Briscoe's status unclear as No. 1 Kentucky hosts Tennessee-Martin
LEXINGTON, Ky. — No. 1 Kentucky puts its perfect season on the line Friday night when Tennessee-Martin visits Rupp Arena, and if the Wildcats are to win they might have to do so without their leading scorer.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe, who was averaging 18 points per game through the first four games, sat out Wednesday's win over Cleveland State because of a lower back injury. His status for Friday remains unclear.
“He tried to practice, but you can't be 75 percent with the way we're playing,” coach John Calipari said Wednesday. “So he took today and tomorrow off and we'll see if he can go Friday. If he can't go Friday, we'll just hope he's ready for Monday.”
Briscoe was hurt during Sunday's win over Duquesne when he was fouled hard on a drive to the basket. He landed awkwardly on his tailbone and managed to play only three minutes after intermission. Briscoe sat on an ice pack the second half.
Kentucky didn't need Briscoe in Wednesday's 101-70 rout of Cleveland State, but Friday won't be so easy when UT-Martin brings its 5-1 record to Lexington.
The Skyhawks lost the season opener 86-83 at Ole Miss, but has since ripped off five straight wins. Three of the victories are against common opponents in the Bluegrass Showcase, a loosely aligned, round-robin event.
UT-Martin defeated Cleveland State, 85-74; and won at Canisius, 72-69, and at Duquesne, 66-63, on Wednesday thanks to a 38-25 second-half spurt that erased a 10-point halftime deficit.
Kentucky defeated Canisius, 93-69; Duquesne, 93-59; and Cleveland State, 101-70. The Wildcats also own a 69-48 win over Michigan State.
“Tennessee-Martin had Mississippi beat, lost by three, and they won every other game. They've beaten all the teams,” Calipari said. “They press, they trap, they drive the ball at every chance.”
The Skyhawks have five players averaging double figures scoring, led by Jacolby Mobley at 17.4 points per game. Martinez is the top rebounder at 8.2 per game.
Without Briscoe, Kentucky is led by freshman guard Malik Monk at 17.2 points per game. Next comes freshman guard De'Aaron Fox at 15.4 and freshman forward Bam Adebayo at 10.2.
Most impressive, Kentucky has 92 assists in five wins while forcing opponents into 103 turnovers.
“They're relentless when they come at you,” Cleveland State coach Gary Waters said. “The thing that's scary about them is they enjoy getting out there and doing it. They've also got good inside presence. They want to score inside. They're physical and you've got to match that size.”
Calipari said his team would be serving meals at the Salvation Army on Thanksgiving morning, meet at his house for a team meal at 3 p.m. and then do a walk-through for UT-Martin at 7 p.m. at the Craft Center on campus.
“I think I'm going to give them the day off, which I usually wouldn't do the day before a game, but this is going to be a tough run,” Calipari said. “We play Friday and then Saturday morning we're in the Bahamas for three days before we come back and then it's on again.”
Kentucky faces Arizona State in the Bahamas on Monday before returning home to host No. 14 UCLA on Dec. 3.