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Willis and Murray lead Kentucky over Tennessee

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Derek Willis exploded for 25 points while Jamal Murray had 28 as Kentucky rode their play to an 80-70 win over Tennessee here Thursday night. That moved UK into sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference race for the first time this season.

That more than offset a 3-for-15 shooting night by Tyler Ulis, who still had 11 points and nine assists, for the Cats.

“You know coming in that Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray are going to get their points. What you hope is that you do not let a guy like Willis break out like he does. You just can’t let a third or fourth guy get going and that’s what happened,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.

Kentucky started the game 4-for-14 from the field but still grabbed a 13-9 lead after a 7-0 run and never let the Vols lead again.

Willis was 8 of 12 from the field, including 7 of 11, from 3-point range in 25 minutes. He also had five rebounds despite appearing to hurt his back late in the first half.

Murray was 8 of 12 from the field overall, 3 of 6 from 3-point range and 9 of 10 at the foul line. He also had nine rebounds.

“They shot it well. It was my fault that we probably should have switched more early,” Barnes said. “The fact is they played well. Take away the Kansas game (an overtime loss) which they had a great chance to win and we played our best game (to overcome a 21-point deficit and beat UK).

“They have been playing terrific. It is really impressive. John (Calipari) has his team really understand their roles. Just the chemistry is great. John has them truly understand what they have to do to be the best team they can be.”

Isaiah Briscoe was just 2 of 10 from the field but grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his solid defense in 35 minutes of play.

The biggest negative for the Cats, who are already without Alex Poythress due to a knee injury, was that center Marcus Lee missed the second half with a back injury.

11 comments

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  1. LindaS

    Derek is my player of the game! What a great game and some of those other guys did pretty well too…LOL
    It is amazing how much Derek brings to the games, how he is the missing piece.
    Wonderful, just amazing.

  2. KingGhidora

    This was the breakout game I’ve been expecting from Willis since last year. The guy can shoot the ball. He plays tough D and generally rebounds well. He seemed to be hampered in his rebounding by his back injury plus his team mates were getting a lot of the boards he didn’t get. But he had lots of steals and blocks to go along with his shooting. The guy is a solid basketball player. It never seems to be that players get credit for all the steals and blocks they get. I see that happen all the time where a player obviously gets several blocks but will only get one official block in the box score. Same with steals. I don’t understand that unless it has to be a shot that is blocked after it leaves the shooter’s hands which is only part of what I would call blocks. When a defender has his hand on the ball when a shooter tries to shoot that’s a block in my book. Apparently it isn’t an official block though.

    Also l saw a ridiculous call go against Humphries among many bad calls tonight. Note that Issac did not touch the shooter and that the shooter grabbed him by the jersey and pulled him away from the rebound. Yet it was Humpries that got tagged with a foul. This stuff happens too often. Here’s the video. Watch it quick because I don’t want to get in trouble with the SEC.

    https://youtu.be/GTzcqzZGeak

    1. Larry Vaught

      I missed that during the game King. Thanks for the video

      1. KingGhidora

        No problem Larry but I better take it down before the SEC gets wind of me poaching their stuff. It should be considered news and therefore exempt from copyright infringement but I don’t have the money for a lawyer to fight them on it.

  3. Mike

    Not exactly a step forward….we lose to UT and then can’t put them away in a revenge match. Am very glad that Briscoe was able to end as top rebounder because he will never be a top shooter. If I were Cal he would be prohibited from shooting outside let alone from 3 pt. area. His offense is limited to at the basket, and he does a very good job there. I wish Cal would stop telling us that Skal is getter because he certainly isn’t. Now he is having trouble with his shot. He has a very difficult time with ball handling, and I hope this is the last year we have to watch him. Hoping that Humphries is allowed to get more PT.

  4. scwhite9

    I was scared to death we were going to blow it again. I held my breath for awhile. Larry, in the interviews Derek said his knees were killing him and he had hurt his ankle in practice yesterday. Do you think he will be able to play this weekend? Of course I worry about everything when it comes to basketball, so now I am worried about them being exhausted.

    Anyway Go Big Blue!

    1. Larry Vaught

      I think he will be fine … or at least say he is good to go Sarah

  5. x-Cellar_Door-x

    I’m certainly enjoying watching Willis develop. If only He could add a bit of an “inside presence” comparable to Josh Harrellson…Now THAT would be awesome. However, if He continues shooting like this – Don’t try and fix something which isn’t broken!

    #GOBIGBLUE

    1. KingGhidora

      His rebounding has been very effective since his breakout game. He’s averaging 6 rebounds a game. It’s not the 8.6 rpg that Josh averaged his final year but it’s no small potatoes either. He doesn’t have the body Josh had so rebounding is tougher but Harrellson would have killed to be able to run the floor like Derek.

  6. TrueBlueJohn

    If you had told me last year that the headline of a story about a Cats game would be “Willis and Murray lead Kentucky over Tennessee”, I would have questioned your sanity. I always thought that he had the ability, but he was totally lacking in confidence and drive. How great and heartwarming it is to see a kid break out like that.

  7. Andy

    Derek played really well. By making those shots, teams will also have to focus on Willis and not just Murray. It totally changes the look of this team . I hope he stays healthy. I like this starting rotation. Now if we can just get Briscoe to make his free throws.

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