Alex Poythress (22) shot free throws Nerlens Noel (3) was scheduled to shoot for Kentucky Saturday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The next time the University of Kentucky slides a bogus free throw shooter to the line, I've got a suggestion for how the Wildcats can actually capitalize on the situation:
Send Kyle Macy.
Or Louie Dampier.
Even assistant coach Kenny Payne would be an upgrade.
Not Alex Poythress for Nerlens Noel. When you replace a 53 percent free throw shooter with a 68 percent guy, the way the Wildcats apparently did Saturday with 1:05 to play in the first half against Louisville, you're likely to get what Kentucky got.
No lasting advantage. Nothing to deliver an upset victory. Just some bad publicity -- despite UK's protests that there was no switch and the proper player shot the free throws.
Watch the video from late in the first half of Louisville's 80-77 win over the Wildcats Saturday. Cue it over the final 80 seconds. Ryan Harrow starts downcourt with the basketball. Peyton Siva cuts him off so Harrow passes the ball to Julius Mays.
Mays gives it back to Harrow on the left wing. Noel comes to the free throw line to set a high ball screen. But instead of driving toward Noel, Harrow gives the ball back to Mays, who finds Poythress with a bounce pass in the corner near the U of L bench.
Poythress drives the baseline, until he is stopped by U of L freshman Montrezl Harrell. Poythress stops and tosses an underhand pass to Noel, who is flashing through the lane.
Noel appears to bobble the basketball. There was a reason for that. U of L guard Russ Smith had his left arm wrapped around Noel's left side and was reaching around with his right arm.
Official Ed Corbett blows his whistle from his spot opposite the U of L bench.
The foul was on Smith. There is no debating that. Corbett looks directly at Smith and reports the news to the scorer's bench. The shooter was Noel. Poythress was out of the play, uninvolved with Smith. Poythress reaches up to congratulate Noel on drawing the foul – and then pats him on the rump.
Noel perches himself at the line – until the action stops for U of L to substitute Kevin Ware for Russ Smith.
That wasn't the only substitution. Poythress moves to the line to replace Noel. Nobody protests. Not Corbett. Not the other two officials – John Cahill and Doug Shows, Final Four quality guys. Not Rick Pitino. Not the CBS announcers.
Nicely done – if you're a fan of the free-throw switcheroo and think of it less kindly than old-fashioned gamesmanship. The guy Smith was guarding was Noel, not Poythress. There's no confusion over that.
Poythress made the first free throw and then missed the second.
The game went on. Louisville eventually moved to a 17-point line. Kentucky made a remarkable rally and lost by three. Rick Pitino said nice things about Kentucky. John Calipari said nice things about Louisville.
Everybody lived happily ever after – until the reports started percolating that Kentucky had successfully upgraded to a mediocre free throw shooter from a bad free throw shooter.
In the end, karma ruled. Kentucky shot 23 free throws, making 11 while missing a dozen. Next time a replacement needs to step in for Willie Cauley-Stein, who bricked six out of six. Kentucky lost the game at the free throw line – even after one of the Wildcats' worst free throw shooters didn't shoot all the ones he was supposed to take.
Somebody tell Kyle Macy it's time to get warmed up.