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Upperclassmen carry Kentucky to win over Louisville

Frank Victores | USA Today

Frank Victores | USA Today

Frank Victores | USA Today

One minute it felt like Kentucky would run Louisville out of the arena. Then, before you knew it, it was a one-point game and Big Blue Nation was sweating bullets, dreading the absolute worst. That was the story throughout the day in Lexington, and luckily, the Cats held on to get the 75-73 win.

In a surprising plot twist, Kentucky was led by its five upperclassmen — yes, ALL FIVE upperclassmen —  as the Cats were carried by Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. It may be the first time a Calipari-coached team relied on its veterans to win a big game, with very little help from its freshman NBA prospects.

The win did not come easy, however, and Louisville had a look to win it in the end. After an inexcusable shot clock violation (DID WISCONSIN NOT TEACH US ANYTHING???) on Kentucky’s final possession, Louisville had the ball down two with 12 seconds to go. Damion Lee tried a step-back three over Alex Poythress that missed its mark as a collective sigh of relief came across Big Blue Nation.

Now, we celebrate.

But first, some talking points…


Tyler Ulis did it to Louisville again.

I don’t know what’s going on between Tyler Ulis and the Louisville Cardinals but there must be some bad blood there. He was outstanding in this game for a second consecutive season, tying his career-high with 21 points and hitting four three-pointers, one from somewhere outside Bardstown:

The Point God was named MVP of the game by the Bluegrass Sports Commission and he deserved it.

What a game from No. 3.

Big Shot Dom.

How ’bout the kid from Richmond? Have a day, Dominique.

With Isaiah Briscoe sidelined with an injury (more on that in a moment) Dominique Hawkins saw additional minutes; and not only did he make the most them, he earned even more.

Hawkins played 26 unexpected minutes in today’s win, scoring a career-high 13 points and hitting a career-high three treys. One of those treys was arguably the biggest shot of the game: a dagger to stretch Kentucky’s lead to five with the shot clock winding down and three minutes to go in the ball game. He caught it on the wing and let it fly, without thinking twice, to put Kentucky up five and send a roar throughout Rupp Arena.

Moments later, Hawkins hit the two biggest free throws of the game to again extend Kentucky’s lead to five. The unlikely hero accounted for the final five points for Kentucky in the win.

Afterward, John Calipari said, “He never changed his emotion the whole time. He defended, he’ll fight like crazy, he’s got a great temperament, a great demeanor. One of the great kids of all time. I mean literally one of the great kids.”

Hawkins said, “Every shot I threw up I thought it was going in.”

Alex Poythress was a savage.

Alex Poythress was a man amongst boys through much of the game. What he did to Louisville was borderline abusive. That poor kid who tried to dunk him… Come on, Alex! Don’t do him like that! He has a family!

That was the best version of Alex Poythress that I believe we’ve seen and he was loving every minute of it. Which makes it frustrating that he doesn’t do it all the time, because we know it’s in there. Glad he picked today to bring it out.

14 big points and six boards for him, while working the middle of that zone.

Jamal Murray was a headache. A headache that made some big time three-pointers.

If Jamal Murray’s goal was to dribble all of the air out of the basketball, he accomplished that goal and more. Murray was SO FRUSTRATING to watch with the basketball as he tried to do way too much one-on-one and committed far too many turnovers. Hell, Archie Goodwin thought Murray was playing out of control.

And right when we thought we had seen enough of him for the day, he knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to climb his way right back into our hearts.

Those three-pointers, though extremely clutch, did not make up for the seven turnovers, however. If not for the couple of big shots, his performance was complete garbage. He finished with 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field and an endless amount of bad decisions.

He has to calm down.

Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress are the frontcourt. Sorry, Skal.

Once again, Skal Labissiere was a non-factor. He missed a couple of bunnies and got stripped on the offensive end, while not offering anything defensively or on the glass. It was the first game of the season he did not start and that decision proved to be the correct one.

Marcus Lee, on the other hand, was the energy guy Kentucky needed him to be. He had eight points and seven rebounds and did just about everything Calipari could’ve asked from him.

It’s time to move on with Lee and Poythress inside and Skal doing what he can off the pine. He just doesn’t have it at this point in his career.

Isaiah Briscoe was a last-minute DNP.

Kentucky fans received quite a scare when Isaiah Briscoe rolled his ankle in pregame warmups, forcing him to sit out for the day. The injury did not appear to be severe, but it was enough to keep him on the bench and out of the rotation.

At the time, Big Blue Nation, myself included, had a small panic attack. Kentucky needed Briscoe to be big in this game, so we thought, and losing him could’ve been disastrous.

Yet Kentucky still won.

Did Calipari’s technical win the game?

It sparked the 14-6 run to close the half, a run that changed the course of the game.

Best technical ever?

Damion Lee is a hell of a ball player.

Louisville’s star player went for 27 points and had a look at the game-winner in the final seconds. Luckily it did not fall, but hats off to Lee for a great game. Let’s be glad he’s only at Louisville for one season and we don’t have to see him again. He’s tough.

Shout-out to the fans in Rupp Arena.

I can’t remember an environment like that in a long, long time. It was lit–as the kids say–and a major factor in the outcome of today’s game.

Rupp often gets criticized for being too friendly of an environment, but that certainly wasn’t the case in this one.

Way to go, BBN.

Article written by Drew Franklin

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

53 Comments for Upperclassmen carry Kentucky to win over Louisville

  1. EdC
    4:28 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    And don’t forget that Ulis had more blocked shots than Skal.

    • syrin23
      5:18 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      He also had way more minutes in which to get those blocks.

    • blueballs80
      5:32 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Doesn’t matter Skal wouldn’t have done much in all those minutes, which is why he is on the bench and Cal has to play Ulis more.

    • EdC
      8:07 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      LOL you are seriously using minutes to excuse why a 7 footer can’t get ANY blocks in 10 minutes and a 5’8″ can?

  2. Rajonrondo9
    4:39 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Ulis is the best, but quit calling him point god, please.

    • BCO
      8:58 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Why? He is the point god!

  3. UK Big Board Update
    4:44 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Boy, I bet Louisville fans REALLY hate Tyler Ulis.

    • cats paw
      7:47 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      you may wish to work on that vocabulary a bit. there are other words other than Louisville. stop being so obsessed with them! p.s.–i own you!

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:14 am December 28, 2015 Permalink

      Yep, like sucks, which Louisville does….

      Sorry for your loss. #L1C8

  4. The Rest of the story
    5:04 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Lets all now agree that when Skal in on the court the team seems to just lose all the fire. He is so weak, and frail that he cannot contribute anything to the team. He lost the ball every time he had it it seems. Good kid no doubt but his lack of high school competition hurt him big and college ball is way to big for him.
    Ulis is a 5’9 giant and the Cats do not win without Hawkins play. Great game for the UK experienced guys. Murray was a total flop for 35 mins. of the game and gee turnover after turnover. The back to back 3’s helped but I am sure UL felt they didn’t need to guard him since he was so ineffective.

    • syrin23
      5:13 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Projected to go 5th in the NBA draft, and isn’t even the first guy off the bench at UK at this point. Shot an air ball hook shot from 4 feet away. Loads of potential but is for sure a 2-3 year project at least.

    • UK Big Board Update
      5:14 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Hey, I thought you said Louisville was gonna beat us down..???

    • syrin23
      5:17 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      In Murray’s defense, he got shoved a TON while driving the lane, and they almost never called the foul. Then on the other end, they threw an elbow to his throat and called him for the foul. He did pull a few Harrison twins moments out there, but not nearly to the same degree.

  5. syrin23
    5:11 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    And Cal yet again solidified the fact that he is the worst coach in America in the last 5 minutes of a close game. He learned NOTHING from his Wisconsin disaster. His philosophy is we play 35 minutes of offense, and 40 minutes of defense, and hope we win. Recipe for many close losses. Watch the NBA. if there is a quality shot available, they take it, and they NEVER shut down their offense. NEVER. You cannot win by deciding you’re done scoring for the day with 5 minutes to go.

    • Long Dong Silver
      5:13 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      This is true. It almost cost us against Lansas in the 2012 final.

    • syrin23
      5:16 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Exactly, and the players said after the game that they begged him to let them step on the gas, and he wouldn’t let them.

    • jim tom
      5:18 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink


    • UK Big Board Update
      5:23 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Yup. Cal’s got to go….

    • Bertway
      6:10 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      I agree. Cal should be coaching at Transy, not UK. Syrin, can you please post the quotes from the numerous players stating that they had begged Cal to let them step on the gas please? I have a feeling those quotes are nowhere to be found.

    • Long Dong Silver
      6:17 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Drew, why are you moderating my comments?

    • UK Big Board Update
      6:24 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink


    • Long Dong Silver
      6:53 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Come on Drew. Let my comments through. There was nothing in them that couldn’t be posted.

    • [email protected]
      9:41 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Hate to say it but have to agree… Cal insists on taking the air out of the ball if he has a lead under 5 minutes; no matter the size of the lead or import of the game. Great recruiter (probably best ever; top 3 for sure), not a very good game coach… Not great at player development either but that may have more to do with only having them around a year.

  6. Long Dong Silver
    5:12 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Skal is a very nice guy. I hope the switch finally flips. But we can’t play him until out does. He kills our flow. Going to have to go smaller and play the guys who can contribute.

    • Leuther
      3:02 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

      Nice guys finish last…

    • UK Big Board Update
      7:31 pm December 27, 2015 Permalink

      MKG, Brandon Knight, among others, completely disagree…

  7. syrin23
    5:15 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    By the way, who thinks we win this game if Briscoe got to play? Horrible shooter, good ball handler, good rebounder, but would he have given us three threes and 13 points? I have my doubts. So why doesn’t Hawkins get more playing time?

    • 2thepoint
      5:55 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Well, maybe Briscoe gets to drive the ball instead of Murray and gets to the basket either making the shot or gets a foul called on UL whether he makes the free throw or not. Dom played big and I am glad he had a great game, but with Briscoe he gets Matthews minutes and Willis’s minutes and Dom still gets to play. Also would probably had some UL ruffians getting a taste of Briscoe medicine.

      As for Skal, he will get there, but he will get there sooner if he will learn to fight for position instead of just moving behind the other player for a rebound. I thought he tried hard today in his limited time even though the stat line looks bad. If that put back dunk had found the basket the roof would have come off and flip-tino would probably have called his timeout!

    • Mc12
      6:23 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Wonder how many points D. Lee scores with Briscoe guarding him?

  8. yarg
    5:44 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Loved Hawkins’ confidence. Murray is probably the most skilled player on the team, but he makes me nervous with the ball. Keeps getting swarmed in the middle and turning it over.

    • Bluecreeker
      11:50 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

      Murray played a horrible game. Check out the box scores. I agree he hit a couple of well timed 3’s…but he cost us double digit possessions with his boneheaded dribbling display and horrid shot selection. Everybody knew going in UofLoser was going to key on Murray defensively, therefore he should have been looking to create for his teammates instead of dribbling around like a Globetrotter reject..

    • Bluecreeker
      11:52 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

      Murray played a horrible game. Check out the box scores. I agree he hit a couple of well timed 3’s…but he cost us double digit possessions with his boneheaded dribbling display and horrid shot selection. Everybody knew going in UofLoser was going to key on Murray defensively, therefore he should have been looking to create for his teammates instead of dribbling around like a Globetrotter reject.

  9. coachcr
    6:30 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Great game for all of us UK fans! Nice to see Hawkins and Willis stepping up – especially with Brisco out with the injury. Poythress had a monster game. I don’t know why we went away from him late, because he was unguardable. Ulis was the key as usual – he played with such control and vision on the court – hit some crazy stretch threes. He is best point guard in college basketball right now. Murray was a little out of control most of the game – tried to do a little too much off the dribble and not gonna get the bump call in a game like this. He has tremendous upside, very skilled player. Skal still too timid, weak – needs a lot of work, but still has time to improve.

    Again, great game – go Cats!

  10. mobile2
    6:52 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Cal raises a good question: how does he not start Dom? He can defend, hit the occasional 3 and actually make free throws.

    Now we all know that Briscoe ain’t losing his starting spot but it’s nice to see that there are other options if he isn’t bringing it.

    As for Skal…yeeeeaaahhh, if you could just stay on the bench that’d be great. Ok? Thanks. That kid and his handlers boondoggled the whole recruiting system because he is worthless on the court. There is nothing he does well that I can see.

  11. StevieGotLoose
    7:04 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    I prediced a 14 point UL victory after the Ohio State loss. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Glad to see Skal on the bench, he is not ready for prime time. Long way to go, need more consistency and better decisions from some, but a big win.

    • UK Big Board Update
      7:23 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      All out of crow…….

    • cats paw
      7:51 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      show us where you predicted the game right mr BigBoard???? you’re the king of copy/paste. show us how you knew we would handle the cards…thats right, you’re just a troll that hides under the bridge waiting to jump out and act like you know something about sports! lmao

    • cats paw
      7:53 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      while your at it…copy/paste my last post of playing poythress more and ditching the 3 guard line up. p.s.- i own you boy!

    • Long Dong Silver
      11:44 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      Dammit Big Board the guy had the stones to say he was wrong. More than you would ever do. You really are a worthless troll. And a coward. You’re not worth a bullet.

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:44 pm December 27, 2015 Permalink

      You all seem to be enjoying the win – especially you, cats paw. 😉

    • UK Big Board Update
      3:29 pm December 27, 2015 Permalink

      cats paw November 17, 2015 at 11:04 pm | Permalink
      Like It (0)
      but ill help you all out here for future knowledge. if Duke plays us again, pick Duke! they will not miss that many 3’s again. Hate all u wish but i can fill this thread full of my predictions that are generally 100% on! and thats why i get under your skin so much!!

  12. jaws2
    8:01 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Glad we won. Cal damn near blew another game. Why have Tyler in bounds the ball when he is your BEST free throw shooter? Why pull the ball and stop running the offense when you’re up with 5:30 left in the game? Just like the WI game, but we stole this one. We are AWFUL at holding the ball until the last 3 seconds. We only got lucky with it today. I’m sick of Leach never questioning that.

  13. Mad Max
    8:16 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Who was the Y today?

    • EdC
      8:39 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

      That woman that wrote the UL scandal book. Handstand.

    • whack0001
      2:02 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

      Haha now that’s comedy. Thank you for that

    • Leuther
      3:07 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

      I was Nazr Mohammed…

    • UK Big Board Update
      3:15 pm December 27, 2015 Permalink

      You were?

  14. [email protected]
    9:46 pm December 26, 2015 Permalink

    Nice to get the win today but, after watching this team the past few weeks once question comes to mind, Is Duke really that bad??

    Because we are REALLY not very good…

  15. Shredder
    12:53 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

    It’s hard to make some people happy. Whether by 2 or 20 points, enjoy the win over a rival. It’s still December. Plenty of time to get better. Nothing you do or say will make this team better or worse. Just sit back and try to enjoy the season.

  16. schnauzerface
    1:46 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

    I started reading this article and got to laughing and thought , I gotta go back and see if Drew wrote this. Of course he did or it wouldn’t be entertaining on this page, unless maybe Tyler wrote it. But in the big scheme of things, we suck, we beat a lower quality opponent (probably because they’re more interested in hookers) and im happy to walk away with a win, skal is a pansy, and the Archie Goodwin reference was classic and hilarious! Pay attention Big head! You stank today!

  17. wildcat502
    10:01 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

    I like the way some Louisville fans are saying yesterday`s game was our Super Bowl. I read message boards for entertainment. Either this poster is very young or forgetful. Louisville is the side that went through the Kentucky state legislature to get this series played, they were the ones complaining because we didnt play and oh yea, we are number 1 in college basketball victories of all time.
    No one is our Super Bowl, we only charge the floor after winning National Titles, not after a regular season win. We are UK , not them.

  18. Bluecreeker
    11:44 am December 27, 2015 Permalink

    I have said it a brazillion times; “I will take experience over talent an time” that is if I can only have that talent for one season.

    2 things happened yesterday that changed the course of this game.

    1. Briscoe did not play
    2. Murray did not play (well okay…but really, he did not play)

    Which allowed very experienced, talented and deserving players to get more PT. Therein lies the secret sauce to this UK basketball team IMO. Poythress having a good day didn’t hurt.