Jan 26, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the game against the LSU Tigers in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated LSU 75-70. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel Is Having an Unprecedented Defensive Season


Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is crafting an historic defensive season on all kinds of scales.

The flat-topped enforcer set a single-game school record for blocked shots on Tuesday with 12, aiding the Wildcats to their first signature win of the season over Ole Miss in Oxford. The legacy doesn’t end there.

Jan 29, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Mississippi Rebels forward Murphy Holloway (31) goes up for a dunk and is guarded by Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the game at the Tad Smith Coliseum. Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Mississippi Rebels 87-74. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden–USA TODAY Sports

Noel is just a morsel off the pace from accomplishing a feat that has never been done in the modern era of college basketball. The freshman pivot, who is averaging 5.9 blocks and 3.0 steals per 40 minutes, is a fraction shy of becoming the first qualifying player since the NCAA began tracking blocks as a stat to average 6 blocks and 3 steals per 40 minutes.

Noel, by himself, averages more blocks per 40 minutes than all but 11 other Division-1 teams. That’s 335 in total for those counting. His 2.35 steals per game ranks 22nd nationally. He’s the only true center to crack the Top 100 in that category.

Noel’s 13.2-percent block rate—the percentage of shot opportunities he’s swatted—is second only in Kentucky history to the mark Anthony Davis set last year (13.7-percent). At the rate that percentage has spiked since the dawn of conference play, however, Noel could put himself in position to surpass Davis as well. Noel is already on pace to edge Davis’s Kentucky record for blocks in a season.

As if the program records he’s already set and the single-season milestones he’s in the process of challenging weren’t enough, Noel has his sights set on the all-time college hoops archives. After his statement performance against a stout Rebels frontline, I’d be wary about doubting him too.

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