Mark Story

Briscoe joins UK triple-double club – with a little help from Willis

First, it seemed inevitable Isaiah Briscoe was going to get the third triple-double in Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball history Thursday night.

By the first TV timeout of the second half of No. 8 Kentucky’s 99-76 blowout victory at Mississippi, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore from Newark, N.J., already had 11 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Briscoe had 15:39 of game time remaining to add his name to Chris Mills and De’Aaron Fox as the only UK men to attain double figures in three major statistical categories in the same game.

Sure thing, right?

Well …

At the next TV timeout (11:49), Briscoe was holding firm at nine rebounds, nine assists.

For the game’s penultimate TV stoppage (7:06), it was still nine boards, nine dimes for Briscoe.

By the last TV timeout of the game (3:53), Briscoe was still stuck on nine and nine.

Just as the thought of what a shame it was going to be for a player to be so close to a triple-double for so long and not get it was taking hold — or that some Bahamian scorekeeping was going to be necessary — Briscoe’s UK teammates came through for him.

Malik Monk (34 points, 11-of-16 shooting, 5-of-7 treys) took a Briscoe pass, bounced once, and splashed a three-pointer from the right corner with 3:25 left to give his teammate what had been an elusive 10th assist.

There was 2:45 left when Derek Willis got fouled while converting a putback.

Before the UK forward shot his free throw, he and Briscoe apparently had a quick on-court chat.

“I needed one more rebound,” Briscoe related afterwards. “(Willis) was like ‘You need one more rebound?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ He said ‘Got you.’

With Briscoe stationed in UK’s first rebounding slot to the left of the basket, Willis appeared to miss left intentionally.

Briscoe got the board, and with it the triple-double.

Just like that, a school that had had one triple-double — Chris Mills with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists versus Austin Peay on Dec. 27, 1988 — had its second one in seven games.

Briscoe finished with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds and joined Fox — 14 points, 11 rebounds and, with the help of a questionable scoring decision in the Bahamas, 10 assists — in the UK triple-double club.

“I give credit to my teammates for putting me in the position I was in,” Briscoe said.

Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy saluted the achievement.

“They’re not easy to get,” Kennedy said of triple-doubles. “(Briscoe) is a tenacious competitor.”

A crowd of 9,026 at The Pavilion at Ole Miss that included actors Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd saw another breathtaking display of open-court basketball from Kentucky (11-2, 1-0 SEC) in the first half.

Coming off the dispiriting loss at Louisville, the Cats blitzed Ole Miss (9-4, 0-1) by taking a 60-39 halftime lead with a highlight reel of spectacular feats.

Which was the best?

A.) Fox’s baseline drive and reverse layup at 12:48;

B.) The Monk coast-to-coast in which he went behind the back to elude a defender, got in the lane, hung, absorbed contact and hit a 6-footer while being fouled at 9:31;

C.) Willis’ hit-ahead pass that led Monk perfectly for 6-footer in transition at 6:31;

D.) The Willis baseball-style outlet that hit Monk for a wide-open, transition trey at 3:33;

E). Any of Bam Adebayo’s five first-half, alley-oop dunks, most off assists from Briscoe — who clearly absorbed Calipari’s post-Louisville message about getting Adebayo (career-high 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting) more touches.

Answer: B.

Other than noting that Calipari’s aforementioned demand has gotten through, we didn’t learn much about the Cats on Thursday night. Mississippi allowed the game to become a track meet and there aren’t five (10?) teams in the country who can succeed against UK that way.

It will wait for another night to see whether Kentucky can win a tough road game against a team that, as Louisville did, can get the Cats into a grind-it-out situation where half-court execution is required.

Still, we did get the second-half tension of whether Briscoe was going to get his triple-double.

The UK guard said he was not getting nervous as the clock dwindled with his rebound and assist lines stuck at nine.

“No, because ultimately I just want to win,” Briscoe said. “The triple-double was fine. I’ll take it.”

Thanks to Willis’ deliberately errant free throw, Briscoe got it.

“Shout-out to Derek, for real,” a smiling Briscoe said.

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