Much of the national attention for Kentucky’s matchup with Indiana Saturday is on their point guards – and rightfully so. UK’s Tyler Ulis was both the SEC’s defensive Player of the Year and overall Player of the Year. Yogi Ferrell of IU, meanwhile, was a unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection. Ulis and Ferrell are unquestionably the most important pieces on their respective teams.
As we prepare for the game Saturday night, the time is ripe to pause and reflect on some of the other memorable point guard matchups during the John Calipari era at Kentucky. From John Wall to Ulis, here are 25 of UK’s most memorable point guard duels.
2009-2010 season (John Wall)
Dec. 9, 2009 – #4 Kentucky 64, #16 UConn 61
Kemba Walker 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
John Wall 25 points (10-16 FG) 6 steals, 7 turnovers
In an early-season matchup at Madison Square Garden, Wall and the Cats erased a 6-point halftime deficit, improving to 8-0 with a 64-61 win over the UConn Kembas. Wall scored 12 of Kentucky’s final 15 points to secure the win.
Jan. 26, 2010 – South Carolina 68, #1 Kentucky 62
Devan Downey 30 points (9-29 FG, 10-11 FT), 5 rebounds
John Wall 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 turnovers
South Carolina, despite a paltry 11-8 record coming into the game, handed 19-0 Kentucky their first loss of the season with a shocker in Columbia. Devan Downey shot just 31 percent from the field, but made 10-11 free throws and made every big basket down the stretch for the underdog Gamecocks.
Feb. 16, 2010 – #2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75 (OT)
Dee Bost 22 points (9-21 FG), 5 rebounds
John Wall 18 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals
In the famous Demarcus Cousins “Call Me” game, Wall out-dueled talented Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost in an overtime thriller.
SEC Championship – #2 Kentucky 75, Mississippi State 74 (OT)
Dee Bost 16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
John Wall 17 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 steals
After a Demarcus Cousins putback sent these two teams to overtime for the second time in a month, Wall scored seven points in the extra period to seal Kentucky’s 25th SEC Tournament Championship.
2010-2011 season (Brandon Knight)
Nov. 23, 2010 – #8 Kentucky 74, #13 Washington 67
Isaiah Thomas 13 points (4-14 FG)
Brandon Knight 24 points (9-11 2FG), 8 turnovers
In the Maui Invitational Semifinals, Kentucky topped a pesky Washington team that featured future NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas at point guard. Knight had a big scoring game, making 9-11 two-point field goals, but turned the ball over eight times – a trend that plagued Knight early in his one season at Kentucky.
Nov. 24, 2010 – UConn 84, #8 Kentucky 67
Kemba Walker 29 points, 6 assists
Brandon Knight 6 points (3-15 FG), 5 assists, 5 turnovers
UConn absolutely ran Kentucky off the floor in the Maui Invitational Championship, building a 20-point lead in the first half. Unfortunately, this would not be the last time the Cats would run into the UConn Kembas.
Dec. 31, 2010 – #11 Kentucky 78, #22 Louisville 63
Preston Knowles 22 points (6-10 3FG), 4 steals
Brandon Knight 25 points (7-13 FG), 4 assists, 5 turnovers
Kentucky knocked off rival Louisville on New Year’s Eve. Louisville was 11-1 coming into the game, but had played an extremely light schedule to this point. The point guards were both excellent, but the real story was Josh Harrellson’s 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Feb. 23, 2011 – Arkansas 77, #22 Kentucky 76 (OT)
Rotnei Clarke 26 points (11-12 FT)
Brandon Knight 26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists
A reeling Kentucky team lost its fourth game in seven tries, falling in overtime at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Brandon Knight was outstanding, but Rotnei Clarke was as advertised as well. The bright spot: Kentucky would not lose again for almost six weeks, winning ten games in a row before eventually falling to the UConn Kembas in the Final Four.
NCAA Elite 8 – (4) Kentucky 76, (2) North Carolina 69
Kendall Marshall 7 points (2-10 FG), 8 assists
Brandon Knight 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
After nailing a late jumper to beat number-one overall seed Ohio State, Knight put up a monster game against North Carolina to propel Kentucky to the Final Four.
NCAA Final 4 – (3) UConn 56, (4) Kentucky 55
Kemba Walker 18 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists
Brandon Knight 17 points (6-23 FG), 5 assists
Sometimes you just run into the buzzsaw of one of the greatest college point guards of all time. My reaction to Kemba Walker’s performances against Kentucky was basically the same as Ron Burgundy’s after Baxter ate a whole wheel of cheese.
2011-2012 season (Marquis Teague)
Nov. 15, 2011 – #2 Kentucky 75, #12 Kansas 65
Tyshawn Taylor 22 points (3-13 FG, 15-17 FT)
Marquis Teague 12 points, 6 turnovers
Kentucky topped Kansas in just its second game of the 2011 season. Tyshawn Taylor struggled shooting from the field, but entered the paint at will. He shot more than twice as many free throws as any Kentucky player. Marquis Teague, like Knight, struggled with turnovers early in his one season at Kentucky.
Dec. 31, 2011 – #3 Kentucky 69, #4 Louisville 62
Russ Smith 30 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals
Marquis Teague 4 points (1-8 FG), 5 assists, 4 turnovers
In one of the most anticipated games of their storied rivalry, Kentucky beat Louisville again on New Year’s Eve. Despite Russ Smith doing Russ Smith things, Teague being dreadful, and the Cats shooting just 30 percent as a team, Louisville fell short again.
Feb. 21, 2012 – #1 Kentucky 73, Mississippi State 64
Dee Bost 21 points, 7 assists
Marquis Teague 8 points
In what developed into a rivalry that lasted about 15 minutes, Kentucky battled back from a 20-point first half deficit to beat Mississippi State in a tough road game. Teague was limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble, and Dee Bost was good, as always.
National Championship – (1) Kentucky 67, (2) Kansas 59
Tyshawn Taylor 19 points, 5 turnovers
Marquis Teague 14 points
Kentucky built a double-digit first half lead en route to cruising to the school’s eighth national championship. Tyshawn Taylor was good, but Teague and co. were better.
2013-2014 seaons (Andrew Harrison pt. 1)
Nov. 12, 2013 – #2 Michigan State 78, #1 Kentucky 74
Keith Appling 22 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals
Andrew Harrison 11 points, 5 turnovers
The Spartans got the best of Kentucky in an early-season matchup between the top two teams in the country. Keith Appling was, in a word, unstoppable.
Dec. 14, 2013 – #18 North Carolina 82, #11 Kentucky 77
Marcus Paige 23 points (6-13 FG)
Andrew Harrison 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists
At Chapel Hill, Kentucky played its third ranked opponent of the season, and took its third loss. Andrew Harrison put together his best game of the young season, but then-sophomore Marcus Paige was excellent, and in what was the story for much of the 2013-2014 regular season, Kentucky fell just short.
Feb. 1, 2014 – #11 Kentucky 84, Missouri 79
Jordan Clarkson 28 points (11-17 FG)
Andrew Harrison 14 points, 4 assists
Kentucky picked up a road win against a good Missouri team, despite a combined 61 points from the Tigers’ backcourt of Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown. Clarkson and Brown would go on to be teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Feb. 22, 2014 – #18 Kentucky 77, LSU 76 (OT)
Anthony Hickey 20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists
Andrew Harrison 9 points (3-13 FG), 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Kentucky avenged a prior loss to LSU, holding off Anthony Hickey and the Tigers in overtime at home, despite a tough shooting game from Andrew Harrison.
NCAA Round of 32 – (8) Kentucky 78, (1) Wichita State 76
Fred VanVleet 4 points (1-8 FG), 6 assists
Andrew Harrison 20 points (6-9 FG)
Kentucky knocked off the previously-unbeaten Shockers in a second (third) round thriller, behind a strong game from Andrew Harrison. But, let’s be honest, this game had no business being played in the round of 32.
Sweet 16 – (8) Kentucky 74, (4) Louisville 69
Russ Smith 23 points
Andrew Harrison 14 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists
In the selection committee’s favorite matchup, Kentucky once again thwarted its rival from that city that doesn’t exist. Russ Smith was great, but Andrew Harrison was sturdy once again in leading the Cats to a Sweet 16 win.
NCAA Championship – (7) UConn 60, (8) Kentucky 54
Shabazz Napier 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals
Andrew Harrison 7 points, 4 rebounds
Different mascot, same result. The UConn Shabazzi built an early lead and, despite the Cats’ late comeback effort, spoiled Kentucky’s quest for a ninth national title.
2014-2015 season (Andrew Harrison pt. 2)
Jan. 6, 2015 – #1 Kentucky 89, Ole Miss 86 (OT)
Jarvis Summers 23 points, 4 assists, 6 turnovers
Andrew Harrison 12 points, 5 assists
In Kentucky’s SEC opener, they played their first truly close game. The Rebels’ backcourt of Jarvis Summers and Stefan Moody were phenomenal, combining for 48 points.
NCAA Elite 8 – (1) Kentucky 68, (3) Notre Dame 66
Jerian Grant 15 points, 6 assists
Andrew Harrison 7 points (7-8 FT)
Kentucky held off a frisky Notre Dame team in the Elite 8, led by current New York Knicks’ rookie Jerian Grant, who has shown extreme promise in his first season in the league.
2015-2016 season (Tyler Ulis)
Jan. 30, 2016 – #4 Kansas 90, #20 Kentucky 84 (OT)
Frank Mason III 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists
Tyler Ulis 26 points, 8 assists, 3 steals
Sure, moral losses are for the birds, but Ulis was excellent in this game, and taking Kansas to overtime at Phog Allen, despite a strong performance from Frank Mason III and 33 points from Wayne Selden Jr., is not a bad showing at all.
Feb. 8, 2016 – #14 Kentucky 80, Tennessee 70
Kevin Punter 19 points (4-14 FG)
Tyler Ulis 11 points (3-15 FG), 9 assists
Kentucky kept Kevin Punter in check, avenging a shocking loss to Tennessee two weeks prior, despite what was easily Ulis’ worst shooting performance of the season.