Five observations from Kentucky’s 78-65 win over Albany on Friday night:
1. It was just a so-so effort. Head coach John Calipari didn’t seem overly happy with the game afterward, and there were reasons. Kentucky turned it over 20 times. Point guard Tyler Ulis committed five turnovers. Freshman guard Jamal Murray committed five turnovers. Kentucky pressed and forced 15 Albany turnovers, but the Cats lost the turnover battle. And, as Caliapri pointed out afterward, had the Great Danes made some shots, it might have been a different outcome. Albany shot 43.1 percent overall but missed 13 of its 14 three-point attempts.
2. Derek Willis provided a boost. The junior got his chance and made the most of it, scoring 14 points in the first half. At halftime, Willis was four of five from the floor, including two of three from the three-point line. He also was a perfect four of four from the foul stripe, had three rebounds — two offensive rebounds — and an assist in 13 minutes. He missed his only two shots of the second half, both three-point attempts, and Calipari said Willis made a lot of mistakes in the second half, but the coach didn’t care. Calipari said he was pleased to see Willis being active and playing with energy.
3. Jamal Murray stuffed the stats, but how did he play? The freshman, whom Albany coach Will Brown said is the best basketball player in college basketball, said he just played “OK.” Murray scored 19 points and dished a team-high eight assists, but he also turned it over five times and missed seven of his 15 shots. He knows he can get better. And as for Murray and Ulis combining for 10 turnovers, “That’s not going to get it done,” Calipari said. Murry also picked up a technical foul.
4. UK didn’t have Isaiah Briscoe. The freshman missed the opener with a bruised knee. Calipari didn’t act as if he expected Briscoe to be on the floor Saturday night when UK meets NJIT at Rupp Arena.
5. Second-half Skal. Freshman center Skal Labissiere didn’t score in the first half, then scored nine points in the second. He had a similar outing in the final exhibition game against Kentucky State. Or at least as far as the first half goes. Labissiere ended up with nine points and four blocked shots in 30 minutes. He also turned it over three times.