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Getting You Ready for Vandy

With some pre-game coach and player quotes:

Coach Billy Gillispie

On starting conference play…

“I don’t think many things change from a practice standpoint. At this point in the season we should be executing much better and we should have a better awareness and understanding on how our opponents play. The pre-conference games are supposed to help us to get ready for this part of the season. We should be better now after playing 15 games. We have to prepare for the fact that we will not be getting a lot of the things we have been getting on the court because of the familiarity of the teams and players. Conference games are usually tougher and tend to be very close games, but they are the most fun on my part.”

On how Kentucky is playing…

“We are playing better, but in our last outing we turned the ball over 21 times. That is not going to be good enough in conference play; we have to cut down our turnover numbers.”

On Vanderbilt…

“I think that Vanderbilt has changed quite a bit from year to year. I wasn’t in the league a couple of years ago and I think they were running a Princeton type offense back then. They have not done that in the two years that I have been here. They do a lot of the same things they did last year, but they are more athletic this year and taller. The only thing that they lack from last year’s team is experience. When you start one of the best big men in the country, and you start one of the most efficient point guards in the country, who has really improved his game by not hesitating and becoming a better shooter, then you add the athletic pieces that they have, then you see why Vanderbilt has a really nice team.”

On A.J. Ogilvy…

“He is a really good player. There were two guys who were picked as unanimous as all-conference players and that was him and Patrick Patterson. That tells you how good everyone thinks that he is. He really slows the game down and knows where guys are going to be. He uses his body, he has great footwork and great hands and he has great ability to score with the ball. He puts himself in great position to score before he catches the ball. It takes a great deal of understanding the game and they do a good job of allowing him to get great angles that lead to easy baskets.”

On Michael Porter…

“He has improved a lot but I think our entire team has improved a lot. I keep saying it is not that Michael (Porter) or DeAndre (Liggins) are getting fewer turnovers. It may be their statistic, but it may have not been their fault. You have to have five people functioning as a team to not turn the ball over. The point guard is usually the person who starts the offense and they are usually the first person who has to do something with the ball. It doesn’t mean it is always their fault if there is a high turnover number.”

On Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks…

“I know it will be difficult (for them). When teams come to play us, we know they are going to really focus on Patrick (Patterson) and Jodie (Meeks) and we have to prepare for that. We have to get other players to step up and start making plays. I assume it is going to be this way in all of our conference games.”

On a third scorer…

“We need all of our players to score. I’m not big on just having a third scorer. We had three scorers last year and that is not good enough. I want several scorers. I would rather have five or six guys average about eight points a game much more than having three guys consistently have double-digit points, not to take anything away from Meeks or Patterson. When you have several guys scoring then that is when you have a really special team. It is more balanced. I want all five guys on our court to have to be guarded. When they are guarded then it will give Meeks and Patterson a much better chance for them to continue to do what they have been doing.”

#13 Michael Porter, Jr.

On how much he remembers the loss to Vanderbilt last year in Nashville …

“You have to think about it a little bit, losing by that much is never pretty but we aren’t going to think about it when we come out to play tomorrow. We want to get them back for the loss last year, but we would want to win if we lost by two last year as well. It does hurt a little bit. Last year, they really just took it to us. We couldn’t do anything offensively, and we have to execute better offensively this year.”

On if the loss can be used for motivation …

“I think that it can motivate us more than anything. We did beat them earlier in the season last year so we knew that we could beat them. Now, it motivates us to come out and play harder and we want to get that loss last year back. We want to win, not just because of the loss last year, but because we want to win every game we play.”

On if coach talked about the loss to Vanderbilt last year during practice this week …

“No, he really hasn’t at all. He has been doing the same things that he has done all year. He hasn’t changed his approach to this game. I know that he wants to win it bad. First of all because it is our first conference game and you can’t win all the conference games if you don’t win the first one. I know that this game is kind of like a start to a new year in starting conference play. That is why this game is so big.”

On if he thinks league play can turn their season around this year like it did last year …

“As far as record goes we are a little better than where we were last year at this point, but we still want to improve a lot like we did last year in conference play. We are looking to get better and improve because we know that we can improve a lot from where we are now.”

#23 Jodie Meeks, Jr.

On the mindset entering conference play…

“We look at it as a new season. We still know we have a lot of work to do so tomorrow is the first step.”

On the Vanderbilt games last season…

“I thought the first game we came in with a real good mindset. It got us off to good start. We started 1-0 (in the conference) and I think they were ranked in the country at that time so it gave us a lot of confidence. The second game was one to forget about because it was kind of ugly from the very beginning. We just have to come in and concentrate on playing hard.”

On trying to get revenge for last season’s 41-point loss to Vanderbilt…

“We try not to get into that. Our main focus is to get better every game. We’ve been getting every day in practice and we’re just looking forward to every game we play.”

On the improved play of Michael Porter…

“At the beginning of the year he kind of struggled with turnovers, but same with me. I think he has a lot more confidence. He had some pretty good games in the month of December and this year. With him playing well, it just makes our team better.”

#54 Patrick Patterson, So.

On his matchup with A.J. Ogilvy…

“He’s a great basketball player. He’s very physical, real tough down low. He’s a huge body and he’s just going to keep banging and banging with you down low. I saw that he’s worked on his jump shot a lot so he’s been shooting threes and just like last year he’s still driving from the high post and the top of the key. He’s improved a lot from what I’ve seen from last year and I expect a great matchup.”

On the focus he and Jodie Meeks will face in conference play…

“I expect a lot more. We’ve been all talking about that a lot in practice. Teams that we’re going to face in the SEC are going to try to take me and Jodie away from the offense and maybe do a triangle and two or a box and one on Jodie. Ramon (Harris), Perry (Stevenson), Darius (Miller) and DeAndre (Liggins), it’s their time to step up, their time to shine.”

On encouraging his teammates to shoot when they’re open…

“I think it’s getting through a lot. These past couple of practices, DeAndre has been taking a lot of jump shots, same with Darius and even Perry is taking threes. I’m going to tell all my teammates, no matter where you’re at (shoot it if you’re open). Josh, usually when he’s been at the 3-point line he’s been a little bit hesitant. I say if you’re open shoot the shot. If you’re open, no matter if I got a man in the post behind my back and there’s no man in between me and you, take the jump shot.”

On the 41-point to loss to Vanderbilt last year…

“We’ve been talking about since the beginning of practice the past couple of days. We watched a lot of tape from the game last year — here and a lot from the game where we played them at their place. We were seeing what went wrong, how Ogilvy got me in foul trouble and just all the things they did to us.”

On how Ogilvy got him in foul trouble last year…

“I wasn’t moving my feet. He was able to establish deep post position. They were setting a lot of screens. He just took me out of my game on the offensive end. When he got the ball in the post, he did about a two dribbles and (shot) it over his left shoulder.”

Article written by Matt Jones