Date story published: Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Kentucky beat Central Arkansas 67-40 last night in Billy Gillispie's debut as head coach. But he did not celebrate. Instead, he all but apologized.
"It would mean more to me to honor this state, this university and this basketball tradition with unbelievable play," he said. "I'm a basketball junkie. I like to see great teamwork, great hustle, great execution -- smart, hard, together.
"We're going to do that. We haven't been able to do that. I want to honor this university and state better than we have so far."
With Central Arkansas getting only five assists, committing 18 turnovers and shooting with 20-percent accuracy, Kentucky could hardly avoid winning.
It was how UK won that disappointed Gillispie. He lamented "too many mental mistakes" and, maybe worse, a maddening repetition of the same mistakes. "Things we've corrected a million times," he said.
Gillispie pointedly suggested that tonight's second-round opponent, Gardner-Webb, typifies the classic in this early round site of the season-opening 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.
"I don't think we understand how important each possession on offense and defense is," he said. "We'll play a team tomorrow night that really knows how to play. They'll definitely expose any kind of weakness you have because they are a very good team and they really understand how to play."
On the plus side, Kentucky met Gillispie's goal of working the ball inside. With freshman Patrick Patterson limited to 13 minutes because of foul trouble, walk-on Mark Coury was the chief benefactor. After a freshman season that saw him score only four points, he recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior Joe Crawford came to life. After entering the game with 6:55 left in the first half, he contributed a team-high 20 points.
Gillispie shrugged. "I thought the game was going to be OK as far as the outcome," he said.
With better competition ahead, the UK coach stressed the need for better play, more efficient play and smarter play.
"We have to do all the little, tough, blue-collar things to be really good," he said. "Play great on defense. Run the court. Be smart. Get great leadership. Care for each other unbelievably on a very, very high level."
Repeatedly, Gillispie noted the need for smarter play. "We have to have more effort and we have to have more thoughtful play than we're getting right now," he said.
For the second straight game, UK had to overcome a technical foul on point guard Ramel Bradley. "You can't do that," said Gillispie with an incredulous tone in his voice. "It doesn't happen ... if you're thinking properly."
The UK coach also noted how Jodie Meeks fouled a three-pointer shooter in a game the opposition made three of 22 attempts from beyond the arc.
"My teams don't do that once a year," Gillispie said. "And it's already happened two or three times."
Kentucky scored the first eight points of the game, yet labored to a 34-20 halftime lead. Patterson set the tone for a half of struggle by picking up two quick fouls. He went to the bench 3:45 into the game and didn't return until the second half.
Gillispie gave junior Jared Carter a chance. But the 7-footer from Scott County lasted only two scoreless minutes. Next up was freshman Morakinyo Williams, who was more active with four points and five rebounds. "I thought he played fantastic, especially for the first time out," the UK coach said.
Kentucky got Patterson involved early in the second half and zoomed to a 43-25 lead. Patterson contributed a pass that netted a Bradley layup and his own layup to the 9-2 UK run to start the second half.
A technical foul on Bradley with 16:02 left stalled UK's momentum. Bradley, who also received a "T'' in the exhibition game against Seattle on Saturday, apparently got the technical for either protesting a foul call verbally or with a gesture.
Gillispie labeled the technical and Meeks' foul of a three-point shooter as "two glaring examples" of ill-advised play. He noted there were plenty of other "subtle" transgressions.
Before anyone could suggest that the transition to a new coach might be a factor, Gillispie voluntarily noted that he's not saddling the Cats with too many responsibilities.
"We're not asking them to perform brain surgery," he said. "We're keeping it simple. Let's have great effort and team play. Let's think while we play. We have a long way to go in each aspect."