Kentucky basketball’s annual intrasquad scrimmage took place in Rupp Arena tonight in front of 15,000 of some of Big Blue Nation’s most passionate fans. As per usual with these exhibitions, the action was sloppy and the rotation of lineups made it nearly impossible to follow from a game standpoint, but it did give us our first glimpse at the 2015-16 Wildcats.
In an attempt to recap what took place, I’ll share with you individual player observations and other small anecdotes from the game.
And if the final score matters to you, it was officially recorded at 74-66 in favor of the White team. That team consisted of a little bit of everyone, and it defeated the Blue team, which also consisted of a little bit of everyone.
The win snapped a 13-year White losing streak.
The starting lineups and first half score…
For the Blue squad, we saw Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, Alex Poythress and Isaac Humphries. Starting for the White were Tyler Ulis, Mychal Mulder, Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere.
Those were the two sides for the entire half, with the exception of E.J. Floreal subbing in to replace Mychal Mulder and Charles Matthews for one three-minute stretch each.
Blue won the 20-minute game, 40-39.
We were introduced to the three-guard lineup in the second half.
Blue began the second half with E.J. Floreal, Charles Matthews, Derek Willis, Marcus Lee and Isaac Humphries, while the White began with Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere. That five-man White roster is what I believe will be the starting lineup during the regular season, although Charles Matthews won’t give up a starting role easily. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in there at the three, moving Murray to shooting guard and sending Briscoe to first man off the bench. But that’s a conversation for another time.
As for how that three-guard lineup performed, they are a blast to watch but they also have plenty to learn. Calipari wants to see them move the ball inside and get Labissiere more involved, which will make them a nearly unstoppable offense once they get it figured out. Until then, it’s a lot of sloppy dribble-drive and perimeter play with three very skilled guards. Not exactly a bad thing at this stage, but needs to be polished and expanded.
Free throws were BAD.
Everyone shot a combined 13-for-34 from the foul stripe.
Here we go again!
It’s good to see Alex Poythress back out there.
First and foremost of the individual reviews, let’s all breathe a sigh of relief after seeing Alex Poythress run up and down the court like the Alex Poythress of a year ago. He appeared to be back in full health; the knee did not keep him from going airborne on fast breaks and for long rebounds. Coach Cal wants to see him rebound better, but for now, it’s just good to see him back on the court playing freely.
And he is a grown ass man.
Tyler Ulis is a special point guard.
The Sporting News ranked Tyler Ulis as the seventh best point guard in college basketball, but I wouldn’t take anyone over him at Kentucky. Cal called him the best floor general he’s had in Lexington and that was on display tonight in the scrimmage.
The sophomore had 10 assists in the first half and 15 in the game, reminding us how exceptional he is distributing the basketball. He knows where his four teammates are at all times and he has very little trouble getting it to whoever’s open. His passing and court vision are truly remarkable.
John Wall holds UK’s single season assist record at 241, an average of 6.5 per game. That record is in serious jeopardy.
Mychal Mulder had an itchy trigger finger.
Mulder did not hesitate to let it fly tonight. The JUCO transfer took a game-high nine three-point attempts, connecting on three of those for a 33-percent clip from deep. He made his first two tries early in the game, then went cold before hitting one more prior to halftime.
With under five minutes to go in the first half, Mulder had taken more shots than anyone on the court, and they were all from three-point range.
He was not afraid to put it up tonight.
Is Poythress a three-point threat?
Not a question we expected to be asking right now, but, is he?
Poythress hit 3-of-4 three-pointers on the night. However, Calipari said he wishes Alex would’ve focused more on his rebounding.
Jamal Murray scores in ways other players can only dream of.
I saw Murray’s unbelievable scoring prowess in practice last week and he showed out again tonight. He can put points on the board in so many ways, often making the most difficult of shots seem easy.
Trying to think back to his best shots tonight… I remember a high-arching floater in the lane (a shot he’s perfected) and a step-back three in the corner over an outstretched defender. I’m sure there were plenty more in his 17 points, but those two really stood out. And they weren’t luck, either. He’s got those in his bag.
He’s my preseason prediction for leading scorer.
Skal Labissiere is not Anthony Davis, but he’s kind of like Anthony Davis.
Labissiere had game-highs with 18 points and 11 rebounds. More importantly, he showed early signs of why he is projected as the future No. 1 pick.
There is still a long, long, long way to go before he’s anywhere near a top NBA draft pick, but the size, tools, athleticism and Anthony Davis comparisons are there and ready to be developed under John Calipari.
About those Anthony Davis comparisons, Labissiere said, “I’m very far away from that. I have a lot of room to grow. He’s one of the best players in the world right now. I’m not that, right now.”
Yeah, but the numbers and freshman body types are similar. Just sayin’.
Ulis’ pull-up jumper is deadly.
That mid-range, pull-up jumper at the top of the key is falling for Tyler Ulis. If a defender thinks he can play off Ulis to prevent a quick drive or help out on a lob, Ulis is knocking that shot down all day.
Great addition to his game.
I’m a fan of Isaiah Briscoe’s short shorts.
Briscoe is bringing the retro, short-shorts look back to college basketball this season, and I fully support his rolled-up britches.
I’m a bigger fan of how he uses his body to finish at the rim. He goes up and finishes through contact, unlike many guards his size. He could potentially be an and-one machine, if he can make the free throw. He missed his two freebies tonight.
Great finisher, though, no matter the length of his drawers.
Charles Matthews will be tough to keep off the floor.
As I mentioned above, Kentucky’s three-guard lineup may be its best, but Charles Matthews won’t sit down without a fight. He did just about everything in the Blue-White game, from getting a hand on balls, hitting shots, driving the lane and slamming the basketball. Simple mistakes will make him a frustrating freshman for the early part of his career, but he can be a do-it-all guy once he gets rolling. He’s going to be one of those players who was severely underrated in the high school rankings.
Derek Willis keeps making shots.
Last week, I told you Derek Willis didn’t miss a shot in practice. Yesterday, Alex Poythress said Willis hadn’t missed a shot in a couple days. Tonight, Willis hit just about everything he threw up, once again.
Radio callers, rejoice.
Cal thinks Willis can crack the rotation if he will continue to hit open shots and pull-ups, and eliminate everything else. That’s a topic I’m sure we’ll hear on every postgame show from now until the Final Four.
Marcus Lee still not an offensive threat, but he’s much better.
Lee will never be a guy who can operate with the ball in the half court, but his offense has improved since his younger days, when his only move was the putback dunk. Lee had 10 points tonight, mostly dunks though. He looks more confident and aware offensively, however; and he’s not a complete liability on that end of the floor.
Good thing is, Lee’s job isn’t to score. For him to be a major contributor this season, he will need to hustle, rebound, defend and finish lobs. Those are the three things he will be asked to do and do well.
He’s this team’s garbage man.
Isaac Humphries has touch and a lot of things to work on.
Humphries hit a 15-foot jumper early in the game to let us know he can do it, as we’ve heard since he arrived on campus. It’s the several other aspects of Humphries’ game he needs to improve, and will with time. Don’t expect him to see a lot of playing time, not yet at least. He’s a young project with some range on him right now.
I’ll leave you with Tyler Ulis gettin’ buckets on the big boys.