Sunday afternoon, noon start, Raycom Sports…..what more can a man ask for on a holiday weekend? While the television production was certainly suspect (Dwight Perry must have a way of inserting himself into the Big Blue Nation’s collective minds through forcing himself to start NCAA Tournament games and replacing Patterson’s picture with his on telecasts), the atmosphere in Athens was morose and the excitement was nonexistent, UK’s play was more than solid. In a game that had “trap” written all over it, Kentucky instead put together a complete and impressive victory over the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday. With a great combination of tenacious defense that literally leaves NO shot uncontested and strong ball movement that utilized the new-found focus on Jodie Meeks to the other players’ advantage, the Cats confirmed that they should indeed be considered one of the Top 25 teams in America and the favorite in the SEC. Billy Gillispie noted after the game that there were “many things” with which he was pleased on Sunday and it is hard to imagine any fan not feeling good about the Kentucky basketball team at this point in the season. Some notes…..
— For me, the most impressive game was actually had by Perry Stevenson, who put on one of his more complete performances of the year. Stevenson is often forgotten by the UK fanbase, as it usually dwells on the Patterson/Meeks greatness and the Harris/Porter playing time debates. But Stevenson has found himself starting all games and producing better and better performances as the year goes on. He had 13 points and six rebounds and became a criticial part of the offense, extending the defense with his outside shot and finishing a number of plays after double teams. On defense, he continues to be a great help-side defender and uses his length to make up for his difficulties on the ball. Perry has played well the past few games, but tonight I thought he played great, something UK desperately will need.
— There was a lot of focus on Jodie Meeks tonight, thanks to his 54 point performance. But as Billy Gillispie noted, I liked what Meeks tried to do tonight besides scoring. He got the ball to his teammates, played aggressive defense and contributed even when his shot wasnt falling. He forced a couple of shots, but considering his last few games, that is nitpicking. Today was an all-around solid performance by Jodie in his home state and one that Gillispie applauded afterwards.
— It is difficult to write these after game reports about Patrick Patterson, because his greatness has become ordinary. All he does in every game is play excellent basketball on both ends and make himself a load for the other team to deal with game in and game out. Tonight he scored well and distributed on offense, but his defense continued to be on another level. He blocked shots, altered countless heaves by Georgia big men and with Stevenson, controlled the lane. Patterson is great….period. And his greatness is found in doing the little things, controlling every rebound, hitting the open man, getting great defensive position. IT is easy to overlook him at times, but all should note that they are watching one of the best in the post that we have seen in the UK uniform.
— Another solid performance from the Porter and Harris duo. Both young men played a large number of minutes and both did exactly what Gillispie would hope. Michael Porter is getting to be a bit more aggressive on offense, finding his shot a bit more and penetrating to the basket. His defense continues to improve and his positioning is still very good. As he has cut down on his turnovers, his confidence has increased and he just completed his sixth or seventh straight solid game. As for Harris, he was once again a shutdown defender on defense, got in the passing lanes and controlled his man the entire contest. The two of them continue to be exactly what Gillispie wants and that is why he singles them out for praise game after game.
— An important good performance for DeAndre Liggins tonight. After the drama of the Tennessee game, it was unclear exactly what would happen with Liggins and even those close to the team held their breath. But tonight he played with confidence and just as importantly, Gillispie showed confidence in him, allowing him to play through some mistakes. For most of the first 30 minutes (absent the last three in the first half) he was part of a six man rotation, with the five starters, and would come in to spell Harris or Porter. This allows for one more offensive option in the game and is EXACTLY the role that Gillispie needs him to play to take this team to another level. A good start for the young man.
— The rest of the bench got good minutes as well. Gillispie could be seen praising AJ Stewart on the sideline and guys like Kevin Galloway and Josh Harrellson saw good stretches of playing time. With the exception of Darius Miller (whose role is more crucial in my opinion), these guys just have to be ready when they are needed. Tonight gave them a chance to work out some kinks and get some good run. They did their job well.
— How bout our boy Jared Carter? Comes in, blocks a shot and is such a team player, gives up a wide open dunk to kick it out. Loaded potato soup on the house tonight for “He Went to” Jared.
— I cant not stare at Albert Jackson’s Sigma cow-brand on his arm. It hurts me just to look at it.
— I still love Dennis Felton’s moustache. But I have a feeling this may be the last year it roams the Athens sidelines.
— Does anyone know if Michael Porter was offered a football scholarship to USC? No announcer ever seems to mention it.
— Just like last year, Billy Gillispie seems much more loose at this point in the season. That is great for him, the team, the media and the fans.
Finally, this team is almost where Billy Gillispie wants it. They play UNBELIEVABLE defense….this game was a show in how you disrupt an offense by constant pressure and defensive help. To beat an SEC team on the road in the way they did is very, very encouraging. I love where this team is right now and can just hope it continues.
More later tonight….the Cats are feeling it folks….