Kentucky went down to South Beach and took care of business in the family reunion game with Orlando Antigua and his South Florida Bulls.
Playing without Tyler Ulis, who suffered an elbow injury in the first half, the Cats handed Coach O’s team its fourth loss in five games, defeating USF, 84-63. UK led by as many as 31 in the game.
Jamal Murray led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, to go along with his three rebounds and three assists. Skal Labissiere wasn’t far behind in the points race, adding 17 of his own. Charles Matthews was the only other Wildcat in double figures with a career-high 11 points in a career-high 24 minutes off the bench.
Tyler Ulis suffered a hyperextended right elbow.
Outside of the new W in the win column, the biggest news of day was the scare given to Big Blue Nation when Tyler Ulis left the game with a right arm injury. It occurred with about five minutes to go in the first half, when his arm was pinned underneath Angel Nunez on a loose ball play. Ulis immediately walked toward the Kentucky bench and back to the locker room, his right arm sagging.
We would later find out it is a hyperextended elbow and he is listed as day-to-day. He played seven minutes with eight points and two assists before sitting out the rest of the game.
The injury ended Ulis’ streak of three consecutive games with at least 15 points and five assists. He was the first UK player to do that since John Wall in 2010.
The freshmen dominated the game.
Kentucky’s freshmen combined for 59 points in the win, nearly beating South Florida on their own. As I mentioned before, Jamal Murray was the star of the bunch, scoring a game-high 21 points and taking Basketball Hall of Fame Classic MVP honors.
It was a youth-led game with Ulis on the pine and limited production from Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins.
Isaiah Briscoe played well, aside from his “skee-ball shots.”
We got a taste of what life would be like if this were Isaiah Briscoe’s team to run, and it was okay. Briscoe filled in for Ulis at point guard and did some good things in the new role, his natural position.
Briscoe’s stifling defense forced the South Florida guards into multiple turnovers in the backcourt. Offensively, he dished out a career-high seven assists and attacked the rim for his six points. The only complaint was his erratic shot attempts that Calipari called “skee-ball shots.”
“I thought Isaiah struggled,” said Cal. “He was flipping balls like you are in a HORSE game. He had four flips, like, he was trying to spin them off the high corner to see if he could knock it in, like we’re playing skee-ball.”
Calipari called it a great learning experience.
Charles Matthews moved past Derek Willis in the rotation.
Matthews played his best game as a Wildcat, totaling 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with two rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes. Derek Willis, who is competing with Matthews for the seventh spot in the rotation, played only six minutes.
Calipari said, “I think Charles has pushed everybody aside and now has moved his way into the rotation. And he’s doing it because he is working hard.”
Matthews is trying to become this team’s do-it-all guy.
Here’s what Matthews and Murray had to say after the game:
Thank you, Kentucky Wildcats TV.
The rebounding could’ve been better.
Kentucky is one of college basketball’s best at rebounding the basketball, having entered today with a +13 rebounding margin per game, one of the highest in the nation. South Florida almost cut that number in half by staying within six boards in the game.
Alex Poythress had his lowest total of the year with five rebounds, after tallying a double-double in each of the last two games. Skal Labissiere only hauled in four in 29 minutes, while Briscoe tied Marcus Lee for the team-high at six.
Best free throw shooting night of the season.
UK hit 16 of its 19 free throw attempts for an 84.2 percentage, a clip that will certainly make Calipari happy. Briscoe, Labissiere and Lee each had one miss from the stripe.
Outside shooting improved from the past few games as well. The Cats went 6-of-13 from deep.
Skal Labissiere’s shot blocking improves each time out.
Labissiere’s offense was outstanding in this one, as we’ve seen over and over again already. But it’s his shot blocking that is really improving, though it isn’t getting the same attention as his post moves. He’s still nowhere near Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl-Anthony Towns, or the shot blocker he will hopefully become, but he did have three nice blocks tonight. Again, his timing is getting better and better.
Kentucky was great defensively.
It wasn’t just Skal playing good defense on the Bulls, collectively, the defensive effort was great throughout the entire game. South Florida was never a threat to go on any kind of a run because the Cats had them locked down from start to finish.
Jamal Murray was hot.
Saving Murray talk for last because we seem to say the same thing after every game. The guy can flat out score in a variety of ways and he could’ve gone for more tonight if needed. I still think he can be a little reckless, and sometimes selfish, but you tolerate the occasional bad play because there are so many more good ones. He’s so fun to watch and so hard to guard.
Okay, that’s enough about basketball. Let’s beat Louisville tomorrow and clinch this bowl game.