3-point shot: what to expect against UCLA



No. 1 UK (7-0) v. UCLA (4-3)

Tipoff: Thursday, 9 p.m., Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles TV: ESPN Radio: UK Radio Network

Three points of emphasis for the UK-UCLA game on Thursday.

Battle of the bigs

After Monday’s 12-point win at home against a gritty Illinois State team, head coach John Calipari was not happy with the play of his frontcourt. The Redbirds had 32 points in the paint, grabbed 37 rebounds (just two fewer than UK) and held Skal Labissiere to just two points off free throws and one shot attempt.

“Skal really gave us nothing (against Illinois State). But this is a good thing,” Calipari said. “Alex (Poythress) gave us nothing in the first half. The thing about elite athletes and world-class athletes, they can evaluate their performance and say, ‘Alright, I got to fix this.’ They self-evaluate and that’s what this team needs to do.”

UK’s frontcourt will need to regroup Thursday as they face two solid post players in UCLA’s Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker. The two Bruins are averaging a combined 26.1 points per game and 18.2 rebounds per game. Expect UCLA to give Welsh and Parker plenty of touches on Thursday, and don’t be surprised to see UK return the favor on the other end.

Tyler Ulis’ status (elbow) still uncertain

Calipari announced via Twitter that Ulis practiced on Wednesday but was limited. He went on to say Ulis’ elbow was still a little tender and would be day-to-day. While the sophomore point guard’s status may be uncertain, there is one certainty – the Cats aren’t the same without him.

Against Illinois State, UK committed 15 turnovers, had just eight assists on 22 made shots and only scored 10 fast break points.

“Without Tyler, it’s obvious we’re not the same team,” Calipari said. “I mean, unless you were watching another game, we’re not the same team. But it still doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t play hard and guys shouldn’t battle and fight for balls.”

Marcus Lee homecoming

The Antioch, Calif., native will get his first chance to play in his home state since being at UK, and will look to match the intensity he brought on Monday. Lee had his second career double-double against Illinois State with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Lee was one of the few positives Calipari took from Monday’s win, and said if his 6-foot-9 224 pound forward keeps playing with the intensity he’s capable of, UK should be in good hands.

“You got a player like Marcus Lee, who, if he’s to make it, it’s going to be one thing,” Calipari said. “He’s an energy guy who can cover a bunch of positions and flies. And you need that kind of player on your team.”