NEW YORK — Junior guard Jarrod Polson scored 10 points – three more than he had in his career at Kentucky – and made the clinching free throws with 7.7 seconds to play as the third-ranked Wildcats held off a furious second-half rally by Maryland for a 72-69 victory Friday night.
Kyle Wiltjer, a sophomore, led Kentucky with 19 points in the second game of the Barclays Center Classic, the first college basketball games played in the new arena in Brooklyn. Archie Goodwin, the only one of the four freshmen in Kentucky's heralded recruiting class to score in double figures, had 16 points for the defending national champions.
Seven-foot-1 sophomore Alex Len led Maryland with 23 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs. His rare three-point play – he made the first free throw then rebounded his own miss of the second – brought the Terrapins within 70-69 with 8.9 seconds left.
Polson was fouled with 7.7 seconds left and made two free throws for a 72-69 lead.
Maryland's Pe'Shon Howard missed the final shot but it was only a 2-point attempt.
Before the game, Calipari presented a check for $1 million to the American Red Cross to help victims of Superstorm Sandy. The money was raised in telethons in Kentucky set up by Calipari and was to help those from Brooklyn, a New York City borough which received extensive damage from the storm.
Almost all the attention coming into the game was about Kentucky's recruiting class, one which the fans there hoped would lead them to a national championship as last season's freshman class did. But the Wildcats had six players drafted, including Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who were taken No. 1 and 2 overall.
This class still has talent but they looked like freshmen, especially coming down the stretch when the veterans – Wiltjer and Polson – made the key plays to keep Maryland from taking the lead over the final 5 minutes.
Maryland had a terrible shooting first half, finishing 13 of 44 (29.5 percent) – including missing all 11 3-point attempts. Kentucky, on the other hand, was having a great half from the floor. The Wildcats made 18 of 31 from the field (58.1percent) and they were 5 of 7 from beyond the arc in taking a 49-36 lead.
With most of the sellout crowd of 17,732 on the side of the Terrapins, the shooting turned for both teams.
Suddenly Maryland was hitting shots, even three 3-pointers, and it crashed the boards relentlessly. The Terrapins outrebounded Kentucky 54-38, including a 28-13 advantage on the offensive end. Maryland was missing but enough of the rebounds went its way that the Terrapins were able to go on a 21-4 run that gave them a 59-57 lead, their first since the game's opening minutes.
There were five lead changes from there and the last came on a follow by Polson that made it 64-63 with 5:18 left. That Kentucky was even close was amazing since the Wildcats made one of 11 from the floor and committed three turnovers while the Terrapins were on their run.
Kentucky finished the second half 6 for 25 from the field (24.0 percent) and made only 1 of 6 on 3-point attempts.
Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein both had eight points for Kentucky, while the other freshman, Nerlens Noel, had four.
Nick Faust had 11 points for Maryland and James Padgett, a native of Brooklyn, added 10.
Kentucky is now 90-19 in season openers, while Maryland had a streak of 10 straight season-opening wins snapped.