Ulis, Murray Named Finalists for USBWA Awards

ST. LOUIS – The two leaders of arguably the nation’s best backcourt, Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, are finalists for the U.S. Writers Basketball Association’s two major awards, the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Wayman Tisdale Award.

Ulis has been tabbed one of 11 finalists for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, awarded annually to the USBWA’s pick for the national player of the year. Murray is one of five finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award, presented to the nation’s freshman of the year.

Both awards will be presented at the College Basketball Awards gala in Oklahoma City on April 11 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Access Sports, a non-profit organization committed to supporting various charitable causes, will serve as host for the gala. Funds from the gala are used to support youth basketball programs in Oklahoma that allow disadvantaged youth the opportunity to participate in leagues and training.

The USBWA, comprised of nearly 1,000 sports journalists covering college basketball for newspapers, magazines and websites, will select the recipients of the awards. 

While the finalists are the leading contenders to be named to the USBWA's All-America Team, all Division I players remain eligible for postseason honors from the USBWA. The association will announce its 2016 All-America Team in mid-March. Ballots for this season's USBWA men's honors were distributed to the entire membership Monday.

Together, Ulis and Murray are the top scoring duo in league play in the major conferences (the Power 5 Conferences plus the American and the Big East), averaging a combined 41.1 points in Southeastern Conference play. Individually, they’ve been two of the best players in college basketball this season.

Ulis is averaging 16.6 points, an SEC-best 7.0 assists (ninth nationally) and boasts a league-best 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio (seventh nationally). He is one of just four players nationally averaging those numbers, the lone underclassman and the only player in the SEC.

The Chicago native has the single-season school record for most 20-point, five-assist games with 12, and according to the SEC Network, his three 20-point, 10-assist games this season are the most of any SEC player in the last 20 seasons. He’s recorded at least four assists in 22 consecutive games, the most in school history since at least 1972-73.

Ulis’ value is probably best represented by his performances in Kentucky’s biggest games. He’s averaging a team-best 22.8 points and a team-high 9.0 assists in UK’s five games vs. ranked opponents in either the Associated Press Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. He shot 54.3 percent with a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games.  

At 196 assists on the season, he’s on pace to break John Wall’s UK single-season assists record of 241, set during the 2009-10 season. He’s currently in third place.

Murray has established himself as one of the best pure scorers in the country, regardless of class. The Kitchener, Ontario, native is averaging 19.9 points through 29 games, which is on pace to shatter the John Calipari-era scoring mark of 17.3 points per game set by Brandon Knight during the 2010-11 season. As a matter of fact, Murray’s 19.9 scoring average is the most by a Calipari-coached player since Dajuan Wagner averaged 21.1 points during the 2001-02 season at Memphis. The average ranks second nationally among all freshmen.

Murray has pulled off a number of records and milestones this season, including three 30-points games. He’s the only player in the Calipari era at Kentucky and the only freshman in school history with more than one 30-point game. His 14 20-point games are tied with Knight (2010-11) for the most by a freshman in school history.

He has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and 15 or more in 24 of the 29 contests. He is also the first Wildcat to reach double figures in 27 straight games since Knight did it 28 times in 2010-11.

Murray has done a bunch of his damage from behind the 3-point line. He already owns the Kentucky freshman record for most 3-point field goals in a single season with 91. He has made a 3-pointer in all 29 games this season, the only player in program history to hit at least one trey in his first 29 collegiate games. Having made a 3 in 29 straight games, he trails only Tony Delk (1993-94 season) for the longest single-season streak in school history with a 3-pointer (32 games).

Ulis and Murray are back in action on Tuesday at Florida. UK’s final regular-season road game of the season is set for a 7 p.m. tip on ESPN.

For the latest on the Kentucky men's basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com

Oscar Robertson Trophy Finalists
Grayson Allen, Duke
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Kris Dunn, Providence
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma 
Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Jakob Poeltl, Utah
Ben Simmons, LSU
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Wayman Tisdale Finalists
Jaylen Brown, California
Henry Ellenson, Marquette
Brandon Ingram, Duke
Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Ben Simmons, LSU