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Dominant second half leads Kentucky past Arizona State, 72-58

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Your University of Kentucky Wildcats were in a fight through 20 minutes of basketball Saturday afternoon, but stepped up in the second half to run away with the ball game. Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State Sun Devils came in off a win against No. 18 Texas A&M and thought they could run with the Wildcats. That was the case for a little while, until UK’s talent and hot-shooting took over.

Jamal Murray led all scorers with 17 points, 12 of which came in UK’s dominant second half. He was helped out by 14 and 7 from Marcus Lee and several other solid efforts from his teammates.

Let’s talk about it, shall we?


Marcus Lee played a hell of a game.

In his second game coming off the bench, Marcus Lee played as well as anyone on the court. He was the energy guy for Kentucky in the second half on both ends of the floor, especially on the defensive side where he blocked five shots for the second consecutive game.

“It’s great knowing that I have such a big impact on my team, vocally and on the court, which is a great thing,” he said after the game.

During his postgame interview with Mike Pratt, Lee said he wants to get back to his high school days when he grabbed 20 rebounds per game. He’s hesitant to let Calipari know that, though, because Cal will then expect him to grab 20 rebounds per game.

Is it time to legitimately worry about Skal Labissiere?

On a day when he needed to man up and play well to get the critics off his back, Skal Labissiere completely disappeared. I, for one, have very little confidence in Labissiere at this point, which still may be more confidence than he has in himself.

Labissiere fouled out after playing only 13 minutes, recording just as many points, rebounds and assists as you and I did. The only things he offered to the game were his five fouls, one block and one turnover.

It has been an ugly four-game stretch since he scored 17 points in Miami. He is averaging 4.5 points, 1.75 rebounds, .5 assits and 1.75 blocks in those games.

Labissiere needs to do what he can against Ohio State and Louisville these next two weeks, then buckle down over Christmas break and figure things out. If he doesn’t come out of Camp Cal an improved player, he will get to know that bench a little more than anyone expected.

Calipari admitted to being “somewhat” worried about Skal, though he understands why it has been a sluggish start for his young big man:

You understand he came from Haiti. He played basketball for a year and a half and then he played church league for two years. He’s never been through any of this. This is all new to him.

Now, he played in a couple games that were more like pickup games. He made some jumpers. He ran up and down. And now there were no men — see he’s playing against men now. The kid he went against was a senior and just bulldozed him, and he couldn’t play against a man. Well, this is all part of it.


Isaiah Briscoe’s second half scoring burst decided the game.

Briscoe scored nine straight points in a three-minute stretch early in the second half, sparking a long run that put Kentucky’s lead out of reach. Those were Briscoe’s only nine points, but that’s all he needed to leave his mark on the game.

What the box score doesn’t show is how well Briscoe defended. He has accepted Coach Cal’s preseason challenge to be the best defender in the country, and he isn’t far from throwing his name in that hat. He is a real problem for opposing ball-handlers and he’s becoming more of a fan favorite with each new game.

Now if only he can start making the freebies.

I’m giving Alex Poythress an unofficial double-double.

Poythress played another great game, and if not for spending the latter part of the first half in the locker room, he likely would’ve recorded his fourth double-double of the season. He had seven points and two rebounds when he went to the back to get his knee checked out and finished the game with 10 points and six rebounds.

He also did this:

This week’s version of Alex Poythress is our favorite version of Alex Poythress.

Derek Willis and his new shaved head played well.

The Kentuckian went 3-for-4 from the field for seven points in 14 minutes in his new buzzcut. One of his best plays of the day was this block that sent Tra Holder’s shot attempt to hell and back.

Willis continues to make his case for more playing time.

Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis still struggling to hit the three-ball.

Murray scored a game-high 17 points, but he still can’t get the long ball to drop consistently. He knocked down two of his six attempts from outside, both in the second half, to help bring his and Ulis’ combined percentage to 30 percent for the game. Ulis went 2-for-7 from outside.

Ulis and Arizona State tied with six assists apiece. 

He matched the entire Sun Devils team in assists and they all came in the second half. He also had five rebounds and 12 points.

Point God.

Kentucky shot 57.7 percent in the second half and put the game out of reach.

After going to the locker room at 31 percent in the first half, the Cats came out hot in the second. Kentucky made 15 of its 26 second half shot attempts to Arizona State’s 31.5 percent, turning that one-point halftime lead into a one-sided game in the end. UK led by as many as 23 in the game.

Other brief notes and observations: 

— The rebounding battle was a push. The teams entered the game with positive rebounding margins and tied in this one with 36 each.

— Mychal Mulder came in and hustled. Though his time was limited, Mulder grabbed two big offensive rebounds and his one three-point try rattle out. I hope he gets more opportunities in the future.

— Coach Cal said he was “literally physically ill” to his stomach when he heard Poythress was in the back having his knee checked out. Luckily it ended up being a hyperextension and Poythress returned to start the second half.

— UK has scored at least 72 points in its first 10 games of the season for the first time in 20 years, since the 1995-96 season.

— Jonny David is not afraid to shoot. The walk-on launched a three-pointer the moment he touched the ball in the final minute and tried to get another one off following his missed shot. That’s the attitude all walk-ons should have. Make the most of your seconds.

— Jamal Murray is the first player in school history to hit a three-pointer in his first 10 games.

That Murray kid’s pretty good, huh?

Article written by Drew Franklin

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

33 Comments for Dominant second half leads Kentucky past Arizona State, 72-58

  1. jim tom
    7:17 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    I know I am stating the obvious, bout Skal is nowhere near ready for the NBA and needs to stay for 3 if not 4 years to develop.

    • CW
      12:14 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      3-4 years? Are you serious? Whether or not he is ready RIGHT NOW, is debatable, but there are very few Calipari players that have ever stayed 3-4 years. Not with his size, and his shooting ability, does he stay that long. You don’t understand the NBA.

    • bluesyCat
      2:35 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      Yeah 3-4 years is not necessary. We’re likely to see him mull an NBA choice this summer and it will be unnecessary and antagonistic. He needs to add 20+ lbs and leave after his second season. He will be the rock on next years insanely talented team and then leave.

  2. The Rest of the story
    7:27 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    UNC loses to Texas a great win for Shaka Smart and a great loss for Roy the Cheat Williams

    • StevieGotLoose
      7:38 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      Cal said Skal has only been playing 2 years. I don’t care what time of year it is, if you are not mentally tough you are not going to be physically tough. I agree with The Rest. As long as he is playing center, his supposed awesome skill set is of no use. I am tired of all the stat-mongers comparing him to Davis. Davis was not an polished offensive player but he gave you defense, rebounding and fight. Skal is getting worse by game and needs to sit the bench (which he has never done). He has not earned a starting spot.

  3. shelby
    7:39 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Skal will finish strong this year; he just needs some time and confidence. He’s too talented to not do that. His early struggles are good for Poythress and lee as they’ve had to step up and have done so very well. Once Skal catches up, watch out–this team could be lethal.

    • The Rest of the story
      8:56 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

      So your saying he will get a lot stronger and put on 40 pounds. I say your a dreamer dude anyone can see he just does not have it.

    • CW
      12:26 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      The Rest of the story, it’s December, and you’re ready to give up? He does’t have to develop into a Demarcus/Anthony type of player for this team to be elite. He has an offensive skill set that is rare among big men. Does he need work? Yes. Is it ridiculous to assume he isn’t a value player for the next four months?…Absolutely ridiculous. Learn the game. Next time try to judge a player in February. Let me guess, by that logic Tyler Ullis is a poor shooter…give me a break. When you understand basketball, feel free to reply.

    • The Rest of the story
      9:23 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      He has an offensive skill set? I agree his offense is offensive. I have played the game as a young man and live UK basketball as much as any other CW and it takes no great BB IQ to see he is no where ready for college play mentally or physically. Look at last nights game and see when UK was at its best, when he was on the bench.

  4. SanDiegoCats
    9:21 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Chill out The Rest of the Story

  5. rockatao
    9:36 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    I thought Willis had a very nice game today. First time it ever seemed like he himself felt he belonged out there. Looked confident.

  6. mobile2
    9:44 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Cal had better not complain about or explain away Skal’s lack of development because he offered the scholarship. If Skal is not ready to compete in D1 college ball then it’s on Cal for bringing him in to play.

    • Angelo
      1:13 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      .????? Nuts

  7. DG
    9:54 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Following up my previous statement about posting stat lines for skal. 0 everything , 5 fouls, 1 block, 1 turnover. Stat lines don’t lie. Hope I get prove. Wrong by end of year. Hopefully lee takes his starting job. Might open his eyes

  8. Bobbum Man
    9:58 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    UL is kill us on the boards with skal out there… And to all the people saying skal is so talented he just can’t continue this. Am I missing something? I guess I don’t see the talent, because he’s got a nice jumper? And a jump hook? 0 rebounding skills, gets pushed around all over the place. He’ll be a nice power forward In a few years I guess. But I’m just not seeing it, we’ve had guys start slow but you could still see the potential. This is one I’m just not very sure about, maybe I’m wrong and I really hope I am cause we’ll have a tough time this year without him

    • The Rest of the story
      10:52 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

      No you are not wrong and yes we will have a tough time this year if he continues to start.

  9. The Frizz
    10:39 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Yep. Murray will get points, as long as he gets at least 13-20 shots a game.

    • CW
      12:11 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

      You’re the type of fan that is never happy huh? Or you’re just not very smart. Probably not very smart. Only an uneducated basketball fan could watch Murray play and not think he is a top talent.

  10. jim tom
    11:29 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Could not agree more about Skal. It is not there at all. Heck. 3 blind mice can see that

  11. HollywoodCat
    11:37 pm December 12, 2015 Permalink

    Hey Skal,

    JJ Abrams wants his show back….too soon?!?!? Maybe. Look, I’m not giving up on him. Ever. That’s not what we do here. Alex has been equally as frustrating at times, but Skal looks like he’s in a Dee abyss and my only advice to him and the coaching staff is to simplify the game for the next 5 games. Focus on one thing and have Skal do that better than anyone else on the court. Go do that and then if possible add another after 5 games. He looks foolish out there and he’s clearly skilled, but has no sense of how to play elite level college basketball let alone mid major college ball right now.

    Skal, I wish you well buddy. It cannot be easy, this big transition: new country, new state, new life, new school, spotlight only compounds it. Turn off your phone, turn off the tube. Study the books and study your game.

    Go CATS!

  12. Stopover
    2:01 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Lets get real. We just played an average team at best, at home. Every analysis needs to be tempered based on that.

  13. StevieGotLoose
    7:59 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

    I would not say that Murray is pretty good, he went 4 for 13. In my day, we would call him a gun. He looks like another Harrison to me. I bet his shooting average is not very good. He won’t get the foul calls on his drives in the tournament, ask Andrew.

  14. Michael Kenneally
    8:37 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Not the same position, but the “Skal dilemma” reminds me a little bit of the Ryan Harrow situation. Everyone was on him for lack of toughness, & the expectation was that he would play like his predecessors at the position.

    I don’t want to pile on with criticism, but from the looks of things, adding 20 pounds will not fix the problem here. I just think he is quite simply not fond of the game of basketball. Can you coach someone to love the game?

    He is beginng to fall on some of the NBA draft boards, but, never mind that. We may actually reach the point where we just hope that he doesn’t transfer.

    Memo to Skal: Love the game & everything else will take care of itself.

  15. ukcamel
    9:40 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

    One thing we don’t know is how Skal is in practice. He clearly can be good as he’s had a few really good games, but his bad games are really bad and becoming expected. Still have faith in Cal’s ability to develop young players – a guy with Skal’s length and touch should turn into a good player if not a star.

    • Stopover
      2:07 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

      Yea,, Cal really coached up the Harrison twins. And Poythress. I could go on, but its not given that Cal can get Skal there. Ever.

  16. chadtrill
    9:47 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

    I feel bad for Skal because I know how it is to play basketball in front of a crowd when you’ve never done it before. A couple hundred people can intimidate the hell out of a young man. This guy has to play in Rupp and on ESPN every other game and still try to focus on the game plan and guess what else… stay loose and have fun. Naw man. Naw, naw, naw. That’s just too much to lay on a guy that’s never done this kind of stuff before. It’s going to take some time and may not happen in his time at UK. That’s ok, though. He will still be a lottery because of raw potential and I’m comfortable with seeing more of Ize-Zac. He’s not afraid of the stage, for a fact.

    You wanna know who I don’t feel bad for? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. Zay Briscoe. This young man has done everything right so far. Cal talks about being afraid we will lose games if Alex or Marcus can’t be on the court but, in truth, if Zay doesn’t do what he does we are screwed. He locks down on defense, fights and hustles for loose balls, gets Mo’ buckets, and has a great personality. If you don’t believe it ask Grayson Allen. If his shot starts to fall he will be in the discussion for a late lottery. If not, he will get drafted late first round and go to a good team where he will be a great practice player, learn from the best, work his way into some minutes, and get a decent second contract. Believe it

  17. rainman
    11:48 am December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Looks like a lot of TROLLS on here!
    I guess with LOSERVILLE comming up it’s to be expected!
    For the Skal bashers, just look at recent history, KAT wasn’t playing well
    at this point last year, and neither was any of the latest big men we’ve had!
    Skal will be fine!

    I really wanted to comment on the spread weave we ran several times yesterday.
    Worked to PERFECTION several times! Seems to me, running it along with the DD
    is what we’ll see lots of this year, and I for one think it will be a BLAST!

  18. mobile2
    12:08 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Settle down rainman. Just because some of us point out the obvious that Skal is not ready to play elite level college ball right now does not make us trolls or bashers. The kid needs development and that’s plain.

    The good news is that UK’s other players are progressing and the team is winning without Skal contributing much. Now, from what I’ve seen he’s got a loooooooong way to go before he’s a high impact player…probably 2 to 3 years at this pace. And that’s not the world’s worst thing (except for his hangers-on I suspect) and used to be the norm for even the best college players.

    So relax, just because everyone doesn’t suck Cal off at every opportunity doesn’t mean we hate UK or are UL trolls. Cal will do whatever is necessary to get the team prepared for the Final Four…which I think is totally achievable with this group.

    Shoot, by March I bet this is a totally different team, led by a potent 3 guard combo.

  19. rainman
    12:19 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

    You sette down, I never said everyone is a TROLL, just
    that there were trolls on here!
    And, I have something for you to suck!

  20. rainman
    12:20 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

    BTW, if the shoe fits………

  21. mobile2
    4:12 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Aww, you’re cute when you’re stupid.

  22. chadtrill
    4:43 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Haha. Someone who’s named after a person with a mental handicap just said “if the shoe fits….” Can’t make that up

  23. KTower
    6:31 pm December 13, 2015 Permalink

    Rainman is spot on……there are way to many closet Louisville Trolls on this thread starting with “Mobile 2”

    Mobile if you don’t like Kentucky that is fine but why are you wasting your time and ruining this very good site for everyone with your constant trolling.

    Find another site please