It was supposed to be a clash of the titans, Kentucky versus Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on November 6 in Indianapolis. But it turned out to be no contest at all, as Duke delivered a 118-84 shellacking that was never close.
“We got absolutely clubbed by a very good team,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in a recent press conference.
After struggling by Kentucky standards in the early part of the season, the Wildcats seem to have something figured out. Since the Duke loss, the ‘Cats have won 18 of their last 20 and the last eight in a row. At least part of that success is based on the emergence of freshman sensation Tyler Herro.
Herro, a 6-foot-5, 195-pound guard, is averaging 13.5 points per game and has scored in double figures in 16 games this season. He hit a high-water mark in scoring against Louisville on December 29, pouring in 24 points on 4 of 6 shooting from 3-point range.
When looking at season splits, Herro has wreaked his greatest havoc away from Lexington. He was the primary catalyst for a big win at Auburn on January 19, pumping in a slash line of 20/4/3, and most recently, his 19-point afternoon sent Gators fans home unhappy with a 65-54 loss at Exactech Arena in Gainesville.
Herro’s killer mindset was never more evident than by this recent quote: “(I’d rather hit a big shot) on the road for sure. I just like hitting big shots against people who don’t like us. If they don’t like us, we don’t like them.”
Herro has hit at least three 3-pointers in seven games, but don’t pigeonhole him solely into a threat from long distance; he can take it to the rack, too. And please, don’t ever foul him. After a 4-for-4 performance in Gainesville, Herro extended his consecutive makes from the foul line to 28. Overall, he’s shooting 91.8 percent from the charity stripe.
A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Herro he became a prep sensation at Whitnall High, where he averaged 32.9 ppg and shot 43.5 percent from 3-point range in his senior season.
Now that Herro is at Kentucky, Calipari wants him to develop prep amnesia. “He reverts back to high school at times,” Calipari said after a win over Kansas.
If Herro continues to grow up and maintain his road-dog mentality, the Wildcats will be a tough out come late March and early April. And maybe, just maybe, if Kentucky and Duke meet again, the Wildcats can find vengeance in the form of a Herro. H&A
Cover photo: Courtesy Kentucky Athletics