Murray Narrowly Misses Triple-Double in Dominant Exhibition Win
The only things stopping Jamal Murray from making history in his first
game in a Kentucky uniform were John Calipari and the fact that it was
still only an exhibition game.
“We need like three more minutes so he can get that triple-double,” Marcus Lee said.
Chris Mills had the only regular-season triple-double in school history on Dec. 27, 1988 against Austin Peay, but Murray was unaware of the statistical landmark he had so narrowly missed until postgame.
“I just want to let my team play," Murray said. "There’s no reason to go outside and do something like that. It’s just basketball. I ended up having a lot of assists and a lot of rebounds, but other than that the team played well.”
Calipari, meanwhile, was focused on something else.
“I didn't know,” Calipari said. “I knew he was rebounding the ball. Let me explain to you. He hadn't done that in any practice. Like it's a mistake that he did it because if he doesn't rebound now, I'm going to be all over him.”
He welcomes that. In fact, it’s why Murray – who would be a senior in high school right now had he not reclassified – came to Kentucky.
“It’s not a mistake, that’s just what he expects from me and something I will work on going forward,” Murray said. “Continues to be on me every day in practice.”
Murray was the headliner as UK surpassed the century mark with 5:12 remaining, but plenty of Wildcats starred on Monday night. Tyler Ulis, starting alongside Murray and Isaiah Briscoe in a lineup featuring three point guards, had 17 points, 10 assists and four rebounds in front of 20,743 fans at Rupp Arena.
“He’s very in command,” Murray said. “He’s a leader on the court. He puts everybody in the right spot, the right position. So, we look to him to run the offense, and then we play off of that. At any time Isaiah or myself can run the offense too.”
Ulis – fresh off a 15-assist performance in last week’s Blue-White Scrimmage – continues to set the tone for a UK team that had 32 assists and shot 48 of 80 from the field.
“Tyler’s definitely feeling the game when it comes to assists,” said Lee, who had 10 points and six rebounds. “He’s just figuring everything out and it’s not really hard to find people and pass the ball on this team. There’s no one really selfish.”
Skal Labissiere was a primary beneficiary of that unselfishness, scoring 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting as six players scored in double figures in a fast-paced UK attack. The Cats ratcheted up the tempo against Ottawa in a game that featured 84 possessions for both teams. Part of the total, higher than any game UK played in 2014-15, can be attributed to the 30-second shot clock, but more credit should be given to the three-guard lineup and press Coach Cal deployed.
“They're unselfish,” Calipari said. “They're all skilled. They can attack the basket. You can play a little more random yet be organized. Again, we needed to press. We did it for two reasons, conditioning. I wanted us just to keep guys in and let them try to see where they are if we had to play a full game. Obviously not there yet.
“But the other press, I ran that press a little bit my first year here. Haven't really run it since. I'd like to run it with this team.”
Facing off against Mitch Barnhart’s alma mater in the game – who was recognized pregame for being named Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year this spring – UK looked equal parts unfinished product and cohesive unit.
That’s all about the backcourt.
“We pass the ball and I got good guards, so it doesn't look bad,” Calipari said. “But believe me when I tell you we're behind.”
The Cats will have their next chance at playing catchup in their final exhibition against Kentucky State on Friday at 6 p.m.