Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will try to rebound from their first loss of the season, as they play host to the Robert Morris Colonels on Sunday night as part of the Keightley Classic.
Robert Morris, which went 24-11 a season ago but missed out on the Big Dance when it lost in the Northeast Conference Tournament, started the new season strong with two straight wins. However, it lost at Eastern Michigan on Thursday night, 69-64, to dip to 2-1.
Even though Kentucky missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in John Calipari's tenure last season, thanks to the nation's top-ranked recruiting class, it came into this season with a preseason No. 1 ranking for the first time since 1995. The Wildcats' grasp on the top spot won't last long, however, as their youthful lineup came up short against No. 2 Michigan State's experienced group last Tuesday in a 78-74 setback in Chicago.
Robert Morris upset Kentucky in the first round of the 2013 NIT, 59-57, to even the all-time series at 1-1.
After scoring 86 points or more in each of its first two games, Robert Morris' hot streak came to an end against EMU, as it shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the five-point road loss. Lucky Jones was able to overcome his team's deficiencies by shooting 4-of-6 from the field (3-of-4 from 3-point range) and a perfect 7-of-7 at the foul line in netting 18 points while also corralling a team-high eight rebounds. Karvel Anderson chipped in with 13 points, Mike McFadden netted 11, and Anthony Myers-Pate made up for a scoreless night with eight assists. On the season, the Colonels' field goal percentage does not stand out (.432), but they take great care of the basketball with fewer than 10 turnovers per game. Anderson leads the scoring attack with 18.3 points per game, while he and Jones (13.7 ppg) both shoot greater than 45 percent from 3- point range. McFadden (11.0 ppg) rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers.
Kentucky dug itself a big hole in the first half against MSU, falling behind by as many as 15 points, and although it managed to tie the game with 4:41 left on a pair of Julius Randle free throws, it was never able to take the lead. At times, Randle looked like an inexperienced player in just his third career game, as he finished with eight turnovers, but the talented freshman also showed flashes of brilliance with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Randle (24.0 ppg, 14.3 rpg) is the first Division I freshman with 20 points and 10 boards in his team's first three games of a season since Kansas State's Michael Beasley turned the trick in 2007. Fellow first-year wonders James Young (19 points) and Andrew Harrison (11 points) were also stellar against MSU, while Alex Poythress tacked on 12 points and three blocks off the bench. The humbling loss hasn't hindered the Wildcats' impressive early-season numbers though, as they boast a +19.3 scoring margin while shooting nearly 49 percent from the field. Young (11.7 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (10.7 ppg) are both off to strong starts to their careers, while Aaron Harrison, Poythress (10.7 rpg) and Marcus Lee all net least 6.7 points per game.