Zvonimir Ivisic's Extended Minutes Paid Off vs. Alabama

On3 imageby:Jacob Polacheck02/24/24

PolacheckKSR

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Zvonimir Ivisic earned a career-high 20 minutes in Kentucky’s dominating win over No. 13 Alabama on Saturday. He put every one of those minutes to good use. The 7-2 freshman from Croatia finished with a career-high 18 points on 7-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-3 from deep. He also had five rebounds and four blocks with only one turnover.

To do it against the No. 13 team in the country in front of a packed Rupp Arena crowd made the night even more special. Ivisic said it was “amazing.”

“It’s an amazing feeling to be out there in front of – I don’t know – 20,000 people or something like that,” Ivisic told reporters postgame. “It’s amazing. It can’t be described, to be honest.”

With the added scrutiny facing this Kentucky team and head coach John Calipari, Ivisic and the Wildcats knew it was a big night to step up. It was something they talked about ahead of the game.

“First of all, we decided we were going to prove everybody wrong,” Ivisic said. “A lot of people were against Coach Cal and against our team because we are all mostly freshmen.”

“I knew this was going to happen at some point,” Ivisic added.

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

Coach Cal Made the Decision to Play Zvonimir Ivisic on Friday

The decision to play Zvonimir Ivisic additional minutes came on Friday, Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters after the game. Calipari said he believed Ivisic was going to break through.

“I made a decision yesterday that I was going to play Z,” Calipari said. “I did get some pushback. But I said nope, when I wake up and in my gut says that what I should do, then I’m doing it. He’s waited his turn. He and Aaron, none of it is their skill. It’s all physical play. Are you physical enough to stay in games? And in this game they were.”

Calipari said that Ivisic is good when a team wants to hard-show pick and rolls and leave the middle open. He gave that as reasoning for Ivisic’s 20 minutes compared to Aaron Bradshaw‘s five minutes.

“I’m just happy that he got a chance,” Calipari said.

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

Battling Through Tough Stretches Alongside Justin Edwards

Zvonimir Ivisic and Justin Edwards have both had to deal with a lot of adversity this season, each for different reasons. While Ivisic had to sit out the start of the season due to awaiting NCAA clearance, Edwards struggled to find his groove to start the season.

Then, everything clicked on Saturday. Both players had their season-high as Edwards finished with 28 points on 10-for-10 shooting.

“I’m really happy for him, that he made it through the tough times that he had, especially at the beginning of the season and people talking bad stuff about him,” Ivisic said. “I’m pretty happy that he made it through.”

Ivisic was able to relate to the difficult challenges that Edwards had faced. He faced his own set of challenges and credited the support system around him to get him through it.

“I had tough times of course, but my teammates, my coach, my friends, girlfriend, and everybody else just helped me and guided me to be positive,” Ivisic said. “They helped me a lot.”

The lineup with Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves, Edwards, and Ivisic was especially deadly in the win. Alabama coach Nate Oats was asked about that lineup postgame.

“Z had 18 points in less than 20 minutes. We didn’t do a very good job guarding him at all,” Oats said. “We were supposed to switch, we knew he was a shooter and we had him in switch coverage and gave up a three. Pick-and-Pop is not supposed to work against a switching coverage and we switched and he still popped and got off a three.”

In a single six-minute stretch, that lineup scored 28 points. “It works,” Ivisic said.

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