It says a lot about Tyler Ulis that, even though he had a career-high 24 points, he wasn’t the story of the game last night. That’s because Ulis has become the cornerstone of this squad, the one player you can rely on game in and game out to bring it. Ulis was magnificent last night, hitting 14-15 free throws to seal the win on the road for Kentucky.
John Calipari has often talked about how in sync he and Ulis are, and throughout the night (and the season, really), Ulis was coaching his teammates on the floor. After the game, I asked Cal what it was like to have a point guard like Tyler, and he said Tyler’s so important, if anyone slacks off and makes him do more, Cal’s taking him out.
“Well, it’s – my only problem right now is we have some guys that are – I’m putting enough on him, but we got other guys that are putting it on him too. Like, a guy on a wing has a shot, doesn’t take it and throws it quickly back to him. Like, ‘You do it. I don’t want to be responsible.’ Or late, he comes off, throws it to Derek, Derek’s wide open, throws it right back to him. Wait a minute. The kid’s got enough on his shoulders. If you’re giving him more, I’m taking you out. You have a responsibility too: to do your job on this team.”
Skal Labissiere was one of those players Ulis kept coming to during timeouts and dead balls, and afterwards, Skal shared some of Ulis’ comments with us.
“Every time I did something good, ‘Just keep going. Keep playing hard.’ I was just more alert tonight, making sure I caught every ball he threw me because Tyler is a great point guard. Like I said, he’s the best point guard in the country so as a big you gotta always be ready to catch his balls and be ready to–because he’s always making plays so you gotta read his plays and that’s what I did tonight. I was ready for him and everything fell into place.”
After all is said and done, Ulis may end up giving Karl Towns a run as my favorite UK player ever.