Murray shines in Kentucky's 78-65 win vs. UAlbany in season opener
11/13/2015 09:40 PM
LEXINGTON — The quest for perfection is back again as the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats grinder out a 78-65 victory over UAlbany on Friday night at Rupp Arena in the 2015-16 season opener.
Four different Wildcats scored in double figures as UK shot 28/50 (56%) from the field and 6/17 (35%) behind the three-point line to overcome 20 turnovers for the night.
Here are four takeaways from Kentucky’s season-opening victory.
1. JAMAL MURRAY IS THE REAL DEAL
#AirCanada was all over the place in his collegiate debut, scoring a game-high 19 points to go along 8 assists — a new record for a #UK freshman in his first game.
After UAlbany cut Kentucky’s lead to 12 points with just over 4:00 minutes left to play, Murray responded with back-to-back dunks to regain control and lead Kentucky to victory on opening night.
2. SECOND-HALF SKAL
After going scoreless in the first half for the second straight games, freshman Skal Labissiere found his game in the second half, finishing with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and a game-high 4 blocks.
The No. 1 recruit in the nation appeared tentative in the first half, allowing himself to be pushed and loss position deep in the post. But his teammates kept feeding him the ball after halftime as Skal showed off an array of hook shots, spin moves, and step-out jumpers — not to mention being Kentucky’s best rim protector on the defensive end.
3. DEREK WILLIS 2.0
One Wildcat who had no struggles in the first half, though, was Derek Willis.
The junior forward continued his preseason resurgence into the season opener, scoring a career-high 14 points on 4/5 shooting, 2/3 from distance, before halftime.
Willis ran out of gas a bit in the second half, not scoring another point, but his effort and energy off the bench will be invaluable for the Wildcats this season and could even earn him a starting role down the road.
Cal to Willis: "Way to play, Derek. You're playing with unbelievable energy."— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 14, 2015
D-Willis is on— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 14, 2015
Where did Derek Willis come from?!? Holy cow!! #BBN— Mike Check (@MC11SIX) November 14, 2015
I am 100% ready for Willis to have a breakout year. Love that kid's hustle. #BBN— Tamsyn Oakes (@tamsynromaine) November 14, 2015
4. CAREFUL WITH TURNOVERS
The outcome was never in doubt, and Kentucky lead by as many as 21 points, in the second half, but 20 turnovers (compared to only 16 assists) allowed the Great Danes to stay in the game.
Ball security should be a huge emphasis for the Wildcats going forward, especially for starting point guard Tyler Ulis, who turned the ball over 5 times with only 2 assists while scoring 12 points.
Kentucky gets now rest before playing its second game of the season tomorrow night vs. NJIT. Tipoff is set for 8:00 PM ET at Rupp Arena with broadcast only available online via SEC Network + on WatchESPN and the WatchESPN App.