NASHVILLE — John Calipari finally fired an arrow.
The Kentucky coach put an exclamation point on Sunday’s SEC tournament championship by mimicking Jamal Murray’s viral bow-and-arrow celebration during the postgame ceremony.
“That blew my mind,” junior Marcus Lee said. “It took him a couple of days to do it, so he probably was trying to figure it out.”
Minutes earlier, Murray had drained a 3-pointer to put away Texas A&M in overtime.
“I doubted it was going in,” Calipari said. “But he didn’t.”
Murray had 17 points Sunday, but tournament MVP Tyler Ulis stole the show with a 30-point, 5-assist stat line he earned in 45 minutes of play. The 5-foot-9 point guard hit a 3-pointer to open scoring in the extra period, and then assisted on Derek Willis’ go-ahed trey.
Ulis had a good look to win the game in regulation, but his shot bounced off the iron.
“He wants to make the play, and he’s not afraid to miss it,” Calipari said. “Real simple. The best players I’ve coached that aren’t afraid to miss the game-winner, are guys that make that shot. The other guys crawl in the crack.
“He should be one of those guys for Player of the Year, if not the guy. And because he’s 5-foot-9, everybody, it’s like, how can you do it? But when you look at his numbers and what he’s doing, that’s the Player of the Year, those numbers.”
Here were some of Calipari’s other thoughts on Sunday evening:
On the narrative surrounding Kentucky… “No one wants to say this is an absolutely brand new team and totally different. We were a power team, a big team last year. Now, all of a sudden we’re guard oriented.”
On the Wildcats’ chemistry… “How this team has come together, accepted each other, in a short period of time, is phenomenal. It’s not gonna get that much play, but it should.”
On his coaching philosophy… “Everything we do, the whole process is built toward playing late in the year. I don’t want ’em playing too good early. I don’t need ’em to play in December like it’s March. I don’t want that.”
On the defense… “As a team, they’re becoming more efficient on offense. We’re still not where we want to be defensively. We’ve got a couple guys not moving their feet, rebounding tough rebounds.”
On Derek Willis… “It was pitiful. I would’ve left him in more, but he couldn’t guard anybody. He kept leaving his feet … He’s trying. He was just awful defensively. But I tried to get him the ball to get fouled late, and we got him the last shot. That’s how much confidence I have.”
On Skal Labissiere… “He did some good stuff today. He’s just not playing like he was 10 days ago. So we got a couple days to get him in the right mindset.”
What’s next: No. 4 seed Kentucky faces No. 13 seed Stony Brook in Des Moines on Thursday to open the NCAA tournament.