UK Men's Basketball

Cats leaving best play in practice, Gillispie says

Coach Billy Gillispie certainly doesn't like Kentucky's 0-2 start. But there's something more troublesome to him.

"I just don't like the way we've gotten there more so than 0-2," he said at a news conference on Friday. "We have not competed as hard as we'd need to compete."

Gillispie acknowledged his surprise because UK's performances so far contradict one of the hoariest coaching beliefs: A team plays the way it practices.

Not so Kentucky. The Cats practiced well, Gillispie said, then lost to Virginia Military Institute on opening night and then took a whipping at No. 1 North Carolina four nights later.

"I was totally shocked by the way we played last week," Gillispie said, "because practice didn't indicate how we'd play."

The UK coach dismissed the notion of Kentucky needing to beat Delaware State Saturday afternoon to restore its place in the basketball world or re-set its course for the season ahead.

"A win or a loss doesn't fix all our problems," Gillispie said. "The way you go about things on a daily basis is going fix the problems.

"If you're mentally softer, (a victory over, say, Delaware State) can appease you for a short moment till you get your teeth kicked in again. I want a team tough enough that it won't have to get a win to think they've done something special."

Gillispie acknowledged puzzlement with this UK team so far. Good practice sessions haven't translated into games.

"Maybe it's inexperience," he said. "Maybe it's not. We need to get experience in a pretty big hurry. We need to stop making the same mistakes over and over (in games)."

Kentucky's most glaring problem has been turnovers: 53 in the first two games.

"We have to think a little bit better," Gillispie said, "and slow down a little bit. Have more composure, obviously. They try hard, but you have to think the game a little better.

"Sometimes that can come from being a little bit over-anxious. Too many guys are trying to hit home runs. We don't need home runs. We just need a shot at the basket every time. I think it's going to happen."

Gillispie also noted how teammates must help UK's embryonic point guards, junior Michael Porter and freshman DeAndre Liggins.

Gillispie said that team leaders Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks must clearly outplay their opposite numbers, while Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson must hold their own against opponents. That would lessen the load on the point guards.

Gillispie noted how Liggins fed the post and defended well in the second half at North Carolina. But the UK coach did not commit to starting Liggins against Delaware State.

Porter needs to play with more confidence.

"He needs to exhibit more confidence," Gillispie said. "He's not played with much confidence at all. ... He's been a little bit anxious."

Stevenson faulted the big men for not setting better screens for Porter and Liggins.

"Mike and DeAndre have had to put on a dribbling show," he said.

Gillispie emphasized some good signs at North Carolina. The Tar Heels made only 41.1 percent of their shots. Despite giving up 16 offensive rebounds, UK won the battle of the boards 37-35.

"I don't want to make too much out of it," Gillispie said. "But the bottom line is those are good numbers."

Although Delaware State brings a 1-4 record into Rupp Arena (and will be playing its fourth road game in six days), Gillispie cautioned against an expectation of an easy victory. He cited the Hornets' deliberate style of play.

"You have to be really patient and confident," Gillispie said. "They are dangerous for a team like us. You think you're going to play well and (win the game) in the first 10 minutes. It's not going to happen."

Meeks noted how some victories will change the atmosphere surrounding Kentucky basketball.

"I don't know if it's panic," he said of the mood around UK. "You don't hear much, just a tone you feel walking around campus. ... People are asking what's happening. People are down.

"We have to not listen to naysayers. The wins will come."