Kentucky-Alabama Notes

Count Gottfried among Meeks fans

Alabama coach ranks him with league's best ever

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 24, 2009 

Among active coaches, only Florida's Billy Donovan has worked in the Southeastern Conference longer than Alabama's Mark Gottfried.

So what does Gottfried, who returned to his alma mater in 1998-99, think of how Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks has been playing?

"I haven't seen anybody in 11 years do what he's been doing," Gottfried said. "You go back to '83 to '87 when I was playing, I'm not sure there was anybody then. And we had great players.

"What impresses me is not just the scoring average, but the numbers across the board. Those percentages."

In SEC play, Meeks is averaging 32 points a game. He's made 52.2 percent of his shots, including 21 of 40 (52.5 percent) of three-point attempts, plus 37 of 39 free throws (94.9 percent).

"He's just emerged as one of the best players I've ever seen in this league," Gottfried said.

When reminded that he'd seen plenty of SEC stars first as an Alabama guard and now as the Tide's coach, Gottfried said, "When you look at the numbers, numbers don't lie. I mean, they are what they are."

Gillispie: My bad

Gillispie again suggested the likelihood of breakout performances from reserve players. He also chastised himself for not playing Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson, A.J. Stewart and Kevin Galloway more than cameo minutes against Auburn.

"I've probably been holding them back a little bit," he said.

Gillispie said he stuck with a shortened six-man rotation against Auburn in the second half because those players played better collective defense.

"We have some guys about ready to bust out," he said of those reserves. "You can't play five or six guys to do our best over the course of a 16-game conference schedule."

Strength vs. Strength

Gillispie suggested that his preference for man-to-man defense, which he says is the bedrock of championship teams, works to Alabama's advantage. The Tide has athletes who like to drive to the basket.

This puts the onus on UK's defense to communicate and collectively cut off driving lanes.

Talk about team chemistry always involves offense, Gillispie observed. "Share the ball," he said. "Defense is maybe more so (a factor of chemistry) because you're seeing so many moving pieces."

Gottfried embattled

Alabama's 85-71 loss at Auburn last weekend led columnist Kevin Scarbinsky to suggest the end may be near for Gottfried as the Tide coach.

"David Hobbs lost by a much bigger margin on his last trip to Auburn as the Alabama head coach," Scarbinsky wrote. "If you were here on both occasions, Jan. 17, 2009, felt a lot like Jan. 18, 1998. Almost 11 years later to the day, Auburn 85, Alabama 71 looked a little like Auburn 94, Alabama 40."

It doesn't help Gottfrield that four of Auburn's 12 SEC victories the last three seasons have come against Alabama.

4-0

After two weeks, Kentucky is the only team with an unbeaten SEC record. But Gillispie recoiled from the suggestion that UK sits in an enhanced position to win the championship.

"We're not in any driver's seat," he said. "I feel great about it, but it's a 16-game schedule. ... It means nothing to Alabama or for us."

Etc.

Alabama freshman JaMychal Green averages 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds through four SEC games. ... Alonzo Gee has scored double-digit points in 16 straight games. But UK wisely let him fire away from the perimeter last season in limiting him to five points on one-for-nine shooting. ... Tim Brando and Joe Dean Jr. will call the game for the SEC television network.

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