Sports

Fans yelling 'Shoot!' isn't helping Cats

SHOOOOOOOT!!!!

Back in the day, when Joe B. Hall retired as Kentucky basketball coach and became an executive with Central Bank, there was a joke that made its way around the commonwealth.

It said that bank robbers from all around the nation had decided to move to Lexington and target Central Bank.

Why?

Because everyone knew Joe B. wouldn't let the guards shoot.

SHOOOOOOOT!!!!

A similar phenomenon — Kentucky fans thinking UK players should have more freedom to take open perimeter shots — has been a constant theme so far in Billy Gillispie's second year.

An especially acute example was Tuesday night's dispiriting 66-57 home loss to Mississippi State.

With MSU following the recent trend of Kentucky opponents and shading its defense heavily toward UK stars Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, the Rupp Arena crowd was all but demanding that other Cats — especially Michael Porter and Darius Miller — take open treys.

SHOOOOOOOT!!!!

Look, you pay your money, you can basically shout whatever non-obscene thing you wish at a ball game. I certainly understand that it is deep in the DNA of UK fans to prefer quick-shot, racehorse basketball.

Yet in their constant exhortations of their own players to shoot, the Rupp crowd is not helping its team.

"I hear the fans," Miller said after the Mississippi State game of the SHOOOOOOOT!!!! chants when he was behind the three-point line. "But the way teams are playing us, I can get that (open three) any time.

"It makes more sense to run the offense and see if we can get an open look for Pat or Jodie. They are our main guys. We need to look for them first."

Porter, who has every reason to feel ill-served by a boo-happy UK fandom this season, says he understands the fan chants.

"I hear it," Porter said of the SHOOOOOOOT!!!! calls. "Heck, when we're not scoring any other way, you can't really blame the fans."

The UK guard says he is not affected by the fan chants. But after a game in Rupp earlier this season, Auburn's Rasheem Barrett told reporters he could see Porter tense up when the fans started yelling at him to shoot.

Barrett said the chanters "were playing right into our hands."

It is an interesting historical note of Kentucky basketball that, in the post-Adolph Rupp era, every UK coaching regime other than the free-wheeling one of Rick Pitino has featured fan complaints that players do not have enough of a green light to shoot.

It was said of Hall, especially in his latter years.

It was the knock on Eddie Sutton and his "seven-pass" (you must make seven passes before shooting) rule.

It was a popular lament against Tubby Smith.

Now, people are saying the same thing about Billy Gillispie.

Coaches, like players, can have bad seasons. On a lot of fronts, Billy G. is having one.

As SEC coaches have increasingly concentrated on Patterson and Meeks, Gillispie has neither come up with a counter-adjustment to consistently free them nor developed other scoring options.

Still, if the Kentucky coach has told Porter (shooting 27.1 from three-point range), Miller (20.6 on treys) and freshman guard DeAndre Liggins (22.7 from three) not to take quick treys even if open, it's not just understandable.

It's smart.

Yet if your coach is telling you to run through your offense before shooting while a high percentage of your home crowd of 23,000 is screaming at you to take the first open look, it's easy to see why so many Kentucky players look confused and tentative with the ball.

Basketball is a game best played on instinct and reaction. Right now, UK has too many guys who seem to have to think through every move.

I think those SHOOOOOOOT!!!! chants are contributing to that.

Says Miller: "We know we need to help Pat and Jodie more. We know we need to shoot when open. But we want to get shots through the offense."

Here's a suggestion.

The next time a UK offensive possession bogs down, maybe Gillispie and the crowd could work together.

In unison, coach and fans could call for something we don't see much of in the current Kentucky offensive attack.

SCRREEEEEEN!!!!

It could help.

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