The Kentucky Wildcats purely dominated the Missouri Tigers by a final score of 88-54 Wednesday night, capping off the best three-game stretch we've seen of UK this season.
The 34-point victory is Kentucky's highest margin of victory this season, and the team's highest point differential in SEC-play since a 77-43 win against South Carolina last season. Kentucky's win streak is up to three in a row, and now have won five of the last six games.
Derek Willis: Kentucky is now 3-0 with the savior in the starting lineup. Willis has been everything this team has needed; bringing all-around scoring, rebounding, and pure effort to a team lacking all of those. Willis has put up 12 points 7 rebounds and 4 blocks against Arkansas, 7 points and 9 rebounds against Vanderbilt, and 18 points 12 rebounds and 2 blocks last night against Mizzou. Willis has found his shooting stroke, making 7-15 threes in three games as a starter. Willis emerging has been arguably the best circumstance that Calipari has had in his Kentucky tenure.
Skal Labissiere: It is no secret that Skal Labissiere has had his fair share of total struggles throughout the season. John Calipari doesn't make too many mistakes, but even he admitted that "I screwed this kid up". Calipari coaches his bigs to post up effectively, even when he is dealing with forwards that are primarily face-up scorers. If you look back, that is what made Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns as good as they are today. Finally, Cal is letting Skal play his game where he is most comfortable.
The new freestyle play has seemed to work well for Labissiere, as he has turned in two solid performances during the past three games. After putting up 11 points and 3 blocks against Arkansas, then playing just four minutes against Vanderbilt, Skal had his best performance in SEC-play last night.
Labissiere roamed around his comfort area, got some good looks as well as some contested shots as he drained 12 points on 6-8 attempts in 18 minutes of play. After comfortably draining four mid-range shots, Labissiere had a monster dunk from a Tyler Ulis feed and a good looking turnaround floater that led to an and-one. The more Kentucky gets from the skilled big man, the sweeter March is going to look.
Jump shots and free throws: The weakest areas of Kentucky's team is three point shooting and free throw shooting; ranking towards the bottom of around 350 qualified teams in terms of percentages of both. However, during the winning streak, the numbers look to be going upwards. The team is 38-50 (76%) from the charity strike and 20-55 (36%) from three during the last three contests.
Maybe it's because Isaiah Briscoe (34% FT) has made five of his last 6 free throws, and made quite a few shots from 18-feet out. Regardless, the team shooting just over 49% in this stretch; which is a huge part of this teams improvement.
Not many things have gone wrong the past few games; play has been very consistent. The team looks much improvement than how they were earlier in the season. The kids are playing with heart, effort, and determination. This is a team that is capable of winning it all; if they stay on the right track, they have as good of a chance as anyone. Perhaps the game that determines this season is Saturday's matchup at Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas.
Then, we will see what this team is really made of.