Cats Look to Bounce Back Against Alabama

Marcus Lee is no basketball historian, but he took a shot a putting into context his five-minute, five-foul performance at LSU on Friday.

Kentucky vs. Alabama
Sat., Jan. 9 - 6 p.m. ET
Coleman Coliseum
Tuscaloosa, Ala.
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UK 2015-16 Team Stats UA
11-3 Record 9-4
1-1 Conference Record 0-1
.469 FG% .435
.408 Opp FG% .391
.316 3FG% .340
.651 FT% .667
77.6 PPG 66.4
39.3 RPG 34.2
5.5 BPG 5.1
13.6 APG 11.4
6.7 SPG 6.2
“That may be a world record for anybody,” Lee said.

Lee fouled out before he could make any kind of impact in Kentucky’s loss in Baton Rouge, La., earlier this week, but he fell short of Ben Waldrop’s record of fouling out in just 71 seconds of playing time. Nonetheless, it was certainly the most maddening game of his college career.

“Personally, without a doubt,” Lee said. “That was probably one of the most frustrating things for me just sitting there the whole time not able to help my team.”

Lee might have been relegated to the bench for most of UK’s 85-67 loss to the Tigers, but he was far from the only Wildcat big to struggle. The quartet of Lee, Alex Poythress, Skal Labissiere and Isaac Humphries combined for seven points, seven rebounds and 15 fouls in 53 minutes of action.

“Makes it hard,” John Calipari said. “And we have guys that are capable; they’re just not doing it. They’re doing it now and then. When they really do it we look really good. And when they decide they’re not doing it or for whatever reason – they’re not capable of doing it – we’re not as good.”

In the two games prior to LSU, UK (11-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) turned in two its better efforts in upending rival Louisville and dominating Ole Miss, showing how good the Cats can be when the bigs produce. With a Saturday trip to Alabama (9-4, 0-1 SEC) coming on Saturday, UK will undoubtedly need that production.

“We’re going into a game – and I’ll tell you watching tape, they (Alabama) play really physical,” Calipari said. “They’ve got great presence around the basket. They’re tough. They dive on the floor. Their guards are tough. They apply pressure. This is a really hard game for us.”

Hard as it may be, it’s a challenge Lee looks forward to.

“Oh I can’t wait to play at all,” Lee said. “I can’t wait for this next practice just to help my team a little bit more.”

Lee, like Poythress, has stepped into an unfamiliar role this season. In previous seasons, they could pick their spots and allow teammates to make up the slack. Now they’re counted on as starters, with the true freshmen – Labissiere and Humphries – behind them still finding their feet in the college game.

“They’ve always been in the now-and-then position,” Calipari said. “Every now and then give us a good game. Now it’s like every day. That’s hard. Everybody wants to be in that position, but the responsibility to be ready, to be prepared for a dogfight every (game is hard).”

Guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray were vocal in reinforcing that message after Tuesday’s defeat. It may not have been easy to hear, but Lee listened willingly.

“We literally had no bigs, pretty much, in the game at all,” Lee said. “The whole game. I literally played five minutes. AP (Alex Poythress) got in foul trouble, and then we just couldn’t really get any type of flow in (from) any of our bigs as a whole. They had every right to be frustrated because it was pretty much just our guard play.”

Calipari, affirming that the ultimate fate of this team is on his shoulders as he said this week, has tailored practice accordingly.

“(Wednesday) was rough,” Calipari said. “We put them through one of our tougher practices. A lot of body-to-body, physical stuff.”

Lee can attest to that.

“Our practice was extremely hard,” Lee said. “There was a lot of talking and communication because that’s something we’re really struggling on in away games, and in games in general we don’t talk to each other as much. That’s something as us as a team tried to do better at, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do better is talk more and communicate as a team.”

UK’s bigs won’t have to wait long for their next test on the road.

“It’s hard here because this is even worse at this place when you’re on this stage,” Calipari said. “But they’re doing fine. They’re making strides. This will be interesting to find out where we are, especially after what happened there (at LSU).

Ulis’ Career-high 23 Points Not Enough in Loss at LSU

Tyler Ulis scored a career-high 23 points, but it was not enough as No. 9 Kentucky lost at LSU 85-67 on Tuesday night in Baton Rouge, La. The Wildcats scored the first two points of the game but never led again, quickly falling behind to the Tigers, who led by as many as 14 points in the first half. LSU led 37-27 at the break.

In the second half, Kentucky (11-3, 1-1 SEC) fought back and got within four points on a layup by Alex Poythress with 9:36 left in the game, but the Tigers answered with a 9-2 run to stretch the lead back to 11.

Jamal Murray was the only other Wildcat to score in double figures, dropping 21 points in the game. Kentucky shot 41.4 percent from the floor, while LSU shot 49.2 percent. The Tigers also won the battle of the boards, grabbing 46 rebounds compared to just 32 for Kentucky, largely due to foul trouble for Marcus Lee and Poythress.

Other notables:

• Ulis scored a career-high 23 points, which marked his third consecutive outing of 20 or more points. He’s the first player with three straight games of 20 or more points since Julius Randle in 2013
• With Murray’s 21 points, the Ulis-Murray duo became the first teammates to score 20 or more in a game since Aaron Harrison and James Young did it vs. LSU on Feb. 22, 2014
• Murray has drained at least one 3-pointer in all 14 games this season. He’s the only player in program history to achieve that feat
• Junior Mychal Mulder had a career day with five points and eight rebounds. The eight rebounds were tops on the team

Calipari Wins 200th Career Game at UK in Record Time

With a thrilling 75-73 victory over rival Louisville, John Calipari captured his 200th career win at Kentucky faster than any coach in UK history -- and nearly faster than anyone has ever done it at any other school.

Calipari reached the 200-win plateau in his 240th career game at Kentucky. Rick Pitino, previously the fastest to 200 wins at UK prior to Calipari, didn’t capture his 200th Wildcat win until his 249th game. The legendary Adolph Rupp reached 200 during his 250th game.

Not only did Calipari reach the 200-win mark in record pace at Kentucky, he also nearly set the all-time Division I mark. With the win over U of L, he became the second-fastest Division I men’s basketball coach to reach 200 victories at a single school, behind only LIU-Brooklyn’s Clair Bee, who achieved the feat in 231 games.

Calipari is one of just 11 head coaches in Division I men’s basketball history with at least 200 victories at two different schools and just the fifth coach at Kentucky to reach the 200-win plateau.

He’s currently the only coach in NCAA history with at least 189 victories at three different schools.