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Coaches speak

The SEC had another coaches teleconference today, but I didn’t get a chance to listen and take notes (stay young forever, kids).  However, Eric Lindsey at the Cats Scratches tuned into the teleconference and this is what the reigning SEC co-Coach of the Year winners had to say about Saturday’s game:

Billy Gillispie

– UK forward Patrick Patterson is still day-to-day.

– Gillispie said UK’s defense has totally changed from that last outing against Tennessee in which Jodie Meeks scored a school-record 54 points. “I don’t think too many teams have the capability to change like they have,” Gillispie said. “I don’t know if it was after our game or whatever, but from then to now, they’re a totally different team. It’s one of the most athletic teams and always has been. They’re very, very long, but they’ve really developed toughness at all five spots and with guys coming off the bench. Their interior defense was fantastic going into our game and it’s continued to be really good for them. Their perimeter defense has really improved.”

– Gillispie downplayed the notion that Tennessee might be a little more up for this game after what Meeks did to them by saying that Tennessee’s No. 1 goal, as it was last time, is just to win the game. “Definitely everyone has to pay a great deal attention to Jodie,” Gillispie said. “He’s played very well and he’s definitely garnered that respect. He’s a hard guy to guard. It just depends on how much help we give him. If we don’t give him any more help than we did the other night, then it’s going to be a tough night for Jodie as well. ”

– Asked if his players were still excited about controlling their own destiny in the East, Gillispie said they haven’t talked about it at all. “When you play your first game you have 16 games, and when you play eighth game you still have eight games to go,” Gillispie said. “Even though there is a logjam at the top right now, there is still five games to go, which is almost one-third of the conference season left. If you spend all that time worrying about that and using energy like that, I think it can be better spent elsewhere preparing mentally and physically and those kinds of things to win your next game. You can only win one game or lose one game on a particular day. No matter what the outcome is, you have to be ready to play the next four.”

Bruce Pearl

– After watching Meeks go for a school-record 54 points on his home court last time, Pearl obviously sounded a little worried about the rematch in Rupp Arena. “We’ve struggled guarding guards on the perimeter, and he’s probably the toughest perimeter to cover in the country,” Pearl said.

– Pearl said he anticipates Patterson coming back for the game. “That gives them that inside-outside threat, which makes both of them more effective,” he said. “Without Patterson in there, they don’t have as much of a post threat. It obviously takes more than one guy to cover Patterson, and it takes a whole team to cover Meeks and that puts your defense at a real risk.”

– Pearl did say that his defense has slightly improved since the mid-January game. “Our interior defense is what’s been our strength all season,” Pearl said. “It’s why in certain matchups against certain opponents we are more effective. Our perimeter defense has improved, but it’s still not our strength.”

– When he was asked what he learned from last game and what his team could do this time to make sure Meeks didn’t go off for 54 again, Pearl said the Volunteers fouled him too much and that they have to know where he’s at on the floor at all times.

– From looking back at the previous game’s tape, Pearl said Meeks scored on seven different Vols in the last matchup.

– Pearl said UK is the most solid defensive team in the league. “They make you beat them from the perimeter, and we are a very inconsistent perimeter shooting team,” Pearl said. “Our interior offense is better, and Kentucky’s defense does a really nice job of taking our inside stuff away.”

Article written by Thomas Beisner