UK Men's Basketball

Jamal Murray leads UK basketball to bounce-back win over Florida

Kentucky's Humphries states his case after mom states hers

Aussie big man sets aside nerves to contribute in absence of Poythress
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Aussie big man sets aside nerves to contribute in absence of Poythress

As Kentucky players warmed up for Saturday’s game against Florida, Jamal Murray walked off the court and headed into the seats behind the baseline. He stopped a few rows up and gave a man a noticeably long bear hug.

The man, Murray’s father Roger, wrapped his meaty arms around the UK freshman. The embrace gave the business of basketball about to unfold a tender prelude.

And it proved to be the first of several father-son communications throughout the late afternoon in Rupp Arena.

Murray scored a career-high 35 points to lead Kentucky to a rejuvenating 80-61 victory over Florida. He made a career-high eight three-point shots, frequently looking up into the stands after a swish and pointing a finger at his father, mother, brother and one of his high school teachers.

They put me in this position. They worked very hard to get me to a great school. I’m trying to make the most of it.

Jamal Murray, on his family

“To make sure they knew that shot was for them … ,” Murray said. “I love the support. They put me in this position. They worked very hard to get me to a great school. I’m trying to make the most of it.”

This support continues. Roger Murray said he had been trying on this trip to Lexington to help his son with his shooting mechanics.

“A couple of minor things we’ve been going over so many times,” Jamal Murray said. “I think just having him here instead of hearing him on the phone made a big difference.”

The elder Murray was a track man. He ran the 200-, 400- and 800-meter races, first in his native Jamaica and later in Canada.

When asked if he played basketball, he said, “Just for fun. But I study the game a lot.”

His son vouched for his father’s basketball ability.

“He beat some guys on my high school team,” Jamal Murray said. “And he beat Brad Calipari.”

Of course, that was a reference to UK Coach John Calipari’s son. “I know I’ll get a text from him later … ,” Murray said. “My dad is just too strong for him.”

Murray was too much for Florida. He hit his first six three-point shots en route to an eight-for-10 shooting performance from beyond the arc. The eight threes were two shy of Jodie Meeks’ UK record.

With Tyler Ulis chipping in 18 points, Kentucky shredded a heretofore stout Florida defense.

The Cats made 51.7 percent of their shots, which was a season-best accuracy against the Gators, who ranked among the top three Southeastern Conference teams in points allowed, opponents’ overall shooting and shooting from three-point range.

I think he’s still open.

Florida Coach Mike White on Jamal Murray

Only one previous Florida opponent had made better than 47 percent of its shots: Purdue.

“I think he’s still open,” Florida Coach Mike White said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. Very, very discouraged. It’s like we didn’t know he’s a good shooter.”

Kentucky, 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the Southeastern Conference, took charge from the start. The Cats made 10 of their first 13 shots en route to a 24-5 lead less than seven minutes into the game.

Murray scored 13 of those points and finished the first half with 20.

“I believe his first one was a wide-open one in transition,” White said. “We had three guys stop the basketball (rather than one guy stay with Murray). … It was arguably our biggest key of the game, and when you have three guys stop the basketball, somebody’s open. And unfortunately for us, Jamal Murray was open.”

Florida twice called timeouts trying to stem the Blue tidal wave. Neither made much of a difference.

Kentucky’s first-half lead crested at 24 points.

Murray capped his big first half with his fifth three-pointer seven seconds before intermission.

The second half began like the first. Murray led Kentucky’s bolt from the gate. His three-pointer with 18:17 left put the Cats ahead 58-32. That gave him 25 points, or more than he’d had in any game except the 33-point starburst against Ohio State in December.

Murray’s next basket restored a 26-point bulge (60-34).

“It seemed like he didn’t miss a shot,” said Dorian Finney-Smith, who led Florida with 24 points. In defending Murray, the plan was “just run him off the line,” Finney-Smith said. “Try not to give him open shots because a guy like that can heat up.”

Murray reached the 30-point mark with 9:37 left.

Florida made it mildly interesting by narrowing UK’s lead to 70-56. The two teams were scoreless for almost four minutes before — who else this day? — Murray broke the ice. His driving layup evoked the memory of Michael Jordan driving, then shifting the ball in mid-air before scoring as Marv Albert screamed Michael Jordan!!

Chances are UK Coach John Calipari had a different reaction. He lamented what he viewed an unnecessary finger-roll shot that Murray missed at another point of the game. “He had to do The Ice Man,” he said in reference to George Gervin. “Whee.”

Murray, who knew of Gervin but was unaware of the nickname, smiled.

“It’s never a perfect day for him with me,” Murray said of the UK coach. “It’s nothing personal. It’s him being him.”

Meanwhile, Murray’s father, who wants his son to reduce his turnovers, enjoyed a satisfying afternoon.

“That’s how he usually played in high school,” Roger Murray said. “That’s his game. That’s him.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

No. 20 KENTUCKY 80, FLORIDA 61

FLORIDA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

PT

Finney-Smith

35

8-11

6-7

8

1

2

24

Egbunu

26

3-7

6-8

5

0

2

12

Hill

13

2-7

0-0

0

1

4

4

Allen

27

1-6

0-0

2

3

0

3

Chiozza

29

1-8

0-0

2

4

1

3

Walker

7

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Francis-Ramirez

20

3-7

0-0

3

0

0

7

Robinson

18

3-6

1-2

4

0

4

8

Hayes

11

0-0

0-2

1

0

2

0

Leon

13

0-0

0-1

2

1

2

0

Rimmer

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

21-53

13-20

28

10

17

61

Percentages: FG .396, FT .650.

Three-point goals: 6-19, .316 (Finney-Smith 2-5, Robinson 1-1, Francis-Ramirez 1-4, Allen 1-4, Chiozza 1-4, Hill 0-1).

Team rebounds: 1.

Blocked shots: 1 (Egbunu).

Turnovers: 10 (Chiozza 2, Hill 2, Egbunu, Leon, Robinson, Allen, Hayes, Finney-Smith).

Steals: 4 (Egbunu, Allen, Robinson, Chiozza).

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

PT

Lee

26

2-2

0-1

6

1

5

4

Willis

25

3-7

4-5

6

0

1

12

Ulis

38

7-12

2-3

4

11

2

18

Briscoe

34

1-6

1-2

2

6

3

3

Murray

36

13-21

1-2

6

1

0

35

Labissiere

15

1-3

0-0

3

0

4

2

Matthews

11

1-4

0-1

1

0

0

2

Mulder

0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Humphries

15

2-3

0-0

6

0

3

4

Floreal

0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Hawkins

0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

30-58

8-14

37

19

18

80

Percentages: FG .517, FT .571.

Three-point goals: 12-20, .600 (Murray 8-10, Ulis 2-3, Willis 2-6, Briscoe 0-1).

Team rebounds: 3.

Blocked shots: 5 (Lee 2, Humphries 2, Labissiere).

Turnovers: 10 (Labissiere 3, Ulis 2, Murray 2, Willis, Briscoe).

Steals: 2 (Ulis 2).

Florida

32

29

61

Kentucky

50

30

80

A—24,406. Officials—Joe Lindsay, Glenn Tuitt, Terry Moore.

Next game

Georgia at Kentucky

9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN)

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