Tonight, we got our first 40-minute look at what Kentucky would be like without Tyler Ulis →
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 11:00pm
Tonight, we got our first 40-minute look at what Kentucky would be like without Tyler Ulis and man, it was ugly. Ulis sat out tonight’s game after hyperextending his elbow on Friday, a precautionary measure to make sure he’s 100% for Thursday’s showdown with UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. And boy, will the Cats need him.
Give credit to Illinois State. They knew exactly how to confuse Kentucky without Ulis, spreading the floor and driving the basket with ease. Early on, the Cats looked totally disorganized and Illinois State capitalized on their errors, jumping to a 7-1 lead. After six ties and three lead changes, Kentucky went into halftime tied with Illinois State at 31 before eventually pulling away to win 75-63.
It was a rough game to watch, but let’s break it down.
This team needs Tyler Ulis
The Cats played without Ulis most of Friday’s game against South Florida and looked decent; sadly, that probably says more about South Florida than it does Kentucky, because tonight, the Cats looked completely lost without Ulis running the team.
“Without Tyler, it’s obvious we’re not the same team,” Cal said. “I mean, unless you were watching another game. We’re not the same team. But it still doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t play hard and guys shouldn’t battle and fight for balls. We got beat to everything in the first half.”
Isaiah Briscoe manned the point in Tyler’s absence and was totally out of sorts at the beginning of the game, turning the ball over on UK’s first three possessions. Calipari had to call a 30-second timeout to try and calm Briscoe down. The freshman guard eventually regained his composure, finishing with a team-high 18 points, along with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block and 10 steal in 27 minutes.
After the game, Calipari said he was frustrated by Briscoe’s lack of awareness early on.
“The beginning of the game, he just — three turnovers in three minutes. Okay now. It’s not an easy position to play,” Cal said. “The turnovers he had, the reason I was on him, he had the lob the first play. If you’ve watched this team for the last seven years, that’s all we throw. So you can run back and try to get the lob, if you can. Maybe give us a layup, but we’re going to lob it. He threw a direct pass. I’m like, what — the very first play.”
Meanwhile, Ulis must have felt like James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” watching his team play without him. Throughout the game, Ulis was coaching his teammates alongside the assistants, calling out plays and looking completely frustrated.
“He was half coaching on bench, telling me who to take out,” Cal said of Tyler. “‘Take him out. Who? You know who.'”
I’m horrible at reading lips, but did he say “No, don’t do any of that bullshit!”?
Even from the sidelines, Tyler helped calm the team down
What did Briscoe and his teammates miss most about having Ulis on the floor?
“Just his experience. When they went on a run, usually Tyler is there to let us know this happens, you’re good, just keep on playing basketball. Like I said, he is our floor general.”
Briscoe said Ulis did his best to provide guidance from the sidelines.
“Oh yeah, he was telling us in the beginning, ‘alright they are making all of these shots, they can’t make shots like that the whole game, so just keep on playing basketball.’”
Without Tyler, Skal struggled
Labissiere only had two points and two rebounds tonight, a frustrating performance for the freshman big man, who just couldn’t establish himself in the post without Tyler feeding him the ball.
“Skal really gave us nothing the whole game,” Cal lamented. When asked if he told his guards not to throw to Skal to teach him to be tougher, Cal said no; they tried to get him the ball and just couldn’t.
“No, we tried to. He couldn’t catch it. We were trying to go to him. As a matter of fact, I told guys, if he’s open and you don’t throw it to him, you’re coming out. Think about that. That’s where he is right now and it’s okay. I mean, he’s not figured some of this stuff out. He’s not figured how to play lower than the other guy. He’s not figured out that I got to move my feet and quit grabbing people. But that’s okay. And he is a really, really good player who is behind.”
One day we’re going to look back at Skal’s struggles and laugh.
Marcus Lee bounced back
Calipari was so unhappy with Marcus Lee’s performance in the South Florida game that he started Alex Poythress in his place. Lee responded, putting up 13 points and 12 rebounds, only his second career double-double, the first coming against Duke a few weeks back.
“He was great today,” Cal said. “Boy was he good. If he does — if Marcus Lee doesn’t play, we lose.”
The difference between the Marcus Lee who played tonight and the one that played vs. South Florida? Energy.
“One of the things I told him is, if you’re not playing with energy, I’m not playing you. You got a player like Marcus Lee, who, if he’s to make it, it’s going to be on one thing. He’s an energy guy who can cover a bunch of positions and flies. And you need that kind of player on your team.”
“But if he’s not playing with energy, you get what you have at South Florida. You have a guy that’s just out there and it’s like, well what did he do? And he’s capable, but it’s hard.”
Dominique “changed the game”
With Ulis out, Dominique Hawkins finally got his chance to get back in the rotation. With the freshmen guards flailing, Dom came in and gave the team some much needed energy on defense and consistency from the free throw line.
“Again, the guy that changed the game was Dom,” Cal said. “Dom did what he did at the Michigan game a couple years ago. He went in and guarded that player and said, I can do it. And then he made some free throws.”
Here’s Dominique doing Dominique things:
Leave it to Calipari to spin this as a learning experience
The Cats didn’t look great tonight and even though he definitely didn’t seemed happy after the game, Cal said he was glad his young group was tested.
“We were lucky to be in the game at halftime. I even told them, this is the greatest thing for this team right here to have to deal with,” Cal said. “Look, you don’t want to go through a season where every game is easy. This stuff is not easy. So, this was a hard game for us.”
Let’s just hope Tyler is good enough to go on Thursday or it will be even harder.
By Nick Roush on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 10:45pm
COACH CALIPARI: This was a great game because they spread the court and had all five guys that could drive.
We got three guys that refused to move their feet, they turned sideways, and think it’s high school and they’re going to block it at the rim. So they’re all layups and ones and if they miss it, their weak side rebounder rebounds it. And that’s why we needed to play this kind of game.
They also trapped and did some good things. And I’m happy that we got to see Isaiah. The beginning of the game, he just — three turnovers in three minutes. Okay now. It’s not an easy position to play.
Jamal didn’t play in the first half. Skal really gave us nothing the whole game. But this is a good thing. Because now — Alex gave us nothing in the first half. So, they — you got to take stock.
The thing about elite athletes and world-class athletes, they can evaluate their performance and say, all right, I got to fix this. They self evaluate and that’s what this team needs to do.
Without Tyler, it’s obvious we’re not the same team. I mean, unless you were watching another game. We’re not the same team. But it still doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t play hard and guys shouldn’t battle and fight for balls. We got beat to everything in the first half.
Now, this team, they’re going to win a lot of games. They had San Diego State and Maryland to the wire. They had us on the ropes. Think about that. Those are the kind of games they played and they have lost them, but they played them. I think Dan has done a great job playing the way they have to play. It was just tougher than us.
We were lucky to out rebound them because they out-rebounded 20-12 at half. They out-rebounded us by eight and it could have been more. A couple of them, the shot went up and we ran from a guy and they jumped over top of us and not fouling, just we didn’t want to block out. Just grabbed a couple.
Q. Can you talk about your team as — what were your thoughts when you got guys got off to that slow start?
COACH CALIPARI: It was as much them as it was us. And it was Isaiah, again, the turnovers he had, the reason I was on him, he had the lob the first play. If you’ve watched this team for the last seven years, that’s all we throw. So you can run back and try to get the lob, if you can. Maybe give us a layup, but we’re going to lob it. He threw a direct pass. I’m like, what — the very first play. And that’s how we come out of the gate, we’re down 7, whatever it was, and we were lucky to be in the game at halftime. I even told them, this is the greatest thing for this team right here to have to deal with.
Look, you don’t want to go through a season where every game is easy. This stuff is not easy. So, this was a hard game for us. This was, to be honest, the schedule we played to this point has not been easy, for us. We had four freshmen out there today. Come on.
Somebody told me the other day, “Your team, a couple years ago…” we had five freshmen. We’re playing five freshmen. “Well, they should execute better.” Really? They just got done playing AAU two months ago.
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 10:30pm
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You can be a part of Wendy’s KSR Top 10 Tweets by using hashtags like #KSR #BBN or #KSRtop10. You can also nominate tweets by mentioning them with the hashtag. If we like what we see, it could be posted the next day. Now. On to the tweets:
#10 Jess Watson
— Jess Watson (@jessLwatson) November 28, 2015
Cops never let anyone have fun.
#9 Bweet Da Dee
— Bweet Da Dee™ (@TDigital) November 30, 2015
Definitely NOT Muhammad Ali.
#8 Steve Rose
I was going to watch the Stoops post-game, but I have the ones from Vandy, Georgia, Tennessee, Miss. St and Auburn memorized so… #KSRtop10
— Steve Rose (@RosesAreRojo) November 28, 2015
— Stormie (@stormiebartley) November 30, 2015
Can Shannon never take that outfit off?
#6 Brad Hutchins
— Brad Hutchins (@hutchinsmb) November 29, 2015
Both names work just fine.
#5 Jackie Watson
— Jackie Watson (@JcWatson810) December 1, 2015
All of the BBN to Tyler Ullis.
#4 Brian Witt
— Brian Witt (@BrianWittsky) November 30, 2015
Shannon is having the best time of his life.
#3 Tyler Reeder
— Tyler Reeder (@REED3R) November 28, 2015
Maybe Josh should play quarterback?
Calling UK offense an air raid is like calling KSR journalism @KySportsRadio
— chase (@cebullock9999) November 30, 2015
This post is the epitome of journalism.
#1 Jessica Mac
— Jessica Mac (@MacDaddyBBN) November 28, 2015
This explains EVERYTHING.
By Nick Roush on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 10:10pm
Without Tyler Ulis, Kentucky needed Isaiah Briscoe to be assertive at the point guard position. He had his ups and downs, starting with three turnovers but finishing with a team-high 18. But Briscoe wasn’t the man that saved the day, according to Calipari.
“The guy that changed the game was Dom.” Calipari compared it to his performance against Michigan in the NCAA Tournament two years ago. They needed shutdown perimeter defense and consistency from the free throw line. He was exceptional defending in the open court and made 5-7 from the charity stripe.
Dominique was great, but Marcus Lee played like a man on a mission. His mission: to earn back his starting spot after struggling against South Florida.
“If Marcus Lee doesn’t play we lose.” Calipari replaced Lee in the starting lineup with Poythress, but he said he couldn’t use Alex or Skal early on because they weren’t playing strong enough. Marcus Lee scrapped for points (and 6 offensive rebounds), earning back confidence from his coach.
Hopefully they’ll have Ulis back for the UCLA game, but either way, this is the test Cal was looking for:
“We were lucky to be in the game at halftime. This is what we needed.”
By Nick Roush on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 9:45pm
Cal knows they aren’t the same team without Tyler Ulis. If he can’t practice soon, it will continue against UCLA.
The team will practice tomorrow morning before departing for Los Angeles. Calipari doubts Ulis will practice tomorrow, but he needs to be able to practice in L.A. on Wednesday to be good to go against the Bruins on Thursday.
Tyler, how do you feel about playing on Thursday?
By Nick Roush on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 9:08pm
On a poor shooting night from just about every spot on the court, Kentucky eventually overpowered Illinois State for a double-digit victory.
The Cats missed from three (14%), from the free throw line (63%), and just about every spot in-between. They eventually found a spark by turning their misses into points. Marcus Lee had 6 offensive rebounds that helped him get to another double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds).
Isaiah Briscoe did enough in Tyler Ulis’ absence, but it wasn’t the effortless leadership we’re used to seeing from Tyler. Briscoe began the game with three consecutive turnovers, but he fought through adversity, finishing with a team-high 18 points on 53% shooting, 7 rebounds and 3 assists before fouling out.
It wasn’t pretty, but Tyler Ulis won’t always be there. It’s better they learn how to win without him now, than later.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 8:40pm
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 8:06pm
Well, that was ugly. Without Tyler Ulis, Kentucky looked totally lost on both sides of the floor, trailing Illinois State for the majority of the first half. The score is tied at 31 at halftime, and if Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray don’t show up, it could get ugly.
You know the drill, leave comments below to discuss the game. Feel free to ask us any questions about basketball or life as well.
And remember, CTRL+F5 and Command+R will refresh the page for you.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 7:40pm
It hasn’t been a pretty half so far. In fact, I’ve been struggling to find a highlight to share with you guys. So, instead, I’ll share this touching moment from before the game. Today is Ellen Calipari’s birthday, and, since it’s custom for Ellen to bake the players brownies on their birthdays, tonight, the team returned the favor, bringing her a plate of brownies before tip off.
Brownies for the bday girl! Nice gesture from the players, who usually receive the same from Mrs. Cal on their bday pic.twitter.com/cFT40YxbOP
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 30, 2015
And here’s Ellen enjoying her birthday treat:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 6:50pm
Your Kentucky Wildcats are back in action tonight against the Illinois State Redbirds, which means it’s time for us to talk about it in the comments section. Drew is somewhere in Kansas with Matt, Ryan, and Shannon, so Nick Roush is filling in courtside at Rupp Arena.
If you missed the news earlier, Tyler Ulis is OUT for this game with a hyperextended elbow. Good thing we’ve got three other point guards on the roster.
By now you know the drill, leave comments below to discuss the game. Feel free to ask us any questions about basketball or life as well.
And remember, CTRL+F5 and Command+R will refresh the page for you.
By Nick Roush on ©November 30th, 2015 @ 6:40pm
KentuckyMBB | IG
Without Tyler Ulis, tonight will be the first career start for Charles Matthews. After an impressive game at home against Boston and an explosive nine first half points against South Florida, Matthews has earned this opportunity.
Tip-off in just about 15 minutes on ESPN2, with a comment thread coming even sooner.