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Postgame notes from Kentucky vs. Notre Dame

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In a first half where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish did anything they wanted to, it felt like the Kentucky Wildcats were going to just lay down and slosh through another disappointing loss.

But something clicked inside these young Cats at halftime, and they decided to do the one thing that coach John Calipari Big Blue Nation has been crying out for them to do.

Fight back.

The Cats delivered, clawing out of a 22 point halftime hole to have a chance to win the game on their last possession before falling 64-63 to the Irish.

In the first half, Notre Dame came out on fire and shot the lights out, going 16/27 from the field and 6/11 from three. The Irish (2-3) rolled to a 48-26 advantage at the break.

But the Cats responded behind their defense and senior center, Olivier Sarr. UK held the Irish scoreless for 12 minutes while they steadily chipped away at the lead, closing to within one after forcing a Notre Dame turnover.

Sarr, who led the Cats (1-4) with 22 points, got a look on the baseline that hit the back of the rim. The Cats tipped the ball in at the buzzer but didn’t get it off in time to beat the buzzer.

The Cats outscored the Irish 37-16 in the second half behind BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke’s 14 points and Sarr’s 22.

UK’s next scheduled game is on Saturday, Dec. 19 when Kentucky takes on UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic, held in Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Game time is 2 p.m. and it will be televised by CBS.

The following is the game summary, courtesy of UK Athletics.

Final Score: Notre Dame 64, Kentucky 63

Team Records and Series Notes

After trailing by 24 points in the first half, a spirited comeback fell just short as Notre Dame held on to win 64-63. Kentucky falls to 1-4 and Notre Dame is 2-2.

UK leads the series 43-20, including 8-1 in games played in Lexington.

Player Notes

Olivier Sarr led the way 22 points, his most as a Wildcat, plus seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

His career highs at Wake Forest also came against Notre Dame with 30 points and 17 rebounds on Feb. 20, 2020.

Sarr’s three blocks were his most as a Wildcat.

Brandon Boston Jr. had 14 points, his fifth straight game in double figures, and a career-high three steals.

Terrence Clarke posted 14 points, adding four rebounds, three steals, and two assists.

He has notched double figures in four of five games.

Davion Mintz led the Wildcats in assists for the second straight game with four of them, plus two steals.

Coach John Calipari

Calipari is now 331-81 at UK.

Calipari has a 776-221 all-time on-court record.

UK is 268-47 all-time under Calipari against Associated Press unranked teams.

Kentucky is 55-16 under Calipari following a loss.

This is just the second time in his 12-year run as UK’s coach he has dropped three or more games in a row. UK also lost four straight during the 2017-18 season.

Team Notes

Kentucky is 1-4 for the first time since the 1984-85 team also opened 1-4. That team finished the season 17-13.

UK lost two in a row at home for the first time in the Calipari era.

UK is 58-43 all-time against teams comprising the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Struggling with turnovers in the first four games, the Wildcats cut their miscues to a season-low of 11. However, Notre Dame capitalized with 22 points off turnovers.

In the First Half

The starting lineup consisted of Davion Mintz, Brandon Boston Jr., Terrence Clarke, Isaiah Jackson, and senior Olivier Sarr for the first time this season.

Mintz made his first start in a Kentucky uniform.

Devin Askew was UK’s first substitute at the 16:30 mark.

Sarr made the first two baskets of the game but Notre Dame had a 9-1 spurt to go ahead 9-5.

Ahead 14-9, Notre Dame went on a 19-0 run to lead 33-9.

Notre Dame went on to lead 48-26 at halftime

It is Kentucky’s largest halftime deficit since a 30-point margin (41-11) at Vanderbilt in 2008. It is Kentucky’s largest halftime home deficit in school history.

The Irish shot 59.3% in the first half, including 6 of 11 on 3-pointers.

In the Second Half

The starting lineup opened the second half.

Kentucky got the first five points of the half to get within 48-31.

After scoring at 16:22 to make it 53-33, Notre Dame went scoreless for more than nine minutes, and UK’s 16-0 run cut the gap to 53-49.

UK got within four again at 55-51 but Notre Dame made its first 3-pointer of the second half to blunt the Wildcat spurt.

A basket-and-one by Mintz got UK within 62-59 with 1:34 left.

A Wildcat steal, followed by a Jackson layup, got UK to 62-61.

A Sarr basket with 40 seconds pulled the Cats within 64-63.

UK forced a shot-clock violation with 12 seconds to give UK a chance to win but a Sarr jumper from the right baseline missed at the buzzer.

UK outscored Notre Dame in the second half 37-16 in falling just short in the comeback.

Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, local media outlets The Corbin Times-Tribune and London Sentinel-Echo, and online at A Sea of Blue, Magazine,, and at Wildcat Sports Talk among others.