By LARRY VAUGHT
Even when John Calipari yelled at Skal Labissiere as he was sitting on the sideline waiting to go into the game, the 7-foot freshman could not help but smile.
It was that kind of day for Labissiere who had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, nine rebounds, six blocks and two assists in 25 minutes of superb play during the 94-77 win over LSU.
When Kentucky lost 85-67 at LSU in early January, he had three points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.
No wonder LSU coach Johnny Jones thought he had an “exceptional game” Saturday.
“He hit a lot of open looks. He played extremely comfortable,” Jones said. “Some shots he hit were contested. Got nine rebounds, a huge night for him. That’s the best I have seen him in opportunities I have had to watch him this year.”
This is the Skal Labissiere everyone expected to see all year and began to doubt. But it was sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis who never lost faith in Labissiere and encouraged Calipari to start him at Florida, where he also played well.
“He’s going to be the Skal I knew he was,” Ulis, who had 14 points and 14 assists, said.
Calipari said Friday he might not start Labissiere because he had a bad practice Thursday.
“He was too worried about the matchup with him and Ben Simmons instead of just loving paling. That is what I got on him about,” Calipari said. “He was great. The kid has taken a lot of grief, but 18, nine and six blocks. He looked really good and is getting better.”
Certainly his confidence is growing. Now Calipari wants him to quit worrying about individual matchups.
“You have got to be yourself in this. You can’t worry about the game the day before. Lose sleep. Stay in the moment and be the best you can be,” Calipari said. “I am really proud of him.”