LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mychal Mulder was given a chance Sunday night and he might have many more come his way.
The senior guard logged 20 minutes against Duquesne after playing a combined 12 minutes over the three games prior. Coach John Calipari told Mulder an opportunity was coming his way earlier in the week.
“The guys in front of him have always been better than him,” Calipari said. “But now, alright, let him get that chance to play and that’s why we did it.”
Mulder scored a career-high 13 points on 5 of 11 shooting. His offensive upside hasn’t been the question, it’s what Mulder does on the other side of the floor that’s concerned Calipari in the past. He added four rebounds, and while the coach said Mulder still gets beat baseline at times, Calipari said he made “big strides.”
Mulder’s strength is Kentucky’s weakness: outside shooting.
“I hear a lot about this, about us struggling from deep,” Mulder said. “I’m not really sure if that’s going to be a problem of ours. I think a lot of our guards can shoot the ball. But that does open up a little bit of a door for me if it does continue to go that way.”
The Wildcats are 23 of 81 from behind the 3-point line this season — just 28 percent. And if freshman Malik Monk’s 3-point shooting is subtracted from the equation, Kentucky is just 22 percent from distance.
Mulder was 3 of 8 from behind the line on Sunday, and while not his best, he gives the Wildcats an instant outside threat off the bench. He’s 6 of 14 from three for the season, 15 percentage points higher than the team average.
The junior college transfer averaged less than 4 minutes per game a year ago and was a near non factor for the Wildcats. But something has changed for Mulder.
“I’ve always been able to shoot the ball a little bit,” he said. “Just focusing on the mentality of basketball is so big. We have a lot of great people around that we can talk to and really get your mentality on track. That’s been good. It’s a different type of experience here.”
That changed mentality came through Sunday night. After a couple misses from deep, Calipari wanted to see how the sharp shooter responded. The coach said Mulder used to not be able to make a shot until the next game if he went cold early, but Calipari let him play through this time.
As Mulder is looking to gain confidence, Calipari is trying to gain enough confidence to play him.
“It can’t be OK, he missed two, he’s done,” Calipari said. “Might as well take him out, stick a fork in him. He, today, made that shot. It was a big, big step for him.”
Mulder wasn’t bothered my the misses.
“I felt like the ones I missed should’ve went in,” he said. “They felt good. Shooters keep shooting. I know that’s a role I play on this team is to shoot the ball. I turned down one I think and I heard (Calipari) yell at me to shoot it.”
Kentucky played a consistent 10-man rotation against Duquesne with Mulder being a bigger part of it than he ever has been. Minutes could be had if his shooting spree continues.
“As long as I continue to play defense and rebound the ball, I think I’ll be fine,” Mulder said.