No John Calipari?
The No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats rolled to an easy 89-62 win over now 21-4 South Carolina in Columbia despite losing their Hall of Fame coach just two minutes and 26 seconds into the game after he was ejected for arguing a referee’s over-the-back call. Without their coach on the sideline, the team relied heavily on its coach on the floor.
And boy, did Tyler Ulis deliver.
Ulis ended up scoring 27 points and dishing out 12 assists, but those spectacular numbers don’t even tell the entire story of his day. Simply put, he dominated this game from the tip-off, dictating the tempo and creating plays for both himself and his teammates. It wasn’t just the points he was directly responsible for, either. His ability to get past the first level of South Carolina’s physical perimeter defense and into the teeth of its interior created open shots for the entire team. Because of his play, it seemed like Kentucky didn’t take a single contested shot for the entire 40 minutes.
His play after the whistles was equally as important though, as it is always. After basically every stoppage, Ulis gathered the team and made sure everyone knew where they needed to go. The diminutive leader does this stuff every game, but it was amplified in this road situation due to Calipari’s absence, especially given that the team’s record in road games this season was a pedestrian 2-5.
For lack of a better term, it was a virtuouso performance from Kentucky’s point guard in the biggest spot of the season for the Wildcats.
Kentucky came into this one tied for the lead in the SEC at 8-3 along with the Gamecocks and LSU. But the schedule is not in its favor coming down the stretch. The Wildcats have to go to Vanderbilt, Florida and Texas A&M and play on the road still. All of those games can be lost, so getting this win against South Carolina was absolutely critical in order to continue competing for the SEC crown.
The win moved Kentucky to 19-6 on the season, with an SEC-best 9-3 mark.