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Derek Willis, Skal Labissiere help give Calipari first win at Arkansas


Kentucky made a change before the game at Arkansas. Coach Calipari inserted Derek Willis into the starting line-up instead of Marcus Lee. It immediately paid off. Before the first media timeout, Willis had a nice shot in the lane but he also added a rebound and a blocked shot.

Alex Poythress played a little better than Willis. He pulled down a couple of offensive rebounds and got put backs. By the time they got to the first under four minute timeout, he had 6 points, 4 rebounds and a blocked shot. The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-7 lead.

After the break, Willis added a three pointer. Kentucky struggled though. Hitting just 2-of-14 shots from the field. However, Arkansas didn’t make up any ground as they only outscored UK 2-1 in the segment. The Cats were still doubling up the Razorbacks 18-9.

Skal Labissiere started to heat up. The Freshman hit a long two pointer, very nearly a three–would have been his first of the year. Then, he went down low for a nice spin move and another bucket. The backcourt was struggling. Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe had combined to go 1-for-17 from the field. Still UK had a 24-17 lead at the under four timeout. Extending that lead to 36-24 at the half.

In the first, Skal, Ulis and Willis were tied in scoring with seven apiece. UK led Arkansas in rebounding 24-17 and in second chance points 15-4. Cats by 12 at the half.

Kentucky started the second half pretty strong. Isaiah Briscoe had a smooth jumper for his first two from the field, Derek Willis would take an alley-oop for a slam. But, they also suffered with fouls as both Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee quickly picked up their fourth foul. Marcus Kingsley of Arkansas was fouled on one of those and said something to the officials picked up a technical. Willis would knock down a three before the media timeout. UK would take a 46-32 lead with 15:46 to play.

After a Ulis and one, Arkansas hit its first three pointer with 15:23 remaining in the game. Dusty Hannahs did the honors. Ulis also had a nice drive and dish to Skal for a two handed slam forcing Arkansas to take a timeout down 52-37.

Jamal Murray would start to heat up. After hitting a jumper, he would knock down a three pointer. Then, another nice jumper followed up by a rebound off of a Skal blocked shot. Murray would dribble behind his back to avoid a defender. Then, he would drive hard to the basket for a lay-up. He scored 9 straight points to help give UK a 63-45 lead with 7:59 to play.

From that point, Kentucky did most of its hard work on the defensive end and at the free throw line. The Wildcats beat Arkansas 80-66 improving to 14-4 overall, 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Tyler Ulis led the Cats with 24 on 14-15 from the free throw line. Willis finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in his start for the Cats. Murray had 19 points and had 7 rebounds. He was just 1-7 from three point range. Labissiere finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 blocks.


  1. Great win on the road. Willis turned in another great game with lots of min. Ulis and Murray were the play makers. Skal showed vast improvement. That was good to see. Cal got his first win at Ark. All in all, very good night for the “Wildcats.”

    1. Really a big step for Cats tonight especially if they can do the same against Vanderbilt in next game

  2. I am glad tp see Derek finally play up to his potential. Actually I think he could have had several more points if the guards had picked up that he was open under the basket. At one point Murray drove into 3 defenders when he had a perfect passing lane to Derek who had a wide open run to the basket. This takes place at 2:45 left in the first half if you want to see it again (and you still have it on your DVR). Murray wasn’t hitting his shot very well at the time and he passed up a very nice assist opportunity.

    Murray needs to learn to give up the ball more. I realize he’s been the top scoring threat but to win they need more people scoring. I don’t think Lee and Alex really go themselves into position to score very often. They seem totally intent on scoring on put backs. That’s fine but some one needs to score from the wing on outside shooting and cuts to the rim.

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