Kentucky Needs More Post Production For Deep March Run

Posted by David Changas on March 13th, 2016

Given the way Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have played over the last couple of months, there really can’t be much debate about whether Kentucky has the best backcourt in the country. In Saturday’s thrilling 93-80 SEC Tournament semifinal win over Georgia, Ulis and Murray combined for 51 points — the 11th consecutive game in which Murray had scored 20 points or more. The Wildcats also got a strong second half performance from Isaiah Briscoe, something upon which they haven’t been able to regularly rely. Everyone knows that good guard play is an important key to a deep NCAA Tournament run, and Kentucky’s recent performance bodes well for John Calipari‘s surging team.

Kentucky could use more consistency from Alex Poythress. (

Kentucky could use more consistency from Alex Poythress. (

If Kentucky is going to be a legitimate Final Four contender, the Wildcats are going to need more production from their big men. Things have definitely improved in that regard, as Skal Labissiere put together a couple of solid performances to end the regular season, Alex Poythress has shown signs of returning to his old form after fighting nagging injuries, and Derek Willis has also shown flashes of excellent play (even if much of his offensive damage he does comes from the perimeter). Kentucky beat Georgia on the strength of its backcourt — the three starting guards combined for 63 points — while Poythress (10 points, all in the second half) and Willis (14 points) had solid offensive performances of their own. Talented NCAA Tournament opponents that are more capable of neutralizing the Wildcats’ prolific backcourt are going to have a chance to beat them. Each of the team’s eight losses have come in games in which the front line was not very productive.

Despite Saturday’s performance from Labissiere, who played only four minutes and tallied two points, Calipari is not discouraged with where things stand with his bigs. “The reality of it is Skal’s playing really well and has been a difference-maker for us,” the head coach said. “When I meet with the team I’m going to tell them that Skal is going to be the next man up tomorrow because he’s fresh.” Calipari was also pleased with the way his veteran Poythress performed after halftime. “Alex gave us a goose egg in the first half and then he said, ‘Hey, let me get this going.’ He hasn’t done that in his career.” Whether it’s Poythress, Labissiere, Willis or center Marcus Lee, Kentucky needs at least one of that group to step up each time out. Calipari knows that his big men are inconsistent, but his team has the luxury of not needing everyone to be “on” for them to succeed. However, if this team has designs on a trip to Houston and perhaps even a surprise national championship featuring a special set of guards, it will need more production than it got on Saturday from its big men.

David Changas (166 Posts)

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