BOZICH | Kentucky's Tyler Ulis makes his point about the SEC's b - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Kentucky's Tyler Ulis makes his point about the SEC's best guard

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Kentucky ran away from Ole Miss in the Wildcats' SEC opener. Kentucky ran away from Ole Miss in the Wildcats' SEC opener.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – Mississippi guard Stefan Moody came to Rupp Arena Saturday night ranked first in the Southeastern Conference and eighth in the nation in scoring at 23.8 per game. Those are Marshall Henderson numbers without Marshall Henderson nonsense.

That’s not the way Moody made his name – at least in Kentucky. Moody did that by making five three-point shots and scoring 25 points while pushing the unbeaten and overpowering Wildcats into overtime here a year ago.

How did the Wildcats deal with Moody in their SEC opener this season?

By letting Tyler Ulis take the challenge of showing Moody who is the best guard in the SEC.

"You can't just let someone come out there and just kill you because you could be the reason you lose the game," Ulis said. "When it's a matchup, you have to lock in like I try to do defensively and just try to stop him so you're not the reason your team lost."

How did it turn out?

You be the judge: UK 83, Ole Miss 61.

Moody scored 23 points, but a healthy chunk (15) came after the Rebels trailed, 50-22, less than two minutes into the second half. It was the most points Ole Miss has allowed this season. But even Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy conceded which guard controlled the basketball game. Not his.

"For my money, and I watch a lot of college basketball, I think (Ulis) is the best point guard in college basketball is what I think," Kennedy said. 

"He's making us roll right now," said UK coach John Calipari.

FINAL NOTES FROM THE KENTUCKY VICTORY

IN THE MOOD(Y) FOR DEFENSE -- Moody has been terrific this season, scoring 21 or more points in 10 of the Rebels’ first dozen games. He dropped 30 on Towson and UMass. Of course, there was all the talk about what Moody did against Ulis and the Harrison Twins last season.

"Last year he just basically did whatever he wanted," Ulis said. "He got nine straight on me. That's always on your mind, especially coming back and playing them again. 

"You don't want that to happen. People talk about it. We laugh about it. Made fun of me about it. You don't want that to happen again. Cal was making jokes that if he put me on him he was going to have 50."

Moody did not have room to score 50 or even 30 against the Wildcats. Credit Ulis for that. His on-the-ball defensive skills have been solid all season and that continued against Moody, who is 5 feet 11, only two inches taller than the UK point guard.

Moody did not score in the game’s first five minutes. He made a three. Moody went another 12 minutes without another basket. By then Kentucky was ahead, 41-21, and people were wondering if the Rebels’ basketball team had spent too much time celebrating the Rebels’ victory in the Sugar Bowl Friday night.

Ole Miss finished the first half with 22, the fewest points the Rebels scored in any half all season. Moody got his average, but most of them came after the game was decided. He watched the final four or so minutes from the bench, sitting next to Kennedy, with a towel draped over his head.

"We made them difficult points," Calipari said.

Ulis did most of the work. He shut off the lane. He left little space for three-point shooting. He stole the ball from Moody twice in the first half.

It was the kind of performance that should put Ulis in the discussion for SEC Player of the Week again, especially when you also add his 20 points, 10 assists and six steals into the discussion.

"He's out to prove who he is, too," Calipari said. "He's a good player. He took on a challenge. I know he did it. I'm going to show I'm the better basketball player."

HAWKINS HURTING – Keep an eye on the injury report on Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins. He appeared to turn his left ankle during a collision with an Ole Miss player near the Rebels’ basket about six minutes into the second half.

Calipari walked onto the court to check on Hawkins – and he immediately waved Isaiah Briscoe into the game. Hawkins was able to stand and walk off the court with assistance from the training staff. But he went directly to the locker room and missed the remainder of the game.

"He hurt his ankle," Calipari said. "They said he's going to be fine."

Hawkins failed to score in three minutes, missing his only shot.

PROGRESS FOR LABISSIERE – The hype train has stalled for Kentucky freshman center Skal Labissiere. DraftExpress might still list him as a top five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but Labissiere did not start for the second consecutive game.

Labissiere has not disappeared from John Calipari’s plans. He played 15 minutes and delivered his most productive game since Dec. 9. Labissiere made four of seven shots, scoring nine points while collecting three rebounds (all offensive) before fouling out.

"He's got to do it," Calipari said. "It doesn't matter what we hope for him."

"It's just a matter of time," Kennedy said. "I like the kid. I'm a fan of the kid."

MASKED MAN -- Marcus Lee, Kentucky’s junior forward, warmed up with and then without a plastic mask covering his nose. Lee had the mask on throughout the game and he played his typical solid game, contributing 13 points, eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. The mask was not an issue.

Lee shook his head when I asked him if his nose was broken, but a source said that Lee was hit in the face several times in practice this week. His nose bled but the source said it was not broken.

"His nose has been bleeding," Calipari said. "We don't know if he's been hit."

ONE-AND-DONE -- The Wildcats and Rebels are a single play in the SEC this season. There’s no return game in Oxford.

Ordinarily, that’s no big deal. This season it is.

On Thursday the Rebels will move into their new home – the Pavilion, a $95 million facility that will seat about 9,500. Ole Miss played its final game at the Smith Coliseum on Dec. 2. Built in 1966, The Tad was built for $1.8 million – or $13.1 million in today’s dollars.

The opening game is against Alabama on ESPNU. "Very exciting," said Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork, who formerly worked at Western Kentucky.

UP NEXT -- The Wildcats play back-to-back road games for the first of three times this season.

It starts with a Tuesday trip to Baton Rouge to play Ben Simmons and Louisiana State and concludes with a Saturday visit to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama, led by first-year coach Avery Johnson.

At 7-5, the Tigers have been a disappointment, considering Simmons is considered the likely first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. They’ve been beaten by Marquette, North Carolina State, College of Charleston, Houston and Wake Forest. They played at Vanderbilt Saturday night -- and beat the Commodores, 90-82. LSU was the only road winner in the SEC.

Alabama beat Norfolk State, 68-49, in its final non-conference game to improve to 9-3. The Crimson Tide have quality wins over Wichita State and Notre Dame. They’ve been beaten by Xavier, Dayton and Oregon, all ranked in the Top 50 in Ken Pomeroy’s computer power formula.

Kentucky’s next home game will be Jan. 12 against Mississippi State. Ken Pomeroy has UK favored to win the next two on the road, but only by four (LSU) and five (Bama) points.

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