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Tyler Ulis leads Kentucky to big win over Vanderbilt

Mark Zerof | USA Today


Mark Zerof | USA Today

No. 23 Kentucky moved to 15-4 and 5-2 in the conference today with a very convincing win over a good Vanderbilt team. The Cats cruised past the Commodores to a 76-57 finish in a game many predicted would be close throughout.

That was not the case, however, thanks to yet another outstanding performance by Tyler Ulis and many members of his supporting cast. It was an all-around good game for Kentucky and one it really needed with a road trip to Kansas only a week away.

But before we look forward to Wednesday’s game at Mizzou and that trip to Lawrence, let’s chat a little bit about what we saw today in a surprisingly packed Rupp Arena.


‘Nother 20-point game for Tyler Ulis.

Ulis scored a game-high 21 points in the win for his sixth 20-point performance in the last eight games, dating back to his Card-killing afternoon against Louisville in late December. He is averaging 19 points, seven assists and under two turnovers per game in that stretch, while shooting almost 50 percent from the field.

There’s no doubt Ulis is the best point guard in the country right now, regardless of what Dan Dakich says, and we’re damn sure glad to have him in Lexington. He is just an unbelievable basketball player with a basketball IQ unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time. Calipari realizes that more than anyone; he said he consults Ulis like he would an assistant coach. Ulis is such a special, special point guard.

Point God!

Jamal Murray added 18 of his own.

Murray hit seven of his 13 shot attempts for 18 points in a very efficient game offensively, which isn’t always the case with his game. Afterward, Coach Cal said Murray played winning basketball and made winning plays, something the coaching staff really stressed throughout the week.

These two were pretty nice:

Derek Willis led the team in rebounding. Again.

Willis was Kentucky’s star on the glass for a third consecutive game, hauling in nine rebounds to lead the Cats in that category. He couldn’t get his shot to fall, but the way he defended and rebounded will earn him even more playing time and, possibly, a permanent spot in the starting rotation.

Calipari told him the missed shots are okay as long as he continues to do well in the other, more important aspects of the game, as he did today. He has really stepped up to the challenge since Cal blasted him for his poor defense in the week leading up to Auburn.

Vanderbilt’s bigs could not stop Alex Poythress.

Poythress scored 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field in one of his better offensive games of the season. He fought for buckets inside and even knocked down a midrange jumper to force Vandy’s bigs to respect his shot.

With Poythress providing a scoring threat down low, it really made things easier on Murray and Ulis. One of Kentucky’s major problems this season has been being too reliant on guard play when there is no help in the frontcourt. Today we saw how good they can be with a legitimate weapon inside.

Skal Labissiere was a non-factor.

Two days after reaching double-figure scoring at Arkansas, his first time in double digits in a month and a half, Skal Labissiere reverted back to his former self. Labissiere did not have single point or a single rebound in only four minutes.

Calipari explained Labissiere’s limited action, saying, “I just didn’t think this was the right game for him because of how these guys play. They’re older inside. They’re bigger, they shoot threes… but he’s fine.”

Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field.

That’s the best in SEC play. UK is 9-0 on the season when shooting at least 50 percent.

“Anybody that thinks this team is not getting better, you’re not watching.”

The full quote from Calipari:

Anybody that thinks this team is not getting better, you’re not watching. Dickie V came in and talked to me, said you know this is one of your teams that’s not getting better. I said, so you’re not watching college basketball that much. Like, what are you talking about?

Well, the Duke game. The Duke game, they spread the court out. It was a different game. You got a lot of people packing and I’m trying to figure out when they do certain things how do we play. This team is getting better. Derek Willis is better. Tyler better. Jamal’s better. Isaiah’s better. They’re all better. Skal is better. Alex is better. Marcus Lee’s got to get back to where he was, but he’s now starting to get better.

The win was Calipari’s 100th in the Southeastern Conference.

Cal is the second-fastest coach to reach 100 wins in the league at 125 games. Only Adolph Rupp did it faster, reaching the 100-win plateau in only 119 games.


Go Cats.

Article written by Drew Franklin

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

17 Comments for Tyler Ulis leads Kentucky to big win over Vanderbilt

  1. randall johnson
    8:12 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    What’s funny is that Tyler was afraid of vandy.

    • Kevin C
      9:29 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

      Tyler himself is NEVER afraid ; he just knows this was the type of team that could bury them (with 3s), if guys didn’t step up. The last 2 games have hopefully given Tyler more faith in his teammates, as he’s been, for good reason, very frustrated by the “no-shows” this season.

  2. bstains
    8:44 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    Being a Mt. Washington boy myself I couldn’t be happier for Derek, I always thought that with playing time he could become a important part of this team. Tyler might be the best player in the country, hard to believe he is only ranked as the 11th best point guard on draft boards.

  3. The Rest of the story
    9:03 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    This may have been the most complete game UIK has played this year. Willis did not shoot well but his defense and rebounding were instrumental of a team and player on the rise. Ulis at times looks like he can go anywhere he wants with the ball in his hands. If Alex can somehow put together complete games like today and stay out of foul trouble, the Cats are dangerous to beat anyone. Consistency will determine how far this team can go.

  4. BTownUKFan
    9:47 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    Great game by the Cats. Another game where the referees tried to keep the other team in it. Please explain to me how the visiting team shoots 25 free throws and we only shoot 6. Sometimes I think there are different rules for when we are playing defense.
    Anyway, I love the way the offense is coming together, if the bigs can score enough to give the guards some room to operate we will be fine.
    GO CATS !!

    • Rixter
      10:02 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

      Well, that’s obviously because Vandy is a ‘pound it inside’ team, and the Cats live and die by the 3. (rolling eyes)

    • BTownUKFan
      11:32 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

      I thought maybe it was because their big guys were wearing skirts…just sayin’.

  5. jsh2001
    9:54 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    After the Auburn game I thought that might finally be the low point that lights a fire under this team, hoping the last two games are evidence of that and we don’t see them backtrack again.

  6. Rixter
    10:00 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    Down on Skal, Drew? maybe the worst 4 minutes of basketball you’ve ever seen?

    I’ve got news for you – everybody not named Tyler Ulis or Alex Poythress scored a doughnut their first 4 minutes today.

  7. 2thepoint
    10:45 pm January 23, 2016 Permalink

    Derek never played defence until now is why he didn’t get a chance to play. I am very happy for him.

    • cats paw
      8:04 am January 24, 2016 Permalink

      lmao. so he suddenly became athletic enough to play defense? maybe he just suddenly got a chance to play more than two minutes a game? once he actually gets to play, he becomes a nearly double-double player that fans say “has turned the corner”! funny how that works.

    • UK Big Board Update
      5:44 pm January 24, 2016 Permalink

      You’re a dumbass, cats paw. End of story.

      You wish you had him at Louisville.

    5:41 am January 24, 2016 Permalink

    I (along with others) have said it since the UCLA game – when our bigs “no show” any team in the country can beat us. When we get effort from the boys down low we can beat any team in the country. The key is consistency. The next game will be a true turning point. Two games of excellent play by our bigs is just a coincidence…. A third game will show if this type of play has become a habit. Being a Bullitt County boy, I am super proud of Derek!

  9. randall johnson
    6:36 am January 24, 2016 Permalink

    I meant mrs Tyler Thompson, not ulis. my bad.

  10. KevinM
    8:44 am January 24, 2016 Permalink

    Willis in the starting lineup has made a huge difference, even if Vitale and his one eye can’t see it.

    Let’s go Rock Chalk on some Jayhawks now.

    • The Rest of the story
      11:08 am January 24, 2016 Permalink

      Uhhh we got Missouri to deal with first and that SEC win is really more important than a Kansas win. Gotta keep things in perspective here. The Kansas game will only be a measuring stick on where this team is and can be, not a key to where this UK team will be seeded.

    • MalikFreakinMonk
      12:42 pm January 24, 2016 Permalink

      Derek Willis plays harder than anyone on the court. He deserves the minutes. Play the three guards with Poythress and Willis. Lee and Matthews first off the bench. Sorry Skal.