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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: What We Learned in Final Exhibition Game vs KSU

The Kentucky Wildcats close out the exhibition season in impressive fashion.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats took care of the Kentucky State Thoroughbreds 111-58 in the final exhibition game of the season. K-State kept it close early, but once the Wildcats turned on the defense, the easy buckets started to fall as the press forced the 'Breds to turn the ball over at a high clip in the first half.

Hats off to K-State for coming into Rupp Arena and competing. There are a lot of local kids on that team and playing in the historic venue must have been quite the experience for them. They were overmatched from the beginning but they competed for 40 minutes. Good luck to them next season.

Here is your box score for the 'Cats:


  • Jamal Murray was the first player in double digits and I barely noticed it. Murray is so skilled and so smooth that his game is effortless. He again showcased his outside shot and the ability to get to the room. 20 points on 6-11 shooting and 7-7 from the charity stripe is as solid as it gets.
  • Skal Labissiere was a non-factor in the first half. He went to the bench early and ended with zero points and two fouls. He looked timid and couldn't hold onto the ball. Then the second half happened and Skal reminded us why he is considered the top pick in the NBA draft. He went off for 22 points to lead all scorers and was as impressive on offense as I can remember any big man at Kentucky. He showed a hook shot, a fade away jumper, dunks, and his knock down shooting at the free throw line. He scored 11 points in a nine-minute stretch. Oh yeah, he also had nine rebounds. John Calpari made it a point to go to him early and often in the second half to get him going and it paid off.
  • Alex Poythress was full on Beast Mode Alex for the entire game. He was blocking shots, throwing down thunderous dunks, and even nailed a three-point jump shot. So far his most encouraging action to date. 13 points, 8 rebounds, and four blocks are the exactly the stats you want to see from Alex.
  • Like Skal, Tyler Ulis had bit of a slow start but he took eventually took over. His nifty dribbling and court-vision opened up opportunities for him and his teammates. Dino Gaudio said that Ulis is a First Team All-American type player and I agree 100%.
  • Marcus Lee had a nice game but he needs to become more aggressive on the boards. There are still times when he is bullied down low and that was against K-State. But he continues to progress offensively and was able to score on his own as well as using the lob dunk as his main weapon.
  • Isaiah Briscoe was uneven tonight and really struggled at the line. He was 1-7 from the free throw line which is a problem because the biggest part of his game is his ability to get to the basket and create contact. If he cannot finish at the line, then John Calipari won't be able to have him in late game situations.
  • I think it is now safe to say that Derek Willis is going to play this season. When he entered the game in the first half, his presence in the press really started to force turnovers. His long arms and tenacity disrupt the passing lanes. Willis was all over the floor grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, scoring baskets, and dropping unbelievable dimes like this one to Jamal Murray:

  • Charles Matthews showed that as long as he hustles on defense and on the boards, he is going to see minutes. He had 11 points on 3-5 shooting and hit 5-6 free throws. He has great athletic ability.
  • Isaac Humphries continues to impress. The 17-year-old big man again showed his range and even a nice dribble and finish at the basket. He's not as good as Skal, but he is a more than serviceable backup.

It was an impressive showing on offense, but I was really pleased with the defense. K-State is a better team than Ottawa and the Wildcats did a much better job guarding this team.

What makes Kentucky so dangerous is that they have multiple guys that can pour it on at any time on offense, and if they get up by double-digits, it's going to be difficult to keep pace with them. If they can continue to defend and hustle on the boards, then I'm not sure there are many teams in the country that will be able to match them.

We know the guards are going to be good, but the encouraging performances from Skal, Poythress, Lee, and Willis is what stood out to me tonight.

We will see the Wildcats in action again next Friday against Albany in the season opener.