UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky misses Ulis in defeat of Illinois State

Illinois State Coach After Loss To UK

Illinois State coach Dan Muller talks to media after his team's 75-63 loss to No. 1-ranked Lentucky.
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Illinois State coach Dan Muller talks to media after his team's 75-63 loss to No. 1-ranked Lentucky.

Kentucky’s 75-63 victory over Illinois State on Monday night was a get-well card to Tyler Ulis.

Without the player John Calipari said might be the best floor general he’s ever coached, Kentucky struggled to subdue an opponent ranked No. 144 (six spots better than Morehead State) by numbers cruncher Ken Pomeroy.

“It’s obvious we’re not the same team (without Ulis),” Calipari said. “I mean, unless you were watching another game, we’re not the same team. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t play hard, and guys shouldn’t battle and fight for balls. We got beat to everything in the first half.”

Kentucky pulled away in the second half, perhaps with an assist from an Illinois State team fatigued by more than 7,000 miles of travel within the last three weeks.

Kentucky’s first double-digit lead came with 12:52 left. Two free throws by a strangely disengaged Skal Labissiere put the Cats ahead 50-40. Those were his only points. He didn’t take a shot until barely nine minutes remained. It was the only shot he took.

“Skal really gave us nothing the whole game,” Calipari said after first saying Jamal Murray “didn’t play” in a four-point, no-assist, three-turnover first half.

Calipari also saw Alex Poythress as AWOL in the first half (one point, two rebounds).

“This is a good thing,” Calipari said of the unproductive play. “The thing about elite athletes and world-class athletes, they can evaluate their performance and say, all right, I got to fix this. They self-evaluate and that’s what this team needs to do.”

Marcus Lee, who came off the bench for the first time this season after a poor performance against South Florida last week, did such fixing. He posted his second double-double in the last five games. He had 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. He also had a double-double against Duke.

“He was great ,” Calipari said of Lee. “Boy, was he good. If Marcus doesn’t play, we lose because I had to get Skal out and I had to get Alex out.”

Illinois State (3-5) did not bother Kentucky with what Calipari had said were pressing and trapping reminiscent of Arkansas. But the Redbirds, who lost to No. 2 Maryland 77-66 last Tuesday, were not afraid.

Kentucky (7-0) led by 16 points midway through the second half. Illinois State closed within seven down the stretch.

DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell led Illinois State with 22 points, the most by a UK opponent this season.

Murray and Briscoe, the duo who shared point-guard duty in Ulis’ absence, scored 16 and 18 points, respectively.

For the first time this season, Kentucky did not lead at halftime. Akoon-Purcell’s driving layup tied it at 31-31 in the final seconds.

A deadlock seemed appropriate after neither team took control in the opening 20 minutes. It also followed form. With Ulis watching on the bench in Miami Friday, the Cats and South Florida played to a 42-42 second-half tie.

Ulis’ absence was felt immediately. Briscoe, who played point guard as the game began, committed turnovers on the first three possessions. A UK timeout 74 seconds into the game didn’t help.

“I thought we got them flustered early,” Illinois State Coach Dan Muller said. “They kind of got a handle on it and we couldn’t really get them going as much in the second half.”

Briscoe’s early trouble continued after the three straight turnovers. He tried and missed one of his whirling-in-the-lane flips, which inspired Calipari to say it resembled a shot in a game of H-O-R-S-E. Then Briscoe completed his brutal debut as Kentucky’s emergency point guard by fouling on the rebound.

“It’s all a learning process,” Briscoe said. “(Calipari) kept looking at me and saying, ‘Keep playing basketball. Don’t worry about it.’”

Midway through the half, Briscoe and Murray each had three turnovers and one assist. The Cats finished the half with only four assists and nine turnovers. Guards — Briscoe, Murray and Charles Matthews — committed all nine turnovers.

With Labissiere doing nothing (his first-half stat line was all zeroes except for a foul), Kentucky fell behind 7-1 early and did not lead until Marcus Lee’s free throw with 10:42 left put the Cats ahead 16-15.

Kentucky’s biggest first-half lead was four points. It might have been larger had the Cats made more than 10 of 20 free throws.

Kentucky made 19 of 26 in the second half.

As for Ulis’ return, Calipari said he doubted the sophomore guard would practice Tuesday. UK plays at UCLA on Thursday.

“I would tell you he probably needs to practice the next day (Wednesday) before we play on Thursday to see if he can go,” Calipari said. “If he can’t go, we’ll go as is. We’ll play with what we have.”

No. 1 KENTUCKY 75, ILLINOIS ST. 63

ILLINOIS ST.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Lee

26

1-7

0-0

2

1

5

3

McIntosh

26

4-10

4-4

1

2

4

14

Wills

21

0-2

0-0

2

1

4

0

Hawkins

20

2-11

0-0

5

1

4

4

Akoon-Purcell

32

9-20

2-2

6

2

4

22

Banyard

18

0-2

0-0

4

1

0

0

Brewer

15

2-5

2-4

8

0

2

6

Ndiaye

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

McCloud

13

0-3

0-0

1

0

4

0

Griffin

28

7-10

0-0

3

0

5

14

Totals

200

25-70

8-10

37

8

32

63

Percentages: FG .357, FT .800. Three-point goals: 5-20, .250 (McIntosh 2-3, Akoon-Purcell 2-5, Lee 1-1, Banyard 0-1, Brewer 0-1, Griffin 0-2, McCloud 0-2, Hawkins 0-5). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 2 (Griffin, Brewer). Turnovers: 16 (Akoon-Purcell 4, Lee 3, McIntosh 3, Hawkins 2, McCloud, Banyard, Brewer, Griffin). Steals: 5 (Hawkins 2, Brewer, Akoon-Purcell, Wills). Technical fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Labissiere

16

0-1

2-2

2

0

3

2

Matthews

34

1-6

3-8

3

2

3

5

Briscoe

27

7-13

4-7

7

3

5

18

Poythress

30

3-7

3-5

7

2

2

9

Murray

29

3-9

9-13

5

1

2

16

Lee

30

6-8

1-2

12

0

3

13

Mulder

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Hawkins

24

1-5

5-7

0

0

1

7

Willis

8

1-2

2-2

2

0

0

5

Totals

200

22-51

29-46

39

8

19

75

Percentages: FG .431, FT .630. Three-point goals: 2-12, .167 (Willis 1-2, Murray 1-3, Matthews 0-1, Poythress 0-1, Briscoe 0-2, Hawkins 0-3). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 9 (Lee 2, Poythress 2, Briscoe, Labissiere, Matthews, Hawkins, Willis). Turnovers: 15 (Briscoe 5, Murray 4, Matthews 3, Hawkins, Labissiere, Lee). Steals: 6 (Matthews 2, Hawkins, Murray, Poythress, Briscoe). Technical fouls: None.

Illinois St.

31

32

63

Kentucky

31

44

75

A—21,894. Officials—Joe Lindsay, Mike Nance, Doug Sirmons.

Next game

Kentucky at UCLA

9 p.m. Thursday (ESPN)

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