OMAHA, Neb. — When asked about winning to save Billy Gillispie's job, Perry Stevenson turned to Kentucky's embattled coach and said in a deadpan voice, "Your job is on the line? I didn't know that."
Everyone with a passing interest in UK basketball knows Gillispie has a tenuous hold on the coaching job. It was a subject Gillispie did not want to talk about after the Cats beat Creighton 65-63 in the National Invitation Tournament's second round Monday night.
"It's not about me," he said.
That was the theme of the post-game interviews. From Gillispie down to the players, there was no "I" in anyone's comments.
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"They've deflected everything coming their way," Gillispie said of the speculation swirling around the UK program, "and pushed it another way."
Gillispie slammed a metaphorical door on questions about his job security.
"I'm not worried one second about all that stuff," he said.
Big man Patrick Patterson again predicted that Gillispie would be Kentucky's coach next season. But Patterson acknowledged that he did not know that nor had anyone given him that assurance.
"I don't know what Mitch Barnhart's thinking," Patterson said of UK's athletics director. "Basically we (the players) don't know anything. We're pretty much in the dark."
Barnhart and UK President Lee Todd attended the game.
Prompted by a question about Gillispie's job status, Jodie Meeks and Stevenson put in a good word for the coach.
"We go out and play hard every play and every game," Stevenson said.
Added Meeks: "We try to do what he says the best we can. I think we've improved dramatically."
Another UK victory prompted a question: What motivates the Cats to play hard.
Meeks cited pride. "Anytime you have a chance to put on a Kentucky uniform, you're going to play with pride," he said.
Ramon Harris noted the good times that come with playing basketball. "After the season, you're not traveling anymore," he said.
Patterson pointed out a practical value to extending the season.
"We don't want to stop playing basketball," he said. "And sure enough, we don't want to go back to school. If we win (at Notre Dame on Wednesday), most likely we'll have another week off. That's huge motivation."
When asked whether he enjoyed the possibility of missing a particular class, Patterson said, "All of them. Every single class. Getting out of class is a huge perk."
Harris shattered his previous career high for assists. He got credit for eight assists, easily topping his previous high of five.
"Just the flow of the game," he said. "I knew they were going to key on Pat and Jodie, as always, and force us to make plays."
Harris made plenty, which Gillispie saw as a continuation of his solid play.
"He was awesome," the UK coach said of Harris. "He's been playing like that for a month, just doing a ton of stuff. Attacking the basket."
Then Gillispie added a playful jab. "I think he missed five dunks," the UK coach said.
Harris equaled his career high of 10 rebounds in the first-round victory over UNLV. He contributed 11 points in the loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Gillispie called it a team effort. He noted able play by DeAndre Liggins (no turnovers in 12 minutes), Darius Miller (five points), Michael Porter ("He continues to amaze me") and Josh Harrellson, who grabbed four rebounds in four minutes. ... UK's game at Notre Dame is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. It will be televised by ESPN2.