It took a week, but Kentucky finally got the big test it needed from the Big Blue Bahamas tour, finally putting away a fiesty Champagne Chalons-Reims team 77-72. Here are my headlines from the game, and the icy celebration afterwards:
When the going got tough, Slice shook up the lineup
Late in the game, a whole new lineup took the floor: Tyler Ulis, the Harrison Twins, Dakari Johnson, and Marcus Lee. It’s the first time we’ve seen the Cats stray from the platoon rotation we’ve gotten so accustomed to on this trip, and Slice said that he made the decision so he wouldn’t “get voted off the island.”
“The reason to make the decision — speaking to somebody in here before the game, I actually didn’t want to get voted off the island tonight, you know? We thought maybe we’ll just go with some experience, some guys that have been in situations like that before.”
It’s the first time we’ve seen Tyler Ulis play alongside the Harrison Twins, and I must say, it looked pretty awesome. Ulis had the play of the game at the end, when he pestered Lionel Chalmers into a turnover and took it down the court for an easy layup. The basket brought the team and the fans to their feet in a roar that made the bleachers shake. Slice said that play was a perfect example of what Ulis brings to the team:
“His (impact) was the next-to-last possession that they had. That’s what he does. He wears you down. He’s got quick feet and a big heart, Tyler Ulis. He’s going up against somebody that has a lot more games under his belt, but Tyler has a big heart and he made a big play. He stayed yard for yard, foot for foot, inch for inch, and disrupted their offense and turned it into a turnover for them and an easy basket for him and the score that we needed at the end.”
The French team was a totally different French team
Slice joked that even though the roster was the same, the French team looked like a totally different team than the one the Cats cruised by on Monday. Playing with a chip on their shoulder, the French did not surrender, led by former Syracuse big man Darryl Watkins, who had 20 points. Watkins and his fellow grown men gave the Cats all they could handle, and even in the final minute, there was some worry they’d pull off the upset. Slice called it the test this team needed after four relatively easy wins. “We actually needed a test. This was good for us,” Slice said. “We’re learning a lot about our team. And maybe as important, they’re learning a lot about themselves. This was a game that we needed.”
Someone close to the program told me that the French team has been practicing non-stop since Monday’s loss, which was one of their first times playing together as a group. It showed, and had I not seen one of the assistant coaches shaking what his mama gave him on the dance floor Thursday night, I would have thought they’d slept in the gym all week. Hats off to them.
Da’Sean Butler pissed off Kentucky fans again
Da’Sean Butler has been doing his best to get on the Big Blue Nation’s good side this week, even getting on his knees to apologize to UK fans for beating John Wall’s squad back in the 2010 Elite Eight. Well, he got back on our bad side a little bit today. I’m not sure if this came across on TV, but after a particularly hard foul, Da’Sean Butler took his aggression out on the “Big Blue Bahamas” banner, knocking one side of it down. This earned him plenty of boos from the fans, who were calling for the ref to throw him out of the game. Don’t mess with our banners, Da’Sean.
Karl Towns finally hit that three
Karl Towns’ three drought finally ended in the second half when he hit one from behind the arc. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Willie Cauley-Stein has his own logo now
After the game, we got to interview Trey Lyles and Willie Cauley-Stein, who was wearing a t-shirt with a “WCS” logo on it. When I asked him about it, Willie said it was a “prototype” designed by one of his friends. I’ve seen it before on his Twitter profile, and I’m a fan.
The mystery of Trey Lyles’ leg injury continues
Jerry Tipton seized the chance to ask Trey Lyles about his leg injury, and unfortunately, we didn’t really get any more details. Here’s the transcript of what was said.
What’s keeping him sidelined: “I had an injury a couple months ago and just working my way back from it.”
What’s the actual injury: “It was just my leg.”
When will he be cleared: “I’m probably two weeks behind Willie. I have one more CT scan I gotta go get, too.”
The mystery continues.
Watching the team do the Ice Bucket Challenge was awesome
KSR heard that John Calipari and the team were going to accept Eric Bledsoe’s ice bucket challenge on the beach after the game, and we hurried back to be able to see it. We arrived just in time, and the pictures and videos were priceless. After taking their ice bath, the team hilariously split into two, half of them running up the beach towards the pool and half of them running into the ocean.