UK Men's Basketball

Tyler Ulis outplays Stefan Moody as UK routs Ole Miss

Tyler Ulis on defending Moody

Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis on defense against Stefan Moody in UK's 83-61 win over Ole Miss.
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Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis on defense against Stefan Moody in UK's 83-61 win over Ole Miss.

The sign of what was to come came early. Tyler Ulis drove to a layup while being fouled by Stefan Moody.

With the ball in the basket and the foul called, Ulis looked for his parents in the seats behind the baseline. Then he pounded his right fist into his chest.

“Just a lot of energy in the gym with the crowd going crazy,” Ulis said after Kentucky beat Mississippi 83-61 Saturday night. “I was just in the moment.”

The matchup of point guards captured how Kentucky imposed its will in a manner Coach John Calipari all but said could not happen. Ulis set the tone by thoroughly outplaying Moody, the player that nearly beat a much-more vaunted UK team in Rupp Arena last year.

Ulis scored 20 points, one shy of a career-high, and handed out a career-high 10 assists. He also had a career-high six steals.

Moody, the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer, had 23 points. But all but three of those points came after UK established a 25-point lead late in the first half. He got off only four shots until almost five minutes were gone in the second half.

But then, Kentucky led by 27 points and seemed assured of a successful start to league play. The Cats improved to 11-2 overall. Ole Miss, which opened league play on the road for the 14th time in the last 18 years, fell to 10-3.

Ulis “took on a challenge because everybody is talking about their guard … ,” Calipari said. “But I don’t have enough other guys that want to do that. … And I had them in the past, like a team full of guys like that.

“We need more guys that look at the other guy and say, ‘I’m going to show who is the better player here.’”

Ulis exudes a feisty, almost combative attitude on the court. So it was no surprise he’d relish a chance to compete against Moody, although the UK point guard said his motivation was winning the game.

Stoking that competitive fire, he said, was the memory of Moody scoring nine straight points over him last season.

“That’s always on your mind,” Ulis said.

On the remote chance that Ulis would not welcome the challenge, Calipari called upon his rapier wit.

“You can’t guard him,” Ulis said the UK coach told him. “Cal makes jokes. If he puts me on him, he’s going to have 50 (points).”

With a minute left in the first half, the Rupp Arena crowd stood and applauded. A standing ovation said it all about Kentucky’s virtuoso opening 20 minutes.

As the teams went to the locker rooms, UK led 46-22. That eclipsed the previous largest halftime lead: 42-21 over South Florida.

Alert and active defense gave Kentucky this lead. Ole Miss, which came into the game averaging 37.9 points in first halves, made only six of 26 shots.

Kentucky focused its defense on Moody, who averaged 23.8 points in non-conference play. He did not get off a shot until the 14:43 mark, and didn’t shoot again until 8:33 remained in the half.

Moody finished the half with as many turnovers (two) as baskets (two) and eight points.

A defensive plan developed and practiced all week called for defenders to keep their hands up and staying down on ball fakes.

Ulis led the defensive effort, although Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins also got turns guarding Moody.

The game began with Ulis seemingly intent on showing he was the best diminutive guard on the court. He scored three of UK’s first four baskets and assisted on the other (a Marcus Lee dunk).

The fourth basket seemed telling. Ulis drove to a fast-break layup while being fouled by Moody. As the referees whistled the foul, Ulis looked into the end zone seats and pounded a fist into his chest.

“I think he’s the best point guard in college basketball,” Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy said. “He has the ability to run that team. It’s as if he’s skating … He just kind of skates through.”

For the record, Ulis said he cannot ice skate.

Later in the half, the crowd rose to cheer Derek Willis flying through the lane to dunk a missed three-pointer by Ulis.

Freshman Skal Labissiere, who is at the epicenter of UK fan desire for more fight and grit, competed. When he entered the game at the 14:05 mark, he grabbed the first offensive rebound he saw and slammed it.

That was one reason Kentucky had almost as many offensive rebounds (12) as Ole Miss had total rebounds (13) in the first half.

Nothing changed as the second half began, which suggested the Cats had listened when Calipari said earlier this season the team needed to keep an opponent down.

Ulis, still peppy, stripped Moody of the ball. That led to a Briscoe layup on a fast-break. That grew the lead to 50-22 and prompted an Ole Miss time with 18:12 left.

Ole Miss finally got untracked. The Rebels made eight of their next 10 shots. Moody kept his streak of double-digit points in each game with a driving layup while being fouled with 15:15 left.

Ole Miss matched its six first-half baskets with 11:22 left. The eighth basket made it 65-42 with 10:46 left.

Kentucky’s lead was never less than 20 thereafter.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

No. 10 KENTUCKY 83,

MISSISSIPPI 61

MISSISSIPPI

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Saiz

26

5-10

2-3

6

0

3

12

Gielo

28

2-5

1-2

0

1

3

6

Perez

22

2-5

1-2

4

2

3

5

Newby

24

1-2

3-4

5

1

2

5

Moody

30

6-9

9-9

2

1

1

23

Escobar

6

1-2

0-1

0

0

1

2

Davis

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Hymon

13

1-4

2-4

2

0

1

4

Finley

3

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Brooks

28

2-7

0-1

3

2

3

4

Fitzpatrick-Dorsey

11

0-2

0-0

0

0

2

0

Brutus

6

0-3

0-0

3

0

0

0

Coddington

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

20-50

18-26

27

7

19

61

Percentages: FG .400, FT .692. Three-point goals: 3-14, .214 (Moody 2-5, Gielo 1-3, Perez 0-1, Brooks 0-5). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 3 (Hymon 2, Brooks). Turnovers: 16 (Moody 5, Newby 4, Saiz 3, Finley 2, Hymon). Steals: 6 (Brutus 2, Brooks 2, Saiz, Newby). Technical fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Lee

28

6-9

1-5

8

0

2

13

Poythress

23

2-5

2-3

9

0

4

6

Ulis

38

8-13

3-4

3

10

3

20

Briscoe

35

2-8

2-4

5

3

3

6

Murray

39

7-17

0-0

6

3

1

18

Labissiere

14

4-7

1-2

3

0

5

9

Matthews

10

1-1

1-2

1

0

2

3

Humphries

1

0-1

0-0

0

0

2

0

Hawkins

3

0-1

0-0

0

1

2

0

Willis

9

3-4

0-0

1

1

1

8

Totals

200

33-66

10-20

41

18

25

83

Percentages: FG .500, FT .500. Three-point goals: 7-25, .280 (Murray 4-12, Willis 2-3, Ulis 1-6, Poythress 0-1, Hawkins 0-1, Briscoe 0-2). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 2 (Lee 2). Turnovers: 12 (Poythress 3, Ulis 3, Murray 2, Willis 2, Briscoe, Humphries). Steals: 13 (Ulis 6, Briscoe 4, Matthews 2, Murray). Technical fouls: None.

Mississippi

22

39

61

Kentucky

46

37

83

A—24,399. Officials—Tony Greene, Byron Jarrett, Terry Moore.

Next game

Kentucky at LSU

9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)

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