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Observations From The 2015 Blue-White Game

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

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.

Mark Zerof |USA Today

Mark Zerof |USA Today

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.


Mark Zerof | USA Today

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.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

19 Comments for Observations From The 2015 Blue-White Game

  1. The Real LindaS
    11:43 pm October 27, 2015 Permalink

    I love a point guard who knows the definition of being a point guard. He knows why he is on the floor and what he is one of the most important men out there. Out Little Bug is going to have an outstanding year. I told Tyler Sunday I call him our little bug, he understood…he said he knew, he buzzes around and does not let anyone rest!
    I have been a fan of Derek’s for a long time. I have been disappointed in him because of his attitude more than anything, he never smiles. I asked him to smile Sunday and he did. I think he will have a lot of reason to smile this year.
    Murray….oh my, I will leave it at that.
    Isaac, I wish he would talk to me all day.
    I’m a fan of Isaiah’s rolled up pants too.
    I’m a fan of all the young men.

  2. somerset bill
    7:34 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    “(willis is) a topic I’m sure we’ll hear on every postgame show from now until the Final Four.”

    and, this seems to be something we continue to hear from you. guess we all have our thing.

  3. ukjaybrat
    8:07 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    “Is Poythress a three-point threat?”

    Makes sense though. the whole time in between being able to run and jump but not actually play, the only thing he could do is work on his shooting. And in that three guard lineup, he’s going to have a power forward on him who can’t guard him on the perimeter. Not quite what Wisconsin did to us last year, (they just had bigs that could shoot) but not all that different either.

  4. Snap Judgment
    8:34 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    A couple of my snap judgments:
    1) Poythress will be back ! He didn’t quite have the hops as before, but it will come. I am excited for him
    2) Charles Matthews is smooth. Like Scottie Pippen smooth. He may be the X factor.
    3) Marcus Lee has a nice left handed hook. If he can hit that consistently, he will be on the floor a bunch.
    4) Derek Willis looks like he put on some muscle. He may get some minutes !
    5) and last and least, Humphries doesn’t look very good. He looked slow and out of place. I hope that changes and soon.

    • Leuther
      3:35 pm October 28, 2015 Permalink

      One more snap judgement.

      This is a typical Cal Team in that it’s not very effective from the free throw line. We’ll lose games because of this shortcoming…

  5. uk in ga
    9:04 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    I think Humphries will get some minutes this year. He seemed to be exhausted towards the end of the game, but I think a lot of that had to do with the team he was on. His 2nd half squad didn’t have any playmakers (Matthews became more aggresive as the game went on), so they relied on him to do a lot… and with Skal defending him, he seemed to get pretty frustrated (who can blame him). Overall, I agree that Charles Matthews may be the X factor, and the combination of Jamal Murray and Tyler Ullis in the backcourt could be scary good, especially if Briscoe continues to improve.

    Can’t wait for the season.

  6. Mixxy
    9:21 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    In some ways this team reminds me of the Ryan Harrow team, except we have a true leader at the point this time (which we always said was that team’s only weakness).

  7. yargamel
    9:22 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    I’d love for Cal to bring Jorts in as a special assistant to do nothing but work with Humphries. Looks like we may need him to grab some rebounds and soak up some fouls this season.

  8. za
    10:19 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    Gonna be hard to keep Charles off the court. Athletic and smooth as can be.
    Knew the Jorts comparison would happen with Humphries. Would like to see Humphries play 4 seasons for UK and bookend his stay with championships.

  9. inside info2
    10:23 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    I can’t wait to see this year with Tyler running things. He is special. I wonder what the chances of him going pro this year are?

    Glad to see Alex on the court and smiling. I really hope he works himself into the first round this year. Would be great if he could make a himself a lottery pick.

  10. za
    10:24 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    Also, let’s keep to a 7 man rotation and win the championship.

  11. Shawn Kemp
    10:36 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    Poythress shot 42 percent from deep as a freshman. I don’t know why it should come as a surprise that AP “could be a three point threat”…

  12. Rajonrondo9
    10:50 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    That layup by Ulis was tough! Favorite player on this team, last year’s too.

  13. Dusten
    10:53 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    Poythress only made 22/73 for his career, including going zero for seven attempts before he was injured last year. I think if he can be a consistent 3 point threat that’s going to be huge for both this team and his draft stock.

  14. UKBlue!
    10:58 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    Great to see Alex out there….looked good. Ulis is awesome. Willis looked good. Excited for the team this year. Go Cats.

  15. catfan4life
    11:27 am October 28, 2015 Permalink

    Nice to see all those comments about Matthews. Where do we place Matthews as a position? I don’t think we can, because that young man is a player. If what we have seen so far Matthews will get a lot of playing time from multiple positions. Even with his offensive and rebounding potential I think he will be a superb defender and fan favorite.

    • rockatao
      3:49 pm October 28, 2015 Permalink

      my first thought watching matthews last night was that he would have been a featured star under tubby, just the kind of player that tubby would have loved .. and i don’t mean this as any sort of slight toward matthews … i loved his play last night also

  16. CatBlue in LR
    3:13 pm October 29, 2015 Permalink

    “…he will need to hustle, rebound, defend and finish lobs. Those are the three things he will be asked to do and do well.”

    In all fairness, Madisonville Elementary was never known for its first-grade arithmetic class!

  17. CatsRus
    9:30 am October 30, 2015 Permalink

    Isaac caught the eye of AP reporter Graves with his aggressive play around the basket and sweet little jump shot. All this at age 17.