Sidelines with John Clay

Big Blue Links: More questions about Skal Labissiere’s play

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari had some words for Skal Labissiere (1) on the bench.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari had some words for Skal Labissiere (1) on the bench. Lexington Herald-Leader

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Kentucky’s blue grit beats Arizona State, reports Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader. “That Kentucky led 32-31 at halftime seemed borderline miraculous. The Cats made only nine of 29 shots. To add injury to that insult, Alex Poythress limped off the court with what UK said was a hyper-extended right knee.”

Kentucky put together a stellar second half in win over Arizona State, says my column. “Outside of possibly the Champions Classic win over Duke, it was the best 20 minutes of basketball in Kentucky’s young season. Up just a point at the break over Bobby Hurley’s scrappy Arizona State Sun Devils, the Cats turned up the heat in the second half, connecting on 57.7 of their shots, including five of 10 three-pointers — talk about a course correction — and blowing past the visitors 72-58.”

Arizona State fades in second half, reports Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic. “Kentucky – talented, but a work in progress – hit 7 of their first 10 second-half shots, most set up by penetration. With 11 minutes, 16 seconds to go, freshman Jamal Murray scored in transition, giving the Wildcats (9-1) their first double-digit lead, 54-43. From there, they kept building, guards getting into the lane and dishing to open shooters.”

Labissiere still has to learn to fight, says Mark Story of the Herald-Leader. “Through 10 games, Labissiere barely has more rebounds (35) than 5-9 UK point guard Tyler Ulis (29). As tends to happen with players who do not score or get a rebound, Labissiere was not one of the players UK made available to the media after the game. That did not keep questions about his confidence level from dominating the proceedings.”

Jamal Murray leads UK, writes Rick Bozich of WDRB. “Jamal Murray showed that he can be more than a three-point shooter. He can slash. He can pass. He can defend. He can follow the game plan to attack the glass. On a day when Murray made two of six three-point shots, he led Kentucky’s surge in the second half with his drives and play-making. He followed an 0-for-6 first half by scoring 12 of his 17 points in the second half.”

Labissiere’s play raises concerns, writes Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. “Skal Labissiere is not Karl-Anthony Towns. He is not Nerlens Noel. He is not nearly ready to dominate in major-conference basketball and, in point of fact, he cannot yet be counted on for consistent contributions. Nine days after committing four fouls while grabbing one rebound at UCLA, Labissiere fouled out of Saturday’s game with zero points, zero rebounds, zero assists and one blocked shot.”

Lee does what Labissiere can’t, writes Kyle Tucker of the C-J. “He leads the Cats (9-1) in blocks, offensive rebounds and field-goal percentage. Not bad for a guy who averaged 2.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over his first two seasons at Kentucky. While not as highly touted as Labissiere – a projected top-two NBA draft pick when the season started – Lee was a McDonald’s All-American.”

Is offense Kentucky women’s new calling card? asks Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader. “You have some success with that, so you’re sort of committed to that, and so you keep going,” Mitchell said. “So our practices were very frenetic and really all about effort and energy and tempo, and that doesn’t always lend itself to great offensive execution.”