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Kentucky gets back on track with 80-61 romp of Florida


After blowing a 21-point lead at Tennessee, Kentucky needed a big performance today at Rupp, and the Cats delivered, putting a 19-point beatdown on the Florida Gators. Kentucky led by 18 at halftime and by as much as 26 in the second half. Jamal Murray led the way with a career-high 35 points, followed by Tyler Ulis with 18 and Derek Willis with 12.

“It was a great bounce-back win today,” Calipari said. “To do this against this team — and again, you have to understand, this team beat West Virginia by 20, and they had won five of six games. So they had been playing well. But this was good for us, good win.”

For most of the game, Kentucky looked as good as they have all season, helping erase memories from what was hopefully a fluke performance in Knoxville. Let’s break down the win.

Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis led the way

Kentucky’s guard play has always been its strength, and today, Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis stole the show. Murray and Ulis combined for 53 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, and only 4 turnovers, meaning they scored 66% of the Cats’ points. With his parents in the stands, Murray finished with a career-high 35 points, the most by a freshman in the John Calipari era since Terrence Jones against Auburn back in 2011. Murray had eight threes, another career high and just one shy of Tony Delk’s Rupp record of nine. Murray is now the first player in UK basketball history to have two 30-point games in his freshman season (he had 33 vs. Ohio State).

“It was okay,” Murray joked of his 35-point performance. “I missed a free throw.”

“Jamal Murray stole the show overall with his ability to make shots. I think he’s still open right now,” Florida’s Michael White quipped. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I’m very discouraged with our effort against him. It’s like we didn’t know he was a good shooter.”

Tyler Ulis wasn’t shabby either, scoring 18 points and dishing out a career-high 11 assists for his third double-double of the season. Before the game, Calipari told Ulis this should be a 15-assist game for him, and even though he only (!) got 11, he was tremendous, hitting his first seven shots. White told reporters that Ulis “put on a clinic” defensively, and when he and Murray are playing like that, Kentucky is hard to beat.

“They were incredible. If those guys play like this every day, they’ll have a chance every night. They were fantastic,” White said of Ulis and Murray. “When you let a guy like Jamal Murray really get going early and he’s got his mojo going and Ulis is playing as well as he played today, they’re capable of beating anyone in college basketball.”

That we know.

With Alex Poythress out, Isaac Humphries stepped up

Five minutes before the game, Calipari found out that Alex Poythress’ right knee (the non-surgically repaired one) was bothering him and he wouldn’t be able to play. With Alex out, Kentucky’s bigs needed to step up inside, and they did. Isaac Humphries’ performance was the most promising, the Aussie big man chipping in four points, six rebounds, and two blocks in eleven minutes.

“He earned his space, and I’m so happy for him because he has worked so hard and hasn’t had the opportunity, and what he did was he took advantage, and we all look and say, he needs to play. Let him play. And then you’ve got to stop waiting on some other guys, you’ve got to say, hey, he deserves it,” Calipari said afterwards. 

In further proof that Tyler Ulis is half point guard/half coach, Ulis told reporters he’s been talking to Kenny Payne for a while about how he thinks Isaac can help inside, and Humphries said Ulis challenged him to play well before the game.

“Through the whole process of me not really playing a lot, I’ve kept in mind that Tyler does think I can be out there and every day, I really do think about that little thing that he says,” Isaac said. “That’s another reason that’s pushed me through mentally are his little comments to me. Today before the game when he said that, I got really fired up and I thought well, I’ve got to do this because you’ve been batting for me and now I’ve got to prove to everyone else that you’re right and I can do it.”

Isaac felt so good that he even flexed after a big block:

“It felt great. I’ve been waiting for a moment to do that little — I don’t know what you call it,” Isaac said of his flex. “I’ve been waiting for so long and finally I got an opportunity to do it.”

Rebounding: better

Calipari put his players through the wringer in practice this week to inspire more physical play, and for today, it seemed to work. Kentucky outrebounded Florida 37-28 and four players finished with six rebounds apiece: Marcus Lee, Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, and Isaac Humphries. Alex will get x-rays on that knee tomorrow, which was pretty much the only update Calipari had on the injury after the game.

“I don’t know, he’ll get checked out tomorrow,” Cal said. “I think it was swelled a little bit and they said don’t play.”

Dominique Hawkins’ ankle was also bothering him to the point he sat out. Has there been a game this season in which the entire team was 100% healthy?

Defense: better

After a meltdown in Knoxville, Calipari had his players “beat the crap out of each other for two days in practice,” and it resulted in a much better defensive effort. Kentucky held Florida to 36.7% shooting in the first half and 39.6% overall. Calipari was pleased.

“What we did Thursday, and literally the people, there were people in the building, we went for two and a half hours, and it was a body-to-body, mano-á-mano, rebound, defend, play. I was mean at times, but that wasn’t what it was. It was the bar was raised of what we were accepting. And I thought guys were terrific.”

The Cats are back in the hunt

With Texas A&M losing to South Carolina and a date with the Gamecocks on Saturday, Kentucky is now back in the hunt for first place in the SEC. Today’s win was further proof that when the Cats are clicking, they can be dominant, but before you get too confident, remember that with this group, even a 21-point lead can disappear in the blink of an eye. (Because of that, admit it, you were a little nervous when Florida cut it to 13 in the second half.)

Calipari said that while today’s win was encouraging, this team still has a long way to go.

“There’s just so many little things that you cannot be what you all want us to be until we can play 40 minutes of basketball, dig in and play. Every possession matters on defense. We’re not close to that right now,” Cal said.  “We’ve got a month, so within a month, I’ve got to get them convinced. They’re fighting me. They don’t think we have to, and I say, well, let’s think back to Tennessee.”

Yeah, yeah. Let’s just enjoy this for now, okay?


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.

27 Comments for Kentucky gets back on track with 80-61 romp of Florida

  1. nybrasky
    8:40 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    I felt like the Cats played their best D when Humphries was in. He stayed home and challenged guys without jumping/fouling every play. He also and didn’t leave his guy to try to make a block, resulting in an offensive rebound for his guy, a la Skal & Lee. I was impressed with the Aussie today.

  2. HillbillyInBC
    9:01 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    Jodie had 10 3s in that 54-point game at Tennessee.

    • The Rest of the story
      10:52 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

      Jodie was not a freshman then the 8 by Murray tied most by a freshman.

  3. rainman
    9:56 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    Was very happy to see Isaac play well today! Maybe this will be the
    confidence boost that propels him to a good season?
    Also I hope the guys realize it was the defense that made the first half
    that dominant! For the most part they kept the ball in front of them,
    and didn’t gamble too much!

  4. Rixter
    9:57 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    Guys have come back faster from ACL tears than Dom has from a sprained ankle.

  5. WildcatSteeler
    10:09 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    How many times have we seen this Humphries situation under Cal? He’s not heading off to the NBA next season so he won’t be getting any minutes. He’ll get put in and if he doesn’t do something dynamic in about 2 minutes he’ll get pulled out. He played great at Duke and Wright St. 20 games ago and look where that got him.

    • jonthes
      11:07 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

      When he has gone in in other games in between he looked lost on offense and defense, out of position. Not today.

    • A_Blue_Wildcat
      2:09 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

      Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins aren’t going to the nba so why do they play major minutes then? I agree Humphries should get some more minutes, but your argument about cal not playing him because he isn’t a nba prospect is ridiculous.

  6. Rixter
    10:20 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    Fun fact: Dorian Finney-Smith has now played for 5 coaches in his 17 years at Florida: Norm Sloan, Don Devoe, Lon Kruger, Billy Donovan, and Betty White, or whatever the current guy’s name is

    • rainman
      10:42 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

      Yeah but he’s only been a starter for three of them!

  7. jonthes
    11:05 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

    North Carolina coughed up a 15 point lead to a middling Notre Dame team on the road – sound familiar? We need to refrain from panic.

    • WeareBBN
      11:43 pm February 6, 2016 Permalink

      Notre Dame is 20 times better than Tenn or Auburn…And at least 5 times better than UCLA and Ohio St

    • A_Blue_Wildcat
      2:11 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

      Notre Dame lost to Alabama and will barely make the tournament, they aren’t that great.

    • WeareBBN
      2:59 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

      Well, they get better as the season goes on and playing tougher teams in the ACC helps prepare them for a tourney run, see last year. They are not as talented as last year but will easily be a tourney team, in fact most projections have them about the same seed as UK right now. The SEC being so weak really hurt us last year, we needed more tough games to prepare for the tourney and were lucky to get by Notre Dame before running our of luck the next game. Seems fair that the weak SEC helps us this year as we would be in tourney jeopardy in a tough conference.

    • CATandMONKEY
      7:50 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

      Weare – The strength of the SEC last year was completely irrelevant to our preparation for the tourney. Our regrettable loss had far more to do with matchup issues and the fact that WCS performed FAR below his usual level. Had he even been close to his average in rebounds and points UK walks into the final game vs Duke where any intelligent fan liked our chances. If we play Wisconsin in a seven game series we win based on depth and talent. Fight and toughness was hardly an issue last year.

    • WeareBBN
      1:04 pm February 7, 2016 Permalink

      But we had little experience in finishing in close games, the nerves that come with it, the who do we go to and what do we run scenarios. It did matter.

    • damage_control
      1:27 pm February 7, 2016 Permalink

      That’s just false- they closed out plenty of close games last year (@ Louisville, @ Tx A&M, Ole Miss, @ LSU, @ USC, Vandy). Heck they had just barely advanced by closing out a game against a tough Notre Dame team. I really don’t see how you could forget all the close calls and opportunities they had to lose but won them all until the end.

    • WeareBBN
      2:52 pm February 7, 2016 Permalink

      Damage….did not forget them but those were gainst bad teams, mostly, easy to get the win vs them. But all year teams playing in tougher conferences are getting tough games, coming down to the last minute, vs good to very good teams and they do this 10 or so times a year. We basically had the Loserville game vs a good team, all those other SEC teams were terrible. Being battle tested makes a difference, maybe Cal would have known who he should have had on the court?

    • damage_control
      3:47 pm February 7, 2016 Permalink

      You mean like the ACC tournament Champs?

    • damage_control
      3:54 pm February 7, 2016 Permalink

      So you hold it against them that they blew out the Big 12 Conf. Champs? Or that they handled other good no conference opponents? That makes no sense. You said “we had little experience closing out in close games”. Now it has to do with the quality of the opponent? Huh?

    • UK Big Board Update
      4:56 pm February 7, 2016 Permalink

      WeareBBN just talks in circles about shit she has no clue about.

  8. Big johnson
    6:40 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

    Sorry your team is banned from post season play,looks like they could of made a run at the final four, maybe even won it all! Ha, ha, ha .

  9. Wah Wah
    9:06 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

    The hard truth is that this team is better without Poythress. Make him a 6th man and let him come off of the bench.

  10. Rixter
    9:32 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

    Oklahoma lost yesterday to a Kansas State team that was 2 – 7 in the conference. This year, there are no great teams, Cats have as good of a shot as anybody of being there at the end.

  11. roundball fool
    9:52 am February 7, 2016 Permalink

    Great game for the Cats. We needed that one in the worst way. Still troubling to see us let up on an opponent when we have them down. This time we managed to stem the tide.

    Great to see Isaac have a solid effort and Jamal with two halves of strong play. Tyler was his steady self and Derek made some key plays. I’d like to see Derek gain the confidence to take his man off the ball fake an drive on occasion. It will give him better spacing for his jumper.

    Go Broncos! I know, long shot…..