Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere shine as No. 22 Kentucky beats Florida

(AP Photo/Ronald Irby)
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Hey guys, listen to this: Tyler Ulis carried No. 22 Kentucky to a win.

Haven’t heard that before, have we?

On Tuesday night, Ulis had 19 points and 11 assists for the Wildcats as they knocked off Florida 88-79. And if that wasn’t enough to give you an idea of just how important Ulis is to this Kentucky team, think about it like this: Ulis picked up two fouls late in the first half. When John Calipari brought him to the bench, the Gators immediately reeled off 10 straight points. He didn’t sit out for too long.

Jamal Murray also got it going again, shaking off a rough first half to hit a trio of big threes in the second half, and Kentucky eventually put five players in double-figures.

But the big story from this game was the play of Skal Labissiere, the freshman center for the Wildcats that has played like anything-but a projected lottery pick. Calipari inserted him into the starting lineup, and it paid off. Skal got a couple of early buckets, seemed to get into a rhythm offensively and suddenly he looked like a totally different player. He finished with 11 points and eight boards in just 15 minutes, but he finally looked like a kid that had some confidence, like he was simply playing instead of thinking through everything he was doing.

He hit jumpers. He had a couple of really nice post moves. There was a put-back dunk over John Egbunu. He still got pushed around by Egbunu on the defensive end of the floor, but at least he fought for position and made some plays defensively.

It was a glimpse of the player we thought Kentucky was getting this season, and while one game certainly isn’t going to erase four months worth of basketball, it goes without saying that even if this is the best Labissiere we’re going see, this Labissiere definitely raises the ceiling of how good Kentucky can be.

And mostly, it was nice to see a good kid like Skal have some fun playing basketball again. He’s been through a meat-grinder this season. It’s amazing how a little bit of confidence can change things.