November 29, 2015

Kentucky's latest group of freshmen phenoms has answered every challenge it's faced thus far. A new one may be in store for the next game.

The top-ranked Wildcats return home Monday night to face Illinois State with the possibility of Tyler Ulis sitting out after hyperextending his right elbow in the last contest.

Ulis missed the second half of Friday's 84-63 victory over South Florida in the HoopHall Miami Invitational. The sophomore point guard, averaging 13.2 points, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals, will be a game-time decision.

"If we have to (sit him) we will," coach John Calipari said. "You're concerned about his health. Right now, it's just early. We haven't practiced. He won't practice (Sunday) just for the fact that I don't want to have him banged up in a practice."

Ulis was removed shortly after his 3-pointer ignited a 15-0 run that staked Kentucky (6-0) to a 42-21 halftime lead. The Wildcats and Bulls played to a 42-all tie following the intermission.

"They couldn't sustain it, and that's what Tyler does," Calipari said. "Tyler just keeps coming and he does not stop and he's not gonna make mistakes to let another team get back in the game. That's the difference and that's the experience."

Calipari said junior defensive specialist Dominique Hawkins would slot into the starting lineup should Ulis be held out. The coach also expressed concern over facing Illinois State (3-4), which led No. 2 Maryland by two with under six minutes left Tuesday before the Terrapins closed the game on a 21-8 spurt to win 77-66.

"We're playing a good team. Illinois State. I watched their Maryland game. They had Maryland beat. They've got a quick guard, (Paris) Lee. I'm not sure what we'll be able to do with him. They've got a kid, (DeVaughn Akoon-) Purcell, that's scoring 16, 17 a game.

"Will be a tough matchup for us depending on how we play. They've got some veteran guys."

Illinois State followed up the loss to the Terps by falling 71-60 to TCU on Wednesday in its finale of the Cancun Challenge, then defeated Division II Quincy 73-63 on Friday.

Akoon-Purcell, a preseason all-MVC selection, had 18 points and five assists and leads the Redbirds at 15.9 points per game.

Kentucky overcame Ulis' absence behind strong efforts from three of its heralded freshmen. Jamal Murray scored a season-high 21 points, Skal Labissiere had 17 and Charles Matthews took advantage of an expanded role by contributing 11 points in 24 minutes for the Wildcats, winners of 37 straight in the regular season.

Kentucky puts a 24-game winning streak at Rupp Arena on the line in its first meeting with Illinois State, 8-1 all-time against current Southeastern Conference members. The Redbirds, though, have lost eight of nine against ranked opponents.

Illinois State has faced a No. 1 team once previously, losing 97-81 at DePaul on March 1, 1980.

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