Ulis, Murray make watch lists for player of the year awards

Guard Jamal Murray of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Georgia 82-48.

Anthony Crawford

As the play of freshman Jamal Murray and sophomore Tyler Ulis continues to separate them as one of the best backcourts in the nation, the national recognition has followed with both being named to watch lists for national player of the year awards.

The latest cut to the John R. Wooden Award list was made on Wednesday, and Ulis remains in contention for the national player of the year award.

The list is announced to show the top candidates for the award but players not mentioned can still win the award. That doesn’t change the fact that Ulis has constantly played at Wooden Award-winner caliber for all season.

The point guard is enjoying a stretch in February in which he is averaging 17.3 points and eight assists per game. Ulis has come up big for the Cats when it has mattered as he is shooting at a 54.5 percent clip and is boasting a very impressive 5.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in UK’s three games against ranked opponents.

Murray was on the midseason edition of the Wooden Award watch list but was cut despite his recent hot stretch in February averaging 26.7 points per game on 50.9 percent shooting from the field and 53.1 percent shooting from three.

Murray has separated himself as one of the best scorers and shooters in the nation and at UK having made a three in 24 straight games, every game so far this season.

His play was good enough to stay on the Naismith Trophy midseason list with Ulis. The two UK players are included in the field of 35 players across the country.

UK has played against six of the other players named to the Naismith Mid-Season List in Ben Simmons (LSU), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Damion Lee (Louisville), Grayson Allen (Duke), Perry Ellis (Kansas), and Wayne Selden (Kansas). The Cats will face one more in the matchup against Jalen Jones and Texas A&M at College Station on Feb. 20.

Allen, Ellis, Lee, and Simmons also join Ulis on the Wooden Award late-season list.

Another familiar face for the Cats on both lists is Gonzaga senior Kyle Wiltjer. The forward transferred from UK after the 2012-13 season and has found success for the Bulldogs averaging 21.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his final collegiate season.