You can put another notch in the win column for Billy Gillispie’s boys, but they still suffered a few losses in the process. Matt will get you his take later on (probably tomorrow), but here’s a quick recap of what you missed tonight if you were too busy trying to bring back the mustache.
– Obviously, the big news was the collision between Michael Porter and Ramon Harris about midway through the first half. Both players were making their way toward a loose ball when Harris started to stand up and hit the top of his head on the left side of Porter’s face. It was a truly scary moment that delayed the game for about 20 minutes and saw Harris’ mother come onto the floor to check on her son along with trainers and Billy Gillispie. Ultimately, Harris left the floor on a stretcher and was transported to UK hospital while Porter was taken to the back and given 10 stitches. Porter returned to the court but did not see any action. As far as Harris goes, all reports seem to indicate that he will be ok and he was taken in only as a precaution after he reported having shooting pains in his neck. Its not been made known yet when either player will be available to play again.
And, just as a side note, if you’re one of the people that are cheering that Harris and Porter got injured so Liggins and Miller would play more, you are truly a classless scumbag. And, that’s coming from a guy who thinks potty humor is brilliant. Think about it.
– The big basketball-related news was the breakout game of DeAndre Liggins in the place of Porter. Liggins stepped up with the starting point guard on the bench and played the type of all-around game that has tantalized fans since his days as a recruit. The final stat line for Liggins was 17 points on 6-6 shooting (2-2 on FTs), 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Liggins, just like against West Virginia, looked confident with the ball and got the Cats into their offensive sets when the break wasn’t there – and was even stroking the three ball. His size and athleticism will always be an asset, but his decision-making and confidence are going to be what makes or breaks his ability to be a big contributor. Both looked solid again tonight.
– All of a sudden, some offensive efficiency broke out tonight for UK. They had 38 field goals and 25 of them were assisted. And, to make things even more impressive, the team that couldn’t keep a handle on the ball in Vegas had only 16 turnovers. This still isn’t a fantastic number and I’m sure Billy Gillispie is going to try to correct every single one, but it’s a massive step in the right direction for a team that was second nationally in turnovers entering the game. At one point in the first half, the Cats had 13 assists and only one turnover. Go turn on the PS3 and pick up the sticks. See if you can do that. Things were very impressive offensively early on.
– It’s not exactly a big surprise, but Patrick Patterson dominated tonight with 31 points. He’ll catch a lot of grief for only grabbing three rebounds (which he probably should), but Beans looked very nice offensively. He missed only one of his twelve shots from the field and knocked down nine out of eleven at the free throw line. Lamar really had no one that could match up with him, but that’s not really different than a couple of teams that UK has already played when Patterson wasn’t as dominant. Tonight, he got his touches and he finished. Again, he looked good running out against the press and beating his man down the floor, but my favorite Patterson play was early in the first half when he saw a man with his back to the ball and threw a bullet from the top of the key to the short corner to Ramon Harris, who finished and drew the foul. Great stuff from Patterson tonight.
– Along those same lines, there was some positive signs from the Perry Stevenson-Patrick Patterson high/low game. Be glad you don’t watch a game with me because as much as that guy you’re watching with demands that Liggins come in for Porter, I probably yell for the Stevenson-Patterson high/low play twice as much. Late last season, it was the most effective offense for the Cats (except for the whole “Joe and Ramel do whatever you have to do score” play) and it has the potential to be very successful. Perry Stevenson isn’t the next Dirk Nowitzki, but he is very solid with the free throw jumper and he throws a great entry pass to Patterson from the top. Tonight, it wasn’t used a whole lot, but it looked good when it was. I think we can expect to see a lot of this by the time SEC play rolls around.
– The scorer’s table sure saw a lot of work tonight. By the time the game was over, 15 players registered some PT for the Cats including 19 minutes for Kevin Galloway and 11 for A.J. Stewart. Galloway’s time was likely due to a combination of the blowout and Porter’s injury, but he played fairly well. In fact, he looked pretty good. He did get beat once or twice on defense, but he was active on the glass with 3 rebounds and dished out 5 assists to his 1 turnover. He didn’t hit a field goal (0-2), but he got two points at the line. Oh yeah, he also threw in two blocks for good measure. Stewart, conversely, didn’t look all that great. He was firing up shots (3-6 in 11 minutes), but he did get beat on defense a few times and made two turnovers. Not a great effort, but it was good to see him on the court.
– Look, we make no apologies about our outward love of all things Josh Harrellson around here. We’re proud of it. But, with that being said, I didn’t expect a whole lot out of him this year. I figured what UK got was another big body to try to get some garbage baskets and to throw around fouls and maybe grab a few rebounds during SEC play. I was wrong. Harrellson had 12 and 7 tonight in 24 minutes, but I’m amazed at what a cerebral player he is. He never seems flustered and even when the game is getting a little frenetic, Harrellson plays under control and brings his teammates back down to where they should be. Take a few possessions next game to watch him on the floor. He knows where the open spots are on the floor and things seem to run smoother when he’s on the out there. A number of times tonight, Harrellson found an open spot to receive a pass and moved the ball to the other side to keep the offense from getting stagnant – something that is incredibly valuable when your point guard play isn’t stellar. I hope I didn’t just make a “white basketball player” stereotype. It’s really a thing of beauty.
– What’s wrong with Jodie Meeks? I mean, Meeks only had 19 tonight! Obviously, I’m joking, but it was another good offensive night for Meeks in terms of points, but his 6:1 assist to turnover ratio sure is a thing of beauty. It helps to be playing an inferior team, but it’s still nice to see a big game out of Patterson and other players stepping up offensively (Liggins, Harrellson) and easing the burden on Jodie. Outside of one “heat check” three in the first half, nothing seemed forced tonight by Jodie.
– Mark Krebs better watch his back because Landon Slone might have just taken his spot as the enforcer of the basketball team. After an intentional foul was called against Lamar when they tried to block a Patterson dunk attempt from behind, things got a little chippy between one of the Cardinals and the walk-on from Paintsville. One of the players from Lamar threw a ‘bow up in the direction of Slone’s face and he responded with a little shove. Both players received technicals. Only one of them received a piece of my heart. Well done, Landon.
– Jared Carter had 1 assist and 1 rebound in 4 minutes of action….and two fouls.
That’s it for now. All in all, it was a very good outing for the Cats outside of that whole collision thing. Coming off of a very positive trip to Vegas, tonight went as about as well as you could have hoped and things seem to be heading in the right direction. Saturday’s game with Miami will be another good test to see where this team is. Jack McClinton better be ready for a rumble. We know Landon Slone is.