It has been nearly 2 months since UK traveled to Baton Rouge and got roughed up by the Bayou Bengals, but Big Blue Nation certainly had not forgot about it. Before the day started, there was a lot on the line as a win would keep UK's hopes alive for an outright SEC title and a #1 seed.
By the time tip rolled around, we learned that Vanderbilt could not help out the 'Cats by beating A&M, which meant UK could not really do anything about their SEC tournament future other than ensure they won the #2 seed. The 'Cats were left with hoping to avenge the earlier loss and hoping to honor Alex on his final day in Rupp.
The amazing Marlena Van Hoose sang My Old Kentucky Home and the crowd loved it, then Alex Poythress received a thunderous ovation during the starting lineups and Rupp was rowdy and ready to put one on the Tigers.
All of the chills. pic.twitter.com/k1VXFIntga— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) March 5, 2016
Kentucky started off quick with a 4-0 start including a dunk by Alex Poythress and Rupp was primed to explode. Kentucky would get sloppy and allow LSU to go a 9-0 run but both teams settled in after that.
The 'Cats and Tigers would go back and forth most of the half until a helluva run by Skal Labissiere and Tyler Ulis helped to pull the 'Cats away a little bit. Skal hit back to back 18 footers, volleyball swatted a layup and got a few rebounds while Ulis put on a dribbling clinic to get a few jumpers and a filthy drive and lob to Marcus Lee:
Kentucky would continue their strong first half push behind Ulis and Skal to a 41-32 halftime lead largely without Alex Poythress as he got his 2nd foul just 10 minutes into the game. Labissiere had 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks and Ulis had 7 points NINE assists and 3 rebounds. Marcus Lee quietly had a solid half as well going for 8 points and 5 rebounds.
The 2nd half started off with some fireworks with a Skal block, a Poythress dunk, Simmons body checking Ulis, a Technical foul on LSU for hanging on the rim, multiple questionable calls, and Calipari with likely a cornucopia of choice words for the zebras.
The best part of the first 4 minutes was Jamal Murray drilling a three, then turning right to the UK bench for his Bow and Arrow, E.J. Floreal acted like he got hit by the arrow and proceeded to go down like he was out.
Kentucky would roll from there on the backs of Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere, and Jamal Murray. The lead was up to 84-60 with just under 5 minutes to go.
Kentucky would cruise from there to the victory behind a very strong team effort by all. Skal, Ulis, Murray, and Lee all played strong in the dominant win.
The final was 94-77 in one of UK's highest scoring efforts of the season
WHAT DID WE LEARN
- Skal Labissiere is getting it, in order for us to make any kind of deep run, we have to have Derek Willis healthy and Murray and Ulis doing their thing. If we can add in there a contributing Skal Labissiere, well we become a legitimate title contender
- Tyler Ulis is putting up gaudy assist numbers, he had 9 at the half today and ended up with a total of 13.
- Briscoe may need to stop shooting the jumper folks. I know that he is open and the only way to get confidence is to keep shooting till you make it, but he does not seem to be a guy who is ever going to make it with consistency. I think teams are going to start leaving him more and more on an island.
- Ben Simmons looks the part, being on the floor during warmups and watching the flow of the game, he stands out as clearly the superior athlete on the floor.
- Derek Willis makes a difference just being on the court, the defense has to respect his shooting and it literally opens up the entire offense for UK. You can see Ulis is like a kid in a candy store when he does not have to beat multiple defenders off the dribble due to sagging off.
- Alex Poythress is flat out loved and he should be. In a game where the future #1 pick in Ben Simmons is not eligible for the Wooden award because he has too low of a GPA, we have an Academic All-American with a degree at UK, under Calipari... well, that needs to be recognized for something.
- Kentucky is a dangerous team when the fouls are called accordingly, it is quite the disparity of quality in fact.
- Jamal Murray is going to be a monster in March for us, he was very patient today, he did not force things and let the game come to him. My bold prediction is that he will end up a top 5 pick if not top 3.