No one figures to be happier about Kentucky big man Patrick Patterson's return than teammate Kevin Galloway.
"He's that inside presence we need," Galloway said Friday.
He's also the inside presence Galloway tried to provide when Patterson sat out the last two games because of a sprained right ankle.
"Oh man, it's been tough," said Galloway, who is two inches short and 20 pounds lighter than Patterson.
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As for presence, Galloway gained a newfound appreciation for his friend and, like all UK camp followers, welcomes Patterson's return against Tennessee on Saturday.
"He's got a heck of a job," Galloway said of the jujitsu that passes for basketball in the lane.
Usually coy about injuries, UK Coach Billy Gillispie offered only a slight qualifier while making it official Friday. Patterson will play against the Vols.
"I would expect so," Gillispie said before adding, "but I haven't talked to the trainer since practice has been over."
Gillispie acknowledged that Patterson looked "a little bit better" in practice.
The UK players came away much more impressed.
"He looked a lot better," Darius Miller said. "He's playing and running pretty good."
Galloway, who has a vested interest in Patterson's return, went even further.
"Honestly, I see no difference," he said of Patterson's health pre- and now post-ankle injury. "He's playing the same."
Just in the nick of time, Gillispie might say.
While the compelling subplot of Tennessee avenging the 54-point obliteration Jodie Meeks imposed in Knoxville envelops Saturday's game, Gillispie pondered rebounding. The Vols grabbed 19 offensive rebounds against UK. That marked the high for a Kentucky opponent this season.
But it's no biggie for Tennessee, which also had 19 offensive rebounds in two other games this season (against Georgia and Kansas), 20 against two other opponents (Louisiana and UNC-Asheville) and 27 against Gonzaga.
"They're long and athletic at every single position," Gillispie said of the Vols' ability to rebound. "Most importantly, you can be in the right position and not get it done. They get it done because they are so competitive."
Kentucky got hammered on the boards at Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The 37-24 advantage enjoyed by the Commodores marked a high for a UK opponent this season.
"We were not tough enough in the paint on either end," Gillispie said. "... We didn't have much other than Jodie. I just thought they were quite a bit tougher in the lane."
With that in mind, Gillispie spoke of UK's need for more from Patterson than the nine points and 12 rebounds he posted at Tennessee.
"He can play a lot better than he did" in Knoxville, the UK coach said. "But he always brings his hard hat and brings great effort.
"We gave up seven offensive rebounds to (Wayne) Chism, who is a hard guy to block out, (and) five to (Brian) Williams, who is a hard guy to block out. And 19 total for Tennessee.
"We can't do that. We got lucky Jodie had such a great night to bail us out. You can't give up 19 offensive rebounds and expect to win."
Kentucky expects Tennessee to try mightily to prevent Meeks from having another great night. Galloway recalled how the Vols got emotional with one another as Meeks bombed away in the final minutes.
"Tyler Smith said, 'C'mon, you can't let the guy score 50 on you,'" Galloway said. "I'm pretty sure they'll take it personal."
Galloway would take it personally. "Oh man," he said. "I wouldn't let somebody score 50 on me. I'd foul them."
That was part of the problem, Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl said on Thursday. After noting that Meeks made more baskets (17) in his 45-point game at Arkansas than he did (15) against the Vols, Pearl lamented, "We fouled him too many times and got him to the foul line."
Meeks set career highs with 14 free throws attempted and made at Tennessee.
Throughout Meeks' scoring sprees, Gillispie has noted the need for other players to shoulder more of the load. Now the widest set of shoulders, Patterson's, can again supply a big help.
"Pat needs to be more of a defensive presence in this game," Gillispie said. "He and Perry (Stevenson) both, and whoever else plays in the game.
"We had one guy in double figures and won that game. A very high double figures. But that's usually not a very good solution to winning."