There are wins, and then there are wins. Kentucky’s 89-62 beatdown of South Carolina this →
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
There are wins, and then there are wins. Kentucky’s 89-62 beatdown of South Carolina this afternoon was definitely the latter, a stunning performance especially when you consider all of the crazy things that happened during it.
Tyler Ulis is the story
Coming in, we knew this game would be a challenge. Not only is South Carolina an incredibly physical team, they haven’t lost at home this season and just beat Texas A&M and LSU. The atmosphere seemed ripe for an upset, especially after John Calipari got thrown out of the game two-and-a-half minutes in. While most teams would totally fall apart after an emotional moment like that, this team banded together and kept their composure, thanks in large part to a career performance from Tyler Ulis.
“The story is Coach Cal coached the team through Tyler Ulis,” Kenny Payne said afterwards. With Calipari out, Ulis took over coaching duties on offense, a natural move to anyone who’s watched this team this season.
“I never touched on offense, didn’t have to. Between Cal and Tyler Ulis, they’re on the same page. Tyler Ulis ran the offense. Every now and then I may have interjected something, but at the end of the day, it was his show,” Payne said of Ulis.
With Ulis in control of the offense, Kenny Payne focused on defense, and although I love Cal, that coaching duo might give him a run for his money. With Kentucky’s bigs in foul trouble most of the game, Ulis and Payne orchestrated what may be the Cats’ best performance of the season.
“Coaches gave me the green light to call my own plays,” Ulis said.
Can you blame them? Ulis had a red-letter day, scoring a career-high 27 points and dishing a career-high 12 assists. Oh yeah, he had only one turnover. Ulis is now the first player in Kentucky basketball history to have two games of at least 20 points and 10 assists. Today was his fourth career double-double and his 11th 20-point game of the season.
“It’s time to put Tyler Ulis’ name in the mix for College Player of the Year,” Jay Williams said.
Yes, it is. And no matter how much we love and appreciate him now, it will never be enough.
Ulis is the story of today’s game, but there are some other things to go over, starting with the moment that led to him pulling double duty as coach and player: John Calipari’s ejection.
Calipari got thrown out of the game two-and-a-half minutes in
No one’s quite sure what exactly sparked the confrontation between John Calipari and referee Doug Sirmons. (Or, if they know, they’re not telling.) Initially, Calipari seemed upset with Sirmons for a no-call, but after Sirmons called a technical on him, Cal went beserk, advancing on Sirmons and screaming to the point that Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe had to restrain him. For the second time in two years in Columbia, Calipari was ejected from the game with 17:34 left in the first half.
In moments like this, teams either fall apart or they band together. With Tyler Ulis at the helm, the Cats not only banded together, they took their game to another level. Both Kenny Payne and John Robic said Cal’s ejection lit a fire under the squad.
“I thought it set a fire within our guys,” Kenny Payne said. “I thought they played with ‘You tried to take one of our guys out,’ we’re coming on, we’re going to play with more energy and effort. We’re going to fight more.”
Robic echoed those thoughts, telling Tom Leach, “Cal’s their guy, they play for him.”
A lot of people are saying Cal got thrown out on purpose, but it happened so early that I doubt that. Regardless, seeing that protective, bulldog mentality from the team for their coach is as encouraging as anything. After the game, Calipari tweeted, “I have never been more proud of a team. They are now empowered. They’ve proven that they don’t need me and I love it.”
Considering the team’s he’s coached, that is some high praise.
After dropping a zero, Marcus Lee became a hero
Kentucky wore special edition Nike jerseys today, and for some reason, Marcus Lee’s only had a single zero on it instead of his normal double-zero. Well, like John Robic said after the game, Nike better send Marcus a new version of his normal jersey with a single zero, because after that performance, he’s not allowed to go back. Lee was fantastic, scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, his third double-double of the season, and first since the Illinois State game on November 30.
“I’m so proud of him,” Payne said of Lee, who only had two fouls in 36 minutes. In a game in which fouls were a major story, that last stat may be the most important. Lee spoke for everyone when he told reporters, “Not fouling feels awesome.”
Tyler Ulis certainly seemed happy to have Lee back on point, delivering him two beautiful passes on a platter, this one off the backboard:
Ulis to Lee makes us all giddy pic.twitter.com/IvX1C1Lirg
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) February 13, 2016
I could watch the bench celebrating after that dunk for the rest of the day.
Jamal Murray’s dunk was better
It’s insane that I’m 900 words into this recap and am just now getting to Jamal Murray’s dunk. Normally, it would be the story of the game. Murray posterized poor Justin McKie, adding insult to a very rough day for the Gamecocks. Murray finished with 26 points, yet another impressive performance. He’s on fire lately.
This was a statement game
With their coach in the locker room, Doug Sirmons on the whistle, bigs in foul trouble, and South Carolina ready to go blow to blow, Kentucky could have shrunk into the shadows. Fortunately, Tyler Ulis and the Cats had other plans.
“Kentucky came in here and proved a point and put a couple black eyes on us.” Frank Martin said. “Their resolve and their will was a lot stronger than ours.”
The Cats are now tied with LSU for first place in the SEC. There’s plenty of basketball left to play, but today’s performance has to make you feel good about March.
For now, take a bow, Tyler.
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 10:45pm
For the second-straight year Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves wins the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest. Orlando’s Aaron Gordon game LaVine a run for his money, but LaVine’s dunks were too much.
Here are all of LaVine’s four dunks.
Here are some of Gordon’s best dunks…
LaVine’s teammates, Karl Towns and Andrew Wiggins, loved what they saw along with DeMarcus Cousins.
Hopefully we will see a former Kentucky player in there soon.
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 10:00pm
Taking on some of the best veteran shooters in the league didn’t phase rookie Devin Booker in the Three-Point Contest. Booker scored 20 points in the first round, tying James Harden and JJ Reddick for the third place spot. Booker beat out Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton.
In the tiebreaker round, Booker defeated both Harden and Reddick to advance to the final round against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Unfortunately Booker fell short of an upset against the Splash Bothers. In the final round Booker only put up 17 points, while Curry put up 23 and Thompson won with 27 points.
Devin Booker has only hit 53 3s this year, but still went to the finals and competed against against two of the best shooters of this era.
No one even thought Booker was going to make it past the first round, but the 19-year-old proved everyone wrong. Give Booker two or three more years and he won’t miss from behind the arc.
Come on, rook! 😂 https://t.co/8jTbZIYCTS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 14, 2016
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 9:00pm
Karl-Anthony Towns defeated Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas in the championship round of the All-Star Skills Challenge. Towns defeated Draymond Green and DeMarus Cousins in order to reach the finals.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 14, 2016
This is the first year that the competition included both guards and big men. Towns’ win proves that big men can handle and shoot the ball just as well as the guards.
Towns was greeted by Cousins, Davis and Booker following his big upset over Thomas.
Coach Cal definitely held him back.
#BBN #KentuckyEffect #BBNBA
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 8:30pm
If you missed it, Duke defeated No. 7 ranked Virginia on a buzzer-beating layup from Grayson Allen. Allen got the layup out of his hands with less than a second left on the game clock to give the Blue Devils a 63-62 win over Virginia.
Following the conclusion of the game, many people expressed their opinion that the shot should have not counted. If you watch closely it appears that Allen travelled on his game-winning layup.
— Andrew Joseph (@AndyJ0seph) February 13, 2016
Grayson Allen travelled twice on the game-winner, but whatever. Props to him for willing that in and playing well today despite being off.
— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) February 13, 2016
Grayson Allen traveled like 3 times 😂
— SKJ‼️ (@The_SKJ) February 13, 2016
Pretend it’s not Duke and Grayson Allen and tell me what you think #BBN. Did Allen travel or not?
By Nick Roush on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 8:00pm
Over the next month, KSR is traveling across the country to interview the “Next Five,” UK’s five signees in the 2016 class: Malik Monk, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, and De’Aaron Fox.
On August 19, 2015, Sacha Killeya-Jones became the first player to commit to Kentucky in the class of 2016. The decision was a culmination of the 6’10” forward’s progress as a player and a person. Many things happened before, and much has happened since. Here is his story:
When the Chapel Hill, North Carolina native entered high school, he was a striking, but skinny 6’4″ athlete. He was receiving interest and offers from Division I schools, but when he grew another six inches, his potential grew. Sacha’s next step was making a move to the Virginia Episcopal School.
“At that point, he was raw. NOBODY knew about him,” Curtis Staples said. A former standout at the University of Virginia, Coach Staples played a part in developing Sacha into a budding superstar at VES, a prep school in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Killeya-Jones had already spent his first two years of high school in a boarding school atmosphere, but things changed when he began playing for Staples as a Junior. “His skill level shot through the roof at a quick pace,” Staples said.
At VES, Killeya-Jones was able to truly dedicate himself to basketball. The greatest advantage of a prep school lies within its name — it prepares you for the next level. “It’s definitely good to have quick access to the gym. You can go in whenever you want,” Sacha said after playing at the Thoroughbred Classic in Pulaski County.
Living with your teammates, spending most of your day in a gym, it simulates a college atmosphere, but it has its drawbacks.
“It’s not anything like living at home,” Sacha said. “Usually you got your mom to do your laundry and stuff like that, but you’ve got to do all of that stuff on your own. The thing I miss the most is the food. There’s nothing like home cooking.”
Laundry wasn’t the only thing he had to learn at VES. Nothing has been more beneficial to his career than learning how to fight. The tall, lanky forward is an easy target for opponents. When he gets the ball in the post, they make him prove that he can physical. If he refuses to attack, it’s almost impossible to be productive.
Against Josh Jackson’s Prolfic Prep, you didn’t have to be in the front row to hear him getting slapped. With a ball-fake and a hard dribble to the rim, SKJ relentlessly fought for a difficult finish between two defenders.
“That’s one of the adjustments he’s made in his game,” Coach Staples said. “Originally, he did (shy away from contact), a couple of years ago he did. Now he’s at a point where he attacks the rim. A lot of things have changed for the best for him in the last two years.”
Killeya-Jones doesn’t just fight to score in the post, he stretches the floor, playing in the high post or on the perimeter. He has a good looking shot, an unblockable step-back, but he rarely settles. The fighter’s mentality within won’t allow it. This is where he is at his best. With a quick first-step, then a spin move, he was quickly rolling the basketball off his fingers down the middle of the lane for a smooth two. “It’s a huge luxury to have a guy like that,” Staples said.
In the game at Pulaski County High School, it was a performance that didn’t live up to his standards, even though he finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds to extend his double-double streak to a dozen games. After the game he was saying things like, “I couldn’t rebound in the first half;” “In the second quarter, I started playing kind of slow;” and “I just couldn’t hit for anything.”
He wouldn’t have been saying that if his team won. VES fell to Prolific Prep 72-54 behind a superb second half from Jackson and Co. “He’s a guy that really wants to win. Right now, he’s the most upset about the game tonight,” Staples said.
“I love to win and I hate to lose,” Sacha said.
Even though he was upset after the loss, the kids in the stands couldn’t tell. Before he could get to the locker room he signed two t-shirts. After his postgame locker room debriefing, he spent another 20 minutes taking pictures and signing autographs. He never became impatient with the long line of fans, even though the unending stream of requests lasted through our interview and his postgame pizza.
“They’re the best fan base in the country, so it’s cool,” Sacha said. “Like Coach Cal says, they’re crazy, but crazy in a good way.”
All of the newfound fame came quickly. He felt the power of the BBN shortly after committing to Kentucky.
“It’s kind of weird to get used to at first because you go from just being a normal high school kid to people wanting to take pictures with you. It’s not even just kids, like grown men coming up to me asking me to sign their shirts and stuff.” He added, “It’s definitely humbling.”
Killeya-Jones wasn’t always a Kentucky lock. In fact, he was going to be a Virginia Cavalier until he re-opened his recruitment in June. His phone blew up that night, but one call that stood out was from John Robic. His reaction: “Wow. It was kind of crazy.”
Not long after, he visited campus and received an offer from Coach Cal. Two days later, he went home to Chapel Hill to visit North Carolina. After two months of deliberation, he chose Kentucky. “It was something I took a really hard look at, and I’m glad I did.”
After Killeya-Jones committed, there was a period of time where he was The Lone Ranger in the Class of 2016. He believed for awhile that it could be on a permanent basis, as rumors circulated that Wenyen Gabriel was going to Duke and Bam Adebayo was a lock for N.C. State. The uncertainty was soon gone. “It sped up really quickly,” he said.
“It was really cool. I was talking to the guys as it happened. We have a group message, and we kept adding people to the group message.” That message is used daily, especially during UK games, and is now home to the nation’s number one recruiting class. “We’re going to have a crazy class,” he said.
A crazy casual warm-up dunk.
Sacha Killeya-Jones warming up before taking on Josh Jackson at Pulaski County High School pic.twitter.com/xfNoK3KmZm
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) February 7, 2016
He’s excited and anxious to take his talents to Kentucky. If you ask him what he’s most excited for, it’s hard for him to pinpoint it. “I don’t have a good answer because there’s so much I’m looking forward to.”
One thing is certain — he can’t wait for Big Blue Madness.
“Playing in Rupp is going to be ridiculous. Big Blue Madness,” he pauses. “It’s going to be crazy. I was nervous just watching it.”
Before he gets introduced on the Big Blue Madness stage, Killeya-Jones is focusing on improving his strength. His shot has improved, he’s a better rebounder, but it won’t come as easy at Kentucky if he doesn’t get bigger.
“He has good vision, good athleticism. He can face the basket and post. He’s got a little bit of everything,” Staples said. “Once he puts a little more muscle mass on. He will continue to get better and it’s going to be really difficult to guard him.”
How Killeya-Jones fits into the puzzle next year will be interesting. Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel will compete for minutes inside alongside Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyrd, Derek Willis and maybe Marques Bolden. Gazing into the crystal ball to predict the future, SKJ can make only one promise.
“I’m gonna fight. I really love basketball. I really enjoy it. Every time I go out there I’m going to try to do my best, and fight for the team,” he said. “I’m gonna fight and I’m going to have fun doing it.”
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 7:30pm
In case you missed it four former Kentucky players will be participating in tonight’s All-Star events in Toronto ahead of tomorrow’s All-Star Game. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns will be participating in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. Devin Booker will be participating in the Foot Locker Three-Point challenge.
State Farm All-Star Saturday Night begins at 8 p.m. on TNT.
> Taco Bell Skills Challenge (1st Event)
> Foot Locker Three-Point Contest (2nd Event)
> Verizon Slam Dunk (3rd Event)
Devin Booker will become the youngest participant in the three-point contest and second rookie to participate since Steph Curry. Curry is looking to defend his title in the contest, but I believe Booker could give him a run for his money.
Devin Booker getting some advice from Dennis Scott.
DeMarcus Cousins’s All-Star shoe game
Anthony Davis’ All-Star shoe game
Make sure to check back later to see how Booker, Cousins, Davis and Towns did in tonight’s All-Star festivities.
Looks like AD might have a few footwear options for this weekend.
By Nick Roush on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 7:15pm
Coach John Calipari
“I have never been more proud of a team. They are now empowered. They’ve proven that they dont need me and I love it.”
“Tyler Ulis NEEDS to be in the National Player of the Year conversation. Dude is straight 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 right now.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached against someone so slight in appearance but so strong, so durable and so competitive as Tyler Ulis.”
It’s safe to now say that Kentucky is still the best team in the SEC — and a legit Final 4 contender. Ulis, Murray and decent frontcourt.
“Hey, a team that can win without its coach!”
NBC’s Rob Dauster
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone 5-ft-9 capable of dominating a basketball game the way Interim Head Coach Tyler Ulis can dominate a game.”
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf
None of that matters, however, but this: Calipari’s ejection led to one of Kentucky’s most impressive performances of the season. They were the Wildcats we wrote about in October but only saw for a game or two in the nonconference season and a few halves beyond that. (LINK)
“Not even midway thru second half and Tyler Ulis already has 21 points and 10 assists. Cal should get tossed more often.”
CATS B/C Ulis & Murray have been dynamite as they are DOMINATING USC. Team D has been superb Watch out here comes BBN
CBS’ Sam Vecenie
For lack of a better term, it was a virtuouso performance from Kentucky’s point guard in the biggest spot of the season for the Wildcats. (LINK)
“UK lost their coach on the sidelines today but they didn’t lose their coach on the floor. Tyler Ulis has his team rolling! I said it & believed it in October that Tyler Ulis is the best true PG in the country & it’s more than just his numbers for Kentucky.”
By Nick Roush on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 6:30pm
Tyler Ulis’ Nike Kyrie 2’s
Yes, UK’s Point God is wearing the shoes of a Dukie, but I think we can find a way to forgive him. After changing things up frequently early in the season, he’s stuck with the Kyrie’s through most of SEC play.
Jamal Murray’s Kobe 11’s in the Exclusive UK Colorway
Instead of rocking Drake’s OVO Jordan X’s, Murray let go of his Canadian-connection against Georgia for this pair of Kobe’s that are only available in this color to the Cats.
Marcus Lee in the Jordan Retro XI 72-10’s
The 72-10’s are kind of a big deal, but I don’t explain it as well as The Daily Show.
Anthony Davis’ All-Star Game Swag
Nike’s Air Audacity All Star is made exclusively for Anthony Davis’ third All-Star Game appearance. If you check out the heel, the air pockets say “Fear the Brow.” AD will be wearing them in tomorrow night’s game and possibly during tonight’s Skills Challenge.
NEW: Drake’s OVO “Kentucky Blue” Jordan Retro VIII
Earlier today, Drake posted the above picture on Instagram of what he calls “Kentucky Blue” OVO’s and the Key to the City of Toronto. The Retro X OVO’s are kind of a big deal, and have been worn by both Alex Poythress and Jamal Murray this season. Unfortunately, there’s no news on whether or not these will be available to the public, only an Instagram picture and a (likely) All-Star Game appearance.
By Nick Roush on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 5:45pm
— 89 is the most points the Cats have scored this season. 89 points is also the most a Kentucky team has scored on the road since dropping 89 against Florida on January 12, 2010.
— Following today’s 27-point win, the Cats have now combined to win the last three games by 80 points. They beat Florida by 19, and Georgia by 34. The average margin of victory in that span — 26.7 points.
— During the three game win streak, the Cats have hit at least 10 three-pointers in each game. The only other time they did that this year was against Louisville.
— Kentucky’s three-point streak is now 964 games long.
— UK held USC to 32.7 percent shooting. UK is 10-0 this season when keeping the opponent under 38 percent from the field.
— This is the first time over the last 51 seasons that Kentucky has held 8 consecutive SEC opponents to worse than 42% shooting from the field
— Tyler Ulis is the first player in Kentucky history with two 20-point, 10-assist games, after setting career-highs in points (27), assists (12) and three-pointers made (4). He did it all while committing only one turnover. That one turnover led to this play:
— Ulis is the first Wildcat in school history with at least four assists in 18 consecutive games (single game assists available since the 1972-73 season).
— Jamal Murray scored in double-figures for the 23rd game in a row, notching a casual 26 points.
— Jamal Murray is the first player in UK history to begin his career by hitting a three in 25 consecutive games.
— Derek Willis has hit a three in 10 consecutive games.
— Marcus Lee’s 11 points and career-high 13 rebounds were good for his third double-double of the season, the first since Illinois State on November 30th.
By Nick Roush on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 5:00pm
By Drew Franklin on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 3:37pm
The KSR postgame show is currently the No. 1 streamed show in America with over twice as many listeners as the next show on the list.
If you’re not already tuning in, turn your radios and your radio streaming devices to 630 WLAP in Lexington or 840 WHAS in Louisville to hear what Matt Jones and the KSR callers have to say about Calipari’s ejection and the big win.
Or if you would like to be heard, give Matt a call at 1-800-444-8484 or 502-571-8484.
Listen online here.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 3:32pm
Tyler Ulis and Marcus Lee took questions following Kentucky’s win in Colonial Life Arena. Here’s a brief rundown of their comments and then you can hear/see it all for yourself below:
— Ulis had the green light to run the offense in Calipari’s offense.
— Lee thought it was “awesome” to not battle foul trouble again.
— They talked about the backboard lob before pulling it off.
— Ulis thought it was the best the team has played across the board all year. “Definitely,” he said.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 13th, 2016 @ 3:19pm