On Saturday at South Carolina, Ulis was granted his best opportunity to show it.
After Calipari was ejected for receiving two technical fouls only two minutes and 26 seconds into the game, Ulis rallied Kentucky to one of its most impressive performances of the season. The sophomore point guard scored a career-high 27 points and dished out 12 assists in leading the No. 22 Wildcats to an 89-62 rout of South Carolina in a battle of SEC co-leaders.
UK assistant coach Kenny Payne, who took over when Calipari departed, said his job was easy: "I never touched on offense. It was (Ulis') show."
"He's as good as I've had to prepare a team to play against, " South Carolina coach Frank Martin said of the UK floor general.
Ulis, however, was far from a one-man show.
Kentucky (19-6, 9-3 SEC) also got 26 points from freshman guard Jamal Murray and a double-double from junior center Marcus Lee, who broke out of a prolonged slump to score 11 points and grab a game-high 13 rebounds. His effort was key as UK played its third consecutive game without senior forward Alex Poythress, who is recovering from swelling in a knee.
Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis added 10 and nine points, respectively. The Cats shot 48 percent from the field, including 11 of 25 from 3-point range.
South Carolina (21-4, 8-4 SEC) was held to 33 percent from the field and turned the ball over 16 times. Michael Carrera tallied 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Gamecocks, who came into the game undefeated at Colonial Life Arena.
In this AW "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the Cats' win...
The ejection of a head coach less than three minutes into a game on a hostile court may have caused most teams to unravel. Not Kentucky. The Wildcats appeared determined to take the fight to South Carolina, a team known for taking the fight to its opponents. Kentucky built a nine-point lead by the under-8 timeout of the first half and extended it to 15 at the break. A 16-2 run in the opening segment of the second half, including seven points by Ulis, delivered the knock-out punch.
BY THE NUMBERS:
0 - Jersey number for UK's Lee, who typically wears 00. The Cats were wearing their one-time "alternative" Nike uniforms for Saturday's game.
1 - Turnover for the Cats' Ulis in 38 minutes of play.
19 - Baskets that Ulis either scored or assisted out of 31 for UK.
22 - UK points off turnovers.
34-20 - Points in the paint advantage for Cats.
80 - Combined margin of victory for UK in last three games over Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
"Cal's their guy. They play for him. I'm sure every guy was playing for him, and he's proud of them." -- UK assistant coach John Robic.
Kentucky returns to action Thursday in a 7 p.m. tipoff at Rupp Arena against Tennessee, which overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat the Cats 84-77 on Feb. 2 in Knoxville.