Kentucky Welcomes Alabama on Tuesday
The bumps and bruises are mounting by the moment for Kentucky.
Marcus Lee – one of the victims – doesn’t have any interest in wallowing in self-pity.
|Kentucky vs. Alabama|
|Tue., Feb. 23 - 7 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | UA
Digital Gameday Program
|UK||2015-16 Team Stats||UA|
“That’s how sports is,” Lee said. “You get hurt. You have a whole lot of players that have minor injuries and that’s just the way sports go.”
Early in the season UK’s backcourt felt the effects, with Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins all missing time due to injury. And in recent weeks UK’s frontcourt has been depleted, first with a knee injury that has forced Alex Poythress to miss the last five games. Then Lee went out second half of a win over Tennessee with a back injury and Derek Willis sprained an ankle at Texas A&M.
Ahead of a Tuesday matchup with Alabama (16-10, 7-7 Southeastern Conference), No. 16/14 UK (20-7, 10-4 SEC) is having to piece together its lineup.
“It’s all knick-knack stuff and guys have to miss games and you just try to make do,” John Calipari said on the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference. “I’m not fazed by it. I’m not – we haven’t used it as an excuse. Next man up.”
Lee is likely to play after starting UK’s loss to A&M on a buzzer beater, but Poythress – who worked out Sunday – and Willis are uncertain. The Cats would of course like to have both, but the show must go on regardless.
“You always want a full complement,” assistant coach Tony Barbee said. “We don’t want to go without anybody but I know we’ve got some other guys who have stepped up in some other guys’ absence. I know with Coach’s philosophy with ‘next man up,’ you look at what Isaac (Humphries) did last game, really stepped up and was big for us.”
Humphries went for six points and 12 rebounds – both career highs – on Saturday. The technical foul he drew after making what appeared to be the game-clinching play was the headline, but his teammates were much more focused on his contributions beforehand.
“Isaac’s been killing it the last couple games and he has been in practice,” Lee said. “We love the energy and the strength and power he brings throughout the game and to our team. So he did phenomenal that game and we couldn’t ask any more of him.”
Neither Lee nor Barbee are concerned about lingering effects for Humphries. The same goes for the Cats collectively.
“I think this team has a pretty strong resolve,” Barbee said. “We were all crushed in that immediate 24 hours after the game, but we have since moved on to Alabama.”
That’s good, because Alabama demands UK’s full focus.
The Crimson Tide lost at Mississippi State on Saturday, but had previously won five in a row to play its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Cats easily dispatched Alabama in one of their best road performances of the season on Jan. 9, but Avery Johnson has molded his team into a stronger group since.
“They start a totally different lineup than when we played them,” Barbee said. “They're shooting a ton more 3s than when we played them. So they're a fairly different team.”
In Barbee’s estimation, the emergence of Shannon Hale is the biggest factor in that change. Hale – a 6-foot-8 senior – scored just six points on 1-of-9 shooting against UK, but has scored in double figures in all but two of the games in which he’s played since.
“Shannon Hale, who's a fantastic player, wasn't playing particularly well at that time when we played them, and now he's a guy that they're going through offensively,” Barbee said. “Obviously, (Retin) Obasohan is the straw that stirs their drink, but Shannon Hale is a guy that's really sparked them in the run that they had because of the level he's playing at.”
Both Alabama and Kentucky will be looking to bounce back from losses. Barbee can’t speak for the Tide, but he’s confident the Cats will be ready.
“It was a quiet plane ride on the way back,” Barbee said. “Everybody was hurt about the loss, but when you come back to practice yesterday and see them come back into the gym as excited and as positive and as ready to go and as focused on what’s ahead and not what happened behind, don’t worry about this group. We’ve got a lot of guys on the floor who are leaders, not just one.”
Aggies Outlast Wildcats in Overtime Thriller
Sophomore guard Tyler Ulis scored 22 points and freshman guard Jamal Murray had 21, but No. 14/14 Kentucky came up just short, falling to Texas A&M 79-77 in overtime on Saturday in College Station, Texas.
Late in regulation, Kentucky trailed 68-66, but after a timeout, the Cats set up a lob from Ulis to junior forward Marcus Lee, who slammed it home to tie the game at 68. After a Kentucky defensive stop, Lee had a chance to put Kentucky ahead with 31 seconds left but missed a free throw. A&M got the rebound and had one final chance, but Danuel House missed a jumper, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra stanza, the teams went back and forth, trading baskets. Kentucky took a 76-75 lead with 1:10 to go on a jumper by Ulis. Kentucky then got a huge stop on defense, but freshman forward Isaac Humphries was whistled for a technical foul after securing the rebound, giving House a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. House hit both to give the Aggies a 77-76 lead.
Humphries’ technical was his fifth foul of the game, disqualifying him from the contest, setting the stage for substitute freshman forward Skal Labissiere, who knocked down 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 77. After an Aggie timeout, House missed a driving layup, but Tyler Davis was there for a tip-in that provided the winning margin for A&M. It was the 20th offensive rebound of the game for the Aggies as the home team also garnered 22 second-chance points to prove the difference maker.
Freshman Isaiah Briscoe added 11 points for the Wildcats, while Humphries enjoyed a career outing for the Cats with a career-high and game-high 12 rebounds.
• It was the third straight game the two teams went into overtime in Reed Arena when facing each other
• The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Wildcats
• The game featured 29 lead changes and 12 ties
• UK is now 0-2 in overtime game this season, also losing at Kansas
• Ulis registered his team-leading fifth double-double with 22 points and 11 assists, the 12th time this season he’s recorded at least 20 points and five assists in a game, a school record
• Ulis notched double-figure assists for the fourth time this season. That mark ties the UK single-season record shared by Kyle Macy (1977-78), Roger Harden (1985-86) and John Wall (2009-10)
• Murray scored 21 points, marking his sixth consecutive game with 20 or more points
• Murray has hit at least one 3-pointer in all 27 games this season. It’s the longest streak to open a season in program history. It’s also the second most of any stretch of games in school history, trailing only Tony Delk’s record of 32 games set in 1993-94
• Kentucky has had at least one 20-point scorer in 17 straight games, the longest such streak since 1989-90 (21 conesecutive games)
• UK poured in 10 3-pointers for a school-record fifth consecutive game
• Five different Wildcats hit a 3-pointer for the first time this season
There was a point in the season when it seemed like Kentucky’s ineffectiveness behind the 3-point line could be the Wildcats downfall this season. After the recent record-setting stretch from behind the arc, those days seem like a long, long time ago. With 10 3-pointers at Texas A&M, the Wildcats have made at least 10 3-point field goals in five straight games, a new school record. And it’s not as if UK has been hoisting a ton of shots to make that many treys. As a matter of fact, during the recent five-game stretch, UK has shot 44.0 percent or better from 3.
At one point this season the Wildcats were in the bottom third nationally in both 3-point field goal percentage and 3-point field goals made per game. Since league play started, the Wildcats lead the Southeastern Conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.397), and they’re making 8.0 3-point field goals a game against SEC foes.
Freshman guard Jamal Murray, who needs just five more 3-pointers to break Brandon Knight’s single-season freshman record for 3-point field goals in a season, has led the way, averaging an SEC-best 3.6 3-point field goals in SEC play. Junior forward Derek Willis is hitting a conference-best 50.0 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.