Junior center Marcus Lee came off the bench to score 14 points, grab seven rebounds and block five shots in the Wildcats' 72-58 win over Arizona State on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena. His production was huge considering starter Skal Labissiere, a player currently projected to go in the top five picks of next year's NBA draft, laid a stat sheet goose egg.
"He's more confident," UK head coach John Calipari said of Lee's strong play the last two games for the 9-1 Wildcats. "There's nothing that I say that rattles him or Alex (Poythress)."
The 6-foot-9 California native has shot 11-of-13 from the field in UK's last two games, scoring 25 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking 10 shots.
“He is a seasoned player who has experience," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said of Lee. "He has played in big games. Obviously, he has the physical tools you look for, also he has the mobility. It is a great thing to have Marcus Lee able to come off the bench."
Kentucky led only 32-31 at halftime, but solved many of the issues that kept it from building a bigger margin. The Cats shot 58 percent from the field in the second half, including knocking down five of its 10 attempts from beyond the arc, and turned a 22-14 rebounding deficit into a 36-36 tie by game's end. In addition to Lee's big performance, UK got a team-high 17 points from freshman guard Jamal Murray, 12 points and six assists from sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis and 10 points and six rebounds from Poythress.
Arizona State (6-3) was led by Tra Holder with 15 points and Kodi Justice with 12. The Sun Devils were held to only 37 percent shooting from the field (4 of 20 from 3-point range) by the Wildcats in what Hurley described as the best pressure defense his team had faced all season.
In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the UK victory...
Leading 49-43 with 12:12 remaining, Kentucky went on a 9-1 spurt to break open its biggest lead of the game. The Cats got a 3-pointer from Derek Willis, a layup by Murray, a short jumper by Poythress and a layup by Lee to take a 14-point advantage. Arizona State could not recover, falling behind by as many as 23 points on a Ulis 3-pointer with 4:29 to go.
BY THE NUMBERS:
1st - Player in UK history (Murray) to make a 3-pointer in each of his first 10 games.
5 - Career-high blocked shots for Lee in each of the last two games.
13 - Consecutive wins for UK by 11 or more points, the longest such streak since 1996-97.
52 - Consecutive home opponents have been held under 50 percent shooting from the field by the Cats.
72+ - Points by the Cats in the first 10 games of a season since the 1995-96 season.
109-4 - Calipari's record against non-conference opponents in Rupp Arena.
"The thing here, and I'll saying it again, coaching in this program, it's about March. It's about getting your team right so that you can make a run in March. That's what this all is. Now, last year spoiled all of you and it spoiled me, so the beginning of the year you start fighting this a little bit. This is what it is. Here's where we are, let's try to get better." - UK coach John Calipari.
After finals week, Kentucky returns to action Saturday, Dec. 19, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., to face Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic. Tipoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The Buckeyes (4-5) lost 75-55 on Saturday at UConn.