Judging by the first few minutes, it looked like Kentucky was going to wipe the floor with Boston; however, the Terriers lived up to their mascot’s reputation by nipping at the Cats’ heels throughout the game until Kentucky eventually pulled away to a 82-62 win.
It’s late, so let’s run through the highlights.
Alex Poythress was the star
It surprised me on Friday and it still surprises me now that Alex’s double-double against Wright State was only the third of his career. He followed that performance up with another double-double tonight, putting up 14 points and 10 rebounds off 7-8 shooting. Alex wasn’t perfect — Calipari berated him for a slow start — but he finally clicked into beast mode and gave Kentucky a much-needed inside presence on a night outside shots weren’t falling.
“I thought Alex — I subbed him four seconds in. He didn’t go after a ball. Athletically, you’re an athlete, explode and go get balls, even if it’s on the floor. And he stood there and watched it. Boom, you’re out.”
“Then he got back in and he’s a double double and he could be dunking every ball, making free throws, getting fouled. I mean, that’s who he is and that’s where we got to get him back to.”
Alex played well enough that Calipari told him after the game that he thinks he should be starting.
“I just said, when I went in after, I think he should be starting, but we’ll figure that out. He’s a starter, it’s just he or Marcus.”
Speaking of Alex, let’s watch that lob from Ulis again:
Want to know what Kentucky looks like when they’re cold?
Look no further than tonight. Last year, Kentucky was able to survive cold shooting nights with smothering defense and post play. Tonight, we saw what could happen when Kentucky’s guards go cold. Kentucky shot only 3-15 from three, a paltry 20%. It wasn’t much better from the free throw line, where Kentucky shot 13-26 for 50%.
“We do have good shooters, we just don’t have good makers,” Cal quipped. “I will say this, we got, you got to make some threes, you can’t win good games being 3-15 from the three-point line. And we have been that now since the beginning of the year.”
Tyler Ulis was 1-5 from behind the arc, but Calipari is encouraging him to shoot through the mini-slump.
“We’ve got to make some threes,” Cal stressed. “Right now Tyler’s not making them. I just told him, you got to shoot ’em. You got to let it go.”
Skal continues to progress
Labissiere was the leading scorer tonight, with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 turnovers, and 1 steal. For anyone else, that’s a pretty impressive stat line; for Skal, it’s just scratching the surface of what could be.
“Skal did some good stuff. He’s coming, but he’s still got some things he’s got to do,” Cal said, continuing to reference Karl Towns’ struggles early last season. “He’s getting better. Look, last year, I think I’m going to get for him to see where Karl was in some of these games, because it may have been Buffalo he had 3-pointers and two rebounds last year, Karl did. Couldn’t get it to the basket, was shooting fade aways, couldn’t get a ball, had a couple blocks and it’s going to take time.”
Like Karl, Skal continues to react well to Cal’s criticism.
“If I wanted pats on the back, I could have gone anywhere else,” Skal said.
Charles Matthews was the unsung hero
We know the top six in the rotation — Ulis, Murray, Briscoe, Labissiere, Lee, Alex — but beyond that, it’s been a bit of a mystery. Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, and Charles Matthews have all battled for the seventh man spot, but tonight, it was Matthews that impressed the most. The freshman shooting guard put up three points, seven rebounds, and endless hustle in 18 minutes of play.
“I thought Charles Matthews was outstanding,” Cal said. “I think he moved into the rotation now. If you ask me, he changed the whole game. It’s not what he just did offensively, it’s what he did defensively and coming up with balls and being active and trying.”
Isaac was held out, but should be good to go Friday
Humphries has been battling a foot injury and although he dressed tonight, he did not play; however, Calipari said he should be good to go vs. South Florida on Friday.
“Isaac, I didn’t play him today only because of his foot. He limped around for a couple days. But I’m thinking South Florida, who won today by the way, beat Albany. I’m thinking that he has a chance, because that’s a game. They have a couple guys that I think he could guard that he can play with.”
Meanwhile, Dominique Hawkins got some minutes at the end when Jamal Murray got into foul trouble and appears to be getting back to full strength.
We teach ’em young in the Bluegrass
I think that was a… pic.twitter.com/yJaJce4sl5
– Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) November 25, 2015
Ten years old and he’s already better at spotting walks than Karl Hess.
How did Boston’s coach compare this team to last year’s?
Boston’s strong first-half performance was reminiscent of last year’s game against Kentucky, when the Terriers were within five at halftime. Head coach Joe Jones was asked to compare last year’s team and this year’s team, and his response sounded pretty familiar.
“They’re both remarkable teams,” Jones said. “They’re both really talented teams. Obviously, last year had more depth than this year’s team. I thought the girth and size of last year’s team was unbelievable. This year’s team, the guards may be a little more skilled — Briscoe, Ulis, Murray — than the guys that played the bulk of the minutes last year. But both teams are very talented, both teams are very long, both teams execute at a pretty nice level, both teams play as a group. I just thought last year’s group had a little more depth up to this point in the season.”
Depth or this trio of guards? Never thought I’d say it, but I’m taking the latter.
Josh Hutcherson was in the house
Star of the Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson is in Rupp tonight. pic.twitter.com/94eor3aPa7
— Big Blue Express (@bigbluexpress) November 25, 2015
On a night with so many Hutchersons, was it a coincidence that a certain Hutcherson was in the house? For those of you who actually get that inside joke, I think not. Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson was courtside at Rupp tonight, his second appearance at Rupp. Although I’m happy he supports the Cincinnati Reds, I suggest he get a blue hat next time.