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Bruin beatdown shows the Cats need to toughen up


Well, at least that “undefeated” stuff is off the table now, right?

Tonight, Kentucky went into Pauley Pavilion with its #1 ranking and got smacked in the mouth by UCLA, who definitely did not look like a team that lost to Monmouth and Wake Forest. The Bruins avenged last year’s beatdown with an 87-77 win, although it never really felt that close.

“I got outcoached, we got outplayed. Their execution, their hustle, their toughness, there was not one area that they didn’t beat us in, so hat’s off to them,” Cal said. “They beat our brains in.”

Call it revenge, call it jet lag, call it whatever you want, but the Cats were out of sync from the start. Tyler Ulis started despite a sore elbow, which clearly affected his shot. Ulis was only 2-12 from the field; however, he dished out a career-high 9 assists to only 2 turnovers. Marcus Lee also started, but had to leave the game with a mysterious head injury four minutes in. It’s still not clear exactly what happened — Cal said he got hit in the head, others saw a gash over his eye — but whatever it was must have been bad because Lee didn’t return, a crippling blow to the Cats, who were incapable of stopping the Bruins in the paint. That loss was doubly felt when Alex Poythress fouled out in the second half and Skal Labissiere was MIA.

Tyler Ulis told Skal to man up

There’s no denying it: this Kentucky team is soft. Too many times in the first half, Alex Poythress was perfectly set up in the post and couldn’t finish. Too many times Skal Labissiere got pushed around. Too many times Kentucky let UCLA have their way in the paint, a flaw we’ve been able to overlook with shooting in the past but was on full display tonight when the shots weren’t falling.

The worst offender had to be Skal, who had six points and only one rebound. ONE rebound. Meanwhile, the player he guarded, Thomas Welsh, had 21 points and 11 rebounds, only the second double-double of his career. It’s been a rough few weeks for the freshman big man and Tyler Ulis got so fed up with his passive play that he told him to man up:

After the game, Ulis said he was telling Skal to fight for a rebound.

“There was a big rebound we needed. He didn’t get it. I was trying to get him to get the rebound,” Ulis said. “Once he starts fighting for us, we’re going to be hard to beat.”

To put Skal’s woes in perspective, he and Tyler Ulis are averaging 3.9 and 3.6 rebounds, respectively. Skal is 7′. Tyler is 5’9″. As Calipari said, “you’ve gotta fight, you’ve gotta battle.” Some fans are criticizing Ulis for the shove, but not me. If I were Skal, I’d want my point guard to hold me accountable for my play.

“Tyler, he coaches this team as well as I do, so whatever he did, I know he did it with love in his heart,” Calipari said. “He wants the kid to play well.”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: give me Ulis over any player in the country, even with a bum elbow. That kid’s a leader.

At least Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis came to play

UCLA was the aggressor the entire game, but Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis deserve props for fighting back when most of their teammates shrunk into the shadows. Be it for good or for bad, Briscoe is not scared to drive the lane and put the team on his back when the offense couldn’t do anything. Briscoe led UK in scoring with 20 points off 7-10 shooting and 5-8 from the line.

“Isaiah went to the goal did some really good stuff,” Calipari said afterwards. In fact, when asked, Calipari said Isaiah’s play was the only thing he liked. 

“Isaiah getting the ball to the rim was good,” Cal said. “Other than Isaiah, I would say no.”

With UK’s options in the post dwindling in the second half, Derek Willis came in and scored 11 points in the second half, giving the Cats a much-needed boost. Unfortunately, UK couldn’t keep the momentum rolling because UCLA just couldn’t miss. Willis’ performance was enough to earn a “Good game, big homie” from none other than Shaquille O’Neal when he left the court.

I don’t know what’s going on with Jamal Murray

Also baffling: Jamal Murray. Murray had 17 points tonight, but 11 of those came in the final five minutes, 6 off circus threes when the game was clearly over. Where was that the rest of the night? Murray was an atrocious 5-16 from the field tonight. His most telling stat to me? Zero assists and three turnovers in 35 minutes of play.

Toughen up

Clearly the moral of the story tonight is “toughen up.” An okay UCLA team pushed Kentucky around the court tonight, putting up the most points against the Cats in regulation since the 30-point loss to Tennessee back in February 2013. As Briscoe said afterwards, UCLA “gave 110 percent effort for 40 minutes.”

…However, it’s just December and if anything good can come from a loss, it’s resiliency.

“They were tougher, and that’s what we’ve been talking about. That grit, that battle,” Cal said. “This is a tape we can learn from.”

After only the second loss of his college career, Ulis was already looking for positives.

“We learned that we can be beat. Anybody can beat us. We can’t just win off talent, we have to work hard,” Ulis said. “I think taking one early is really going to help this team because sometimes we come out not playing too hard. Guys understand now we can lose. No one wants to have this feeling again. “

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

44 Comments for Bruin beatdown shows the Cats need to toughen up

  1. syrin23
    1:21 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    When Murray gets square to the basket, his shot is really pure, but a lot of the shots he took early in the game, he had his shoulders turned sideways. Plus, he passes up a ton of mid range jump shots.

    Skal is going to be good, but he is a project. No way in the world he’s the first pick of the draft this year.

  2. syrin23
    1:29 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    By the way, it’s pretty clear teams are going to pack it in and play tight on Murray. Briscoe, WIllis, Matthews, and Ulis are going to have to get much better at shooting threes, or we will lose the same way John Wall’s team did to West Virginia.

  3. orney focker
    1:34 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    To thin inside, going to be a long season if they can’t figure out how to rebound. Bad shooting has hurt them the last couple games, which is mostly shot selection. Now that I have waisted a lot of words and brought to everyone’s attention the obvious, I’m going to bed. Just a thought, can they feed Skal something, man he’s skinny.

    • syrin23
      1:45 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      With his build, he’s better off playing small forward since he has a mid range shot and quickness. He cannot handle strong guys on the post.

  4. The Rest of the story
    1:55 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    The usual bane of Cal’s teams is zones. Cal wants to drive drive drive and that cannot be done against zones. Skal is playing out of position, he needs to play power forward he is just way to skinny to play back to the basket and has a good shot when facing up. Ulis should not have played his arm is not there and his shooting is affected by it. A freshman team that looked like a freshman team. Alex will never be a star on this team he just does not have the drive to do it. Willis should be playing lots more he gives us something that other teams have trouble matching up to. Long season and lots to learn and someone has got to hit 3s or there is no chance in March.

  5. cats paw
    4:03 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Let’s just beat that ole dead horse….sure would be nice to have a first team all-American on this squad, Wiltcher!! The best player on the floor in most every game we have played is one of those slow, unathletic white boys that can’t play defense.

    • EdC
      6:21 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Yea it would be amazing to add another soft player with the extra benefit that he plays less defense than anybody on the current team. (That is sarcasm since I doubt you would recognize it)

    • Booby Petrino
      8:33 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      lol who is Wiltcher? Oh you mean Wiltjer?

    • Mc12
      9:45 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Wiltjer couldn’t even be on this team technically, if he stayed.

    • Bluecreeker
      4:30 pm December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Uh….EdC, you talking about Kyle Witjer, All American CBS Pre Season National Player of the Year?

      Funny how he is laying the coal on every team he plays at Gonzaga. All Cal would have to do is play a little Zone D and Wiltjer would have been fine. You know…a Zone, the same thing every team that beats UK plays….because it works.

  6. smackdab
    5:11 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    I know why Cal doesn’t put his bigs on the perimeter, b/c he wants to get them NBA ready, even if they can shoot the 3. But when teams are packing the paint like that, u gotta let skal shoot some 3’s, if he makes a few, then their big men are going to be dragged out there to guard him. Another mistake is not putting our shooters in when they pack the paint, mulder and willis should have seen more floor time last night. I wish he would recruit a Booker every year..

  7. chessplayer1974
    6:09 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Well Mrs Tyler……does Welch still look goofy to you?

  8. Rick_S
    6:44 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Someone needs to bitch slap Alex..Skal is a Fr. and will get better…Alex needs to find his balls

  9. bankerbh
    7:07 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Agree with the announcers last night that the guys were jacking up too many poorly selected shots. That begs the question….where was Cal? It appeared he checked out on them the last part of the second half.

  10. oddthomas
    7:38 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Please Tyler… no more predictions!!

  11. DG
    7:44 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Skal, so far this season, looks like an absolute recruiting miss. Poythress is what he is. He WILL NOT play in the league. Let’s just pray he comes ready to play come tournament time. Lee is alright and his presence was obviously missed last night even though no one probably thought so until this game. Tai Wynyard will take minutes from Skal and I would not be surprised if Skal loses his starting spot to Humphries. Skal is a 2 yr guy. Love the toughness Ulis showed with him shoving him telling him to nut up. That is not seen a lot anymore. 2/3 of the guards played well. I am not sure where Murray was. Looked like the whole team did not want to be there in general. Cal needs to make adjustments when the talent alone is not getting them through.

    Wooden is probably turning over in his grave watching people rush the court. Even worse than IU doing it.

    • Booby Petrino
      8:36 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      seriously Skal a recruiting miss? That’s silly. Just bc he hasn’t lived up to all the hype doesn’t mean he’s a miss. He’s had some good games.

    • BigBlue2U
      8:44 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Skal is young and soft, yes. To assert that he will be here 2 years is ridiculous though. For proof, look no further than one Daniel Orton. NBA teams are strangely willing to take a chance on a guy with upside. I do agree however that Skal isn’t worthy to tie Davis’ shoes or clean Towns’ locker.

      Murray is undoubtedly talented, but he had a scary amount of Archie Goodwin in him last night. Maybe his whole low-heart rate-zen-master bit isn’t a good thing when you need a PULSE to play and win?

    • DG
      9:00 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      My point is proven with Orton leaving too early as well. I honestly hope someone comes around later this year and tells me I told you so about Skal because that means he will have turned into a stud.

      The only other game so far that counts towards Skal’s credibility or lack there of is the Duke game. The rest of those games have been against bunnies. Come on that is obvious. The other games he is simply taller therefore it is a no brainer he should contribute in those. See below against name brand schools.

      Skal’s stat line against Duke- 13 min, 7 pts, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
      Skal’s stat line against UCLA-16 min, 6 pts, 1 rebound, 2 blocks, 1 turnover

      He is 7 ft tall.
      Humphries is moving into that starting spot of his.

    • Mc12
      9:51 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      You haven’t seen enough of Calipari to think Humphries will start over Skal. Ulis would have been a better PG for last year’s team and should have got 30 mpg at the PG, but Cal is loyal to his players and a great at Marketing. I can’t imagine him benching a top 2 recruit that is a probable top 10 NBA pick based on his potential.

      I do think it looks like Skal is playing with ankle weights on, has terrible defensive awareness, and is soft in the post. However, I think Skal is trying to force him to play back to the basket because it propelled Towns.

      The only way Humphries starts is if Cal moves Skal to the 4.

  12. StevieGotLoose
    7:59 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Poythress has no heart. I do not see a one & done on the team. Some of the guards are guns. We have been playing “down to our competition.” That is a lie, this team is not very good. The talent is not what people say it is. They can not play defense. The Duke game was our fluke game. We will win games, we’ll make the tournament (not the final 4). At this point, due to no inside game, we will probably lose both games to LSU and probably split with Vandy. It is what it is, mediocre compared to recent years. Much like football, you get what you get and don’t throw a fit.

    • Booby Petrino
      8:38 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Lol so this was our first loss after winning 7 games by double digits and all of the sudden we’re not very good and the duke game was a fluke? Gtfo with that ignorant $hit

    • StevieGotLoose
      1:42 pm December 4, 2015 Permalink

      We have not looked that good even winning by double digits. Shooting and or shot selection is not consistent. Outside shooting is supposed to be our strong suit.

  13. Le Docteur
    8:02 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    This analysis is spot on in all respects. UCLA probably is an average team but last night they were literally out of their heads. At least twice down the stretch they were on the verge of losing the ball and suddenly flipped up a circus shot that, of course, went in. It goes to show that high energy and aggression is worth about 10 points. Plus, the whistles always seem to favor the high-energy aggressor.

  14. buzzard
    8:21 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Ulis needs to push Poythress around. He should average a double double.

  15. Angelo
    8:25 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    I sure hope Tyler’s elbow heals quickly. If he can’t hit, we are doomed.

  16. shelby
    8:26 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Anybody who is waiting for Poythress to “toughen up” is gonna be disappointed. He has hotly changed since he’s been here–a couple of flashes of of what he should be followed by 38 minutes of hiding from the moment and praying nobody throws him the ball. That ain’t changing folks.
    That being said, this will be a very good team by the end of the year; 5 true freshmen played significant minutes in their first true road game; we’ll grow.
    Mrs Tyler, will you go out with me?

  17. BlueFins
    8:38 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Briscoe was better when he had the mouthpiece, Poythress should be thankful he has his degree. I’d like a lot less slumping shoulders from Matthews, and where is Mulder? Thought he was a shooter.

  18. Catsby80
    8:54 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Man some of these fans need to step away from the cliff… It is one game. We played 3,000 miles from home in a tough atmosphere in early December. R.E.L.A.X. Things will be alright. Guess what… We’re going to lose a couple more… Everyone just calm down.

    I agree with some here that say Skal is soft. Once he learns how to be the aggressor, he is going to be very good. Right now he is playing way too passively. He’ll get better. AP needs to find that bulldog that we have seen in spurts. If he could bring that energy & effort all the time, he would be scary good because he has a serious NBA body.

    Man, we sure did get spoiled last year.

    • The Rest of the story
      10:25 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Forget Alex on becoming anything other than what he is and has been his whole career, great potential but poor motor. Willis should be in before e he is.

  19. za
    8:56 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Briscoe and Murray hurt us last night by dribbling to the basket hard WITH THEIR HEAD DOWN. Lee’s absence obviously affected us as he’s turned into a double double waiting to happen. Poythress not scoring was the x-factor in UCLA’s favor.

  20. RC
    9:00 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    This is Cal’s 2nd team where the freshmen really play like freshmen (Noel/Goodwin the others). This team is far more talented than that one, so I’m not worried overall. But we’ve become spoiled by freshmen who are both insanely talented, tough and mature. Seeing this team only makes me appreciate what Cal has done with other squads.

    That being said, this team is in a for rough season. Arizona State, UofL and KS could all beat us today. We have a long road ahead as this team learns to play hard and matures on the court.
    Buckle up.

    • Mc12
      9:55 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      A lot of his teams have played like freshmen including the Randle/Twins/Young/Lee/Dakari team that struggled a lot.

      It’s all about how they’re playing when it matters.

  21. WholeLeeShit
    10:15 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Skal is a waste of a scholarship. We are 8 games in. Time to step up. Same with Poythress.
    Does anyone ever notice how confused and scared he looks? He is the Patrick Towles of Basketball.

    • WholeLeeShit
      10:17 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Same with Humphries. Plays like he has never touched a basketball.

    • The Professor
      11:32 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

      Every school has some really ignorant fans. You would be one of those for BBN. You have given up on 2 freshmen, one of which is 17 years old after a handful of games. From the level of thought in your post, I will assume he is about 5 years older than you.

    • WholeLeeShit
      11:51 am December 4, 2015 Permalink


  22. Piedma Schwartz
    10:55 am December 4, 2015 Permalink

    the team lacked toughness in the defense and rebounding areas last night.

  23. yarg
    12:33 pm December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Whoever is complaining about that shove needs to cheer for another team. Maybe one that loses by double digits more often.

    There were multiple times when UK’s guards would drive up the middle and get swarmed by 3 UCLA players before they got to the free throw line. They’re going to have to figure out how to get some kind of low post presence, or it’s going to be rough to get easy buckets. And right now, Poythress is the only bruiser UK has. Maybe we can get Jorts in as a special assistant whose sole job is to work with Humphries, cause he’s the only other dude UK has who has the mass to bang down low and his game(which can be good) right now is all about finesse and quick shots rather than making people body up on him to defend him.

  24. CopenhagenCat
    4:13 pm December 4, 2015 Permalink

    I agree Poythress looks weak. He should be dominating the boards. But he looks like he just not into it. I hate to say it because he could be really good if he chooses to be. Defense was awful last night. But UCLA also was throwing up crap and it was going in. They couldn’t miss. Skal needs to wake up and bust his butt. I could go on and on about every player last night. Just glad it was early in the season. Cal will get it fixed and figure out who really wants to play.

  25. Cat 5
    10:25 pm December 4, 2015 Permalink

    Most people on here are concerned with our scoring. The problem is our nonexistent defense and lack of effort rebounding. We will win when our transition game is clicking. We crushed Duke because we were able to get easy buckets off of rebounds and turnovers. There is no transition game when you let your opponent shoot 50% and don’t rebound the ball.