KENTUCKY POSTGAME NOTES – No. 1/1 Kentucky at South Carolina – Colonial Life Arena – Jan. 24, 2015 – Attendance: 18,000 – FINAL SCORE: No. 1/1 Kentucky 58, South Carolina 43
Team Records and Series Notes
Kentucky is 19-0, 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina is 10-8, 1-5 in the SEC.
UK leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 48-11, including a 19-7 mark in games played in Columbia.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has a 10-2 all-time record vs. South Carolina.
Calipari has a 616-177 overall record and a 171-37 mark at Kentucky.
UK has a 193-27 all-time record as the nation’s No. 1 team, winning 37 of the last 39 games as the AP’s top-ranked team.
Calipari has an 81-9 all-time record as the No. 1 team in the nation, including a 40-4 mark at Kentucky.
Kentucky will return to action on Thursday, traveling to Missouri for a 9 p.m. ET tip-off, with the game televised live on ESPN. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt voicing the action.
With a 19-0 start, UK has tied the 2009-10 team for the third-best start in UK history.
UK’s 19-0 start is the best under coach John Calipari.
With 2,159 wins, Kentucky is the all-time wins leader in college basketball.
UK has a league-best 929-262 all-time mark in SEC play.
After Devin Booker’s 3-pointer to give UK a 9-8 lead early in the first half, Kentucky extended its streak of games with a 3-pointer to 919 consecutive, the second-longest streak in the nation.
UK improved to 14-0 when holding a halftime lead.
The nation’s leader in blocks and blocks per game, Kentucky swatted nine shots and have had at least three blocked shots in each game this season.
Kentucky is now 52-0 under Calipari when holding its opponent under 55 points, including 14 wins in 2014-15.
Kentucky held South Carolina to 23-percent shooting from the field and have held 10 opponents under 30 percent shooting on the year.
UK had more blocks and steals (17) than South Carolina had field goals (12).
It marked the eighth time in 2014-15 UK has had more blocks and steals than the opponent had field goals and the first time since a win over UCLA.
South Carolina had just five assists, marking the 15th time this season UK has held its opponent to under 10 assists.
Kentucky has held its opponent to under 55 points in 14 of 19 games, the most in school history in the shot-clock era (since 1985-86).
UK held South Carolina to just four field goals in the second half.
The Wildcats held the Gamecocks without a field goal from the 4:31 mark in the first half to the 15:12 mark in the second half.
UK also held South Carolina to a 6:16 field-goal drought that ended with a SC 3-pointer with 6:07 left in the game.
Freshman guard Devin Booker charted a game-high 18 points, his fifth game with at least 18 points.
Booker is 22 for 33 over his last nine games from 3-point range.
Booker has led UK in scoring a team-best seven times.
Sophomore guard Aaron Harrison totaled 13 points, adding four rebounds and a season-high tying three steals.
Aaron Harrison has made 24 3-pointers over his last nine games and has had a 3-pointer in 11 consecutive games.
Junior forward Wille Cauley-Stein played in his team-leading 85th career game.
A member of the Midseason Wooden Award watch list, Cauley-Stein had two steals to become the first player in Kentucky history with 200 or more blocks and 100 or more steals.
Freshman guard Tyler Ulis had a team-best six assists in just 20 minutes, his most assists since dishing out seven in a win over Ole Miss.
Ulis added six points, three rebounds and a steal.
Ulis has a 63-17 assist-turnover ratio in his collegiate debut.
Freshman forward Trey Lyles made his seventh start of the year.
Lyles had seven points and two rebounds, adding an assist and a steal.
Sophomore center Dakari Johnson led UK with six rebounds and has had at least three rebounds in nine consecutive games.
Sophomore forward Marcus Lee tied his career high with four blocks, in just 13 minutes.
UK was cruising at halftime and was up 35-17. That was the third straight half they held an opponent to under 20 points. As the 2nd half began, UK was a little lethargic as they let Alabama get within 9 points at 39-30. UK would then out score the Tide 29-10 for their largest lead at 68-40. Alabama would finish the game on a 8-2 run but the game was already in hand. Alabama, as well as many across the Nation thought this may be a trap game for UK and a possible loss the the undefeated Wildcats. Kentucky had other things on their mind though as they steadily pushed open their lead. UK is now 17-0.
Kentucky at Alabama, Men’s Basketball – Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala. – Jan. 17, 2015
FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 70, Alabama 48
* Kentucky is 17-0, 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama is 12-5, 2-2 in league play, and ended its 14-game home winning streak.
* Kentucky leads the series 104-37, including 29-23 in Tuscaloosa. The teams have a rematch two weeks from today,Jan. 31 in Lexington.
* Along with Virginia, Kentucky is one of two undefeated teams in NCAA Division I.
* With 17 consecutive victories to begin the season, UK is off to the fourth-best start in program history.
* Kentucky is 195-27 all-time when ranked No. 1 and has won 35 of the last 37 games as The Associated Press top-ranked team.
* Calipari has led three teams to a No. 1 ranking (Massachusetts, Memphis, Kentucky) and has a 79-9 record as the top-ranked coach, including 38-4 at UK.
* Kentucky returns to action Tuesday at home against Vanderbilt. Game time is 9 p.m. EST and it will be televised on the SEC Network.
* Kentucky made 50 percent from the field, 23 of 46, the sixth time this season the Wildcats made at least half their shots.
* UK made 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) on 3-point shots today. Over the last seven games, Kentucky has shot 44.2 percent on 3-pointers, 61 of 138.
* For the second consecutive game, Kentucky shot a season-best at the free throw line. After making 80 percent of their foul shots vs. Missouri, the Cats canned 88.9 percent today (16 of 18).
* UK has made at least 70 percent of its foul shots in five straight games.
* In a mostly halfcourt game, UK averaged 1.25 points per possession.
* Kentucky dominated bench points, 37-16.
* Second year in a row that UK held Alabama to 48 points. UK won 55-48 last season in Lexington.
* UK is 101-5 in the John Calipari Era when holding opponents to 63 or fewer points, including 13-0 this season.
* UK is 51-0 in the John Calipari Era when holding opponents to 55 or fewer points, including 13 times this season.
* No drama today in extending Kentucky’s streak of 917 consecutive games with a 3-pointer as Aaron Harrison connected a triple at the 16:24 mark of the first half.
* Kentucky’s opening lineup featured Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein.
* Kentucky big men passed the ball well early, getting all five of the team’s assists in the first 10 minutes.
* Kentucky had three big runs on the first half:
* Trailing 4-2, UK jumped ahead with a 10-0 run
* With the score 13-9, the Wildcats put together an 8-0 run for a 21-9 advantage
* At 21-14, a 10-0 spurt gave the Cats a 31-14 lead.
* UK’s largest lead of the half was 18 on two occasions — at 33-15 and the halftime score of 35-17.
* It is the 14th time this season that Kentucky held an opponent under 20 points in a half.
* Kentucky started the second half with the same lineup that opened the game.
* Switching to a man-to-man defense, Alabama scored the first seven points of the second half.
* Alabama eventually got as close as 39-30 before the Wildcats put the game away with a 16-2 run to make it 55-32.
* Kentucky’s largest lead was 28 points at 68-40 with 4:09 to play.
* Devin Booker led the Wildcats with 13 points, including three of six on 3-point shots. He has made 20 of 28 3-pointers (71.4 percent) over the last seven games.
* Tyler Ulis tallied 11 points, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers. It’s his third double-figure game of the season.
* Dakari Johnson also had 11 points, his first double-figure game since notching 11 vs. Texas on Dec. 5.
* Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns and Dakari Johnson shared game-high rebounding honors with five caroms each as the Wildcats won the rebounding, 30-21.
* Dominique Hawkins sat out the game because of a medical procedure earlier this week.
Kentucky is 16-0, 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Missouri is 7-9 overall, 1-2 in league play.
Kentucky leads the series 7-0, including 4-0 in Lexington.
Along with Virginia, Kentucky is one of two undefeated teams in NCAA Division I.
With 16 consecutive victories to begin the season, UK is off to the fourth-best start in program history, tying the 1933-34 team for that honor.
Kentucky is 194-27 all-time when ranked No. 1 and has won 34 of the last 36 games as The Associated Press top-ranked team.
Calipari has led three teams to a No. 1 ranking (Massachusetts, Memphis, Kentucky) and has a 78-9 record as the top-ranked coach, including 37-4 at UK.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday at Alabama. Tipoff is 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. CST in Tuscaloosa) and it will be televised on ESPN.
This was Kentucky’s largest margin of victory against a Southeastern Conference opponent since a 62-point margin against Vanderbilt, 106-44, on March 5, 2003.
The 37 points scored by Missouri is the fewest by an SEC opponent since a 50-36 win over Mississippi State on Jan. 31, 1987.
UK held Missouri to below 20 points in both halves. It is the second time this season UK has achieved the feat (also vs. Montana State). UK has now held an opponent to 20 or fewer points in 12 halves this season.
Missouri was limited to 27.1 percent from the field, the ninth opponent this season held under 30 percent shooting. UK entered the game leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense (31.3 percent).
Missouri was held to 5.6 percent on 3-point shots (1 of 18), the lowest percentage this season by a Kentucky opponent.
Kentucky made 8 of 18 shots from 3-point territory, 44.4 percent. Over the last six games, Kentucky has shot 43.8 percent on 3-pointers, 53 of 121.
Kentucky shot a season-best 80 percent from the foul line, hitting 24 of 30.
UK is 100-5 in the John Calipari Era when holding opponents to 63 or fewer points, including 12-0 this season.
UK is 50-0 in the John Calipari Era when holding opponents to 55 or fewer points, including 12 times this season.
Tyler Ulis’ 3-point shot with 13 minutes to go in the first half extended Kentucky’s streak of a 3-pointer in 916 consecutive games. It’s the second-longest streak in the country.
Kentucky’s opening lineup featured Dominique Hawkins, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein for the third time this season.
Leading 12-10, Kentucky took control by closing the half with a 32-8 run, going to intermission ahead 44-18.
Kentucky started the second half with Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson.
Kentucky outscored Missouri 42-19 in the second half, the 12th half of the season that UK held the opponent under 20 points.
Aaron Harrison led all scorers with 16 points. He made five 3-pointers, tying his career high set a week ago vs. Ole Miss. He has made at least two 3-pointers in six straight games.
Willie Cauley-Stein compiled 13 points, his best since tallying 15 in the win over North Carolina on Dec. 13.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 12 points and 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season (also vs. UT Arlington).
Devin Booker had a perfect shooting night. He made both field-goal attempts, including a 3-pointer, and both free throws for a total of seven points. He has made 17 of 22 3-pointers (77.3 percent) over the last six games.
Dominique Hawkins made his third start of the season, his first since the Montana State game on Nov. 23. He tallied six points, three assists and a career-high two steals.
AN INTERVIEW WITH:
COACH JOHN CALIPARI
Last week it sounded like you weren’t going to go to a 10‑man rotation, so what changed to put Dominique (Hawkins) in there?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I had planned on it, I just didn’t tell you guys. I don’t tell you guys everything.
After the last game I just said I’m going back to 10. Then the question became, would it be Derek (Willis) or Dominique (Hawkins). Dominique had played better in practice, and he deserved the opportunity and he did well today. I mean, he belonged in the game. His energy was great, he drives over the middle ‑‑ missed a couple jumpers, but he’s shooting the ball well in practice he just hadn’t been in the games enough.
I thought our defensive intensity, because of the platoons, was back to where it was. No one got hurt today. Everybody helped themselves as a player and they helped our team. The only thing that gets in the way is the ego. You should be playing more – and why aren’t you shooting more – and this is crazy – and it’s all ego. Everyone helped themselves, their deficiencies today were off the charts.
In terms of making a decision to start that 10th guy, was that to balance out that second group, get Trey Lyles offensively?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah. Because if I would have started Derek, it would have been Derek with that second group. I just didn’t want to have two smaller guys on the same team.
And, it did another thing: It let Dominique play the ball. So now you always have pressure on the point guard. Dominique or Tyler (Ulis). I don’t know if I’ll do it next game. I may not.
I was just going to ask you that, about Dom’s defense on (Keith) Shamburger. How important that was? Setting a tone early.
COACH CALIPARI: Well the one thing we said is, we wanted to take away they’re 3s. That was the whole game plan. They did it through screen the screeners, they did it through ball screens, last game they made 10 3’s.
They have been shooting 23 to 24 3’s a game the last five games. And let me say this: They got what UCLA and Kansas got. That’s what they got. That effort.
But understand, they had Illinois beat, they lost by two.
They had Oklahoma State, they lost in overtime. They had them beat. These are their last five games.
They beat LSU.
And they had Auburn down 10 and they ended up losing by a couple.
So, you can say what you want, they played a buzz saw today. I think what Kim (Anderson) has done with his team to get these guys to play the way they have to play to win. Think about it, they beat LSU and had Auburn. They should have come in here 2‑0. They had Auburn down 12.
About that effort and the buzz saw, was there oratory on your part to produce that or was it a pride thing among the guys?
COACH CALIPARI: What I said before the game is, if they give a great effort, I’m going to give them off tomorrow. Kind of like what we did for Christmas. You’re going to have three, four days off. And they went nuts.
So I said, we’re going to have ‑‑ now I took that back and I said, we are practicing tomorrow ‑‑ but I did say that prior to the game.
Karl (Anthony Towns) had a double-double, but it didn’t seem like you were totally thrilled the whole game with him. Could you talk about his play a little bit.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, what he did, I thought he fought like crazy and I thought it was the best game he’s played in weeks. Best game he’s played in weeks. And the reason is he sustained effort.
Now, he still broke down and I let him know every time he did. His breakdowns were standing straight up and down, not being in the stance, not being alert to move, getting caught in a mud wrestling match with a big because you won’t bend your legs. And then the ball comes to you and you can’t even rebound it because you’re in a mud wrestling, it hits you, you can’t get it. Its things like that that I’ve gotten on him about.
But he’s getting better. He’s a great kid. I took him out, if Marcus Lee one‑hand rebounds, he’s coming out. That moment.
If Karl (Anthony Towns) steps back to shoot a 3, he’s coming out. So he stepped back to shoot a 3, you’re out. I mean I ‑‑ that’s just ‑‑ I told him that and that’s what he did.
Would you talk about the greater production from the paint. Was there more going inside out tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: We showed tape of Texas A&M where we didn’t throw it to the post and I basically said, if you don’t throw it to the guy when he’s open, you’re coming out.
So it’s pretty simple. If he’s open, throw it to him. Well, I thought ‑‑ you’re out. You’re not playing, I’m playing somebody else. I hate to do it that way, but that’s what we did.
The other thing I did today is, we did more of a random zone offense. In other words, play off of each other.
If we have the best players in the country, we don’t have to run a whole lot of plays, we’ll run some plays, but you got to be able to play off of each other.
Now what that does is, you can’t use the offense as an excuse now. Why aren’t you competing, why aren’t you driving? Why aren’t you ready to play?
You can’t say it’s, well I thought we were running ‑‑ no, it’s random. You got to get in gaps, you got to drive the ball, you got to post the ball. You got to figure out if a guy drives where do I move to get out, who is flashing to the middle.
So I’m just trying to do some stuff to keep these guys going and I told them after the game, I don’t want them to be in March looking like it’s March.
We still offensively broke down a bunch today. And even ‑‑ there were some defensive breakdowns. But I said it’s January 15th, that’s what you should look like, a January team. Play hard and defend you can do those things and still look like a January team.
Did we all maybe under estimate the significance of (Alex) Poythress going out and how long it might take you guys to figure out how to play without him?
COACH CALIPARI: In a physical game it is devastating he’s not here. In a physical game ‑‑ and we have had some physical games. But we still have things we got to take care of. But it was nice.
We needed to have a win where we could get our swag back a little bit. Get ‑‑ but it was all based on an effort and an intensity and we never let up. We never let up through the clock and through the game.
Talk about Willie’s play. When you look at that line, what you want?
COACH CALIPARI: Willie was really, really good today. I will tell you that I still think offensively he can do more. He needs to have a wider base. He needs to create contact instead of trying to move from contact. When he makes free throws and he’s been working on it, even at the shoot around today he stayed after and shot another 25 free throws. Guys, they know what they have to do. But today, again, every player performed. No one played ‑‑ Willie played 23 minutes, only because Marcus Lee was one‑handed rebounding. Any time he one‑handed rebounded, I took him out.
So when Willie says he hits 80 out of a hundred free throws every day?
COACH CALIPARI: He’s making them. He is. But you got to do that stuff in the game, too.
Did you like the shots that Aaron was taking tonight after his 2‑13 performance from three the other night?
COACH CALIPARI: It was 4‑20. 4‑20. 2‑13 doesn’t sound good, 4‑20 sounds worse.
But, no, he was good. They listen. Look, the greatest thing is we have got great kids. They don’t play great every night out, but they want to do well, they want to listen, they want to be coached. They celebrated each other today. You have to admit, people talked about our defense and our bench. Well, what happened to our bench in the last few games? Our bench went away. So the platoon got us back to being into each other and celebrating each other.
Now we got to build on this. We got a tough game, we got to go to Alabama, I bet you they haven’t lost there yet. They’re playing well, had Wichita State down 10 with two and a half minutes to go. I mean, they’re a Top‑20 RPI team. So, it’s going to be a hard one for us.
You said you felt like you guys got your swag back tonight. Is that something that you did in practice tonight before the game or is that something that you just saw in this game?
COACH CALIPARI: No, we went in with an idea for each platoon. If you gave up more than six points, you were out. So, you weren’t going to get your full minutes.
And if you really played and you had that, you could sustain it, we would give you more minutes than the four minutes. But it was a six point first half, they didn’t get six in any of the sets ‑‑ they got six in one segment, they didn’t get more than six. So we’re trying to challenge them with different things to keep them motivated to play. And it’s really to play defense. We’re a defensive team. That’s what we are.
What was the key to slowing down Johnathan Williams and how important was it to do that?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, he is really, he’s gotten so much better. Today the length bothered him. We just made him get to his right hand. We didn’t ‑‑ we were trying really hard not to let him get to that left hand. I think that the length of our team, you think, oh, we’re all right, and then you get out there and the guards are 6‑6 and 6‑7 and Trey Lyles is 6‑10 and two seven footers and we’re long and all of a sudden your drives are not like, I got a lay up, you’re thinking, man, I may get this blocked.
Jan. 10, 2015 – Reed Arena – College Station, Texas
Team Records, Notes
Kentucky improved to 15-0 overall to start the season and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference, while Texas A&M fell to 9-5, 0-2 in the SEC.
UK leads the series 5-2.
Kentucky is 193-27 all-time when ranked No. 1 and has won 33 of the last 35 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
Coach John Calipari has led three teams to a No. 1 ranking (Massachusetts, Memphis, Kentucky) and has a 77-9 record as the top-ranked coach, including 33-4 at UK.
UK is 4-0 away from Rupp Arena this season.
Kentucky was taken to double-overtime for the first time since Jan. 12, 2008. The Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt, 79-73, in triple-overtime at Rupp Arena on that day.
Kentucky is 2-0 in overtime this season.
The Wildcats are now 56-45 in overtime games all-time.
Kentucky will return to Rupp Arena on Tuesday when it hosts Missouri. The game is set to air live on ESPN at 9 p.m.
Kentucky’s starting lineup consisted of Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony for the fifth straight game.
Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson were the first to hear their names called off the bench.
Booker hit a 3-pointer at the 14:40 mark of the first half – UK’s first field goal of the game – to extend UK’s 3-point streak to 915 consecutive games. Kentucky entered the game with the second-longest streak in the country, behind only UNLV.
UK held Texas A&M to 33.3 percent from the floor, the 13th opponent this season the Cats have limited to less than 40 percent from the floor.
Texas A&M hit 13 of its first 24 shots, but the Cats held the Aggies to 10 of 45 from the floor (22.2 percent) the rest of the game.
Over a 12:35 stretch of game time (starting at the 5:35 mark of the second half), UK limited Texas A&M to just five points and one field goal. During that defensive dominance, Kentucky turned a 28-17 deficit into a 39-33 lead.
The Wildcats swatted 10 shots, the seventh time in 15 games UK has blocked 10 or more shots in a game.
Kentucky outscored all 13 of its nonconference opponents in the paint but has been beaten inside the paint in both of its conference games. The Cats lost that battle to the Aggies on Saturday, 38-14.
UK fell behind 9-0 to start the game, missing its first seven shots. Booker got the Cats in the scoring column with a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 14:40 mark.
The first 15 of Kentucky’s 17 points were from behind the arc. The Cats started the game 5 for 10 from behind the 3-point line but just 1 for 10 from inside it. Overall, UK was 6 for 13 from behind the 3-point line but only 3 for 17 inside the arc in the first half.
Continuing his torrid streak from behind the 3-point line, Booker hit three 3-pointers in the first half. His trey at the 7:32 mark was his 15th make in his last 17 attempts.
Alex Robinson’s bank shot put UK behind 28-17, tying the largest deficit of the season. UK trailed Columbia 11-0 on Dec. 10.
Kentucky answered its largest deficit of the season with a pretty strong resolve. Led by Towns, the Cats reeled off eight straight points. Towns had five points during the run.
UK held Texas A&M without a point for the final 5:35 of the first half.
Booker scored nine points in the first half, including three 3-pointers. Towns added five points and five rebounds.
Kentucky hit six 3-pointers in the first half, matching a season best in one half.
UK trailed 28-25 at the break. The Wildcats improved to 4-0 when trailing at halftime this season.
UK took its first lead of the game, 29-28, when Aaron Harrison made a pair of free throws at the 19:02 mark.
Kentucky pulled ahead 39-33 with 12:15 remaining after a 14-5 start to the second half, but Texas A&M scored six straight points to tied it at 39-39 with 10:43 left.
Tied 39-39, UK went on an 8-2 run. The Cats never trailed the rest of the second half.
Kentucky got to the bonus with 10:12 to go in the second half (double bonus at 9:23), which proved to be big in the victory. The Cats hit 16 of 20 free throws after halftime to eventually pull away.
Making a basket wasn’t easy in the second half. Texas A&M was 28.6 percent from the field, while UK shot 20.8 percent.
After losing the rebounding battle in the first half, the Cats outrebounded the Aggies 23-22 after halftime
Kentucky took the first lead of overtime on a Booker and-1, but the 84-percent free-throw shooter missed the free throw.
Texas A&M took a 55-54 lead on a Tavario Miller free throw with with 2:51 remaining.
The Aggie’s lead was their first since the 16:11 mark in the second half.
Tyler Ulis’ first points of the game came when he nailed a 3-pointer 1:26 remaining in the second overtime.
The 3-pointer gave UK a 66-63 lead, which it would never relinquish.
Devin Booker continued to torch the nets from long range, hitting four 3-pointers Saturday afternoon, raising his recent hot streak from behind the arc to 16 of 21 over the last five games.
Booker has led UK in scoring five times this season, which is the most on the team. He has led UK in scoring in three of the last six games.
Aaron Harrison had a tough day shooting, but he came up with a game-high three steals and finished with 12 points.
Dakari Johnson tied for the team high with nine rebounds.
He finished with eight points, and the 57-percent free-throw shooter nailed two from the stripe with 14 seconds to play in the second OT to help seal the win.
Six of his eight points came in overtime.
Karl Anthony-Towns finished with nine points and nine rebounds, coming up just shy of what would have been his second career double-double.
Towns tied Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles with a game-high three blocked shots.
Towns fouled out with 2:41 remaining in the first overtime.
First such honor of the season for a Kentucky player – St.Louis – Freshman Tyler Ulis has been named the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Week following his breakout performance at No. 4 Louisville on Saturday.
Ulis was selected by CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander, in partnership with the USBWA.
Ulis, a 5-foot-9 guard from Lima, Ohio, came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points in 26 minutes in top-ranked Kentucky’s 58-50 win over rival and 4th-ranked Louisville on Saturday. On the season, Ulis is averaging 5.8 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 rebounds.
Norlander’s popular weekly freshman watch column will continue to feature nation’s the top freshmen each week in addition to the national player of the week. Later in the season, the USBWA will release a midseason watch list before naming finalists for the award. This season marks the first time a weekly national freshman of the week will be selected and, each Tuesday through Feb. 24, a standout first-year player will be chosen for the honor.
In addition to the USBWA honor, Ulis was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week and the Bluegrass Sports Commission Most Valuable Player for his efforts against Louisville.
Ulis is the first Wildcat to earn a weekly award from the USBWA this season, and the first since James Young claimed the Freshman of the Week honor on Dec. 31, 2013 following a double-double in last season’s regular season win over Louisville.
Kentucky will return to the floor on Jan. 6, 2015 to begin SEC play. UK hosts Ole Miss at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
The freshmen stole the show as the Wildcats defeated Louisville 58-50 in the Yum Center. This young group of Cats, playing in their first road game of the season, rose to the occasion, scoring 39 of the Wildcats’ 58 points. The smallest stood the tallest on this day, as the 5-foot-9 point guard Tyler Ulis played a sensational game. “That’s the best I’ve seen him play since I’ve coached him,” said UK coach John Calipari after the game. Despite repeatedly going out of the game to stop bleeding that came from a blow to the head, Ulis scored a game high 14 points and committed 0 turnovers in his 26 minutes of play. Twelve of Ulis’ points came in the second half as he continually made big play after big play including two huge three-point shots that kept the Cardinals from putting together a serious run.
While Ulis was stealing the show, he wasn’t the only freshman who shined on this day. Karl-Anthony Towns contributed 10 points and 9 rebounds, battling the Louisville big men all day long. Shooting guard Devin Booker was steady as he, like Ulis, did not commit a turnover against the Louisville defensive pressure. Booker contributed 9 points, while freshman forward Trey Lyles logged a game high 30 minutes, scoring 6 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. Lyles played well in the first half, making all three of his baskets in the first 20 minutes. At one stretch in the second half, this freshman scored 22 of 23 points for Kentucky, helping the Wildcats build a double-digit lead.
For basketball purists, this was not a pretty game. Both teams’ defense led to the other teams’ offensive struggles. Kentucky, already leading the nation in defensive field goal percentage, showed the BBN why as they held Louisville to 25 percent shooting on the game. Louisville only made 15 of 58 shots and was a lowly 3 of 14 from three-point range.
In what was a very physical game, which was exhibited by the blood on Tyler Ulis’ face, it was strange that only six free throws were taken in the first half, all of those by Louisville. Kentucky shot zero free throws in the first half and did not shoot their first until 14:27 remained in the game. Truly amazing.
With the win over Louisville, the number one ranked Wildcats are now 14-0 on the season and will start SEC play at home on January 6th with a game against Ole Miss.
The Battle of the Bluegrass was everything it was expected to be. #1 U.K. Wildcats vs in state rival and #4 Louisville Cardinals. Both team tops in the Nation defensively, both crowned National Champions in past 3 years. U.K. has been beating it’s opponents by an average of 29.1 points per game and hasn’t allowed any team closer than 10 points. This also included beat downs of Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA. UK would end up winning the game 58-50 ending their double digit win streak. This was after Kentucky, twice, fouled three point shot attempts by U of L late in the game to give the Cardinals a chance to get the final tally under 10.
Louisville at times, must have thought there were judges for TV Emmy’s in the crowd as Cardinal players put on performances worthy of an acting award. The best “FLOP” was when Wildcat center Dikari Johnson was trying to clear space after a rebound and U of L player Chris Jones fell as if he were shot with an elephant gun. Several angles on replay showed Jones was no where near Johnson’s elbow. To compound this acting job, Jones carried on for several minutes as if his jaw were broken. This if nothing else was an absolute embarrassment to college basketball as a whole.
As performances go, Kentucky today was really something special. Calipari attributed the Cats performance to the fact that his team was so excited to go home for Christmas that it showed on the court. Wow, if that is what the Christmas season brings, Cal may either want to move the players families into Wildcat Coal Lodge the rest of the season, or simply stop the clock and leave the tree and decorations up for the next four months. That excitement produced an 83-44 clinic that was an annihilation of one of college basketball’s other blue bloods, storied UCLA. For Brantley Gilbert fans, the CATS today didn’t lay down a Small Town Throwdown on the Bruins, but a Big Town Beatdown in the Windy City.
The Cats really seem to show up in big time, big promotion games, and take it to another level when the lights are the brightest. Today was just an example of what this team can be when they put it all together. Defensively, this team is simply, phenomenal. Just like the whip job they put on Kansas a few weeks ago in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, the defensive numbers today were again historic. 24-0 to begin the game, 41-7 at the half, and a field goal percentage of 8.1 % in the first half against an admittedly not great UCLA team, but a good team that was capable of putting some points on the board. As what has now become the norm, it was difficult for UCLA to get a good shot, and when they did, it was contested, or ended up being one of 13 blocks. The Cats defense is going be a constant from game to game, as UCLA Coach Steve Alford put it, ““I think this is a team (Kentucky) that if they were to shoot only 20% and only score 50 points, they will still hold you to 35 points and beat you. They are just that good.”
When the Cats are clicking offensively, this is the result. Shooting 50% from the field and 46.2% from 3Land means any opponent is in trouble. UCLA tried to pack in a zone to start the game, but after Aaron Harrison hit a three just 15 seconds into the game and a second three minutes later it was 16-0 at the first timeout. Devin Booker then went on an 8-0 run by himself with two threes and a dunk in less than a minute, nearly half of his team high 19, and the score was 24-0, at the 12:40 mark. The result was decided. Alford summed it up, “In my 24 years of coaching, this is the best team I’ve coached against. This is a really, really, really good team. If they continue to play at that level defensively, they have a chance to run this thing out.”
The challenge will be how Cal is able to keep this team “excited” for the balance of the season after next week’s showdown with Louisville. The average margin of victory is now 29.1 points a game. Devin Booker was asked the teams mentality when it dominates a team and get a lead on them like today, to which he stated the “We have to keep playing against ourselves. Coach always stresses to us we’re not playing against the other team; we’re playing against ourselves.” If Cal can continue to keep this group “excited” by “playing against themselves”, Cats fans will be the ones excited in April.
U.K. has defeated all eleven of it’s opponents by at least 10 points and leads the nation with an average margin of victory of 28.2 points. U.K. also ranks at or near the top in several defensive categories. Next up for U.K. is UCLA as part of the CBS SPORTS CLASSIC today in Chicago. UCLA’s depth may be an issue against the vaunted Wildcat “Platoon” system.
Coach Cal’s Pregame Comments –
On how the current team ranks with other teams he has coached … “It’ll be interesting to see how we finish, but the best teams I’ve had, like just unbelievable teams – I’m not saying the most talented teams – but I’m telling you the best basketball teams we had were when I was playing five and six guys.” On Tyler Ulis’ health … “He’s got to make sure he takes care of himself. It’s like when you go in an NBA locker room. Every one of them, I think 75 percent of the NBA has tendonitis so you can figure out how to play with it or don’t play. Get another job.” On if Ulis has tendonitis … “No, but it’s the same idea. There are certain things you have that you have to deal with. You have to learn to play with.” On the common characteristics between players who played for him that are from Chicago … “They were all different. I mean Derrick (Rose) played at one of the best high schools as far as the tradition of the program. Anthony (Davis) played at one of the worst high schools traditionally. Tyler played at a private school so it’s all different. What they all had in common is a desire to improve, a comfort-level in their skin, which made them very good teammates, great guys to be around. It’s funny how they won’t ever change. The injury that Derrick has, his team fully supports him because they know what a great guy he is and that he’s there for them. The same with Anthony. I mean, I’ve watched him play where Tyreke Evans – he played for me too – had like 35, and he (Davis) was fine with it. It never bothered him. He’d just keep feeding him the ball, chesting him. He’s one of those guys. This kid (Ulis) is the same way. I mean he’s cheering for Andrew (Harrison) to do well. And he knows how good Andrew is. And even though they run the different teams and they go at each other, he has great respect and he’s a great teammate.” On how well he knows UCLA head coach Steve Alford … “I’ve known him for years and years. We’ve become close, but I knew him when he was at Southwest Missouri State. I did things for him. My wife grew up an hour and a half from there on a dirt farm. You guys didn’t catch that. That’s what I told her. She grew up on a dirt farm. He and I have been close when he went to Iowa. I think we played. They beat us when I was at Memphis one of my first years, but he’s a terrific coach. Just a great guy. Great family. Tanya (Alford) is a great lady. His kids are great kids. And he now has that opportunity to be there in that job, which is one of the premier jobs.” On the idea of a grace period in a new coaching job … “There are two things. The kids remember the last three years. The families remember the last 30. The kids remember when they were 13 and 14 and before that they don’t have any idea. I think what Steve (Alford) did last year I think they won 30 games or 29 games or whatever it was. Walked right in and developed guys that people did not think would be able to go right to the NBA, and they did. Three of them after one year, one of them the (a high) pick in the draft. He’s also now done it with Kevon Looney. I mean, they’re telling me he’s the fourth or fifth pick in the draft. So he has developed players, but I think in our case we were prepared to lose a bunch of guys. I don’t think they knew that that many guys would leave them. And so that one guy missing has made it so they’re playing five and six guys. They would have played seven and they would have been fine. But I think he’s done a great job. He’s on the West Coast. He’s rebuilding the image of what they want there. We want to tie to programs like that. That’s what we want, both of us. Does that answer it?” On coaches like Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Larry Brown this team to some of the all-time greats … “For a minute there I thought you were going to say all-time coaches. I understand that’s not going to be said. What were we talking about? No, I’m just kidding. What I really like is Willie (Cauley-Stein) has taken on a different persona. I sat him down about a month ago and said, ‘Why don’t you want to be the number one pick in the draft?’ He asked me what I meant. ‘Well it’s obvious you don’t want to be the number one pick. Why wouldn’t you? You have this team around you. All you have to do is perform and improve and improve in a couple areas and you’re on the page.’ He said, ‘I do want to.’ Then do more. Come into practice longer. Come in here at night. Spend more time at this – the sport. He has been. I think when you start talking about the teams that were the great teams, they had hall-of-fame players. We have yet to prove where we are in that regard. I think we’re a terrific team. I think what we’ve been doing to keep reinforcements coming has made us even better and made it easier for each guy to perform at a higher level. Let this season play out before they talk in terms of those teams because again some of them had three hall of famers on their team. In Springfield, their college team had three and to compare us to those teams. Come on. Maybe they’re looking at us compared to the other college teams in the last couple years. I don’t know.” On lessons taken from North Carolina game … “Toughness, rebounding, breakdowns defensively, and not sprinting back. Those are things that will cost you basketball games and we’ve focused on that now this week and for the next three. We’re the 13th best defensive rebounding team out of 14 in our league. Really? The tallest bad defensive rebounding team in the history of the game. There are things that I look at right now and I’m like, ‘Come on.’ We turn it over with just a little bit of pressure like token traps. We threw the ball all over the place. I would say if you watched our game, you have teams licking their chops saying, ‘We’re going to run, press, and trap these dudes. Try to get free baskets early and when we shoot it we’re sending four the glass. Forget about them.’ If you watched that game, then that’s what you’d do. Teams that will push you in the back on shots so they can get and edge and teams that just crash and bang and grab are looking at this and licking their chops.”
On how big the rebounding aspect is with a guy like Kevon Looney on their team … “It’s more than just him. I’m talking about my team. Our guards right now, we may have the worst group of rebounding guards in the country, too. So we’re doing stuff to hold them accountable. We started two days ago. Yesterday was an individual work day because we’re in finals, but we’re going to go back at it today. And I told them, ‘From here and through what we call Camp Cal, we’re doing this stuff every day.’ I said, ‘The stuff we’re not doing – the physical play, we get bumped, we hit the ground, we start throwing balls to a guy next to us, we throw it – well, we’re going to be playing in games where they grab, they hold, they kick, they push, they bite. Can you play in that type of game? If you can’t play in that type of game, you can’t win that game.’ ”
On how Alex Poythress is doing … “He and I met today. He’s doing good. He has a great frame of mind. He and I talked a little bit about Derrick Rose’s mental approach when it happened to him. He’s going to have the surgery after Christmas, so he has time. We talked about what his options could be and some things that we should think about.”
On how Poythress can still make it to the NBA Draft even though he’s going to miss the season and workouts … “He has more time than Nerlens (Noel) had, so he’s going to have an extra two months, really a month and a half. I would tell you that there will be an option for him if he chooses to (go). But we only talked (about it) slightly. We talked a little bit. I said, ‘The other side of it is being mentally tougher. Why? Because you’ll never get through the rehab (if you’re not). Pushing through a comfort level, which you struggle with. Well, you’ll have to through the rehab. You have no choice. Coming back with that increased motor. And then we’ll work on some skills.’ I told him about getting his wrist back on every shot. No more of this (hand straight up and down). Now we have time. Wrist is going to be back. You’re going to be up and off instead of that (straight up and down). I said, ‘We have time now.’ ”
On what it would be like to have him back as a senior … “A young man that they all respect and a young man that’s a straight-A student and a guy that can do things that normal players can’t do, it would be nice. But, if it’s in his best interest to put his name in the draft, I would support it and help it along and do that. He’s going to do what’s right for him. It’s tough. But he was really good today. I mean, I think he’s coming back to the reality of this happened, it’s not a dream, it’s real, now I’ve got to deal with it. He looked like was at ease with what was going forward.”
On if his hip is still bothering him … “I’m fine. The biggest thing is I’m sleeping at night. I’m working out every day. I still need to lose 20 pounds, which I gained – very happily – when I couldn’t do anything last year. But it’s a little harder getting it off. But like I told my team, I’m not supposed to have a six-pack. I’m 55. You’re supposed to have a little belly when you’re 65. Now I don’t want to have a big belly, but a little one.”
On if he was a “root for UCLA” kid when he was growing up a “root against UCLA” kid growing up … “I liked North Carolina growing up. I liked UCLA. I watched more basketball that way. I didn’t have a (team). Pitt, because Pitt wasn’t when I was younger the Pitt is now, but we had some guys from our high-school team play on that team so you followed Pitt and some of that stuff. West Virginia and all that because of where I grew up. UCLA, they were like faraway lands. I mean, I didn’t even go on vacation until I was 19, and that was to Maryland. Maryland. We drove to the Maryland shore. I was not on an airplane until I was 20. So when you start talking UCLA, ‘Where in the world? Is that in our country?’ Yeah. ‘Like, near Youngstown? Where is it?’ It’s just different than it was. So I wasn’t (a huge fan), but I liked them, respected them.”
UK is making it look a little too easy. North Carolina fell victim to this new breed of Wildcat as UK dominated NC 84-70. UK has not allowed an opponent closer than 10 points in any game this season. They have defeated 4 ranked teams, at the time they played them. Kansas, considered by many to be a contender, Providence, Texas, also considered to be a championship contender and now North Carolina. None of those teams could come any closer than 12 points, that being Texas a few nights ago. Right now, it appears, the only thing that can cause a UK loss, will be UK coming out and beating themselves. Next up for the Wildcats is a game against UCLA in Chicago, followed up by a game with in state rival Louisville. Should they pull off those two games, all that stands in front of UK is a SEC sweep to give the Cats a real chance to go, dare I say it, “Undefeated”.