Kentucky Visits Kansas in Big 12-SEC Challenge

John Calipari started his coaching career at Kansas, first as a volunteer assistant under Ted Owens and later as an assistant under Hall of Famer Larry Brown. 

Kentucky vs. Kansas
Sat., Jan. 30 - 7 p.m. ET
Allen Fieldhouse
Lawrence, Kan.
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UK 2015-16 Team Stats UM
16-4 Record 16-4
6-2 Conference Record 5-3
.471 FG% .486
.401 Opp FG% .405
.327 3FG% .430
.671 FT% .713
77.9 PPG 83.7
39.8 RPG 39.0
5.8 BPG 4.1
13.6 APG 16.7
6.4 SPG 7.3
He has lots of fond memories of his three years in Lawrence, Kan., but one sticks out.

“Meeting my wife,” Calipari said.

Calipari’s wife, Ellen, will make a rare regular-season trip with her husband’s Kentucky team as the No. 20/19 Wildcats (16-4, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) take on No. 4/3 Kansas (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. She might be wise to bring a pair of earplugs with her to Allen Fieldhouse because, outside of meeting his wife, that sound is what really sticks with Coach Cal, even after more than two decades.

“It literally moves you,” Calipari said. “If you’re standing and they really get loud, it will move you. I was there. I coached there and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can feel it.’ It’s like you’re at a concert and you’re near the bass. Boom! Boom! You feel it. I mean that’s how it is there.”

Back then, Kansas fans were cheering for Calipari’s team. Saturday night, the booms will come when things aren’t going the Cats’ way.

“Going to Allen Fieldhouse, these guys will experience something they will never experience in their life in that building,” Calipari said. “There is no pro arena like that. There’s no other arena we’re going to walk into that’s going to be that bad.”

The only comparable place, in fact, is the one where UK plays its home games.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s just like playing in Rupp,” Alex Poythress said. “I think it’s kind of smaller and kind of more on top of you, but it’s going to be a hard road game. Playing on the road is always hard, so we just gotta go in there and fight.”

The Cats appear much better suited to do that than they did less than two weeks ago.

The Saturday before last, UK blew a double-digit second-half lead in a loss at Auburn. Since then, Kentucky has reeled off three straight convincing victories. During that stretch, the Cats have an average margin of victory of 22.3 points and held opponents to 34.6-percent shooting.

“I’m happy for our team because guys are starting to play their roles, everybody is starting to lock in defensively, and it’s showing on the court,” Tyler Ulis said.

That’s entirely changed UK’s trajectory as a team, but their improvement will be tested in a big way by the Jayhawks.

“We’re finally starting to do some stuff,” Calipari said. “We’re finally starting to become a team that I’m like, ‘OK, that looks like somebody I coach.’ But, this will be one that, ‘Alright, you got hit in the mouth. Now how are you doing? Are you going to foul yourself out? Don’t you foul yourself out. You gotta play.’ I mean this will be a war.”

Kansas certainly figures to treat it that way.

Not only are the Jayhawks hosting a battle of the two winningest programs in college basketball history – a series UK leads, 22-6 – they’ll also have last season’s matchup between the two on their minds. The Cats, of course, were utterly dominant in a 72-40 victory in the Champions Classic.

“It’s another game, but obviously it’s a big game because you have two big-time programs coming against each other,” Ulis said. “With the way we played against them last year, they’re going to be coming at us. So they’re going to want some get-back and we have to be prepared.”

There’s no predicting how the Cats will react to a motivated opponent and an even more amped-up crowd in an incomparable environment, but they’re eager to find out.

“We’re all looking forward to this trip,” Poythress said. “We’ve been on a little run. We’re just trying to make improvement and trying to just see where we’re at.”

College Basketball’s Winningest Programs

No other teams in college basketball know how to win quite like Kentucky and Kansas. The Wildcats are college basketball’s all-time leaders in wins with 2,194. Kansas ranks second at 2,169.

UK leads the all-time series 22-6, including three straight victories and last year’s 72-40 thumping in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

Though the Wildcats also own a 7-4 advantage in Lawrence, Kan., the Jayhawks won the last matchup up Allen Fieldhouse, 73-46, in 2006.

Wildcats Dominate Visiting Missouri

After a loss to Auburn on the road nearly two weeks ago, the Wildcats have strung together three consecutive victories and looked impressive throughout the stretch.

Junior Derek Willis has been the spark to UK’s recent play as he notched a career-high 18 points and added a game-high 12 rebounds to help lead the Wildcats to an 88-54 trouncing of Missouri on Wednesday. Sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis continued his offensive output with 20 points and eight assists. The duo helped UK to a season-best 20-0 run to open the first half, and UK never looked back.

Freshman forward Skal Labissiere poured in 12 points and added a career-high five blocks. Freshmen guards Isaiah Briscoe (15) and Jamal Murray (11) also reached double-digit scoring as UK had five players in double figures for the first time since an 82-62 win over Boston on Nov. 24.

Other notables:
• Kentucky extended its home winning streak to 32 games
• The Wildcats outrebounded Missouri 47-28, including a 32-19 advantage on the defensive glass. They forced 15 turnovers that led to 22 points and held the Tigers to 32 percent shooting
• Willis has 94 points in his past 14 games after totaling 77 in his first 40 with Kentucky
• The 34-point margin of victory is the fourth-largest in league play in the John Calipari era
• Kentucky’s 88 points tied the season high set on Dec. 9 vs. Eastern Kentucky
• Kentucky shot 52.3 percent from the field, the second straight game the Cats have shot better than 50 percent. UK is 10-0 this season when shooting at least 50 percent
• Kentucky shot 78.6 percent from the foul line. UK has made 76.1 percent over the last five games
• UK tied a season high with 18 assists
• The Wildcats blocked a season-high 11 Tiger attempts
• UK held Missouri to 54 points, the Wildcats’ best defensive performance of the season. UK is 61-0 under Calipari when keeping the opponent to 55 or fewer points
• UK has had a player score at least 20 points in all eight SEC games this season
• Ulis is the first Wildcat with at least four assists in 13 consecutive games since Sean Woods in the 1990-91 season
• Ulis has eight games with at least 20 points and five assists this season, most by a Wildcat in any season with assist statistics available since 1972-73. Kyle Macy had seven 20-point, five-assists games in 1979-80 and Jamal Mashburn had seven 20-point, five-assists games in 1992-93
• The Wildcats utilized a season-best 1.26 points per possession, while UK’s defense stymied the Tigers into a UK opponent-low 0.77 points per possession

Murray Named SEC Freshman of the Week

Freshman sharpshooter Jamal Murray was named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Week after helping lead UK to a pair of double-digit wins at Arkansas and against Vanderbilt this week on Monday.

Murray averaged 18.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in the two wins. The honor is the second SEC award of his career.

The Kitchener, Ontario native continued to be a threat offensively while emphasizing his defensive performance in the two wins this week. Murray and Co. helped lead UK to its first win in Arkansas under the direction of John Calipari on Thursday. Murray poured in 19 points and added seven rebounds. He also contributed a block and a steal in the victory.

Murray followed up that performance less than 48 hours later with 18 points, including three 3-pointers, while adding seven more rebounds, three steals, and another block in the impressive rout of Vanderbilt.