UK guards still scary matchup despite Kansas loss


at the University of Kentucky vs. University of Missouri basketball game on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 in Louisville, KY. Photo by Cameron Sadler | Staff 

Josh Ellis

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When No. 20 UK walked in to Allen Fieldhouse to face the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks and a head coach in Bill Self who’s lost just nine home games in his 13 years at Kansas, the Cats were supposed to be the scared ones. 

Instead, after a nail-biting 90-84 overtime loss, the Cats flipped the script. Instead, the Cats showed why every other team in the nation should be the scared ones.

Anyone who watched even five minutes of the back-and-fourth duel between the two basketball blue-bloods on Saturday would know why. 

Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray are why. 

The trio combined for 53 points on 20-of-39 shooting and 13 assists despite nine turnovers. They drove to the basket at will and no matter who Self put in front of them, the UK guards continued to find ways to score.

“We couldn’t keep (UK’s) guards out of the paint. They wore us out,” Self said. “Ulis was great. Briscoe totally controlled everything early.”

Ulis, who has been the hottest of the bunch of late, scored 20 or more points in his fourth consecutive game. Murray struggled from three against the Jayhawks, but found other ways to score his 15 points and shoot better than 50 percent.

And Briscoe, who UK head coach John Calipari believes can be the best defending and rebounding guard in the country, got to the line 12 times against Kansas, grabbed four rebounds and dished five assists.

Despite the success the UK backcourt has had, there is still room for improvement. Ulis had two costly turnovers late in the game that turned into points for the Jayhawks. The sophomore could only focus on his flaws after the breathtaking defeat.

“That’s not something I usually do,” Ulis said before leaving the post-game press conference early feeling ill. He played all 45 minutes of regulation and could barley finish the game fighting cramps.

Forward Alex Poythress, who was another bright spot for UK, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. The senior knew his teammates gave their all despite the outcome.

“We’ve got some fighters,” Poythress said. “Everybody who was playing was fighting.”

And that was true, every UK player was indeed fighting, but some had a little too much fight in them. Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Skal Labissiere and Poythress all fouled out against an aggressive Jayhawk team, leaving the Cats’ fate in the hands of its three guards.

The guards almost delivered. It was just too little too late for UK.

That’s why Big Blue Nation should still be smiling even though their team just lost to Kansas. The three guards almost single-handily won the game.

So when No. 20 UK walked out of Allen Fieldhouse, heads down, mourning the crushing loss that seemed as if it could’ve had a different outcome for the majority of game, there was no fear. 

But there very well could be for every other coach watching.