He saw a loose ball and leaped upon it. Then DeAndre Liggins called timeout before Tennessee players coming a split-second later could try to wrest the ball from his grasp.
As Liggins got up from the floor and headed for the Kentucky bench, Coach John Calipari met him with a chest bump.
"I did that to let the other guys know that means more to me than you making a shot or some fabulous highlight play," Calipari said after UK beat Tennessee 73-62 Saturday night. "That's the play that wins games. That right there."
That kind of play has become a Liggins specialty. He hustles. He mixes it up.
Against the Vols, his kind of play came at an opportune time. Back-to-back three-pointers by Eric Bledsoe had just given Kentucky its first double-digit lead in a long night of struggle with a Tennessee team short-handed in terms of personnel but not spirit.
But before UT could answer Bledsoe's threes, the ball slipped away and Liggins pounced. Then he called time with 4:34 left.
"Kind of shocking" is how Liggins described the chest bump he got from Calipari. "Because I didn't know he was going to do that.
"I was very happy. I made a play. I think it was a momentum play that changed the game around big time."
Calipari agreed. Hence the chest bump.
"You're trying to show the other guys that's how you finish people off," the UK coach said. "You don't let them get the ball. You beat them (to it). There's no such thing as a 50-50 ball with DeAndre. He gets them."
Liggins noted how much Calipari pays attention to the so-called 50-50 balls. Either team can gain possession. Who wants it more?
"He hates it when it's a 50-50 ball (that the opposition retrieves)," Liggins said. "If anybody is near the ball and doesn't come up with it, he gets so mad. My first option is to dive on the ball and call timeout."
When a reporter joked that Liggins has been calling more timeouts than Calipari, the UK player smiled and said, "I'd rather be safe than turn the ball over. So I'm calling a timeout."
The hustler and provider of intangibles is a dramatic departure for Liggins, who came to UK a year ago viewed as a recruiting coup for then-coach Billy Gillispie. He would be the point guard of the present and future. He was a talent in the flashy, eye-catching sense of the term.
Now Liggins is a — pick a cliché — junkyard dog, blue-collar player, glue guy.
While some players might consider such labels demeaning, Liggins welcomes them.
"You can say that," he said. "As long as we're winning and I'm helping my team win, I'm comfortable. I'm fine. You can call me whatever."
Calipari calls him an NBA prospect. The UK coach leapt to Liggins' defense when a reporter prefaced a question by noting that the player came to Kentucky billed as a high-profile recruit. The inference was that Liggins had become something less.
"He's becoming a real high-profile prospect, just so you know that," the UK coach said. "Everybody who's evaluated my team has all of a sudden (gotten interested in Liggins). DeAndre is being talked about. You've got people who absolutely love him."
Calipari noted Liggins' versatility as a defender against any scorer on the perimeter. UK typically uses Liggins to contain the opponent's hot hand — be it South Carolina's diminutive point guard Devan Downey or, in the case of Tennessee, rangy wing Scotty Hopson.
While noting that Hopson had been battling the flu and fever, UT Coach Bruce Pearl said Liggins' "did a pretty good job on him defensively. He made it difficult for Scotty to move and cut and get open."
As Liggins acknowledged, his struggles as a freshman last season were well chronicled. His refusal to re-enter a game against Kansas State. His ill-advised attempt to win the game at Ole Miss by himself (3-for-16 shooting).
Perhaps no UK player benefited more from the fresh start that comes with a coaching change.
"It was a guy who recruited me," Liggins said of Calipari. "It was a guy I knew I could play for."
Liggins has learned that less is more. More precisely, he's learned that less points doesn't mean less contribution.
"I'm still not a scorer," he said. "I fill the stat sheet in other ways. I get a rebound. I can score a little bit. Get a little assist, steals. That's what I do."
Calipari said he wanted Liggins to concentrate on finishing plays rather than try to create opportunities for himself or others.
"When he thinks of himself as a point guard, he tries to make plays and turns it over," the UK coach said.
Liggins needs to shoot upon receiving the ball or within one or two dribbles, Calipari said. If the opportunity isn't there, then pass to a guard who can attempt to make a play.
"I'm willing to work," Liggins said. "I give 100 percent every time. That's what Coach (Calipari) loves about me."