Skal Labissiere’s Best Performance Helps UK Clinch Share of SEC Title
On really only a couple of occasions this season--including a career-best 26 points against NJIT in early November--did UK freshman center Skal Labissiere show flashes of what most pundits thought he WOULD be all season.
Last fall, he was even projected as the the possible #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
That's how good everyone expected him to be out of the gate.
On Saturday afternoon in Lexington, the 19-year-old from Haiti might have officially turned the corner and become the force inside John Calipari and Big Blue Nation always thought and were hoping he would be as Kentucky housed LSU 94-77 in a frenzied, raucous Rupp Arena.
Labissiere was on fire and focused from the opening tip, pouring in 18 points. He also contributed 9 rebounds and 6 blocks--both, career highs.
It was a masterful performance from a kid who'd left analysts and fans alike scratching their heads about why he was so highly-touted coming into the season.
Well, sometimes you're overestimated.
And sometimes it just takes longer to develop and grow accustomed than it does for others.
And it wasn't just terrific basketball that was on display--and, by the way, his short jump shot is text-book--but it was the joy. The kid was having a GREAT time and it showed.
All tolled, five Wildcats scored in double figures with freshman guard Jamal Murray leading the way with 22. Ingenious sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis added 14 points and a career-high 14 assists. (There's one double-double.) Senior Day honoree Alex Poythress had 12. And Marcus Lee came off the bench for 12 points and 10 rebounds. (There's another double-double.)
The Tigers' Ben Simmons continued to prove that he's a great player (with a great NBA future) on an unnecessarily mediocre team by putting up 17 points and coming up with 11 rebounds.
LSU's Tim Quarterman led all scorers with 23.
The Wildcats will now get a break and start preparing for a trip to Nashville and the SEC Tournament which begins Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena. The 'Cats, however, will not play until Friday as a result of the double-bye.
While UK clinched a share of the regular-season title, the fact that their sole contest with Texas A&M resulted in a two-point loss means the Aggies get the tiebreaker and will be the top seed at the tournament.
That means Kentucky will play, as the 2-seed, Friday evening at 6PM against either Ole Miss or Alabama.