A surging Vanderbilt team desperately needed a win against No. 16/14 Kentucky to boost its NCAA tournament resume, and the Commodores were able to do just that, despite a brilliant offensive performance from Jamal Murray and a three-point UK lead at halftime.
Vandy’s starting five combined for all but one of its team’s 74 points, while only four of the visiting Wildcats were able to get a basket in the entire game. Murray’s 33 points led all scorers, but he had very little help outside of that.
The Cats were outscored by 15 points in the second half to lose the ball game, 74-62. It was the lowest point total for Kentucky this season.
Jamal Murray was the one bright spot.
Only one guy in Kentucky blue can be proud of his performance and that player is Jamal Murray, who carried the team the whole game. Murray eclipsed the 30-point mark for a third time this season with his 33 points, going 12-of-20 from the field and 6-of-10 from outside. He had 21 at halftime.
Murray has now scored at least 20 points in eight straight games and will tie Jodie Meeks for the record if he can do it one more time, against Florida next week. He also continued his streak of hitting a three-pointer in every game and moved his game average to over 26 points in the month of February.
There isn’t player in the country who has been better than Jamal Murray over the last month. If this keeps up, he will make Kentucky a very dangerous team in March.
Tyler Ulis was ice cold.
Saturday was arguably one of Tyler Ulis’ worst games as a Wildcat. If only four or five more of his 20 shot attempts had dropped, we’re likely looking at a more favorable outcome for Kentucky. But the shot would not fall in this one as he went 5-for-20 and 0-for-7 from outside.
Hopefully it’s the last time we see him this cold because he is one of only a couple of players on the team that can score, sadly. Kentucky won’t win many games with Ulis missing all of this three-balls and 15 shots from the field.
At least we know he is human.
UK is brutally limited offensively without Derek Willis.
Derek Willis can’t get back to action soon enough. As Coach Cal has said many times before, Willis makes Kentucky a completely different team as he provides a much-needed, third weapon in the offense. He was desperately needed in this one and he will be needed again in the two remaining games and on into the postseason.
Calipari was unable to give an update on Willis’ status after the game, unfortunately.
Alex Poythress struggled in his homecoming.
KSR pregame show listeners aren’t surprised by Poythress’ poor performance after he was hit with the Ryan Lemond jinx on the show. Lemond predicted a big game from the Clarksville native in his final trip to Memorial Gym, which led to him fouling out with zero points.
Poythress, Isaac Humphries and Skal Labissiere offered essentially nothing to the cause as Vanderbilt easily one the battle of the bigs. John Calipari acknowledged that in his postgame press conference, but reminded everyone who took the first meeting in Lexington.
“Their frontcourt players were better than ours today,” he said. “But they weren’t when we played back in Lexington.”
Isaiah Briscoe continues to be the worst shooter in the history of basketball
Poor Isaiah Briscoe just can’t get it going offensively. He does so many things well, but shooting the basketball is not one of them.
Briscoe missed all four of his free throw attempts in this one and clanked a couple more open jumpers off the rim. Teams are sagging off of him and daring him to shoot, and his inability to capitalize on the easy looks is really hurting the offense. He is only putting more pressure on Murray and Ulis to score and, with the lack of scoring inside, leaves the Cats with a two-man game offensively.
Did I mention how bad UK needs Derek Willis back?
Texas A&M holds the keys to the SEC.
With Kentucky’s loss, it dropped to a two-way tie with A&M for the SEC’s regular season crown. However, A&M holds the tiebreaker with the one win in the head-to-head series, so the Aggies can win out to take the trophy. Kentucky needs Auburn or Vanderbilt to win one of A&M’s two remaining games to give the Cats a chance.
The loss isn’t the end of the world.
Remember, Tyler Ulis played his worst game, Derek Willis did not play, Alex Poythress also did not play, and Vanderbilt needed it more and did what it had to do to win. Some will say the loss was expected to begin with (me included) so let’s not go jumping off bridges because there’s a new L in the win-loss record. Kentucky, if healthy, can still put together a big run in the tournament, especially if it can land a spot in the Louisville regional.
“I like my team,” as Coach Cal often says.