The crowd showed up early and got loud early for the matchup against Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils from Arizona State. The atmosphere was one of the Rupp Atmospheres you like to be a part of.
UK started off not much differently than the entire season, poor defense down low and missed three pointers kept the game close early. The 'Cats did seem to take a big step forward when Alex Poythress took a loose ball with a running start from half court and absolutely destroyed Arizona State on a Sportscenter Top 10 play.
Kentucky would struggle mightily on the boards for the rest of the half and continue a pattern of struggling defense around the rim. Where UK kept the game in their control was their perimeter defense. One thing the 'Cats have done well all season is play good perimeter defense.
Kentucky would limp, literally, into the half with a 32-31 lead. UK would have 3 starters in foul trouble and Poythress questionable with a hyperextended knee. The 'Cats ended the half shooting 1-11 from three and 8-18 from non-three. Add to it UK was out rebounded 22-14 and having the lead is actually impressive.
Alex Poythress did return in the second half and started the half as well. Kentucky's savior in the first ten minutes was Isaiah Briscoe. Briscoe hit a confident three, then back to back layups to go on a personal 7-0 run and get the 'Cats to a double digit lead.
It also helped that from the 16 minute park to the 11 minute mark, the 'Cats out-rebounded ASU by 8 and hit three 3s. Kentucky shot the ball better and pulled away from the Sun Devils on the back of Briscoe, Ulis' veteran moves, Murray coming to life and Lee taking another step forward in his career.
The game was all but over with 5:07 to go when Murray hit a free throw to put UK up by 20 points. Kentucky would coast from there to a 72-58 win.
What Did We Learn?
- Marcus Lee is Vital: Lee is nearly as vital as Tyler Ulis; the guy is our glue inside the paint. He came in and provided spark after spark. He was a ball of energy and did exactly what he needed to do.
- Skal is Not Ready for Big Time Basketball: I know it will not happen because the NBA drafts on potential but Skal could desperately use a secnd year in college. Not even to get better at his skills, just to get acclimated to actual competition. He fouled out today with ZERO points and ZERO rebounds.
- Poythress is The Heartbeat: When Poy brings his beast mode we are a different team, it is as simple as that. From the time of his nasty throw down to the end of the game, as he goes, we seem to go, from an energy standpoint.
- Briscoe is so much better than we thought he would be. He has a confidence like nobody else and he is getting better every game. If Briscoe develops a three point stroke he will be our best player, in my opinion.
- Interior Defense is Still Bad: We continue to get beat down low way too much. Teams have no problem getting layups. I will say it seemed to get better in the second half though.
- Ulis is so great: He does so many things that go unaccounted for. Once in the second half it was him and Derek Willis on a fast break, Ulis dished back to Willis and used his momentum for a legal moving screen so Willis could lay it in easily.
- Derek Willis continues to evolve: Willis is going to be getting a lot of clock before the end of the season. He did a lot of good things besides shooting today that seemed to be lacking in his game.