UK basketball notes: Kidd-Gilchrist's hustle rewarded with shots

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 10, 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

NEW ORLEANS — The ball went into the low post. The player made his move. The player converted.

One, two, three straight first-half possessions Kentucky scored in this most conventional of basketball ways on Friday. A fourth time came in the second half of UK's 60-51 victory over LSU in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals.

Do-everything freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — surprise — made no secret of enjoying this extended chance to impersonate Anthony Davis.

"I like being 'A.D.' on offense," said Kidd-Gilchrist as he wiggled his fingers to signal quotation marks around A.D. "I had a blocked shot today, too."

His teammates also enjoyed Kidd-Gilchrist's work in the post, which contributed mightily to his game-high 19-point performance and UK's uneven advancement to Saturday's semifinal against Florida.

"They had little guards on him," Marquis Teague said of LSU's attempt to defend Kidd-Gilchrist with 6-foot-1 Chris Bass and later 6-3 John Isaac. "They couldn't stop him. So we said, 'Go kill 'em.'"

Kidd-Gilchrist acknowledged the advantage he had inside, which allowed him to add low-post anchor to his customary roles as slasher, defender and rebounder.

"I had a mismatch," he said, "and my teammates just gave me the ball."

UK Coach John Calipari suggested the post-up attempts were, in part, a reward for Kidd-Gilchrist's intense play early in the game. More than once earlier this season, Calipari has noted how productively Kidd-Gilchrist performs despite not having any plays run for him.

"I looked and said, 'He's the only one competing, so throw it to him," Calipari said.

Before the first television timeout, Kidd-Gilchrist showed his ever-ready motor was switched on. He dived to the floor, sending LSU guard Anthony Hickey tumbling back, to retrieve a loose offensive rebound.

"That's just me," he said. "I'm the energy guy on the team, and that's my role on this team."

Gators not respected?

After Florida beat Alabama, center Patric Young said UK did not respect the Gators.

"Just the way they act around us," he said. "The way a few of the guys have commented on us that they know they're going to beat us. Just certain things. You can tell by the way a guy walks onto the court like 'Oh, we're going to kill these guys. We don't care about them. We're not scared.'

"I want them to feel that way so hopefully we can come in tomorrow and give them a run for their money."

Young, the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the Year (3.37 grade-point average as a telecommunications major), said he drew motivation from UK's perceived over-confidence. "That kind of fired me up a little bit."

Young scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds against UK last Sunday.

He said the lack of respect for Florida's team is widespread.

"Honestly, I don't think anybody gives us any respect when it comes to big-time games," he said. "We're always the underdogs. People haven't bought in to Florida being an elite program. If we come out and do all the right things, I don't think there's anybody who can step on the court against us. I think we can be one of the best teams out there when we play the right way."

Miller vows

For only the second time in the last two seasons, Darius Miller went scoreless. He also took a season-low two shots.

"I'm just mad the way I performed," he said in a low-key, straightforward tone. "I can't perform that way in the post-season. I'll be better tomorrow."

In a respectful way, Miller scoffed at a reporter's suggestion that UK's freshmen learned a lesson against LSU.

"I don't necessarily say it was the freshmen," he said. "I had a bad game. Anthony and Michael had good games. I've got to do my part tomorrow."

No. 1 seed

Doron Lamb spoke confidently of UK being the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think so," he said. "We've been winning the last two months."

Dependent on threes?

If you believe Florida lives and dies with the three-point shot, the Gators' 66-63 victory over Alabama served as Exhibit A. Of Florida's 52 shots, 30 came from three-point range.

"That's too many," Young said. "We definitely need to go inside more."

That would mean inside to Young, who will have to contend with Davis' shot- blocking on Sunday.

"He plays straight behind you and tries to time your shot so he can block it every time," Young said of Davis. "... He wasn't giving me any resistance. He was just waiting for me (to shoot)."

'Just a coincidence'

Florida guard Erving Walker made three of nine shots (one of five from beyond the arc) in the victory over Alabama. That made him nine of 32 (five of 19) in three career games in the New Orleans Arena.

In the NCAA Tournament here last year, Walker made one of 10 shots in a loss to Butler and five of 13 shots in a victory over Brigham Young.

"Just a coincidence," he said of shooting poorly in this arena.

Lesson learned?

Kidd-Gilchrist spoke of UK learning the difference tournament play can make.

"Before, I thought it was a joke and all that," he said. "Now, I see it's nothing to play with."

Davis noted the difficulty of an opening game, especially against an LSU team that had played in a Thursday first-round game.

"Tomorrow definitely will be a lot easier for us," Davis said. "We know what to expect."

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

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