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|Ryan Harrow after the Marshall win|
By LARRY VAUGHT
Forget the inspiration he may have got from having his coach tell him that he could be as good as any point guard in the country. That’s not what helped inspire Kentucky sophomore Ryan Harrow’s career-best 23-point outing in Saturday’s 82-54 win over Marshall here.
No, it was something else.
“I was afraid he (Kentucky coach John Calipari) would not let us go home if we played bad,” said Harrow, who was 10-for-17 from the field with four assists and career-high three steals in 33 minutes, another career best.
The Wildcats get three straight days off to enjoy Christmas as home and Harrow was heading to North Carolina with his family for the holidays. But did he really think Calipari might call off the scheduled break if the team had not played well? “You never know,” Harrow said.
However, what Calipari and Harrow’s teammates know is that if he continues to play the way he has, this Kentucky team is a lot better and has a chance to be even better.
“I’m happy that he had a breakout game,” freshman Alex Poythress said. “He’s one of the best point guards and he played good for us.”
He did, and he has been since missing four games for personal reasons that no one but him, family members, Calipari and others on the team know and understand. However, the previous two games he was 9-for-21 from the field, scored 20 points, dished out eight assists, made three steals, grabbed five rebounds and had just one turnover. He had four more rebounds this game and even though he had two turnovers, he still just have five turnovers in 147 minutes of play.
Marshall coach Tom Herrion said his team let Harrow get off the “snide” and have a career game.
“Harrow was terrific. But when you are laying the ball in, I want to say of the 10 made baskets, eight, nine were layups, maybe all 10,” the coach said. “But to his credit, bad defense on us. He’s been struggling offensively, statistically on film. He’s a terrific player. I remember him when he was at (North Carolina) State. I don’t think he got worse sitting out here (last year). I know he has had some different things going on.”
And what did Calipari think?
“Here is what I told him. When he’s playing the right way with aggressiveness, talking to his teammates, that look in his yes, he’s as good as anybody in the country right now,” Calipari said. “I’m looking around at point guards, he’s fine.
“That other guy — you ready — the cool guy, he’s not very good. The guy that runs in and gets bumped and falls on the floor, throws the ball, that guy is not very good. That other guy we saw? Spurts today, just play that way. Every minute you’re on the court, play that way.”
Harrow said he never thought of himself as a “cool guy” even when he was playing at North Carolina State.
“Coach Cal says the good guy is one of the best point guards in the nation. The cool guy sucks,” Harrow laughed and said. “I don’t want to be a sucky player.”
He also said he has to do more than just listen to Calipari’s praise.
“It’s good, but I have to believe it myself. He can’t give me self-esteem. It’s self-esteem. I have to build it myself,” Harrow said.
But getting inside and scoring like he did, he can do that. He also did hit one 3-pointer. He took contact. He made good decisions. He also played with an infectious enthusiasm this team needs, especially from the floor leader.
“I think it is important to our team how I play,” Harrow said. “I get the team going. If I am playing hard and going, guys get excited, too. I just have to play my game and do what it takes to help us win.”
That’s all Calipari wants. He doesn’t have to be Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight or Marquis Teague — Calipari’s past five point guards and all first-round NBA draft picks after one season of college basketball. He just has to be the player running this team, making smart decisions and showing toughness.
“He has a good feel for the game. He can run our team. I mean, there are point guards that are tougher than him, but if he would be tougher, then he’s just as good as them,” Calipari said. “I mean, the guys that are better than him right now are tougher. They’re more physical, play a rougher game. Has nothing to do with his ability to shoot, score, make free throws, none of that.
‘It’s are you going to play a roughhouse game? If you do, you’re as good as anybody out there. That’s hard, though. You got to want contact. He’s made strides these last two weeks. Like I said, the difference in our team, he’s playing well and he’s able to put our players in a better position for themselves.”