By LARRY VAUGHT
Certainly it was Alex Poythress’ senior day and he got all the presume attention, including a video expressing their thanks to him from former UK teammates Karl-Anthony Towns, Aaron Harrison and Kyle Wiltjer.
But he likely was not the only Wildcat playing his final game in Rupp Arena as Kentucky throttled LSU 94-77 to avenge a defeat earlier this year.
Point guard Tyler Ulis was again RIDIC-ULIS. He had 14 points and 14 assists, including nine in the first half. That was just two assists off the school record held by John Wall and matched the third-best single game total in school history.
Freshman guard Jamal Murray was just as good. He had 22 points, 7 rebounds and four assists despite getting in rare foul trouble. When he made his first 3-point shot, he shot his famous arrow at E.J. Floreal on the bench who dropped backward before being revived by Mychal Mulder. Coach John Calipari probably could have done without the antics, but fans loved it as much as they love Murray’s play.
Then there was SKAL LABISSIERE. Remember the freshman who was projected as possible No. 1 draft pick when the year started and yet a few weeks ago was behind both Marcus Lee and Isaac Humphries. Well, he’s been reborn as part of the Calipari tweak.
Labissiere had 18 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots and one assist. He ran the length of the court to block a fast-break layup. He hit a shot from the corner. He was in the right spots at the right time with plenty of NBA scouts, and national media members, watching.
LSU’s Ben Simmons is the perceived No. 1 pick in the draft and the freshman is good. He’s just on a team that doesn’t always remember how good he is. He had a hard-earned 17 points and 11 rebounds but was not the best or second best or maybe third best player on the court in this game.
That’s why as much as UK fans would like to think that Ulis and Labissiere will return — most have accepted there is no way Murray will — there is no way. They are both NBA-bound and should be.
Ulis’ stock will never be any higher as he did a little bit of everything on both ends of the court again Saturday. And Labissiere is finally showing all the special things he can do that few 7-footers can.
So while the day was billed as a celebration for Poythress, it was also a farewell for three other teammates who also went out in a big way by helping UK secure a tie for the SEC championship and proving the Cats do again have the talent to be a big factor in March Madness.
Poythress had 12 points and four rebounds and briefly addressed the crowd after the game.
“See you all in Nashville. We got work to do,” Poythress said as the crowd roared.