Derek Willis helps No. 20 Kentucky basketball rout Missouri Tigers

By Darrell Bird, The Sports Xchange  |  Updated Jan. 28, 2016 at 8:17 AM
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- No. 20 Kentucky boosted its winning streak to three heading into Saturday's showdown at No. 4 Kansas by blasting Missouri 88-52 on Wednesday night in a Southeastern Conference game at Rupp Arena before a crowd of 23,933.

"They got the buzzsaw today," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We played as well as we can play and we did it the whole game."

Missouri coach Kim Anderson was more blunt. "We got run over by a truck," he said.

The key to the victory, and the current win streak, was Calipari's decision to insert junior forward Derek Willis into the starting lineup at the power forward spot and slide 6-foot-9 senior Alex Poythress into the post.

"Willis in the role that he's in has changed us," Calipari said. "It's just changed our team. Now, you have all guys that can play basketball. If you can't shoot, dribble or pass -- and you have two or three like that on the court -- it doesn't look good. Derek gives us that, another stretch guy you can go play with. It puts us all in the right spots."

Willis responded Wednesday with a career-best 18 points and 12 rebounds.

"He's playing desperate," Calipari said. "Basically, he's put a couple of guys on the bench, and they're good players. But this is about performance. But that's good because now those players have to fight to get minutes back, which means our practices will be better."

Sophomore guard Tyler Ulis paced the 36-point victory with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. He also had eight assists.

"Tyler Ulis just controls the game," Anderson said. "He just takes over the game."

Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe added 15 points, six rebounds and six assists. Freshman forward Skal Labissiere scored 12 points and freshman guard Jamal Murray had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Kentucky shot 52.3 percent from the field, including 45 percent from 3-point range. The Wildcats had 18 assists and won the rebound battle 47-28.

Missouri was stifled by Kentucky's defense, which forced 15 turnovers and limited the Tigers to 31.6 percent shooting from the field.

The Tigers got 11 points from junior guard Wes Clark, though he was only 3 of 16 from the field. Freshman guard K.J. Walton and freshman forward Kevin Puryear added 10 points each.

The Wildcats (16-4, 6-2 SEC) were heavily favored against the last-place Tigers (8-12, 1-6) and it showed from the opening tip as Kentucky jumped out to a 20-2 lead with 15:16 remaining in the first half. Missouri actually led 2-0 before the 20-0 outburst.

At that point, Willis had nine points on three 3-pointers and Briscoe had four points.

Kentucky made eight of its first 11 shots from the field. Missouri opened just 1 of 7 while being outrebounded 8-1 by Kentucky.

The lead grew to 21 points at 27-6 with just over 12 minutes left in the half as Kentucky improved its shooting to 73.3 percent from the field (11 of 15). Seven of the 11 baskets came from an assist. Missouri was 2 of 9 (22.2 percent) with five turnovers and only two rebounds.

By halftime, Kentucky's shooting had cooled to 54.3 percent, but the lead ballooned to 27 points at 47-20.

Ulis led Kentucky with 12 points. Willis had 11 and Labissiere added eight points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field.

Missouri's struggles were demonstrated by 10 turnovers compared with seven field goals. The Tigers were 7 of 27 from the floor in the first half (25.9 percent). Clark had nine points.

Kentucky's next stop is Kansas on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

"I grew up watching those games and dreaming of playing in a game like that," Briscoe said. "I can't wait to see what it's like."

NOTES: Kentucky is 9-0 against Missouri, which joined the SEC in 2012. ... G Tyler Ulis was making 88.4 percent of his free throws, best in the SEC and 22nd in the nation. He entered the game having hit 27 of his last 28 free throws. He did not attempt a foul shot Wednesday. ... Junior F Derek Willis has gone from seldom-used bench player to Kentucky's leading rebounder in each of the last four games. ... Missouri fields the 13th-youngest roster in college basketball.

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