After blowing a 21-point lead at Tennessee, Kentucky needed a big performance today at Rupp, →
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 8:00pm
After blowing a 21-point lead at Tennessee, Kentucky needed a big performance today at Rupp, and the Cats delivered, putting a 19-point beatdown on the Florida Gators. Kentucky led by 18 at halftime and by as much as 26 in the second half. Jamal Murray led the way with a career-high 35 points, followed by Tyler Ulis with 18 and Derek Willis with 12.
“It was a great bounce-back win today,” Calipari said. “To do this against this team — and again, you have to understand, this team beat West Virginia by 20, and they had won five of six games. So they had been playing well. But this was good for us, good win.”
For most of the game, Kentucky looked as good as they have all season, helping erase memories from what was hopefully a fluke performance in Knoxville. Let’s break down the win.
Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis led the way
Kentucky’s guard play has always been its strength, and today, Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis stole the show. Murray and Ulis combined for 53 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, and only 4 turnovers, meaning they scored 66% of the Cats’ points. With his parents in the stands, Murray finished with a career-high 35 points, the most by a freshman in the John Calipari era since Terrence Jones against Auburn back in 2011. Murray had eight threes, another career high and just one shy of Tony Delk’s record of nine. Murray is now the first player in UK basketball history to have two 30-point games in his freshman season (he had 33 vs. Ohio State).
“It was okay,” Murray joked of his 35-point performance. “I missed a free throw.”
“Jamal Murray stole the show overall with his ability to make shots. I think he’s still open right now,” Florida’s Michael White quipped. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I’m very discouraged with our effort against him. It’s like we didn’t know he was a good shooter.”
Tyler Ulis wasn’t shabby either, scoring 18 points and dishing out a career-high 11 assists for his third double-double of the season. Before the game, Calipari told Ulis this should be a 15-assist game for him, and even though he only (!) got 11, he was tremendous, hitting his first seven shots. White told reporters that Ulis “put on a clinic” defensively, and when he and Murray are playing like that, Kentucky is hard to beat.
“They were incredible. If those guys play like this every day, they’ll have a chance every night. They were fantastic,” White said of Ulis and Murray. “When you let a guy like Jamal Murray really get going early and he’s got his mojo going and Ulis is playing as well as he played today, they’re capable of beating anyone in college basketball.”
That we know.
With Alex Poythress out, Isaac Humphries stepped up
Five minutes before the game, Calipari found out that Alex Poythress’ right knee (the non-surgically repaired one) was bothering him and he wouldn’t be able to play. With Alex out, Kentucky’s bigs needed to step up inside, and they did. Isaac Humphries’ performance was the most promising, the Aussie big man chipping in four points, six rebounds, and two blocks in eleven minutes.
“He earned his space, and I’m so happy for him because he has worked so hard and hasn’t had the opportunity, and what he did was he took advantage, and we all look and say, he needs to play. Let him play. And then you’ve got to stop waiting on some other guys, you’ve got to say, hey, he deserves it,” Calipari said afterwards.
In further proof that Tyler Ulis is half point guard/half coach, Ulis told reporters he’s been talking to Kenny Payne for a while about how he thinks Isaac can help inside, and Humphries said Ulis challenged him to play well before the game.
“Through the whole process of me not really playing a lot, I’ve kept in mind that Tyler does think I can be out there and every day, I really do think about that little thing that he says,” Isaac said. “That’s another reason that’s pushed me through mentally are his little comments to me. Today before the game when he said that, I got really fired up and I thought well, I’ve got to do this because you’ve been batting for me and now I’ve got to prove to everyone else that you’re right and I can do it.”
Isaac felt so good that he even flexed after a big block:
“It felt great. I’ve been waiting for a moment to do that little — I don’t know what you call it,” Isaac said of his flex. “I’ve been waiting for so long and finally I got an opportunity to do it.”
Calipari put his players through the wringer in practice this week to inspire more physical play, and for today, it seemed to work. Kentucky outrebounded Florida 37-28 and four players finished with six rebounds apiece: Marcus Lee, Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, and Isaac Humphries. Alex will get x-rays on that knee tomorrow, which was pretty much the only update Calipari had on the injury after the game.
“I don’t know, he’ll get checked out tomorrow,” Cal said. “I think it was swelled a little bit and they said don’t play.”
Dominique Hawkins’ ankle was also bothering him to the point he sat out. Has there been a game this season in which the entire team was 100% healthy?
After a meltdown in Knoxville, Calipari had his players “beat the crap out of each other for two days in practice,” and it resulted in a much better defensive effort. Kentucky held Florida to 36.7% shooting in the first half and 39.6% overall. Calipari was pleased.
“What we did Thursday, and literally the people, there were people in the building, we went for two and a half hours, and it was a body-to-body, mano-á-mano, rebound, defend, play. I was mean at times, but that wasn’t what it was. It was the bar was raised of what we were accepting. And I thought guys were terrific.”
The Cats are back in the hunt
With Texas A&M losing to South Carolina and a date with the Gamecocks on Saturday, Kentucky is now back in the hunt for first place in the SEC. Today’s win was further proof that when the Cats are clicking, they can be dominant, but before you get too confident, remember that with this group, even a 21-point lead can disappear in the blink of an eye. (Because of that, admit it, you were a little nervous when Florida cut it to 13 in the second half.)
Calipari said that while today’s win was encouraging, this team still has a long way to go.
“There’s just so many little things that you cannot be what you all want us to be until we can play 40 minutes of basketball, dig in and play. Every possession matters on defense. We’re not close to that right now,” Cal said. “We’ve got a month, so within a month, I’ve got to get them convinced. They’re fighting me. They don’t think we have to, and I say, well, let’s think back to Tennessee.”
Yeah, yeah. Let’s just enjoy this for now, okay?
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 7:39pm
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 7:28pm
It’s all here for you, some Saturday night reading before you hit the town. (Or watch TV and go to bed.)
Q. In 15 minutes, Isaac Humphries had six rebounds, two blocks. Did he earn some potential playing time in the future?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yes, he earned his space, and I’m so happy for him because he has worked so hard and hasn’t had the opportunity, and what he did was he took advantage, and we all look and say, he needs to play. Let him play. And then you’ve got to stop waiting on some other guys, you’ve got to say, hey, he deserves it.
I thought Marcus Lee was really good today, very active. Derek was a little in and out today. He wasn’t himself, but he made the shot that we needed, the gap to help us win. He didn’t end up rebounding the first half, but Isaac was terrific. I thought Jamal, other than two or three plays that he just can’t help himself, the way he played was really good, and then Tyler Ulis, I told Tyler this is a 15-assist game for you because of how they play. It’s old school. You’re not getting to the rim.
And he had 11 assists. I said, you didn’t quite get 15, but you had 11.
Q. You guys obviously have some issues, some warts, some things you’re still trying to work through, but when you have guard play like that, when you have Tyler and Jamal capable of doing those things and you look towards tournament time down the road —
JOHN CALIPARI: You’ve got to have somebody next to basket, maybe it’s Isaac, maybe Skal keeps coming. But I do know if Marcus Lee will do what he did today, we have some room. But it’s good.
What we did Thursday, and literally the people, there were people in the building, we went for two and a half hours, and it was a body-to-body, mano-á-mano, rebound, defend, play. I was mean at times, but that wasn’t what it was. It was the bar was raised of what we were accepting. And I thought guys were terrific.
And then yesterday was more of a clean-up day. You can’t blame these kids. I said it, I got away from defense because I was trying to get us better offensively because I thought you cannot be a team that’s scoring 38 percent and not have enough offense, which we were for a while. Now we’ve gotten better offensively, and we started stinking on defense and rebounding, and I went back to it.
This is one of those teams that I’ve probably got to spend the time, more time than I’d like, to make sure we don’t get away from rebounding and drills and teaching and defense and how we’re going to play.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 7:15pm
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 7:02pm
Kentucky had to go without Alex Poythress against Florida after Poythress walked away from pregame warmups with an issue with his right knee. The injury likely occurred while warming up, as Poythress was dressed and ready to go until the news of his absence came right before tip-off.
John Calipari was asked about the status of his only senior after the game, though he didn’t have much to say on the matter.
“I don’t know,” Cal told reporters. “He’ll get X-rayed tomorrow to see.”
Hopefully it’s nothing serious because Kentucky needs Poythress inside, and he’s already been through this once.
It’s worth nothing that the right knee is not his surgically-repaired knee.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 6:44pm
Jamal Murray set a new career high with 35 points, tying Terrence Jones for the most by an individual at Kentucky under John Calipari. Murray also become the first Calipari player to go for 30 or more in two separate games. The boy was hot.
Afterward, Florida head coach Mike White said he was discouraged by his team’s effort in defending Murray, but also had high praise for the Kentucky guard.
“Jamal Murray stole the show,” said White. “I think he’s still open right now. I’ve never been a part of anything like that.”
Murray hit eight three-pointers in the game, connecting on his first six attempts from outside and all five in the first half.
“He was unbelievable,” White added. “He can really, really shoot it and they did a good job of getting him open.”
In his postgame interview with Mike Pratt, Murray said, “I did okay” — jokingly, of course. “I missed a free throw.”
That free throw cost him the UK record for most points in a game by a freshman. He shares that with Jones, for now.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 6:10pm
Kentucky really only needed scoring from three guys to take down Florida today to move ahead of the Gators in the SEC standings. The career-high 35 points from Jamal Murray, the 18 from Tyler Ulis and the 12 from Derek Willis were enough to lead the Cats in the 80-61 victory.
Ulis made it a double-double with 11 assists, while he and Murray combined for 10-of-13 shooting from outside and 20-of-33 shooting in the game.
Statement game to get back in the win column.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 5:32pm
Everyone’s favorite performance jump rope team, The Firecrackers, made a surprise appearance in Rupp Arena today for the halftime show.
Fans at the game were teased with a video showing The Firecrackers walking out of the locker room and toward the court during the four-minute timeout, then the girls came in and stole the show with the halftime performance.
See for yourself:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 5:31pm
Jamal Murray had 20 points in the first half and hasn’t slowed down at all in the second, putting up seven more points in the first few minutes of the half. Murray is a scorching 6-6 from the three-point line, and benefitted from the shooter’s roll on this one:
After hitting the three, Murray pointed to his parents in the stands, who came in for the game from Canada. Can we make sure they attend every game from now on?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 5:12pm
That was a fun first half. Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray combined for 35 points to give Kentucky a 50-31 lead over Florida after the first 20 minutes, but, as we recently learned, the Cats are fully capable of blowing the biggest of leads. Let’s hope the good mojo carries over into the second half.
Join us, will you?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 4:54pm
Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis are carrying Kentucky right now, accounting for 30 of UK’s 42 points. Murray is especially playing well, with 17 points off 6-9 shooting, including 4-4 from the three-point line. Here are some of his highlights from the first half:
Keep it up, Jamal. Cats are currently rolling, up 42-24 with 4 minutes left in the first half…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 06th, 2016 @ 4:03pm
The game hasn’t even started and we’ve got bad news: according to UK, Alex Poythress injured his right knee (the non-surgically repaired one) and will be out today. Poythress reportedly looked gimpy in the pregame and had to leave the court. It’s not clear whether Alex injured his knee in practice yesterday or warm-ups this afternoon.
Ugh. Get well soon, Alex.