BOZICH | Kentucky better with Tyler Ulis -- and without the pout - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Kentucky better with Tyler Ulis -- and without the pouting

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Kentucky freshman point guard Tyler Ulis of the Wildcats' win over Louisville. Kentucky freshman point guard Tyler Ulis of the Wildcats' win over Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky is better than Louisville. Kentucky plays better with Tyler Ulis at point guard.

And whenever I look at the schedule I'm more convinced that the team most likely to beat Kentucky is Kentucky, especially if any of the Wildcats' veterans drift deeper into What's Happening to My NBA Draft Status? Mode.

Those are the three things I learned from the Wildcats' 58-50 solid victory over the Cardinals Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.

Kentucky overcame 18 turnovers and 42 percent shooting. The Wildcats led for nearly 37 minutes.

They won with minimal frowns, except from point guard Andrew Harrison, who apparently was not as dazzled by Ulis' dynamic performance as Jennifer Lawrence, Rick Pitino, Terry Rozier, NBA scouts and others who watched the game.

“He controlled the game,” Rozier said. “He picked it up on the defensive end. He did a real good job, especially to weigh that much (155 pounds) and to be that short (5 feet 9) in a big game like this, a big rivalry. He controlled the game pretty much the whole game.”

Pretty much.

It was also pretty obvious that Andrew Harrison was more concerned with his six turnovers and 1 for 6 shooting than with what his teammates were trying to achieve while winning on the road against an unbeaten team that also plays ferocious defense.

Harrison perturbed Calipari by walking away from a huddle with 1:32 to play as U of L's Wayne Blackshear was about to shoot three free throws. Kentucky led, 50-42. Lip reading is not my specialty but Calipari did not blow Harrison a kiss – at least not until after the game.

There was another occasion when every Kentucky player roared off the bench to cheer and celebrate a powerful drive by Willie Cauley-Stein – except Number 5.

“They are not machines,” Calipari said. “They are not computers. I told him (after the game) that I loved him and I had his back and that he is still my point guard.”

Maybe Harrison was simply having a bad day. It happens. I haven't forgotten that Harrison had 18 points when UK beat U of L in Rupp Arena last season or that he contributed 14 points and seven assists in the Wildcats' victory over the Cardinals in the NCAA Tournament last March.

Harrison played 38 critical minutes in that game. He played only 20 Saturday – and Kentucky was outscored by 13 points when he was on the floor. Kentucky was plus-20 with Ulis at the point and plus-13 with Devin Booker at the other guard position.

During that stretch, an NBA scout sent me this text message:

“Kentucky's best lineup – Ulis, Booker, (Trey) Lyles, (Willie) Cauley-Stein and (Dakari) Johnson or (Karl-Anthony) Towns at the five.”

Kentucky is soaring, but Harrison's position in the 2015 NBA Draft is not. Maybe Harrison was starting to process what others were already discussing – that the basketball moves better when Ulis is running the team, that Ulis has that Chris Paul-gear most college point guards lack and that Kentucky pushed its lead from 32-28 to 47-36 with Ulis dancing over, under, around and through the Louisville defense.

And he did it after taking an elbow to his face that required three stitches.

“Just trying to use my quickness and my basketball IQ to my advantage and not try to get into all the rough stuff and just play my game,” Ulis said.

He made threes – a pair of them – while leading Kentucky with 14 points.

His assist total (2) was not spectacular, but his turnover total (0) was, especially on a day when Ulis' teammates threw the ball away 18 times.

Rick Pitino noticed. Apparently Pitino has loved Ulis for months. After watching his U of L team achieve something I have never seen (one assist in 40 minutes) Pitino could find time for a playmaker like Ulis in the Louisville rotation.

“I think he's a great basketball player … ,” Pitino said. “… he's a true point guard who makes people better. I've loved him from the moment I started watching him.

“I do think he's a great point guard. That's a program that you can build around, having a great point guard.”

Now Calipari's primary coaching job will not be coaching the pick-and-roll, it will be coaching egos. The Wildcats don't have another game until Jan. 6. They'll be favored in all 18 of their games in the meh Southeastern Conference. They're positioned to win a national championship. They're 13-0 – and the undefeated talk will only escalate.

Duke could beat them. Maybe. Virginia could beat them. Maybe. Wisconsin could beat them. Maybe. Texas could beat them. Maybe. It's a short list.

And Kentucky could beat Kentucky -- but only if the players let that happen.

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