LEXINGTON – Franklin County High graduate Barrett Meyer took a very pragmatic approach to Monday night’s 74-28 beatdown that his Transylvania Pioneers suffered at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats in exhibition play at Rupp Arena.
Transy is the 16th-ranked team in NCAA Division III polls, while Kentucky is the No. 3-rated bunch in Division I.
It’s that simple.
So Meyer, a versatile, 6-foot-2 senior guard, pretty much just shrugged when asked if he was frustrated after Coach John Calipari’s Wildcats pulled away from a 27-18 halftime advantage.
“Yeah, a little bit, but this is something we’re not too worried about because it wasn’t our defense that was breaking us down,” Meyer said. “Certainly in the second half we got tired and fatigue kicked in, and they got out on the fast break and scored a lot of points.”
In other words, the Wildcats used their superior height and athleticism – soon to be NBA height and athleticism in many cases – to bottle up the Transylvania offense.
Last year Meyer and his team stayed with the Wildcats for a longer stretch, but that was UK’s first exhibition game. This time Kentucky had one exhibition under its belt and that made a difference.
“Their defense tonight was unbelievable,” Meyer said. “It was really tough for us to get any open shots. And that may have had something to do with this being their second exhibition game. They were able to review the tape of their first one and correct what they did wrong.”
Meyer finished with five points Monday on two of nine shooting from the outside, including just one of six from three-point range. He also had four steals, four rebounds and one assist.
Last year Meyer hit a couple threes in the first half and scored in double digits vs. the Wildcats.
Both Meyer and Transy coach Brian Lane said this Kentucky team, at least at this point, may be deeper defensively than last year’s Anthony Davis-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist bunch.
“Last year we got off over 35, 36 three-pointers,” Lane said. “That’s how we could stay in the game. This year we couldn’t get them off. They close so well. If one guy makes a mistake, the next guy is there.”
Calipari had also, apparently, watched film of last year’s Transy team.
“Tonight, from the start, they were really on me,” Meyer said. “Last year I got hot on them in the beginning. I had a couple threes in the first half.”
But, in Monday’s rematch...
“Every time I was running down the court, if somebody wasn’t glued on me, I heard Coach Cal yelling, ‘shooter here, shooter here.’ They really focused on staying out (defensively), so I couldn’t get off any shots.
“And going against their size and athleticism, you’re not going to be able to get by them. But in our (Heartland) conference, when they stick out on me as a shooter like that, I can really create in the lane for some other guys and actually finish inside against smaller size and less athletic players.”
Meyer promises to be one of the key cogs on a senior-laden Transylvania team this winter that appears primed to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Last year, Meyer averaged 11.8 points and three rebounds per game for a Transy team that finished a glittering 23-5 but was upset in the first round of the NCAAs.
“I feel like I’m ready to build on last season,” Meyer said. “I was second team all conference, and, of course, we have two All Americans (Brandon Rash and Ethan Spurlin), and we feel like other teams are going to focus on them and really open up stuff for us.
“We’ve got weapons on offense. In conference play against guys our size and our athleticism, we’re going to be able to score a lot of points on some people.”
Lane says Meyer will be at the center of the Pioneers’ success.
“You could see in the second half tonight that he’s really worked on his strength and his leadership,” Lane said of Meyer. “I really think he’s set to have a tremendous senior year. We didn’t shoot it tonight, but we really need to get him more open shots. But it’s tough against that (Kentucky) lineup.
“But, when he gets a shot, I’m as confident in him as anybody we’ve ever had.”
Meyer says he feels pressure, though it’s a good pressure, to be a leader on a Transy bunch that includes seven other seniors.
“I don’t want to let the guy standing next to me down,” Meyer said. “I don’t want to let any of the other seven seniors down, or any of the other players on the team.
“We expect a great season and a deep run in the tournament.”
Kentucky placed five players in double-figure scoring Monday night vs. the Pioneers. Nerlens Noel led with 15 points; Julius Mays added 14 points off the bench; Ryan Harrow and Willie Cauley-Stein added 12 points each, and Archie Goodwin had 10 points.
The Wildcats out-rebounded the significantly smaller Pionners, 29-21. Goodwin led UK on the boards with six rebounds. Noel, Harrow and Cauley-Stein had four rebounds apiece.
Mays led in assists with five. Mays bumped knees with a Transy player late in the game and had to go to the bench, but Calipari said afterward that he believes Mays will “be fine.”
UK shot 29 of 49 from the field for 59.2 percent, while Transylvania was just 11 of 42 from the outside for 26.2 percent.
Spurlin led the Pioneers in scoring with 11 points, and Rash had seven points.
Spurlin led Transy on the boards with five rebounds, and Meyer and Taylor Botkin had four rebounds each.
Kentucky opens regular season play Friday against Maryland in a game that will be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Tip is at 8:30 on ESPN.
The Pioneers open regular season play in a tournament in Baltimore Nov. 16-17.