With its most important player sitting on the sidelines in a plain white T-shirt, top-ranked Kentucky was still plenty able to take care of business against a game Illinois State team on Monday night.
After fighting to a 31-all score at halftime, Illinois State was incapable of keeping up with Kentucky in the second 20 minutes, falling 75-63 at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats are now 7-0 and have yet to win a game with a single-digit margin. This is the fourth time in John Calipari’s seven seasons there that Kentucky has started 7-0.
Illinois State is 3-5.
Tyler Ulis, the sophomore point guard who runs the offense for Big Blue, is still recovering from a tender right elbow. He hyperextended it in Kentucky’s win over South Florida on Friday. A Kentucky staffer tweeted this via Calipari’s official Twitter account on Monday evening:
We’re going to hold Tyler out tonight. He’ll be fine but want to make sure he’s 100 percent before he goes back out there. He wants to play.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) November 30, 2015
In Ulis’ absence, UK wasn’t completely fluid; the team shot 2-of-12 from deep and turned the ball over 15 times. Isaiah Briscoe led the team with 18 points, and fellow freshman Jamal Murray put up 16. Illinois State had a game-best 22 from DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell.
Remarkably, this was just the second loss to an SEC opponent in Illinois State progam history.
UK’s next game comes on Thursday at UCLA. Against the Bruins last season, Kentucky won 83-44 and only allowed UCLA to score seven first-half points.