BOZICH | Kentucky looks Kansas-ready while burying Missouri
Kentucky extended its winning streak to three while beating Missouri Wednesday. Next for the Wildcats is a trip to Kansas, which has won 34 straight home games.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky made Missouri wish the Tigers were shoved back into the Big 12 Conference Wednesday night. The final score in Rupp Arena was UK 88, Mizzou 54.
Tyler Ulis dazzled with 20 points and eight assists. Derek Willis took five three-point shots and made four. Willis had 18 points and, write this down in bold type, a dozen rebounds.
"it wasn't by default, he went and grabbed them," UK coach John Calipari said. "And I just said after the game, I said, Derek (Willis), you've taken minutes from people in this room, do you want to give anybody back minutes?'
"And he's even being honest. He said, 'Coach, I just want to win.' He's playing desperate. He's rebounding with two hands. He was a double-double.
"And basically, he's put a couple guys on bench. And they're good players, but this is about performance. Now, it's good though because now they got to fight to get minutes back, which means our practices will be better or they will give up. They got a choice. You can give up or fight."
Credit Isaiah Briscoe with 15 points and Skal Labissiere with a dozen. Jamal Murray was the fifth-leading scorer with 11. The Wildcats made 9 of 20 shots from distance. This game was over after two possessions.
"Tyler was ridiculous," Calipari said. "Isaiah (Briscoe) was good, Jamal (Murray) wasn't as good, but he rebounded. He missed a front end one-and-one and he missed a layup in the open court. He tried something crazy which he does occasionally.
"And Skal (Labissiere) jumped in on a free throw, which he would have made, he made it, it would have been a one-and-one he would have made two. You're talking eight points, six. That's my good math. Two threes."
Next question: Can Kentucky stretch its winning streak to four at Kansas Saturday night?
The computer numbers say, “No.”
The eyeball test says, “Yes.”
The Wildcats have won their last three by an average of more than 22 points per game. John Calipari’s team should be energized and at ease while performing in a game that few will expect them to win. The ugly loss to Auburn? Maybe it was a wake-up call.
"You know, refuse to lose," Briscoe said. "That’s the motto we go by now and every time we go to the locker room coach always says just refuse to lose.”
Kansas has not lost in Allen Fieldhouse this season. They’re 10-0. Kansas did not lose in Allen Fieldhouse last season. They were 15-0. The Jayhawks’ home winning streak is 34. San Diego State handled Bill Self’s team on Jan. 5, 2014.
Jeff Sagarin’s Predictor computer formula is usually close to the point spread. His numbers like Kansas by 6.81.
Ken Pomeroy also likes the Jayhawks by 6. He puts UK's win probability at 31 percent, two points better than it was before the Missouri blowout.
Here is the list:
UCLA: Kansas beat the Bruins by 19 in Maui. UK lost to UCLA by 10 in Los Angeles.
Vanderbilt: Kansas beat the Commodores by seven in Maui. UK dusted Vandy by 19 in Rupp Arena last weekend.
But Kansas hasn’t been playing like Kansas over the last 2 ½ weeks. The Jayhawks have been beaten three times in their last five games – and all three losses were double figures.
Losing by 11 at West Virginia can happen. Bob Huggins has a top 10 club. Losing at Iowa State by 13 was shaky, but the Cyclones have also beaten Oklahoma and Iowa this season.
But Kansas showed legit vulnerability while losing by 19 to struggling Oklahoma State. That loss was worse than Kentucky’s loss at Auburn.
Kansas is questionable where Kentucky is questionable – around the glass.
According to ShotAnalytics.com, Kansas is the best team in the country shooting three-pointers from the top of the key. They’re 52 percent from that spot.
At the rim?
There’s nothing special about the Jayhawks there. They rank 53rd in that category, 28 spots behind Kentucky.
The Jayhawks have a pair of McDonald’s all-Americans who have played like 2-star recruits.
One is Carlton Bragg. He’s the guy who said “Kentucky,” even though he was supposed to say, “Kansas,” during the press conference when Bragg announced his college choice.
Maybe Bragg should have said, “Irrelevant,” because he’s playing less than 11 minutes per game for the Jayhawks and averaging 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds.
The other is Cheick Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward. He missed KU’s first five games because the NCAA had questions about his eligibility. Today there are questions about why the recruiting services were so gaga about Diallo.
He’s played four minutes in the last two games and has not scored double figures since Dec. 9 against Holy Cross. Diallo has averaged 4.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game.
No, the Kansas players Kentucky must are Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. Ellis is the only guy in the group who hangs out near the rim.
Kansas will be favored. Few outside the Bluegrass will pick Kentucky to win. That’s a rare moment for Calipari’s program.
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