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Jamal Murray is awesome and other takeaways from Kentucky’s rout of Ottawa

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Well, that was fun. Tonight, we got our first look at Kentucky against an outside opponent, and if you didn’t walk away from that game without a shiver of excitement, you must hate basketball. The Cats poured it on the Ottawa Braves 117-58, but at times, it looked like Kentucky might score 150. Let’s break it down.

Jamal Murray messed around and almost got a triple double

Coming in to tonight, Murray was still a bit of a mystery to fans, but not any more. Murray showed he can do it all, putting up a game-high 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists. That’s right, he was only one assist shy of a triple double, which would have only been the second in UK history; however, Calipari pulled him out with three and a half minutes remaining. Gotta keep him hungry, I guess.

Murray excelled in every area of the court tonight, making four threes, some mid-range jumpers and some down low layups. He even cleaned up on the glass, pulling down more rebounds than anyone else on the team. He and Tyler Ulis combined for 39 points, 19 assists, 16 rebounds, five steals and only three turnovers. Would you want your backcourt in anyone else’s hands?

This team can shoot

In the first half, Kentucky made 72% of its shots, and although that average dipped to 60% by the end of the game, it’s clear the Cats can shoot. Ulis and Murray had four threes apiece, but the big guys showed off a shooter’s touch as well. Skal Labissiere continues to impress with his mid-range game and Isaac Humphries drained a 20-footer, along with a hook that has potential to be deadly. Alex Poythress had two threes of his own, showing off a summer of hard work on that jump shot.

Poythress is at about 80%

Marcus Lee got the starting nod over Poythress, who had eight points and six rebounds, but failed to finish on a few drives. After the game, Calipari said he thinks Alex is at about 80% right now, and you could see that fatigue on the court.

“I was trying to just let him play through, but I kept telling him, he’s gotta stay in practice now, stay off the bike and he’s gotta get in game shape,” Cal said. “He is, I’m guessing, 80% of where he needs to be for us to be good.”

On a team searching for toughness, Poythress is the x-factor. If he becomes the “beast” we’ve seen in bits and pieces over the years, Kentucky will be scary good. But, as always with Alex, he’s got to show us.

The pace was blistering

No one told the players this was just an exhibition. The Cats came out and played like their hair was on fire, storming out to a 13-0 lead on their first six possessions. The shot clock has been shortened to 30 seconds this season, but this group flew up and down the court regardless, Calipari using the game as an opportunity to improve the team’s conditioning. Obviously, Ottawa is Ottawa, but Kentucky wore the Braves out quickly, running so much that Calipari subbed five players in during the first half.

Speaking of…

Here’s the rotation


  • Tyler Ulis
  • Isaiah Briscoe
  • Jamal Murray
  • Marcus Lee
  • Skal Labissiere

Subs (in order):

  • Alex Poythress
  • Charles Matthews
  • Isaac Humphries
  • Derek Willis
  • Mychal Mulder
  • EJ Floreal
  • Jonny David

It’s going to be a while before Calipari perfects the rotation and finds what combinations work best. After the game, he said he’s still trying to figure out who’s the eighth man: Charles Matthews, Derek Willis, or Isaac Humphries.

“We’ve gotta find that eighth guy right now. I think Charles [Matthews] was a little nervous, but did okay. Derek and Charles, who becomes that eighth guy? Do we play a smaller team? I thought Isaac did a couple good things, but defensive rebounding, he didn’t get any balls. And when you’re that big, you’ve gotta get some defensive rebounds.”

Derek Willis made his case tonight

In the past, Derek Willis himself has admitted he hasn’t always put in the effort it takes to get playing time. Calipari said he was on Derek pretty hard yesterday in practice to put in a complete effort; Derek responded, putting up 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 14 minutes. Calipari couldn’t have been prouder.

“I thought Derek Willis did well. How about Derek Willis rebounding, blocking shots? He did well,” Cal said, pointing out how scary Kentucky could be if Willis is in the lineup. “We play him, we could end ip being 7′, 6’8″ or 6’9″, 6’10”. That’s another huge front line. I want to play Derek Willis, but he’s going to have to take minutes from somebody. Whether I want to play him or not. Does anyone give him minutes? I think he should be playing. I was proud of him today.”

After seeing Willis’ one-handed slams, I agree:

Marshon Norfleet is really good

Ottawa tried their best, but no one tried harder than Marshon Norfleet. The Ottawa guard has had three ACL surgeries, but played like a beast tonight, putting up 20 of Ottawa’s 58 points. The married 24-year-old was so good he earned a standing ovation from the media after the game.

“It really meant a lot to me to go out there and play hard,” Norfleet said, grinning like a school boy at the podium. His team may have come up way short, but putting up 20 points in front of 23,000 at Rupp Arena? That’ll last forever.

The three-guard lineup is a work in progress

Ulis, Murray, and Briscoe started the game, but it’s clear the three-guard lineup is still a work in progress. It looked good at times, sloppy at others. Isaiah Briscoe showed some great slashing ability, but his work on the defensive end wore him out (could he be this team’s DeAndre Liggins?). After the game, Briscoe told reporters that although they’ve been studying tapes of the dribble drive at Memphis, they haven’t been to use the three-guard lineup a lot in practice because both sides need a point guard to scrimmage. When Dominique Hawkins return to the lineup, that’ll change.

Free throw shooting still wasn’t great

If you’re going to nitpick, for the second game in a row, Kentucky’s free throw shooting wasn’t great. The Cats were 9-18 from the free throw line, which did not escape Cal afterwards.

“The only thing we didn’t do well was shoot free throws,” Cal said. “What you have is a couple guys go 0-2, 0-2. All of a sudden, you know, one went 1-3, one went 0-2, the other one went 0-2, that’s 1-7. You’re not going to shoot a real good percentage if three guys do that. But the rest of the guys I think did pretty good.”

Again, nitpicking. 

It may be messy, but wow, that was fun

The real season hasn’t even started, but if you watched tonight’s game, you can tell it’s going to be a fun ride. Over the next few months, Calipari will tinker with combinations and the team will develop chemistry, but when the pieces fall into place, watch out. Tonight, we saw how good they are offensively; defensively, there’s still work to do, but hey, it’s the first exhibition game of the season. Kentucky fans always clamor for fast, fun, high-scoring basketball, and this group will deliver.

Now, excuse me while I go count the minutes until I get to see them play 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.

43 Comments for Jamal Murray is awesome and other takeaways from Kentucky’s rout of Ottawa

  1. Ethel Plainmeyer
    10:48 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

    If there was any fan to whom Murray “was still a bit of a mystery,” that fan has been on another planet somewhere. Murray was a mystery to No ONE. Typical Thompson “analysis.” So hard to push through, and getting harder.

  2. Kiki
    10:50 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

    Study tapes at Memphis? I do not understand.

  3. Rehabtheweakestlink
    10:55 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

    i hope Matt and KSR don’t spend the entire season trying to rehab the weakest link in the chain. If Poythress does not develop courage quickly, he is finished. After three + years KSR needs to stop beating a dead horse… Journalists comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, but Poythress needs to find his fury! Stop sucking up to him and make him play aggressively!!

    • leon singleton
      11:07 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

      Poythress is a stud. You need to suck to your boyfriend.

    • Adolph
      11:18 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

      Poythress needs to get crazy aggressive ASAP, per Coach…

  4. GatorCat
    11:03 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

    Praise Jebus, basketball is back! We can now move on from our Big Blue national nightmare – football.

    • Preach it
      8:34 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Does Ottawa have a football team we could play?

  5. Stfu
    11:16 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

    I swear I wish Thompson would quit blogging…she is an absolute idiot…like who did not know about jamal murray…the more I read her posts, the less I wanna read KSR. Matt ply let her go..Thompson this is not ur career..learn about what ur talking about..ignorance

    • ClutchCargo
      8:28 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Well, I for one hadn’t really seen Murray play against an actual opponent until last night, so how is that so hard to get your head around. Maybe you need to take the advice of your screen name…

    • Megan
      10:14 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      She’s maybe the best writer here. But if you don’t like her stuff, why do you keep reading? That kind of makes you the author, in part, of your own aggravation. Stop being a masochist and just walk away.

    • Loother
      1:41 pm November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Mrs TT is a top KSR Journalist. Maybe it’s YOU that needs to Stfu…

  6. Stfu
    11:17 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink


    • Eater of Chick-Fil-a
      11:47 pm November 2, 2015 Permalink

      Anyone who spells “please” like that doesn’t have the right to criticize someone who writes for a living.

  7. Stfu
    12:04 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    I only comment, it’s not my profession..I don’t know if you are aware but abbreviations for words are a big thing now…idk, brb, plz, and my favorite that is directed for you…stfu. I think someone who is simply commenting on a “professional” writers post can abbreviate, however, a “professional” writer needs to be credible, and what she says, makes her credibility go away..I do not know her, she may be the best woman in the world, but she is a piss poor writer

    • stfu has a mangina
      9:14 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      And you’re a piss poor person haha lol jk. I’ll brb plz stfu.

  8. uk fan in Florida
    12:16 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    I actually liked her piece and thought it was well done! Criticizing the “bit of a mystery” is ridiculous. I took that as we weren’t exactly sure how he would play and fit in with the rest of the team in a real game.

  9. catfan4life
    12:38 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    I hate to pop your bubble, but if you think every Cat fan knows about Murray you are nuts. Tyler is spot on, because there are many, many UK fans that have no clue who any of the new players are. They tune in when the first game begins and start learning from there. I know I am telling it like it is because I know some of them. They buy all kinds of UK stuff and talk UK, but they don’t have stomach to keep up with everything like some of us do. And, it is their right to do so. Tyler you keep writing.

    • Mikey T
      10:01 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      More people would know about the team if they could watch it. Sec network sucks.

  10. GeorgeoftheJungle
    1:28 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Great game, but hard to see on phones, pads and laptops. Announcers should have acted like they were on radio. We needed more info.

    • Megan
      10:17 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      That’s a long-standing criticism of sport announcing in general. Play-by-play guys don’t really exist anymore. I guess they figure you can see for yourself what’s happening, so why make the effort.

  11. Jonny Cat FL
    1:56 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Wrong on the Rotation.. Here is how I see it.
    Starters: Ullis, Briscoe, Murray, Skal, and Poythress
    Reserves (in order of role/importance):
    Lee – If offensive game develops, he could be 1st pick as UK’s 6th man.
    Mulder – 3 point specialist, could be best pure shooter on team.
    Willis – Must make shots, but will differentiate himself by generating hustle points. His Size/Rebounding ability gives him a leg up to be the “8th guy”.
    Matthews – Mr. Do It All. I like his MKG role. Will play a lot, but likely will never score more than 10 pts in a game.
    Hawkins – Will be hard to keep him out of rotation if making shots. Love his intensity.
    Humphries – Great prospect. Love his game. No pressure for him to develop too fast. Going to be a player one day for UK.
    Florieal – Mop up duty
    David – Mop up duty

    Deepest team from 1-11 in Cal’s career for sure. It will be a good dilemma to have 🙂

    • binarysolo
      2:35 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Nope. Tyler wrote about the rotation from tonight’s game so what she’s got for the rotation is correct.

  12. Jordan
    4:03 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Pisses me off that I wasn’t able to watch it hope that there’s no more of this bull.

  13. Mr Blue
    6:27 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    There is more of this bull. Next Saturday night. And it did/does suck.

  14. Amen it's basketball season
    7:41 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Thank you Lord that basketball season has started. Please KSR, no more posts about the circus that occurs at Commonwealth stadium. Love hearing Calipari interviews, can’t stand the excuses week after week after week by the football coach. Please send no reporters to football anymore. Calipari rocks in telling it how it is. Football is just a spin doctor, blame it on everyone else, same report week after week, and CHANGE NOTHING.

    • AGREE
      11:01 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      I simply just scroll right past every Football post

  15. Suffering Fools
    8:14 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Willis had a great game. He was all over the defense and was killing it on the boards. If he keeps playing like that, he can be a huge factor.

    • The Rest of the story
      9:09 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      It was Ottawa dude come on.

    • Suffering Fools
      9:12 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Point is he was working his tail off.

    • Megan
      10:23 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Did anyone else think he walked? Looks like he took three steps after picking up his dribble.

      Still. That was an awesome dunk.

  16. RealCatsFanl
    8:22 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    I have to laugh at people who come onto a free fan sports site and bitch about the writing. I’m looking at you, “stfu”; maybe you should follow the command of your moniker. It’s kind of like complaining that your free Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal is closed. I’m so tired of nothing but bitching and moaning in the comments for this site. Lighten up, Francis – it’s basketball season!

    • RealCatsFan
      10:07 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      “cold”, not “closed”, but you know what I mean… 🙂

  17. ColoradoCat
    8:23 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    What’s with all the hate for Tyler? If you don’t like the blog, go read another one. You’re not doing anyone any favors. This isn’t exactly the Wall Street Journal, nor should it be treated like it is. Try smiling a little.

  18. Coppertop
    8:40 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    If you had to watch from a tablet or phone, go get you a chromecast. They’re easy to set up. We watched the game on our big screen tv using chromecast.

    • RealCatsFan
      10:10 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Problem I was having was a “lack of communication” between DIRECTV and the WatchESPN app. I don”t know if it would have mattered if I watched it on AppleTV or some other type of hardware like ChromeCast.

  19. The Rest of the story
    9:05 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Again KSR is over hyping UK basketball. Everyone is so great and we are gonna score lots of points every game. Good grief this was Ottawa for heaven’s sake not UNC. Will this team be fun to watch? Of course it will but lets not overdo what to expect of them. There will be loses and lots of good wins but the way KSR overdoes everything just puts some of you into overdrive when there is a long way to go.

  20. Miggity Mike
    9:08 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    I was glad to see Willis play with some confidence, even if he did travel on the dunk in that clip. I like the aggressiveness though.

    • Suffering Fools
      9:15 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

      Never seen him work so hard on defense. He wants his minutes.

  21. Embarrassed
    9:45 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Half of you commenters are what’s wrong with this world. Crucifying Tyler for a writing piece that you read for free. Crucifying Poythress. “It’s just Ottawa stfu we aren’t that good.” Geez please do everyone a favor and smile a little bit and enjoy things that are provided to you for free. If you can’t do that, just stop existing.
    Half of these commenters are probably Louisville trolls trying to make another program look as bad as theirs.

    10:29 am November 3, 2015 Permalink


  23. Megan
    10:49 am November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Unlike Matt, Ravi has a nice voice for broadcasting. It sounded weird that kept saying “we” in reference to Kentucky. Fans do it all the time. But I’m sure it’s right for a broadcaster.

  24. Rick Damn Flair
    2:13 pm November 3, 2015 Permalink

    Who is that on the bench when Willis dunked that was going crazy with a Towel in each hand? Is that Briscoe or Murray?