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Keith Taylor: Veteran Marcus Lee not rattled by Calipari’s tone of voice or Sun Devils

John Calipari likes to scream to get his point across. The Kentucky coach blames it on his Italian roots, but Marcus Lee isn’t buying it.

“That’s an excuse,” Lee said. “He just screams because he likes to scream.”

Jamal Murray, Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe are all smiles after UK's win over Arizona State Saturday (Regina Rickert Photo)

Jamal Murray, Marcus Lee and Isaiah Briscoe are all smiles after UK’s win over Arizona State Saturday (Regina Rickert Photo)

An adjustment early in his collegiate career, Lee has learned to listen to Calipari’s message and is no longer fazed by Calipari’s tone of voice.

“That’s a huge thing and that’s the one thing you gotta learn when you come here,” Lee said. “You kind of gotta take the screaming out of what he’s saying and actually listen to what he’s saying. Then you’ll figure it out. That’s what I had to learn.”

The results are starting to pay off for the Kentucky junior forward. Lee came off the bench and scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help lead the fifth-ranked Wildcats to a 72-58 win over Arizona State Saturday at Rupp Arena.

BOXSCORE: Kentucky 72, Arizona State 58

When he arrived at Kentucky, Lee was known as a shot blocker and displayed those skills in the double-digit victory over Arizona State. Lee collected a team-high five blocks and one steal against the Sun Devils.

“My team set a high standard for me (blocking shots),” Lee said. “That’s something that I always have behind me and I can keep in my head. So seeing something like that, it kind of brings me toward (the fact) that I’m going back to my old ways.”

Although a spotty contributor early in his career, Lee is becoming more reliable this season, especially in the post. He made 6 of 8 field goals against the Sun Devils, continuing his recent trend of consistency in the paint. In the past two games, Lee has made 11 of his last 13 shots from the field.

 In the past two games, Marcus Lee has made 11 of his last 13 shots from the field (Regina Rickert Photo)

In the past two games, Marcus Lee has made 11 of his last 13 shots from the field (Regina Rickert Photo)

“It’s great knowing that I have such a big impact on my team, vocally and on the court, which is a great feeling,” he said.

Against the Sun Devils, Lee picked up the pace late in the first half after senior Alex Poythress left the court because of a hyperextended knee. Although Poythress, who threw down a monstrous dunk in the first half and finished with 10 points did return, Lee admitted it would have been more difficult to finish the game without Poythress in the paint.

“It’s a rough one without Alex,” Lee said. “He’s a tremendous player and without him, it makes the game a whole lot harder.”

Because of his own personal experiences, Lee understands what freshman Skal Labissiere is going through this season. Labissiere struggled against Arizona State’s experienced post players, was held scoreless and failed to grab a rebound in 13 minutes. Labissiere fouled out early in the second half, but Lee isn’t worried about Labissiere going into the final two games of the non-conference schedule.

“That happens to freshmen,” Lee said. “You come with a huge head. I personally did. I know I did. And it’s kind of a reality check. Once you get the reality check and once you know that your team’s behind you, you’ll be fine.”

As he knows, Lee said “toughness is something that you have to learn.”

“I was 180 (pounds) coming into college, so it just takes time to figure it out because we have to do it a whole lot differently,” Lee said.

Calipari said Lee and the rest of Kentucky’s experienced post players understand what it takes to succeed in his system.

“He’s more confident,” the Kentucky coach said. “There’s nothing that I say that rattles him or Alex (Poythress).”

Indeed, Lee certainly wasn’t rattled by the Sun Devils.


* Jamal Murray finished with a game-high 17 points, the eighth consecutive time Murray has tallied double figures. Murray, who scored 12 points in the opening half, became the first player in school history to hit at least one 3-pointer in each of his first 10 games.

“When we hit shots, we change the game,” Murray said. “We make a lot of different plays that way and a lot of things open up for us when we hit shots. So I think that really changed the game.”

* Derek Willis came off the bench and scored seven points. Willis also grabbed three rebounds to go along with a block and a steal.

“I just want to play with energy and passion for the game,” he said. “I think that’s what the fans want so that’s what I want to do.”

Game tracker: Kentucky vs. Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: CBS Sports, 98.1 FM WBUL.

Keith Taylor is a columnist and senior sports writer who covers University of Kentucky athletics for KyForward.com

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