With Tyler Ulis missing from the Kentucky lineup, coach John Calipari relied on his youngest players in a 75-63 win over Illinois State on Monday night.
The results were mixed, especially with freshman Isaiah Briscoe, who collected 18 points (7-for-13), seven rebounds and three assists — but also turned the ball over five times.
“Three turnovers in three minutes,” Calipari said postgame. “It’s not an easy position to play. Jamal (Murray) didn’t (show up to) play in the first half. Skal (Labissiere) really gave us nothing the whole game.”
“But this is a good thing,” Calipari said.
“The thing about elite athletes and world-class athletes,” he said. “They can evaluate their performance and say, ‘All right, I’ve gotta fix this,’ They self-evaluate. And that’s what this team needs to do.”
Here were Coach Cal’s other thoughts after moving to 7-0.
Missing Ulis… “Without Tyler, it’s obvious we’re not the same team. I mean, unless you were watching another game … But it still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play hard and guys shouldn’t battle and fight for balls. We got beat to everything in the first half.”
MVP Marcus Lee (13 points and 12 rebounds)… “If Marcus Lee doesn’t play, we lose. Because I had to get Skal out, and I had to get Alex (Poythress) out. ”
Dominique Hawkins… “The guy that changed the game was Dom. Dom did what he did at the Michigan game a couple years ago; he went in and guarded that player and said, ‘I can do it,’ and then, he made some free throws.”
Missed free throws… “It is demoralizing when guys go up and miss four front-end 1-and-1s in the first half, and we missed 10 free throws. Four of them front-end 1-and-1s. That’s like missing 14 free throws. It is demoralizing. Now, you can miss a couple. But you just can’t miss ’em all and expect to be on that court.”
Halftime speech… “We were lucky to be in the game at halftime. I even told ’em, ‘This is the greatest thing for this time right here to have to deal with.’ Look, you don’t want to go through a season where everything’s easy. This stuff is not easy.”
Ulis’ recovery… “He probably needs to practice Wednesday before we play on Thursday to see if he can go. But if he can’t go, we’ll go as is … He was half-coaching on the bench, telling me who to take out. ‘Take him out!’ ‘Who?’ ‘You know who!'”
Skal Labissiere (two points and two rebounds)… “He couldn’t catch it. We were trying to go to him. Matter of fact, I told guys, ‘If he’s open and you don’t throw it to him, you’re coming out … That’s where he is right now, and it’s okay. He’s not figured some of this stuff out. He’s not figured out how to play lower than the other guy. He’s not figured out, ‘I gotta move my feet and quit grabbing people.’ … He’s a really, really good player who is behind.
“The good news is we have Alex and Marcus. If he’s not playing well, we can still win. We just try to make sure he’s getting better and better.”
Lee’s big game after a poor outing against USF… “One of the things I told him: If you’re not playing with energy, I’m not playing you … If he’s to make it, it’s gonna be on one thing: He’s an energy guy who covers a bunch of positions and flies. You need that kind of player on your team … To play with that kind of energy, to come out and play with that kind of energy, to come out and make that who you are, it’s hard. You have bags under your eyes, you can’t do it. You have sleepies in the corners (of your eyes), you can’t do it.”
Murray… “First half, I thought he was non existent. What I’m trying to get him to do is get fouled. He’s still flipping balls. He’s still trying to avoid and do some spectacular, like, ‘Did you see that?’ but you can’t win playing that way. Winning basketball is, you get fouled … He should be a player that’s getting 10 points a half, easy. And I’m gonna guess four of those points should be on free throws. But you’ve gotta play that way.”