NASHVILLE — Patrick Patterson's 13 points and 13 rebounds at Vanderbilt on Saturday gave him double-doubles in Kentucky's two games this past week. That hadn't happened to UK's junior forward since the season's first two games.
UK Coach John Calipari called that good timing.
When asked whether Patterson was answering the coach's long-standing request for more assertive play, Calipari said, "Yes, he is. And it's coming at a good time."
Patterson's 13 rebounds marked his highest total since getting 18 against Rider on Nov. 21.
Speaking of good timing, Patterson hit a three-pointer for the seventh straight game. It came with 3:55 remaining and gave UK a 52-49 lead.
"I have a lot of confidence in him," said Calipari, noting the baseline jumper Patterson hit to send the game at Mississippi State on Tuesday into overtime. "He's made 10 huge shots all year.
"I just want him to do more."
The UK coach suggested 25 points and 15 rebounds as a goal for Patterson to seek.
"Do!" Calipari said. "You have my blessing. He defers because he's fine with the other guys (putting up numbers)."
Kentucky made less than 36 percent of its shots and won for the first time since the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The Cats beat UAB 69-64 despite shooting 31.1 percent on March 17, 2006.
Calipari said UK's defense down the stretch at Mississippi State Tuesday and at Vanderbilt could hardly get better.
"If we're going to advance, that's what it's going to be on," he said of the Cats' path in the NCAA Tournament. "If we make shots, we bury people. If we don't, we grind it out."
With 8:42 to go in the second half, Calipari sent DeMarcus Cousins to the scorer's table despite the freshman's four fouls. Then the UK coach changed his mind and put in Perry Stevenson.
"I thought 'Too much time' and went with Perry, which was a good move," Calipari said. "Because Perry went in and played really well.
"Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson are two veteran SEC players who started for the Wildcats. They're on a roster that I can go to if there's foul trouble or something else. I feel comfortable with them. We're fortunate that way."
Eric Bledsoe looked like the freshman he is much of the game. He made only two of eight shots and committed three turnovers.
He shoved Vandy's Jeffery Taylor in front of an official to receive a personal foul with 18:47 left. Then the two players exchanged words, resulting in technical fouls for each.
UK players have received six technical fouls this season.
Cousins, who wore a Washington Nationals cap to the interview room, said he expected a difficult test.
"We knew, coming in, it was going to be a crazy environment," he said. "We already knew their personnel and how they played. Basically we just kept the same physical play that we had the first time we played them. We just came in and got a tough win."
Patterson cited comments he read from Vandy guard Jermaine Beal as motivation.
"We knew they were going to step up their game, especially with what Beal said in the newspaper, and playing at home," Patterson said. "They always play 10 times better at home. It was a highly anticipated game. They've got the home crowd behind them and the energy going. We knew they were going to play a great game. We just had to focus and prepare and watch a lot of game tape. It was a hard, tough, physical game. Luckily, we were able to pull out the win."
Patterson said UK players took exception to Beal commenting before the game about the possibility of a Vandy victory causing fans to rush the court.
Vandy, which had beaten Kentucky four straight in Nashville, missed a chance to join Florida and Tennessee as the only Southeastern Conference programs to beat Kentucky at least five straight times at home. Florida did it from 2005 through 2009. Tennessee beat UK seven straight home games from 1979 through 1985 and five straight from 1973 through 1977.