about that. We just go into the game with our game plan and try to execute it the best that we can.”
Kentucky did get back in the top 25 of the AP rankings at No. 25 this week. Again, Goodwin says that has no bearing on this game between the SEC’s top two teams.
“I just feel like this is somewhere we should’ve been. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re getting closer to where we want to be. But we’re still a ways away,” he said.
He said UK was “aiming” to be No. 1 and knows that all the work it has taken to get back into the national rankings after dropping out in early December could quickly be for naught if the Cats don’t continue to win.
“We’re pretty aware of that, considering we were top-10 and lost two in a row and we were out. But like I said, we’re not worried about rankings right now. We’re just worried about getting better. As long as this team is getting better, everything else will take care of itself,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin would not be playing Tuesday night if he had retaliated Saturday when Auburn’s Jordon Granger threw a punch at him and was ejected.
“It was a little bit in the heat of the moment, but after I calmed down I wasn’t going to hit him because there wasn’t no point in jeopardizing my future just cause he hit me. It didn’t hurt and it was something that was immature on his part. At the same time, I’ve got to expect that people are going to try to take shots at us just because that might be the position we’re in,” Goodwin said.
“He punched me in the back, so it was a closed-fist punch. I don’t know if he swung again, but I know the first one, the first punch I felt, he actually did punch me. If he did swing again he didn’t hit me. But he did punch me the first time.”