A sentence you probably never thought you'd read: Texas A&M serves as an example for Kentucky basketball.
To show his team how to play, UK Coach Billy Gillispie had the players watch tapes of his team at Texas A&M. The Cats watched Texas A&M play Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma State during their week without games.
Patrick Patterson noted the intensity of reserves who entered the game, post men establishing position and a take-no-prisoners attitude.
"They used their fouls," he said. "When somebody drove the lane, they wouldn't let them get to the basket. Coach told us we can be like that. We have been like that. But we started to shy away from (playing with such zeal)."
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Patterson spoke of a "180-degree turn" in UK's approach. When asked if he'd guarantee a victory over Florida, Patterson balked. "Oh, I never do that. Never ever do that."
But, Patterson added, "I can guarantee us playing hard, putting all our passion and heart out there."
A newfound Kentucky zeal won't surprise Florida Coach Billy Donovan.
"We have to understand that we are going to get Kentucky's best effort," he said. "And going into the game, that they are going to play their best game of the year. ... Florida is going to get Kentucky's best shot."
Heart to heart
After UK's loss to Mississippi State last week, Patterson spoke of what the diplomats call a frank exchange of views. The players held nothing back, he said.
Gillispie downplayed the meeting's intensity.
"I've been in vocal locker rooms," he said. "That wasn't the case."
The coach advised fans and media to give opponents more credit for beating the Cats rather than look for what's wrong with Kentucky.
But Patterson stuck with his interpretation. "Frustration coming out," he said. "Things said that should have been said all along. Something like players having a big head, thinking they're something that they're not. People thinking they're great players when they're not. Bringing people down to earth."
Although UK has lost three straight, the official stance is the Florida game is not a must-win situation. There are plenty of games remaining should the Cats lose.
"The only must-win games are when you play in the tournament," Gillispie said. "If you don't win, you go home. That's a must-win. But every game is a must-play-well game."
Added Patterson: "Oh, I believe in must-win games. But I don't believe this is. I thought it was. I do feel we need to win this game. But it's not on the level of must-win."
History in the un-making
No Kentucky team has ever lost three straight home games against SEC teams. A loss to Florida would follow losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State.
"No pressure at all," Patterson said. "We don't look at that. If we lose three or four in a row, we just want to bounce back."
In each of the past four games, Jodie Meeks' point total has declined.
"We have to do a better job getting the ball inside and we have to do a better job of other guys making shots and making plays," Gillispie said. "We have to do a better job of helping him. His numbers might not be at the level we'd gotten used to, but he's played very well. He's played very hard."
UK has to adjust to the defensive attention paid to Meeks, Gillispie said. For instance, drive to the basket on the side of the court where Meeks is so his man does not help cut off penetration.
Gillispie also called for better screening and for Meeks to improve how he uses screens.
Meeks was philosophical about his point totals dipping. "People said I scored 21 and had an off game," he said. "That's a lot of points to me."
Patterson said the week off had been a "huge help" for his injured finger. ... Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and Jeannine Edwards will call the game for ESPN.