Balance is big as Cats iron rough spot

Everybody pitches in for Kentucky

jclay@herald-leader.comFebruary 3, 2010 

There were more than 30 NBA scouts and player personnel types Tuesday night in Rupp Arena, all no doubt furiously scribbling notes and thoughts and observations.

Let's hope they didn't run out of ink.

Kentucky beat a gritty Mississippi 85-75; and, yes, the Cats committed too many turnovers (11 in the first half, 17 for the game); and, yes, there were some "lags," as John Calipari called them; and, yes, at times cruising-speed leads were sometimes cut to uncomfortable numbers.

Yet, all in all, "we played well," said John Calipari, the Kentucky coach.

All in all, the Cats got contributions from nearly all. In fact, for a team that is now 21-1, this was one of its better performances when it came to gaining significant contributions from so many different contributors.

To be sure, the regular stars did their normal turns. DeMarcus "The Beast" Cousins scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. John Wall shed his frustrations and his short-lived funk to pop in 17 points with seven assists. Patrick Patterson was more active, scoring 12 points, snatching six rebounds and aggressively going after the ball.

But there was more. Darnell Dodson contributed his second straight dead-eye shooting game, knocking down four three-pointers and scoring 14 points. DeAndre Liggins came off the bench to provide energy and take charges. (UK took six charges in all.) Darius Miller, demoted to a sub role for the first time this year, appeared to gain some confidence back, hitting a key three.

Eric Bledsoe, back in the starting lineup after a one-game absence, contributed just eight points and had seven turnovers but dished out a game-high eight assists and had the play of the night, an acrobatic, hang-in-the-air alley-oop reverse for a spectacular two.

The Cats shot 50 percent from the field, and 47 percent (9-for-19) from three-point range. You can win a lot of games shooting like that.

"If we contribute with different guys every game, four or five guys scoring for us, not just two or three, that's going to help us out a lot," said Wall, who made six of 10 shots, including a pair of triples.

"Darius found his confidence back. Darnell's been playing great. DeAndre's playing great again. Eric, Pat. DeMarcus stepped up for us. And Daniel (Orton) played great off the bench."

That's a lot of guys.

Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy complimented Cousins — "DeMarcus Cousins is playing as well as any post player in college basketball," he said. After commenting on Wall and Bledsoe, Kennedy then said, "I've mentioned three guys, and I don't even mention the pre-season player in this league, Patrick Patterson. He is tremendous. He's going to be a great player for many years."

Calipari lamented the turnovers he called ridiculous, "but the reality is ... right down the line, we got a lift when we went to the bench."

Said Kennedy, "They have all the pieces in place."

Said Wall, "That takes a lot of pressure off the other guys."

No doubt, Wall had been feeling a bit of pressure after his Saturday post-game "trying not to listen to coach" comments and the subsequent summit with Calipari that appeared to iron out any rough spots. Indeed, Wall appeared more on his game against the Rebels.

"John ran our team as well as he has all year," said Calipari.

There's still plenty of room for improvement. For example: Calipari said that while he liked Patterson's play, the junior could still improve by "30 percent."

But for one night, there was a lot of talent on display.

"We keep this up," said Wall, "it's going to be hard to beat us."

Surely, the NBA scouts would agree.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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