Sports

Coach can't ignore 'bad' questions

There was nothing wrong with Jeannine Edwards' question.

The query the ESPN sidelines reporter posed to UK Coach Billy Gillispie at halftime of what turned out to be Kentucky's surprising 85-80 loss to Mississippi in Oxford on Tuesday was all-together legitimate.

Jodie Meeks entered the week as the nation's third leading scorer, averaging 26.1 points per game. He scored a school-record 54 points in an ESPN game just two Tuesdays before. On this night, however, he had been held without a first-half field goal. And Ole Miss, a team with a 1-4 conference record, trailed No. 24 Kentucky by just two points.

Understandably, Edwards asked Gillispie, "Coach, so far Ole Miss has been doing a pretty good job keeping Jodie Meeks covered up, he's only got six points. What adjustments do you need to make for him in the second half?"

Gillispie didn't like the question. You could tell it before he answered. He looked away. He all but rolled his eyes. He did supply an answer, maybe even a good one. He said UK wasn't a one-man team. He said the Cats were ahead, so what difference did it make.

Then, grinning, he said to Edwards, "And that's really a bad question."

No it's not.

Right now, it's the question about this Kentucky basketball team.

Tuesday night proved that while Kentucky might not be a one-man team, it is certainly a much better team when its best scorer is putting the ball in the basket.

At North Carolina, Meeks was a mere 5-for-20 from the floor. And the Cats were never really in the game at Chapel Hill, losing to the top-ranked Tar Heels 77-58.

Nearly three weeks later, at home against Miami, Meeks missed 13 of his 17 shots on his way to a season-low 10 points. The Cats fell behind early and lost 73-67 to the visiting Hurricanes.

Tuesday at the Tad Pad, Meeks was 4-for-15 from the floor against Ole Miss. Two of those four made field goals came in the final 14 seconds when the junior buried a pair of threes long after the outcome had been decided. His 21 points were a quiet 21. And the Cats suffered their first conference loss.

In Kentucky's 16 victories, Meeks is shooting 52.9 percent. In Kentucky's five defeats, he's shooting 34.6.

Give Ole Miss credit. The Rebels did probably the best job a team has done this year defending UK's point-machine. They went on the attack. They denied Meeks off the ball and pressured him on the ball, helping off only on Patrick Patterson. Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy all but shouted, let the other Cats beat us. They couldn't.

Freshman DeAndre Liggins took one more shot than Meeks — and made one less.

I'm sure Gillispie would say the game was actually lost on the defensive end. And he wouldn't be wrong. Ole Miss made 10 three-pointers, many of them wide, wide open. The Rebels snatched key offensive rebounds. They appeared to have much more energy than did a Kentucky team playing its fourth game in 10 days.

And no coach likes those halftime interviews. Gillispie all but ran over poor Edwards in Knoxville before he surrendered and granted the scheduled quick Q&A.

Tuesday, Gillispie gave Edwards that disingenuous grin and a professional critique.

If she could, she'd probably give him some advice of her own.

Get used to it, Billy. Chances are, you're going to get that question again.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or (800) 950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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