By LARRY VAUGHT
At the end of Kentucky’s 27-point win over Auburn Saturday, redshirt freshman guard Jemarl Baker hit an outside shot. It was not a 3-pointer, but it was still a make that Baker needed.
“Definitely, it felt good to get one going in. So hopefully tomorrow, I can knock down a couple of more,” Baker said Monday.
Kentucky host Arkansas tonight in Rupp Arena and has four more SEC games left in regular-season play. If it wins out, it assures itself of no worse than a first-place tie in the league race and a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Baker making 3-point shots could help Kentucky. He is just 9-for-33 from 3-point range, a 27.3 percent mark in 19 games. That’s not exactly what one would expect from the player that former Cat Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said last year was the best shooter on the team. Overall, he’s averaging 8.9 minutes, 1.9 points and 0.6 rebounds per game.
He went 2-for-2 from 3-point range against Georgia and Vanderbilt, but in the last seven games he’s just 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
He said “never in my life” has he had a shooting slump like this.
“I’ve been working hard and hopefully, I’ll get out of it soon. I’ve been working. I’ve been making shots in my workouts, making shots in practice, so it’s only a matter of time,” Baker said.
What happens between practice when shots go in and game day when they do not?
“It just happens. It happens to everybody. Great shooters, pros, it happens to everybody. You just keep working and you stay confident and they’ll start to go in,” Baker said. “He (coach John Calipari) just tells me to continue to play, continue to shoot and just continue to be me. I’ve been defending. I’ve been doing everything I can and when my shots start falling, it will be that much better.”
Baker has not let missing shots impact other parts of his game, especially defensively.
“That’s what I’ve done all my life, so it’s nothing different for me. I’ve just been going out there and playing hard,” Baker said.