Tyler Ulis was injured and left the game in the first half. That would be a headline grabber in many circumstances, jeopardizing Kentucky’s chances of winning.
But that was hardly the case in Friday’s game against South Florida. And from early reports, there should be no cause for alarm.
Kentucky breezed to an 84-63 victory. During the one-sided game, UK officials said Ulis hyper-extended his right elbow late in the first half. His status will be day to day.
Earlier this fall, Coach John Calipari saluted Ulis as invaluable, especially for this latest Kentucky team dependent on freshmen and veterans thrust into unfamiliar roles.
Calipari called Ulis “maybe the best floor general” he’d coached and a player who made UK a different (read: better) team by his mere presence.
When asked if Ulis might be distracted by Kentucky’s game in his hometown of Chicago earlier this month, Calipari smiled, shook his head and said, “He’s a different cat.”
Even without Ulis’ on-ball pressure, Kentucky frazzled South Florida with defense. The Cats enjoyed a 23-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
Kentucky (6-0) snapped out of its three-point shooting funk. The Cats equaled a season-high of six three-point baskets, or one more than they made in the last two games.
Charles Matthews and Dominique Hawkins made their first three-pointers of the season.
Matthews and Jamal Murray scored season-high points, 11 and 21 respectively. Skal Labissiere added 17.
South Florida (1-5) got 13 points from Jahmal McMurray.
Despite a 42-21 lead at intermission, the first half was anything but a stroll on the beach for Kentucky.
The most disquieting moment came with 5:26 left and UK leading 30-21. That’s when Ulis got hurt and exited the game.
Ulis hurt his right arm. He took a blow to the arm as players from both teams began to scramble for a loose ball.
It was immediately apparent that Ulis was hurt. He favored his right arm, dipping his right shoulder toward the court as he headed for the bench. He went to the locker room.
UK spokesman Eric Lindsey confirmed that Ulis had hyper-extended his right elbow and would be listed as day to day.
Ulis’ absence did not jeopardize Kentucky’s chances of beating South Florida. Although before the injury, he broke out of a puzzling three-point shooting slump (four of 19 in previous games this season).
Ulis made his only two three-point shots, the second coming less than 30 seconds before the injury.
As a team, Kentucky shot the three-pointer better. The Cats made four in the first half. That was one more than they made against Boston University on Tuesday.
Kentucky outrebounded South Florida 20-13 and limited the Bulls to 8-for-26 shooting in the first half.
Nothing changed in the second half even though Ulis never appeared at the bench.
Illinois State at Kentucky
Monday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)