PG Ulis' career-high scoring night lifts No. 2 Kentucky to 4-0
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tyler Ulis waited patiently for more responsibility at Kentucky, and the sophomore point guard is making the most of his big opportunity.
Ulis scored a career-high 21 points, and the No. 2 Wildcats beat Wright State 78-63 on Friday night.
The Wildcats (4-0) followed Tuesday night's impressive victory over No. 5 Duke by shooting 53 percent from the field, with the 5-foot-9 Ulis setting the tone by getting to the basket and the foul line. He was 5 for 9 from the field and 10 for 12 from the line with five assists, after he collected 18 points and six assists in 40 minutes against the Blue Devils.
Ulis achieved his career scoring best in 36 minutes and likes where his game is right now.
"I try to make the right decision, find guys when they're open and attack when I have it," he said.
Ulis played in 37 games in his first season with the Wildcats, but had no starts and averaged 23.8 minutes. He is enjoying his extended time on the court so far this year.
"Everybody likes to play, nobody wants to come out, so it's not a problem for me," he said.
Kentucky held the Raiders to 36 percent shooting and outrebounded them 37-27. Alex Poythress had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Marcus Lee grabbed seven boards.
Sophomore guard Grant Benzinger, son of former major leaguer Todd Benzinger, had 19 points for Wright State (1-3).
Poythress, who sustained a season-ending left knee injury last December, posted his first double-double since a 10-point, 13-rebound effort against UNC Asheville last November. His performance included a midcourt steal leading to a monstrous dunk and an emphatic hang on the rim.
"It felt real good to jump the pass lane and get the fast-break dunk," Poythress said. "That's how you make progress."
Not surprisingly, Kentucky enjoyed a 38-20 advantage in points in the paint. Isaiah Briscoe (15 points), Jamal Murray (13 points) and Skal Labissiere (13) also scored in double figures.
The performance came just a few nights after answering coach John Calipari's challenge to show toughness against the Blue Devils, and it dropped Wright State to its third straight loss.
But as Calipari quickly noted, things could have been better. Kentucky committed 12 turnovers and shot just 2-of-10 from 3-point range. The Wildcats also seemed to struggle with Wright State's sagging defense.
Considering the Wildcats were just coming off a convincing win over the defending national champions, he expected more from his young and talented roster.
"I just want us to keep climbing," Calipari said. "We took a big step back. Guys didn't listen. We're doing certain things and they just kind of broke it off and did their own thing. In a league game, we lose. Give Wright State credit."
The Wildcats had some good moments.
When Kentucky wasn't wrestling the Raiders for loose balls under the basket and on the floor, the Wildcats were fighting each other for rebounds. And there was the frequent sight of Briscoe harassing dribblers, applying pressure even with his mouth guard dangling out of his mouth.
The combination helped the Wildcats to a 39-26 lead at the break. Wright State's perimeter shooting kept the game respectable for a while before Kentucky used its size and physicality to pull away.
"Certainly, Kentucky speeds you up," Wright State coach Billy Donlon said, "but I thought there were some plays at the rim where shot blockers weren't around where we got some clean looks where the score might have been different."
JT Yoho added 13 points for Wright State, which went 6 of 14 from 3-point range.
Wright State: The Raiders missed their first five shots and posted their worst first half (10 of 32) of the young season. ... Michael Karena and Joe Thomasson fouled out in the second half.
Kentucky: Improved to 4-0 all-time against the Raiders and gave Calipari his first win against the Dayton, Ohio, school. ... Murray made all 10 free throws and grabbed six rebounds. .... The Wildcats blocked just one shot.
Wright State: Hosts Mount St. Joseph on Tuesday night.
Kentucky: Hosts Boston University on Tuesday night.