Kentucky's man of grit, DeAndre Liggins, acknowledged that he might have become too interested in scoring. It took a bit of tough love from Coach John Calipari to steer him back to his blue-collar ways.
"He taught me well," Liggins said of Calipari after UK's 81-62 victory over Indiana on Saturday. "Since he came here, he defined my game. He's been good to me."
Calipari was also blunt to Liggins.
"He told me, 'If you don't do these (unglamorous) things, you might as well get a job,' " Liggins said.
Ironically, Liggins' return to what made him a productive player for Kentucky last season resulted in one of his more gaudy statistical lines. Against Indiana, he tied or broke four career highs, including new standards for points with 19 and rebounds with nine.
"That was my first game that I actually played like last year," Liggins said. "I just felt the need for diving on the floor (for loose balls) and defending and bringing that spark to the team."
Teammate Brandon Knight noted the importance of Liggins' hustle plays. "A lot of the things that don't get written down on the stat sheet," the freshman point guard said. "He brings the most energy to the team."
That was on display against Indiana, whether by diving for a loose ball, or tying up an opponent intent on driving to the basket.
When asked why he hadn't been hustling as much as last season, Liggins said he had been "getting too comfortable. I think I'm a little too timid when the game starts."
He nodded when a reporter wondered if an attention to scoring detracted from his intensity.
"That could be a major factor," he said.
Calipari reminded him that the hustle of a year ago was missing. The coach's observation came as no surprise.
"He just told me I was not coming up with loose balls," Liggins said. "Funny, I was thinking, 'I'm not playing like last year.' "
UK made 31 of 44 free throws, with Liggins responsible for eight of the misses. He made only eight of 16 attempts.
Calipari noted that Liggins was not pausing on the free throw shot, but instead bringing the ball up and shooting in one motion.
"I was rushing my free throws instead of being patient," Liggins said.
Calipari had ordered all the Cats to shoot with the free-throw routine. But freshman teammate Knight took two dribbles before beginning to shoot while his teammates took three bounces.
Knight said the important thing was not the number of bounces, but the pause before releasing the shot.
"He's trying to take away the extra motion a lot of us brought from high school," Knight said of Calipari's technique.
In his post-game remarks, Indiana Coach Tom Crean made several references to his players not being able to get to the foul line down the stretch. That sounded like code for a complaint about UK shooting 44 free throws and IU 16.
"I'm not the one to ask and I'm not sure you're allowed to ask," Crean said. "My stock line is it's part of the game."
Crean feared that Indiana turnovers would fuel Kentucky's transition game. But the Hoosiers committed only 14 turnovers, and UK held only a 12-6 advantage in points off turnovers. The Indiana coach cited second-chance points as the key stat. UK grabbed 18 offensive rebounds (six by Josh Harrellson) and enjoyed a 21-4 advantage in second-chance points.
In the last two games, Harrellson picked up two fouls and went to the bench within five minutes after tip-off.
But he committed only one foul against Indiana and it came with 7:07 left in the second half.
"When I get in foul trouble, it's like a totally different team," Harrellson said. "It's like it brings us down."
Against North Carolina, Harrellson said he got too hyped. "Sometimes you don't know what you're doing," he said.
With a Ratings Percentage Index of 91, Indiana was easily the best-rated non-conference opponent UK will face in Rupp Arena this season.
The next best RPI as of Saturday belonged to East Tennessee State at No. 163.
The seven non-conference opponents playing UK in Rupp Arena this season had an average RPI of 193 as of Saturday.
But overall, Kentucky had the fourth-toughest schedule in the country as of Saturday.