By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — There were things that Kentucky coach John Calipari knows have to be fixed on his team after Tuesday’s 87-81 victory at Vanderbilt. But he knows one factor that is fine — sophomore Isaiah Briscoe.
Briscoe scored a game- and career-high 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, grabbed a team-high tying seven rebounds and dished out a team-high five assists.
“He has played well, but he had seven rebounds – he did more – five assists, one turn. Again, he’s 10 for 18 and I’m on him when he took two jumpers that he should have driven the ball. But I want him to just play. He’s not the issue. He gets it and he knows,” Calipari said.
Once again, Briscoe was able to get inside the Vanderbilt defense consistently and get to the rim to score. Calipari said UK adjusted how center Bam Adebayo was screening for Briscoe to help him get inside more.
“The other thing is, his first step and his ball quickness is as good as it gets. He was 3 for 4 from the line. He reminded me today, I think he’s shooting 75 percent from the line,” Calipari said.
“When he played off of me, I just gave a full head of steam going towards him and just changed directions and got in the lane. It’s just something I’ve always known how to do,” Briscoe said.
Freshman guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox both had two fouls within the first three minutes. Backup guard Dominique Hawkins also got his second foul early in the first half. Calipari left Briscoe in the game and had him run the point more.
“The only thing I told him—you saw when he was bringing the ball up, because he was—he’s played point, but he’s not—you can’t get into a walk-it-up game with a team like this. You gotta always keep them on their heels by flying down the court. You don’t have to shoot it quick, but you gotta fly and explore. That’s what we do with De’Aaron Fox. You get a layup here, you get a dunk here, you get something,” Calipari said.
“He was kind of jogging it up and I called him. I said, ‘Listen, you jog it up, I’m putting him (Fox) back in with two fouls because we can’t play this way.’ And then he started playing with speed. He’s fast. He’s fast. And how about how he guarded the ball? He just went up and—he has a will to win. He’s—all the stuff that he needed to work on, he has. From his free-throw shooting to his 3 to his handle. His assist-to-turnover ratio is ridiculous. So I’m proud of him.”