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Skal and the Cats shine in Gainesville

Photo by UK Athletics

Chet White | UK Athletics

Kentucky desperately needed a win in Gainesville to have a puncher’s chance at earning its 49th regular season Southeastern Conference championship and the No. 1 overall seed in next week’s SEC Tournament. And though the Cats were without Derek Willis, who warmed up with the team before the game, it got the job done and handled the Gators in the final true road game of the season, 88-79.

The story of the game is, believe it or not, the emergence of one Skal Labissiere. Labissiere flirted with a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds, before sitting down with foul trouble in the second half. If Labissiere had been able to play a little more than 15 total minutes, it is very likely would’ve recorded his first double-double of his career.


Skal Labissiere did what?

That’s right; Skal Labissiere was outstanding in his first start since the Ohio State game. He reached double figures in scoring for the first time since late January, and set a new career-high with eight rebounds in only his second game with more than five rebounds in conference play.

Afterward, John Calipari said, “Skal was terrific today. He only played 15 minutes, but if he can give us 15 minutes like that, we are pretty good.”

There is still a whole lot to improve defensively, but Labissiere took a giant leap forward Tuesday, the same day he fell out of the lottery in ESPN’s mock draft.

Was this the “tweak”?


If so, it worked. Simple, yet effective.

Jamal Murray tied Jodie Meeks with nine consecutive 20-point games.

Murray’s 21 points marked his ninth straight 20-piece, tying him with Jodie Meeks for the most in Kentucky basketball history. With one more in Saturday’s regular season finale, Murray will stand out all alone with a record 10 consecutive games with 20 or more points.

The streak didn’t look good at halftime, though. Murray had only three points on 1-of-6 shooting when the two teams went to the locker rooms at intermission. He needed a perfect 4-for-4 (3-for-3 from deep) from the field and five free throws in the second half to reach his team-high in scoring.

With the big night, Murray moves up to fourth in single-season scoring by a UK freshman, passing Terrence Jones and falling two points shy of tying Julius Randle. He needs only 20 points to pass John Wall for second, or another 60 to match Brandon Knight’s 657 scored in 2010-11.

The smart money is on Murray becoming UK’s all-time leading freshman scorer by season’s end.



Kentucky’s frontcourt combined for 33 points and 29 rebounds.

It wasn’t the perfect game from Calipari’s four big man, but it was better than anything they have done lately.

Alex Poythress recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth of the season and first since the Eastern Kentucky game in early December. It came at the perfect time, too, after a heinous game in the loss at Vanderbilt.

He said, “Coming off a loss, you always want to step up and play big. Nobody likes to lose and we wanted to get that bad taste out of our mouths.”

Isaiah Briscoe made five of his six free throws. I repeat: Isaiah Briscoe made five of his six free throws.


That shot’s coming around, just in time for the postseason.

Florida’s John Egbunu had nine dunks despite Calipari’s game plan to prevent that.

The Florida big man had a career night with 27 points and an absurd nine dunks. Unfortunately, defensive breakdowns paved the way for most of Egbunu’s slams, raising concerns about UK’s frontcourt on that end of the floor.

Calipari said, “A guy went in and left (Egbunu) and they were throwing bounce passes to him. It wasn’t like it was post-ups, it was bounce passes, lobs — our whole thing was back up and make the guards shoot balls, we’re not giving him bounce passes. He got three and I went crazy.”

“That’s what happens when you have a young team.”

Tyler Ulis found his outside shot, and his teammates.

Ulis broke his shooting slump with two three-pointers for six of his 19 points, as well as 11 assists for his seventh double-double and third in the last four games.

With a combined 40 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds between he and Murray, is there any doubt Kentucky has the best backcourt in the country?

Shots fired in the O-Dome!



The win was very, very, very impressive.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, Kentucky didn’t have to rely on Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis to do everything. All five starters scored in double figures for the first time this season, while Marcus Lee and Isaac Humphries contributed off the bench, Lee especially.

Throw in Labissiere’s breakout offensive game, Isiah Briscoe making shots, and the fact Derek Willis did not play; and this was a very promising road win.

Goodbye, SEC road games!

So long, home-cooked SEC officiating! Adios, t-shirt giveaways and sold out seats!

From here on out, it’s one last stop in Rupp Arena and all neutral sites for the remainder of the season. And with the way you crazy people travel, blue will be getting in everywhere.

Happy March, everybody. Let’s do this.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

32 responses to “Skal and the Cats shine in Gainesville”

  1. plumloopy

    Consider this though: if Kentucky had shot free throws like they did at Vandy (43%) and Florida had shot free throws like Vandy (69.6%), Florida would have won by ten points. If Florida only shoots their average free throw percentage (65%) today, we win by one point.

    1. Sentient Third Eye

      ADOLPH RUPP: If if’s and but’s were cakes and nuts, we’d all be happy come Christmas time.

    2. ClutchCargo

      plumloopy, that says more about the Vandy game than it does about this one, and it’s irrelevant anyway. If their big guy had 1 leg and couldn’t dunk it would have been a blowout for the Cats. See how that works?

    3. nybrasky

      If the Queen had balls…

      (well, maybe not in today’s PC gender-neutral society)

    4. Loother

      If the queen had balls, she’d be the king…

    5. UK Big Board Update

      And if Loother had teeth, a job, and didn’t live in a trailer in Grayson, he’d be somebody.

  2. Angelo

    Drew, great article!! Fantastic writing!
    What were you on? Meth or Coke?

    1. Dusten

      I see you trolling.
      You’re hatin’.
      You’re probably a cards fan,
      won’t watch the tourney.

    2. UK Big Board Update

      Angelo is starting to crack as we get closer to the NCAA tourney.


  3. cayts94

    Quick question. How is 9 the record when Issel had 18 straight 20+ games to start the 69-70 season?
    Seems rather easy to look up, took me 5 minutes.

    1. rockatao

      Because Kentucky history only started with Cal, of course.

    2. CPACAT

      Thanks Cayts94! In that 1970 season Issel had 27 of 28 games of 20 or more points (including 18 consecutive 20+ games), 19 games with 30+, 8 games with 40+, and 2 games with 50+!!!

    3. hartlines left arm

      Because the 9 is a freshman record

    4. ClutchCargo

      But hartline, Meeks didn’t have a streak of 9 games of 20+ points as a freshman. I think we should just chalk it up to “facts are optional.”

    5. hartlines left arm

      No doubt

  4. WheelerBear

    Egbunu Shoved it down Skals throat every chance he got kept them in the game. Cal says “terrific” I say garbage. Willis lets that happen and he’s on the bench. I think if they somehow make it to the final four while forcing Skal minutes because he dropped out of the lottery Cal should get himself ejected so he doesn’t blow it again!

    1. UK Big Board Update


    2. UK Big Board Update

      He also shoved it down Humphries, Poythress and Lee’s throats. Dude had a good game. It happens. Dumbass.

      And at least Cal has a chance to make it to the Final Four (again), unlike your Tards, who will polish their ‘championship’ rings with their tears while watching the tournament from home, because of skanky hookers.


    3. Catsby80

      UKBBU… I’m all about talking trash and having a good time on here, but I’m not sure that posting people’s addresses is a good look, man. Just my two cents.

    4. cats paw

      if the moderators of this website had any integrity they would permantly ban UK Big Board for this action!!!! Calling out and posting the address of another UK fan in hopes others would somehow locate him and possibly do damage to him or his home is the lowest of low lifes!!!!!

    5. UK Big Board Update

      I never suggested anyone do damage or harm, you did.

      And I think its funny that cats paw has the gall to question someones integrity. LMAO!!

    6. UK Big Board Update

      Don’t worry cats paw, if you’ve made it this long, I’ll be fine! 😉

      Now, troll on!

  5. RealCatsFan

    Geesh, we win a road game in a tough environment, with the refs jobbing us again, our bigs manage to be productive in spite of foul trouble, Ulis comes out of his shooting slump, Willis will be back soon, and people STILL find things to bitch about. Some of you must be a real ray of sunshine. SMDH.

    1. UK Big Board Update

      And those people call ME all the names. LOL

    2. cats paw

      and i bet you have never complained about your job or got mad at your family for something stupid?? this is SPORTS!!! its what fans do. Otherwise, you are just a cheerleader. We’re all stupid with stupid opinions about a silly game.

    3. J-Dub421

      Only cats paw’s opinions are stupid.

  6. smahurin

    I think it was pretty obvious UK’s tweak to speed up their half court offense. The first 12+ minutes of the game UK was literally sprinting through all of their half court sets. I’ve never seen a Cal coached team (or honestly any team now that I think of it) run their sets with such pace. Although as the game progressed they slowly settled back into a more normal pace.

    1. ThatsAShame

      That’s a good point. I noticed their sets were quicker. I don’t know if its possible to keep that pace all game though. I was surprised Murry could keep up his movement in the second half. Seems like he wore down the Fl defenders.

    2. RealCatsFan

      The interior passing was noticeably better too. Not sure if it just happened that way, or if that was part of the “tweak”.

  7. Sentient Third Eye

    I’m beginning to think Cal took my tweak suggesting and fed Skal some Popeye spinach…