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Kentucky’s confidence blooms in 88-54 rout of Missouri

© Mark Zerof

© Mark Zerof

For the first 58 seconds, Missouri led Kentucky, but Derek Willis quickly dashed the Tigers’ dreams with a three, the first of four for him on the night. From there, the rout was on, and Kentucky didn’t let its foot off the gas until the very end, winning by a stunning score of 88-54.

From start to finish, tonight’s win was an incredible performance by the Cats, who, sure were playing a bad Missouri team, and yes, expectations should be tempered going into Saturday’s game at Kansas, but for now, let’s just enjoy this beatdown, because we haven’t had a lot of them this season.

How about that start?

“They played great. We didn’t play very well.”

That’s how Missouri’s Kim Anderson summed the game up afterwards to reporters, and he’s right. Kentucky did play great, holding Missouri to 20 points in the first half. After Missouri’s opening layup, Kentucky went on a 20-0 run until the Tigers finally hit a free throw with 14:29 left in the first half.

“I don’t want to say we didn’t compete, but I think we just got run over by a truck early in the game,” Anderson said. “From the start, I thought they played with an incredible amount of energy. It reminded me of last year’s game, to be honest with you, when we came in here.”

Considering last year’s team, I don’t think you could ask for bigger praise, but Anderson kept doling it out. He was so gracious that when a reporter forgot his name, calling him “Ken,” he said, “It’s okay, I’d forget my name too.” Ouch.

“We had no answer. We had no answer to anybody for a long time. I think you have to give them credit. They played great. They seem to be playing better and better,” Anderson said. “But when they’re playing like they’re playing tonight, they’re really, really good.”

John Calipari admitted Anderson and Missouri caught Kentucky on a bad night.

“They got the buzz saw today,” Calipari said of Missouri. “This, we played as well as we can play. And we did it the entire time.”

Derek is the difference

After being just a blip on the stat sheet, Derek Willis has broken out in the past four games, averaging 12.2 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Tonight, he had a career-high 18 points and 12 rebounds, only the second double-double of his career. He looks like a totally different player in every possible way.

“I just said after the game, I said, Derek, you’ve taken minutes from people in this room, do you want to give anybody back minutes? And he’s even being honest. He said, Coach, I just want to win. He’s playing desperate,” Calipari said. “He’s made us a different team.”

I mean, just look at him:

To Derek’s dad, girlfriend, and whoever else lit a spark under him, thank you.

Skal flexed them bones

After sitting out most of the Vanderbilt game because of mismatches, Skal Labissiere burst back on the scene tonight, scoring 12 points off 6-8 shooting and blocking a career-high 5 shots. After a few of them, he actually flexed at the camera:

“Skal certainly was a factor and is obviously one of the best players in the country,” Kim Anderson said afterwards. “Unfortunately for us, he kind of really started to find himself tonight.”

At halftime and after the game, Calipari accepted blame for trying to make Skal a big like Karl Towns or Shaquille O’Neal when he clearly is not.

“I probably screwed Skal up, I’m trying to make him Karl Towns. He’s not Karl Towns. Can’t play like Karl Towns. He probably shoots better than Karl Towns. Karl will love hearing that, but he’s not Karl. Karl had a nasty beast streak in him.”

The one bad part of Skal’s stat line that Calipari was fine pointing out during his postgame show?

“He’s got to rebound or I cannot leave him in the game!” Cal exclaimed. “How many rebounds did he have today? None! Now, listen. We’re going to play Kansas. What if he doesn’t defend and rebound, can I just leave him in the game to shoot shots? You can’t be in! I mean, I love you, stay with me tonight at my house, I don’t care, but I can’t leave you in against Kansas unless you defend and rebound.”

Odds Skal is on his way to the Calipari’s with his sleeping bag right now?

Tyler Ulis, as always, was amazing

Again, it speaks volumes that Tyler had 20 points and 8 assists tonight and I’m just now getting to him in the recap. If you’re keeping count, that’s Tyler’s eighth game this season with 20 or more points and 5 or more assists, a historic feat that I’m not sure we can ever appreciate enough. Tyler isn’t just leading this team, Calipari says he’s coaching it.

“Tyler was ridiculous,” Cal said. “He’s basically coaching the team. I mean, he’s making comments at halftime or telling, where are they playing, how are they playing this, and he’ll go tell his teammates, and he’s on the board.”

Isaiah Briscoe had himself a night, putting up 15 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 0 turnovers. How good was he feeling? He hit back-to-back free throws, earning an enthusiastic round of applause from Rupp Arena. After spending time trying to teach Briscoe and Jamal Murray to play “winning basketball,” Calipari couldn’t have been prouder, calling him “the best defensive guard and rebounding guard in the country.”

Calipari also added that Tyler and Briscoe have started the “Breakfast Club” up again, following in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s footsteps from 2012. If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee still struggled

Alex Poythress did okay tonight, scoring eight points and pulling down seven rebounds, but Marcus Lee was missing in action, finishing with two points, three rebounds, and three blocks in nine minutes. Towards the end of the game, Lee finally got rolling, but Calipari was disappointed in both veteran big men after the game.

“Our team, we’re playing desperate now. We’re playing with an attitude. Refuse to lose. That’s their — now Alex didn’t today. Instead of saying I’m getting 25 today, Alex didn’t. I don’t know why,” Cal said. “Marcus Lee, not enough energy.”

I’m all for Derek and Skal playing well, but you have to think that for Kentucky to make some serious noise in March, they need Alex and Marcus playing well. But for now, Derek’s play is putting them on the bench.

“Now they got to fight to get minutes back, which means our practices will be better or they will give up,” Cal said of Alex and Marcus. “They got a choice. You can give up or fight.”

Bring on Kansas

A few weeks ago, I dreaded Saturday’s game against Kansas. After three incredibly promising performances, I’m not expecting the Cats to go in there and win, but I feel a hell of a lot more confident about their chances.

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.

11 Comments for Kentucky’s confidence blooms in 88-54 rout of Missouri

  1. Angelo
    12:59 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

    What is wrong with Alex and Marcus? Potheads?

    • loosey101
      6:25 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

      You sir, are an idiot.

    • UK Big Board Update
      7:24 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

      Angelo is a well know troll and creep around these parts. Just ignore him and eventually he will go away.

  2. loosey101
    6:28 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

    While this team has played great, and i’m loving the hustle and skill level, Saturday has all the makings of a straight blow out. Kansas looking for revenge after last season and 2012, playing in Phog, how we’ve played in away games this year. I have faith in this team, considering that Kansas has dropped a few to unranked teams, we def have a shot, but we couldn’t handle UCLA at quite possibly one of the worst home field advantages in Pauley. I’m approaching this one with cautious optimism, hopefully our guys relish in the unique environment.

    • Megan
      12:18 pm January 28, 2016 Permalink

      All the markings of a straight blowout, definitely have a shot, and cautious optimism? No matter what happens, you called it!

      Mrs. Tyler’s feelings about the Kansas game reflect my own.

    • bballfan85
      3:32 pm January 28, 2016 Permalink

      Kansas has only lost to 1 unranked team. It was a bad loss but none the less….

  3. kjd
    8:08 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

    Nothing more ridiculous than Skal flexing after a block. How about a rebound! Do something against a decent team, and do it consistently, then maybe you can flex. What was Skal’s minutes against Vandy? 4 minutes I believe. Impress me, and play against Kansas.

    • Megan
      12:32 pm January 28, 2016 Permalink

      Sounds like Cal will not play Skal against Kansas because he can’t guard their bigs or fight for rebounds. We have to hope Poythress and Lee step it up, like we know they can.

    • UK Big Board Update
      6:03 pm January 28, 2016 Permalink

      kjd – same goes for Derek.

  4. BlueDeuce
    8:32 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

    It was a perfect game to have before traveling to Kansas…Ulis didn’t have to play his usual 38+ minutes, Skal was able to get in the game and work on his mid range jumper, Willis was able to maintain his defense to stay on the court, Briscoe is learning where his offense is most effective and so much more.

    Missouri is a team fighter to get back to anything that resembles college basketball…and they will get there…but it was a good game to for the guys to just get out there and play.

    Only one thing I wished would have happened was after Skal got the nice block, is he would have just ran to the other end and set up on offense to be rewarded for his defensive play. Instead, he flexed for the bench and was late to arrive at the other end and never got position to be rewarded. He does look more comfortable playing the mid range game though…need him to start rebounding the ball now…don’t understand how a kid that big can average so few rebounds?

  5. Biglaw Dawgin'
    11:46 am January 28, 2016 Permalink

    How easy did D-Will make that dunk look? Derek took off from the SEC logo and his arm wasn’t even extended when he threw it down. It looked like he could have jumped from the FT line.