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No. 16 Kentucky rolls Alabama 85-59 in SEC Tournament

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Despite statistical proof that playing Alabama brought out his best this season, Kentucky forward Alex Poythress summed up his outstanding play against the Crimson Tide as pure coincidence.

Wherever his motivation came from, the No. 16 Wildcats benefited.

Jamal Murray scored 23 points, Poythress made a career-best four 3-pointers and Kentucky had an easy time in an 85-59 rout of Alabama on Friday night in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Playing about 50 miles southeast of his Clarksville, Tennessee, home, Poythress put on an offensive show in his final SEC tournament with 7-of-8 shooting including 4 of 5 from long range for 20 points. It was his third 20-point game this season and first since posting a career-best 25 at Alabama on Jan. 9.

Not that that meant anything.

“Sometimes it happens, sometimes it don’t, you know,” said Poythress, who averaged 19.6 points in three games against Alabama this season. “Everybody was just great offensively. We played a complete game today.”

Murray added perimeter shots as second-seeded Kentucky finished 13 of 22 from behind the arc to beat the 10th-seeded Crimson Tide (18-14) for the third time this season. The Wildcats advanced to Saturday’s semifinal against the Georgia-South Carolina winner.

Tyler Ulis added 17 points for the Wildcats, who beat the Crimson Tide by an average margin of 22 points this season.

Arthur Edwards had 20 points and Retin Obasohan 18, but Alabama couldn’t keep pace with the hot-shooting Wildcats.

The Crimson Tide certainly had no answer for Poythress, especially when he stepped out behind the arc.

“We came into the game trying to minimize his success in the paint and wanted to contest him at three,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said, “but we didn’t expect him to shoot the ball like Jamal Murray. He made some shots. He had it going.”

Kentucky’s postseason prospects were already set, and the aim this weekend is to earn the highest possible seeding when the field is announced on Sunday. The Wildcats took an impressive first step toward being high in the bracket with 55 percent shooting from the field.

Alabama’s postseason chances remain up in the air, but the Crimson Tide’s second game in as many nights ended with 42 percent shooting and 13 turnovers. They were also outrebounded 31-27.

Kentucky wasn’t so good at the start, making just 4 of first 11 shots and showing a little rust from having not played because of their double bye. The Wildcats regrouped to hit 10 of their final 15 first-half shots to lead 37-27 at the break and were even better from behind the arc (6 of 10), with Poythress making a couple to help them gain some distance.

The Crimson Tide meanwhile struggled more for baskets than the previous night against Mississippi, making just 10 of 26 from the field. Three-point shooting (5 of 12) provided a bright spot, and Alabama had just one fewer rebound than the Wildcats but needed big games from nearly everybody in order to pull off the upset.

Even at their best, the Tide faced an uphill battle keeping pace with Kentucky’s outside game that stayed hot in the second half. Ulis made back-to-back shots before Murray added one to build a 55-37 lead, and the Wildcats were well on their way toward a semifinal appearance.

“We shot the ball well,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

TIP-INS

Alabama: The Crimson Tide finished 9 of 25 from 3-point range.

Kentucky: Dominique Hawkins and Skal Labissiere each added seven points for the Wildcats, who also had 18 assists.

UP NEXT:

Alabama: Awaiting postseason announcement.

Kentucky: Faces Georgia-South Carolina winner in Saturday’s semifinal.

Texas A&M picks up much-needed win over No. 14 Kentucky

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No. 14 Kentucky and Texas A&M entered Saturday’s game in College Station in far different states. John Calipari’s team was playing as well as any team in the country, as they’d won four straight games with each being decided by at least ten points. Texas A&M, on the other hand, had just ended a four-game losing streak and its chances of winning the SEC diminished as a result. An important game for both teams, it was Texas A&M that needed the momentum boost that can come with a big win.

And in somewhat controversial fashion the Aggies got the win they needed, beating the Wildcats 79-77 in overtime on a Tyler Davis put-back as time expired.

Davis’ shot capped a bizarre final ten seconds of overtime, beginning with Kentucky getting a stop up a point and freshman center Isaac Humphries being fouled. In his excitement Humphries spiked the basketball, but he and his teammates knew almost immediately what a risk that was. Humphries was given a technical foul, resulting in the Aggies getting two free throws themselves.

Danuel House made both of his, and with Skal Labissiere splitting his the game was tied. Now here’s the question: was the decision to give Humphries a technical foul the correct one? In many instances a player spiking the ball occurs in a fit of anger, and it’s generally understood that doing so will result in a technical. But Humphries clearly wasn’t angry, so could there have been a better understanding of the moment by the official?

This will be discussed for quite some time, but of greater importance for Kentucky down the line is what happened on the backboards.

Texas A&M grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, which works out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 40 percent, and scored 22 second-chance points. With the Aggies looking stagnant on offense at multiple points in the game, those extra opportunities proved to be quite valuable for them.

The Wildcats weren’t helped by the fact that Derek Willis, who’s been their best front court player in recent weeks, left the game with a sprained ankle in the second half. The positive for Kentucky was that Humphries produced his best game as a Wildcat, grabbing 12 rebounds with ten of them coming on the defensive end. The negative: the other Wildcat bigs combined for seven defensive rebounds, with Marcus Lee responsible for four of them.

Kentucky’s entire front court combined to grab 17 defensive rebounds. Texas A&M’s tandem of Davis (nine) and Tonny Trocha-Morelos (four) combined to grab 13 of the Aggies’ 30 offensive boards. Add in a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds from Jalen Jones, and Texas A&M was able to win the game despite the fact that Danuel House and Anthony Collins combined to shoot 3-for-20 from the field.

Texas A&M did their best to dare a Kentucky player other than Tyler Ulis (22 points, 11 assists) or Jamal Murray (21 points) to beat them, alternating between man-to-man and triangle-and-2 looks to make the two standouts shoot challenged mid-range shots. But Ulis and Murray still managed to make plays, nearly leading Kentucky to a win that would have preserved their two-game lead atop the SEC standings.

Ultimately, a technical foul and Kentucky’s inability to close out the game’s final possession with a rebound did them in.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Minnesota stuns No. 6 Maryland

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GAME OF THE NIGHTMinnesota 68, No. 6 Maryland 63

Minnesota picked up its first conference win of the season, stunning the Terrapins in Minneapolis. Joey King, who hit some big free throws late, scored 15 points off the bench with Nate Mason accounting for 18 points and six assists and Jordan Murphy 17 points. Maryland played without the suspended Diamond Stone, and Melo Trimble once again struggled. If not for Rasheed Sulaimon (28 points), the margin could have been worse.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Connecticut 68, No. 21 SMU 62: The Huskies, who appeared to be in good shape in regards to the NCAA tournament, picked up a quality win at home as they outlasted the Mustangs in Hartford. Amida Brimah was good on both ends of the floor, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks, and Shonn Miller added 12 and seven caroms. SMU, which shoots 52.6 percent from two, made just 40 percent of those looks thanks in large part to Brimah’s play in the middle for UConn.

No. 8 Michigan State 69, Wisconsin 57: The Spartans ended the Badgers’ seven-game win streak, with Denzel Valentine playing a key role. Valentine finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and ten assists to lead the way for Michigan State, with Bryn Forbes adding 17 points. Ethan Happ scored 18 points and Bronson Koenig 12 for Wisconsin, but an off night from Nigel Hayes spelled doom for the visitors.

No. 14 Kentucky 80, Tennessee 70: No. 14 Kentucky avenged its loss at Tennessee earlier this season with an 80-70 win over the Vols in Lexington. Jamal Murray scored 28 points and Derek Willis 25 for Kentucky, which currently leads the SEC. John Calipari’s team has been playing very good basketball of late, and the emergence of Willis is one of the reasons why.

THURSDAY’S BUBBLE BANTER

STARRED

Jamal Murray and Derek Willis, Kentucky: Both players shot 8-for-12 from the field, with Murray scoring 28 points and grabbing nine boards in the win over Tennessee. Willis has really emerged in recent weeks, and he added 25 points while shooting 7-for-11 from three.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 24 points, seven rebounds and ten assists in the Spartans’ win over Wisconsin.

Joel Bolomboy, Weber State: 34 points and ten rebounds in the Wildcats’ win at Southern Utah.

STRUGGLED

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: Hayes scored five points, shooting 1-for-13 from the field, in the Badgers’ loss at No. 8 Michigan State.

CJ Wiggins, North Carolina Central: Wiggins shot 1-for-9 from the field in the Eagles’ 71-60 loss at Coppin State.

Kevin Johnson, Cincinnati: Johnson scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting as the Bearcats lost by two at Tulsa.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • UNCW’s 11-game win streak came to an end, as the Seahawks lost 87-69 at William & Mary. Kevin Keatts’ Seahawks are still on top of the CAA standings with a record of 12-3, one game ahead of second-place Hofstra.
  • In a matchup of two of the better teams in the Atlantic Sun, reigning league champ North Florida blitzed NJIT by the final score of 107-71. Demarcus Daniels scored 25 points and Dallas Moore added 21 and 11 boards for the Ospreys, who ended their four-game losing streak with the win.
  • UNC Asheville and Winthrop are tied for first in the Big South, as both teams picked up wins Thursday night. The Bulldogs rebounded from a 19-point first half to win by nine at Presbyterian, and Winthrop beat Coastal Carolina by 12 at home.
  • Wichita State retained its two-game lead atop the Missouri Valley with a 99-68 beating of Missouri State. Zach Brown scored 16 points and Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker added 15 apiece for the Shockers, who are now 13-2 in league play.
  • In a matchup of two of the four teams that entered the night tied atop the NEC standings, Wagner won 94-74 at Fairleigh Dickinson. Bashir Mason’s Seahawks are now in sole possession of first, as Mount St. Mary’s was upset by Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis (PA) lost to St. Francis-Brooklyn at home.
  • Chattanooga maintained its two-game lead atop the SoCon with an 85-59 win over VMI. The Mocs scored 52 first-half points against the Keydets.
  • Little Rock moved to 13-2 in Sun Belt play with a 57-49 win at Georgia State. The Trojans limited the Panthers to 5-for-22 shooting in the second half, and Lis Shoshi finished the game with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
  • Marshall took care of Charlotte, 87-72, thus remaining a game behind UAB in the Conference USA standings. Marshall and Middle Tennessee are both 10-3 in league play, with the Blue Raiders taking on UAB Sunday.
  • IPFW moved into sole possession of first place in the Summit League with a 91-79 win over South Dakota State. Max Landis and John Konchar scored 22 apiece for the Mastodons, with Konchar also grabbing 12 rebounds.
  • Belmont moved to 11-3 in OVC play with an 86-78 win at Eastern Kentucky. Craig Bradshaw finished with 33 and seven boards for the Bruins, who host 10-3 Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
  • Gonzaga beat Pacific 90-68, moving to 13-2 in the WCC. Kyle Wiltjer and Damontas Sabonis combined to score 49 points, with Sabonis adding ten rebounds. The Bulldogs are a game ahead of Saint Mary’s, who they host Saturday night.
  • Tulsa nearly threw away the game with a turnover in the final seconds of overtime, but a Cincinnati three missed the mark as the Golden Hurricane won 70-68. The loss makes Saturday’s game against UConn even bigger for the Bearcats, who are squarely on the bubble.
  • New Mexico State retained its lead atop the WAC with a 63-55 win over CSU Bakersfield. The Aggies hold a one-game lead on Grand Canyon in the standings.
  • Weber State moved into a tie for first in the Big Sky with an 87-83 win at Southern Utah. Joel Bolomboy led the way with 34 points and ten rebounds.
  • A Joe Rahon shot in the final seconds gave Saint Mary’s a two-point win at Portland. With their résumé not having much from a non-conference standpoint, the Gaels can’t afford any missteps down the stretch.
  • Utah picked up its first win at UCLA in 55 years as they held off the Bruins 75-73. Jordan Loveridge led the way for the Runnin’ Utes with 17 points.
  • Stacy Davis became Pepperdine’s all-time leading scorer as he scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for the Waves to avoid an 82-72 home loss to San Francisco.
  • Stefan Jankovic scored a career-high 34 points as Hawai’i remained alone atop the Big West with a 69-63 win at CSUN.
  • Cal hung on in the second half to pick up their second win away from Berkeley this season, 78-75 at Washington. Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace combined to score 41 points for the Golden Bears.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 9 Iowa, No. 23 Kentucky pick up road wins

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Hofstra 96, Northeastern 92 (3OT)

The Pride and Huskies needed 15 extra minutes to determine a winner, with Hofstra coming out on top in the end. Juan’ya Green accounted for 23 points and 14 assists in the win, with Rokas Gustys scoring 23 and grabbing 20 rebounds. Quincy Ford and Zach Stahl scored 19 apiece for the Huskies, with Stahl also grabbing 11 boards. With the win Hofstra moves into a four-way tie for first in the CAA with William & Mary, James Madison and UNCW.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Saint Mary’s 70, Gonzaga 67: The Gaels took over sole possession of first place in the WCC, as they came back from a 15-point second half deficit to end Gonzaga’s 13-game road win streak. Evan Fitzner scored 20 points and Joe Rahon added 13 and three assists for Saint Mary’s, which shot 63 percent from the field in the second half. Eric McClellan scored 23 points for Gonzaga, but he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 in the game’s final seconds after being fouled by Rahon.

No. 23 Kentucky 80, Arkansas 66: Tyler Ulis scored 24 points and Jamal Murray added 19 for the Wildcats, who got back on the right track with a win in Fayetteville. But the biggest takeaways are the play of Derek Willis and Skal Labissiere, with the former scoring 12 points for the second straight game and Labissiere scoring 11 points. If Kentucky can get some consistency in the front court, the equation changes for John Calipari’s team. But it’s better to be cautious with this group moving forward.

Cincinnati 76, Memphis 72: In a matchup of two teams looking to strengthen their respective résumés, the Bearcats held serve at home. Troy Caupain scored 25 points and Shaq Thomas added 18 for Cincinnati, which shot 50 percent from the field and converted 15 Memphis turnovers into 16 points. Trahson Burrell and Avery Woodson combined to score 42 points off the bench for the Tigers, who made just two of their last ten shots from the field.

Oregon 89, No. 21 USC 81: USC played its first game as a ranked team since the 2008-09 season, and they didn’t get the ending they wanted in Eugene. Elgin Cook led four Oregon players in double figures with 26 points, with Bennie Boatwright pacing USC with 23. If anything, the game served as a reminder that Oregon’s figured out its rotation and is a conference title contender themselves.

STARRED

Iowa’s Peter Jok: Hovering just under 40 percent from the field for most of the season, Jok’s shot better than 50 percent from the field in each of the last three games. Thursday, he scored 29 points on 10-for-19 shooting in a win at Rutgers.

Hofstra’s Rokas Gustys: Scored 23 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in Hofstra’s triple-overtime win at Northeastern.

BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth: The senior guard tallied the tenth triple-double of his BYU career, racking up ten points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists and five steals in the Cougars’ 91-80 comeback win at Loyola Marymount.

STRUGGLED

Towson: Just two Tigers managed to make multiple field goals in their 40-37 loss to the College of Charleston. As a team the Tigers shot 23.9 percent from the field.

Stanford’s Rosco Allen: Allen scored four points on 1-for-12 shooting in a loss to No. 12 Arizona.

San Diego’s Duda Sanadze: Shot 1-for-13 from the field, scoring two points in the Toreros’ 76-58 loss at Pepperdine.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 9 Iowa moved to 6-0 in the Big Ten with a 90-76 win at Rutgers. Peter Jok scored 29 points, and Jarrod Uthoff and Anthony Clemmons added 20 apiece for the Hawkeyes.
  • No. 12 Arizona pulled away down the stretch as they won 71-57 at Stanford. Gabe York scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson 18 for Sean Miller’s Wildcats.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • T.J. Cromer scored 20 points on the night, leading East Tennessee State to a 65-63 overtime win over Mercer.
  • Fairleigh Dickinson scored 62 second half points as they came back to beat LIU Brooklyn 101-95. Darian Anderson led five Knights in double figures with 32 points.
  • Charlotte handed Marshall its first loss on Conference USA play, beating the Thundering Herd 103-95. Mark Price’s 49ers were led offensively by Andrien White, who scored 30 points on the night.
  • Both James Madison and William & Mary picked up wins to remain part of a four-way tie for first in the CAA, with the Dukes blowing out Drexel 68-45 and the Tribe doing the same to Elon (89-67). The two teams meet for the first time this season January 31.
  • North Florida moved to 5-0 in the Atlantic Sun with a 78-62 win at USC Upstate. Nick Malonga and Dallas Moore led six Ospreys in double figures with 16 points apiece.
  • Chattanooga moved to 6-1 in the SoCon with a 73-60 win over UNC Greensboro. Eric Robertson scored 22 points and Justin Tuoyo added 18 for the 17-3 Mocs.
  • Manhattan handed Monmouth its second conference loss, beating the Hawks 78-71 in Riverdale. Next up for the two-time defending MAAC tournament champion Jaspers are Saint Peter’s (6-1 MAAC) and Iona (6-2).
  • Ethan Happ scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Wisconsin won 66-60 at Penn State.
  • UT-Arlington moved to 5-1 in the Sun Belt with a 91-64 win over Arkansas State. Kennedy Eubanks scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the win.
  • Playing their first game without injured guard Tyrone Wallace, California held off Arizona State 75-70. Ivan Rabb scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists for the Golden Bears.
  • Idaho knocked off Montana 63-58 in Missoula, handing the Grizzlies their first loss in Big Sky play. Victor Sanders scored a game-high 27 for the winners.
  • Belmont moved to 6-0 in the OVC with an 82-72 win at UT-Martin. Amanze Egekeze scored 20 points, Craig Bradshaw 19 and Evan Bradds 18 for the Bruins, who shot 14-for-45 from three on the night.
  • UAB moved to 6-0 in Conference USA with an 82-70 win over Rice. Robert Brown scored 19 points and Nick Norton 18 to lead the way for the Blazers.
  • New Mexico State remained a game behind Grand Canyon and CSU Bakersfield in the loss column in the WAC with a 68-60 win at Seattle. Pascal Siakam posted another double-double, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Nick Emery scored 24 points and Chase Fischer 20 in BYU’s 91-80 win at Loyola Marymount. Despite winning the Cougars had no answer for Adom Jacko, who went for 26 points and 12 boards.
  • Jordan Loveridge scored 22 points and Brandon Taylor 21 as Utah beat Washington State 92-71 in Pullman.

No. 23 Kentucky beats Arkansas as Skal Labissiere … actually plays well?

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Tyler Ulis went for 24 points and five assists and Jamal Murray chipped in with 19 points as No. 23 Kentucky went into Arkansas and knocked the Razorbacks, 80-66 on Thursday night.

Derek Willis also played well, finishing with 12 points, seven boards and four blocks just four days after posting a double-double in the loss at Auburn. The Wildcats played as well as they have in SEC play on Thursday, which is all the more impressive considering that they had lost two of their first three road games in league play.

All in all, Thursday night was a good night for the Wildcats.

But the real story of this game was the guy that’s been the story of the Kentucky season: Skal Labissiere. The 7-foot freshman had his best game in SEC play and played his best basketball since … November, maybe? And to get an idea of just how tough this season has been for Labissiere, he had 11 points, three boards and three blocks at Arkansas.

He shot 4-for-10 from the floor. He had four fouls. He wasn’t exactly dominant.

But he was active. He played with confidence. He threw down a couple of massive dunks in traffic. He hit an 18-footer. He had a really nice drive where he took two dribbles, put Moses Kingsley in the spin-cycle and hit a little eight-foot jumper over the 6-foot-11 Arkansas center:

Those plays are the kind of plays that earned Labissiere such a high-ranking in the Class of 2015. They’re the reason that his name still gets mentioned in the lottery of mock drafts. They’re why, despite a freshman season that has, to date, been an abject disaster, Labissiere’s ceiling is still mentioned just as often as his struggles.

But it wasn’t just those plays. He was more active on the glass, he blocked three shots and, most importantly, he looked like he was engaged mentally and having fun. It’s amazing what a dose of confidence can do for a player.

It will be interesting to see where Labissiere goes from here, but the hope here should be baby steps. He’s not going to turn into an all-american overnight, but if Kentucky can get productive minutes from him and turn him into a threat offensively, it absolutely makes them a better team.

This doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a step slow when reading the game, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, and that he needs to get stronger and tougher in the paint, but it was impossible to watch him tonight and not come away thinking — hoping? — that he’s turned a corner.

At the very least, the performance had Coach Cal jumping with joy:

LSU lands marquee win over No. 9 Kentucky, but should Wildcat fans be worried now?

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2016 has been quite kind to LSU.

Just 72 hours after dispatching Vanderbilt in Nashville, LSU picked up their first marquee win of the season, knocking off No. 9 Kentucky 85-67 in Baton Rouge.

The most promising part for LSU fans?

This win wasn’t simply a result of Ben Simmons doing things that no one else at the collegiate level can do.

The future No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft didn’t play poorly, mind you, as he finished with 14 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals and a block while hitting all five of his field goals. But he played just 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and spent the majority of the second half acting as a distributor and a decoy. I asked during the game whether or not Simmons had broken a sweat on Tuesday night, and I was only half-kidding. I don’t want to say he was coasting, but there certainly wasn’t the same aggressiveness that he had on Saturday at Vandy.

Simmons shot five field goals and six free throws on Tuesday night. He had 15 shots and 19 trips to the charity stripe on Saturday.

To a point, that’s an issue for LSU. They need Simmons to be a killer. They need him to be a guy that can take over games and that can bully any defenders that’s unable to guard him; technically, that’s just about every defender in college basketball.

But he wasn’t really needed on Tuesday. Tim Quarterman played his best game of the year, finishing with 21 points, 10 boards (six offensive) and seven assists. Quarterman is a guy who intrigues NBA scouts because of his size (6-foot-6) and versatility — like Simmons, he can function as a point guard — but he’s been erratic thus far this season. Getting him on track is just as important as getting Simmons to be aggressive on every possession for the Tigers in the long run.

What about Kentucky?

Is it time to start getting worried about them?

Because I think that it may be. Their front line just isn’t what we thought it was going to be. Not even close. Their four big men — Skal Labissiere, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Isaac Humphries — combined for seven points, nine boards and 15 fouls on Tuesday night.

Their entire front line!

As a group they didn’t even record a double-double if you include fouls all while three Tigers notched double-doubles as they collected 16 offensive rebounds as a team. Part of that was because Lee played just five minutes due to foul trouble. Part of it was due to Isaac Humphries being less ready for the college game than Labissiere is. Part of the problem was, frankly, they played Ben Simmons.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Kentucky’s big men just aren’t as dominant as they’ve been in the past, and that puts the onus on their guards to be sensational every night, and they just haven’t been. Tyler Ulis is terrific, but he’s a kid that needs to be a distributor and a facilitator, the coach-on-the-floor kind of point guard. When he’s option 1B offensively, that’s a problem, especially when option Jamal Murray, option 1A, is so up and down.

When Murray’s cookin’, he’s as dangerous of a scorer as you’ll find in college basketball. But when he’s cold, they might as well be running John Calipari off of screens. He does make some highlight reel plays, but he also has head-scratching turnovers that can be momentum killers.

To keep things in perspective, they lost a road game in conference play to a team with the nation’s best player in a venue that always seems to give Kentucky trouble. Even with the margin — and 18 point loss — the sky isn’t falling.

But their ceiling is.

With each performance like this, it feels less and less likely that Kentucky will be in the national title conversation come Selection Sunday.