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Derek Willis, Skal Labissiere and more from Kentucky basketball’s LSU preview

Thank heaven Derek Willis is back

Kentucky coach John Calipari says Derek Willis, out three games with an ankle injury, will play Saturday. He says Skal Labissiere has not practiced well since win at Florida.
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Kentucky coach John Calipari says Derek Willis, out three games with an ankle injury, will play Saturday. He says Skal Labissiere has not practiced well since win at Florida.

Three quick things from Friday’s UK basketball media opportunity previewing Saturday’s game with visiting LSU:

1. Derek Willis will play Saturday. John Calipari reported that Willis did practice Thursday and was hitting shots and moving well. In fact, the coach held his hands in a prayer motion as if those had been answered. Willis has missed the last three games after spraining his ankle against Texas A&M.

“I don’t think I’ll start him,” Calipari said of Willis. “I might. You know me. I don’t really care.”

The game before his injury, the junior forward poured in a career-high 25 points in UK’s home win over Tennessee. Willis has produced six double-figure scoring games and two double-figure rebounding games in his 14 SEC appearances this season.

“He’s made us a different team,” Calipari said, but added, “There were times he didn’t play rough and we were really hurting in the post stuff.”

2. Skal Labissiere did not practice well Thursday. The freshman center was a surprise starter on Tuesday in Gainesville and scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in UK’s 88-79 win. He hasn’t built off that, not in practice anyway.

“He was not real good (Thursday),” Calipari said. “I’m going to watch him today. Whether I start him or not will probably depend on what I see today.”

Kentucky basketball individual game-by-game stats in a Google Doc

Labissiere practiced well on Monday before UK left for Florida. That’s what caused Calipari to start the 6-foot-11 center who has struggled so much this year. He responded with his highest point total since he scored 12 points against Missouri on Jan. 27. It was just his third double-figure scoring game in SEC play. His eight rebounds were a career high, topping the seven he claimed against Boston University and Georgia.

3. LSU is a talented team. Despite the fact the Tigers have struggled at times, Johnny Jones’ team still has Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney and Tim Quarterman and other talented players.

“LSU is a really good basketball team. They’ve got great talent. Obviously in Ben they’ve got one of these if not the best player in college basketball. Blakeney is playing better. Quarterman gave us fits last time. Their big guys, they rebound and they’re tough.”

As Calipari pointed out, the top four teams in the league standings play each other on Saturday. Besides Kentucky-LSU, Texas A&M and plays Vanderbilt.

LSU at Kentucky

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington

TV: CBS with Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkel

Radio: UK Network with Tom Leach, Mike Pratt and Matt Jones

LSU in SEC play this season

Date

Opponent

LSU

Opp

Dec

Overall

SEC

1/2

@Vanderbilt

90

82

W

8-5

1-0

1/5

Kentucky

85

67

W

9-5

2-0

1/9

@Florida

62

68

L

9-6

2-1

1/13

Ole Miss

90

81

W

10-6

3-1

1/16

Arkansas

76

74

W

11-6

4-1

1/19

@Texas A&M

57

71

L

11-7

4-2

1/23

@Alabama

72

70

W

12-7

5-2

1/26

Georgia

89

85

W

13-7

6-2

1/30

Oklahoma

75

77

L

13-8

2/2

@Auburn

80

68

W

14-8

7-2

2/6

Miss State

88

77

W

15-8

8-2

2/10

@S Carolina

83

94

L

15-9

8-3

2/13

Texas A&M

76

71

W

16-9

9-3

2/17

Alabama

69

76

L

16-10

9-4

2/20

@Tennessee

65

81

L

16-11

9-5

2/23

@Arkansas

65

85

L

16-12

9-6

2/27

Florida

96

91

W

17-12

10-6

3/1

Missouri

80

71

W

18-12

11-6

3/5

@Kentucky

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