Marquis Teague 'running the team' to Cal's liking

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 12, 2012 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

After Kentucky won 69-63 at Vanderbilt on Saturday night, Coach John Calipari paid Marquis Teague the ultimate compliment.

"He's transformed into what one of our typical point guards plays like," Calipari said.

That was a mouthful given his typical point guard is someone like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight.

Yet reporters only nodded. Hard to do otherwise after watching Teague hand out eight assists and commit only one turnover in 37 minutes. Although somehow not credited with a steal, his help defense on the post made a tweak in UK's strategy work well.

"He's running the team," Calipari said of Teague. "He's defending, making good decisions. ... And the kid is 19, 18 years old.

"I've been really pleased. But it took a while to get where he is right now."

Basically, Teague had to re-learn how to play basketball. At Pike High School in Indianapolis, he averaged 22.7 points as a senior.

Or as Calipari exaggerated to make a point, "He averaged 28 points a game. He started the season thinking he was going to score 32 (a game) here."

Calipari reminded reporters that early this season there were calls to make sophomore Doron Lamb the point guard.

But Teague kept evolving from high school scorer to college point guard. He's had six straight games with more assists than turnovers. In that span, he's had 36 assists and 11 turnovers.

"I feel real comfortable," Teague said. "I'm playing with some great guys. They're making it easy for me."

Calipari noted Teague's toughness is persevering despite the doubts of others.

"I call him a bulldog," the UK coach said. "He's absolutely a bulldog."

Teague has the size, skill and smarts to be a point guard, the UK coach said. "But it's hard."

Teague showed his bulldog resolve against Vandy. What Calipari termed a pair of defensive breakdowns led to an open three-point shot and Brad Tinsley's layup. This prompted an exchange that Calipari shared with reporters.

Calipari to Teague: "In this kind of game, those two are huge because the game is too tight."

Teague to Calipari: "I got you. They aren't scoring on me again."

The exchange came after Tinsley cut past Teague for a layup that put Vandy ahead 53-51 with 9:42 left. Kentucky's 14-point lead late in the first half seemed a distant memory.

But not only did Teague prevent any more baskets, his teammates nearly did likewise. Vandy scored only three baskets the rest of the game.

"I thought he was outstanding," Calipari said of Teague. "Outstanding. He's getting better."

'Senior leader'

In the first half, Darius Miller had three fouls in four minutes. He had not scored nor grabbed a rebound.

But when Vandy rallied from a 14-point deficit to tie it at 48-48 with just less than 12 minutes left, Miller helped steady Kentucky.

His three-pointer — his first basket of the game — put UK ahead 51-48 with 10:38 left.

Later, Miller made the pass that led to a Doron Lamb three-pointer that put the Cats ahead for good at 64-63 with 3:16 left. Then with it still a one-possession game, he somehow knifed between two defenders for a layup that gave Kentucky a 68-63 lead entering the final minute.

Teague explained Miller's contribution by calling him "a senior leader."

Added Calipari: "I just told him, the three you made, it was the play that got us going."

The UK coach said that Miller's performance showed that quality and timing of a contribution can be more important than quantity of stats.

"It doesn't matter how you play the whole game," Calipari said he told the players. "It's those last three, four minutes. Darius had not played well. Then it came to that (last) part. He was outstanding. That's why I didn't take him out."

Off week

Calipari needed no reminder that this will not be the first time UK does not have a mid-week game. It happened in December between games against North Carolina and Indiana.

"Obviously, I had a bad week that week," Calipari said in reference to the 73-72 loss at Indiana that followed a week off. "I'll do something different."

The UK coach suggested there might be a mid-week scrimmage open to students or perhaps a portion made available via the Internet.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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