Sophomore guard Tyler Ulis and freshman guard Jamal Murray, arguably the best backcourt duo in the country, have been recognized for their stellar regular seasons with All-America honors from USA Today Sports. Ulis has been named to the five-man First Team while Murray has been named to the Second Team.
Ulis joined Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Brice Johnson (North Carolina), Jakob Poeltl (Utah) and Denzel Valentine (Michigan State) on the First Team. Murray made the Second Team along with Grayson Allen (Duke), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Perry Ellis (Kansas) and Yogi Ferrell (Indiana).
Together the duo averaged 40.8 points per game in conference play, more than any other tandem in the country in the major conferences (Power 5 plus the American and the Big East).
Also, Ulis was named Sunday as CBS Sports’ Southeastern Conference Player of the Year on Sunday. He also picked up All-SEC First Team honors.
Head coach John Calipari, who captured a share of his fourth SEC title in his seven seasons at Kentucky, got the nod as SEC Coach of the Year from CBS. Murray was named to CBS Sports’ All-SEC First Team.
Heading into the postseason, Ulis is averaging 16.6 points, a Southeastern Conference-best 7.4 assists (sixth nationally) and a league-best 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio (fifth nationally). He’s dished out 10 or more assists in six of his last nine games and scored 20 or more points in 11 of his last 20 games.
The Chicago native is the only player in the SEC averaging at least 16.6 points and 7.4 assists or better. He is one of just four players nationally to achieve that feat (Kahil Felder, Oakland; Juan’Ya Green, Hofstra; Denzel Valentine, Michigan State) and the lone underclassman.
He has the single-season school record for most 20-point, five-assist games with 12, and according to the SEC Network, his three 20-point, 10-assist games this season are the most of any SEC player in the last 20 seasons.
Ulis’ value is probably best represented by his performances in Kentucky’s biggest games. He’s averaging a team-best 22.8 points and a team-high 9.0 assists in UK’s five games vs. ranked opponents in either the Associated Press Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. He shot 54.3 percent with a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games.
Already third on the school’s single-season assists list with 221 dimes, he’s on pace to break John Wall’s single season record of 241 assists set in 2009-10. He is the only player with 24 consecutive games with four or more assists since at least 1972-73.
Murray has been one of the nation’s best scorers all season long. He currently leads the Wildcats in scoring at 20.0 points per game, which, if the season ended today, would be the highest scoring average at Kentucky in the Calipari era. Brandon Knight, in 2010-11, finished at 17.3 points per game. Murray’s current average is the most for any player under Calipari since Dajuan Wagner averaged 21.2 points during the 2001-02 season at Memphis.
With 619 points this season, he trails only Brandon Knight (657 points in 2010-11) for the most points by a freshman in school history. He’s posted three 30-point games this season, the most by a freshman in school history, and his 35 points vs. Florida tied Terrence Jones (Jan. 11, 2011 vs. Auburn) for the school record single-game scoring mark by a freshman. It also tied Jones for the most points in a single game in the Calipari era.
Murray is the first Wildcat to reach double figures in 29 straight games since Jodie Meeks did it 32 times in 2008-09, and he’s currently on a 10-game streak of scoring 20 points or more. That’s the longest such streak for any UK player since Kevin Grevey topped 20 or more points in 12 straight games in 1974-75.
Having hit a 3-pointer in every game this season, Murray owns the UK freshman record for most 3-point field goals in a single season with 99, surpassing Knight’s previous record of 87. His 99 made 3-pointers is already third on the single-season 3-point field goal list, and he’s got a shot at breaking Steph Curry’s NCAA single-season record for 3-point field goals in a season (122).