BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If every big man secretly — or not so secretly — wants to be a guard, then this season is increasingly becoming wish fulfillment for Kentucky All-America candidate Patrick Patterson.
Heretofore a low-post strongman, Patterson showed a growing comfort as a face-the-basket player in UK's 90-73 victory at Indiana on Saturday.
"I love it," Patterson said of playing near the three-point line. "I feel great on the perimeter. I think I'm starting to get to the point I'd rather be out there than on the post. Keep DeMarcus (Cousins) on the post and I'll sit out on the perimeter. It's a lot more fun out there."
Patterson, who contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds to the victory, moved smoothly in pick-and-roll action with UK guards. Four of his nine baskets came on shots from outside the paint, a proficiency he attributed to simply working on his outside shooting.
UK Coach John Calipari will continue to use Patterson around the basket, especially in late-game situations or when Kentucky faces large deficits. "Where my bread and butter is," Patterson said.
But the big man acknowledged that he wasn't ready to exploit opponents on the perimeter before this season.
"Last year, I didn't think I could make them," he said of perimeter shots. "My confidence wasn't there in my jump shot. I probably don't think I'd shoot if I was open. I'd pass it back out."
Cousins grows up
A hostile crowd. A physical opponent.
Indiana had the ingredients for a misstep for an emotional player like Cousins. To his credit, he kept his emotions in check while scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots.
"He grew up today," Calipari said. "Now, can he stay grown up? I have no idea. But he grew up today. He was an absolute beast."
Cousins, who received a technical foul against Cleveland State and openly defied his coach against Stanford, made no promises.
"I'm going to try to continue to play like this (and) stay poised," he said.
"I think he believed I was going to come in and lose my cool because of the crowd. Usually that's the case. I stayed cool."
Liggins gets in game
Sophomore DeAndre Liggins made his first appearance of the season. He played the final 40 seconds of Saturday's game.
"He's extremely happy," Patterson said, "and we're happy for him. We're looking forward to him playing a lot more."
Patterson envisioned Liggins contributing as a defensive stopper.
"One of the things he specializes in," the big man said of Liggins. "In practice, he's always making it hard on John (Wall)."
Calipari has not said why he did not play Liggins. When asked, the UK coach only said he would not throw a player under the bus by revealing the reason.
UK's 49-24 rebounding edge over Indiana marked its biggest advantage on the boards since Jan. 15, 2005. The Cats outrebounded Georgia 44-18 in that game.
"It's tough, man," Indiana guard Jeremiah Rivers said of UK's dominance. "You know, embarrassing."
The dominance was predictable. IU entered the game ranked 194th nationally in rebound margin. UK ranked ninth.
Wall eyeing 3.8 GPA
While acknowledging that he shouldn't say anything about Wall's academic record, Calipari told reporters that the celebrated freshman was on target for a grade-point average "around 3.8" in the fall semester.
"Because he wants to do it," the UK coach said. Calipari suggested Wall wanted to add classes to his spring semester load to get further ahead toward a degree before presumably departing next season for the NBA.
Against Indiana, Wall showed he could learn and adapt in terms of turnovers. After committing seven turnovers in each of the last two games, he had only one in 39 minutes against the Hoosiers. It was a meaningless turnover, coming with about five minutes left and UK ahead by 17.
Wall also had a career-high seven rebounds.
When asked whether the UK-IU series would continue to be home-and-home or return to neutral sites, IU Coach Tom Crean said, "We plan to play it in Assembly Hall, so I know that going forward."