The end sudden, stinging for Ulis and UK – The Courier-Journal

7 months ago Comments Off on The end sudden, stinging for Ulis and UK – The Courier-Journal
  • Video | Kentucky players and Calipari talk after loss to Indiana
  • Video | Jamal Murray breaks down after UK loss to IU
  • Video | Ulis on the sting of NCAA tournament defeat
  • Video | Poythress on bitter end to UK career
  • Video | Willis on what he'll work on
  • Video | Labissiere not thinking about draft

DES MOINES, Iowa – Tyler Ulis had felt this sting before, the finality of an NCAA tournament loss, and surely the first time was worse. Kentucky was still undefeated last season when the dream died, just two victories shy of perfection, at the Final Four.

Saturday’s second-round, 73-67 defeat at the hands of Indiana, these Wildcats’ ninth loss, couldn’t have hurt as bad, could it? The tears in UK’s locker room, the sobs interrupting answers, the heads buried in hands or hidden by towels, suggested otherwise.

“It’s the same exact feeling,” said a sniffling Ulis. “It’s over. Last year, we got farther, we had a better record, but at the end of the day, when somebody beats you, you’re done. You didn’t win the championship.”

It wasn’t for lack of the All-American sophomore point guard trying. To watch his dazzling, desperate attempt to save this season Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena was to know how much it hurt Ulis that he couldn’t.

The last eight of his 27 points came in a 31-second, machine-gun burst that helped the Cats (27-9) slash a nine-point deficit with 1:16 remaining down to just two points with 11.3 seconds left. Ulis, who helped Kentucky build a seven-point lead in the first half that it couldn’t hold, unleashed near-magic at the end.

“That’s what he does,” freshman forward Skal Labissiere said. “He’s the best point guard I ever played with. He carried us this year.”

His last gasp – perhaps ever in a UK uniform – was classic Ulis. He swished a deep 3-pointer, sank a driving, spinning layup, drew a foul beyond the arc and calmly drained three free throws.

“Fell short,” he said, “but I was trying.”

The Hoosiers (27-7) had just enough to hold off that furious rally and send Kentucky home before the Sweet 16 for the first time in six tries under John Calipari. The coach pointed out he’ll be just fine, as perhaps his best recruiting class yet is on its way.

“I am sick for my team, though,” Calipari said. “I’m sick for some individual players who didn’t perform well. I’m sick for Tyler and Jamal, who had great years. … I feel so bad, because I’ll sit back (and wonder), ‘Could I have done something different? Is there something else I could have done to help get them over the hump?’”

Some backup for Ulis would’ve been nice. He hit 10 of 20 shots, while the rest of the Wildcats made only 14 of 37. Kentucky’s entire frontcourt – a season-long concern – laid an egg, delivering a total of 14 points.

“We all feel bad,” said junior forward Derek Willis after going scoreless for the first time in 18 games. “You couldn’t ask for more from Tyler.”

Even the one guy Ulis and UK can usually count on, freshman star and backcourt sidekick Jamal Murray, went cold Saturday.

He somehow still scored 16 points but made just 1 of 9 3-pointers, in part because Indiana made it a point to hound him all afternoon. OG Anunoby, a 6-foot-8 forward, often drew the defensive assignment and kept a hand in the 6-4 Murray’s face, rejecting him three times.

“I didn’t think it would be shooting,” Calipari said, “but we knew if a couple of players didn’t give us great efforts, we would struggle to win.”

Afterward, Murray struggled to speak. He’d come into the NCAA tournament red-hot – 20-plus points in 12 of the previous 13 games – and expected to help Ulis lead the fourth-seeded Wildcats on a much deeper run.

A reporter asked whether Murray, who sat at his locker sobbing, with a towel over his head, was surprised but the sudden outpouring of emotion.

“What round is it?” Murray asked rhetorically. “Should I be happy?”

One locker over, senior Alex Poythress mourned the end of his college career. After a six-point, six-rebound final act, tears streamed down his face.

Video | Jamal Murray breaks down after UK loss to IU

He’s the one guy Kentucky knows is gone. Most expect that Ulis and Murray, and likely Labissiere, will join him in entering the NBA draft. None were ready to talk about that decision Saturday.

“My time here isn’t done. I don’t know what happens from here. This wasn’t the plan. This wasn’t how we all envisioned it,” Murray said, teasing the possibility of a return to UK that he almost immediately walked back. “I’m going to miss playing basketball with these guys. It’s done. The season’s done.”

That’s the thing about losing in the NCAA tournament. It often comes suddenly, without much warning, and hits with the considerable weight of The End behind it. No matter how many times you’ve experienced it, or what was at stake, it hurts.

“It’s like you fall off a cliff,” Calipari said. “If you think you have a fighting chance, it’s a hard deal.”

Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Email him at

The end sudden, stinging for Ulis and UK – The Courier-Journal

    Related Posts

    Sports Direct staff ‘not treated as humans’, says MPs report

    3 months ago
    A report by an influential committee of MPs accuses Sports Direct of failing to treat its workers like human beings. BBC News – UK Read More

    Five men arrested over fatal stabbing of Gary Weir

    2 months ago
    Five men are arrested in connection with the death of Gary Weir, who was found stabbed outside a football ground in Glasgow. BBC News – UK Read More

    Jo Cox MP death: Thomas Mair in court on murder charge

    4 months ago
    Thomas Mair gives his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” as he appears in court charged with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. BBC News –... Read More

    Fifth of UK couples close to break-up – Relate study – BBC News

    5 months ago
    Image copyright Relate Almost one in five (18%) of couples in the UK argue regularly or consider separating, a study suggests. The report, carried out by charity Relate and... Read More
    Real Time Web Analytics